PCRW speaker says human trafficking an Alabama problem

Published 10:36 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2019

When people think of human trafficking, their first thoughts often go to foreign countries, or big cities.

But Amy Wager, Alabama director of Trafficking Hope, said the problem is much closer to home.

“You have it right here in Troy,” Wager told members of the Pike County Republican Women at the Troy Country Club Wednesday. “You have it right here in your own back yard. I’ve met victims from Troy. We have to take ownership of what’s happening.”

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Wager said human trafficking was far from her mind in 2011, until she saw a video a friend was in talking about the problem. Even then, she moved on before having a sudden spiritual breakdown over the plight of women being trafficked.

Now she’s working to bring that same realization to people across Alabama, especially in the churches, and she had one request for everyone to help in the effort.

“No matter your station in life, you have a weapon to fight this fight,” Wager said. “You don’t have to be boots-on-the-ground protecting victims out of a hotel room. We would really appreciate your prayer; it’s the number one thing we ask for.”

Wager said there are anywhere from 25 million to 45 million slaves in the world today, which includes everything from forced labor to sex trafficking to domestic servitude.

In Alabama alone, Wager said, 6,356 people are owned as slaves on any given day.

One of the major keys to fighting trafficking is to educate children earlier, Wager said.

“The average age of someone entering sex trafficking is 11 to 14 years old,” Wager said. “Some schools want us to wait until high school before we come talk to students; that’s too late. They’ve already been brought into it.”

Wager also highlighted multiple bills being considered in the Alabama legislature that would help curb human trafficking, specifically House Bill 260, which would mandate training for healthcare workers to recognize signs of human trafficking.

“More than 80 percent of trafficking victims reported going to the hospital at some point and hospital workers not recognizing that they were trafficking victims,” Wager said.

The four bills were introduced into the House Wednesday, Human Trafficking Awareness Day, including HB260 and three other bills that would require training for CDL drivers, prohibit the publication of photos of people charged with soliciting or procuring prostitution and enforcing the posting of human trafficking hotline and awareness posters in entertainment establishments.

Wager told PCRW members that each of these bills is crafted to help organizations like Trafficking Hope to further combat the trafficking problem in Alabama.

One member asked about cracking down on motels and hotels where the solicitation often occurs, to which Wager replied that Alabama is actually already doing that and that it is causing change.

“It’s amazing how quickly hotel and motel owners come to us and start asking for training when it’s made clear that ignorance of what is going on is not an excuse,” Wager said.

Another suggestion from the audience is to punish the people who are seeking out prostitutes.

“Alabama actually does do a ‘Johns suppression program’ where they aggressively go out and find these people soliciting prostitutes and then we talk to them about how these people are trafficked,” Wager said. “We don’t condemn them, we’re there to inform them.”

Wager encouraged the members to get involved in their own ways and go back to their churches to ask for their help in the fight against human trafficking.