In 2020, 260 cases of trafficking were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, ranking North Carolina No. 9 among the 50 states in cases reported. However, because human trafficking is a crime which hides in the shadows, the true number of cases in North Carolina is likely much higher.
Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States with North Carolina among the most affected states. Major interstate highways, a large and transient military population surrounded by sexually oriented businesses, numerous rural agricultural areas with a high demand for cheap labor, and an increasing number of gangs all contribute to making our state a hotbed for human trafficking.
What is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is a crime by which people profit from the control and exploitation of others for the purposes of commercial sex acts, labor or services. Human trafficking is happening in all parts of North Carolina. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines human trafficking as:
- Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or,
- The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
Contrary to popular belief, the victim does NOT have to be physically transported from one location to another for it to be considered human trafficking.
Anyone can be a victim of trafficking, regardless of gender identity, citizenship status, sexual orientation, race or any other factor.
However, certain communities experience a greater risk of trafficking. Some of these include:
- Black/Indigenous/People of Color (BIPOC)
- Members of the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer,/intersex/asexual+ (LGBTQIA+) community, particularly trans individuals
- Children in the foster care/child welfare system
- Persons with history of trauma and abuse, particularly sexual or domestic violence.
Research has shown us that victims and survivors of human trafficking have access to healthcare even while actively being trafficked. (See 'How Victims and Survivors May Use and Experience Health Care' p.31 in the Polaris Report) There is much for those in health care in North Carolina to learn about this devastating and complex human tragedy.
What Can You Do?
Begin by learning more.
- Visit the North Carolina Department of Administration page: What is Human Trafficking?
- Review the Roadmap for Systems and Industries to Prevent and Disrupt Human Trafficking, especially the section Health Care Industry: Recommendations and Opportunities beginning on page 44 of that roadmap.
- Take advantage of the foundational, but comprehensive, no-cost self-paced online modules from the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Trafficking in Persons in partnership with the Postgraduate Institute for Medicine available here.