The day after Christmas, the streets of Durham were nearly vacant (except, apparently, the parking attendants who tagged me with a ticket). A friend and I wandered down to the American Tobacco Campus lawn to see the 20 or so holiday trees decorated by local charities including the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, Eno River Association, the Therapeutic Riding Center.
Initially, I was offended by the tree adorned by The Salvation Army of Wake County. What are ultra-feminized dolls with anorexic figures surrounded by fake money doing on a holiday tree? Did a pimp decorate this tannenbaum? And then I figured it out: The tree was intended to bring attention to the issue of human trafficking.
Here are some facts: The majority of the 2,500 human trafficking cases investigated nationwide between 2008 and 2010 involved child or adult prostitution or child exploitation, according to ncfamily.org.
From January to June 2013, North Carolina logged 271 calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. More than 75 percent of the calls involved sexual servitude.
Most of the calls came from Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Greensboro and Asheville. The state is in the top 10 nationwide for trafficking likely because of the major interstates (85, 40, 95) and its large military and agricultural sectors, according to the N.C. Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault, World Relief, a faith-based organization with offices in High Point and Durham, can help refugees confronting exploitation. The Carolina Women’s Center at UNC Chapel Hill has extensive and excellent resources and data. Also check out the Polaris Project, International Justice Mission and Not for Sale.
Lisa Sorg is the editor of the INDY. Her blog documents the small moments of life in the Triangle in photographs and stories—as a reminder to why we live here.