Events educate Birmingham during Human Trafficking Awareness Month —why you should be involved

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Did you know The Junior League of Birmingham Anti-Trafficking Committee is a leader in the state for fighting human trafficking? Here, the team— Pamela Rasberry (Trafficking Hope), Jamie Willett (JLB), Mayor Tony Picklesimer and Julia Meyers (JLB)— is meeting with Chelsea City Council to get more city officials involved in the fight. Photo via Junior League of Birmingham

If human trafficking isn’t something you know much about, it’s more important than ever you understand this prominent issue during Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The Junior League of Birmingham (JLB) is a state leader in actively educating city officials and residents on how to prevent this crime. You can get involved too by attending several of JLB’s virtual events throughout the month of January.

Human Trafficking happens everywhere—including Birmingham

The Junior League of Birmingham Anti-Trafficking Committee recently met with Trussville City Council to raise community awareness for human trafficking. Photo via Junior League of Birmingham

To put it plainly, Birmingham is a hub for sex trafficking. I-20 and I-65, unfortunately, serve as major trafficking corridors. It’s not only happening in seedy alleyways or “bad parts of town”—sex trafficking happens much closer to home than you realize.

Predators commit the crime on social media, through fake offers, such as a modeling contract, and even between households.

“The Department of Homeland Security estimates the commercial sex industry to generate $110 million each year in the Birmingham metro area. This does not include illegal activity that happens at strip clubs or massage parlours, nor does it include child trafficking estimates as that is much more difficult to quantify.

While Polaris says that the average age of entry into the sex trade is 17 years old, in Alabama, we have seen victims as young as 9 years old, typically sold into the lifestyle by their family.”

Julia Meyers, Anti-Human Trafficking Chairman, Junior League of Birmingham

Moreover, according to the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking, over 90% of prostituted people are actually being trafficked. Advocates of human trafficking in Alabama believe that number to be even higher.

“One of the main goals of our program is to change the public’s perception of prostitution. I don’t think that the community realizes that the majority of prostituted people are actually being trafficked.

Once you realize this you have to think, ‘How are we going to end this?’ and the first key is to get the community behind it. Once you get the community behind it, you get the police behind it. The answer is not to arrest these women for prostitution, but to go after the demand. If there’s not a buyer there’s no demand.”

Julia Meyers, Anti-Human Trafficking Chairman, Junior League of Birmingham

A leader in the fight

Signs like these are placed in areas such as airports, bathrooms and courthouses in both English and Spanish. Photo via Junior League of Birmingham

So, how do we get the community behind it? The Junior League of Birmingham Anti-Human Trafficking Committee is a strong leader in Birmingham. They are fighting human trafficking with initiatives, programs and education.

For the last four years, the JLB has partnered with End It Alabama to reach out to area mayors and city councils asking them to proclaim January as “Human Trafficking Awareness Month.” These proclamations often start conversations on training for law enforcement and the community at large.

Last year, the JLB partnered with the Child Trafficking Solutions Project to take these Awareness proclamations a step further. Seven area municipalities declared themselves “TraffickingFree Zones” as defined by the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking. With the declaration, these municipalities agree to train all city employees on the signs of human trafficking and put together a response protocol of how to handle a suspected trafficking situation.

The municipalities also add a zero-tolerance policy that implements immediate termination if an employee is found to have purchased sex while at work. It’s important to note that the most frequent time that sex is purchased is 3-4PM and many times a business cell phone or computer is used to make that arrangement.

The JLB also collaborates with other nonprofits like Trafficking Hope. Currently, they are working on a signage project that helps raise human trafficking awareness. Trafficking Hope volunteers work alongside JLB volunteers to place the signs, which give a hotline number for victims to call, in public bathrooms with heavy foot traffic.

Education is key—Virtual events during Human Trafficking Awareness Month

The month is kicking off with an educational event on what we need to know about human trafficking. Photo via Junior League of Birmingham

Human Trafficking 101

Let’s start with the basics—to end Human Trafficking we need to know more about it. JLB members and local attorneys Jessie Keating Hardy and Ellie Friedman lead a discussion on how the sex trafficking business operates, how traffickers recruit and what you can do to stop it.

  • When: Thursday, Jan. 7
  • Time: 7PM-8:30pm
  • Attend

Social Media Predators: What Parents Need to Know About Online Human Traffickers

Human Trafficking is hard to identify because it doesn’t happen in public, but more often behind computer screens and social media. During the JLB’s Internet Safety Training, Renee Abrams will educate attendees on the dangers of social media with trafficking. She’ll also show how parents can monitor their children’s online activity to protect them from predators. Renee is the School Safety Manager from Bark, a parental control phone monitoring app designed to help keep kids safer online.

  • When: Tuesday, Jan. 19
  • Time: 12-1PM
  • Attend

Truckers Against Trafficking and the Junior League of Birmingham Present: Be the Voice to Help End Human Trafficking

A trafficking survivor, as well as a panel of those who’ve witnessed trafficking first hand, will focus on how everyone can be part of the solution to this multi-billion dollar crime operation.

Panelists for this event include Lt. Darren Beams of the Tuscaloosa Police Department and West Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force; Audrey Jordan, Assistant Attorney General for the State of Alabama; Dixie Shannon, Survivor and Certified Recovery Support Specialist; Julia Meyers, JLB Anti-Human Trafficking Committee Chair; and Susan Dold with Truckers Against Trafficking.

  • When: Tuesday, Jan. 26
  • Time: 12-1PM
  • Attend

Raising awareness throughout the state

Last year, January was officially declared Human Trafficking Awareness Month at a Birmingham City Council meeting thanks to the support from the JLB. Photo via Junior League of Birmingham (taken in 2019)

Through JLB’s work, they’re encouraging sister Leagues across the state, like Huntsville and Montgomery, to become involved in the anti-human trafficking campaign.

JLB believes that by partnering with other Leagues to help promote these online events and encouraging those Leagues to help execute End It Alabama’s “Human Trafficking Awareness Month” proclamations in their cities, there’s hope the program will extend throughout the state.

“Ending human trafficking will require working together on a community-wide response, and The Junior League of Birmingham is committed to bringing awareness to this issue in any and every way possible.”

Toni Leeth, President, Junior League of Birmingham

The JLB Anti-Human Trafficking committee will take its expertise further into the state when they attend the END IT Alabama Summit on Jan. 28-29. The organization is a project of the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, combating all aspects of human trafficking and pursuing strategies to create awareness and end the demand for human trafficking.

You can help end human trafficking today. Register for these events and find out more information through the JLB’s website and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

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