You might not know much about human trafficking in Birmingham, but it’s a prominent issue. During Human Trafficking Awareness Month, take the time to learn more about an issue that’s affecting thousands of people right here in our state, then get involved with raising awareness. The Junior League of Birmingham (JLB) is actively participating in educating city officials and residents on how to prevent this crime and help victims. Keep reading to see how you can get involved.
First things first—what does human trafficking in Birmingham look like?
If you weren’t already familiar, it may come as a surprise to you that Birmingham is a hub for human trafficking.
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign, human trafficking involves using “force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex.” Any minor who is involved in commercial sex is a victim of human trafficking.
“It’s a very common misconception that this generally doesn’t happen in Birmingham. It does happen here, it happens in our state and it happens in the Southeast a lot.
We sit on the I-20/I-65 corridor, and I-20 has been coined the ‘Sex Trafficking Superhighway’ because you can get from Birmingham to any major city in the Southeast through those two interstate systems. That makes us a hub.”Abby Grace Worrell, Anti-Human Trafficking Chair, Junior League of Birmingham
Even if you don’t think human trafficking affects the people around you, you may be interacting with victims every day. Many victims don’t even know they’re involved in human trafficking—whether they’ve grown up in the lifestyle after being sold by their families or they’re coerced by a romantic partner.
The commercial sex industry is a multi-million dollar industry in the Birmingham metro area. Vulnerable young people are most at-risk, but human trafficking can affect anyone. Plus, with the rise of social media, it can be even easier to fall prey to trafficking. Fake offers like modeling contracts and imaginary “relationships” are all potential trafficking schemes.
“A lot of people don’t even know that they are victims of sex trafficking. You may not know that you’re in a trafficking situation, especially if you’re a minor.”Abby Grace Worrell, Anti-Human Trafficking Chair, Junior League of Birmingham
Raising awareness to end human trafficking in Birmingham
The JLB Anti-Human Trafficking Committee is dedicated to doing everything in its power to raise awareness about and end human trafficking in Birmingham and throughout our state. Through initiatives, programs and education, they’re opening people’s eyes to what human trafficking looks like. Plus, their initiatives and drives help people recognize the signs that they may actually be victims of human trafficking.
Since the committee began in 2017, the JLB has partnered with End It Alabama to request that government officials declare January as “Human Trafficking Awareness Month.” Through this proclamation, the community often begins the conversation. Plus, several municipalities (including Birmingham, Homewood, Hoover, Irondale and Vestavia Hills) are designated “Trafficking Free Zones” to reduce the number of trafficked victims through training and policy changes.
The JLB and its community partners are working with the Alabama Department of Transportation to post awareness signage at every rest stop and welcome center in the state. These posters help victims identify their situation so they can seek help, and they help bystanders recognize the signs of trafficking.
“We decided as a League that human trafficking was something we wanted to focus on. We spent the first year that the committee was founded learning about the issue as a whole, what our community was doing to combat it and where there were holes that we could fill in. Awareness is a big part of what the League does in this space.”Abby Grace Worrell, Anti-Human Trafficking Chair, Junior League of Birmingham
Virtual events during Human Trafficking Awareness Month
Human Trafficking 101
With the JLB’s goal of raising awareness throughout the community, this virtual event breaks down the basics of human trafficking. In the presentation, you’ll learn how the sex trafficking business operates, how traffickers recruit victims and what you can do to help put an end to it. You’ll hear from two members of the JLB Anti-Human Trafficking Committee with years of background experience in fighting against trafficking: Jessie Keating Hardy, Esq., a family law attorney with her own practice in Mountain Brook, and Ellie Friedman, Deputy District Attorney for the Birmingham Division of Jefferson County and member of multiple human trafficking task forces.
- When: Thursday, Jan. 20
- Time: 6PM
The Raw Truth: Rescue & Recovery of Trafficked Children
Tina Baz, a member of The Association for the Recovery of Children, will speak about the non-profit’s mission to recover children and share real life stories of the children they’ve brought home. Their 100% success rate in bringing children home will inspire you.
- When: Wednesday, Jan. 26
- Time: 6PM
“The more I learn about this issue, the more I care and the more I want to give because the statistics are frightening. The whole system of trafficking breaks my heart, especially when we are talking about children. As a League in particular, we really focus our efforts on women and children.”Abby Grace Worrell, Anti-Human Trafficking Chair, Junior League of Birmingham