HUNTSVILLE Ala. --The Madison County Commission signed a resolution today, officially recognizing January as human trafficking awareness month.
The chair of the North Alabama Trafficking Task Force, Pat McCkay, said this is important because awareness is the first step in stopping human trafficking.
"Most people don't know that it is happening in the U.S., much less in Alabama, and much less in our community. And it has, and it will." She said human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Women, men, boys, and girls are all trafficked.
McCay said trafficking can take different forms. Traffickers may pose as modeling agents, offer jobs to vulnerable teenagers, who see a professional business card and think they are legitimate.
"They're promised a modeling job, they are incorporated into that world very, very quickly, and immediately find out it's not modeling at all, it's sex trafficking," McCay said.
She said many kids today are sexualized, and many post pictures of themselves on their social media pages. "Social media is a very dangerous place for our kids," McCay said. "They are being recruited through social media."
She said social media has also made it easier for human traffickers to advertise and sell to a wider population and urges parents to talk to their children about the issue. "They can't protect themselves from something they can't even see coming. I don't want to scare them half to death, but I do want to scare them enough. To be aware and prepared to prevent them from becoming a victim."
She said human trafficking awareness month will educate the community and support victims
"Really to take your hat off and say thank you to all the survivors who have come forward," McCay said. "To all the law enforcement who have sacrificed a lot to make the arrests."