A bill was signed in May to provide compensation to victims of human trafficking. Prior to that bill, West Virginia had passed a bill making human trafficking a felony-in 2012. Perhaps people believe that such heinous criminal activity does not take place in our beautiful state, but it does. It takes place everywhere across the country.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex, debt bondage, or forced labor. They are young children, teenagers, men and women.
According to various websites on the topic, many victims of trafficking, particularly women and children, are exploited for purposes of prostitution and pornography. However, trafficking also takes place in diverse labor contexts, such as domestic servitude, small businesses, factories, and agricultural work. Traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to compel women, men, and children to engage in these activities.
A grassroots group has formed to evaluate the issue locally. HEAT, Human Exploitation and Trafficking Task Force, Eastern Panhandle, meets the last Tuesday of each month on the third floor of Ranson City Hall. Organizers of the group are currently focusing on educating individuals about the practice of human trafficking and offering prayer support to those involved.
Statistics show that human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the country next to illegal drugs. Often, one follows the other. We know that this region, including Jefferson County, has a serious problem with illegal drug use. We must make ourselves aware of problems and crimes associated with the rampant use and selling of illegal drugs. We must not hide in the sand thinking that something as terrifying as human trafficking could not happen here. It can and likely does.
The need for money can be a draw into this lifestyle. Young women, runaways, teens all can be duped into doing something just for a little cash and then find themselves bound by someone else controlling their lives.
We at the Chronicle encourage all to become involved with the HEAT Task Force and work to rid our county, our state and our nation of this abominable behavior. Our law enforcement officers, our legislators and our prosecutors need to fight the fight for eradication of this behavior as well. Contact them and encourage them to not lose focus of this important issue.