Local Cullman takes part in global human trafficking campaign | CullmanSense

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Cullman takes part in global human trafficking campaign

Participants walked with ribbons over their mouths to represent the silence that makes trafficking such a hard problem to confront./W.C. Mann

CULLMAN - Human trafficking is a worldwide issue, and it affects Cullman County. On Saturday morning, the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force took part in anti-trafficking organization A21’s “Walk for Freedom” campaign, which took place in more than 300 cities around the world. In Cullman, the walk started and ended at the Cullman County Courthouse, with participants hoping to increase awareness of human trafficking in our community.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “a form of modern-day slavery, and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit human beings for some type of labor or commercial sex purpose.  Its victims include those forced into prostitution, as well as unpaid and severely underpaid domestic servitude, factory, and farm labor jobs.  They are often lured into bondage with offers of jobs, drugs or immigration assistance.”

Human trafficking is a $150 billion per year criminal industry involving millions of people around the world.  A21 estimates that fewer than one percent of victims escape bondage.

“Today the human trafficking task Force has partnered with our local chapter of A21, which is a national organization, to end human trafficking,” said Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force Chairperson Kathy Wilson.  “This walk has gone on worldwide, at the same time, all over the world, and it’s simply to raise awareness.  That’s what the goal of our task force is: to raise awareness and to bring light to the problem, because as we know, it does exist here.”

The task force has existed since 2015, and includes the Cullman County Department of Human Resources, local school systems, churches and numerous individuals including representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Its membership is not appointed. 

“Any concerned citizen can come,” said Wilson.

Leaders of A21 refer to themselves as “the abolitionists of the 21st century,” calling human trafficking slavery and vowing to end that slavery.  Its Walk for Freedom took place in more than 300 locations on Oct. 14.

Wilson explained, “Our goal as a task force is to end human trafficking, and with the help and support of Judge (Kim) Chaney, (District Attorney) Wilson Blaylock--the DA has been instrumental in starting the task force--we’re able to provide information, go out into the schools, to the public with such events as today, to raise that awareness.

“This is very special to me, because we live in a special community, and our goal is to keep it that way.  Our quality of life here is so much different than 50 miles either direction, and our goal is to keep quality of life here for our children.”

While Cullman County does enjoy much of a small-town peace-and-quiet atmosphere, Wilson wants no one to have any illusions about the realities of human trafficking right here among us.

“Here in Cullman, you know,” she explained, “we’ve just recently had the two arrests.  Those are the first two actual arrests.  Human trafficking has existed here for quite some time; we just didn’t call it that.  We’ve had parents that have been arrested for selling their children to the neighbor for drugs, but it wasn’t called that.  It was just a sexual abuse case, or something like that.

“So, it’s been here.  We’ve got boyfriends that have been trading their girlfriends, not for a monetary amount, but for a case of beer or something like that.  That’s what exists here in this county.

“I want folks to know that human trafficking exists here in this county.  I want people to open their eyes, see that it’s here, and to educate themselves and to educate someone else.  Awareness: it’s what we’re all about.”

For more information, or to contact the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force, visit http://qrne.ws/cchttf.  For more information, or to contact A21, visit www.a21.org.

See photos and videos from today’s Walk for Freedom from all over the world at www.facebook.com/a21campaign.

More:

http://abc3340.com/news/local/cullman-county-grand-jury-indicts-man-on-1...

http://www.cullmantribune.com/articles/2017/09/05/vinemont-woman-charged...

http://www.cullmantribune.com/articles/2017/08/29/fairview-man-indicted-...

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  • W.C. Mann
    Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force Chairperson Kathy Wilson at the task force tent Saturday morning.
  • W.C. Mann
    A Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force display notes the county’s first two arrests officially labelled as human trafficking.
  • W.C. Mann
    Walkers enjoy water and snacks. Yellow ribbons carried the names of trafficking victims or the word "Free."