A new South Carolina law aims to protect the youngest of victims, changing the definition of child abuse to include child trafficking.
This will ultimately allow victims to receive state services.
“Now it’s explicit and it means if someone is trafficking you, that’s not part of your family, it counts as sexual abuse and neglect so it comes under DSS jurisdiction,” said Brooke Burris, the chair of the Tri-County Human Trafficking Task Force.
The new definition of child abuse will also require people on the front lines with children to look for signs of child trafficking.
“It can be invisible until you know you have an understanding of what it is and how kids come to be in these situations, and then all of a sudden it’s no longer invisible,” said Rachael Garrett, the director of Community Programs at Dee Norton.
Dee Norton is a child advocacy center that also provides training on how to recognize child abuse, which now includes child trafficking.
Apart from these kids getting the help they need, this legislation also requires mandated reporters to get trained on how to look for child trafficking.
Mandated reporters are people who work on the front lines with kids, from teachers to doctors to law enforcement.
“This bill change really affects a lot of different entities, a lot of different sectors in our community and puts a whole new responsibly on people in the front lines,” said Burris.
By knowing what to look for when it comes to child trafficking, it can help stop it in its tracks.
“It’s important that we respond to it because we’re legally mandated to do so but because these kids need our help,” said Garrett.
Garrett said once you know what to look for in these victims, sometimes you realize that you’ve already seen past victims of trafficking.
“All of a sudden we have those moments where we think back to past children we’ve worked and think,'Oh wow maybe that’s what was going on,'” said Garrett.
Now that everyone who works with kids must be aware, Garrett said it can make a big difference across our state.
"I think once professionals become aware that this is happening, that's it's happening here in these communities and really familiarize themselves with what it may look like, there's going to be an automatic response where a mandated reporter is going to have a suspicion something may be happening and is going to make that report," said Garrett.
Garrett said having mandated reporters look for trafficking is new, and it will take some time, but ultimately will help people have a better understanding for child trafficking.
“I think that we have made huge advancement and achievements in helping people become aware that it’s an issue that needs attention, but I think there’s still quite a ways to go to be able to get to the place where people instantly recognize it like they may recognize physical child abuse or neglect,” said Garrett.
If you are a mandated reporter and need to receive updated training that includes child trafficking, you can contact the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center at 843-723-3600 or firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also contact the Tri County Human Trafficking Task Force by emailing Brooke Burris at email@example.com.Copyright 2018 WCSC. All rights reserved.