Human trafficking survivor Lynne Caffery said she was “sold and given and resold and given to males and females for merchandise and guns and drugs and raped repeatedly” as a trafficked victim of a biker group and the Mexican cartel before landing in prison and, eventually, finding hope, education and a new life.
Caffery told Yellowhammer News her difficult journey led her to her life’s passion — helping young people as executive director of Safe Harbor Youth, which provides a transitional living program for youth ages 16-22 years old “who have run away from home, are neglected, homeless, living on the streets, or victims of human trafficking,” according to the organization’s website.
Alabama Human Trafficking Summit
Caffery was one of more than 20 state and national experts spanning church ministry, law enforcement, government, education, non-profit, technology and legal sectors who presented this month at the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force’s fourth annual summit held in Montgomery.
WATCH Caffery share her story of hope in this 3-minute video by Chason Smitherman, Sr.:
Link between pornography and human trafficking
This year’s summit was the largest-to-date and explored the link between pornography and human trafficking among other focus areas, according to organizers.
“Due to [pornography’s] growing role in fueling sex traffickers, we brought Lisa Thompson of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) down from D.C. to present this emerging subject matter,” said David Pinkleton, fundraising chair for the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force.
Thompson is the NCOSE’s vice president of research and education and recently said on the Dr. Drew show that when it comes to pornography’s “wide-ranging health harms,” to children and the public, the research is “pretty overwhelming.”
The NCOSE contends that research shows pornography fuels human trafficking, violence, rape, and abuse of women and children as porn viewers seek to act out the violent sex acts they see online.
What is human trafficking?
The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as, “modern-day slavery” that “involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.”
In Alabama, state lawmakers are working to remove the “force, fraud, or coercion” language from state law because human trafficking offenses cannot currently be prosecuted without proof that such tactics were used to lure a minor into commercial sex acts and according to experts – those aren’t the only ways victims are trapped and trafficked.
State Representative Jack Williams (R-Vestavia Hills) spoke at the summit about legislation he introduced to fix that loophole as well as other updates in the Alabama Legislature to address human trafficking.
Williams chairs the state task force and said the summit’s purpose “is to train school officials, law enforcement, churches, social workers on how to recognize human trafficking victims and the steps that are being taken in the state to prevent human trafficking from occurring, and opportunities that are available for those who are victimized by it.”
Growing coalition fighting trafficking in Alabama
Pinkleton said other highlights from the summit included a keynote address about child sex trafficking from ECPAT-USA Executive Director Carol Smolenski, a presentation about how human traffickers target kids through social media by Blount County district attorney Pamela Casey, and a panel discussion with Auburn University and Mountain Brook High School students about how to best discuss human trafficking with their peers.
“As always, this summit leads to increased collaboration between attendees and organizations present,” Pinkleton said. “We look forward to partnering with NCOSE going forward along with Trafficking Hope, which is a ministry of Church of the Highlands.”
The Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force was established in 2014 and meets once a quarter at the Alabama State House.
Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News.