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WomenNC x UNC Public Policy: Human Trafficking

November 2, 2023

WomenNC is working with UNC Public Policy Capstone students this semester on Human Trafficking in NC.

WomenNC engaged with the UNC Public Policy Capstone class to advance research regarding the instances and the prevalence of sex and labor trafficking in North Carolina. This preliminary study will contribute to the resource library at WomenNC, prelude future comprehensive analyses, and broadly inform communities of trafficking concerns. Under the primary supervision of Ava Smith, Head of Growth and Development, the group will provide the organization with an extensive literature review of sociological and economic catalysts of trafficking, federal and state statutes and measures, as well as, previous solutions. The team will write, distribute, and analyze two surveys; one will address state legislators, and the other, partners of the organization. This will inform both WomenNC and the team of the effectiveness of current policies and interests in future programs. Subsequently, they will use the results and literature review to recommend policy solutions for state implementation. 

Why is this research important?

Slavery still exists, although covertly and concealed. Terra Green, recently retired city manager of Lexington, NC, shared, “human trafficking is incredibly profitable because the controller or profiteer can sell the same human being over and over again” (Henderson, 2019, as cited in “Stop Human Trafficking”). It is the subtle or overt, physical or psychological, coercion and exploitation of a person to provide labor or sexual demands (DOJ, 2023). This is the most prevalent form of victimization in the world as a crime against both the person and the country. In 2018, human trafficking became the second-largest global criminal industry with a reported annual profit of $150 billion and approximately 25 million victims (DHS, 2021). Additionally, the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative (CTDC) identified over 80% of trafficked victims in the Americas are female, and over a third are minors (CTDC, 2022). North Carolina is ranked 9th in the United States with Charlotte as the most prominent contributor (Polaris, 2022). The National Human Trafficking hotline reported 50,123 signals in 2021 from across the United States with 922 from North Carolina, which included 223 cases and 340 victims. There were 165 victims of sex trafficking, 34 victims of labor trafficking, and 6 victims affected by both. 

The prevalence of highways, military populations, and agriculture contribute to the instances of sex and labor trafficking identified in North Carolina (DOA, 2023). As a result, victims continue to experience psychological trauma including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression, as well as physical trauma including sexually transmitted infections, memory loss, and health complications (Oram et al., 2016). Additionally, a meta-analysis of peer reviewed articles found that on average, 52% of women suffer from depression, 50% suffer from anxiety, and 32% suffer from PTSD. Prevalence estimates for HIV among women ranged from 22.7% to 45.8% with an average of 31.9% (Oram et al., 2016). 

Furthermore, local governments generally rely on law enforcement, social services, and public health clinics to provide care and support for trafficking concerns. However, research has indicated that prevention education efforts effectively contribute to a decrease in trafficking numbers (Henderson, 2016). Given the reach of educational institutions, the Department of Education should take advantage of the opportunity to inform both students and the public (Salas, 2019). North Carolina mandates sex and prevention education for school personnel and for students beginning in 7th grade; however, the persistence of human trafficking begs for policy interventions with more extensive curriculum requirements and more age-inclusive programs. 

Get to know the student behind the research!

Jordanne Arace

Jordanne Arace is a current senior majoring in public policy with double minors in philosophy politics and economics and conflict management. She plans to teach English abroad after graduation before pursuing a career in education policy specifically in regards to gender and socioeconomic inequality within the American education system. She aims to use her passion for public policy and past research surrounding the MeToo movement along with its subsequent alterations to female behavior and reproductive laws as they pertain to minors and the lack of support offered to certain groups in North Carolina to ardently aid WomenNC.

Grace Berry

Grace Berry is a current senior studying public policy, history, and social and economic justice. Of particular interest to her is the intersection of public policy and social justice within the beauty and fashion industry. Grace would like to actively contribute and add value to the promotion of economic inclusiveness, sustainability, and the utilization of cruelty-free practices. Beyond this, her experiences and passions lie within food justice and accessibility. Her engagement with non-profit work combined with qualitative analysis will aid her ability to contribute to WomenNC. 

Michelle Breit

Michelle Breit is a current senior with a double major in public policy and political science and a minor in data science. Michelle has a deep passion for violence prevention and survivor advocacy gaining experience both on and off campus. She has served as a Peer Educator with the office of Violence Prevention and Advocacy Services at the university for the past year, as well as, proposed and led the Denim Day campaign in April 2023. Additionally, Michelle volunteers with the Orange County Rape Crisis Center as a helpline and hospital companion. She has ambitious hopes and fervently awaits the research, data, and project experience. 

Sophia Desai

Sophia Desai is a current senior studying public policy with minors in medical anthropology and data science. Sophia is on the pre-law track with ample experience working in immigration legal services. Her adequate knowledge of public policy, including her political analysis and research design skills, will allow her to be a large contributor to the capstone project. Sophia is eager to learn more about gender inequality in North Carolina, particularly as it regards the prevalent issue of human trafficking.

Elizabeth Norris 

Elizabeth Norris is a current senior with a double major in psychology and public policy, minoring in history. She is on the pre-law track with hopes of becoming an international human rights lawyer. She has completed multiple courses throughout her time at UNC affording her the opportunity to complete research projects and policy analysis, so is well suited to this capstone project. Elizabeth is interested in learning more about gender equality in the state of North Carolina and comparing it to similar states within the United States. 

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