VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - A Valdosta organization wants to help raise awareness about human trafficking within the community.
The Haven said most of the cases they are seeing in South Georgia are victims who have been contacted online.
Heather Grizzle is a registered nurse and sexual assault program coordinator at the Haven in Valdosta.
Grizzle said they help women, men and children. She said most cases they see have the same backstory.
The victim met someone online and was promised a modeling career or a job that appealed to them. Then the victim was convinced that the opportunity would help them become independent and better themselves.
“Adults and children, when communicating with someone online, need to be careful. These people are experts in gaining trust. They know how to gain a 13, 14, 15-year-old’s trust and say all the right things to them so they would want to leave,” explained Grizzle.
The Haven helps victims from all over the state and nation due to their location near the interstate. Grizzle said the victims range in ages and all types of demographics. However, they all seem to have one thing in common, most have a history of abuse.
Some are children who ran away from home or are in the foster care system and they don’t want to be there, so they find other options.
“A lot of the victims I see leave a mark. The main thing for us as health care providers, these victims don’t identify themselves as victims. It’s very difficult to help them. A lot of times they are angry, a lot of times they just want to get on with their lives or pursue this job they think it’s promising but it is not, actually. It’s a human trafficking situation and they don’t realize it,” said Grizzle.
Grizzle said the term human trafficking can be misleading for some.
”The words human trafficking are hard for me because when you talk about it with the public, they envision somebody with a sketchy semi-truck that’s loading it down with a lot of people and moving them from one location to another. And a lot of the times, that’s not what is happening at all. These people aren’t being moved, they are right here in this community, they stay in this community,” explained Grizzle.
Grizzle recommends members of the community stay vigilant and curious and if you see something, you should say something.
If a child or adult has physical injuries, avoids eye contact and looks nervous, she recommends you ask questions. Parents should monitor their child’s online activity. If there is a change in behavior or spending extra time connected, she suggests you remind them of the dangers of who may be on the other side.
Anyone can be a victim.