BY MELINDA SAMPSON
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and a Pitt County
nonprofit organization is launching a large-scale effort to educate the community through free programs designed to raise awareness.
ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now, based in Farmville, NC, focuses on bringing attention to the local human trafficking problem, and empowers community members to both combat and prevent it by building collaborations and coalitions with various agencies and disciplines, by introducing fair trade items into the local market, and by advocating for stronger anti-human trafficking legislation.
Founder Pam Strickland says her organization’s primary focus is to address all the causes that result in the exploitation of people, and to ultimately choke off the trafficker pipeline by both identifying and assisting victims. From reduction in demand, to total prevention, Strickland says the purpose of ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now’s outreach efforts is to essentially “pull the poison plant up by the root”.
“We must focus on prevention. We can’t just pull drowning people out of the river. Someone needs to go upstream and stop people from jumping in. We have to keep in mind that human trafficking is a business driven by supply and demand,” she says.
It is in addressing that demand that this organization has blazed a trail, but for Strickland, there is no novelty in identifying the buyers of trafficking victims. It is a necessity.
“In thinking about how to prevent sex trafficking, most efforts are directed at ‘supply’—in reducing the vulnerability of girls and women. We need to also address the ‘demand’—the sex buyer,” she says. Easy access to and watching pornography is on one end of the sex exploitation spectrum, while buying sex and forcing others to sell it is at the opposite end. “If no one wanted to buy sex from 15-year-old girls, pimp traffickers would not be manipulating them into prostitution,” Strickland says.
Her multi-faceted approach to fighting human trafficking has gained incredible traction on the county level. In 2016, the Pitt County Coalition Against Human Trafficking was created, and to date, representatives from the Pitt County Department of Social Services, Legal Aid of North Carolina, and other nonprofits, agencies and service providers are actively involved. This combined institutional support today is a far cry from ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now’s inception nearly 10 years ago, when Strickland, in 2010, created the organization after she became aware of the tragedy that is human trafficking.
Her journey in forming the nonprofit began at a missions conference with her church, where she watched a video of a rescue mission in Asia, and heard Gary Haugen, of International Justice Mission, speak of IJM’s work across the globe.
“All of these tiny girls were being rescued, and I thought, ‘This can’t be happening in 2006,’” Strickland said. “Families are selling their little girls into these brothels, and grown men pay to rape them. I felt called to do something.”
She went on a mission trip to Moldova, and there, in the field, learned about trafficking worldwide. “There was very little public awareness about human trafficking,” Strickland said. She created ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now ahead of the wave of anti-human trafficking advocacy work that is now prevalent locally in North Carolina. She says that growth in awareness and knowledge is rewarding, but at the same time, she acknowledges there is more work to be done.
“As I learned more about human trafficking happening in the United States, and specifically in Eastern North Carolina, I felt called to educate this community,” Strickland said, “and that effort became Eastern NC Stop Human Trafficking Now. Now, there are movies, documentaries and law-enforcement-centered TV series with episodes
focusing on human trafficking. It has really become part of the national consciousness. It’s been exciting to watch that shift. Now we need to shift people again, from awareness to ’I can do something.’”
Strickland said attending any of ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now’s free community trainings, or “Be the One” documentary screenings and discussions, will position community members to join the fight against human trafficking.
For learn more about ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now, or to become involved, visit
encstophumantrafficking.org. If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888.