#SpotlightOnCLT: Human Trafficking, Victims in Plain Sight | SHARE Charlotte

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#SpotlightOnCLT: Human Trafficking, Victims in Plain Sight

Written by Nicole Copsis    on February 3, 2019    in
Written by Holly Blackman

My daughter ran down the hill to the ice cream truck with her piggy bank tucked under her arm like a football, me a few paces behind her. Once I arrived a bit out of breath. I smiled at the two female neighbors and the man they were with. I’d seen them before, but never all at the same time.

“I want an ice cream,” he said, and there was a silent hunger from the women with only their eyes. Silently they tugged at his sleeve, child-like. He brushed them off, and I offered the coins to the women and told them, “We have plenty of change if you want something.” “They don’t,” he tersely responded and the exchange became awkward as the women’s eyes lowered, ashamed puppy-like to the pavement.

This was the the silent exchange between these neighbors, but not the first.

During our family walks, we passed their house many Saturday mornings...walking by, there was always one of the two girls in a tent in their front yard, manning their yard sale odds and ends. She’d stay silent until we asked a question, but strictly business. I know some people are that way, but the .”something is wrong”, hair-stand-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck vibe had me lift my ears..

Later, I “met” the other woman who lived there when our dog darted out of our fence  and straight to their house, where two pit bulls barked out the paper-covered windows. The woman was a shell, a silent void. While being helpful with the dog, she kept me at arms length.

Then I began noticing the men who visited this house. The yard sale every Saturday, was it a front? The silent women who knew only prices...I never saw them alone together? The women only worked in the yard? The blinds never opened, the multiple cars, it just wasn’t feeling right. I called. I reported the incident to The National Human Trafficking Hotline, and about a month later, I saw 2 police cars arrive on our street.

During the police episode, a man from the peculiar house hid on a hill across the street from my house, oddly behind a bush...I felt I’d landed straight in the middle of a police TV drama like True Blue. After the incident, I never saw the women again.

So I spoke with Dr. Patricia Krikorian, Executive Director of Lily Pad Haven, who works with human trafficking victims every day. She told me often women are moved if there’s a threat. I can’t say for sure, but I’d rather be overly cautious than sorry I was silent. Human trafficking is preying on others and is modern-day slavery. We must keep our eyes open no matter where we live because that’s what neighbors do to love one another. Thanks for sharing your money and time with agencies like Lily Pad Haven to help our partners help those affected by human trafficking and for loving your neighbors with us.