Organizing and Responding to Human Trafficking in NC

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Learning about these common threads may help you understand how to help others or get help yourself.
The survivor stories in the video “Common Threads” illustrate some of the vulnerabilities experienced by people that traffickers seek to exploit. Howard was homeless, Cindy felt alone and out of place, Jorge’s daughter needed medicine and Kerri was having problems at home. Situations such as these could happen to anyone. For some, the vulnerabilities go deeper. It’s not only an individual’s current status but what may have shaped them psychologically in their past, such as a history of child abuse, that can leave them vulnerable to traffickers.
Howard was homeless and wanted to get his life back
Cindy felt alone and out of place
Jorge’s daughter needed medicine
Kerri was having problems at home



In the video, the survivors were deceived by someone they trusted. The deception stage is the initial period when vulnerable individuals are fooled by offers of work or forced or abducted for the purpose of exploitation. Traffickers dehumanize their victims by manipulating their feelings of self-worth. They may instill fear with the threat of shame or embarrassment, eroding the victims trust in other people so that the victim thinks only the trafficker cares for them. Victims are given false hope with promises that seem to answer their deepest insecurities.

Men promised a job and fair pay
He told her that he loved her
A recruiter promised a job for money to pay medical bills
He offered her a place to stay when she had no where to go



Exploitation is one of the distinguishing characteristics that delineates human trafficking from other crimes. In the video, Howard was forced to work just to earn food, Cindy’s trafficker groomed her by having an intimate relationship and used the premise of love to ensnare her, Jorge’s legal status was used to exploit him to labor and Kerri was made to comply with the trafficker’s demands in order to survive. In North Carolina, if you have been exploited by sex trafficking, the Safe Harbor Act offers protections under the law. Call the Hotline now for help.

He withheld food and forced long hours of hard work
His love came at a high price
His paperwork was withheld to keep him in labor
He forced her to comply to survive


The Action-Means-Purpose model articulates the elements required for an offense to be defined as human trafficking. The three columns; “action,” “means” and “purpose,” illustrate the components of human trafficking according to Federal Law. A perpetrator, often referred to as a trafficker, takes any one of the enumerated actions, and then employs the means of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of compelling the victim to provide commercial sex acts or labor or services. The three elements of the AMP model represent one common theme of all survivor experiences.

Source: [USC04] 22 USC Ch. 78

Howard’s Story

Howard has been spending nights in a tent camp with six other homeless people. During the day he sleeps in a park. Every day is a struggle to find food and alcohol. Last week he was mugged while he was sleeping and his Purple Heart Medal was stolen. One day men pulled up at the park in a van and told Harold and several other men that they could give them food and a place to stay if they came to work in North Carolina. He said there are restaurants and hotels looking for good workers. Harold agrees to get in the van along with other homeless men. Harold is forced to work in the kitchen and clean the living quarters occupied by a large group of men. He is bribed by promises of food and alcohol. He is forced to work fourteen hour days. The boss pays him only ten dollars and some alcohol and withholds food and rest.

Cindy’s Story

Cindy has lived with foster home families for the last 13 years of her life. She was sexually and physically abused while in the care of foster parents. She has changed high schools three times in the last year and has struggled to be accepted and gain friends. A male student begins to flirt with her. He says he wants her to be his girlfriend. One day he introduces her to another boy. He says he owed the guy a favor and if she really loves him she will make his friend feel good. When she protests, he tells her she is worthless and that is why no one will have her but him. Reluctantly, she agrees. Soon he is asking her to be with more friends. She realizes he is getting money from them, but he buys her expensive gifts and tells her that only he understands her. This must be the way it is supposed to be.

Jorge’s Story

Jorge’s daughter suffers from seizures and he can’t afford to buy her medicine. A recruiter comes to Jorge’s town in Northern Mexico. The man tells Jorge that he represents a large agricultural company and he can help get Jorge a visa and a job in North Carolina. This will pay enough to cover his daughters medical bills. He must get a loan to pay for the trip, but the man says he will be reimbursed when they get to the job site. After a harrowing trip in a van he arrives at a labor camp. The conditions are terrible. The crew leader forces him and other workers to work in the fields twelve hours a day with little food and water. When pay day arrives, the job leader pays him with paper vouchers instead of cash. He receives a fraction of what was promised and does not get reimbursed for his loan. He is also told that there was an issue with his Visa and he would not be able to return home.

Kerri’s Story

Kerri lives with her mother in an affluent neighborhood. Kerri is in a relationship with another girl who attends community college with her. She has begun taking pills from her mother’s medicine cabinet so that she and her friends can get high. Her mother confronts her and her girlfriend and accuses her of stealing pills. Upset, Kerri gathers a few things and leaves home. She has nowhere to go so she sleeps in her car. One day she is at coffee shop with her friends and a guy approaches her and tells her that he is looking for models. He tells her she can stay at his place until he gets her a modeling job. After some time, he becomes abusive to her, especially after they use drugs. He tells her that if she is going to stay she needs to pay rent. She believes she has nowhere else to go. She must do whatever it takes to get the money for him.

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