Victims of human trafficking offered safe place, transitional housing

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - A Shallotte-based organization counsels victims of human trafficking in prison while offering a roof over their heads and a safe place after they serve their time.

Stand Against Trafficking USA, a faith-based non-profit, houses victims of human trafficking in their Brunswick County facility.

"Giving them a safe place is huge," Allysa McKenzie, founder and executive director of STAT said. "They can't even get to step two if we don't give them a safe place to live."

Victims who enroll in the ten-month transitional program each have their own bed, trips to the doctor as needed and more.

"That's their success is waking up and saying 'I'm proud of myself,'" McKenzie explained. "That's what one woman always says she's like 'this is the first time I can remember being proud of myself.'"

McKenzie and a group of volunteers visit the detention center weekly to counsel the victims. Each woman has a different story and set of issues.

"Last time we went in, her trafficker had contacted her and told her he bought her a condo and that he would take care of her and she wouldn't have to do the things she did before," McKenzie explained. "She believes him."

According to McKenzie, STAT's facility in Shallotte is completely full and they are looking to expand to house more victims and their children.

As McKenzie works to provide a safe space, prosecutors look to put the pimps and traffickers who brought trauma on these women behind bars.

New Hanover County Assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan said it's nearly impossible to serve justice in human trafficking cases unless the victims are willing to testify.

"Getting [the victims] into Wilmington and getting them into this courthouse is a gamechanger in these cases," Jordan said. "The defendants know it."

Jordan was able to convince three victims to help put Kalmaice Williams behind bars.

"For you to come in and share that kind of information is incredibly intimidating, is incredibly embarrassing and exposing," Jordan explained. "You are doing it in front of the perpetrator you fear, there are all these things that come together that make it the most difficult situation."

Most times, Jordan said the women don't want to testify. But a unifying factor convinces each woman to retell their traumatic past.

"They felt compelled to do it because they knew what other women would experience and they didn't want other women to go through that," Jordan explained.

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