Lowcountry group warns of human trafficking risk at large-scale sporting events

Local News

Whether it’s the Super Bowl or the RBC Heritage, large-scale sporting events can provide a prime opportunity for human traffickers.

Sheila Roemeling, Executive Director of Fresh Start Healing Heart, works daily to combat human trafficking and provide help to victims.

With the more than 100,000 people set to attend the RBC Heritage, a golf tournament on Hilton Head, Roemeling says there is a risk for trafficking.

You see a larger increase of people purchasing and looking for things they probably wouldn’t do in their hometown, but that they’ll do where they don’t think they’ll be caught, she explained.

Roemeling added that many victims are also solicited online. Research shows a spike in online ads tied to the commercial sex industry. 

It’s very hidden, but yet then it’s very open because you don’t see people walking the streets anymore, it’s all online, Roemeling said.

Traffickers might use or force fraud to control their victims. Offline, there are different ways to spot the signs.

When you see someone following around, watching very closely watching everything she’s doing or he’s doing — that’s a pretty good indicator, especially if they’re soliciting sex, Roemeling said.

The Fresh Start Healing Heart Executive Director says human trafficking is an example of modern day slavery.

One percent in the world is what they’ve found that ever get out of human trafficking, Roemeling said, adding, With the 14 that we have worked with, and the 6 that we’ve housed, you’re looking at 1 percent in the area. So how many have we missed?

Fresh Start Healing Heart is holding an event Friday night to raise funds for the organization. The painting class at Southern Palette in Beaufort will aid in their efforts to spread awareness of human trafficking and support human trafficking.

To learn more about the organization, and the signs of human trafficking, visit Fresh Start Healing Heart’s website here.

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