GREENVILLE, PITT COUNTY - Human trafficking has been displayed in popular movies such as "Taken" or "The Whistleblower". But anti-human trafficking activists around the country want you to know that it's very much a reality.
Nationally recognized anti-human trafficking activist, Yvonne Williams, spoke at East Carolina University about the issue on Thursday night. She is passionate about stopping trafficking crimes.
"We don't want to admit things like this happen in America," Williams says. "You're not only destroying them for that moment, you're destroying them for a lifetime. Their dreams, integrity. It just caused them an entire life by having it happen. So stopping it is the most important thing we can do in this country."
Anti-trafficking groups like The Polaris Project rank North Carolina as a top ten state to most likely have human trafficking.
When Williams was asked why North Carolina is more susceptible to human trafficking as opposed to other states, she explained one of the factors.
"North Carolina has many interstates throughout the state that makes it a target for trafficking," Williams said.
Back in May, a jury convicted Mario McNeill in a high profile sex trafficking case. McNeill murdered 5-year-old Shaniya Davis of Fayetteville in 2009.
Shaniya's mother pleaded guilty to several charges in October. Prosecutors say she sold her daughter to McNeill to settle a drug debt.
One group that attended the presentation was The Pearl Ministry. The organization is a human trafficking prevention group based in New Bern. Members handed out flyers with a list of signs of human trafficking. The flyer listed these signs:
-Bruises or other signs of abuse, restraint or confinement.
-Looking fearful or submissive
-Accompanied by a controlling person or boss
-Lack of control over personal schedule, money, identification and/or travel documents
-Transported to and from work OR lives and works in the same place
-Unable to freely contact friends and family
-Has few or no personal possessions, carries them in small or plastic bags
-Does not know his or her address
-A minor involved in a relationship with an older man
-Tattoos with numbers or branding