Experts share warning signs for familial trafficking after Walker Co. parent arrested for child endangerment

Experts say many victims trafficked by their own family
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 10:53 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2023 at 3:16 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Three people are in custody tonight, after deputies found two underage girls in a Walker County motel room with adult men who already had outstanding warrants. One of those in custody is the parent of one of the young girls.

The Walker County Sheriff’s Office said the two girls are under 16-years-old and were found in two separate motel rooms with the men. Officials said a parent of one of the girls dropped them off at the motel and also rented a room and left the kids unattended. Sheriff’s Office officials said it was actually another family member that was suspicious and tipped them off.

The WellHouse in Birmingham is a nonprofit that provides safety and shelter for female victims of human trafficking. CEO Carolyn Potter said victims of human trafficking are often trafficked by their own family .

“There is a big percentage of familial trafficking in Alabama,” Potter said. “Majority of our current children were trafficked by family members, so that is what we are seeing. I would say easily, 50% of youth who are trafficked, are trafficked by family.”

Potter said it can be hard to spot a child being trafficked in their own family but there are signs to look out for.

“Children that appear highly traumatized, neglected, malnourished, don’t make eye contact, very scared and timid, probably missing a lot of school,” she said.

“You see some signs in change or personality or they could even have new tattoos,” Blanket Fort Hope CEO Alexa James said. “They may not look you in the eye any longer. They may be more aggressive in their actions, just a changed child. They look battered, keep their head down, or they don’t really look real clean. If you have suspicious, you should let somebody know.”

Potter said they see children being groomed by their parents or sold for money and drugs.

“Their parents are taking pictures of them and they’re providing pornographic photos, selling those,” Potter said.

Potter said these types of crimes can be harder to spot in rural areas, where there are less eyes. She said calling for help if you are suspicious can save lives. You can remain anonymous with police or DHR.

“A lot of times it’s suspected, but people are afraid to do anything against their family members,” Potter said. “A parent who is willing to traffic their child, in all likelihood, they are not going to be rehabilitated in time to give that child a healthy childhood.”

“If you see something, say something,” James said. “The police department can just go do a safety check to just go make sure everything is okay and a lot of times, that is how cases are found, is through doing a house check. If you ask, no body has to know you were the one who called.”

Potter stressed to stop trafficking there needs to be stricter legal punishments and children need to be removed from the situation and taken somewhere safe.

The parent is in custody tonight for endangering the welfare of a child. Sheriff’s office officials are not releasing the name to keep the juvenile girls’ identities sealed.

Both adult males had outstanding warrants with the Jasper Police Department and were taken into custody there.

The Sheriff’s Department has not shared if this case is an example of sex trafficking.

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