By: Emily Washburn, Contributing Writer
On April 13th, 2017 Assistant Attorney General of the State of South Carolina Kinli Abee visited Wofford to talk about her work with sex trafficking in the state. This event was hosted by the Gender Equality Committee. Abee is also an alumna of Wofford College, having graduated in 2008.
Abee is the docket manager of the Special Victims Unit, prosecuting cases concerning issues such as child and adult sexual assault, human trafficking, child abuse and neglect, child homicide, domestic abuse and domestic homicide. According to her, one of the issues that has becoming increasingly prevalent in South Carolina is human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking.
As she shared her experiences with specific cases, she pointed out some common characteristics of trafficking victims that the public can be aware of. They include: branding (such as tattoos), control of money or documentation, lack of eye contact, mandatory and abnormal working hours, drug problems and following your gut feeling. Often the women that are being trafficked have the name of their trafficker tattooed on them in an obvious place. The traffickers also control their victims’ money and documentation, such as drivers’ licenses and passports, in order to have complete power over the girls they are trafficking. People being trafficked often have set times they have to work that are very late at night or early in the morning.
Of the cases Abee has prosecuted, the victims have all been women. However, that does not mean that there are not men who have also been trafficked. Men are also not always the traffickers; Abee has prosecuted cases where women were traffickers or were in cohorts with a man who trafficked.
Another pattern the public can be aware of is the two main types of pimps– “Romeo” pimps and “guerilla” pimps. The Romeo pimps will woo targets by convincing them they’re in love or interested in a relationship, whereas the guerilla pimps will take people by force and use scare tactics and violence.
She defined human trafficking as the “trafficking of adults, children, foreign nationals and U.S. citizens for the purpose of labor, sex or forced marriage.” This can occur within our outside of U.S. borders. South Carolina law defines sex trafficking in SC Code Ann. 16-3-2010-2090 as “recruitment, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person through force, fraud or coercion OR someone under 18 when something of value is exchanged, to perform what would be defined as: criminal sexual conduct 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or with a minor; engaging a child for sexual performance; directing or promoting sexual performance by a child; sexual batter, conduct, or performance.”
The penalties for sex trafficking in South Carolina are 0-15 years for the first offense, 0-30 years for the second offense and 0-45 years for the third offense. If it is the sexual trafficking of a minor there is an additional 15 years. Anyone who “aids, abets or conspires with another person” who is trafficking can be charged equally.
Sex trafficking has become an issue in the state of South Carolina that draws the efforts of lawyers, law enforcement and many others in trying to stop and prevent it. Abee says that the best way to play a part is to be aware of the signs of sex trafficking and report any suspicions or evidence you have to your local law enforcement immediately.