CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Human trafficking isn’t a new problem but there has been a push recently to learn more about the issue and how to help victims.

People who work with the homeless in the Kanawha Valley attended a workshop Wednesday to learn how to spot victims of human trafficking. They also learned how to connect victims with the services they need.

Organizers of the meeting hoped to take a proactive approach to helping protect some of the most vulnerable people in the community.

“It has been happening for a very long time,” said Amanda McComas, Director of the Branches Domestic Violence Shelter. “But people don’t necessarily know what to call it or how to recognize it.”

She said the crime is often under reported and sometimes challenging to spot.

“A victim of human trafficking is very rarely going to come to you and say ‘I’m a victim of human trafficking’ because they don’t even fully realize that it is happening to them,” McComas said. “It is really good to be able to get out into the community and spread awareness and teach people how to spot the indicators, the right questions to ask of those victims, things like that.”

The event was sponsored by Branches Domestic Violence Shelter and the REACH Rape Crisis Program along with the Kanawha Valley Collective.

Traci Strickland with the Kanawha Valley Collective said knowing what to say and how to say it is vital when it comes to leading victims to the help they need.

“I know personally I’ve interfaced with individuals that I’ve suspected it and I had zero idea of what to say,” Strickland said. “I was really more afraid to say the wrong thing. I think a lot of times when providers have that fear they just don’t say anything which is also just as detrimental because that may be the moment we can help someone.” January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. To learn more and for more resources check out the National Human Trafficking Hotline and Shared Hope