To many, Lisa Barr Surratt, a 2003 graduate, is a charming, intelligent and outgoing preacher’s wife and mother of two, with one on the way. To others, she, a physician’s assistant in the emergency room at Summerville Medical Center, is Doc.
However, what many do not know — but are starting to — is that she has added pioneer, activist and abolitionist to her repertoire of titles. In June of 2012, she officially opened the East Coast A21 office in Mount Pleasant.
The A21 Campaign, or simply A21, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose purpose is “abolishing slavery in the 21st century.” The slavery that they are referring to is human trafficking. According to the A21 website, “There are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in human history, with an estimated 27 million in bondage across the globe. Men, women and children are being exploited for manual and sexual labor against their will.”
When people think of human trafficking, Eastern Europe immediately comes to mind. Rarely does anyone equate the term with something that could be happening in the United States, the land of the free. Moreover, Charlestonians could never fathom human trafficking happening in their own back yard, the Holy City.
Sadly, it is happening in the United States, and it does happen around Charleston. And, it is a bigger problem than we have solutions for, says Surratt. That’s where she comes in.
Surratt “stepped into her purpose,” as she puts it, to combat the horrible injustice and lack of awareness related to human trafficking, but not on purpose. At the urging of her husband to become more involved with the ministry, she attended a Christian women’s conference where she struck up a conversation with a fellow knee surgery sufferer. It just so happened that this woman was Christine Caine, a motivational speaker and founder of The A21 Campaign.
At first, the thought of becoming involved with anything like that was scary, Surratt says. But, as the months went on the signs were all around her, and she felt God was calling her. While preparing to speak at a women’s retreat (unrelated to A21 or human trafficking), she felt very connected to the Book of Esther, and her purpose became obvious. “I felt this huge responsibility. I finally just surrendered and began looking into it,” she said.
“There are organizations all over the world that are fighting trafficking in Eastern Europe, but who’s doing it in our back yard?” she asks. The answer is she is. She began by talking to law enforcement and started networking. Before she knew it, she had made contacts all the way to the top state officials and had rallied a community of volunteers to get involved. She corroborated with Caine of The A21 Campaign and became the director of its East Coast, United States office.
- Prevention through awareness and education
- Protection by providing shelters and transition homes to victims
- Prosecution of traffickers through legal representation
- And, partnerships with law enforcement, service providers and community members to strengthen the response to human trafficking
A21 was asked recently to participate with a state task force led by the Attorney General’s office as an NGO, nongovernment organization, to help with educational awareness efforts in the community relating to trafficking. From speaking at seminars to distributing awareness brochures in the community, she hopes her efforts and those of the volunteers will reach far and wide.
CSU has chosen The A21 Campaign as one of seven ministry partnerships for 2013. To find out more or get involved with The A21 Campaign and their national or global initiatives, visit their website: www.thea21campaign.org.
Quick Facts about trafficking:
- Every 30 seconds another person becomes a victim of human trafficking
- 99% of victims are not rescued
- An estimated 27 million men, women and children across the globe are exploited for manual and sexual labor against their will
- Average age of trafficking victims is 12 years old
- NHTRC (National Human Trafficking Resource Center) reported 2,165 potential human trafficking victims in 2011, the most recent statistics available
- Of these victims 67.48% were exploited for sex trafficking
- 10% of the victims were minors
- Call volume to the NHTRC crisis hotline increased 61% from 11,874 in 2010 to 19,427 in 2011
- California, Texas, Florida and New York had the highest number of reports
- NHTRC has received reports of potential human trafficking in every state
- It is estimated that there are 100,000 children in the sex trade in the United States each year, according to NHTRC
South Carolina Statistics:
- 18 potential cases of human trafficking in S.C. during the first three quarters of 2012, the most recent statistics available
- 170 calls to the NHTRC referenced S.C. in 2011
- NHTRC reported 20 potential human trafficking cases in 2011 for S.C.
- Approximately one quarter of the potential human trafficking cases in S.C. reference minors
- The highest concentration of calls were from the Myrtle Beach, Columbia and Charleston areas, respectively
- S.C. first confirmed case of human trafficking occurred in 2007 and involved a 14 year old girl
- June 18, 2012 Gov. Haley signed Bill 3757, strengthening human trafficking laws in S.C.