ASHEBORO — The cheerful demeanor of Kristina Young belies the passion that motivates her. She has joined a movement to spotlight and eradicate human trafficking.
The Asheboro resident is spearheading the inaugural A21 Walk for Freedom, to be held Saturday, Oct. 15, at Memorial Park on Church Street. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. in the picnic shelter and the walk starts at 9:30 a.m.
An international organization, A21’s purpose is to bring awareness of the estimated 27 million people worldwide being trapped in slavery. Some 5.5 million of those are children. The goal is to abolish human trafficking in the 21st century.
Young says she attended a Joyce Meyer women’s conference in Winston-Salem three or four years ago. A video about human trafficking “grabbed my heart,” she said. “I’ve had a passion for the victims of human trafficking ever since.”
Last October, she said, she went to an A21 walk in Charleston, S.C., and the experience helped her decide to hold a similar event here in Asheboro.
Young said she has the support of her church, Foster Street Wesleyan, which provides her with “whatever is needed.” Other congregations assisting include Archdale’s Southside Baptist, Sunset Avenue Church of God, Central United Methodist, Mount Lebanon Baptist and First United Methodist.
Young said many of her friends are getting the word out as well and she has distributed flyers around town.
The walk will be a solemn event with participants asked to dress in black. They’ll be in single file with black tape over their mouths to represent the 27 million who have no voice.
The walk will cover 1.6 miles, beginning on Church Street and making right turns onto Cooper Street, Park Street, Wainman Avenue, Fayetteville Street and Lanier Avenue before turning left back onto Church. There will be a police escort.
There is no registration fee but donations will be welcome. Proceeds go toward restoring the lives of human trafficking survivors. Walkers can sign up online at A21.org or on the day of the event.
Young said the fate of human trafficking victims strikes home to her profoundly since she was sexually assaulted as a child. “When I see someone else victimized, whether by sex or labor trafficking, I gravitate to want to help,” she said. “(My own experience) is why this grabbed me so much. You want to end their suffering.”
To personalize human trafficking, Young told the story of a young woman named Natalia who met a man in a coffee shop. While she was using the ladies room, he drugged her coffee. Later, she awoke chained to a bed, where she was sexually abused for two days. Then the man sold her into prostitution. Natalia was finally rescued in Greece by A21.
“Only 1 or 2 percent of victims are rescued,” Young said, “and only 1 of every 100,000 traffickers are prosecuted. We want to change those statistics, especially the rescuing part.”
One problem with the prosecution of traffickers is that even when a victim is rescued, he or she is often afraid of retaliation for testifying. And some victims of foreign descent fear being deported.
“Someone is victimized every 30 minutes worldwide,” Young said. “And it’s happening here in Randolph County, probably within walking distance. You can’t solve the problem unless you know you have it.”
In fact, it’s believed that there are more slaves worldwide than ever before in human history. “It’s sad that someone can think so little of another person as to enslave them,” Young said.
To be clear, human trafficking can involve enslavement for sex or for labor. Domestic violence can be a form of human trafficking, particularly when the victim is a minor, is not allowed access to money or identification and when the trafficker has complete control of the victim.
Young said North Carolina ranks No. 8 in the U.S. for human trafficking. Factors include major interstate highways, large military bases, migrant farm workers and a population crescent stretching from Charlotte to Wilmington.
Human trafficking is thought to be the fastest-growing of criminal activities, having surpassed the arms trade to become No. 2 behind illegal drugs. It’s a $130 billion business worldwide.
The purpose of the A21 walk, she said, is “to bring awareness. When you cast a light, you’re exposing darkness.
“We want to make a statement that we’re not going to tolerate human trafficking in Randolph County.”