MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama resident Dixie Shannon said she was the victim of human trafficking while attending duel enrollment classes as a minor. Human trafficking can happen in a community’s own backyard, and most people never even realize it.
“When I was 17, I just knew there were a lot of demands out of me. They were asking me to do a lot of things I did not want to do,” Shannon said. “And I really didn’t know how to respond. They would just say ‘smoke some weed’ or ‘smoke some marijuana.’”
Shannon supports a new Alabama law that will require commercial driver’s license programs and junior colleges to provide human trafficking training. Truck drivers would learn how to spot it, prevent it, and how to report it.
“As a survivor, when I think about my story, I think about the lack of awareness that was around the community. They just weren’t aware and didn’t know, and a lot of things were hush hush,” Shannon explained.
Private groups offering CDL courses are not required to add that human trafficking component. However, the law does encourage them to do it.
State Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham, was a sponsor of the legislation and said not all CDL programs offer human trafficking prevention courses.
“When it comes to training and being able to identify human trafficking, we need all hands on deck,” Coleman said.
Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry. Experts say the number of victims is tough to determine, but a University of Alabama School of Social Work study said Alabama law enforcement found more than 600 potential victims of human trafficking in 2017.
The law goes into effect in Jan. 2020.