The south Charlotte resident has a background in early childhood education and never knew much about the issue of sex trafficking. But hearing the testimony of Aimee Johnson, founder of Charlotte-based Rise Up Ministries, sparked an interest in Pavlic that ignited a passion for spreading awareness of human trafficking among the community.
“I went on a quest for my own interest, to figure out what (human trafficking) looks like and what the church could do to help,” Pavlic, who attends Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, said. “Charlotte is a major, major area … one of the top 10 cities in America for human trafficking.”
Pavlic now strives to educate the community on human trafficking while also serving as a networker between individuals and various sex trafficking organizations. She will speak at Queen’s Grant Community School, 6400 Matthews-Mint Hill Road in Mint Hill, on Monday, March 24, at 6:30 p.m.
The event is geared toward parents and adults within the community and will focus on Charlotte-area sex trafficking facts and statistics, as well as how to recognize warning signs that can precede a trafficking situation.
Pavlic attends church with a Queen’s Grant middle school teacher, who connected her with Principal Christy Morrin and Crystal Ferguson, the middle school dean. Morrin said she and Ferguson were motivated to bring Pavlic’s education to the community after learning how young trafficked individuals are.
“When Mrs. Ferguson learned that the average age for trafficking is 12 to 14, she said, ‘These are our kids!’” Morrin said in an email. “We knew then we needed to educate our parents and students on this issue.”
As Pavlic continued her quest for information, she also was shocked to learn the average life expectancy after entering trafficking and prostitution is seven years, and that the most at-risk individuals are middle school girls.
“Our biggest attack needs to be prevention in middle schools. Pimps are praying on vulnerability, and middle school girls are vulnerable,” she said. “… We have a culture that is saying, ‘We’ll pay more for the innocent.’ That is sick, but we can’t turn a blind eye, and we have to be aware.”
Pavlic also learned through research and talking with various organizations that Charlotte is one of the top cities for trafficking incidents because of its banking industry, sporting events including NASCAR, schools and multiple large malls. A common misconception, she said, is the belief that trafficked individuals are typically kidnapped and forced into prostitution immediately – when, in reality, predators visit malls and schools, study the girls and begin to “date” them.
“The girls are flattered because a guy 10 to 15 years older is interested in them.” she said. “We need to teach girls that this is creepy; this is not cool.”
Predators typically wine and dine the girls, gradually isolating them from their friends and family. Then, they turn on the girls, leaving them feeling frightened and trapped.
“Even if rescued, most of the time (the girls) go back (to a trafficking situation) seven times before finally being rescued” for good, she said. “A girl really believes he’s her boyfriend.”
While recognizing at-risk individuals, including middle school girls, individuals who have been sexually abused and those who have run away from home, is important, Pavlic said, it’s also vital to identify the characteristics of a typical predator.
“The average john is a 40-year-old, married businessman with kids,” she said. “We’re teaching them, ‘What does a john look like? What does a pimp look like?’”
Pavlic’s long-term goals include continuing to serve as a liaison between individuals and human trafficking organizations, implementing sex trafficking education in schools and working with law enforcement officials, encouraging them to become involved in trafficking education, as well.
“Middle school girls are vulnerable, (and) boys aren’t safe, either,” she said. “Parents need to realize the culture now is different than the culture they grew up in … I know these are tough topics, but you can’t water this down.”
Find more information on area human trafficking awareness organizations at www.encstophumantrafficking.org, or email Pavlic at apavlic80@hot mail.com.