Conscious party: Project FIGHT combats human trafficking

BANDING TOGETHER: Local indie rock group Armadilla will headline a fundraiser for anti human trafficking program Project FIGHT, which recently established a local presence. "The conversation is somewhat underdeveloped in Western North Carolina," says case manager James Plunkett. "A lot of folks either don't know what trafficking is or don't think that it's happening here."
BANDING TOGETHER: Local indie rock group Armadilla will headline a fundraiser for anti human trafficking program Project FIGHT, which recently established a local presence. "The conversation is somewhat underdeveloped in Western North Carolina," says case manager James Plunkett. "A lot of folks either don't know what trafficking is or don't think that it's happening here." Photo of Armadilla by Haley Suskauer of Light of Dawn Photography

WHAT: A benefit concert, featuring Armadilla, Ben Phan and Hannah Kaminer

WHERE: The Mothlight

WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m.

WHY: The term “human trafficking” often invokes images of drug addiction, chains and sex slavery, but as James Plunkett explains: “The reality is that human trafficking covers a much broader series of offenses.”

Plunkett is a case manager for the Salvation Army’s new Asheville-based anti-trafficking program Project FIGHT, which launched in the fall with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime. His satellite position — like those recently established in New Bern, Greenville and Charlotte — is an addition to Project FIGHT’s Raleigh headquarters, which revealed a greater-than-anticipated need for trafficking casework in North Carolina shortly after launching in 2011.

In Asheville, Project FIGHT will provide comprehensive case management — “everything from point-of-crisis intervention through self-sufficiency, including things like legal, medical or mental health [assistance], life skills, housing, anything that the survivor may need,” Plunkett says. Part of this will involve steering individuals toward existing social service organizations.

Teaching people to recognize the nebulous form of oppression is also a high priority for Plunkett, who points out that ordinary citizens were the most common caller type to report instances of trafficking in North Carolina in 2016, according to national hotline Polaris Project. His examples of trafficking include foreign laborers without control of their documents or working and housing conditions; individuals providing unwillful service to pay down interminable debt; or women whose presumed significant other slowly revokes intimacy, which must then be earned back through assigned acts like sex with others.

In short, trafficking is “anything where someone is forced to act against their own will and is being oppressed by someone else, and that oppressor is holding something over their head,” he says.

Project FIGHT will host several events during January (Human Trafficking Awareness Month), including a culminating benefit concert, featuring three local acts: singer/songwriters Ben Phan and Hannah Kaminer plus moody, piano-based rock band Armadilla, which will headline the show.

Visit themothlight.com for tickets ($5/$7) or event details. All proceeds go to Project FIGHT. For more information on Project FIGHT and its additional events, call 828-253-4723.

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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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