WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — Human trafficking is something that occurs daily, and it almost always goes unnoticed to the public eye.

The Wheeling YWCA is doing their part to combat this issue. They started the Survivors of Trafficking Empowerment Program in 2018 to offer comprehensive services for any victims of human trafficking, that being labor or sex trafficking and it is unfortunately growing to be a larger issue in our area.

They cover any services that a survivor may need: support groups, services for mental health, transportation, emergency shelter, transitional housing, and even emergency clothing and food. 

Women can be referred in-house through other programs that the YWCA provides, so if they are coming in through domestic violence, recovery or reentry, the YWCA meets them where they are at in their own building. 

They also receive referrals throughout the United States for anyone seeking shelter in our area or even relocation in Wheeling to get away from traffickers.

Heather Lapp from the Wheeling YWCA says that unfortunately, this type of victimization is very hidden, but also occurs every day. 

Lapp, Chief Strategic Officer of the Wheeling YWCA:, says “We had noticed through our recovery program and domestic violence that we were seeing women that identified as being human trafficked and there were no services in West Virginia, whatsoever. We were the first ones to go ‘Okay, let’s start a program to offer these services to meet this need.’ And it’s growing, as every day that goes by, we see more and more of the human trafficking in our area.”

Helping women is what this program aims to do, and Heather also says that there are many women who are not even aware that they fall into this victimization. The YWCA offers multiple programs to meet multiple victimizations, and they are very skilled at assisting women who are victims including those victims of human trafficking.