Fact or Fiction? // Dispelling Human Trafficking Scam Rumors
Letter from the Editor…
The following post is written by first year member Sarah Riley, one of our blog team members! She shares a personal experience her friend had with online rumors about an apparent human trafficking scam on her campus. Since UGA has dealt with similar rumors, she researched into the matter to see if it was something legitimate or just internet hype.
Last week, I saw a post on a friend from home’s social media talking about an encounter she’d had a few weeks ago while on the campus of West Chester University, a small university in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
“Okay story time…I was going through VSCO this morning and saw this (referencing a picture about another experience). The same thing happened to me and two friends in West Chester about two weeks ago. Same story line and everything. This man and woman approached us saying they were theology students and they wanted to share something about The Bible. I stopped listening because I thought it was just a lil weird, but a few friends approached so me and my friend talked to them and our other friend continued to listen. They asked for his name and number (he gave a fake one and name). These people asked if we would like to come to their church right now and learn more about the studies.”
Rachel was approached by a member of the World Mission Society Church of God, or God the Mother organization. Social media posts have raised human trafficking allegations against this organization such as this one: “PSA: LADIES ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES: IF ANYONE COMES UP TO YOU & TRIES TO TELL YOU ABOUT ‘GOD THE MOTHER’ WALK AWAY AND GET HELP! IT’S A FORM OF SEX TRAFFICKING!!!! GOOGLE IT AND BECOME AWARE!! SPREAD THE WORD!!!!”
The user provides no supporting evidence for this claim. However, this post and others like it are spreading across social media like wildfire, creating a stream of backlash from the 2.5 million members of the World Mission Society Church of God. These posts have therefore proved detrimental to the church, even when there is no true evidence that they have any involvement in human trafficking. However, there have been several testimonies from ex-members of the church stating that it is cult-like.
The church denies these claims along with sex trafficking allegations. Several police reports support these claims, such as that from the Oxford Police Department in Mississippi which states, “World Mission Society Church of God is a legitimate church looking to expand to our area.” Another police department from Kentucky declares, “We have investigated this complaint and have found nothing to substantiate that this group is or has been involved in any criminal activity.” So while there is no legitimate evidence supporting that the World Mission Society Church of God is involved in human trafficking in any capacity, an article in The Daily Mississippi acknowledges that this particular religious group goes about spreading their message in a somewhat aggressive and threatening way.
At the University of San Diego, where many members approach students, their public safety department advises anyone approached by members of the organization to walk away immediately and report it to them. There still remains no proof that the God the Mother organization has any connection to human trafficking; but at UGA and other college campuses around America, we should still keep our guard up when it comes to unfamiliar organizations asking for contact information or to follow them anywhere. Remember the ‘stranger danger’ rules we were taught as children. As many people learned at our Illumination Night, human trafficking poses a huge problem in our society and we must be aware.