CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It was an occasion of reflection and solidarity at a local non-profit in Charleston Thursday evening as they joined the community in recognizing Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

The YWCA Charleston was host to a candlelight vigil to raise awareness of the issue, which according to the Department of Homeland Security, forces millions of men, women, and children around the world and in the U.S. into some type of labor or commercial sex act every year.

However, YWCA Charleston Resolve Family Abuse Program Director Julie Britton said the vigil was being held to particularly help raise awareness of the human trafficking that goes on right here in West Virginia, as well.

“We want people to know this is happening in the community and it can absolutely be stopped by the same community, as well, so we’re reaching out to partners and just everyone,” Britton said.

Britton said, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there are approximately 246 reported cases of human trafficking in West Virginia, and total of 550 identified victims.

Each candle at Thursday’s vigil was supposed to represent the hope and resilience of survivors of human trafficking, while emphasizing the collective need to combat the issue in the state.

Britton said it was a way they could stand together and shine a light on the dark reality the issue brings that not many people even know the magnitude of.

“It’s something that not a lot of people think about, or when they do think of human trafficking they have a very small idea of what that looks like, and not realizing that it is sex trafficking that happens between people who sometimes think their trafficker is a partner,” she said.

She said this issue unsuspectedly happens more often than not where the victim is convinced that they are in a relationship with the trafficker when in actuality they are being used for money or drugs.

Britton went on to say victims often don’t recognize themselves as the victim, and are typically convinced they are just bringing money into the household.

She said the scope of human trafficking goes far beyond what people typically perceive the issue to be.

“It’s insidious because people think it’s only one thing such as bringing migrants across the border and making them work when it’s so much more varied than just that,” she said.

Britton said those that suspect they might be a victim of human trafficking or believe they know someone who is to call they YWCA Resolve office hotline at (304)-340-3549, or use their chat function found on their website.

Many in attendance at Thursday’s vigil were wearing blue in honor of the occasion, as well. Every year Homeland Security holds Wear Blue Day as part of its month-long Blue Campaign that takes a stance against human trafficking nationwide.