Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Human trafficking advocates spread awareness in Gulfport

Human trafficking advocates spread awareness in Gulfport

11, is the actual day when awareness of human trafficking - and strategies to end it forever - are brought under the national spotlight.

Human trafficking is a thriving underground business with numerous victims.

On Thursday, truck drivers traveled to the Columbia Convention Center to be trained on the signs of human trafficking. "Faith based organizations, community based organizations, parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals are all part of the solutions!"

That's because all forms of human trafficking, whether for labor or sex, are severely underreported in West Virginia, according to homeland security agent Brian Morris.

"Traffickers will, you know, they provided a place for my son to live", she said.

Next week, the Board of Commissioners, in partnership with the Oakland County Health Division and Sheriff's Office, will announce the launch of the new Oakland County Human Trafficking website, the culmination of a tremendous collaborative effort on behalf of the Task Force members and their partners, and perhaps our most important achievement to date.

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From the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the first six months of 2017 identified 4,460 cases of human trafficking in the United States. We do have a drug and opioid issue, and we are surrounded borders and we also have a lot of refugees here.

"We have had young women who, eventually, when they are able to tell us their stories, tell us stories of being in basements and having guns held to their head while they're having sex and they're obviously very aware that's not what's supposed to be happening", said Laura Smith, a clinical therapist at Crittenton.

As has become tradition, state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), the force behind the event, led a brief candle-lighting ceremony in memory of Ohio's trafficking victims. The most common (68%) were the offenders threatening to post sexual content online, about the victim, for family and friends to see if the child did not comply.

Fedor says the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force has engaged nearly every aspect of government on the issue to ensure victims and survivors receive support and that offenders are brought to justice. "I think the recognition and awareness is there, and now it's just getting the resources, and unfortunately, that's money and time and talent".

If you believe you have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking 24/7 Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.

"I immediately realized I was under someone's control and I couldn't get out", she said. "If you see something, say something". "We need to change our everyday way of thinking about these offenses. It's not liberal versus conservatives, there is no 'us versus them.' The battle I'm fighting is ignorance versus awareness".

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