Local organization speaks on National Human Trafficking Prevention Day

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, a day to recognize a worldwide problem that is considered a modern-day form of slavery.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline website, traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to control their victims, whether it be for commercial sex acts or labor services.

Here in Oklahoma, over 100 calls were received and 40 human trafficking cases were reported last year. Local organizations like the Red Cord are working to raise awareness about this crime.

Educating others is their main goal this year. They are going to have several internet safety classes to teach others about sex trafficking and what you can do to help victims. Organizers said human trafficking doesn't discriminate, it can happen to anybody.

"Human trafficking is in every country, in every state and it's pretty much in every town," said Cindy Evans, founder of The Red Cord.

Considered the second largest crime in the world, statistics say there are over 100,000 children trafficked everyday.

"What we are doing is we are bringing awareness to bring about prevention as well as rescue of those people who are in trafficking," said Evans.

Increasing awareness is the main reason Evans founded The Red Cord Organization a year ago. She said human trafficking is a hidden crime making it challenging to spot the signs of a person who has become a victim.

"There isn't just one stereotype of someone who is being trafficked or just one stereotype of a person who is doing the trafficking. So some possible indicators would be a certain tattoo because most traffickers do brand their victims," said Evans.

Runaways or homeless teenagers between the ages of 12 and 16 are the most at-risk. She said poverty and other factors also play a role.

"Whether they are in the foster care system that plays a part in it because they don't have a safety net, they don't have a secure home life," said Evans.

Traffickers use the internet and social media about 80 to 90 percent of the time to target victims. Depending on the situation Evan said traffickers don't always kidnap their victims, some allow them to go home at night and sometimes victims are even trafficked by a spouse or significant other.

'They are groomed to create a trust relationship with the perpetrator and then they start controlling them using drugs and alcohol introducing that or enhancing that in their life, and then giving them the guilt trip or the debt that now they need to help them and pay them back for what they have done for them," said Evans.

Evans hopes to inform people about human trafficking by having internet safety classes and public meetings.

"The eyes cannot see what the mind does not know so we might be looking at it and we don't even realize it and so just to hear and to be able to get the training. Educators, parents, hotels and motels," said Evans.

Along with hotel employees, she's already provided training for several of them locally.

"They realize that 40 to 50 percent of child victims said they were in a hotel when they were trafficked. As well as medical care employees and medical facilities. Survivors say that 80 percent of them were in a medical facility and they weren't recognized as a human trafficking victim," said Evans.

Later this month The Red Cord Organization will be hosting their first annual Human Trafficking Awareness Gala. The event is $25 and the money raised supports the organization and the Dragonfly Residential Home in Oklahoma City, which provides care and assistance for victims.

The group is also planning to have a free internet safety class for the public next month. You find more information on The Red Cord website.

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