LAWTON, OK (TNN) - In observance of January being Human Trafficking Awareness Month, a local organization is educating the public on signs of the hidden crime and how to prevent it. The Red Cord is the only anti-human trafficking awareness organization in Southwest Oklahoma. It works with several law enforcement agencies, including the Lawton Police Department, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, and the Human Trafficking Task Force.
“Our mission is to create an intolerance towards human trafficking through education, support, awareness, and prayer," said Joseph Mobley, the vice president of The Red Cord.
Mobley says familial sex trafficking is most commonly seen in southwest Oklahoma. This is where family members allow their children to be sexually exploited in exchange for money.
“That happens in our middle schools and high schools," said Mobley. "That’s what we’re trying to do is get the information to the students. Its a heavy topic for young people, traffickers target demographic is a 9-14 year old.”
The Red Cord helps train local law enforcement, through classes with CLEET certified instructors. Counseling services are also provided to victims to help them cope.
“If you notice a friend is becoming more reserved or missing school, if you know they’re having issues, definitely check up on them," said Ashley Chapman, secretary with The Red Cord. "If you sense there is more going on, tell a teacher, your parents, or law enforcement.”
A trafficker will take advantage of a child who’s struggling emotionally by befriending them and becoming someone to trust. If you see this happening, The Red Cord encourages you to do your part and speak up.
“The victims are voiceless, they don’t know their victims," Mobley said. "They’re easily manipulated. We need citizens to be the voice, eyes and ears.”
If you have identified someone who is being trafficked, please call local police or the Oklahoma City Hotline at 405-212-3377.