TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Stories about human trafficking are all over the news.
In just the last month, we’ve heard these stories:
January 13th – A Clearwater, Florida man was arrested and charged with human trafficking after police say he lured five people from Peru, Indiana to his home.
January 22nd – Three Greenwood, Indiana residents nabbed for human trafficking. A woman brought to his home from India, allegedly beaten and forced to have sex, confined and against her will.
January 23rd – A 14 year old girl from the small town of Yorktown, Indiana and a 16 year old girl from Muncie, both rescued in Chicago.
Two runaway girls, caught up with the wrong people, eventually sold for sex.
Just last week, a 24 year old Indianapolis man was arrested on federal charges. He was selling two girls, ages 12 and 16 out of his Marion County home.
Jes Richardson is a survivor of sex trafficking.
“I was bred and groomed thru childhood sexual abuse. My father murdered when I was young…that just laid the foundation for a pimp to just sweep me off my feet,” Jes told us.
As a teenager, she was a slave. Jes was beaten, broken and abused.
“When I was 17, my pimp had me cross over the border into Canada. And while I was in Canada, in Vancouver, I got severely beaten. So bad, I spent days in the hospital. All my cheekbones, my nose completely shattered. It was horrific, and had it not been for a taxi cab driver, I’m sure I would have died on the street that day.”
Jes was eventually able to get away from that life, and now, 14 years later, she is trying to help others out of trafficking. She is an advocate, hundreds of miles away from the Wabash Valley who says she’s worked with a number of survivors from Indiana.
“I believe there’s a misconception that trafficking only happens in large cities. However trafficking can use the internet in order to reach people who are desperately seeking affirmation from someone else. I have worked with multiple survivors who have come out of Indiana,” Jes said.
30 year old Casandra Avenatti is a Clinton, Indiana native and an executive board member of the sex workers outreach project in Chicago.
“Sex workers are organized, I mean, this is trafficking survivors. This is consenting workers,” Casandra said.
VIDEO | Extended interview with Avenatti
This South Vermillion High School grad has spent the last five or six years working with and for sex workers. Casandra says we need to focus on why human trafficking begins in the first place.
“Most of the young folks that I’ve worked with, who have experienced coercion, abuse, and trafficking have either run away or have been kicked out of their home. Support of the family is gone, so that makes them really vulnerable. They are young, without adequate support, food, so of course you might choose to survive…choose to do certain things to survive. It also makes you more vulnerable for folks to exploit and utilize you,” Casandra said.
Both Casandra and Jes say laws don’t properly protect the victims of human trafficking. They both say people everywhere, including the Wabash Valley need to be educated about the complex world known as the sex industry.
Perhaps then, through understanding we can battle the issues causing this horrific crime, and bring more and more survivors out of a vicious cycle.
Maryland Community Church in Terre Haute is using prayer and prevention to help bring awareness to human trafficking.
Maryland church members hold a weekly prayer meeting (called a justice prayer meeting) every Tuesday from 10 am – Noon in the Children’s Freedom Center in the church. Everyone is welcome to join.
Christian radio station WBGL out of Champaign, Ill. is trying to bring awareness to the issue of human trafficking.
During the month of January, they talked often on the radio to their listeners about an organization called Abolition International out of Nashville, TN.
Abolition International was founded in 2005 by singer Natalie Grant when she was exposed to the plight of millions of women and children around the world oppressed by sex slavery.
WBGL worked very hard to try and raise $50,000 for Abolition International to help build a one-of-a-kind in the world facility in Nashville, TN to help girls and women who’ve been rescued.
On the legislative front: Indiana Senator John Waterman of Sullivan is working to expand legislation resources for human trafficking investigations.
His proposal has passed the state senate committee on Judiciary. Senate Bill 291 gives the Indiana Attorney General’s Office the same authority as other law enforcement agencies to collect and maintain data for human trafficking offenses.
The proposal also allows the attorney general to assist with investigation and prosecutions of these crimes. SB 291 now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.
People can receive help, report a tip, or request information or training by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or by sending a test to BeFree (233733).