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Bend group trains retailers to spot human trafficking


A convenience store restroom may be the only place a victim of human trafficking is alone and safe enough to call for help. That was the case for Emily, who took a moment of refuge inside a restroom while her trafficker was filling up on gas. She texted the National Human Trafficking hotline number she saw on the sticker there and is now receiving services for her and her children, in safety, out of his controlling grasp.

Bend nonprofit In Our Backyard is having a national impact. Last week, they were in Indiana, training convenience retailers on red flags of human trafficking and proper response protocols as a part of their program – Convenience Stores Against Trafficking (CSAT).

“With longer hours of operation, public restrooms, and nearly 155,000 locations that serve half the U.S. population daily – convenience stores are ideally positioned to help victims of human trafficking,” declared Juliana Williams, program director for In Our Backyard.

“When I was in the life, we were in and out of convenience stores multiple times a day, getting gas, food, and other necessities. Also running in to use the restroom between dates,” shared a local survivor of sex trafficking.

The Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (IPCA) announced the initiative at events in the Fort Wayne and Indianapolis markets. Denise Robinson from the Indiana Attorney General’s office, Representative Sally Siegrist (R-Lafayette), and Senator Liz Brown (R-District 15) spoke at the events to express support. Already more than 500 stores have been trained in Indiana alone.

“We believe we can make a difference, particularly here in Indianapolis where major sporting events are regularly held, such as the Indianapolis 500,” said Scot Imus, Executive Director of IPCA. “Because we sell age-restricted products, our clerks already are regularly trained, and now, with the help of Convenience Stores Against Trafficking, we will add another component to that training.”

IPCA joins associations representing Texas, California, Minnesota, Oregon, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia and Kentucky who have partnered with In Our Backyard to engage their convenience members.

CSAT members also post Freedom Stickers which contain a message of hope and the National Human Trafficking Hotline in their convenience store restrooms. Founder and Executive Director Nita Belles created Freedom Stickers, which were first placed in Central Oregon in 2011 and are now in all 50 states.

“I wish these Freedom Stickers had been in convenience stores and that the employees knew the signs to look for when I was being trafficked. I was beaten down physically and emotionally. My trafficker told me that no one would help me, that no one cared. This would have given me hope and helped me get out,” shared a survivor of sex trafficking.

Since January 2017, In Our Backyard has partnered with more than 11,000 convenience store locations in 29 states, including Oregon, for this program. Through In Our Backyard, these locations have become the eyes and ears to spot human trafficking and save lives.

About In Our Backyard

In Our Backyard (IOB), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, links arms across Central and our nation in the fight against human trafficking through education, mobilization, and partnership. Our vision is a world where all people are empowered to live in freedom. To learn more about CSAT, request materials for your stores, or support our work: please visit

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