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Program to help C.O. teens fight trafficking expands


Human traffickers look for one thing when seeking their victims. Vulnerability. Youth are particularly susceptible and local nonprofit IN OUR BACKYARD (IOB) is leading the charge to empower Central Oregon youth through Teens Against Trafficking, expanding across all three counties in Central Oregon in the 2018-2019 school year.

For the past six years, IOB Founder and Executive Director Nita Belles has presented human trafficking 101 talks in health classes. With generous support from 100 Women Who Care Central Oregon, IOB launched a pilot of Teens Against Trafficking last Spring, reaching more than 600 students in 39 classrooms touching every school district in Central Oregon with life-saving education and resources.

Teens Against Trafficking is a comprehensive prevention education program delivered to middle and high school health classes. Through a video and discussion based presentation, youth gain awareness of the realities of human trafficking, tools to recognize the tactics of traffickers, and online safety tips. A resource guide equips students, teachers, and parents with information to recognize and report human trafficking.

During one presentation in May, a local student shared, “Last year I had a guy contact me on social media saying he went to my school and wanted to meet alone. He shared pictures of himself posing in front of the school and asked for nude photos. After watching this presentation and learning how traffickers use social media to target their victims, I feel like I dodged a bullet.”

“Knowledge is prevention,” declares Belles. “At IN OUR BACKYARD, we are relentlessly committed to stopping this atrocity that exploits our youth in horrific ways. After walking the path of healing with so many survivors of human trafficking who have endured unimaginable trauma, I knew we had to expand our efforts to prevent kids in Central Oregon from being trafficked. I am so thankful to the generous donors that have made this growth possible.”

IOB also received additional funding from Les Schwab Tires, Leadership Bend, the Central Oregon Association of Realtors, and Brooks Resources.

Every dollar invested in human trafficking prevention education results in $34 in taxpayer savings to the community, according to a 2012 University of Minnesota study.

“IN OUR BACKYARD addresses an important need of raising kids’ awareness of human trafficking. They have a strong message and deliver that message with credibility and conviction.” remarks Nathan Saito, health teacher at Redmond High School. “We know the problems exist and will continue to exist if not addressed,” he continues.

Join the movement to protect our youth at

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