Human trafficking may be more of a problem in Central Oregon than we think. A report released last week by nonprofit In Our Backyard (IOB) — Central Oregonians Understanding of Human Trafficking –highlighted the need for training on human trafficking in order to aid in recognition of victims in our community.
The study , co-authored by Nita Belles of IN OUR BACKYARD and Prof. Donna J. Casey of Central Oregon Community College, surveyed both service-providers and the community-at-large and found that 75 percent of respondents did not feel they could identify a victim of human trafficking. Of those that could, interactions with 242 potential victims were reported.
More trafficking is happening in small cities and rural areas than originally thought. The problem lies in that it is more discreet than in larger cities. Often victims are hidden in plain sight– behind you in the grocery store line, cleaning the home across the street, selling you something door-to-door, and using a convenience store restroom.
A startling 62 percent of service providers surveyed reported that they’ve had no training regarding human trafficking and 66 percent that their agencies do not have a screening tool to identify victims.
“We are not going to arrest or legislate our way out of this problem — we have to change our culture. We’ve got to make it not ok to buy children, to buy adults for sex or force them into labor. We’ve got to stop this mentality that this purchase of another human being is ok, ever,” declared IOB Founder and Executive Director Nita Belles.
“And we do this through education,” she continued. “Imagine how many more victims could be recovered if everyone was trained to recognize human trafficking, understood the factors that perpetuate it, and knew how to appropriately respond.”
Survivors have confirmed that a lack of awareness of human trafficking also makes Central Oregon a sweet spot for recruiting victims. Community member respondents in the survey overwhelmingly indicated (92%) the importance of including age-appropriate curriculum on human trafficking in our schools.
In 2018, IOB formalized and expanded their schools’ program — Teens Against Trafficking — and reached 1,460 students in 13 Central Oregon middle and high schools. IOB also trained all the school nurses in the state of Oregon. Their hope is to reach all middle and high schools in Central Oregon to prevent this unspeakable tragedy through education of youth.
The Central Oregon community has rallied behind the work In Our Backyard through sponsorships, donations, and grants. The following companies and organizations made IOB’s work to stop human trafficking in Central Oregon in 2018 possible: 100 Women Who Care, The Ford Family Foundation, Storage2U, BendBroadband, Les Schwab Tire, Leadership Bend Impact Summit, Rotary Club of Sisters, Kevin Spencer Masonry, Campbell Lane Winery, Choice Car Wash, Deschutes Brewery, St. Charles Bend, Brooks Resources, Deschutes County, The Bend Source, Stop N Go Shell, Baldy’s BBQ, Touchmark, Tumalo Coffee House, Eagle Mountain Event Center, and Columbia Bank.
As a result of this support in 2018, In Our Backyard trained more than 12,000 community members and service providers across the U.S., many of whom live right here in Central Oregon. But there is still more work to be done.
IOB is excited to announce that First Interstate Bank Foundation and First Story Foundation through Hayden Homes just provided grants of $1,500 and $2,000 respectively! IOB will also pursue grant funding to fulfill the need for training outline d in this survey.
“With new funding, we will be able to expand our offerings of free human trafficking training across Central Oregon in 2019,” shared IOB Program Director Juliana Williams. “We are so appreciative of the business community recognizing this issue and partnering with us to ensure that we can get ahead of this problem through education.”
Please contact In Our Backyard ( http://inourbackyard.org/request-a-training/ ) to schedule a free training or request a speaker for your upcoming event. IOB provides human trafficking 101 presentations for community groups, as well as specialized training for law enforcement, educators, youth and youth-serving agencies, medical and mental health professionals, convenience stores and other retailers, and faith-based organizations.
When everyone links arms against the atrocity of human trafficking, our community will become a place where all generations are protected against trafficking.
About IN OUR BACKYARD
IN OUR BACKYARD (IOB) is a national leader with more than a decade of dedication to the fight against sex and labor trafficking. IOB links arms in the fight to dismantle human trafficking by empowering communities to prevent this atrocity and creating access to freedom for victims of HT. Exposed to the devastating realities of HT, IOB Founder Nita Belles was driven to take action to stop the exploitation of children, women, and men. Her book, In Our Backyard, has been acclaimed as the primer on human trafficking in America. IOB is known for placing Freedom Stickers in all 50 states and working to eradicate sex trafficking surrounding the Super Bowl for 10 consecutive years. IN OUR BACKYARD is also a member of the Deschutes County CSEC (Commercially Sexually Exploited Children) Response Team, which is responsible for providing training, creating collaboration, and responding to human trafficking in our community. Our vision is a culture where all people are empowered to live in freedom because even one victim of human trafficking is too many.
For more information, please visit: http://www.inourbackyard.org