(Update: adding video, comments from In Our Backyard's executive director)
Efforts to follow National Human Trafficking Awareness Month
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- For the 12th time, Bend nonprofit In Our Backyard will be overseeing anti-human trafficking efforts at the Super Bowl. this year in Tampa, Florida.
"We are out there, identifying minors and missing children who could be human trafficked in the area,” said Cheryl Csiky, executive director of In Our Backyard, said Thursday
Csiky knows first-hand how important these efforts are.
"My story began very young, around 9 years old -- fourth grade,” she told NewsChannel 21. “For me, as a survivor, I don't want anyone to experience what I went through, and the healing process I have endured.”
Csiky said the plan this year, just like past years, is to pass out pamphlets with pictures and descriptions of missing children in the area, train a few hundred volunteers to search for the children and collaborate with local law enforcement.
Last year, there were 36 children in the pamphlet, and 15 of them were recovered within a week of the Super Bowl.
"During our major volunteer event, we had a minor identified in the book before the event even started,” Csiky said. “So that awareness to the community really makes a difference."
This year, for Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay, there are 38 children in the pamphlet.
Csiky said the Super Bowl is just one of several major events where human trafficking is prevalent, because large crowds present an opportunity.
Even though the pandemic means fewer people will show up to the game, Csiky said the problem will still be there.
"A lot of the tourism around the Super Bowl is locals,” Csiky said. “People don't always have to travel to the Super Bowl. There's a party atmosphere, there's events going on constantly that are Super Bowl-focused.
"There's more money being spent on these events, and that's what traffickers look for. If there's money being spent, they want to be there and get in on the action."
All of these efforts are coming together at the end of what is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Here's the press release In Our Backyard sent out Thursday:
IN OUR BACKYARD (IOB), a Bend-based national nonprofit dedicated to combating human trafficking in America, is stepping up its efforts in advancing anti-trafficking initiatives ahead of Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida.
As part of the ONE TEAM TAMPA BAY Anti-trafficking awareness event supported by the NFL Host Committee, hundreds of volunteers will be trained on Saturday, Jan. 30 by Cheryl Csiky, executive director of IOB. As a survivor of child sex trafficking, Csiky champions efforts to fight this dehumanizing crime that thrives in secrecy.
After receiving training and hearing Csiky’s testimony, volunteers will be equipped for outreach to local convenience stores and businesses. IOB is grateful for the partnership of bp, who is sponsoring thousands of Missing Children Books for volunteers to distribute containing photos of missing and endangered children. In 2019, 15 of 36 missing children were recovered within a week of the Super Bowl, thanks to partnerships with law enforcement.
More than 500,000 Freedom Stickers in public restrooms span all 50 states. IOB’s Freedom Stickers placed during the outreach contain the National Human Trafficking Hotline providing a pathway to freedom and safety.
“Many survivors tell us that they didn’t know that there was a hotline to call for resources,” stated Csiky.
LINKING FREEDOM IN OUR BACKYARD with ONE TEAM TAMPA BAY Event
When: Saturday, January 30, 2021 from 9am - 2pm
Where: Grace Family Church-Van Dyke, 5101 Van Dyke Rd., Lutz, FL, 33558
Sign up: http://inourbackyard.org/linking-freedom/
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 against human trafficking by empowering communities to prevent this atrocity and creating access to freedom for victims of human trafficking (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.
And a news release Thursday from the Oregon Department of Human Services:
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In commemoration, Rebecca Jones Gaston, Director of the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), Child Welfare Division, wants to remind Oregonians of the opportunities they have to make an impact in the lives of children affected by the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), one form of human trafficking.
“Preventing human trafficking is not just one organization’s responsibility, it takes everyone to work together to make a difference on this issue,” said Director Jones Gaston. “If you suspect a child or young adult is being trafficked, please call the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline to report those suspicions. Trafficking is child abuse and we need to all work together to have a collective impact on this crime that is often hidden.”
The Oregon Child Abuse Hotline is open 24 hours a day seven days a week and can be reached at 1-800-503-SAFE (7233).
ODHS is one of the few state-based child welfare divisions that has an anti-CSEC statewide coordinator working directly to train foster families and on-the-ground staff in identifying and finding trauma-aware support for victims. Additionally, this coordinator is in consultation with other partner organizations, as ODHS continues to build cross-system collaboration of efforts. Over the last year, more than 1,000 ODHS employees, foster families, and community members have been trained on advanced strategies for identifying potential risk and offering trauma-aware strategies for dealing with the effects of CSEC on children and young adults.
Some important facts about trafficking:
- Sex trafficking of minors includes the exchange of sex acts for anything of value. This can be shelter, money, drugs, food or status.
- Children and young adults have an online presence now more than ever. Teach your children what to do if they see, or are asked for, an explicit image. Gather as much information as you can about the circumstance and report it to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) by calling the 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678), or reporting online at: https://report.cybertip.org/. If someone is in immediate danger, call 911.
- Indicators of CSEC could include a variety of warning signs. For a full list, please visit https://www.missingkids.org/theissues/trafficking.
- If you come across explicit images of a child online, but don’t know who the child is, report to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) https://www.missingkids.org/gethelpnow/cybertipline. If you do know who the child is, or have some idea, please report to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline as well.
About the ODHS Child Welfare Division:
The Oregon Department of Human Services, Child Welfare Division is committed to transforming itself to better support the individual needs of families and to best serve Oregon’s children and young people. Read the Child Welfare Division Vision for Transformation to learn more.