(Update: Adding comments from program manager)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and a local organization is asking for the community's help. Local responder At:project and partners are using this opportunity to remind the Central Oregon community that exploitation and human trafficking happen in our community, and there is local help.
"Trafficking does happen in our community -- it is happening in Central Oregon," said Bre Barrett, program manager for the At:project, said Tuesday.
Through trainings, social media and panel discussions with state partners on current key topics, at:project is inviting the Central Oregon community to learn the realities, dispel myths, gain the tools to identify potential victims and know how to respond.
"I think if people are aware that it's happening here, then obviously that's the first step to just acknowledge that it happens here," Barrett said. "But then also to realize who are the vulnerable people -- who are you around that might be susceptible to be groomed to be trafficked."
During the last fiscal year, the at:project served 68 clients who were either at high risk, suspected or confirmed victims or survivors of human trafficking.
But that number only includes those who got help.
"i imagine it's a lot higher than the amount that we're serving," Barett told NewsChannel 21.
Barrett says Central Oregon has several factors that contribute to trafficking.
The housing crisis, traffic from Highway 97 and challenges in child care all leave a vulnerable population.
"I hope that during January, especially, we can reach our community, build awareness," Barrett said. "Because without our community involvement, it makes our job impossible."
"So the more we have involvement from the community, the better that we are going to be able to actually serve survivors of trafficking."
Understanding human trafficking and knowing how to find help will not only help keep loved ones safe, but also empower people to be effective advocates for the safety of all children and families in our community, the organization said.
As the local responder in a national effort, at:project is funded by the Federal Office on Trafficking in Persons. The at:project responds locally to calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and coordinates the Deschutes County Commercial Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Response Team, under the Oregon Department of Justice’s Trafficking Response and Intervention Program.
The CSEC Response Team is the group charged with responding to human trafficking in the area, and includes representatives from local, state, and federal law enforcement, the District Attorney’s office, several Deschutes County agencies, and KIDS Center.
A program of J Bar J Youth Services, at:project is the sole provider of comprehensive case management for human trafficking survivors in Central Oregon.
How can the public participate in Human Trafficking Awareness Month?
LOCAL Virtual Training.
Join local experts for a free 1-hour virtual community training on Human Trafficking presented by the Deschutes County CSEC Response Team and at:project. This new training will expand your knowledge of sex trafficking, indicators, myths vs. reality, and how you can help respond.
January 19th – 1:00pm – 2:00 pm
January 20th – 5:30pm – 6:30pm
Learn more and register: https://sites.google.com/view/atprojecttrainingsign-up/home
STATEWIDE Panel Discussions.
Learn more about the current efforts in Oregon to address human trafficking. The Trafficking Response & Intervention Program that advises the at:project’s efforts in the Deschutes County CSEC Response Team will be providing virtual panel discussions throughout the month of January. Discussions are open to the public.
Equity in the Sex Industry -- Thursday, Jan. 13 | 12:00p-1:00p
Equity, decriminalization, and the sex industry
Labor Trafficking -- Thursday, Jan. 20 | 12:00p-1:00p
What it is and what’s being done about it
Safe Harbor -- Wednesday, Jan. 26 | 12:00p-1:00p
Implications for victims and survivors, and the system
Buyers, Traffickers, & Brothel Owners -- Thursday, Jan. 27 | 12:00p-1:00p
How they affect our local communities
For more information and registration: https://at-project.org/events/
During this month of raising awareness, we ask the community to show their support: Attend a training, join the statewide panel discussions, follow at:project on social media, and donate to support the basic needs of a survivor of sex and or labor trafficking. www.at-project.org
SPREAD the word.
Human trafficking can happen in any community. If you have been trafficked or suspect that someone you know has been trafficked there is local help. For safe and confidential services, contact the at:project (541) 647-0658 or online at at-project.org to speak with an advocate. Resources and support are also available nationwide through the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1 (888) 373-7888.
Commercial sexual exploitation is a form of human trafficking, and commercial sexual exploitation (trafficking) of a minor is child abuse. Suspicion of trafficking triggers a mandatory child abuse report for mandatory reporters. The Oregon Child Abuse Hotline is (855) 503-7233. Resources and support are available nationwide through the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888.
Get Help. Report a Tip. Seek Safety. Find Resources.
National Human Trafficking Hotline: CALL: (888) 373-7888. TEXT:233733 (BeFree)