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Two Rivers: Sex Trafficking and Violence Prevention

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What is Sex Trafficking?

January is designated as National Sex Trafficking Awareness Month. Sex Trafficking is a public health problem that has devastating effects on the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. Sex trafficking is the exploitation of women, men, and children for the sale and purchase of sex.

Sex Trafficking in Nebraska

Every month, there are 900 individuals in Nebraska that are purchased for sex online, and this could be multiple times. This statistic is coming from the Omaha Women’s Fund. In Nebraska, 11% of those purchased for sex online are advertised as under the age of 21, and this can include minors. In Nebraska, 54.6 percent of sex trafficking survivors grew up in foster care. It can happen in both large and rural cities throughout Nebraska. The I-80 corridor serves as a ‘hub’ for the transport of sex trafficking victims.

Signs of Sex Trafficking

If you see someone who is controlling the IDs or purses/wallet of a woman/girl/ or man, please take note. In addition, they may not be free to move around independently, have tattoo or other markings that show ownership (such as a bar code), and are unsure of where they are or why they are there, and they may not be able or allowed to speak for themselves. Former sex trafficking victims have reported that an important way of helping them is offering them help, handing them a phone number for a help line such as the National Trafficking Resource Center (888-373-7888) or text HELP to BEFREE (233733) or calling local law enforcement. You can report both victims and potential perpetrators to the National Trafficking Resource Center Hotline.

What is the Health Department doing to help prevent sex trafficking and violence in Nebraska?

Two Rivers Public Health Department has a new program called Disrupting the Pathways to Violence, which addresses how community members can report different kinds of behavior that may lead to violence or sexual violence. The purpose of the grant is to help people understand how to safety report behavior that could later manifest as violent action. Often times, when we see something that seems off or seems like a warning sign for violent behavior, we may doubt ourselves, and consequently walk away from the situation. People sometimes pick up on warning signs, or a situation that doesn’t feel right. The gut feeling is that there is something wrong with this picture. Let’s say 9 times out of 10 we talk ourselves out of this feeling, or we write it off as paranoia. But, what if there was a mechanism in place where we could report this behavior, not to punish an individual or get someone in trouble, but to potentially help someone and stop bad things from happening. It is about learning to trust our gut instinct, and feeling that we have a safe mechanism to report the behavior. We are trying to move reporting from being a snitch, to being someone who cares, and does not want to walk away from a situation where someone may get hurt.

For the Disrupting the Pathway to Violence program, TRPHD will be helping to foster the formation of Threat Assessment Teams in Kearney and Lexington. The purpose of these teams is to create a mechanism for people to report suspicious behaviors that could lead to violence. A training is scheduled on February 26th for local law enforcement and school officials. Please check out our website for more information on the training.

If you would like to hear more about the Disrupting the Pathway to Violence program, please visit our website at TRPHD.org.

Resources

For more information visit: www.trphd.org or on Facebook @2RPHD (www.facebook.com/2RPHD/).

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