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Soroptimists host event to raise awareness on human trafficking Nov. 8

Soroptimist International of Mount Adams and Rotary of White Salmon-Bingen invite the public to “Stay Smart, Stay Safe: Learn About Human Trafficking,” to be held at Skyline Hospital, the lower level meeting room, from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8.

The event is open to all community members, especially students in grades 7-12 and their families. The informational evening includes viewing a movie called “Deceptions” and discussing the issue of human trafficking in both Spanish and English. A meal will be provided by several local restaurants.

The event will be facilitated by Jim Grenfell, coordinator of AWARE Inc., of Vancouver, Wash., which developed prevention education programs for communities in Washington and Oregon. For more information visit www.awareprogram.net.

Members of Soroptimist first became aware of human trafficking three years ago while attending the Northwest Coalition Against Trafficking conference in Portland.

Worldwide, human trafficking is a $32 billion industry. It is the fastest-growing segment of crime, and our communities are very close to two cities — Portland and Seattle — that have the highest reports of human trafficking victimization in our nation. I-84 offers a quick conduit into Portland, and with social networking it is easier than ever to make contact with and lure our local youth.

“There’s no way to get around the fact that this is an unpleasant issue to discuss; but it is an issue that affects our community, particularly our youth, and we feel we need to do something to educate people about it,” said Sharon Scott, Soroptimist and an event coordinator.

“Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. Although victims of human trafficking are of all ages, ethnicities and socio-economic circumstances, our focus is on the trafficking of our youth,” she said. “We want parents and students to be aware of the predatory methods traffickers use to groom, entice and sexually exploit and enslave victims for their own profits.”

Rotary spokesperson Dale Connell added, “Methods of grooming of both boys and girls include social networking and internet contact, ‘boyfriend positioning’ and recruiting other teens, who encourage the acceptance and opportunity some youth desperately seek.

“Human trafficking is not prostitution,” he continued. “It is a crime of the victimization of an estimated 100,000 kids in the U.S. The key is prevention because sources inform us that worldwide, only one person is convicted for every 800 trafficking cases. Law enforcement understands this is a problem but prevention at a community level is the only way to prevent this devastating crime.”

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For more information contact Soroptimist at 541-490-4712.

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