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Human trafficking awareness vigil held in Hastings
Human trafficking is not an issue we usually associate with our own lives. But, that's just what two local organizations want us to do. They say human trafficking is happening closer to home than most of us realize.
The Salvation Army and Spousal Abuse and Sexual Assault Crisis Center hosted a prayer and education vigil in Hastings Friday.
The statistics are startling. It's a $32 billion a year industry internationally. But, even here in Hastings, there are victims.
SASA says they see five to ten cases a year in Hastings and that's just what's being reported.
It may not be an issue most of us worry about.
"We'd be more than naive if we believe that it isn't happening right here in our own area," said SASA advocate Abigail Fellows. "We have interstate 80 going through our state and every truck stop or rest stop in our state could be a place where girls are trafficked."
Human trafficking is usually associated with sexual exploitation, but forced labor is also part of the problem. Although, every 2 out of 3 victims are sexually exploited.
"All of the sudden they're forced to use their bodies to earn money for someone who doesn't take care of them," said Fellows.
Women and children are at highest risk. But minors are of the most concern.
"In Hastings we do have a fairly at risk population because we have a lot of kids that are below the poverty line that maybe don't have the resources," Fellows said.
Statistically, only one out of 100 victims will be saved. And, without an opportunity to escape most end up dead.
"They're in fear of their lives and their safety and he may even threaten, I know where your family lives," said Fellows.
The organizations could not reveal specific case details, but say there are situations in the local community. They say they're here to raise awareness and help those in need.
"To get them an out from that lifestyle and give them a support system once they're out of the immediate danger," said Hastings Salvation Army Major Abe Tamayo.
Major Tamayo wants people to understand this is not a victimless crime.
These people are forced into impossible situations.
"When you have a young lady who is 14,15,16 years old being prostituted, she is a victim, whether she's a runaway, a throwaway or an abducted person," Tamayo said.
Looking to the future the federal government has approached the Salvation Army to provide funding for local case management. They'll be teaming up with SASA in the war against human trafficking.
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