By Ali Richardson, Staff Writer
Hardin-Simmons University hosted an event on Feb. 13 named Not for Sale. It was intended to raise awareness to human trafficking.
Speaking at the event were Bryn Stonehouse and Colleen Rud from the Regional Victim Crisis Center. In an email interview, Stonehouse provided information on human trafficking as well as what kind of actions students need to take to stay safe.
“The training is our basic Human Trafficking 101 training. It provided a look into the definition of human trafficking, the statistics, risk factors, red flags and the ways to report suspected human trafficking,” Stonehouse wrote.
While one might think it is only a problem in other areas compared to here in the Big Country, Stonehouse said it is a problem everywhere.
“Trafficking is a problem anywhere and everywhere. We often assume it won’t happen in the United States, let alone in a small town in West Texas but it absolutely happens right here,” Stonehouse wrote.
The event was based on an organization called Not for Sale and, according to their website, they provide advocacy and aftercare for survivors of trafficking.
Stonehouse shared more about her passion on the subject of ending human trafficking.
“Human trafficking and the exploitation of humans has become a very strong passion of mine. My goal is to one day work myself out of a job—that there won’t be any exploitation of human beings. But until that day comes, I will continue to fight for survivors,” Stonehouse wrote.
Not everyone is aware that human trafficking is such a big problem. This is where groups like the Regional Victim Crisis Center can come in and educate people on the issue.
“One of the biggest ways we aim to help people understand this is by simply educating our community. By doing these events, people become more aware of the realities of what human trafficking looks like locally. And now that we have formed these partnerships, we are starting to see more victims being identified. When the community starts to see us working with these survivors, it is really hard to ignore anymore,” Stonehouse wrote.
Human trafficking happens with all ages. For example, Abilene has a large amount of young college students. Therefore, Stonehouse gave students some pointers on staying safe, wherever they are.
“The biggest thing is to know the risk factors and red flags for human trafficking. I think it is also really important to know that, more often than not, human trafficking doesn’t occur by someone kidnapping you and then trafficking you. Most times, a trafficker is someone the individual knows. And a lot of traffickers are turning to online tactics and utilizing social media to gain the trust of their victims. Trafficking can happen to anyone at any time,” Stonehouse wrote.