Local organization raises human trafficking awareness ahead of Water Follies

Bars of soap with the national trafficking hotline will be placed in rooms throughout local hotels in our area during the Water Follies event.

Mirror Ministries is holding their annual Stop Underage Domestic Sex Trafficking volunteer training today and Monday to spread prevention and awareness on how we can prevent this issue from happening in our community.

Last year, the organization worked with over 70 survivors of human trafficking within our community, Mirror Ministries said. So far this year, they have taken on about 30. The organization defines sex trafficking as "force, fraud, or coercion to compel another person into service," or "anyone under the age of eighteen involved in a commercial sex act."

"It's not because we're expecting somebody to grab your kids off the street because it's Water Follies, but Water Follies, like many large events, mean more partying going on, and with that partying, unfortunately, some people like to purchase other people," Mirror Ministries Executive Director Tricia MacFarlan said.

Volunteers from the SUDS project will go to local hotels to provide education on how to prevent girls and boys from being exploited at their locations. They will also visit with local law enforcement. Provided education materials will include brochures for hotel front desks, reference cards for staff, and bars of soap with the national trafficking hotline that will be placed in all the rooms.

"When you see something, call in and say something. Law enforcement says they'd prefer that you call and it turns out to be nothing than for you not to call and it turns out that you maybe were the only one that could've mentioned something to someone," MacFarlan said.

The app, Traffickcam, can also be used to combat trafficking wherever you're at on your next vacation. Once you download it, just enter your room number, hotel name, and pictures of your hotel room. These photos will then be used to determine where sex trafficking perpetrators are committing their crimes.

Some red flags to also keep in mind include people monitoring hallways, constant flows of of guests to rooms or men waiting in lobbies, back doors, or outside of rooms, and fellow guests asking for help, food or money.

More warning signs, resources, and information on how to join volunteer training can be found at their website here. The National Human Trafficking Hotline number is (888) 373-7888.

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