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Charleston church to host forum on human trafficking

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Unitarian Universalist Church on Charleston's West Side will host an evening to shine a light on sex trafficking, which endangers between 100,000 and 300,000 American children each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The main speaker at the forum, "U.S. Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery," will be Sister Anne Victory, who is education coordinator for the Collaborative Initiative to End Human Trafficking, based in the Cleveland and Akron, Ohio area.

The group's mission is "to educate and advocate for the prevention and abolition of human trafficking" and to provide "services on behalf of trafficked persons."

Mary Sullivan, a local member of Seneca 2, a local women's organization, said in West Virginia, a lot of human trafficking stems from drug problems.

"We have heard stories about mothers essentially selling their daughters to their drug suppliers. People need to be alert to what is happening," she said.

Between 800,000 to 900,000 people are trafficked across national borders every year, according to the Collaborative Initiative website.

"Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. Victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Victims are young children, teenagers, men and women," the Collaborative Initiative says.

"After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second-largest criminal industry in the world today, and it is the fastest growing."

Men who are victims of trafficking are most likely to be exploited for forced labor, while women are more likely to face sexual exploitation.

When she spoke at Lorain Community College in Elyria, Ohio, earlier this year, Victory said victims coming to the U.S. are most frequently trafficked from countries in Central and South America, Asia and Eastern Europe.

"Many victims trafficked into the United States do not speak and understand English and are therefore isolated and unable to communicate with service providers, law enforcement and others who might be able to help them," said a report about Victory's speech on the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland's website.

People who meet or come into contact with possible victims of human trafficking can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-3737-888 or text "BeFree" (233733).

Thursday's program will begin at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, located at 520 Kanawha Blvd. W. in Charleston.

The event is sponsored by Seneca 2. Their website states, "The women who organized the Seneca Falls Convention [in New York] in 1848 were the inspiration for Seneca 2 -- an activist organization formed in 2006 by a group of Kanawha Valley women.

"Like their Seneca Falls Sisters, Seneca 2 believes that 'liberty and justice for all' is the unequivocal hallmark of democracy."

West Virginia FREE is also a co-sponsor of the program.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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