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Rotary sex trafficking training seminar

Members of Lincoln’s Downtown Rotary were joined by other Rotary clubs from Omaha, Norfolk, Wayne and Columbus at a training seminar that helped prepare them to offer workshops to identify sex trafficking in hotels and motels in the area.

Members of Lincoln’s Downtown Rotary Club and others from eastern Nebraska participated in a March 30 training program to help them combat sex trafficking by teaching hotel employees the warning signs and recommended follow-up actions they can take.

The training was part of a Rotary District 5650 effort to provide materials and methods to share with those in the hospitality industry across eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. The materials and information were provided in a workshop offered by the Coalition on Human Trafficking established by the Province of Notre Dame Sisters based in Omaha.

It’s estimated that nearly 75 percent of sexual exploitation activities take place in hotels and motels. Law enforcement reports suggest that Nebraska and Iowa are not immune to trafficking, especially along the Interstate 80 and 29 corridors. The Coalition was established in 2014 in an effort to combat human trafficking.

“Members of our more than 40 clubs have been encouraged to take part in one of several training sessions,” noted Rotary District 5650 Governor Julie O’Hara of Shenandoah, Iowa. “We’ve joined with other Rotary districts across the United States and around the world in arranging for our members to help with the training.”

During the training, coordinated by Sharon and Dan Wherry of Rotary 14 and conducted at Westminster Presbyterian Church, those present learned a number of signs that a person may be a sex trafficking victim. Those signs include that victims are not in possession of their own identification or travel documents, they’re not allowed to move around independently, they may be of school age but not in school, they are accompanied by a much older adult and they’re not allowed to speak on their own behalf.

Rotary 14 members were joined by members of other Rotary clubs in Lincoln, Norfolk, Columbus, Wayne and Omaha. They will be working with Coalition coordinators to contact hotels and motels in the area to arrange for brief but informative training sessions.

“We find that one of the best ways to help law enforcement locate and prosecute sex traffickers, as well as to rescue victims, is by alerting people in the hospitality industry what to look for,” noted Stephen Patrick O’Meara, a former U.S. attorney and Nebraska deputy attorney general. O’Meara recently shared his insight into the situation with Lincoln’s Rotary 14 as well as other clubs across the district. He also participates in the training coordinated by the Coalition.

“It’s not only an issue in major cities, but even in motels in smaller cities,” said O’Meara.

“Now that the training has concluded, managers in hotels in the area will be contacted and asked to schedule the informative session for their employees,” said Kathy Kemler of the Coalition. “Rotarians who have completed the training will be available to make presentations and maintain contact with the manager to support and encourage the work they do to combat human trafficking.”

Those interested in further information or wanting to schedule training can contact the Coalition at trainhotel@notrafficking.org.

Rotary 14 is Lincoln’s oldest and largest service club with more than 225 members who participate in a wide variety of service projects including hosting an annual picnic for international students at Lincoln’s institutions of higher education, honoring an outstanding Nebraskan each year, volunteering in and supporting Everett Elementary School and helping coordinate an annual Salute to Business. This year’s Salute to Business will recognize Firespring during an April 30 luncheon.

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L Magazine editor

Mark Schwaninger is L magazine and Neighborhood Extra editor.

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