Eighty members of the group Voiceless walked in silence through downtown Lincoln Saturday morning, Aug. 15, to call attention to women and children who are forced to be silent victims of sex trafficking.
But Voiceless members will not be silent about the reality that sex trafficking exists in Lincoln and Nebraska.
“We must become a voice for the voiceless and hope for those who see no hope in their future,” said Paul Yates, executive director of I’ve Got a Name, an organization with a mission to end sex trafficking in Nebraska.
“The main goal of our Silent Walks of Awareness is to spread the word of how human trafficking is happening locally, in our own community,” added Voiceless member Kristina Hill, who co-organized the Silent Walk with Riley Johnson.
The walkers carried signs with messages like “30 girls a day are sold in Nebraska” and “Where are all the children?” from the Creamery building in Lincoln’s Haymarket district to the Capitol’s west lawn, where Yates gave a presentation. To illustrate the local sex trafficking problem, Yates said that based on extensive Nebraska research from website advertising in 2016, at least 900 girls and women are sold for sex each month in Nebraska – an average of 30 each day.
In Lincoln alone, at least 200 are sold each month – and the average age of a girl entering the commercial sex trade is 13, he said.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Lincoln in March, even those alarming numbers are severely under-reported, said Hill.
“We’re starting to see reports that there is a 40% inflation of human trafficking since COVID began,” she said.
“I think most people don’t want to believe that this is really happening here, so they turn a blind eye,” she added. “But we can’t ignore this. Each one of these statistics, these numbers, is a person, is a child, with a name. They need us to link arms and raise our voices and demand this to end.”
How to help
Hill urges everyone to join the Voiceless group’s new Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/3330559097036304, and join the group’s next walk on Sept. 19.
She recommends adding the National Human Trafficking Hotline number to your phone: 1-888-373-7888, and using that number if you or someone you know are a victim of human trafficking. The hotline offers 24/7 confidential support and can connect you with local resources to get help.
You can also take the online training that Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) offers to help you better understand and recognize signs of human trafficking. The Voiceless group has raised over $10,000 through shirt sales to donate to O.U.R.
To learn more about I’ve Got a Name and its Street Outreach program, which personally reaches out to local victims and those who are vulnerable to sex traffickers, see ivegotaname.org or follow it on Facebook or Instagram.
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