The nonprofit organization known as Texas! Save Our Youth hosted an event aimed to bring awareness of human, labor and sex trafficking to Killeen residents.
“We can’t let this continue, we have to stomp it out and make an effort for the community to be aware,” said Killeen Councilwoman Shirley Fleming, who is also president of the group.
The free, awareness-training session was created to help those who attended learn not only the warning signs of trafficking but offered resources to help those they may suspect are involved.
The event included a panel of guest speakers, who spoke on a variety of topics pertaining to sex trafficking, as well as a screening two short films about human trafficking.
Kathy Ylostalo, program director for the ARK (Acceptance, Restoration, and Kinship) Foundation and trainer in human trafficking prevention gave a presentation that invited an open dialogue from attendees about their upbringing and preconceptions of human trafficking.
A 2016 human trafficking study by the University of Texas reported that approximately 234,000 workers in Texas are victims of labor trafficking, approximately 79,000 minors and youth are victims of sex trafficking in the state and, currently, there are 313,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas, according to information on the pamphlet.
Fleming described what motivated her to spread the message.
“I’m a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. I would hate for that call to come to me one night that (my) child has been abducted.
“Because once they’re gone, they may never come home.”
Fleming said she has spoken with John Craft, Killeen Independent School District superintendent, about training teachers, faculty and staff so that teachers can identify any children who may be involved with human trafficking.
“We have to save our kids,” Fleming said. “They are our future.”
For more on this story, please see Saturday's Killeen Daily Herald.