Sex-trafficking awareness

Deidre Woods, who is a victim’s advocate for the U.S. Army on Fort Hood, calls sex trafficking a “disease.”

Sex trafficking is a murky place but on Friday people gathered at a church in Killeen to shed light on that world. The community meeting at Westside Baptist Church began with a reading of scripture and a prayer.

Around 75 people gathered for the year’s first Westside Baptist Church Youth Ministry meeting to hear several experts and the Killeen Police Department discuss sex trafficking, which has become of interest after several human and sex trafficking stings in the city over the past year.

“It’s important that our youth are aware, and that parents and grandparents are aware,” Jawhar Thompson, the church’s youth minister, told the Herald. “When you say ‘sex trafficking’ so many people have no idea what you’re talking about. This is something we can do to bring awareness.”

One person at the church certainly was aware.

Courtney Irving, of Killeen told the Herald that she was attending the event with friends, and it was not the first forum on sex trafficking that she has attended.

“I’m a young woman and I have sisters and a brother who are younger than me, so I want to make sure that we all stay safe,” said. “I’ve been getting as much information as I can. It doesn’t just affect one person. It takes everybody to keep everybody else safe.”

During her presentation, Diedre Woods, a victim’s advocate on Fort Hood, called sex trafficking a “disease” and “modern-day slavery.”

Woods said that Texas is in the top 3 states with the most cases of sex trafficking--79,000--coming in third behind California and New York.

She asked why.

She encouraged the audience to keep asking why, and to not be afraid to ask questions.

“If you know someone who is at one point so much fun, the life of the party, and then they don’t want to have anything to do with you, ask why,” Woods said. “If they stop attending school, ask why.”

She delineated some of the signs of trafficking, including a disconnected attitude, a change in behavior, and a disoriented, confused or scared demeanor.

The Department of Homeland Security has more information about human trafficking, including indicators and how to get help. To report suspected human trafficking, people can call 1-866-347-2423 and to get help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, call 1-88-373-788 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).

The event was sponsored by the Westside Baptist Church Youth Ministry.

For more on this discussion, see Monday's Herald.

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