Hope for the voiceless: Human trafficking in Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE - Calls reporting human trafficking have doubled in Louisiana over the past two years. increased awareness from both public safety officers and the public has helped voiceless victims change their lives. News 2's Rebecca Buchanan visited Sullivan's this morning for Breakfast with 2une In to discuss the upcoming Trafficking Hope Gala.
In the past seven years, there's been more than 500 confirmed human trafficking cases.
"People say that's ridiculous, that can't happen here," explains Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson. "It does happen here, and it happens far too often."
'Sarah' says she never could have imagined a life of forced-prostitution as in her future, but it happened when she thought she had found love.
"At that point in my life, everything wasn't going well," she explained, her identity hidden. "He reached out to me on Facebook and came at me like a boyfriend. I never knew he was a pimp."
She says working the streets was traumatizing, but the thought of leaving was even worse.
"You get searched, and if you get caught with money or caught trying to leave...you don't want to get caught," she recollected. "He (said) he would kill me if I ever said anything...(that) he would kill my family."
Laws have been strengthened in Louisiana and across the country, as law enforcement has increased training to combat human sex trafficking. Those efforts have doubled the number of victims saved in Louisiana the last two years.
Hope House in Louisiana has helped 44 trafficking victims like Sarah get back on their feet since October 2013. Col. Mike Edmonson says even after victims are rescued, there's a long road to recovery.
"It's a very emotional experience...I've talked to girls that have seen as many as 50 people in one day," he says. "The trauma that's inside that girl, it's a tough thing to break."
At the Hope House, they can begin to restart their lives, learn a trade and heal.
"I'm going to school now. I want to speak to girls in CPS and let them know their value, because no one tells them they're pretty. No one tells that...they mean something to somebody," Sarah says.
The Trafficking Hope Gala is Saturday, March 7th at 7 p.m. at the Louisiana State Museum in Baton Rouge. Visit the Trafficking Hope website for more information and tickets.
You can find more highlights from this morning's show on our 2une In Page.
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