Anti-Human Trafficking Specialist Mariana Vega with Cedar Valley Friends of the Family will be the featured speaker at Wednesday night's 6:00 program at the Decorah MIddle School cafeteria by the "Parenting in Today's Sexual Climate" group.
"Human Trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery that occurs globally and domestically. It is the exploitation of a person for the purpose of commercial sex acts or compelled labor by means of force, fraud, or coercion," shares Vega.
Anyone is at risk for human trafficking, says Vega. Vulnerable populations include runaways or homeless youth; children in foster care or the juvenile court system; LGBTQ individuals; undocumented immigrants; individuals with disabilities; racial and ethnic minorities; individuals with a history of being sexually abused and individuals with a history of domestic violence
Living in a small Midwestern town, Decorah residents may think they are not at risk, that this only happens in larger towns. But with the amount of traffic that goes through Decorah, human trafficking can occur.
Signs of human trafficking to look for include signs of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse; signs of an apparent lack of medical care; signs of drug or alcohol addiction; signs of malnutrition; lack of basic necessities such as food, shelter or clothing; and clothing that's not appropriate for the weather or venue.
Vegas shares practical tips for families, saying, "We live in a digital age. Kids are on their own cell phones. Teach your children to know who they are adding as friends on social media. Sex trafficking can occur from 'befriending' strangers. Be vigilant about your social media accounts. Talk with and model to your children about what healthy relationships are like. If you notice any odd behavior or requests from online such as wanting to meet in an isolated area, and you get a weird feeling, listen to your gut feeling."
Wednesday night's program is free and open to the public.