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Empowering Indiana neighbors to combat youth human trafficking

FISHERS, Ind (WISH) – This weekend, parents and teens can learn about human trafficking. It’s an event a victim knows can make a big difference.

People convincing kids to have sex for money may not be behind the bushes, but the Indiana Attorney General’s Office said they could target any neighborhood. Last year, the office said 178 Hoosier kids were victims.

The majority are white females, 30 percent of them were under 15. “It’s happening in our city everywhere, and we don’t realize it,” Heather Sewell said.

Sewell knows firsthand about human trafficking “I was 18,” Sewell said.

She spent more than 10 years in the sex industry. “I looked in the paper and I saw a job that was hiring for waitresses, but when I walked in, I realized they were hiring for dancers,” Sewell said.

Experts said it’s not the paper tricking kids anymore, but the devices in their hand.

“That’s one of the primary ways that kids are searched for by the traffickers,” Ascent 121 psychologist, Hugh Hanlin said.

Hanlin works with Ascent 121, who helps trafficking victims. Saturday, his group, and many others will meet at the Christ the Savior Lutheran Church at 10500 E. 126th Street in Fishers, to educate parents and teens.

“It’s important for all people to understand and know about this subject,” Hanlin said. Experts said there are no specific sites or apps traffickers are targeting. There are those that should raise some red flags.

Apps that delete history, whether it be text, or photos, make it hard for parents to monitor what their kid is doing. “It also makes it difficult for police officers because then when they’re trying to investigate something they can’t follow those,” Hanlin said.

To protect your kid, Hanlin said talk about this, monitor online use, and get kids involved.

A better friend is something Sewell knows can make all the difference. “Go get that money from him,” Sewell said. “He’s giving you something. But if you’ve got one friend that’s telling you, hey, I don’t know about that. That doesn’t seem too safe. That’s who you need to listen to.”

The event starts at 10:00 a.m. For more information about human trafficking, click here.

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