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Statewide coalition offers free training to end sexual assault and human trafficking

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A statewide coalition has a mission to bring social justice to people across the state.

The Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking (ICESAHT) is offering free training sessions to prevent and address human trafficking in light of January being National Slavery and Human Trafficking Month.

Members are offering free training sessions to prevent and address the issue. They believe human trafficking is a rapidly growing crime across the United States and Indiana.

Research provided by ICESAHT shows 11,500 cases were reported of labor, sex and child sex trafficking in 2019. More than half, 58% of all forced labor victims are women and girls.

The coalition’s research mentioned there are documented cases of forced marriage, forced labor and sex trafficking of minors and adults across all 92 counties across Indiana.

Members noted there were 157 human trafficking cases reported to the national human trafficking hotline in 2019, an increase of 19% from 2018. Forty of those cases involved minors.

Other service providers said they’ve reported additional numbers, however ICESAHT mentioned reports from service providers indicate that the scope of human trafficking in Indiana far outpaces the number of cases called in to the hotline.

Ascent 121 is an Indiana agency Ascent 121 that specializes in working with survivors of sex trafficking provided services for 117 minors in 2019. The national hotline at Polaris received 40 reports of trafficking of minors in 2019.

Survivor of sex and labor trafficking Eric Harris explained to News 8 that most victims had some type of relationship with their trafficker before their exploitation.

“People tend to think that it happens like the movie ‘Taken’ when it’s not, that’s over centralized for people’s entertainment enjoyment,” Harris said. “People think it’s strangers that are traffickers, but no the reality is that the majority of people that have been exploited through human trafficking knew their trafficker or somehow interconnected with the family from where the person that was trafficked originated from.”

Harris said he was born and raised in San Diego County, California and encountered his first sex trafficker at 10 year’s old. The survivor said it was his mother who sexually exposed him to strangers in exchange for money.

“As long as there is a demand for sexual deviant behavior in our society there’s always going to be a demand for human trafficking,” Harris said. “When it comes to why people are in human trafficking a lot of it is poverty. At the end of the day that’s why my mom kind of sold me into human trafficking.”

Harris added he later ended up in foster care and lived with a family that labor trafficked him.

The survivor is now 45 and resides in Anderson, Indiana. He’s an Anderson University graduate and received his Bachelors Degree in Social Work who plans to attain his Masters at IUPUI this year.

He is encouraging people to reach out to organizations that are led by human trafficking survivors.

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