Facebook post draws attention to human trafficking in Central Illinois

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. — A Facebook post is going viral, detailing an alleged sex trafficking case in Central Illinois. While police haven’t verified the story in the post, it’s drawing attention to how prevalent the issue is close to home.

The post has been shared thousands of times. It claims to tell the story of a local Uber driver taking a woman from Peoria to Bloomington Normal. The driver says they noticed the woman acting strangely, and she revealed she was going to the Twin Cities because she’s a victim of sex trafficking. The Facebook post says the driver called police and the woman got help.

While police haven’t verified the claims, local organizations that provide resources for sex trafficking survivors are reminding you the signs to look out for.

Carol Merna, Executive Director of Center for Prevention of Abuse in Peoria, shared the signs of labor and sex trafficking:

Maybe they didn’t have their documentation. If you look in my purse, you’re going to find a driver’s license, insurance card, a credit card or two, and some cash. A victim of human trafficking isn’t going to have any of that. More than likely their trafficker has confiscated their documents, so they can be in complete control over them.

You also might find somebody who’s got signs of physical abuse, because that’s used as part of the threat.

It could be unexplained bruises, it could be malnourishment.

It could be that it’s a child and they suddenly stopped going to school. They’ve become withdrawn, depressed, confused about where they’re at.

Young people may get cuaght up in door-to-door sales, which can be labor trafficking. They go from community to community and have no idea where they’re at.

There’s a general idea of ‘something’s not right.’ So whenever somebody has that gut feeling, we ask them to take awareness of their surroundings. What’s the person wearing? What circumstances are they in? Maybe the license plate of the vehicle they’re traveling in, and then report that.

The Center for Prevention of Abuse (CFPA) launched its human trafficking department about a year and a half ago. Since then, the Center has helped more than 50 survivors. It’s the only sanctioned and funded provider in the area that provides beds for human trafficking survivors.

“Whatever they might need to be able to be in a healing environment, to go into recovery, to escape their dangerous situation, we want to be useful to them,” said Merna.

The human trafficking department is funded by the Justice Department. That funding was given to the Center because of the high number of National Human Trafficking Hotline calls that came from the Peoria area.

If you suspect you’ve witnessed a victim of human trafficking, you should call 911. You can also call the CFPA crisis hotline at (800) 559-SAFE (7233) or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888. You can also text 233733.

“We don’t want anybody to act physically on their own,” said Merna, “but they can become a hero by simply reporting.”

The CFPA provides its services with no cost to survivors. You can help fund its mission by sponsoring a duck in the 31st Annual Duck Race on Saturday, August 24. All money raised through the event goes into programs in Central Illinois.

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