PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — There are multiple ways to get involved for National Human Trafficking Prevention Month in Central Illinois.
An underreported crime, human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to exploit another individual for financial gain, often commercial sex acts or labor.
The Center for Prevention of Abuse is hosting a meetup on Jan. 17 at CXT Roasting Company in Peoria to spread awareness about the crime. CXT will also have special coffee sleeves all month with information about human trafficking.
“What we want during Human Trafficking Awareness Month is for people to really recognize we’re stepping up our efforts to make sure that people have the opportunity to learn,” said Carol Merna, CEO of Center for Prevention of Abuse.
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is on Jan. 11. You are encouraged to wear blue for “Wear Blue Day”, a human trafficking awareness campaign set forth by the Department of Homeland Security, and share pictures on social media with the hashtag #FightHT309.
“And people can actually send their photos to the Department of Homeland Security, and they’re going to be posting them on their website,” Merna said.
Everyone has a role to play in combatting human trafficking, Merna said.
“It’s so important to know that people have power. This is a societal issue and people have the power to spot it and and report it…It is imperative to trust your gut that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t and educate yourself on what human trafficking is. It’s such a shame to know that stealing someone’s freedom for profit is done so prolifically in every corner of this country, and we can all play a role,” she said.
Merna said Illinois ranks tenth in the country for human trafficking. CFPA’s Human Trafficking Division has helped 120 clients from 46 counties in the past five years, with 90 percent hailing from Central Illinois.
The Murray Baker Bridge was lit blue from Jan. 6 to Jan. 8 to spread awareness about human trafficking.
CFPA is also selling limited-edition shirts for Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
According to the U.S. Department of State, more than 27 million people globally are subjected to human trafficking, but that number is likely much higher.