Human Trafficking Conference shines light on victim support

Capitol Bureau

More than 75 organizations and agencies across Kansas are gathering in Manhattan for a two day Human Trafficking Conference.

The goal of the conference is to educate the agencies on the warning sings of a person who is being trafficked and how to approach the situation. On Tuesday, the focus was helping victims of trafficking.   

“We have the ability to provide a sweatshirt, a blanket, food. General things a victim might need,” explained Melissa Cooke, with the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County. 

Cooke works with trafficking victims and survivors.

“We need to look at ways to address the victim’s needs in order to combat this problem,” said Cooke.

However, addressing a victim’s needs and helping them leave the life of trafficking can be difficult, especially if resources are lacking. 

“Say you’re desperate for money, it’s much easier to go back to that lifestyle,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister. 

McAllister said in the past many victims have been arrested and prosecuted for prostitution but added that’s changing. 

“What we are really after, federally, is those who are coercing them and forcing them into that lifestyle,” he said. 

Law enforcement officers at the conference said awareness plays a huge role in combating human trafficking and said if you see something, say something. 

“The more we can educate people, the more information we can get and it becomes that collaboration of working together,” said Shawnee County Sheriff Herman Jones. 

The Human Trafficking Conference comes one day after Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced the Demand an End campaign, which promotes awareness of human trafficking.

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