Local human trafficking survivor shares story, raises awareness of growing problem

Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 9:37 PM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Nearly 1,000 people fell victim to human trafficking in Louisiana last year alone.

“I was a child bride without my family’s knowledge or consent,” a local human trafficking survivor said. “I moved internationally without anyone even knowing I was gone.”

Sex trafficking is defined as knowingly harboring, selling, purchasing, or isolating a person for the purpose of commercial sexual activity, though it can come in other forms. It can happen anywhere, even right here in Southwest Louisiana.

A local victim and survivor shares her story, as she was trafficked at a very young age. We changed the sound of her voice for her safety.

“When you run unchecked, people can get their hands on you,” the survivor said. “It’s a lot easier to manipulate a kid who has no foundation than someone who has a strong background.”

She was finally able to escape as an adult, but sex trafficking still leaves its mark on her today.

“I’m constantly alert,” the survivor said. “I sit with my back to the wall in restaurants. I look for an exit everywhere I go. Everything to me has the potential to be a weapon if it means defending myself.”

Reporting a potential juvenile trafficking situation just became easier, as the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services launched a hotline for people to report suspicious activity.

“They are met with an expert who is trained in human trafficking who can help talk them through the situation, ask them questions that will help us know if this is really a trafficking situation, and guide the caller through that discussion and get the information that is needed,” child welfare manager with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, Christy Tate said.

What are some indicators of possible trafficking?

“People should be aware of juveniles that are having multiple runaways, unauthorized travel, suspicious injuries or tattoos, hanging out with older males of females often, going to hotels,” Tate said.

Rusty Havens, founder of SWLA Abolitionists, said it’s important now more than ever to educate and raise awareness.

“Forty percent of child trafficking is done by family members,” Haven said. “People need to know that and know what it is in order to stop it.”

“You aren’t the sum of what you’ve been through,” the survivor said. “You are the result of fighting through it, and I am fighting as best I can.”

The survivor is a survivor leader with SWLA Abolitionists. She sells jewelry that will help other victims of sex trafficking. To learn more about the organization or to view her stones and jewelry, click here.

Visit DCFS’s website for more information about sex trafficking and possible warning signs.

The hotline is toll-free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People can call the number 1-855-4LA-KIDS or 1-855-452-5437.