|‘I’ve Got A Name’ walk grows|
|October 14, 2016 Frank Marquez|
Photo by Frank Marquez/for the Citizen Local Soroptimists Terry Rajewich and Betsy Vidlak register walk participants at Saturday’s No Girl For Sale Awareness Walk to educate the public about human trafficking. The walk was one of two held in Nebraska that day, the second being the I’ve Got A Name organization’s walk in Lincoln.
About 70 people joined in an awareness walk led by members of Soroptimist International of Scotts Bluff County on Saturday morning.
Inspired to do something about the growing problem of sex trafficking in Nebraska, specifically in the Twin Cities, Lisa Betz-Marquez, president of the local women’s organization, approached Soroptimist membership about the possibility of doing the walk last month. “The membership got behind it,” said Betz-Marquez. “The planning was made easy by I’ve Got A Name, a Lincoln-based non-profit working to end human trafficking in Nebraska,” said Betz-Marquez.
Participants in the walk titled ‘No Girl for Sale,’ carried signs and chanted the slogan along their journey on foot from the Safeway parking lot on north Broadway to the 18th Street Park on Broadway.
At Safeway, Soroptimist members registered walkers and sold T-shirts for the event. Proceeds from the sale of T-shirts went to fund I’ve Got a Name’s education and prevention efforts to stop human trafficking. “I’ve Got A Name” was stenciled on the backs of grey and burgandy T-shirts.
“We want our local community to know the problem is not just in Lincoln and Omaha, or larger cities, it exists in small towns across Nebraska, including ours,” said Betz-Marquez. If you see something, you should say something,” said Betz-Marquez, whose organization works to improve the lives of women and girls around the world. “If you see something suspicious, a girl who might seem out of her element, you should call law enforcement immediately, even if you err on the side of caution.”
The No Girl For Sale walk in Lincoln, now in its fourth year, raises awareness about human trafficking, with the organizational goal “to eradicate sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.” Paul Yates, the executive director for I’ve Got A Name, said, “We don’t want to scare people, but we need to wake up. This is a growing problem in Nebraska.”
Scottsbluff Police Chief Kevin Spencer, who also spoke at the event, said that Nebraska appointed a task force on July 19, 2012, to address the issue. Headed by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson’s office, Stephen Patrick O’Meara, who serves as the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force coordinator, is the tip of the spear. His task force organization is responsible for “(examining) the extent to which human trafficking is prevalent in this state; the scope of the efforts being taken to prevent human trafficking from occurring; and the services available to victims …” Spencer said that human sex trafficking is a $32 billion industry worldwide, second only to narcotics.
A recently released May 2015 study on the estimation of victims in the state conducted by Drs. Ron Hampton and Dwayne Ball, reported the known number of school girls who had become victims stood at 47 per year, but the true number, according to the report, was probably double or greater.
In April of 2016, the passage of LB 843 ensured that an individual who is a victim of labor trafficking or sex trafficking could not also be charged with prostitution.
Spencer said that in local efforts, law enforcement would be given training scheduled next week which will focus on increasing awareness. Troopers and police officers would be taught to look for the tell-tale signs of traffickers, and hopefully gather enough intelligence to crackdown on trafficking rings.
For more information on the I’ve Got a Name organization, visit www.ivegotanam