Human trafficking awareness: Educating teachers, parents, students, police

By Meaghan St Pierre - Producer

DETROIT - Linsey Ruth uses sewing as a release, and teaches other victims of human trafficking to do the same. 

She understands what they are going through because of her experience with her ex-husband. Ruth said he used to control and isolate her and forced her into prostitution. It started when she was a teenager. 

"And he said 'You know, I think maybe we should try this.' And 'this' was to have me be with other people," Ruth said. 

Ruth is happily married now with five children. 

The International Labor Organization estimates there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking around the world. The CEO of Paving The Way, an organization that helps victims, wants people to realize it could be happening where they live and work. 

"What people need to know is it's happening in every single zip code, and every single neighborhood," Paving the Way CEO Jan Edwards said. 

Paving the Way educates teachers, parents, students, and law enforcement on signs of trafficking. 

Polaris released a report on the calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline and BeFree Textline. In 2017, 8,759 cases of human trafficking were reported, which is a 13 percent increase in cases from the year before.  

For more statistics from the report, click here.  

"As a child I was trafficked, and it's still, for me it's not easy for me to talk about," Tina Kadolf said. 

Ruth and Kadolf are a part of the small percentage that escape from trafficking.  Both women devote time to making a change for people who have experienced the pain they have endured. 

Ruth found pleasure in sewing and now teaches other victims to sew as therapy. Kadolph owns a volunteer run coffee shop that donates 100 percent of its profits to combat human trafficking.

"You've got embarrassment, shame and fear on the victim's side, and then you've got guilt, manipulation and coercion, and threats on the perpetrators side," Edwards said. "I don't want any child, any child to suffer from that." 

Edwards encourages conversations about awareness and prevention around human trafficking. She says to look for signs of isolation and loss of interest, both can be an indication that something might be wrong. 
Be aware of who your children are talking to online. Make sure their location settings are off and turn on their privacy settings.

She said the most important thing you can do is if you see something, say something. Contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373- 7888. 

For more information on Paving the Way, click here.

Visit polarisproject.org to learn more information about human trafficking.

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