Topeka community leaders learn to combat human trafficking

TOPEKA (KSNT) — It might surprise you to learn, human trafficking is a growing problem in Kansas.

The numbers of reported cases have continued climbing over the years, which is why community leaders are being trained to prevent that from happening.

52 cases of possible human trafficking were reported in Kansas in 2014, up from just 35 the year before.

Although the numbers are growing, industry experts say that’s deceiving.

It isn’t just that human trafficking is becoming more prevalent, but more cases are  being caught because of training programs like the one held today.

“You know a lot of us when we were growing up, human trafficking is something that you’ve never really heard the term,” Darin Putthoff, Lead Pastor at Lifepoint Church in Topeka.

Which is the very purpose of the workshop he attended Monday, put on by Wichita State University’s Center for Combating Human Trafficking.

“What is human trafficking? How do I identify a victim of human trafficking, what are the risk factors, what are their resilience factors, and how do we get involved in the anti-trafficking movement?” explains Dr. Karen Countryman-Roswurm, Director of the Center for Combating Human Trafficking.

Educators, social workers, police officers and interested community members gathered to learn about the growing problem and what they can do to stop it.

“The thing that I’m surprised the most about is the amount of trafficking going on, even locally in Topeka. Some of the statistics were alarming to me, so I think this is a great, great sign that people are aware and ready to do something about it,” said Putthoff.

In fact in the last several months there’s been three arrests related to human trafficking in Topeka.

In July, Dominique Tyson was sentenced to 14 years in jail for selling a 15-year-old girl for sex, and prior to that in May, Reginald Newman and his wife Tiara were indicted for forcing a teenage girl into prostitution.

The experts say many more cases just like those often go un-noticed

“Whether it’s just one kid or 500, even one is one too many. So we need to respond to this issue of human trafficking,” said Dr. Countryman-Roswurm.

She says detection and prevention — all starts at home, with you.

“We can start by reducing the chances of trafficking in our own home, in our own neighborhoods, in our own communities, by investing in the lives of other people. We also encourage people to reach out and connect to local organizations that are already doing this work and offer support to those organizations,” said Dr. Countryman-Roswurm.

Three more anti-trafficking workshops are scheduled to take place before the end of the year, and they’re free and open to the public.

For more information on how you can attend, click here.

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