EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - A group gathered to raise awareness about human trafficking on Thursday evening.
Indiana reported 157 human trafficking cases last year, and this is a number that has been on the rise over the last five years.
Back in 2015, exactly 100 fewer cases were reported involving both adults and children.
At Kevin’s Backstage Bar and Grill on Main Street in Evansville, a couple dozen people joined together to march downtown while holding signs in efforts of spreading awareness on human trafficking.
“A lot of the online predators, they’re actually targeting our youth online,” Christina Wicks with the Indiana Trafficking Victims Assistance Program explained. “They’re targeting them, grooming them and even recruiting them.”
Coinciding with a global movement, these efforts fall on “World Day Against Trafficking.” The local campaign is backed by Operation Underground Railroad, a nonprofit helping rescue human and sex trafficking victims, especially children.
“With me being a mom, and I feel like these children and women - they need a voice,” organizer Meagan Gander said. “I feel like it’s time to rise up and do what we can to keep this going.”
Evansville’s Lampion Center shared statistics on social media which say children who are sexually abused are twice as likely to run away from home. One in six endangered runaways reported in 2019 were likely child sex trafficking victims.
“It is a big problem and it needs to be addressed,” event attendee James Daily expressed.
On the national scale, 11,500 cases of human trafficking were reported last year. Most of the victims were identified as female adults in the sex trafficking industry.
“We’re all coming together because we cannot combat and deal with these issues alone,” Wicks added. “So that’s why we have to show our community and our victims that we’re all here together for them.”
People can text the words “help” or “info” to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 233733.
Red flags include runaway or homeless youth, large amounts of cash, plus multiple hotel room keys or cell phones.