“Human trafficking does not discriminate”: NE highlights resources for victims, prevention efforts

In January, government officials, law enforcement, and non-profits are working to bring awareness.
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 10:21 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Human trafficking is a tough issue to talk about. It’s seen across the nation and right here in Nebraska and Lincoln.

In January, government officials, law enforcement, and non-profits are working to bring awareness.

According to the state, 13 defendants were convicted of sex trafficking charges in 2022 in Nebraska, a record-breaking number.

The Lincoln nonprofit I’ve Got a Name, said this type of crime impacts areas from big cities to rural towns, and raising awareness has the power to save lives.

Local victim advocates with the group have seen sex trafficking affect girls as young as 10 years old, to women in their 50s.

“Human trafficking does not discriminate,” said Megan Cook, the street outreach director for I’ve Got a Name.

Cook said many times the victims in these situations aren’t trafficked by force but through manipulation.

“Women that are getting tricked into believing that they’re in love,” Cook said. “We oftentimes see, as sad as it is, family members selling family members for financial gain. We’ve seen many groups of grooming online with minors.”

The nonprofit gets an average of five referrals a month to help females who are currently in or escaping sex trafficking but the work doesn’t end there.

According to the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force, before the task force was created there were only four human trafficking prosecutions from 2007 to 2015. Since its creation in 2015, there have been 88.

In his first press conference since taking office, Governor Jim Pillen proclaimed January ‘Human Trafficking Awareness Month’.

“My first day of signing proclamation and when I think about being the father of two daughters and the grandfather of three baby granddaughters and I think of the evilness of this, it just pierces my heart deeply,” Pillen said.

The state set up a hotline to report cases or tips into suspected human trafficking this past fall. The Nebraska State Patrol said so far, the line has gotten about 12 calls per month and it’s been a valuable tool in their investigations.

The number is 1-833-PLS-LOOK.