Sunday event to fight human trafficking
Special to The Union
Slavery is going strong. That’s why Grass Valley Seventh Day Adventist Church is hosting Shine A Light Nevada County from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday to inform the community of the epidemic of human trafficking and how people can join the fight against it. The event is free and open to the public
According to Anna McMillen, secretary and women’s ministry coordinator at the church, “The first step in changing anything is awareness.”
McMillen says some slaves were offered “jobs,” as servants or laborers, then told they owe more for room and board than they earn and kept locked up. Some are legally married, then forced to function as slaves.
Others were lured by men who seemed to care for them and gave them gifts, then said they must pay it back by serving as prostitutes.
Young girls, especially those from abusive families, are most likely to become ensnared.
Women and children from other countries are often kidnapped and forced into slavery and prostitution. When people like that are moved across borders, that’s human trafficking.
An estimated 27 million people are enslaved around the world right now and two-thirds of those are American citizens. A 2013 report from CBS said Sacramento is the second worst city in the U.S. for child trafficking.
The keynote speaker at the local event, Leah Albright-Byrd, was a sex slave herself, until a church helped her escape and get into college.
In 2011 after someone she knew, and had previously invited to join her as a prostitute, was killed by a “john,”
Albright-Byrd founded an organization called Bridget’s Dream to fight sex trafficking. Now she dedicates her life to persuading girls to leave that life and helping victims recover. To raise awareness, she has had appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, with Katie Couric, at the Super Bowl, on TV talk shows, and in many other venues.
A panel of speakers will be included in the event, along with booths from local organizations including Women of Worth, DVSAC, and Anew Day. Those groups work with people who are prone to being exploited so they are on the front lines of preventing women from getting lured into prostitution.
Run for Courage, Grace Network, and Opening Doors are organizations from the Sacramento area that work directly with victims of human trafficking. They will also be represented by speakers at Shine A Light Nevada County.
“If we’re willing to drive down the hill to shop at Costco and go to a mall, why wouldn’t we be willing to drive down the hill to join one of these organizations and help in this cause?” McMillen asked.
McMillen and other members of the Women’s Ministry team at the Seventh Day Adventist Church knew almost nothing about this problem in February when eight of them began planning community-based events. Someone suggested the topic, but they needed to do a lot of research. Now, besides Sunday’s event, they’re making contact with other local churches in the community to help get them involved.
Grass Valley Seventh Day Adventist Church is located at 12889 Osborne Hill Road.
Janet Ann Collins is a freelance writer in Nevada County.
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