“Are You Safe?” the flyer asks.

It then asks about some classic signs of trafficking: Are you free to come and go as you please? Do you have to make money for someone else using your body or your labor? Are you unable to earn or manage your own money?

At the bottom are tear-off strips with a national human trafficking hotline number: 1-888-373-7888.

The jarring flyers have been placed at truck stops and other places throughout Douglas County in an effort to help people caught in the web of human trafficking.

“Truck drivers are actually calling in and reporting cases of suspected trafficking,” said Marion Pearson at a community forum Wednesday evening in Sutherlin. “The statistics surrounding trafficking are alarming and our children are at risk. That doesn’t sit well with me.”

Pearson is a violence prevention specialist with CHI Mercy Health who founded the Douglas County Human Trafficking Task Force. Wednesday’s forum, which was attended by more than 50 people, was intended to help people learn what trafficking is and how it works in Douglas County.

Pearson and others say human trafficking is a persistent and growing problem locally and statewide. Seventy-four Oregon cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2018. Of those, 58 involved sex trafficking. At least some of the calls it received were from Douglas County, but exact numbers are not available.

But behind the statistics are real lives, Pearson said. There is the case of the woman who sold her 3-year-old daughter, the former high school cheerleader who returned to the school to recruit other cheerleaders into sex trafficking, and the man who used his step-daughter to produce child pornography, Pearson said.

“Victims of trafficking can be anybody,” she said. “They look like you and they look like me.”

Pearson founded the task force in 2015. Members include organizations like the Roseburg Police Department, Myrtle Creek Police, Compass Behavioral Health, Adapt, Roseburg Public Schools, Oregon Department of Justice, Abolition 513, Mercy and Battered Person’s Advocacy.

“If we don’t become educated about this and savvy about this we’re going to miss it,” she said.

Pearson said it was the efforts of the local chapter of Zonta International that really put the task force’s work on the map. Currently, there’s a trainer working with each new class of trucking students at Umpqua Community College to help them recognize the signs, she said. Nursing students at UCC took up the cause this year as well.

The nursing students created the “Are You Safe?” flyer, which they’ve been placing around the county and at rest stops up and down Interstate 5. They often leave it in bathrooms — one of the few places victims are likely to be free from those who control them.

This summer the task force received a $5,000 grant to teach local teens how to protect themselves from becoming victims of human trafficking.

The grant from Zonta International is helping the task force provide a preventative trafficking curriculum for middle and high schools in Douglas County. Students learn how to recognize trafficking risks, establish healthy relationship boundaries and recognize predatory behavior.

The grant will also pay to train teachers, health care professionals and human services professionals about trafficking.

If you suspect human trafficking, contact the national human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “Help” to 233733. If you are a sex trafficking victim or have made contact with one, direct them to Battered Persons’ Advocacy at 541-673-7867.

For more information on the task force, call Pearson at 541-677-6531.

Scott Carroll can be reached at scarroll@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204.

Or follow him on Twitter @scottcarroll15.

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mynamehere

How about checking up on what appears to be a prostitution ring operating near the Winchester Elementary School. If that isn't sex trafficking...

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