The Douglas County Human Trafficking Task Force has received a $5,000 grant to teach local teens how to protect themselves from becoming victims of human trafficking.
The Centennial Anniversary Grant comes from Zonta International. The task force and Zonta Club of Roseburg joined efforts to apply for the grant, which was one of 62 given around the world.
The grant will enable the task force to provide a preventative trafficking curriculum for all 26 of Douglas County’s middle and high schools.
In addition to curriculum, the grant would fund a survivor speaker from Bend’s “In Our Backyard” trafficking prevention program to speak at several local schools. Training would also be provided for teachers on the “Teens Against Trafficking” curriculum.
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“This is not a sex education class,” said Marion Kotowski, violence prevention coordinator for Mercy Foundation and chair of the task force, in a press release. “This is a curriculum to increase understanding among our youth, teachers, parents, and service providers about trafficking indicators and risks. It will help teach students how to establish healthy boundaries in relationships, reduce risky behavior, and recognize predatory behavior both in person and online.”
According to the task force, 75% of Douglas County’s human trafficking cases involve sex trafficking and the crime is closely tied to drug trafficking.
Sex trafficking is often conducted up and down major highways such as Interstate 5. Most victims are girls, but there is an increase in boys being trafficked.
Close to half of trafficked victims are manipulated, coerced or blackmailed into this modern form of slavery between the ages of 12 to 17, the task force said. Traffickers do not always kidnap their victims, often targeting vulnerable teens and pretending to be friends or romantic partners.
For additional information, contact Kotowski at 541-677-6531.