Speakers, victims give insight to human trafficking at WLU forum

Local News

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. (WTRF) – West Liberty University sponsored an informational session on human trafficking Friday evening.

It was a free, public event that taught area residents more about this growing threat.

The forum was held to offer some insight into this nationwide and local issue.

According to experts, the most common type of human trafficking in the Ohio Valley is familial.

You have people who are willing to sell their own relatives and people that they know, even family friends. These are usually children, teens, they can be young adults — all the way to people who are elderly. There’s not cutoff line in terms of selling family members in terms of age.

Dr. Darrick Blake, Prof. of Criminology & Criminal Justice at West Liberty University

The forum featured speakers from the national organization, Refuge for Women, which has an office in Steubenville.

Our organization is a long-term residential program. So we offer 9-12 months of residential care for them [human trafficking victims], completely free of charge. It’s basically for them to focus on their healing, to deal with the traumas they endured when being trafficked or exploited and to really help them find their identity and get them into a future where they’re more independent and living on their own.

Theresa Golden, Director of Refuge for Women Ohio Valley

Some of the staff at Refuge for Women have first-hand knowledge of what these women are going through.

I’m actually a survivor myself. I had been involved in sexual exploitation and substance abuse. I have found healing and recovery and through that process, I’m able to give back to women who are still struggling.

Tameka Ely, Program Director of Refuge for Women Ohio Valley

Ely says working with survivors all comes down to trust.

The women that come in are very broken and it’s hard for them to trust. The trust have been very much distorted and so, when they’re actually able to hear someone who has gone through that experience, they begin to empathize and really gain trust in their healing process.

Tameka Ely, Program Director of Refuge for Women Ohio Valley

The entire month of January is recognized as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

For additional information, please visit the Refuge for Women Ohio Valley website.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1(888)-373-7888.

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