Human Trafficking Awareness Night

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Marc Garcia
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

McConnell held a Human Trafficking Awareness Night at the McConnell Community Youth Center July 30 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The purpose of the night was to raise awareness of human trafficking in Wichita, Kan. and the surrounding communities.

“Human trafficking is one of the worst forms of human suffering and we need to combat it,” said Tech. Sgt. Lowell Wann, Religious Affairs NCO in charge.

The event was held not only to raise awareness for McConnell Airmen and their families, but also to help spot signs of human trafficking. Team McConnell coordinated with ICT SOS and Heather Huhman, Wichita Police Department detective.

ICT SOS is a local non-profit support agency that works with at risk and trafficked minors and adults. ICT was derived from the airport code of the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, and Wichita, Kan., now claims it as an abbreviation for the city itself. SOS is the international abbreviation for distress.

“ICT SOS and McConnell have worked together before,” said Jennfier White, ICT SOS founder. “Anywhere you’ve got a group of people, it’s an opportunity to educate them. Especially with the military, with the traveling and moving from place to place they need to know what resources are available when it comes to their children.”
Some of the most effective ways for military members to combat human trafficking is to educate themselves and report anything suspicious.

“As military members we receive training, but our family members rarely do,” said Wann. “Putting on an event like this allows for all members of Team McConnell to gain a new awareness.”

The number of cases in Wichita has increased since 2014. Twenty-nine cases of trafficking that involved minors according to the Exploited and Missing Child Unit were reported in 2014, in 2015 EMCU reported 65 cases and in 2017 the Kansas Attorney General’s Office reported serving 475 trafficking victims, including sex and labor trafficking. This is due to the increase of reporting in the Wichita area, not an increase of trafficking. As people take initiative to educate themselves the result is noticeable.

“Predators are no longer just on the streets, they are online as well,” said Huhman. “More often than not, you will have at least a dozen predators on each and every website that children use.”

Aside from being on those websites, human traffickers are also using social media platforms. Any platform ranging from Snapchat to Facebook, which can now use encrypted messaging that can’t be recovered by the network or yourself said Huhman.

“Nobody is exempt from being victimized and there is no clear cut person that is doing the victimizing,” said Huhman.

Human Trafficking is a major problem in Wichita. Huhman has 400 open cases that she is handling with the help of the community. She handeled up to 1,100 cases of human trafficking all at one time before recently closing 700 of those cases resulting from one perpetrator. The problem can only increase unless individuals receive proper education on what to look for.

Signs are everywhere, from a suspicious looking individual at the local school, to somebody asking to receive things in exchange for something online. It could be a simple courtship with an online friend, or even a friend request from personas on the web that you don’t recognize. It could be the smallest detail and if you haven’t had the proper training or education on what to look for, then you may miss the opportunity to save someone.

“There is a gut feeling about things for a reason,” said White. “People should report things that seem even a little suspicious. If you report something and it’s nothing, then there is no harm in that. But if it is something than you may have been the only person that reported that situation.”

The Human Trafficking Awareness Night provided Team McConnell an opportunity to learn more about human trafficking and gave attendees insight on what signs to look for.

“Education is the simplest way to combat human trafficking,” said Huhman. “Staying in contact with people in your community that are familiar with these things like ICT SOS, the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County that houses all kinds of therapists, advocates and law enforcement. It’s knowing those resources in the community and reaching out to them to get that education and the things to be looking for.”