St. John’s Bem hosts human trafficking awareness forum Sept. 15

Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

The Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition  (CMSHTC) asks community members to educate themselves about the growing problem of human trafficking during an community forum Sept. 15 at United Church of Christ, Bem, 1944 Bem Church Road.

CMSHTC reports it has received almost 700 calls about cases of human trafficking since 2007, when its hotline went live. Missouri ranks number 16 in the nation on the hotline for reports of human trafficking.

St. John’s Mission and Social Concerns Committee issued a letter to inform citizens about the community form.

“We have never done this before, but this issue is so important to our community that we are opening our doors for a community conversation about human trafficking,” the letter read.

Nanette Ward, found of the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, will be present at the meeting with a guest speaker who she says she has, “lived inside the trafficking world and will share the experience.” 

Ward provides training, outreach, client services, policy work, and prevention of human trafficking information for the coalition.

According to their letter, the committee says, “We know that here in the Owensville and Cuba areas, our neighbors and leaders care and we can all become more aware of this reality, how to spot it, and what to do to protect our young people and vulnerable neighbors and bring them home again.”

Gasconade County Sheriff John Romanus agrees with the awareness agenda of the form. “I do believe citizens should be aware of it,” Romanus said. “Just because we live in rural Gasconade County does not mean it’s not here. To think it is not happening here would be foolish.”

However, Romanus said his department has not received official word that any human trafficking is being conducted in the area. “I think it is always good for people in a community to be involved in the community,” Romanus said. “And being informed so that once can be more aware versus reactive.”

The coalition advertises many ways citizens may make a difference. The first is by speaking up.

“If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any activity and cannot leave — whether it is commercial sex, housework, restaurant work, or any other activity — call the toll-free number 888-373-7888 to access help and services,” the coalition says.

The second way to make a difference is through education.

“Request a free presentation or training from the coalition,” the flyer that was distributed by the church suggests. “Traffickers and buyers do exist in Missouri. Check out the many great anti-trafficking websites, documentaries and books by survivors. Keep up with the news reports locally, around the country and worldwide.”

The coalition encourages citizens to be proactive and take action by using social media to raise awareness. Host a speaker, documentary screening, or fundraising event. Volunteer. Become a CMSHTC member. Or donate funds, goods, or services to aid Missouri trafficking survivors.

The program begins at 2 p.m. at the UCC Bem Church. For those who require childcare to attend the forum, contact the church office at 573-437-3698.