How To Help Combat Sex Trafficking in Kansas

Author: Catholic Charities Published:

Public official cites an increased demand for state services to survivors of human trafficking

The sad reality is that sex trafficking occurs in Kansas – and throughout the U.S. – on a daily basis, but Catholic Charities, Diocese of Wichita’s SAFE Project is committed to helping combat the grave social problem.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) defines human trafficking as “a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to control victims for the purposes of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his or her will.”

Nationally, the reporting of sex trafficking has increased steadily since 2012, according to NHTRC. In 2015, 4,136 cases of sex trafficking in the U.S. were reported.

The U.S. Justice Department has cited Kansas City as a major pipeline to sex trafficking. Experts attribute that distinction partly to the region’s highway system, which facilitates traffickers’ ability to quickly cross state lines, often before a victim is reported missing.

The average age of introduction to sex trafficking is 12, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s research into crimes against children. And the illicit activity has adapted to modern technology. Sex trafficking now occurs online – not just in the streets.

At a June human trafficking conference sponsored by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Kansas, Acting U.S. Attorney for Kansas Tom Beall said Kansas has seen services for human trafficking victims jump from two cases six years ago to approximately 400 in 2015, according to KSNT.com.

CCW’s SAFE Project is a collaborative partnership with the Kansas Department for Children and Families that is designed to enhance safety for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.

The SAFE Project is an outreach of CCW’S Harbor House program. Harbor House offers safe and confidential shelter for women and their children and outreach advocacy services to any domestic violence victim in the Wichita/Sedgwick County area. Support services include advocacy, counseling, education and assistance accessing community resources that help survivors restore their lives.

“We at The SAFE Project are compelled to help combat sex trafficking in Kansas because it is an insidious form of abuse,” says SAFE Project Coordinator Chelle Hanson. “Not only are we dedicated to helping survivors of sex trafficking, but we will also work tirelessly to prevent others from becoming victims of this heinous crime.”

Washburn University human trafficking expert Sharon Sullivan made a recent public presentation on tips to identify human trafficking, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

According to the Capital-Journal, Sullivan said sex trafficking victims might:

  • Display extremely inappropriate sexual behaviors, particularly for their age;
  • Use multiple cell phones;
  • Have clothes, jewelry or handbags they otherwise could not afford; and-or
  • Have “branding” tattoos used by their trafficker to “claim” them.

Other resources to combat sexual trafficking include:

The SAFE Project provides help to domestic violence and sexual assault survivors and their families in 25 Kansas counties through access to resources to improve safety and remove employment barriers. Services provided through this grant include safety planning; conflict resolution; parenting and healthy relationship education; information on domestic violence and its effects on children; career and employment services; and financial education.

To participate in the SAFE Project, participants must currently be receiving TANF benefits. Participants can also qualify by demonstrating a household income of no more than 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level and completing a Within My Reach healthy relationships seminar. Participants must also be survivors of domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Participants who use TANF must receive services in the following Department of Children and Families Service Centers: Newton, McPherson, Wichita, Hutchinson, El Dorado, Chanute, Iola, Fort Scott, Pittsburg, Columbus, Parsons and Independence.

For more information on the SAFE Project and the healthy relationship education classes, contact 316-264-8344 ext. 3113. For immediate safety needs, contact 1-888-END-ABUSE. Information on available resources is also available online at CCWSafeProject.com