An area organization is partnering with Homeland Security Investigations to hold the first Beyond Awareness summit, aimed at taking action against human trafficking.
It's one of the nations biggest money making industries, and it is putting your children in danger. Human trafficking is being tackled at a local level through The Demand Project to keep your loved ones safe through community engagement and training.
Officials say community involvement is the only way to combat the human trafficking that's happening in our own backyards. That's why The Demand Project and Homeland Security are hosting the event. Both hope to bring more than awareness to the community by implementing a plan of action.
Some may think evil hides in the shadows.
"There's thousands of girls like me that are walking on the streets right now, crying for help, and they're just being walked past every day," Rebecka Snyder, a sex trafficking survivor said.
She says victims of sex trafficking and exploitation are hidden in plain sight.
"You can't think about anything that's going on around you," Snyder said. "You can't question anything. You just do what you are told, or you meet really bad circumstances, like death."
And it's happening everywhere.
"It happens right down the road," Kristin Weis, Co-Founder of The Demand Project said. "It happens all throughout Tulsa. There's kids all over that look like they're delinquents, but they're actually victims of something way bigger and way deeper."
It's happening on our streets and online. Just ask Snyder, who's life changed when she was taken at gunpoint and forced into prostitution for ten years. She's seen it all.
"That fear never went away, so it's unimaginable fear," Snyder said. "You live every day knowing that you might die the next day."
The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 64 human trafficking cases in Oklahoma last year, and nearly 200 calls.
"There is not one person in all of the state of Oklahoma that should say, 'I don't need to be at this summit,'" Kristin Weis said. "You need to come because it's happening to somebody that you might know."
She says teachers, lawyers, dentists, therapists, doctors, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, anyone who deals with children, should attend.
"Our sole purpose with this is to create an environment where people can learn, come together, exchange information, and get plugged in to other organizations that are doing things all across Oklahoma," Jason Weis, Co-Founder of The Demand Project said.
He said the purpose is to teach law enforcement and the community to learn how to see the signs of human trafficking, and act.
The summit will host many speakers, such as Lt.. Governor Todd Lamb, Congressman Jim Bridenstine, and Tulsa's mayor, police chief and sheriff.
Each is hoping to make a difference.
"You can make a difference," Snyder said. "Any body can make a difference if they would just open their eyes."
The summit will take place on Jan 26-27 at Oral Robert University's Mabee Center. Day one will begin at 8 a.m. and continue until 5 p.m. The second day will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 2 p.m.
Admission for each day is $25. University students are offered a discounted price, which you can find here.
The first 500 security/ law enforcement employees to register will get free admission.
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