NEWINGTON - Youth and teens are being sold for sex in the state and even right here in town.
It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth that will be told by people working to stop this crime on the local level during an upcoming public forum.
Speak Up Against Slavery: An Introduction to Human Trafficking in Connecticut is set to take place next Saturday, Oct. 2 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at LifeWay Church, 2171 Berlin Tpke. Admission is free but a goodwill offering will be taken to support ongoing prevention efforts and survivor care.
Speakers will include Newington Police Sgt. Jason Saccente, who plans to define and provide statistics on human trafficking in our state and region and how to open your eyes to it.
“Most people have no idea what human trafficking is,” Sgt. Saccente told the Herald. “I want to define it, bring awareness to it and illustrate how prevalent it is in our society. It is happening in Newington; it is happening in New Britain; it’s happening through the state, the country and the world. It’s the second most profitable criminal enterprise, behind drug trafficking. It’s a huge problem that needs to be eradicated.”
Newington Rotary Past President Dave Tedeschi will share the actions taken by his club over the last four years, since he first founded the Stop the Traffik Committee.
“One of the key points we want to convey to those who will attend is that human trafficking isn’t something just happening in faraway places,” Tedeschi said. “Over the years, state child welfare officials have learned that children right here in Connecticut are being victimized by one of the most horrific crimes in the world.”
Since 2008, the State Department of Children and Families has investigated the cases of more than 1,000 children ages 2 to 18, referred to DCF as possible victims of trafficking. Most were living with a parent or guardian at the time of the suspected trafficking.
LifeWay Church has a ministry called Reach611 dedicated to serving the sexually-exploited, providing resources and teaching the Gospel as a foundation for healing and liberation. Reach611 Coordinator Miranda Morel will discuss this mission during the upcoming forum.
“Strong community partnerships are pivotal to the success of putting an end to human trafficking,” Tedeschi said. “It’s imperative that service organizations like Rotary along with faith-based organizations and others engage with governmental and non-governmental agencies to successfully expand outreach and even provide increased funding needed to stop trafficking and assist survivors who are on the road to recovery.”
His main goal for this particular event is to make people aware that human-trafficking is not just a third-world problem and to teach families how to protect their children.
“Education is a key element in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation of children,” Tedeschi added. “If the public does not understand what human trafficking is or is not made aware of the recruitment tactics used by traffickers, prevention becomes difficult.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at email@example.com.