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Human trafficking issue focus of public forum

Forced child prostitution. Modern-day slavery. Human trafficking. Could such things happen in Forks?
An informational public forum about the topic was held last Thursday, April 14, at the Quileute Tribe building on Highway 101 east of Forks.

About 25 persons attended the four-hour session, and about the same number showed up for the law enforcement segment Friday, according to Ann Simpson, executive director of the Forks Abuse Program.
The event was jointly sponsored by the Soroptimists of the Olympic Rain Forest and the Forks Abuse Program.

“Could it happen in Forks? It happened in Longview,” Simpson said.

“On March 30, a couple from Longview was indicted for human trafficking because they kept a person against their will to do labor,” she said.

She said as far as she knew, there haven’t been any reports of human trafficking in the West End.

“But if you’re not informed, and you don’t know what you’re looking for, you don’t know if it’s there,” she said.

“Our goal is to raise awareness,” she said.

Speakers at the two-day event included representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Seattle Police Department and the Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network.

An informational handout provided by the Soroptimists included statistics on modern slavery and human trafficking. According to information in the handout, human rights groups have estimated that 12 to 27 million people worldwide are enslaved in forced or bonded labor, child labor, sexual servitude, and involuntary servitude, at any one time.

According to the same handout, human trafficking is a $32 billion annual industry, and a type of slavery that involves the transport or trade of people for the purpose of work or sex.

The U.S. is a common destination for women and girls trafficked from around the world to this country for sex, according to the handout.

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