Inaugural conference discusses sex trafficking awareness

MEDFORD, Ore.–  Public officials and community members from across Jackson County and the state gathered on Wednesday to learn more about sex trafficking and ways to prevent it.

The inaugural Jackson County Community Justice Conference was held at the Smullin Center where about 290 people from law enforcement, health care, human services, schools, and other sectors attended.

The discussion focused on what community members can do to help prevent sex trafficking and provide long-term support for victims. Speakers ranged from members of the FBI, Department of Human Services and Portland Police Bureau’s Sex Trafficking Unit.

“We’re just learning lots of ways that we all play a very important role in helping survivors of trafficking,” said Rebecca Bender, the keynote speaker and founder of the Rebecca Bender Initiative, an organization that helps victims heal and reintegrate into society.

Bender spoke of the sensationalized myths of how sex trafficking happens and how it’s not what many people think.

“We need to be looking at our foster care, our homeless youth, our runaways,” she said. “Those are the children that more than likely have already been exploited. ”

The hope is that this conference can dispell any myths about sex trafficking and get the right information out there for organizations to then put their resources towards preventing more children from ending up as victims.

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