According to the Upper Peninsula Human Trafficking Task Force, human trafficking is happening here in the Copper Country. Local examples include an adult whose work visa expired that was forced to continue working for no or low wages; an adult female who was sexually assaulted as a child, turned to drug use as a result, and was coerced into trading sex for drugs; and a Native American teen who ran away and ended up forced into having sex with multiple strangers a day.
It’s with these recent local examples in mind that four organizations have come together to hold a series of Human Trafficking 101 events in October. At these events, participants will have a chance to learn the facts and myths about it, learn how and why it’s happening here, and how they can identify and prevent trafficking. The events are October 11 in Baraga, October 12 in Ontonagon and October 13 in Hancock. All community members are invited to attend and help address the issue of human trafficking in our area.
“We wanted to have a conversation starter about human trafficking in our community in order to create a broader awareness and understanding, to mitigate stigma and help de-criminalize the victims of these acts, and to offer ways for folks to better identify potential cases in our community in an effort to combat these horrendous acts from happening,” Portage Health Foundation Executive Director Kevin Store said. “In addition to the physical abuse that is evident and resulting from cases of human trafficking, sexual coercion and assault, we know the health consequences – including physical, emotional and mental health – are significant for the survivor.”
These community conversations around the topic of Human Trafficking are hosted by Stephanie Graef, President of the Upper Peninsula Human Trafficking Task Force. They are free to the public with doors opening at 5:30, two-hour presentation starting at 6 and a question-and-answer session to follow. These are being hosted by Portage Health Foundation (PHF) and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation (BCBSMF) in collaboration with Dial Help and the Upper Peninsula Human Trafficking Task Force (UPHTTF).
“Human trafficking is a critical human rights and health care issue in Michigan,” said Audrey Harvey, executive director and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. “The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation is in full support of the Upper Peninsula Human Trafficking Task Force’s evidence-based training that will offer healthcare providers and community members with the tools and resources to identify and report instances of human trafficking. This effort will ensure quality, trauma-informed healthcare for victims and strengthen community support for victims of human trafficking.”
This event is meant to educate and empower the entire community, but especially families with preteens or struggling with drug use, healthcare and mental health providers, victim services, school administration, teachers and coaches, court professionals, law enforcement, EMS/fire, the hospitality industry, and clergy and faith community. Staff from Dial Help’s Victim Services Unit will be on hand to provide support if needed.
Human Trafficking 101 Schedule
All events are free to the public with doors opening at 5:30, two-hour presentation starting at 6 and question-and-answer session to follow. Light refreshments will be served. No RSVP is required.
- Monday, October 11 at Baraga Lakeside Inn (900 U.S. Highway 41 South; Baraga, Michigan)
- Tuesday, October 12 at Ontonagon Theater of Performing Arts (311. N. Steel Street; Ontonagon, Michigan)
- Wednesday, October 13 at Finnish American Heritage Center (435 Quincy Street; Hancock, Michigan)
Visit phfgive.org/trafficking for more information and links to resources.