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Trafficking investigation, presentation shines light on social issue

An investigation into a dark and often hidden social issue led to a presentation at Pius X High School on the same topic: sex trafficking.  

Mike Tobias, a journalist for NET and parent of three Pius X graduates, worked on the investigative project for a year-and-a-half.  

Teachers for Social Literature classes, Julie Schonewise and Mark Hansen, invited Tobias to share part of his reporting, and update students on progress.  

"I know some of my students are already planning to become nurses, doctors, or law enforcement officers," Hansen said. "I think this presentation will help them understand their future careers better, and may even inspire some to work to end human trafficking."  

Tobias' reporting includes a variety of interviews with victims, a convicted man, an FBI agent and various advocates and policy leaders.  

There are about 800 different people - mostly females - for sale each month in Nebraska. About half are from Nebraska. The locations are surprising, too: small towns, small cities and big cities, in both areas of low or high socio-economic activity. Big events and easy access to Interstate 80 allow for traffickers to find large groups of people and easily move to other locations. Even high school football games have been the site of traffickers looking for young girls.  

"Social Literature is a course for seniors that, while certainly literature based, also requires us to provide opportunities for students to identify, connect with, and respond to the national and global social conversations," Schonewise said. "The truth is not always pretty but by examining that truth, we also have the opportunity to become advocates for hope." 

Parents of the students in classes were sent a link to watch the videos, and the teachers hope students will discuss the issue with their parents.  

Advocates are working to identify the locations, uncover online trafficking ads, and develop better policy. They also want to help victims and survivors with ongoing services, including safe, private housing. Training has been provided for hotel workers, healthcare professionals and law enforcement officers, so they better understand what to look for when going about their normal job duties.  

An interview with a convicted trafficker revealed the process used to get girls to fall into their trap. A trafficking survivor shared how she was taken advantage of at a young age: 6-years-old.  

Females with vulnerabilities (poverty, lack of close family, mental health or substance issues) were targeted.   

Past law enforcement efforts have centered on stopping prostitution, but there is now an increase in following leads to uncover trafficking. Much of that relies on testimony, text messages and phone calls. And if those being trafficked aren’t helpful or willing to share their own story, it stymies efforts to save more people being trafficked.  

"I know both Julie and I stress the dignity all of us have because we are created in the image and likeness of God," Hansen said.  

At the end of one video presentation, an advocate for ending sex trafficking says, “Human trafficking is alive and well in Nebraska.”  

Tobias said since the reporting initially aired in January 2017, tough penalties have been put in place for traffickers, and there have been more staff dedicated for law enforcement, and more training for workers in certain industries.  

Pius X • 6000 A St. • Lincoln, NE 68510 • 402-488-0931 • Fax: 402-488-1061

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