Human trafficking is a reality in Mid-Missouri, and the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition is working to raise awareness and educate people on the issue.
"It certainly exists to a higher degree than I'm sure we realize," said Nanette Ward, a co-chair of the coalition. "It's beneath the surface of what we see and experience every day."
The Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition and the Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri are sponsoring a screening of the documentary, "Very Young Girls," from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Jefferson City's Catholic Center, 2207 W. Main St.
The event also includes small group discussion regarding the documentary, free lunch and a panel of speakers who will address the issue of human trafficking and how citizens can get involved.
Ward said the documentary shows the sexual exploitation and the commercial sex industry of teens.
"It is in New York, but it does portray still very much what does occur in Missouri," she said. "It takes a look at what these young people go through with their pimps, with their traffickers, the difficulty in the life, the difficulty of leaving the life and also the hope in rehabilitation."
Ward said people should attend the free event because the coalition believes awareness, education and finding community response to the crime can be done more effectively in community with one another.
"To have the support of community members, those who might be new to the facts of trafficking and those who have been involved in fighting trafficking in this area for several years, I think can be beneficial for everyone," Ward said. "We need to learn from each other, we need to hear stories from each other, we need to have support of one another to realize that this is a community effort in order to fight this crime."
Jake Seifert, development assistant at Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri, said there has already been great response from people wanting to attend the event.
"I think it's important to know that this happens at a local level and it's not just sex trafficking, it's also labor trafficking, men, women, children, it's all different varieties," Seifert said.
To RSVP for the Saturday event, email email@example.com or call 573-635-7719 by Friday.
For more information on human trafficking in Mid-Missouri, visit www.stophumantraffickingmo.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-590-5959.
You may also call the national human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888.