Educating the community on human sex trafficking

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Poster for the event further described in article.
Free Our Girls is a Weld County-based organization formed to educate the community about human trafficking. Photo courtesy of the Center for Women's and Gender Equity's Facebook.

On Wednesday, the Free Our Girls organization hosted the “Human Trafficking: We need to Know, We need to Act” presentation to inform University of Northern Colorado students about human trafficking in northern Colorado.

Human trafficking is when a person is forced into sex or labor. The human trafficking business creates $150 billion dollars a year with over two million victims. In Colorado, only 73 cases have been reported.

Free Our Girls in an organization formed to educate the community about human trafficking in Weld County and the United States. Megan Lundstrom, a Windsor resident, founded the organization, which is based in Weld County. The Weld County district experiences high amounts of human trafficking due to:  

  • Oil  
  • Gas  
  • Trucking: I-25 and I-70
  • Tourism
  • Tech Industry, specifically the Denver Tech Center

The oil and gas industry in northern Colorado is where most people are trafficked because of the high demand of commercial sex. Trucking allows incoming clients at truck stops to gain access to victims. During ski season, victims are trafficked in cities located in the Rocky Mountains. Due to the growth of the tech industry in Denver most victims are sold in downtown Denver.  

Lundstrom, during one of her previous “Free Our Girls” events, bought a disposable phone, made a fake Backpage — a since terminated website similar to Craigslist that allowed ads on prostitution — posed as a 21-year-old and left the phone on her podium during her speech. In one hour, the phone received 18 messages and 15 calls.  

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Lundstrom is familiar with human trafficking because she once involved in “The Game.” “The Game,” or “The Life,” are terms used to describe the underground club of human trafficking.

She was married with two kids to a man who was an alcoholic and she filed for divorce. Lundstrom was struggling to make ends meet, especially when caring for two children. She met a man who soon became her boyfriend and brought her into the life of sex work. She was involved in the game for six years. Lundstrom said the average lifespan for a woman who has entered into sex work is seven years.  

Lundstrom frequently partners with University of Northern Colorado and Colorado School of Public Health Center to spread awareness of human trafficking on campus.  

“This is a tragic issue. A critical Issue, one that you need awareness on,” said Danielle Brittan, an associate professor and graduate student program coordinator at CSPHC. “One that if you have assumptions on, you should maybe rethink those assumptions. Human trafficking and sex trafficking affects all of us. Weld County is affected, UNC students are affected, we are all affected.”  

Lundstrom works to debunk misconceptions based on Hollywood movies. The biggest  movies which give misconceptions to the public about human trafficking are:

  • “Taken” the trilogy
  • “Law and Order Special Victims Unit”
  • “Hustle & Flow”

She explained miseducation is the number one reason for people not recognizing the signs of human trafficking.  

“This organization is insightful,” said Brenda Vargas, a UNC freshman who attended the event. “The organization allows people to open up about their experiences. I like it.”  

Lundstrom finished her presentation by offering students the chance of applying for internships or volunteer work with Free Our Girls. The organizations’ Facebook page has its events listed for the rest of the year. For more questions on volunteering, internship programs or general information visit http://www.freeourgirls.org/index.html. Look for a full story about human trafficking in the The Mirror’s December issue.

 

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