By: Joshua Danker-Dake | Category: Special Interest | Issue: September 2009
Kristin and Jason Weis, Stop Child Trafficking Now’s ambassadors to Tulsa, became involved in the cause to end human slavery four years ago.
Human slavery goes on – across the world, in the United States, in Oklahoma, even right here in Green Country. The statistics are appalling. According to Stop Child Trafficking Now (SCTNow), over a million children worldwide enter the commercial sex trade each year. Over 14,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States each year, and as much as 50 percent of all persons trafficked are minors.
SCTNow is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the elimination of child trafficking through raising awareness, mobilizing people to action, and funding anti-trafficking operative teams. SCTNow focuses on the demand side of the industry – putting sexual predators behind bars – by dedicating most of its efforts to funding special operative teams. Members of these teams have extensive intelligence, military experience and anti-terrorism experience, which they use to track predators and infiltrate trafficking rings.
Jason and Kristin Weis are SCTNow’s ambassadors to Tulsa. “We got into this four years ago because we decided we couldn’t just sit by and hear these stories – stories about the abuse of the youngest children,” says Kristin. “We wanted to get involved and make a difference.”
“It’s important for people to know that sex trafficking happens in all 50 states,” says Jason. “It doesn’t just happen overseas. It happens right here in Oklahoma. This is modern-day slavery – and it’s an epidemic. There are more people enslaved now than there were 200 years ago.”
In Oklahoma and other places, the law is trying to catch up to the problem. “Human trafficking laws are five to ten years behind,” says Jason. “The penalties for human trafficking are often much softer than the penalties for drug trafficking, and as a result, some gangs are changing from drugs to human trafficking. Right now, State Senator Todd Lamb has written a new bill to close some of these loopholes, to be voted on as early as the February session.”
On Saturday, September 26, SCTNow is hosting a walk in Jenks to raise awareness of the problem as well as funding for SCTNow’s programs. The Tulsa walk is part of a much larger nationwide grassroots effort: on September 26 and 27, over 50 communities and 200 college campuses will have similar walks to raise awareness and benefit Stop Child Trafficking Now. “This walk is a landmark event,” says Jason. “It’s historical. And anyone can get involved. We want churches, schools and businesses to participate, to send walking teams to the event. These community organizations play a necessary role in raising awareness. It’s a team effort.”
There is no cost to participate in the SCTNow Walk, although walkers are asked to raise at least $100 each. Walkers who raise $100 receive a SCTNow t-shirt; walkers who raise $250 receive a SCTNow tote bag. There are even better prizes offered for higher levels of fundraising, including bracelets, hoodies, iPod Shuffles, and, for walking teams, LCD televisions.
Registration for the SCTNow Walk begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, September 26. The opening rally is at 9:30, and the walk begins at 9:45. The 1.5 mile walk begins and ends at the amphitheater at RiverWalk Crossing in Jenks. A post-walk rally beginning at 11 a.m. will feature information and resource tables, as well as musical groups and public figures, including state senators Todd Lamb and Dan Newberry, state representative Pam Peterson, Jenks mayor Vic Vreeland, and Rebekah Groves, a survivor of physical and sexual abuse and a runner-up for Mrs. Oklahoma 2009.
“Sex trafficking happens in our neighborhoods, at our gas stations, and in our offices, and often, police training doesn’t focus on it simply because there isn’t enough awareness,” says Kristin. “No matter who you are or where you are, you can play a part by funding SCTNow’s work and by creating awareness. We believe we can make a difference in our lifetime.”
For more information on Stop Child Trafficking Now, the SCTNow Walk, or to register for the walk, visit www.sctnow.org.