Unbound Ministries is presenting a workshop on human trafficking: Join the Fight from 7-8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6, at Cornerstone Assembly of God in Stephenville.

During the workshop, the public will learn how prevalent human trafficking is within our own communities.

Organizers will discuss how traffickers lure victims, how they make victims stay, how to identify victims, how to protect yourselves and your children and how to handle reporting.

“I think there’s a need for the public to be educated on how to spot this in our community,” said Michele Bryant, coordinator of the event. “There are things that are going on and reports that you see on Facebook of people lurking in Walmart, following young mothers with children. There have been reports of white vans lurking around rural bus stops. There’s a need for people to be educated because I know it’s in the area."

Bryant has been trying to put together the workshop for three years.

Eventually, she contacted Unbound Ministries and they agreed to host the workshop.

The speaker will be Larinda Smith, director of community outreach with Unbound.

“This is for the general public. They also have training workshops for nurses, medical professionals, first responders, police, and teachers because it looks a little different to every group. They would need to know how to spot things in their field of practice. They also do presentations at schools and educate kids on what to look for, how to stay safe, so I'm hoping that there is a whole lot more education as a result of this,” Bryant said.

The top three states that have the highest numbers of reported cases of human trafficking are California, Texas and New York.

“One in three runaways are lured into trafficking within 48 hours of leaving home,” Bryant said. “Traffickers are looking for these kids, they’re spotting them and they are picking them off. It’s a $32 billion annual industry."

A 2016 University of Texas at Austin study found there are an estimated 313,000 victims in Texas of human trafficking; 79,000 minors and youth have been sex trafficked and 234,000 have been labor trafficked.

In 2018, there were 50 cases of human trafficking and 122 tips in Fort Worth according to the Fort Worth Police Department.

Bryant encourages the community to attend the workshop because, “it could be their daughter, it could be their daughter’s friend, it could be their mom, their sister, their brother, their son; these predators don’t just go after girls, they go after boys too. They go after anyone they can find. They look for vulnerability and that need to fit in.”

For more information, contact Cornerstone Assembly of God at 254-918-5433.