HOISINGTON — In observance of Human Trafficking Awareness month, students at Hoisington High School missed their regular seventh period class Thursday afternoon for an assembly presented by Marissa Woodmansee, Juvenile Services Director for the 20th Judicial District concerning Human Trafficking. She was invited by Johnelle Moshier, an HHS junior. Moshier heard Woodmansee speak on the topic a year ago, and the invitation was issued as part of Moshier’s STAR event with FCCLA.
Human Trafficking isn’t just a large metropolitan issue, Woodmansee said. In fact, considering its location in the center of the country, crisscrossed by two interstate highways, makes Kansas a “pipeline” for human trafficking activity, she said.
Kansas is, In fact, an originating state. In a recent trafficking bust in New York City where nearly 200 young child-aged victims from all over the country were identified, 32 of them were from Kansas, she said.
Woodmansee said on the average, children 12-14 years in age, mostly girls, are targeted by traffickers. Older men portray themselves as boyfriends, and through flattery and gifts gain their trust, and then through force, fraud and coercion convince them to do things they don’t want to do so they won’t lose the relationship.
Runaways are particularly susceptible to human trafficking, she added. One in three runaways are approached by a trafficker within the first 48 hours they are on the run, she said. She urged young people to consider that running away from home is not an answer to temporary problems they may be experiencing “at this brief moment” in their lives.
One student asked what indicators might point to human trafficking happening.
“The biggest one is truancy,” she said. “If you aren’t in school, why?”
Others include addiction or isolation and small peer groups.
“Be kind, you don’t know what other people might be going through,” she said.
Woodmansee also pointed to the proliferation of social media applications as another risk for young people to be lured into trafficking. More telling, she added, is when young people don’t use their actual name on those social media apps.