Sex trafficking in Lane County, especially of children, is a growing and still silent problem. It’s the silence that Lauren Babcock wants to change.
“Hidden in plain sight is pretty accurate,” is how Babcock describes the issue.
Babcock, a second-year student at Lane Community College, is a volunteer for Lane County Against Trafficking, which works under the umbrella organization of Hope Ranch Ministries of Eugene.
Hope Ranch Ministries is hosting its second annual Survivor Speakout, which is Thursday, Jan. 10, at Identity Dance Company in Springfield. Survivor Speakout is a platform for women who have been trafficked in Lane County to tell their stories. Friday, Jan. 11, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
Stories sometimes start with confusion and detachment at a broken home life, leading a young person to run away. Very young and alone, the stories morph into terror and isolation at the hands of pimps — mostly men — who circle like predators in city centers, malls or online looking for their next victim, Babcock says.
“They really know how to home in on their victims,” Babcock says of the pimps.
At any given time, dozens of under-age victims are sex trafficked in Lane County. The numbers are hard to pin down, but in the past year alone three men were sentenced in Lane County to prison terms of 50 to 240 months for crimes including promoting and compelling prostitution, all of which involved several female survivors.
Geography plays a role for sex trafficking in Lane County, Babcock says. “I-5 is definitely a thoroughfare for trafficking.” Along with cheap motel rooms, Babcock adds, “sometimes its Airbnbs.”
Money alone is not always the driving force, either.
According to the Eugene Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation of Youth (ecaseylane.org), the sexual exploitation of children can include “situations where a child, whether or not at the direction of any other person, engages in sexual activity for anything of value, which includes non-monetary things such as food, shelter, drugs, gifts, or protection from any person.”
Hope Ranch Ministries was founded as a nonprofit in 2011 by Diana Janz. Before moving to Eugene, Janz worked with survivors of sex trafficking at a nonprofit in downtown Los Angeles.
Three performers will read the stories of sex trafficking survivors on Thursday night. Also, Janz, Lindsey Cooper (the owner of Identity Dance Company and also a sex trafficking survivor) and a representative of the Eugene Police Department will speak in a panel discussion.
Survivor Speakout starts at 6:30 pm Thursday, Jan. 10, at Identity Dance Company, 1479 Mohawk Boulevard in Springfield. A $5-$15 donation is suggested.