ETX organization brings awareness to child sex trafficking - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

ETX organization brings awareness to child sex trafficking

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TYLER, TX (KLTV) -

It's a problem that affects hundreds of thousands of kids, and Thursday, one local nonprofit hopes to educate East Texans about how they can help.

The problem is sex trafficking, and the East Texas-based organization Refuge of Light says it's a bigger problem than you think.

"The White Umbrella" campaign was started by the Atlanta-based organization Wellspring Living to address the extent of domestic minor sex trafficking.

Refuge of Light is partnering with Wellspring Living in Atlanta to raise awareness about the issue.

Refuge of Light's goal with "The White Umbrella" campaign is to educate. They're hosting a community roundtable Thursday morning and a night of worship Thursday evening to talk about the issue of domestic minor sex trafficking and how it's a problem for so many young women on a daily basis.

Refuge of Light says it's hard to know just how many young females are sex trafficked each year in East Texas.

"There are anywhere between 350 and 400 teens that are being trafficked daily. Daily. And that is here just within the state of Texas. Here in East Texas, there are no studies, because there is a disbelief that this is even happening," said Missy Zivney, the assistant director of Refuge of Light.

Zivney says she wants people to understand that sex trafficking is a bigger problem locally than people realize.

"When you're talking about the trafficking of a child, this can be a child that's just depicted in a pornographic image," she said. "This is a child that's traded for sex, but it may not necessarily mean the physical act of sex, but they are being exploited sexually."

She says Refuge of Light sees young women in local shelters on a daily basis that have been sexually abused or trafficked in some way, often by a family member and often for drugs.

Refuge of Light's goal for 2013 is to complete a safe house in an unidentified location where female victims of sex trafficking can live to rehabilitate.

The organization broke ground on the home on May 3, and continues to raise the $1.2 million it will cost to build and operate the home for 14 girls.

Zivney says there are warning signs for domestic minor sex trafficking people can look for in preteen and teenage females - like having bruises, tattoos or a heightened sexual knowledge - and that, above all, East Texans need to be educated about the extent of the issue.

"We as Christian people should be standing up and addressing this issue," Zivney said. "Christ tells us in scripture that we should be taking care of the orphans and the widows, and we've let our kids down in society, and it's time for us to stand up and say, we need to be aware and we need to be protecting our children."

Refuge of Light wants Thursday to be a day of awareness for the people of East Texas.

"Just basically a charge to our community to stand up and say no, we're not going to take it anymore," she said.

Thursday's community roundtable starts at 10 a.m. To RSVP before the event, email Refuge of Light.

The night of worship, which will include a concert by the East Texas band "The Avid Light," starts Thursday night at 7 p.m. Speakers will include members of Wellspring Living and Refuge of Light. No RSVP is necessary to attend.

Both events are being held at the Green Acres Baptist Church One Ten Student Center in Tyler.

For more information about Refuge of Light, visit their website.

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