Local Organization Working to Halt Human Trafficking
By Jacqueline Sit, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- A local group is working to bring awareness to the thousands of women and children trapped in a life of prostitution.
Recent events highlighted the problem is not just in third world countries but it's also here in the U.S. including Oklahoma. On Friday, authorities arrested Ronnie Presley at a home in Muskogee. Presley is accused of turning women and children into sex slaves.
The FBI said he and five others in the Houston area coerced their victims into a life of prostitution by routinely beating and threatening them.
The sex trafficking ring also had ties to Kansas, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida. Authorities said they were not surprised that women were being trafficked through Oklahoma since I-35 and I-40 intersect in the state.
That's why the newly formed Hadassah House is working to raise awareness to the often ignored but growing problem.
On Sunday, the group showcased a movie called "Human Trafficking." The movie is meant to illustrate the harsh reality of a problem that so often goes under the radar.
"It's not just the prostitute. It's not just the prostituted who is damaged by this. It's everyone involved in it, is deeply damaged. This is so destroying from top to bottom," said State Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, District 89 (D).
Nearly 300,000 children across the world are victims of sex trafficking.
"It's a dehumanizing crime for everyone involved. It denies who we are as human beings. It's a direct assault on everyone involved," Hamilton said.
That's why the founder of Hadassah House is working to help those who've fallen victim to this crime.
"I understand the women and the children," said Linda Caswell, Hadassah House founder.
Caswell said she has a connection to victims because she was a victim to sex crimes for years.
"It's very heartbreaking. The stories I'm hearing are heartbreaking. We have second generational prostitution, children getting raped at the age of 4. It's a heartbreaking thing, but that's why we need to be there to help," Caswell said.
Caswell hopes her organization can spread the message and be a voice for the voiceless and a face for the faceless.
"They have suffered repeated and long term trauma. You can't just help them with one quick fix. It takes someone with the commitment to them as people to find values and to walk up right in the world again," Caswell said.
The Hadassah House should be up and running within the year. The organization will help victims with healing, job training and eventually children who are also dealing with trauma.