Human trafficking workshop opens some eyes

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The Quad Cities is not immune to the issue of child sex trafficking and on Friday, some Quad Cities students got an eye-opening lesson.

"The average age of youth who are trafficked in our nation is 13. So that's middle schoolers. It is going on in the Quad Cities. We have had cases in the Quad Cities where children have been forced into prostitution or working at area strip clubs," said Cathy O'Keefe, Executive Director of "Braking Traffik," a group trying to spread awareness about human trafficking of children.

O'Keefe and Rock Island police officer Dave Perry conducted an hour-long workshop at Jordan Catholic School for 7th and 8th graders to spread awareness about child sex-ploitation, which includes prostitution, stripping and pornography.

"The commercial sex industry is the only one in our nation where it is socially acceptable in spite of the fact that it's run on slave labor because women and children are forced into the sex industry."

Principal Michael Daly said he had heard the eye-opening presentation before and wanted to offer it to his students, with the permission of their parents.

"I didn't think the Quad Cities had this problem, but due to Interstate 80 and the truck stops, it's happening here. It's like the Trudy Appleby case. She could be one of those. I never gave it a thought before, but I do now. I'm just trying to make our families and students aware," Daly said.

The FBI estimates that more than 100,000 American children every year are victims. Many are from troubled homes, many are runaways, but not all. Some, O'Keefe says are preyed upon at malls or on the Internet.

"Traffickers use the internet and social media to target kids and then they use it to exploit them. So, we'll be talking to the kids about the importance of being safe on social media sites like Facebook, Tumbler, Twitter, so they're not  putting out information they shouldn't be. In other words, if they're not a friend in real life, don't be friends with them in the virtual world," O'Keefe said.