East Texas first responders hoping to raise awareness about minor sex trafficking

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - They call it a hidden epidemic.

"Most people just don't that this isgoing on," said Kimberly Dewitt.

Thursday teachers, social workers, nurses andother first responders spent the day learning about domestic minor sextrafficking and what they can do to stop it.

"Knowledge is key to stopping theseguys," said Deena Graves, Founder Traffick 911.

The Lufkin Dream Center partnered withTraffick 911 and Assistant Attorney General Geoff Barr to raise awareness inthe community to keep children safe.

Dream Center Founder Billie Jean Johnson saysshe has seen it firsthand.

"What we've seen at the dream center isit doesn't look like typically what we think of a child sex trafficking. It'snot the pimp in the fur coat, it may be parents into drugs using their kids,"said Johnson.

Traffick 911 founder Deena Graves says thelife expectancy for children who are sex trafficked is seven years.

And Graves says Lufkin is a key area fortrafficking with many high risk factors.

"We know they move these children allaround and with your highways here coming together you're connected to Houston,Dallas and Shreveport it makes you a good location for it," said Graves.

Attendee Kimberly Dewitt says at Thursday's trainingshe learned the warning signs such as; bruising, sudden change in clothing, andyounger children with an older controlling person.

And says she hopes to take what she's learnedand share it in hopes of protecting the children.

"We need to have that responsibility tohave the information so we can do something with it when we see things happen,"said Dewitt.

Because an educated community can potentiallysave lives

Officialssay not to approach a suspected victim, traffickers or buyer but to gather asmuch information as you can and immediately call law enforcement with thegathered information.

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