WICHITA, KAN. --- Two Wichita women are accused of selling girls for sex. Tinique Anthony and Ashley Bowman were booked in the Sedgwick County Jail for incidents allegedly involving minors. Bowman was formally charged in court Monday with one count of aggravated human trafficking.
America's heartland might not seem like it would be a place for human trafficking but with a number of truck stops and high rates of runaways, it's actually a prime location for offenders to recruit their young victims. Nearly 400 children are at risk of being trafficked in Kansas every year.
"Human trafficking is something we need to be on the lookout for," said Diana Schunn. "It does become everybody's problem because in many circumstances something pretty bad can happen in a very short period of time."
Schunn heads the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County. She says the public's awareness is key to fighting these types of crimes.
"Whether we have all of the details or just a few details. It's OK. We don't need to investigate the situation ourselves. We can go ahead and make a report," Schunn said.
"It's the kid who's bullied, it's the kid who's running away... who is more at risk," said Karen Countryman-Roswurm, the founding executive director of WSU's Center for Combating Human Trafficking.
Her organization encourages community members to not only speak up but also support survivors after they've been rescued.
Some ways to help include: purchasing products from places like House of Hope which works with survivors to develop job skills and earn a living wage, or volunteering to be a mentor or tutor for youth outreach groups.
"If we're really to resolve this issue of human trafficking, we have to reduce the demand for human trafficking, we have to prevent trafficking, and for survivors of abuse and exploitation we have to provide the context for which they can prosper," Countryman-Roswurm said.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. For a list of events in the Wichita community, go to: http://www.combatinghumantrafficking.org/.