Local law enforcement, advocacy groups working to tackle sex trafficking

Human trafficking is a difficult topic to discuss, but an important one for law enforcement leaders working to educate the public.

Wednesday night at Point Park University, Assistant US Attorney for The Western District of Pennsylvania, Rebecca Silinski, who serves as her office’s human trafficking prosecutions coordinator, led a panel of experts who are dedicated to tackling the topic.

“Human trafficking involves the use of force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion,” she explained.

Wesnesday’s discussion included detectives, FBI special agents, and non-profit advocates like Theresa Golden, the Executive Director of Refuge for Women Pittsburgh.

“The different people on the panel all kind of have a different piece of the pie when it comes to a situation so it really talks about what that looks like,” she said.

The group discussed the many forms human and sex trafficking can take, the ways women, girls, and even young boys can be targeted, and the contributing factors and warning signs people can be on the lookout for including substance abuse, homelessness, and social media grooming.

“A lot of time what traffickers will do is provide them with things and isolate them from their families because now this person is giving me things that I want or supporting me in ways that my family won’t and that starts the whole process of grooming,” explained Golden.

The experts stressed that if anyone sees any warning signs of human or sex trafficking, no matter how small, call 911 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 and report them.

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