Stop the trafficking
Stop the trafficking: Informative presentation coming to Avon April 17
By Liz Vos
AVON – The public, including parents and their teen-aged children, is invited to Avon Community Church on Monday, April 17 from 6:30-8 p.m. to gain awareness into sexual exploitation and trafficking.
“This is here in our community,” said Julie Jarnot, one of the organizers of the event. “We need to take some action and we hope those attending will leave with the tools they need to take action against trafficking. We want to share knowledge, hope and support to everyone.”
Powerful and informative speakers will be featured at the event including Waite Park Police investigator Jason Thompson and Rebecca Kotz, the trafficking coordinator for the Sexual Assault Center in St. Cloud.
Kotz is a renowned speaker; she works with female and male survivors of all ages who have been commercially sexually exploited. Among her many contributions to enact change, she is a member of the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force and also co-founded A Light In The Night, an outreach ministry for those involved in the sex industry. Kotz developed and facilitates a psycho-educational support group for female survivors of trafficking/prostitution and also developed and facilitates a demand reduction educational school (a.k.a. John school) for male offenders convicted of commercial sex buying.
Sitting down recently to discuss next Monday’s event, Jarnot and another organizer, Jen Zenzen agreed that they felt compelled to bring Thompson and Kotz to Avon to give insight and facts about the trafficking that is taking place every day.
The event is sponsored by the MOMSnext group, which meets at Avon Community Church. The group is also collecting vital items needed by the Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center to help victims as they are rescued.
During the event and through the end of April, the group will be collecting the following items, which will be put together to create Survivor Care Kits.
Survivor Care Kit contents (Note, full sized containers are needed):
- Body wash
- Tampons and pads
- Granola bars
- Bus tokens
- Target gift cards for $25
- Encouragement notes/quotes
In 2016, the Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center served 73 new victims of sex exploitation/trafficking. Homelessness and economic instability are risk factors to trafficking and are also a deterrent to leaving the traffickers once already involved.
The care kits have the potential to prevent further exploitation of the victim.
“The MOMSnext group had been searching for a service project and when we heard of this need, we just really felt it was something we could make an impact with,” Zenzen pointed out.
Anyone wishing to donate toward the kits is encouraged to bring items to Avon Community Church.
In addition to helping victims, help and healing are also available to the offenders of commercial sex-buying, which Kotz will discuss and which the church wants to extend a hand to. Jarnot points out that there are multiple sources for help, including Celebrate Recovery, which is an anonymous group that meets on Friday at Avon Community Church from 6-8 p.m. The program is designed for any type of addiction, habit, hurt or hang-up.
Looking ahead to next week’s presentation, organizers are hopeful that those in the community can walk away with tools to help others.
“This is not just happening in big cities, it is happening here – it’s in our community and we need to do something about it,” said Jarnot. “We want people to know what to look for and how to help someone who may be in trouble.”
The highly trained and informative speakers will also be able to take questions after the presentation. The event is meant for those who are teens or older.
“We have gotten a lot of inquiries to find out if this is something teens should be at, and the answer is absolutely,” Jarnot said. “Not only that, I think it is important to note that both parents should attend and both boys and girls need to hear this.”
Anyone with questions may email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We want to create awareness,” Zenzen said. “Taking action and spreading knowledge can make a huge difference.”