OSU-Tulsa Class Tackles Sex Trafficking Head-On
TULSA, Oklahoma - One of Oklahoma's most shocking, yet under-reported problems, is child sex trafficking.
But a group of OSU-Tulsa students is trying to tackle it head-on, and a new course helps train them to identify and save victims.
Local and state law enforcement says the number of child victims is rising.
This class tackles the problem head-on and is the first of its kind at OSU.
Sean Kinder spent seven years as a middle school teacher, now he's getting his Ph.D. and hopes to work as an advocate within a school district.
He knows child sex trafficking is something he might have to deal with.
"Definitely, and I, myself, as a teacher, I would like to be prepared if I ever have to identify victims," he said.
Kinder and a dozen other students are the first to get this kind of training at OSU.
Their professor, Dr. Denni Blum, is a member of the Tulsa Education Task Force on Child Sex Trafficking. She teamed up with the sheriff's office, attorney general and a non-profit group called Unlock Freedom, to make this class possible.
The class receives training then visits area public schools, giving presentations to the students, teachers and staff.
Several children have already come forward as victims of sex slavery.
"Sex trafficking can happen to anyone,” Blum said. “It doesn't have a certain color, a certain background. It's not necessarily low-income."
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Oklahoma has seen 168 reported cases of human sex trafficking over the last three years - 50 of them were children.
Experts say traffickers target girls between 12 and 14, and once pulled into the sex trade their life expectancy is only seven years.
"It seems like you turn on the news - no pun intended - and there's a story about it every day. So it's kind of like the greatest hidden travesty," Kinder said.
Blum said she hopes to keep the class going in the future.
If you, or someone you know, needs more information about these crimes, visit traffickingresourcecenter.org.
If you need to report a human trafficking case, call the national hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text "HELP" or "INFO" to 233733.