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Proclamation declares January Human Trafficking Awareness Month

The Inter-Mountain photo by Brad Johnson From left are Brenda Dasher, Northern West Virginia Center for Independent Living; Anita Lockett of Centers Against Violence; Elkins Mayor Jerry Marco; Tekoa Jones and Emaline Metheney of Centers Against Violence; and Capt. R.W. Belt of the Elkins Police Department.

ELKINS — Mayor Jerry Marco signed a proclamation declaring January Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Elkins during a ceremony at City Hall Friday afternoon.

“I, Jerry A. Marco, as mayor of Elkins, do hereby proclaim January 2022 as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Elkins, and I applause the efforts of the many service providers, police officers, prosecutors, national and community organizations, and private sector supporters for their efforts in promoting awareness about human trafficking,” Marco read from the proclamation Friday.

The mayor was joined by representatives from Centers Against Violence and the Northern West Virginia Center for Independent Living.

Marco expressed concern that, with Corridor H providing more access to our region, the new highway might bring not just tourists but also traffickers. He said we must keep our eyes and open and understand that trafficking is a real problem to defend against.

Tekoa Jones of Centers Against Violence said the organization is a good resource for individuals who are victims of any type of trafficking, sex and labor trafficking. She said it is extremely important to keep track of what children are doing online because traffickers are good at befriending children online and convincing them they are friends in an effort to control and manipulate them.

“The City of Elkins is striving to become a place where human trafficking does not exist, where people have opportunities available to them, and where all people are treated as fully human and worthy of a supportive community and freedom,” the proclamation states.

“Centers Against Violence is joining forces with criminal justice officials and concerned citizens throughout Randolph County, and other victim service providers in the state of West Virginia as well as the United States to observe National Human Trafficking Awareness Month,” the document continues.

The proclamation states “human trafficking is a nationwide public health and civil rights crisis. It victims and survivors are everywhere, with Elkins being no exception.

“Human trafficking includes both labor and sex trafficking, with both international and domestic victims.

“Anyone can become a victim of trafficking,” the proclamation states. “While woman and girls are the primary victims, victims/survivors come from every background, race, gender, sexual orientation and economic status. Traffickers target individuals who, for any reason, are vulnerable.

“Young people are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation but face many barriers to reporting what has happened to them. West Virginia’s Human Trafficking Law recognizes that any youth under the age of 18 who comes forward will no longer face criminal prosecution and will instead receive comprehensive and trauma-informed services.

“West Virginia’s Human Trafficking law also seeks to provide communities across our state with the knowledge, skills and resources to effectively identify and work with sexually exploited and at-risk youth,” the proclamation reads.

To contact Centers Against Violence in Elkins, call 304-636-8433.

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