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Domestic Violence Intervention Services, Inc. (DVIS) will host a town hall on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 6 p.m., to bring awareness to the impact human trafficking is having on the Tulsa community. Joined by Tulsa City Councilor Lori Decter Wright, the event continues a series launched last year aimed at bringing an overlooked issue to the forefront.
Despite being one of the most religious states in the nation, Oklahoma’s domestic violence rate reached a 20-year high during the pandemic in 2020. It also recorded the second-highest rate of women murdered by men that year, according to a report from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
To make matters worse, Oklahoma recorded 99 cases of human trafficking in 2021, with 77 of them labeled as sex trafficking among 180 total victims, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which describes human trafficking as a modern form of slavery.
Yet those numbers hardly reflect the total impact, as language access, fear of their traffickers, and/or fear of law enforcement represent barriers to seeking help, the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign noted.
“People don’t typically come to our shelter saying they’ve been trafficked,” said Tracey Lyall, CEO of Tulsa-based DVIS.
“Oftentimes they are coming in due to violence they’ve experienced,” Lyall said. “But then, as we start peeling back the layers, we find that they’ve been trafficked. Sometimes we have to help give them a name for what’s happened to them because they are so indoctrinated that a normal way of life is now foreign. So we really want to educate the public about how to identify trafficking, and provide ways to protect themselves and others.”
DVIS hosting town hall on human trafficking in Tulsa
The town hall will be held Feb. 21 at The Grand Hall at Union High School, located at 6636 S. Mingo Rd., at 6 p.m. Community members, survivors and advocates are invited to attend, and beverages and light snacks will be provided by QuikTrip. Attendees are asked to register here.
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and I-35, which runs through the middle of Oklahoma, is a major corridor for drugs, guns and sex trafficking.
The event continues a series launched last year in October, which is domestic violence month. “DVIS Community Talks: Conversations to Confront Violence” seeks to raise concerns and spur action on the issue.
“I am grateful for the important work DVIS is doing to educate our community about human trafficking and stalking in addition to the vital services they provide to people overcoming domestic and intimate partner violence,” Tulsa City Councilor Lori Decter Wright said.
“I hope Tulsans, especially parents, grandparents and guardians will attend this Town Hall Meeting and bring with them their young adults, teens and tweens in order to learn from experts, ask questions, access resources and leave empowered with ways to prevent and stop trafficking and stalking.”
Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith will facilitate the discussion, which includes DVIS CEO Tracey Lyall, Assistant U.S. Attorney Shannon Cozzoni, Tulsa City Councilor Lori Decter Wright, and a human trafficking survivor. The goal is to educate, inform and prevent human trafficking by highlighting key indicators, the best ways to report them, and addressing myths and misconceptions.
Reps available to answer questions from the community
Community members are encouraged to ask questions. Representatives with DVIS legal services and Tulsa Police Department representatives from the Special Investigations Division, Sexual Predator / Digital Evidence Recovery Unit, Family Violence Unit, and Mingo Valley Division will be available to answer them.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting victims and prosecuting human trafficking crimes,” United States Attorney Clinton J. Johnson said. “Collaborative partnerships between law enforcement, prosecutors, social service agencies and other community members are critical to combating human trafficking.
Upcoming conversations will be held in April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month; and in June when the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) joins the national recognition of Pride Month to raise awareness for physical and sexual abuse among the LGBTQIA+ community. More information is available online.DVIS offers a 24-hour information and crisis line at 918.7HELP.ME (918.743.5763). Additional information can be found at www.dvis.org or on the DVIS Facebook page.
To register for the town hall, click here.
Editor’s note: The date of the town hall has been moved from Jan. 31 to Feb. 21 due to severe weather.