Marion Pearson (left) speaks to a UCC truck driving student, Lavina Stacy, about the local trafficking task force.
Photo provided by Rachel Arceo / The Mainstream.

Stalking and human trafficking can be frightening topics, with many people believing it happens elsewhere, not here in Douglas County.  Often images of white predator vans and strangers lurking in the bushes ready to pounce come to mind, but the reality is that stalking and trafficking are most often perpetrated by trusted partners.

“Yes, we have trafficking on the I-5, but 50% of trafficking survivors were identified as being trafficked by a family member,” says Douglas County’s Human Trafficking Task Force Coordinator Marion Pearson.

This month, UCC observes both Stalking Awareness Month and National Human Trafficking Awareness Month so advocates and educators will be working on campus and in town to inform the public about the realities of these close-to-home crimes.

Stalking

Peace at Home is a community-based non-profit agency aiding survivors of domestic or gender-based violence in Douglas County since 1978. Erin Ritchie is UCC’s Campus Advocacy, Resource & Education (CARE) advocate from Peace at Home, providing confidential services for survivors of stalking and human trafficking, sexual assault and family violence on and off-campus. Ritchie connects UCC students and staff with resources and referrals through Peace at Home.

For Stalking and Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Ritchie ran an information table at the UCC student center on Jan. 11 and led an upcoming event on Jan. 27 via Zoom, where scenes from the popular television drama “Yohttps://www.netflix.com/title/80211991u” were watched and discussed. 

“The event will cover some information on what stalking is and the dynamics of this form of abuse,” Ritchie says.

Marion Pearson (left) shares trafficking talk to UCC trucking class as students Karyn McNeil (middle) and Shari Phillips (right) listen.
Photo provided by Rachel Arceo / The Mainstream.

“Stalking behavior and unhealthy behaviors are normalized and romanticized in the media,” Ritchie says. The normalization of unhealthy and unwanted attention will be a topic of discussion in the Zoom event.

“Stalking is pretty common,” Ritchie explains.  “Typically one in six people will endure stalking.”

Although often overlooked or under-addressed, stalking is a form of domestic violence. It is more common than trafficking yet does not have the same notoriety. With the advancement of technology, there are even more ways than ever for stalking perpetrators to abuse. Keeping tabs on a person is as simple as checking the computer in their pocket to keep track of their location, activities and social interactions.

“If you suspect a friend is being stalked or being controlled with unhealthy behaviors, it is best to not confront openly,” says Ritchie. “We suggest more open-ended questions: How does that make you feel when they watch you like that?”

“Even if the friend is not ready to receive services, we recommend being supportive,” says Ritchie.

Human Trafficking

Like stalking, trafficking is often a domestic violence issue.  According to Douglas County’s Human Trafficking Task Force’s Facebook page, “In the past six years, there have been 71 adults and 21 youths identified as trafficking survivors in Douglas County.”

Human trafficking can manifest in both labor and sex trafficking. “Around Douglas County,  when they busted the illegal cannabis grows, they found signs of labor trafficking.  Labor trafficking most often involves foreign nationals that are kept in deplorable conditions, overworked and underpaid, often with threat of deportation.”

Pearson, who has served on the task force since 2015, identified some risk factors for being trafficked. “Being unsheltered, lacking resources, being in an abusive situation, or being on drugs are all risk factors,” Pearson says.  “A trafficker will identify the victim, their needs and work on filling them, whether it be through supplying drugs or providing shelter and a meal or the promise of stable work.”

Also, all underage commercial sex is prosecuted as human trafficking because children cannot legally consent.

 “If someone is pressuring you to do illegal work or to walk into a situation that feels too good to be true or separate you from your family, don’t give in, not even once,” Pearson cautions. “Traffickers confess that when their victims give in once, they have them for as long as they need.”

Erin Ritchie, Peace at Home’s UCC CARE advocate, sets up an information booth at the student center to raise awareness for Stalking and Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Photo provided by Melinda Benton.

Pearson’s job as task force coordinator has her engaging in talks and classes to raise awareness with a variety of groups from firefighters to paramedics and even truck driving students.  On Jan. 13, Pearson showcased a documentary to UCC truck driving students about the grassroots activism group “Truckers Against Trafficking” who have helped law enforcement significantly through reporting instances of suspected trafficking.

In an effort to spread awareness, the DCHT Task Force will host a free screening of “I am Jane Doe,” a documentary chronicling a fight on behalf of young middle schoolers who were trafficked online.  The screening is Jan. 20 at Roseburg Cinema, doors open at 6:15 p.m., and it is not recommended for children under 12.

To report sightings or suspected trafficking, call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 

1-888-3737-888.

If you suspect stalking or human trafficking and need immediate assistance, call 911.

For more information on Douglas County Human Trafficking Task Force, write to marion.pearson@commonspirit.org or visit the Facebook page.

For more information on Peace at Home and confidential services, write to Erin Ritchie at Erin@peaceathome.com or call the Peace at Home office: (541) 440-7866. Their

24/hr crisis line is 541-673-7867. 

For more information on Truckers Against Trafficking, visit www.truckersagainsttrafficking.org.

Contact me at:
UCCMainstream@yahoo.com

For more articles by Rachel Arceo please click here.