Renne Gilliam is troubled when she hears reports about young girls who are sold for sex.
“It just makes me sick,” said Gilliam, the program director at the YMCA Youth Investment Center in Puyallup.
That’s why she hopes she can make a difference with the first public forum regarding the dangers of sex trafficking in the greater Puget Sound. The forum, called “Stolen People, Stolen Dreams,” will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Puyallup High School commons.
“According to statistics, the United States is the sixth hot spot,” Gilliam said. “The Seattle area is the third hot spot in all of the United States. It’s a global issue happening on American soil. I want to protect teens and to equip teens to make a difference with their peers. To help themselves, protect their friends.”
The program will include a presentation by a survivor who will share her story, represented by Smart Freedom, a branch of CareNet, which helps to sustain life for women. The other keynote speaker will be Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist.
Gilliam said Lindquist will address the state laws associated with sex trafficking and how his office prosecutes those who illegally exploit women for financial gain.
Shared Hope International and The Genesis Project also will share information. Shared Hope International is based in Vancouver, Wash., and it advocates for the eradication of sex trafficking. The Genesis Project, based in Kent, provides the means for women to rebuild their lives after they’ve been sexually exploited.
“I hope as people learn about sex trafficking that they will want to take this to their own spheres of influence,” Gilliam said. “If I can be a catalyst to equip them to do that, I wouldn’t mind hosting several events like this, just so they can walk on their own in this.”
Gilliam encourages anyone who works with teens to attend.
“I’m challenging teens to bring their best friend and favorite adult to come and learn together,” she said.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.