Not Me Human Trafficking Community Conference held at the Choctaw Nation Event Center
Published March 1, 2023
DURANT, OK – “If there are three of you sitting together, one of you could be the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or human trafficking,” said Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton to a crowd of more than 340 teenagers gathered for the Not Me Human Trafficking Conference held at the Choctaw Nation Event Center in Durant on Feb. 28.
Nine public schools from across Southeastern Oklahoma attended the early morning event which featured speakers from the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women, Spring, Oklahoma Drug Intelligence, and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.
Chief Batton kicked off the event by giving statistics concerning human trafficking among the Native American population. He said that incidents of human trafficking not only occur in the big cities but can also happen on the Choctaw reservation. The Chief then told a story of a former employee’s niece who was the victim of human trafficking and how she refused to believe that her “boyfriend’ was using her in that way.
“Her family had to go get her, show her on the phone where he had already placed her on a website to be human trafficked,” Chief Batton said. “So that’s how quickly it can happen. She had already been drugged some because that’s one of the things that they do. They will get you and drug you to make you go along with what they are trying to do.”
Leslie Clingenpeel, the executive director of Spring – a service provider for human trafficking survivors, said being trafficked can happen to anyone; that’s why it’s important to be aware of how it happens.
“Traffickers look for vulnerabilities,’ Clingenpeel said. “In other words, they look for people who need something. We see this in people experiencing housing and food insecurity or someone who needs basic needs. The trafficker will offer to give them those basic needs in exchange for sex acts.”
Major Mike Hoskins, Drug Intelligence Officer, followed Clingenpeel and urged the teens in attendance to take what they heard at this conference and give this information to their friends and family.
“You are here today for a reason, and we are counting on you guys to be our ambassadors,” Hoskins said. “Local, state, and federal law enforcement can’t stop human trafficking by ourselves. That’s why we need people like you out there to try and make this world a better place. Please don’t be a victim. Be smart. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t ingest anything that is not yours.”
At the end of the conference, students asked questions ranging from what to do if a friend is being trafficked to how you can tell if someone is being trafficked. The panelists say it’s important that if you suspect your friend is being trafficked, even though it was told to you in confidence, report it. Your friend’s safety is more important.
If you suspect that someone you know is being trafficked due to changes in appearance or behavior, panelists urge you to report it to the 24-hour SafeLine at 1-800-522-SAFE (7233).
About The Choctaw Nation
The Choctaw Nation is the third-largest Indian Nation in the United States with more than 212,000 tribal members and 12,000-plus associates. This ancient people has an oral tradition dating back over 13,000 years. The first tribe over the Trail of Tears, its historic reservation boundaries are in the southeast corner of Oklahoma, covering 10,923 square miles. The Choctaw Nation’s vision, “Living out the Chahta Spirit of faith, family and culture,” is evident as it continues to focus on providing opportunities for growth and prosperity.
Contact Kristina Humenesky for any media relations needs at [email protected].