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Community Focus: Helping victims of human trafficking

The majority of human trafficking cases in Oklahoma are sex and labor related. (file)

An atrocious crime happening before our very eyes. Just last year, 75 human trafficking cases reported in Oklahoma. Since 2007, Oklahoma has received more than 1500 calls on possible trafficking cases.

The Dragonfly Home is a growing victim advocacy organization with the goal of helps victims get out of their situation and recover. Executive director and co-founder Whitney Anderson says trafficking can be difficult to track.

“A lot of people who are victims of trafficking don't know that they are victims of trafficking because they don't understand what the crime is, and so it is so important to go out into these communities where it is happening, educated the community on what it looks like and then we get hotline calls, “says Anderson.

Victims could be anyone, from any background, however, a disproportionate number are women. Minorities can face additional exploitation, especially when legal status or language are barriers.

“We hear from so many survivors that the guilt and the shame is what kept them in a trafficking situation-- so that is why it's important to us-- we don't judge people, and that type of victimization is not the victims fault. That is the traffickers fault,” says Anderson.

The Dragonfly Home and the hotline operate with the help of volunteers like Hilda De Leon Xavier. She helps with translating for victims who speak Spanish, thereby helping people who are asking for help and fear no one will understand them.

“It is very difficult for them to explain the situation, and they keep repeating and repeating, and they cannot understand, but since we are there, bilingual people, so they feel more comfortable, “says De Leon Xavier, of some victim’s initial anxieties when reaching out.

According to data from the Human Trafficking Hotline, the most common types of cases in Oklahoma are sex and labor trafficking.

The Dragonfly Home is opening a shelter program later this year. The number to call if you are a human trafficking survivor or if you want to help someone is 855-674-4767. It's toll free and 24/7. If you are interested in volunteering you can get home information here.

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