OLATHE, Kan. -- A local survivor is on a mission to spread awareness about human trafficking and the role we all have in doing something to stop it.
Loni Kuriakose kicked off a series of four presentations on human trafficking Monday night at the training center for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. She's a professional speaker with an inspiring personal survival story as a victim of human trafficking.
As a young girl, she described an ideal childhood playing softball in Parkville. Kuriakose made the honor roll at Park Hill South and still found time for soccer and an after-school job.
“Growing up, I did a really good job,” Kuriakose said. “I grew up very well.”
But an older co-worker at her after-school job slowly groomed her for a life away from her friends and family.
“He would walk me to my car, just a normal nice guy. Never would’ve thought anything about it,” Kuriakose said. "And then he ended up taking me across state lines to Kansas and brutally raping me and trafficking me for eight years.”
Kuriakose eventually escaped from her life in human trafficking. Now, she’s an outspoken advocate for more awareness on the danger signs for young girls being groomed for a life in the illegal sex trades.
“It’s so important for a community to be educated and informed and come together and surround people that are hurting,” Kuriakose said. “So that this doesn’t happen to someone or happen again.”
Experts say some of the warning signs that an individual is being groomed or victimized in human trafficking include: withdrawn depressed behavior, sexualized behavior, new tattoos (sometimes in the form of a barcode), or an older boyfriend or entirely new set of friends.
Monday night’s free presentation at the sheriff’s office in Olathe was the first of four on the topic of human trafficking. The next presentation, focused on kids and social media, is March 19.