LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. – Human trafficking; it’s not something that’s easily seen, but it is more common in the Midwest than many expect.
However, one metro woman who is familiar with the risk and prevalence of the crime decided to try and help the best way she could — shopping.
On Saturday, a few local businesses found their own way to help survivors of sex trafficking: the Holiday Pop-Up Shop at the Harris Park Community Center in Lee’s Summit.
Roughly a dozen vendors assembled to peddle their wares. Free food was available, and raffle tickets were sold.
It’s the brainchild of Senita Whitelaw. She runs A Lady’s Accessories, and recently moved to Kansas City from Atlanta, which is a hotbed for human trafficking.
While there, Whitelaw established her jewelry business and donated roughly 60 percent of her profits to charity. Now, she’s doing it in Kansas City. On Saturday, it was for Restoration House.
“Restoration House is the whole reason that A Lady’s Accessories exists,” Whitelaw said. “To support other women, to empower them and to help educate the community on how they can help the community. Yes, definitely a connection there.”
Experts will tell you there are more than 4 million people in human trafficking across the country. That breaks down to about 80,000 per state, and half of those are minors.
In Missouri, most of those cases involve sex trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Hotline states most of its calls come from massage parlors and spas.
Missouri ranks 16th in the nation for human trafficking risk and Kansas ranks at 30th, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Experts say Kansas City is a high risk area because of our central location with easy access to interstates.
Just this summer, the FBI announced that agents rescued two children and 35 adults from suspected sex traffickers in the greater KC area.
Restoration House is a Kansas City-based charity for victims who are recovering from sex trafficking.
The president of Restoration House, the charity benefiting from Saturday’s shopping, said it’s likely your kids are going to school with girls who are being trafficked. Girls are more likely to be trafficked than boys.
Restoration House said it also gets one phone call per day of a survivor seeking help.
Veronica’s Voice is another charity helping the survivors of sex trafficking and is also based in the Kansas City metro. It’s website will tell you the signs that a person is being trafficked (scroll to Page 7).