Volunteers urge drivers to "Honk Your Horn" for human trafficking awareness

Volunteers in Oshkosh and Appleton raise awareness for Human Trafficking Day

January 11, 2018 - Thursday is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

It's been nationally recognized every January 11th since 2007.

Downtown Oshkosh sounded more like New York City as volunteers held signs to encourage drivers to put the brakes on human trafficking.

Volunteer Charlie McGraw says, "A lot of people I bet would not even know that such things existed so we're out here just making the public aware of these things."

Human trafficking does in fact hit close to home.

"I was out for almost a year then I relapsed and I went back into the lifestyle again, but the second time around I realized that I make my own happiness," says human trafficking survivor Amber Kessen.

Kessen was there helping non-profit Damascus Road spread the word.

Years ago she was kidnaped from Oshkosh and taken to Georgia.

It's cases like that Damascus Road is trying to prevent.

When the "Honk Your Horn" event first started not many people knew trafficking happened in their own backyards.

"A lot of people that I talk to said, 'oh yeah I've heard about that in other countries' but they didn't know that was happening here," says Damascus Road outreach director Terra Koslowski. "Ever since then I've been on a mission to raise awareness across Wisconsin."

But eight years later she says many more people seem to be aware.

"Now when I speak places and I talk with people they're saying, 'hey I saw that on TV' or 'I saw a documentary about that' and that's what we want we want them to see in multiple places to keep their eyes open."

Even the very young could be seen joining the cause.

And that's because sex trafficking is a crime that targets even the very young.

"Honestly I have I have been fished for trafficking multiple times," says 12-year-old Samantha. "Because my mom is such a strong woman and taught me what to do in instances like this I made it through."

And until next year's event the organization will keep working to help survivors like Kessen and those who are brave just like her.

"Just know that there are others out there that go through every day like I did," says Kessen. "And know every woman has beauty within themselves to make it out of the trafficking situation."

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