Two area women have begun efforts to organize an annual walk aimed at raising awareness of human-trafficking victims.
Tory Bauer and Amanda Ferguson have started spreading the word about the event, the Walk for Freedom, this month as January highlights Human Trafficking Awareness.
Bauer explained that the two women became involved in the annual walk, which is an organized effort of awareness rallies throughout the U.S. and countries throughout the world to highlight human trafficking and slavery. The goal of the walk is to abolish slavery, everywhere, according to the Walk for Freedom website, a21.org.
Last year’s rally was put together rather hurriedly, Bauer said. People who wish to organize rallies complete an application process and Bauer and Ferguson learned just three weeks prior to the event that their effort had been approved.
Though some details are still evolving, the walk will be held on Oct. 17. Participants in the rally walk, in a silent, single-file line, dressed in black, holding signs and posters. Through their church and others
Bauer and Ferguson have drawn from their own experiences to become advocates in educating others about human trafficking. Bauer worked with human trafficking victims during a three-month internship in Germany.
“I felt a call from the Lord to do that,” she said. “...The burden has not left. It’s so prevalent here, the Lord is like, ‘It’s here. You need to tell people about it.’”
She learned about an organization, The Justice Project, through former Mitchell Berean Church Pastor Giles Armstrong. In Germany, prostitution is legal, with leaders decriminalizing prostitution and believing that it fuels the economy, Bauer said. The Justice Project operates a drop-in cafe in close proximity to the Red Light District, an area where women are sold in prostitution, and a safe house for women who are looking to escape the lifestyle. Through The Justice Project, women are also provided assistance, from work training to therapy.
Her experience in getting to know survivors of human trafficking “destroyed a lot of stereotypes for me,” Bauer said. “None of them were kidnapped. It was either a family member or a community member (that sold them into human trafficking). ... Most of them were moms, some of them hadn’t seen their kids in years. It was heartbreaking. I will never forget that experience.”
Ferguson said she has experienced abuse and became interested in the topic of preventing human trafficking and advocating for victims during conversations with Bauer.
“I have a passion that comes into play with women who have been abused, whether that be physically, emotionally, sexually. As a victim myself, I just feel like there are a lot of women out there who need to know that they are not alone and that they have a voice.”
Because of her own experiences, she said she finds herself relating to survivors of sex trafficking, from not knowing how to process abuse to the hurt and feelings that a victim experiences.
“I felt like I didn’t have a voice. I was scared to death to say anything,” she said. “...The hurt that I had and the pain that I had, I don’t feel like God used that for waste. He has a plan for that and it is prevailing more and more.”
Ferguson works for Region I Behavioral Health, helping juveniles, and Bauer works in Morrill schools. Both women are pursuing education to continue careers, with Bauer pursuing social work and Ferguson pursuing a degree in psychology. They have both been inspired to try to work through their church to continue advocacy, hoping to one day be involved in the formation of a safe house and other services for human trafficking victims.
” You have that lie, that misconception, that it (human trafficking) doesn’t happen here,” Bauer said, noting that like Germany, most human trafficking involves familial trafficking.
They are interested in becoming a part of the solution, they said, and have learned about improvements that have been made as the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, legislators and leaders have worked to improve laws and resources.
“We have made a lot of progress as the state of Nebraska, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done,” Ferguson said.
Bauer and Ferguson are working to revamp The Walk for Freedom this year, hoping to determine a central location for the rally and some other involvement from organizations and leaders. They are also planning on reaching out to other churches to be involved.
“We want to spread it like Christ has called us to,” Bauer said.