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Health
Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Sex Trafficking Survivor and Victim Advocate To Offer Insight at MSU Address

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Purple WINGS

Sex trafficking is a bigger issue than you think, says Toshia Shaw, a behavioral health professional who has been working with victims of the crime for several years.

“We all have a responsibility as citizens – ethical citizens – to open our eyes, see what’s going on, report things that just out of place that doesn’t seem right.”

And Shaw knows all too well the devastating effects sex trafficking can have on victims.

“It can from school of hard knocks. I am myself a survivor of sex trafficking. But it happened to me as an adult,” she says.

Shaw is the founder and CEO of Purple WINGS, a multicultural nonprofit organization whose acronym stands for Women Inspiring Noble Girls Successfully. The organization mentors young women who escape from sex trafficking.

She’ll deliver the plenary address at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday as part of Missouri State University’s annual Public Affairs Conference. The presentation will take place inside the Plaster Student Union Theatre and is free and open to the public.

Shaw says a lot of young ladies involved in sex trafficking don’t feel as if they’re victims, but that it’s something they chose.

“When you’re under the age of 18 that is not something that you have free will to do, you don’t just choose to do something like that. So getting these young ladies to see that they are victims, understanding what sex trafficking is and what it does to their lives and their bodies is our primary focus.”

Educating youth, as well as parents and guardians is key in prevention, she says. Her organization is also working with law enforcement, schools, and the religious community, among others.

Shaw recalls the story of one girl who had started prostituting at 16, and was out of school for a year. Eight months ago, she sought out Purple WINGS. Now, she has a 3.5 GPA and is looking forward to college. That’s what mentoring can do, Shaw says.

“The right person in a person’s life like that can give them hope, can give them support, give them love, and let them know that they can have a life… that they’re worth it, that they don’t have to live a life like that. It’s just getting in there and, I wanna say decode that Stockholm syndrome that most of the victims have.”

Hear our entire interview with Toshia Shaw by clicking play above.

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