Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota will host two events to raise awareness about the signs of sex trafficking and to educate Brainerd area residents on what they can do to prevent it.
The first event is a January Soup-Off, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25, in rooms 1 and 2 of the Land Services Building, 322 Laurel St., Brainerd.
The event features a panel discussion over lunch featuring representatives from local agencies, Baxter police and community members. Attendees will learn more about how sex trafficking harms young people in the community, how to spot the signs, and the resources available to combat the issue.
Panelists will include Kathy Sauve from LSS Saving Grace, Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted and Kate LePage, central Minnesota regional navigator. This event is free to attend and no RSVP is required.
A second event will be a digital one-the "Renting Lacy" Facebook Live book club. The livestream will be available 7-7:45 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31.
LePage will host a guided discussion on Linda Smith's book "Renting Lacy" via Facebook Live on the LSS Saving Grace Facebook page. The book illustrates the daily struggles of child sex trafficking victims through true stories from survivors.
January is National Sex Trafficking Prevention Month. LSS announced the launch of its Saving Grace service in 2016 as part of its participation in the regional navigator program, which was created by a statewide Safe Harbor initiative to provide youths support they need to escape sex trafficking.
According to the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force, the average age when victims become trafficked is 15. An estimated 6,000 youths experience homelessness on any given night in Minnesota, making them prime targets for traffickers who prey on youths in crises.
"By learning how to recognize signs of trafficking activities and the resources available, members of the community can equip themselves to take action against sex trafficking and create a safer environment for young people throughout Minnesota," a news release stated.