GREAT FALLS - A 'Red Sand Project' event was held in Great Falls on Thursday.
The Red Sand Project is a way to raise awareness of sexual violence and human trafficking.
Red sand was poured in cracks in the sidewalk on the 400 block of Central Avenue - representing the cases that have fallen through the cracks.
The Red Sand Project was organized by North Central Montana Human Trafficking and the Missing Montana Indigenous Persons Task Force organizer Lea Wetzel, who serves as the Vice President of MMIP Task Force and is also a survivor of human trafficking.
She explained what influenced her to host the project.
“Passion. I think passion with wanting to support those that don’t have a voice right now, or can’t have a voice. The majority of our task force is volunteering, and I know for me, I lived in the life of addiction, I lived in the life of seeing and dealing with similar circumstances, and I know how much support is needed, and so just to be a voice of those who can’t have a voice I think is really important.”
Wetzel expressed the importance of youth involvement, and said that educating them early will save lives.
"It’s huge, that’s the generation that’s going to heal us. We need to start going into the generational healing instead of the trauma, you know, we need to heal that trauma and it starts with our kids.”
She emphasized that the goal is speaking out for those without a voice.
“Individuals that have had life experience losing their loved ones, that have had experience of human traffic themselves, whether it’s one person or a hundred people. Let them know that we’re out here and we’re here from them and we’re going to continue being here for them.
While human trafficking continues to be an issue across the world, organizers say events like these go a long way, and that raising awareness is the first step to solving a problem.
The Montana Department of Justice tracked 68 human trafficking cases in 2021, up from just seven cases reported in 2015.
Signs to look for in a human trafficking victim:
- They have no personal possessions
- A minor with an unrelated and non-age appropriate looking male or an over-controlling “boyfriend” and sometimes another female, as they can recruit other females to become slaves.
- Minors at hotels, strip clubs or truck stops.
- Appearance of lack of sleep or nutrition.
- Unexplained injuries.
You can help stop human trafficking. If it's an emergency, call 911. For a non-emergency, you can call 1-833-406-STOP.