LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -The arrest of a 28-year-old man accused of sex trafficking a 13-year-old girl has opened the door to a larger discussion.
Blake K. Jenkins,28, remains in the Calcasieu Correctional Center with a bond of $80,000. He’s charged with felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile, second-degree kidnapping, and human trafficking.
Rusty Havens, an advocate for human trafficking awareness and the CEO and President of the SWLA Abolitionists counts this most recent arrest as a victory for our area.
For nearly 8 years, SWLA Abolitionists have actively worked to help stop human trafficking in Southwest Louisiana through awareness, prevention, advocacy, restoration, and rescue.
“We’ve helped survivors as young as newborns...and 2 people in their seventies. So, it happens to everybody,” said Havens.
Havens said a year consisting of more people relying on technology to stay connected has only increased the potential for human trafficking.
A year of shelter-in-place orders, school closures and more people relying on technology to stay connected also has brought more opportunities, for online predators to target potential victims,
“Human trafficking, unfortunately, hasn’t stopped,” Havens said. “COVID didn’t stop human trafficking and nor did the hurricanes. As a matter of fact, it only made people more vulnerable.”
He says along with the casinos, the I-10 corridor, in addition to the ongoing hurricane recovery...Southwest Louisiana is more susceptible to crime.
“The hurricanes have made people more vulnerable because traffickers try to provide what people need--such as housing, money, food.”
In 2019, the group launched one of the first homes in the Lake Area to house survivors of human trafficking. It was destroyed by a fire right before Hurricane Laura.
“There’s only a couple hundred beds in the whole U.S. just for survivors of human trafficking, while the global slavery index says there are over 300,000 victims in the United States. So, we need beds, we need more homes to open up.”
Being that it will take a while for the Lake Area to fully rebuild, he says they’re working to get their message out in any way possible.
“We need a lot more resources and people to get involved because we want to become better and, hopefully, we want to open back up...we definitely want to open back up,” said Havens.
Later this month, the group plans to launch the “End It Movement”- a local ad campaign aimed at increasing awareness and bringing an end to human trafficking.
To learn more about the campaign, click HERE.
If you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, please call the human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “info” or “help” to 233733.