From Love Lives Here 

FLATHEAD VALLEY — Love Lives Here in the Flathead is teaming up with the Native American Student Association at Flathead Valley Community College in room 139 at the Arts & Technology Building at FVCC to bring awareness to the issue of human trafficking and offer training for community members.

The symposium runs from 11am to 4pm on Saturday, February 29. From 11am-12:30pm, a panel discussion of experts in law enforcement, human trafficking, and child abuse will take place to explain the depth of the issues facing Montana and the United States today. Panelists include Lowell Hochhalter, Lifeguard Group; Misty LaPlant, Missing Person Specialist for the Montana Department of Justice; Doug Overman, Chief of Police for the Kalispell Police Department; Tara Walker Lyons, child sexual abuse prevention advocate and Indigenous activist; a representative from the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office; a student from the Native American Student Association; and representatives from DeliverFund, a nonprofit intelligence organization dedicated to combatting human trafficking. At 1:30pm, a training provided by The Lifeguard Group, an organization which works alongside law enforcement agencies to perform searches for missing children and provides support for victims of human trafficking.

“As awareness about the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people and human trafficking increases, Love Lives Here wanted to make sure that people in the Flathead Valley have the tools to recognize and respond effectively to human trafficking,” said Sid Daoud, member of the Love Lives Here Leadership Team. “Montana seems to be a crossroads of human trafficking activity, and we want to make sure we’re doing all we can to keep people safe, especially the Indigenous community, which seems to be intentionally targeted. Training helps people feel hopeful instead of hopeless about this devastating issue.”

Experts agree that data on human trafficking, and especially on missing and murdered Indigenous people, is lacking, but the National Human Trafficking Hotline reports that they had 20 cases of human trafficking reported and 42 contacts made that were connected to Montana. As of this press release, there are 44 children listed on Montana’s Missing Person’s Clearinghouse, and 20 of them are listed as Native American.

“To address the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people, we not only need widespread awareness, but we need accuracy. These community events are an important way to engage the community directly. Showing up to learn about the crisis is a good way to begin showing your support,” said Tara Walker Lyons.

Love Lives Here has made this event free and open to the public so that cost will not be a barrier to anyone who wants training in human trafficking prevention. Donations will be accepted at the event, and all will go toward efforts to fight human trafficking in the Flathead Valley, including the Native American reservations.

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