National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Wasilla Mayor Glenda Ledford (left) presents the city's proclamation recognizing January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month to Alaska Stop Human Trafficking Alliance coordinator Staci Yates.

WASILLA — Wasilla Mayor Glenda Ledford proclaimed that January will be recognized as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month during the Wasilla City Council’s regular meeting Jan. 11.

“... more awareness and education is crucial to eradicating human trafficking in our community, state, and nation,” Ledford read from the proclamation.

This was a huge success for Staci Yates, coordinator of Alaska Stop Human Trafficking Alliance. She not only got the chance to receive the proclamation and pose for a picture with Ledford at the city council meeting, but she also held the first official meeting of her new grassroots group via Zoom earlier that day. She was wearing blue during the meeting in honor of National Human Trafficking Prevention Day.

“It’s been a really awesome day,” Yates said.

Yates said the first ASHTA meeting went very well and a large number of people participated in the Zoom conference. She said that she introduced a class she’s planning roll out across the community called Human Trafficking Preventative 101.

“It will be teaching our community of people how to look for human trafficking and how to report it,” Yates said.

Yates said that she hopes to establish a community task for that will work in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies and make their way across the Valley to look out for suspicious activity that could have to do with human trafficking. She said that she’ll offer training to anyone who’s interested.

“You just have to know what to look for,” Yates said.

According to Yates, some of the top signs to look out for while out in the public to identify a potential trafficking victim include signs of physical and emotional abuse, malnourishment, and any indications of someone being controlled or held against their will.

“Victims can be anyone, male, female, all ages, and all demographics,” Yates said.

Yates is a survivor of human trafficking. She said that she’s using all her past experience and combined knowledge to educate as many people as she can.

“That’s why I’m super passionate about this… It’s super important to get education out there… They can save themselves and they can also save others,” Yates said.

Yates is the Director of Human Trafficking Recovery Services at MyHouse. She said that she plans to keep holding monthly meetings for ASHTA, which is blanketed under MyHouse. She said that she’s looking to local groups as inspiration for growing her own group.

“We’re kind of modeling after the Opioid Task Force… Because they are very successful in what they do,” Yates said.

Yates is collaborating with the Alaska Peace Officers Association to hang up posters to help local trafficking victims escape their capture, offering detailed instruction on what to do from there. She said they’re starting with women’s bathrooms before moving on to men’s bathrooms and other locations across the community. She said that bathrooms are typically the only place victims can have a moment alone.

“Their movements are constantly being monitored,” Yates said.

Yates also plans to teach local hotel staff and other relevant employees across the Valley to better identify signs and report them then they occur.

“First and foremost I want to bring awareness… I just want to bring everyone together… I don’t plan on letting up. We’re full steam ahead,” Yates said.

To report suspicious activity that could relate to human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Victims can text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233-733 for immediate assistance.

To contact Yates, call 907-631-2522 or email notrafficking@myhousematsu.org.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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