JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tuesday afternoon, the Capitol rotunda was filled with Missourians attending the Missouri Sex Trafficking Awareness Month Ceremony, hosted by Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis.
Last year, Nasheed sponsored SCR 1, which declared January as Sex Trafficking Awareness Month in Missouri.
“With the passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 1, the state will no longer be silent to the horror of sex trafficking here in the state of Missouri,” Nasheed told advocates. “It is time to shine a light – a spotlight – on a crime that is ordinarily overlooked.”
Nasheed was joined by legislative colleagues Rep. Tracy McCreery, Rep. Elijah Haahr, Sen. Jill Schupp, President Pro Tem Ron Richard, and Rep. Tommie Pierson. Assistant U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore, U.S. Attorney’s Office Human Trafficking Coordinator, served as the mistress of ceremony.
Pierson led the ceremony’s prayer, which McCreery followed with a welcome.
“The energy and the enthusiasm is just so refreshing,” said Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St. Louis. “…I have a bit of history for you: Missouri was actually one of the first 10 states to put in place any kind of sex trafficking laws. We have continued forward ever since.”
Greetings were given by both Haahr and Schupp.
“In Missouri, we have partisan fights on issues like budget, taxes, and education,” said Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield. “But on trafficking, we don’t fight each other. We fight the traffickers. As one. It’s us against them. And we will win.”
Nasheed spoke on sex trafficking and the work to be done.
“I want to thank each and every one of you for coming here today from all across our great state to bring awareness to the problem of sex trafficking in the state of Missouri,” Nasheed said. “As you all know, sex trafficking is an issue that is not often discussed, it is truly a silent epidemic here in the state of Missouri.”
Nasheed called for the conversation to continue in order to identify victims and educate each other. St. Louis, where Nasheed represents, was recently recognized as one of the top 20 cities in the county for sex trafficking, with Missouri being ranked tenth in the nation.
“Sex trafficking is an attack on our children, on our neighborhoods, and the fight does not stop here,” said Nasheed. “Awareness is only the beginning.”
The next step, said Nasheed, is to secure funding for the safe homes, which was met by applause from a standing-room only audience.
Christine McDonald, Program Director for the Restoration House of Greater Kansas City and founder of Christine’s Voice, shared her story of being trafficked.
McDonald was held within the trafficking industry for over a decade, ending up in Kansas City. She was branded, chained, and blinded. Her struggles with addiction and prostitution struck a cord with attendees.
The ceremony was planned by Nasheed and her Chief of Staff Jason Groce, with the assistance of Missouri Office of Prosecution Services, Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, International Institute of St. Louis, Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Missouri Department of Public Safety, Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, Safe At Home, Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, Department of Social Services, and Missouri KidsFirst.