Faith-based community unites to help stop human trafficking

Posted at 9:34 AM, May 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-21 09:34:48-04

Ending the cycle of human trafficking by empowering the community to take action.

Right now, it's what members of the faith-based community in Northeast Ohio are doing.

They’re getting a little help from a familiar face and famous survivor.

"I heard that door slam and he says ‘you're mine, you will never leave this house ever again,’" said Lily Rose.

Rose, who we know as Michelle Knight, was on stage at Word Church Saturday, sharing horrific details of her decade in captivity at the hands of Ariel Castro.

"He rips up the only picture I had of my son in front of me and said ‘you will never see your son again,’" said Rose.

Rose was at the house of worship in Warrensville Heights as part of a workshop on how to stop human trafficking.

"I want it to start here in the faith-based community to let the community know we are here, that we care and we want every child to go home and be safe," said First Lady Victory Vernon.

Vernon, a mother of five herself, wanted to arm fellow parents, and their children, with warning signs and who may put them at risk.

"Sometimes it is somebody that they know. It's a friend, it's a brother, it's a cousin," said Vernon.

Cassandra Smith attended with her 13-year old daughter Desiree. Smith tells News 5 she learned a few new things to keep her and her daughter safe.

"I can actually scream the word 'fight' and if I scream the word 'fight' somebody should be able to come and call 911 and come in to assist me," said Smith.

Often people connect females to human trafficking - the crowd learned that's not always the case.

"Men are also victims and they are being violated," said Vernon.

Speaking from the heart, the Seymour survivor stressed the importance of always analyzing your surroundings.

“Go with your gut feeling. Don't wait until it's too late. Go with your gut feeling, because I wish I did," said Rose.

In addition to learning new ways to avoid becoming a victim, the crowd also learned about resources in the community to help those who have broken free from the cycle or are currently being abused.

News 5’s very own Danita Harris moderated the Stop the Human Trafficking panel.