CARMEL – The historic Putnam Courthouse in the heart of the county seat has been illuminated with blue lighting this month in recognition of January being declared Slavery and Human Trafficking Month.
County Executive Mary Ellen Odell explained that “human trafficking is everywhere and sadly Putnam County is not immune. By lighting the courthouse, we are showing our support for victims and survivors and I encourage everyone to learn the signs of human trafficking.”
Putnam County’s new Legislature Chairwoman Toni Addonizio reminded the public that “human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which victims are bought and sold for the purposes of sex or labor.”
All youth are at risk with the average age of a young person forced into the commercial sex trade at an alarming 12-14 years of age.
District Attorney Robert Tendy said an “estimated 300,000 domestic youths are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation with one-third of these children victimized by sex trafficking annually.”
The county’s anti-human trafficking program, Safe Harbour, an initiative established by the Department of Social Services, is “strength-based,” according to Commissioner Michael Piazza that “provides support to trafficked youth and those at risk of being trafficked.”
In addition to Safe Harbor, Child Protective Services, the Legal Division of the Department of Social Services and the Child Advocacy Center are all deeply committed to increased community education on how to identify victims of human trafficking along with increasing resources and services to restore freedom and dignity to survivors.
Safe Harbour has launched a mobile app, Safe Harbour Putnam County that includes definitions of trafficking and commercial exploitation of children; indicators to assess a youth’s risk of trafficking, tips on how to help a child who is a victim of trafficking and programs and resources across Putnam that are available to assist.
Ann Ellsworth, executive director of the Putnam Women’s Center also reminded the public that “every business, community organization, faith community, family and individual can make a difference in protecting youth from sexual exploitation by addressing the issue of human trafficking and child pornography while becoming more aware of the problem and possible solutions.”