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Candlelight Vigil in Lake County Sheds Light on Sex Trafficking

County Sex Trafficking Task Force’s Candle­light Vigil this year, held on January 8th, was “Shine the light. Join us in the fight.” This theme tightly aligns with the mission of the task force and its volunteers, as posted in a notice for the event.

“Our mission is to raise awareness, edu­cate, and engage com­munities in the importance of anti-human traf­ficking initiatives, local involvement, and how we can act today to protect people tomorrow. Our goal is to keep Lake County free from the use of individuals for the purpose of commer­cial sex and to advocate for victims who are looking for resources.”

During the event, Marlys Wisch, a key fig­ure in the Lake County Sex Trafficking Task Force, spoke of the formation of the group in 2013, which now consists of four dedicated vol­unteers. They hit the ground running with the goal of speaking to every elected official in the area, including law enforcement agencies, schools, city councils, mayors, etc., in Two Harbors, Beaver Bay, and Silver Bay.

Since that time, the task force has educated through training, presentations, conferences, and pro­vided resources to the community. They’ve ar­ranged book presentations and signings. They work with officials and the legislature. They host discussions and are passionate about what they feel is a preventable issue.

Sex Trafficking, as defined on the task force’s website, is “human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery, which is considered a form of modern slavery. A victim is forced, in one of a variety of ways, into a situation of dependency on their traffick­er(s) and then used by the trafficker(s) to per­form sexual services to customers.”

Lake County Com­missioner Rich Sve talked about the progress and successes within law enforcement and legislation. “We have networks in place,” he emphasized.

Commissioner Sve expressed gratitude to the attendees, ac­knowledging their on­going efforts to bring attention to the issue. “We need each of you to continue to work to eradicate this disease in humanity,” he said. “I thank each one of you here tonight for all your continued efforts to shine the light and for having joined the fight.”

He extended his gratitude to all who have been involved in the cause. “On behalf of the Lake County Board of Commissioners and the residents of Lake County, I commend the work of our senators, congressmen, congresswom­en, and our state legislators. I thank the local law enforcement officers and their staff.”

The vigil provided a platform for attendees to voice their concerns, including the fear of hotel employees feeling threatened if they report suspicious activity. This led to a discussion around a new mandatory training for all employees at large hotels that assists in identifying suspicious situations and provides information on how to take action.

Amidst the gathering, as candles illuminated the solemn occasion, a keyboardist played emotive melodies, creating a reflective atmosphere. Quotes from influential figures such as Gloria Steinem and Helen Keller resonated through the space, underscoring the gravity of the cause.

You can learn more about the Lake County Sex Trafficking Task Force by visiting lcsex-trafficking.com. Volunteers and donations are always needed and appreciated. North Shore Horizons offers a 24/7 helpline at 218-834-5929. The Program to Aid Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA) also has a 24/7 line at 218-726-1931.

More resources are available on the website.

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