January: Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Task Force Q&A

Our task force decided to share with you what they would say to these four questions so you as a community member are able to get to know who participate as task force members.

Amber DeGrange – Sherman County Juvenile Director

Introduce yourself, the organization you represent and your role within this organization.

I’m Amber DeGrange and I’ve worked in juvenile justice for 18 years in the frontier community of Sherman County, with a focus on prevention and outreach. I’ve participated in the Mid-Columbia Human Trafficking Task Force team since early on in our inception as a way to develop response protocol and better serve the youth that we encounter on the two major highways intersecting our county boundaries, as well as our local families that may experience risk factors.

What has it been like so far for you to participate on the task force?

It has been a rewarding and challenging experience; there is a significant amount of passion around the topic of human trafficking, especially for youth, and that brings a lot of emotions and opinions. As with any group that is developing, we needed to figure out our roles and build a cohesive path. I feel like we’ve made great progress and I’m excited to move into the next stages of community education and improving victim’s services.

What do you want to see happen regarding anti- trafficking efforts in the region with your involvement?

I hope that I always bring awareness for the unique dynamics of rural trafficking issues, and keep advocating for the best interest of the youth we are trying to help. I also hope to help educate my own community that trafficking isn’t just a big city problem and that it isn’t a scary stranger in a dark alley, so that we can build a local system that recognizes and responds to survivors with understanding and compassion.

What would you say to a survivor of human trafficking?

I would say how much respect I have for their strength of will to live through that situation and ask how I can help support them in what they want for their future.

Tom Worthy – Chief of Police, The Dalles, OR

My name is Tom Worthy and I’m the Chief of Police for The Dalles Oregon. The City of The Dalles is by far the largest city in the Mid-Columbia region. Human Trafficking (HT) can happen here. The Human Trafficking Taskforce is the front line combating this inhumane practice. The Human Trafficking Taskforce is made up of some of the most compassionate and professional individuals who I’ve ever had the privilege of working alongside. HT is inherently cruel and my heart goes out to any person who finds themselves in this position. We are prepared to respond and investigate any allegation of Human Trafficking. If you see something that doesn’t seem right or makes you uncomfortable, I implore you to reach out to the police or the HT Taskforce. We would rather receive 100 tips that amount to nothing than have one person exploited when we could have assisted them. You can remain anonymous if you choose. HT can take many forms, chief among them are labor or sexual exploitation. When I think about HT I put myself in the place of a victim and try to imagine how helpless and terrified they must feel. We do not tolerate exploitation in our community and I encourage you to remain vigilant to signs of HT and make that call to rescue a victim.

Jessianne Miller – Sherman County School District Health Teacher

Introduce yourself, the organization you represent and your role within this organization.

My involvement is 100% fringe awareness because I am teaching during all of the meetings. I like to stay up to date as much as possible and this is one way I try to keep up with community issues/prevention.

What do you want to see happen regarding anti- trafficking efforts in the region with your involvement?

I teach about internet safety in class and human trafficking, but I would love at some point to have a guest speaker series, or assembly, for the high school and the middle school to increase student awareness. Hearing from a teacher in a classroom is one thing – but having a professional who works with this subject daily come in and work with students on understanding potential risk would be the next level of understanding that these subjects are concreted in the real world, not just in class and on the news.

What would you say to a survivor of human trafficking?

I don’t know what I would directly say to someone. I think it would depend on whether the person brings it up. I wouldn’t want to force that conversation on someone I didn’t have a history with, that wouldn’t be my place.

Travis West – Sherman County Sheriff’s Office Detective

Introduce yourself, the organization you represent and your role within this organization.

I’m Detective Travis West with the Sherman County Sheriff’s Office. I help plan and execute anti-trafficking efforts in the Mid-Columbia region. We conduct law enforcement operations and investigate trafficking cases.

What has it been like so far for you to participate on the task force?

While working on the task force, I’ve been able to connect with other entities and individuals interested in combating trafficking. I’ve been able to learn from them and work together towards shared goals. The task force brings us together to focus our efforts and to get better at what we all do. Understanding the many resources available has been essential. Our response to trafficking and the resources available to survivors have improved since the task force’s creation.

What do you want to see happen regarding anti- trafficking efforts in the region with your involvement?

I would like to see pro-active law enforcement operations that target traffickers. This requires funding, as well as committed and available investigators.

Lucy Guevara, Bilingual Sexual Violence Program Coordinator

Introduce yourself, the organization you represent and your role within this organization.

My name is Lucy Guevara, I work at HAVEN and I am the Bilingual Sexual Violence Program Coordinator.

What has it been like so far for you to participate on the task force?

Interesting to learn from other people’s points of views, and very exciting last month while helping to organize the awareness activities for January 2023.

What do you want to see happen regarding anti- trafficking efforts in the region with your involvement?

More community outreach.

What would you say to a survivor of human trafficking?

Sorry you went through this, we will try to support you in any possible way we can. If there is something we can’t provide , we will look for resources for you. I will not tell you what to do, we will go at your own pace , I am not a mandatory reporter. This is a safe place for you.

Robyn McLean | Founder & Speaker at Stirring Embers

Introduce yourself, the organization you represent and your role within this organization.

My name is Robyn McLean, and I represent Stirring Embers. I shadow and join regional sex-trafficking “John” sting ops with various law enforcement teams. I’m on the task force in the community sub-committee to offer availability for rescued victims to connect with me or our Stirring Embers group for joyful and healthy community. The task force and law enforcement can reach me directly if any of them have transitional needs like groceries, toddler bed, etc., funded by our reKINDLE campaign. We offer practical and emotional support.

What do you want to see happen regarding anti- trafficking efforts in the region with your involvement?

I want to see more people being rescued and mentored into a healthy supportive lifestyle. I also want to see more prevention, which lowers the need for rescue rates. More youth and young adults need to be reached on a day-to-day basis by our community, and more sting ops by law enforcement need to take place to apprehend perpetrators and prevent their efforts.

What would you say to a survivor of human trafficking?

Survivors, I want you to know there is hope. Not just the hope of hope, but tangible hope. There is healing. I haven’t gone through what you have, but I’ve been caught in darkness and suffering where I felt hopeless. I couldn’t have imagined I’d be restored to where I am today, but by God’s grace I am. You are valuable, worthy, and loved. I won’t just tell you that your soul and heart can heal, I’ll be here to walk it with you. I can be contacted at StirringEmbers.com or on social media or staff can refer my number.

Beatriz Lynch- Executive Director for SafeSpace Children’s Advocacy Center of the Gorge

Introduce yourself, the organization you represent and your role within this organization.

My Name is Beatriz Lynch I am the Executive Director for SafeSpace Children’s Advocacy Center of the Gorge.

What has it been like so far for you to participate on the task force?

Being a part of the task force has been a great way to bring our comunnities, that span 5 rural and frontier counties, to form a response to human trafficking has been a vital to address this issue that affect every community.

What do you want to see happen regarding anti- trafficking efforts in the region with your involvement?

I would like to have this task force continue to work together and evolve as needed.

What would you say to a survivor of human trafficking?

As a member of the response team I would like to say to a survivor – “We see you, we believe you, and we can help

These are just a few of our task force members and we have many more. If you would like to join our task force and work towards anti-trafficking efforts in our area please reach out at traffickingcoordinator@mchttf.org. Please follow us on Facebook to see more informational posts at: Mid-Columbia Human Trafficking Task Force. Please remember our efforts do not stop in January, even though January is human trafficking awareness month. Look out for training opportunities in the new year.

To report a tip regarding human trafficking please call: 1-888-373-7888