Sex trafficking awareness group; “2,400 individuals trafficked within the year”

Posted at 11:44 PM, Sep 15, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-15 23:44:50-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - When Eddie Jackson, a convicted sex trafficker, is sentenced in federal court on September 16, one group dedicated to helping victims of sex trafficking will be paying close attention to the ruling.

The Manasseh Project is an outreach program of Wedgwood Christian Services.

Along with trauma recovery for victims, the project trains first responders and members of the court who often come in contact with victims of sex trafficking.

They would like to see Jackson get life in prison.  In April, Jackson was convicted of trafficking teenage girls from Muskegon to Grand Rapids for the purpose of being sold for sex.

"We know around 24 hundred individuals have been trafficked within the year," said Nikeidra Battle-Debarge, the coordinator for the Manasseh Project.

The people at Wedgwood are hoping the judge will send a message to other would-be predators.

Battle-Debarge said places like malls, movie theatres, and other public places are hunting grounds for predators looking for children. "So we need to pour into our kids and make sure they understand just how valuable they are so these pimps aren't the ones that are telling them they are valuable."

According to federal court documents, Jackson would recruited young teenagers and used them to recruit their friends.

Battle-Debarge said predators start looking for kids at the age of 12.  She said homeless teens, or kids without a prominent adult in their lives, are the most vulnerable to sex traffickers.