Free Coalition

Mission:
To end human trafficking in Louisiana by empowering coalition members to provide the best quality service, educating the community, and effecting change in policy.

What is the F.R.E.E. Coalition?
The FREE Coalition is a program of the YWCA of Northwest Louisiana that is comprised of a diverse group of over 30 organizations in the community, including local and federal law enforcement, victim service providers, the Child Advocacy Center, and juvenile justice. We have focused our efforts over the past five years on child sex trafficking in the Shreveport-Bossier area, and members of our coalition have trained over 3000 individuals in 2018 alone. 

How does F.R.E.E. work?
There are entities in Northwest Louisiana working tirelessly against commercial sexual exploitation of children; the Coalition brings those forces together to share resources and enhance their collective efforts. FREE serves as a public face for the cause and a place for individuals and organizations in the community to go to if they are seeking ways to get involved and make a difference. If we educate the community, together we can reach out to more victims and prevent the furthering of this industry in our community.

What does F.R.E.E. stand for?
Fighting for Restoration, Education, and Empowerment

Survivor Leadership:

The FREE Coalition values empowering survivors to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams.  Not every survivor has a desire to serve others in the industry, but some do, and our goal is to empower those survivors to become leaders in our community. Currently, we have one survivor leader who serves as a trainer in human trafficking awareness and identification.  Survivor leaders can often be re-exploited when placed in leadership roles without compensation.  Therefore, we emphasize fair pay for our survivors who use their voice to speak for the voiceless.

Our Team

YWCA, Caddo Parish Juvenile Services, Gingerbread House, Purchased, FBI Child Exploitation Task Force, Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office, Shreveport Police Department, Bossier City Marshall’s Office, Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office, Caddo Parish Juvenile Defender’s Office, The Center for Children and Families, Hope for the Homeless, Jewel House, Changing Behavior Services, United Way, Project Celebration, Catholic Charities, Volunteers for Youth Justice, the Department of Children and Family Services

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

What is the commercial sexual exploitation of children?
Commercially sexually exploited children are minors involved in the sex industry. They are not of age to consent and thus, whether participation is “voluntary” or involuntary, it is considered human trafficking, according to the Trafficking Victim Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), which is federal law. The average age of victims in the United States is between ages 12-14 (U.S. Department of Justice), and our community is no different.  Victims of trafficking are not necessarily transported across international or even state borders, rather, they are individuals who engage in sexual acts or labor by force, fraud or coercion in exchange for money, goods or services.

Who are the traffickers?

Traffickers can look like anyone.  They can be family members, older boyfriends/girlfriends, family friends, friends, or strangers. About 1 out of 3 trafficking victims in Shreveport, Louisiana were trafficked by their family members (Community Response Team, 2016).

What does CSEC look like in Northwest Louisiana?

State-wide: The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) conducted a study in 2015 on human trafficking.  They identified 206 victims of trafficking in the state of Louisiana.  Over 100 of those victims were children who were commercially sexually exploited.

Local: In Shreveport, the local multidisciplinary team called the Community Response Team identified over 30 confirmed cases of child sex trafficking from 2014-2016 and identified over 65 children who were at high risk for trafficking. About 1 out of 3 trafficking victims in Shreveport, Louisiana were trafficked by their family members (Community Response Team, 2016).  Most of trafficking in this area occurs through an older boyfriend who grooms and then exploits the younger partner. Shreveport also has trafficking of girls, women, boys, men, and LGBTQ children and adults.

National Recognition: Louisiana was rated the best score in the nation for anti-human trafficking legislation for two years in a row, 2015 and 2016 by Shared Hope International.  The efforts of local team have been recognized nationally, with Caddo Parish Juvenile Services winning the National Association of County Officials award in 2016 for their juvenile sex trafficking probation unit and multidisciplinary team work.  Caddo Parish Juvenile Services also trained at Shared Hope’s National Juvenile Sex Trafficking Conference in 2016.

Who is at risk for CSEC?

Any child can be brought into the sex industry; however, traffickers prey on vulnerabilities.  Children involved in foster care, those with histories of runaways, and those with histories of childhood sexual abuse are at great risk for trafficking.  Children in the LGBTQ community are also at risk due to a desire for a sense of belonging. Traffickers are experts in power and control and often utilize a combination of psychological, physical and sexual abuse to keep their victims from leaving.  Traffickers are often older than their child victims, further exacerbating the power dynamics. According to research from the FBI, over 70% of traffickers meet the criteria for sociopathy.  

What are the red flags of CSEC?

  • Older boyfriend/girlfriend
  • History of running away
  • Unexplained items (clothes, phones, nails, hair, purses, money, etc.)
  • Tattoos or branding: Traffickers often tattoo or brand their victims to indicate ownership.
  • Hotel activity
  • Hospital activity:  Some children wait outside local hospital to pick up buyers.
  • History of signs of emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • Signs of current abuse
  • Signs of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
  • Familial trafficking
  • Drug addiction

Awareness

We provide training’s, seminars, and presentations to community and state organizations in order to bring awareness to the issue of human trafficking in our area.  Members of the Coalition have trained 3000 individuals in 2016 alone.  The Gingerbread House, our local Child Advocacy Center, is leading our efforts in educating the community on this issue. We tailor each of our presentations to the specific needs of the audience (i.e. mental health professionals, parents, schools, law enforcement, attorneys, medical professionals, etc.).  If you are interested in having FREE Coalition representative speak at an upcoming event, please click here to Request a Speaker.

Direct Service

The FREE Coalition does not provide any direct services; however, we can help connect you to direct service programs in our community and across the state or across the country.

If you suspect that someone is currently involved in a human trafficking situation, please call National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline

1-888-373-7888

or text BEFREE (233733)

Purchased: Shreveport-Bossier Local Trafficking Hotline

318-230-7482

If you have experienced human trafficking yourself, know that you are not alone.  You are strong and brave just for having made it to where you are, and it would be our honor to help connect you to safety and healing. You can also contact us at ywcanwla@gmail.com, and we will help connect you to resources in the community that can help meet that individual’s needs.

Local Resources

The following organizations have been trained in human trafficking work and provide a variety of services.  (Include links to each organization’s website, addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers).

Mentoring, Holistic Case Management, 24-Hour Hotline & Housing for Adult Survivors of Trafficking:

Purchased

Forensic Interviewing:

Gingerbread House

Trauma-Focused Counseling:

YWCA of Northwest Louisiana

The Center for Children and Families

Changing Behavior Services

Family Plus

Housing for Girls:

Jewel House

Domestic Violence Shelter & Sexual Assault Prevention & Advocacy:

Project Celebration

Juvenile Probation:

Caddo Parish Juvenile Services

Support in Baton Rouge, LA:

HP Serve

Support in New Orleans, LA:

Audrey Hepburn Care Center

Greater New Orleans Anti-Trafficking Team

Events

Quarterly F.R.E.E. Coalition meetings

The YWCA of Northwest Louisiana

850-B Olive Street

Shreveport, Louisiana

(Parking available in the back of the building.)

The quarterly meetings are open to the public.  Please send a representative from your organization to join us in our collaborative efforts to provide the best services to victims of human trafficking in our community.

Human Trafficking Awareness Month Proclamation

Caddo Parish Juvenile Court

1835 Spring Street

Shreveport, Louisiana 71101

January is the National Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month, and in January there is a National Human Trafficking Prevention Day.  In honor of this day, we will be hosting a Proclamation, calling the city to stand against trafficking together.  This event is open to the public. 

Human Trafficking Resources

The links below offer useful information and statistics about human trafficking on a national and global scale.

World Health Organization

Donate

The F.R.E.E. Coalition is a donation-based program of YWCA of Northwest Louisiana.  To support our efforts to unite our community in the fight against human trafficking, please donate here and indicate that you would like your donation to be made to the FREE Coalition program https://ywcanwla.org/donate/

Contact Us
We are a membership-based coalition and welcome your support. Please contact us at 318-550-4417 or ywcanwla@gmail.com for more information about our meetings, projects, and for additional information.

Please show your support and like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FreeNWLA/ for updates on FREE Coalition events and human trafficking news and legislation.

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