SIDNEY, Neb. — Three different speakers and a self-defense course informed rural Nebraskans in the Panhandle about the modern world of human trafficking.

On Monday night at the Sidney High School Auditorium, several speakers from around Nebraska spoke to the community about the issue.

Coordinator of the Nebraska Human Trafficking Task Force Glen Parks spoke for an hour on his presentation labelled “Human Trafficking in the Heartland.”

“The first thing is to be aware that it is happening,” Parks said. “I’ve found in Nebraska once we reach that hurdle, there is a willingness and eagerness to get informed to help stop it.”

Parks said it can be difficult for people to realize human trafficking is happening in Nebraska outside of Lincoln and Omaha.

“It is very likely happening no matter where you live,” Parks said. “Now we have actual cases and actual convictions in tiny places across the state.”

The event included what signs to look for and a presentation on self-defense. 

“I would encourage people to keep an eye out and be informed. I think that’s how we uncover it,” Parks said. “If you know the dynamics and some of the signs it’s much more likely you’re going to be able to see it.”

Parks explained that traffickers often target individuals who have less structure or fewer people looking for them.

“What we see much more often is people either in the foster care system or frankly, the kids who run away a lot and are missing from care are much more vulnerable,” Parks said. “This is in part because traffickers don’t want attention. They try to pick someone who won’t be missed right away.”

The Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence and the DOVES Program for domestic, dating, and sexual violence both had speakers at the event as well.

“Tonight was a fun time to get together and do a little bit of awareness.” Parks said.