Hot Topics addresses scourge of human trafficking

Julie Davis
Nebraska City News-Press

Citizen interest in preventing human trafficking and involvement in keeping it out of a community can help keep vulnerable children and teens from becoming victims.

That was one of the take-away messages from the September Hot Topics presentation on human trafficking and sexual abuse.

Anne Boatright, MSN, RN, SANE, of the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, discussed the topic of human trafficking, which she said is less likely to be “the Target parking lot abduction” scenario presented on social media and more likely to be about “the vulnerable kid no one will miss.”

The SANE credential behind Boatright’s name stands for sexual assault nurse examiner, which means she is specially trained to examine victims of sexual assault and collect evidence for law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

Boatright has worked with the Attorney General’s office since 2017. She said the state of Nebraska formed its Human Trafficking Task Force in 2015, and that Nebraska has some of the stiffest penalties in the country for human traffickers.

“The Attorney General’s mission and passion is to hold people accountable who are harming kids,” she said.

At the community level, Boatright said parents can prevent human trafficking by encouraging good, open communication with their children early on so the children can talk easily with their parents about uncomfortable situations, such as being solicited by a trafficker.

Boatright said social media is a significant way that traffickers find their victims. She encouraged parents to go through their children’s phones, apps and social media regularly to ensure strangers aren’t being friended or aren’t having lengthy conversations with the children.

“If you don’t have time to go through your child’s phone, your child doesn’t need a phone,” she said.

She also encouraged parents to talk to their children and to their children’s friends and to be engaged in the community to “have accountability to the kids and to prevent trafficking.”

Boatright said people with information may call the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888-373-7888) to report tips, or call 911 if something urgent is happening where a child or teen might be in danger. 

CHI Health St. Mary’s SANE nurses Brittny Hermann and Trisha Cusick also discussed the SANE program in Nebraska City for adult victims of sexual assault. They said CHI Health St. Mary’s is the only community hospital in southeast Nebraska to offer these services, which were previously available only in Lincoln or Omaha.

Child victims of sexual assault are still referred to the Child Advocacy Center, where specially trained staff members can help them feel safe while exams are conducted and evidence collected.

Hot Topics is a monthly gathering hosted by Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce to highlight community events. It takes place at Scooter’s Coffee, 2104 S, 11th St. Call 402-873-6654 for more information.

Anne Boatright, MSN, RN, SANE, of the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, discussed the topic of human trafficking during the September Hot Topics.
Paula Aldana of CHI Health St. Mary’s, right, introduces SANE nurses Brittny Hermann and Trisha Cusick during the Sept. 8 Hot Topics at Scooter’s Coffee.