The atrium of the Lake County Courthouse in Two Harbors was filled flickering battery-powered candlelight, the gentle sounds of the harp and members of the public for the Lake County Sex Trafficking Task Force candlelight vigil on Thursday, Jan. 9.
The event included prayers and words from organizer Marlys Wisch. Representatives from the Lake County Board of Commissioners and the City of Silver Bay read proclamations from each of their respective boards declaring January Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
The task force was founded in 2013. The all-volunteer organization's goal is to raise awareness about human trafficking in Lake County and to stop the growth of the crime.
Sean Hayes, from the group Men as Peacemakers, said society can end the harm of trafficking by ending the demand. Men as Peacemakers is a Duluth-based nonprofit organization dedicated to building safe communities through programs that address and undermine the root causes of violence against women. Hayes is a leader of the Don't Buy It project in Duluth, which aims to shift the attitudes and norms promoted by men.
"We can't expect the problem to end if men continue to remain silent," Hayes said. "We need more men to understand the harm and stop the demand."
More information on the Don't Buy It project can be found at dontbuyitproject.org.
Rene Ann Goodrich, an advocate with the Native Lives Matter Coalition, also spoke about the work being done to advocate for family members of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Two federal legislative bills to fight against trafficking have been proposed, and she asked for prayers and support for their passage. Savanna's Act specifically aims to reform law enforcement protocols so fewer cases of Missing or Murdered Indigenous Women slip through the cracks. The Violence Against Women Act also has a section dedicated to ending the spread of trafficking.
"Say a prayer for all family members and for the victims," Goodrich said. "It's something everyone can do to keep them in the front of your mind."