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Educators learn how to teach about sex trafficking

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REDDING, Calif. - Dozens of teachers gathered in Shasta County Wednesday to learn about how to explain trafficking and safety guidelines to students in fifth to eleventh grades. Tiffany Lavoie, a member of 3 Strands, an organization that combats sex trafficking through education, gave the presentation. "The average age of a victim of human trafficking in the United States is eleven to fourteen years old. Some studies say fifteen," said Lavoie. "So, if we're waiting until high school to have conversations about exploitation and about human trafficking, we're waiting too long." She added that trafficking is not a new problem, but is becoming more prevalent. Lavoie said her goal is to help teach educators know how to teach students the warning signs and how to take early preventative steps that will help them make safer decisions. "We start in fifth grade, which can seem hard to think about talking about sex trafficking with a fifth grader, but we don't even mention sex or trafficking. Fifth grade is about safe people, safe choices, safe places," said Lavoie. Her story began a long time ago, but she saw a need to spread awareness when a girl from her town went missing because of human trafficking. "I'm also a survivor of trafficking, and my mom trafficked me from the age of three until I was 13," said Lavoie. Teachers said the lesson about safety is timely, because of the disappearance and return of Sherri Papini, though her case has not been directly linked to trafficking. While it has been difficult for adults to understand what happened, it is even more difficult to explain to children and teenagers. Sherry Lewis, a local educator, said she has been careful when answering her students' questions about the Papini case. "The part that was difficult to explain to kids was how she was rescued basically by strangers. You know she flagged down help out on the highway, which is something we would never encourage kids to do," said Lewis. Lavoie said her goal is not to scare kids about strangers, but to listen to their instincts and make smart decisions.
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