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CAPA hosted their fourth annual Chil­dren’s Charity Ball at the Searle Center for the first time. FACEBOOK | CAPA Hillsdale

Hillsdale County is not spared when it comes to the issue of human traf­ficking.

Jeremy Norwood, asso­ciate pro­fessor of soci­ology at Spring Arbor Uni­versity, explained the reality of human traf­ficking in the local area to more than 300 people attending a children’s charity ball held by Child Abuse Pre­vention and Awareness on Sat­urday at Hillsdale College’s Searle Center.

“One of the things we need to under­stand first and foremost about human traf­ficking, is that it does happen in our com­mu­nities,” Norwood said in his keynote address.

Since encoun­tering human traf­ficking while on a trip to Cam­bodia when a gen­tleman offered to sell a young girl to him for sex, Norwood has directed much of his aca­demic research toward the issue of human traf­ficking in the local area.

“What we found, as we’ve begun to do research, is that this does happen in our com­mu­nities,” Norwood said. “It happens in our rural areas, it happens in sub­urban areas in Michigan, and in urban areas, too.”

And it’s not just minors who expe­rience sex traf­ficking, Norwood said.

“Your idea of a traf­ficking victim, is a minor sex traf­ficking victim, and there are victims of minor sex traf­ficking in Hillsdale County, in Jackson County, and in Michigan,” Norwood said. “However, as we look at this dynamic of minor sex traf­ficking victims, often times we don’t realize that there are also victims of human traf­ficking who are not minors.”

Norwood leads trainings in various uni­ver­sities and com­mu­nities around Michigan, where he invites sur­vivors to come and tell their stories. He said that many times, victims are first traf­ficked as adults.

“This idea that once someone reaches a legal age, they can decide certain things for them­selves, sort of betrays this idea of what force, fraud, and coercion really is,” Norwood said. “In cases of force, indi­viduals are often being beaten, they are being vio­lently, sex­ually assaulted or raped.”

CAPA hosts a charity ball each year in order to raise money for awareness and pre­vention efforts. This year the orga­ni­zation raised around $25,000, which will go straight into the various pro­grams that CAPA holds throughout the year. All of CAPA’s pro­grams seek to prevent child abuse in all its forms, from safe sleep pro­grams that work to educate child care­givers on the effects of sudden infant death syn­drome, to its Baby Think It Over program, which helps teens under­stand the com­mitment of par­enthood. Megan Stiverson, who sits on the CAPA Board and was the chair for the charity ball, said that CAPA is held accountable to the state of Michigan through the Children’s Trust Fund.

Emily Schuster-Wachs­berger, local council coor­di­nator for Children’s Trust Fund of Michigan, works with CAPA by assisting it with its program efforts.

Schuster-Wachs­berger delivered opening remarks at the ball, where she said that today’s science and research shows that when children don’t grow up in thriving envi­ron­ments they tend to see the effects down the road in adulthood.

“When we can prevent those adverse childhood expe­ri­ences, like the work you’re doing at CAPA, we know down the road we will have less sub­stance abuse, we will have less sick people, we will have a wealthier society, a better edu­cated society, and a thriving society,” Schuster-Wachs­berger said. “That is what CAPA is about, that’s what CTF is about, and so your gen­erosity helps to support these pro­grams.”

This was the first year that the ball was held at the Searle Center. Stiverson said that she heard many people say that they really liked the venue and the charity games, which, in keeping with the casino royale theme, were wine and gift card roulette along with other raffle and auction items.

Each year, the ball is held in memory of Trey Bowman, who died as an infant due to what is believed to be shaken baby syn­drome. Dan Bowman, Trey Bowman’s father, addressed the ball attendees with grat­itude for their deter­mi­nation to end child abuse.

“I love to get up here every year and see us grow a little bit,” Dan Bowman said. “And I love it because I get to see all of you folks here. We’re here because we’re here for a great cause. We’re also here because you give me the oppor­tunity to say my son’s name again.”

Dan Bowman said each year he is so grateful for for the oppor­tunity to honor his son in this way.

“Not only are you doing a great thing for the com­munity, but I love that some­thing good came out of his passing, and hope­fully it’s that we can help one little one maybe not suffer some sort of abuse because you came and sat here tonight, and that’s all that we ask for,” Dan Bowman said.

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Josephine von Dohlen
Josephine von Dohlen is a senior from Minneapolis, Minnesota who appreciates the communicative power of journalism and the community that it fosters. A graduate of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., she has previously interned with Catholic News Service and the Santa Barbara News-Press. At Hillsdale, she is a member of the Dow Journalism Program and majors in American Studies. Email: jvondohlen@hillsdale.edu