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Human trafficking on the rise in Michiana; Local organization selling wine to help

PAW PAW, Mich. — At this year’s Paw Paw Wine Festival, a Michiana organization is partnering with one of the wineries to help survivors of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is on the rise in Michigan. In 2017, 311 cases were reported to help lines across the state. That’s up more than 60 cases in 2016. The National Human Trafficking Hotline Identified over 400 victims in Michigan in 2017.

Cathy Knauf, the founder of Southwest Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, said it’s difficult to realize this happens in your own backyard. She founded SWMIHTTF six years ago. It raises awareness and provides resources to help survivors.

“People don’t even understand that’s a problem,” said Knauf. “They don’t think it’s happening in their own backyard and it’s happening in every community, in every city, and every town in America.”

There are two types of trafficking: sex and labor.

Knauf said Michigan ranks in the top ten for human trafficking. She added in Berrien and Cass County there are cases of both types, but typical there are higher cases of labor trafficking.

“Just to give you an idea, on my way here today, I received a phone call from somebody who wanted to report something about a victim,” said Knauf. “The phone calls come in frequently.”

However, the SWMIHTTF thinks wine could lower those numbers.

At this weekend’s Paw Paw Wine Festival, SWMIHTTF and Warner Winery will debut their SOS wine.

Knauf said it’s the nation’s first wine where a portion of the profits go to the fight against human trafficking. When you buy a bottle, $5 from the sale will go to SWMIHTTF. The money will be used to spread awareness, educate, and help survivors.

“This is actually supporting a person,” said Knauf. “There’s a person behind this bottle of wine that this is going to support. You’re supporting a human being. It could be a child, it could be a female, it could be a male, it could be a transgender, whatever, there is a actual person that this is representing.”

“It’s a serious issue and I honestly didn’t have a clue,” said Patrick Warner of Warner Vineyards. “So, hopefully this will get the word out and you know promote and knowledge about this behavior out there which is unacceptable.”

To find out more about warning signs and common human trafficking places, click here.

If you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, the National Human Trafficking Hotline number is 1(888)-374-7888.



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