Friend to Friend will kick off its Thousand Eyes Wide Open awareness-to-action campaign on July 30, which the United Nations has designated as World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

Anne Friesen, executive director at Friend to Friend, said the purpose of Thousand Eyes Wide Open is to create a “boots-on-the-ground army” to combat human trafficking in Moore and the surrounding counties.

“Human trafficking is a silent crime that preys on the youth of a community,” Friesen said. “The intent of Thousand Eyes Wide Open is to bring this crime out of the shadows and, by doing so, to create a safer environment for our youth.”

Friesen said one of the biggest challenges is educating the public to recognize and report the signs of human trafficking.

“It begins with our eyes and a willingness to report sightings,” she said. “By empowering every community member, we can work together to eradicate human trafficking in the Sandhills.”

Friesen noted that Moore and the surrounding counties “check the box” for all 10 indicators that the region is at risk for human trafficking: Access to good highways; large number of hospitality rooms; military presence; large number of single men coming and going; events that attract out-of-town visitors; spas; escort services; strip clubs; gangs; and drugs.

“Friend to Friend is proactively offering protection from this menace with the new campaign,” she said. “It offers five training opportunities that strategically address what is needed to create a comprehensive protective shield around our region.”

Those opportunities include:
~”Dare to Care” for the community at large.
~”Dare to Care” specifically for health care professionals.
~”Up-Close-and-Personal” for those who interact with youth between 11 and 25 years of age, which is the targeted age group of human traffickers.
~”Parenting for Prevention” for parents and guardians.
~”Safe, not Sorry,” a curriculum for youth in the targeted age groups.

The July 30 campaign launch will include a Dare to Care presentation for the community at large from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at Bethesda Presbyterian Church in Aberdeen. It will be facilitated by Jan Mullis, human trafficking educator at Friend to Friend.

“The presentation will address how and why youth and young adults are vulnerable to human trafficking, how to recognize and report the signs of a trafficking, and how to recognize if a youth has been targeted or is being trafficked,” Mullis said. “The event is free and registration is not required.”

To schedule a human trafficking presentation for your group or organization, contact Mullis at (910) 947-1703 or   

Friend to Friend’s mission is to help survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking rebuild their lives. Services include a 24-hour crisis line, regional shelter for women and children fleeing from abuse, hospital accompaniment for sexual assault victims, and court advocacy.

In 2017, Friend to Friend reached over 9,000 Moore County students and residents through its prevention education in schools and the greater community. The nonprofit also assisted more than 2,300 victims, provided over 5,000 safety, healing and hope services to individuals, and provided 3,000 nights of shelter.

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