ROSEBURG, Ore. -- Dozens of community members gathered Saturday for a march against human trafficking.
It was called the 'Douglas County Save Our Children Sidewalk March,' and organizers said the goal was to bring awareness to the realities that are happening in our area.
Karrlee Powell is a member of the planning committee.
“We want people to know that it’s happening,” Powell said. “Pedophelia is right next door and happening everywhere.”
#SaveOurChildren is a movement that has picked up traction across the nation.
“In Oregon, because we’re on the I-5, we’re like a hub for human trafficking,” Powell said. “It happens way too often. It’s something that's been happening for hundreds and hundreds of years, and it's time to stop overlooking it.”
Marion Pearson with the Douglas County Human Trafficking Task Force spoke before the march. The Task Force is a group that advocates for survivors and educated the community about the signs of human trafficking.
The group marched down Stewart Parkway to Garden Valley, where they continued on to Mulholland. Then, they made their way back to their beginning location.
Courtney Rennie is also on the planning committee.
“Voices are being heard today, now more than ever,” Rennie said. “People are speaking up, and people are listening. It’s really important that this doesn’t get lost in everything else.”
Rennie said that there are children out there who are suffering.
“They're scared, and they’re lost,” Rennie said. “If we can bring awareness to the fact that this isn't a conspiracy -- it’s not just something we just think is happening. There are open cases all over the world of human trafficking.”
In February of this year, a California man was arrested in Roseburg. He faced 12 felonies including kidnapping, trafficking, involuntary servitude and using a child in a display of sexual explicit conduct. Three teen girls who had been living in a group home in Seattle were rescued.
Powell said that change needs to be made within the justice system.
“I would like to see harsher sentences for sex offenders,” Powell said. “Sex offenders are getting off in 3 to 6 years, while the victim that manages to murder her predator gets 25 to life. That is so unbalanced and not fair.”
The most recent data from the state of Oregon shows that there were over 700 reported cases of human trafficking in the last year. Sixteen of those cases took place within Douglas County.
“It’s really important for me to raise awareness for this,” Roseburg resident Emily Pennington said. “It’s something kind of new in my life, but over the time I have become really passionate about it. I think it’s important for other people to know what’s going on.”
The National Human Trafficking Hotline can be reached at 1-888-373-7888.