Human trafficking billboards by Alternatives for Girls show that help is out there
FOX 2 - Monday is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
"It's really tough watching this, I think about the girls that we serve and it's heartbreaking," said Sandra Ramocan. "The perpetrators are depending on our silence."
A new digital billboard campaign to report human trafficking with an image of a girl with black tape over her mouth and an emergency number to call, is grabbing the attention of everyone in the Metro Detroit area.
MORE: National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888-3737-888
"It hurts. It hurts, and we have an opportunity to do something about it," said Ramocan, the director of outreach for Alternatives for Girls.
Alternatives for Girls helps homeless and at-risk girls and young women avoid violence and exploitation. The billboard campaign has six sites across the area and hopes to get people talking about human trafficking.
"These girls are being groomed. The perpetrators, they find ways to lure these girls in," Ramocan said.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline received nearly 1,000 calls in 2019. That number will likely higher in 2020.
FOX 2: "Do you think human trafficking has gone more underground since the pandemic?"
"Yes, right now because of COVID-19, a lot of this is happening online," she said. "It hasn't stopped. It continues. And in fact, the perpetrators have an opportunity to reach more people now."
Folks with the non-profit are hitting the streets twice a week - handing out hygiene and bleach kits, food and clothing to those forced into sex trafficking.
Sex trafficking survivor 53-year-old Yolanda Reavis says she was trafficked for over 20 years after being sexually abused - and going out on her own, as a young adult.
"First it started out like friends, and then they started getting other friends involved, then it goes from there," said Reavis. "You don't really realize that's what's happening a lot of the time. I didn't even realize it."
Those with Alternatives For Girls are hoping people will not only pay attention - but act - if they see a situation that just doesn't seem right. While Reavis prays others out there going through what she has, know that there is help out there.
"This program is amazing," Reavis said."I still get teared up thinking about it."
*If you would like to donate, text "GIRLS" to 345345.