Standing Room Only Crowd for Human Trafficking Discussion


Published on November 7 2019 9:29 pm
Written by Greg Sapp


It was uncomfortable listening to Trish McKnight describe her life as a child and young adult in a small and close-knit downstate Illinois community.

It got even more uncomfortable when you heard that so many people in that community knew she was in trouble, and that all of those people turned a blind eye.

It grew worse when you realized that while Trish was in such a desperate situation, she wasn't the only one. And still isn't the only one.

That's what prompted Trish and her organization, Butterfly Dreams Alliance, to partner with Effingham City Police Chief Jason McFarland, Eden's Glory Director Annie Shoemaker, and Heartland Human Services Executive Director Nikki Quandt to present Trish's story in Effingham.


Trish was a victim of a monster of a stepfather and a mother who was of absolutely no help. She was shopped to anyone interested to support the stepfather and mother's alcohol habit. Her first molestation was when she was five years old, and she endured her first attempted rape at age nine. She had arranged "parties" with boys arranged by the stepfather, and that later graduated to similar events with adult males.

When she finally grew old enough to get out of the situation, she found herself in abusive relationships that also impacted her children.

Trish is now in a good and healthy relationship, but for almost 40 years she had to deal with things no one should have to endure.

She made the point, though, that so many people in her community knew something was wrong, or knew exactly what was going on in some cases, and no one stepped in to help.

The panelists Thursday want Effingham to do better by its victims.

A point made was that while human trafficking often involves taking people from their hometowns and shipping them elsewhere, in Trish's case, the trafficking happened right in her hometown.

Also mentioned: for every report of abuse, six were not reported...abusive situations exist in one of every four homes...habitual runaways are targets for trafficking has made the situation much worse...alert your youngsters of those who prowl on the Internet and remind your kids that "nothing is free"...and predators spend time on popular sites such as "Fortnite" since they can connect with young people.


Trish said those in such situations want your help, but they will remain silent since they don't know whether there's a better option. Reach out to them and if that's unsuccessful report the situation to local police or a people-helping agency.

McFarland said if you see suspicious activity, report it; get license numbers or vehicle descriptions and pass it along to 911 dispatchers who can in turn give the information to officers.

Shoemaker said people can be under pressure to care for their families and might make unwise choices that leads them into dangerous situations. She said that's in addition to cases where families make their children available to predators. She said trafficking occurs at local truck stops.

Here are some other next steps shared at Thursday's discussion:

Quandt said we need to be proactive in looking for the signs of abuse, need to be educated in how to help, and need to have this conversation as to how to make Effingham an even safer community.