Conference targets trafficking in humans

Oregon Sen. Wyden, mother of missing girl to appear at event

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One of America’s darkest worlds will be illuminated on Saturday as victims, police detectives and others tell their stories about trafficking in humans, for sex or dirt-cheap labor.

The mother of 11-year-old Lindsey Baum, who was abducted six months ago from McCleary, west of Olympia, is slated to attend the all-day Northwest Conference Against Trafficking in Jantzen Beach.

“McLeary is a very small town, they have had extensive searches — and nothing has come up,” said Michelle Bart of Vancouver, a publicist and a co-chairwoman of the annual conference, hosted by Soroptimist International Northwestern Region and other agencies and businesses.

Lindsey’s mother, Melissa Baum, who believes her daughter is still alive, will attend the conference and staff a booth for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

It’s possible Lindsey may have been trafficked, Bart said.

“Many of the hundreds of thousands of trafficked victims are also victims of kidnapping and abductions,” Bart said. “Having the families at events like this will help keep their loved ones’ faces and cases visible.”

She added: “There’s always hope and help. No parent should ever give up hope that their child may still be alive, until you prove it otherwise.”

Leavitt to attend

The conference, called “Looking Beneath the Surface,” runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Red Lion Hotel on the River, 909 N. Hayden Island Drive, Portland, just south of the Interstate 5 Bridge.

It’s open to the public for a fee of $50 per person that covers lunch, the hotel costs and other expenses. Of that, $10 per person will go to a fund to establish a shelter for trafficking victims, Bart said.

During lunch, from noon to 4 p.m., several speakers will address the crowd.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is scheduled to speak at 12:30 p.m. about his recently introduced legislation to help victims and bust pimps, his spokesman, Tom Towslee, said Tuesday in a bulletin.

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt also is slated to attend.

Vancouver author

Officials in the past few years have said that Portland has a major problem with prostitution, and a number of young people from the Vancouver area have been pulled into the trafficking.

Folks who attend can choose up to three morning sessions, each lasting 45 minutes, from among several topics.

Sgt. Phil Sample and Detective Lindsay Schultz with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office will offer morning sessions explaining how children can be kept safe from Internet predators.

A victim of trafficking will share information, as will Portland city councilors and Multnomah County commissioners and officers with the Portland Police Bureau.

Another speaker will be Vancouver’s Dallas Jessup, creator of the widely seen self-defense film “Just Yell Fire” and the Million Girl Revolution against sexual assault and abduction.

Jessup, who has made many TV appearances, has written a book calling for youth activism, “Young Revolutionaries Who Rock, An Insider’s Guide to Saving the World One Revolution At a Time.”

Two high-profile TV journalists, Priya David of KOIN Local 6 in Portland and national commentator Jane Velez-Mitchell, also are scheduled to attend. David will serve as emcee and Velez-Mitchell as a keynote speaker, Bart said.

Shortly after 4 p.m., a photo safari for two in Africa will be auctioned off.

Organizers of the conference are hoping to raise enough money to start a shelter for trafficking victims, to be located somewhere in the Portland-Vancouver metro area, Bart said.

The annual conference is hosted by members of Soroptimist International Northwestern Region. A wide range of nonprofit groups, businesses, law enforcement agencies, news teams and individuals are involved in the coalition to fight and raise awareness of the trafficking problem.

To learn more about speakers and the schedule, visit www.nwcat.org.

John Branton: 360-735-4513 or john.branton@columbian.com.