Taking on human trafficking

Local Girl Scout confronts issue

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Published Jul 16, 2014 at 12:01AM

Educational news and activities, and local kids and their achievements.

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Kate Cuthbert is spending her postgraduation summer canvassing to support women she’s never met.

Through presentations, a website she created and stickers she’s placing around town, Cuthbert, 18, is trying to raise awareness about human trafficking and to provide victims with a way out. The collection of projects is part of Cuthbert’s Girl Scout Gold Award Project, the culminating achievement for this 2014 graduate of both the Redmond Proficiency Academy and Central Oregon Community College, where she earned an associate’s degree.

“A lot of people do things like gather school supplies for their project,” Cuthbert said. “I was hoping to do something that could potentially have a bigger impact. It was really hard to find information about trafficking, which made me realize, if you need actual help, what is currently out there is not good enough.”

Cuthbert’s Scout leader and mother, Laura Cuthbert, noted this project was less typical than others, though she was happy to see the skills her daughter developed at COCC be put to use.

“She’s always been interested in computers and took a course in writing, so it’s nice to see her use these skills to help the community,” Laura Cuthbert said.

Most of Cuthbert’s efforts have been focused on the creation of a website, with information for those interested in helping and for those who may be trafficked themselves. Cuthbert is especially focused on getting the word out locally. After polling other Girl Scouts and classmates, Cuthbert found that trafficking is considered a nonissue in Central Oregon.

“Outside of cities, you don’t really see prostitutes on corners; often they are pushed online, through veiled ads,” Cuthbert said. “It’s really an invisible problem.”

During her research, Cuthbert was moved by the anecdotes of survivors, such as a woman who didn’t even realize she was being trafficked until she got a smartphone and found information about the practice of trafficking online. In another account Cuthbert read, a woman was kidnapped by her longtime boyfriend after moving to Europe to live with him.

“It was just so shocking to me that someone you trusted and knew for so long could turn and do that,” she said.

To make sure resources are available to those who need them, Cuthbert plans to place stickers around town with her website’s URL.

“It’s a really hard population to target, so we’re thinking about placing them in bathrooms and on signs around town,” Cuthbert said. “For the times these women are allowed out, those places might be areas they see. If you go into a restroom now, you see scribbling all over the walls, so why not do something better?”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com