JOHNSON COUNTY, KS (KCTV) -- We’ve told you how calls to the child abuse and neglect hotlines are down significantly since the stay at home order started. It’s a concern for social workers because it likely means abuse just isn’t being reported.
On Sunday, however, KCTV5’s Leslie Aguilar found out calls for another type of abuse have not slowed down, but the resources available for those victims are now hard to come by.
Rended Heart is getting the same volume of calls as usual right now. They help people escape situations of sexual abuse and exploitation, prostitution, and trafficking.
The problem is, they’re having trouble finding housing for people in crisis.
“We’re just trying to figure out ways that we can continue to serve this population and at the same time keep everyone safe,” said Founder and Executive Director Denise Lester.
Lester answers calls from desperate people 24/7. She said that in the past seven days she’s received at least seven pleas for help.
“It hasn’t decreased in any measure the sexual abuse or the trafficking that we have seen in the past,” she said.
The number one thing trafficking victims need to escape their situation is a safe place to go.
“We had a situation this week where there was individual who literally needed to run from her traffickers,” Lester said. “I paid for three nights of a hotel room or two nights in a hotel room and then we didn’t have a place for her to go.”
Like many nonprofits, money is tight right now. They can only pay for a hotel temporarily.
Lester said many of the domestic violence shelters she’d normally go to for help can’t right now due to the coronavirus pandemic. They’re reducing the number of new clients they’ll take in.
“Every phone call I had made, no one was willing to take the individual and I couldn’t fund more than a couple of nights at a hotel,” she said. “So it worked out in the end, but we know there are so many more people out there who are looking for housing, wanting to get out of a situation and there isn’t very much. There aren’t very many options right here right now.”
Lester said sexual assault nurse examiners are still working at metro hospitals helping victims and are calling Rended Heart on behalf of victims. However, advocates aren’t allowed to meet potential clients in the hospitals in person due to COVID-19.
Lester said we should all keep a watchful eye for anything that seems off in our communities.
“We can’t be silent,” she said. “We literally have to be attentive to what’s happening in our neighborhood with our neighbors and any indication should be reported.”
Lester said another concern is the increased viewing of pornography with the stay at home order, which leads to an increased amount of coercion for people in many of those videos.
If you know someone who needs help, the National Human Trafficking Hotline’s phone number 1-888-373-7888.