In Our Backyard, Part 1: Human Trafficking In Acadiana - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

In Our Backyard, Part 1: Human Trafficking In Acadiana

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Image Courtesy: MGN Online Image Courtesy: MGN Online

It is being referred to as "modern-day slavery" and it is happening all over Louisiana. We are talking about the epidemic of human trafficking. 
At a recent human trafficking symposium in Baton Rouge, a victim advocate said she has seen evidence of trafficking in every parish she has been to, including the Acadiana area. 

We also met a woman who's loved one, she says, is a victim of trafficking. 

"When I see that string move, I know she's gone," says Lydia Curette.

Curette says she is struggling with knowing someone close to her is being trafficked and she feels helpless. 

"Last year on October 19, somebody came and picked her up from here (her home). She was gone 7 days." 
Curette says she has no doubt the 17-year-old was with "a pimp."

Trafficking falls into two categories: sex and labor. It is defined, in layman's terms, as anyone of any age who is forced to engage in activities against their will for someone else's profit. Two years ago in Louisiana, there were 244 cases of human trafficking. 104 of those involved children under the age 21. The youngest victim was 9 years old. 

"It's all over. It's happening every day, at every age," says Curette.

When asked about her greatest fear, Curette said, "....that they are going to find her dead. I'm looking for somebody to kill her. That's my biggest fear."

The St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office says they have searched for her loved one as a missing person. Investigations into her whereabouts have led to Opelousas, Port Barre and even Baton Rouge. Sheriff's Office officials also say there is a case out of New Orleans where a man was pimping her out, forcing her into prostitution. 

"She was found in a room with a whole bunch of other people, " says Curette.

KATC has learned the pimp is now under arrest.  Lydia, however, says the pimp or pimps now have mind control over the young woman, promising to give her the world.

"Come with me, we can make money together. I'll buy you this, I'll buy you that. Get her hair done, nails done. That's what he would tell her," Curette says.

Curette believes social media and the ease of access through hand-held devices are how her loved one became a victim. 

"Be careful who you meet online and on social media because it's real. It is real. You might think it's not happening here but it's here. Parents hold on to your teenagers. Hold them as close as you can and check their devices," Lydia urges of the public.  

Trafficking isn't something that only happens in big cities with the victims brought here from foreign countries. It's an epidemic many experts say is "slavery" and it's happening in the most rural of places. 

"It hurts for a human being to take a child and turn them into a demon. I don't think she will ever recover from this," Curette laments. 

If you know someone or suspect someone is being trafficked, you can contact Louisiana State Police at 800-434-8007. 

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