GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Sex trafficking is a growing problem throughout the world and across the country, but you might be surprised to find how prevalent it is here in Colorado.
Colorado falls in to the ranking as one of the "Dirty Dozen" states, that's according to a national group that monitors human trafficking. That ranking means the Centennial State is one of the worst when it comes to stopping criminals in these cases. But one local college student is looking to not just raise awareness, but put a stop to a problem that often times is kept in the dark.
When Mark Abney found out the gravity of the sex trafficking problem right here in America, he couldn't believe it.
"My heart breaks for it. I love kids with a passion, and if I hear something wrong going on with kids I want to do something, and right now I feel it’s something I can do,” says Mark, an incoming sophomore at Colorado Mesa University.
Mark is studying mechanical engineering, but he says, he's wanted to do some missionary work on the side for quite some time now. Not too long ago, Mark found his first call to action.
His mom relayed the information to him, after going on a women's retreat.
"She came home and told me about the numbers and I’m like you’ve got to be kidding me. This can’t is happening right in our home, it can't be happening,” says Mark.
One viable solution was to donate to Sarah’s Home, a safe haven for juvenile girls who have been sexually exploited and trafficked in the U.S.
"I know they've been working on it for a while, trying to get their non profit status,” says Candace Abney, Mark’s mother.
Sarah's Home is currently under construction, and will be the first facility of its kind in the state. Mark and his mom decided to put their passion to action. Their goal was to raise $70,000 to help with the construction of Sarah’s Home.
"Really been trying to get the entire community just together for this entire thing,” he says/
With “community” being an integral part of the project.
"These girls, when they're rescued, they need a community, so they don't fall back in to what they came from,” says Candace.
Their goal of raising that $70,000 is being put to action through an even mark calls The Retreat, a barbeque and fundraiser set for July to raise funds and community awareness about this growing problem.
The Retreat is set for July 7 at Canyon View Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Right now, Mark is looking for community groups and businesses to pitch in to help make the event possible. To help out with the event, you can visit www.theretreatevent.blogspot.com.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center reports that in the past year, there have been 147 calls received from the state of Colorado related to human trafficking. Two of those calls came from Grand Junction.