Former Grand Rapids Community College student Jon Peerbolt, 22, of Grand Rapids, recently discovered the harsh realities of sex trafficking here in Grand Rapids. One of his close friends had an unsettling experience where they were followed by a middle-aged man while walking downtown. With this act jostling his reality, he set out to find ways he could help.
“It got me started thinking about how real the problem is,” Peerbolt said. “It happens here in Grand Rapids and I thought I should probably do something.”
Peerbolt called a woman named Missy Wisemann, one of the founders of SEE (Solutions to End Exploitation), an organization geared towards fighting human trafficking.
What he learned inspired Peerbolt to host a benefit concert to raise awareness for human trafficking and money to help SEE further it’s mission. The benefit will be Saturday, August 10 and begins at 7 p.m. with music starting at 8 p.m. It will take place outdoors at the parking lot at HomeFront Church. Tickets will be $10 at the door and children under five will be free. Parking is also free.
The concert will include three bands playing covers and original songs, including Peerbolt’s band, The Squared Band. There will also be popcorn and water for $1 each. As stated on the facebook page this event will be family friendly and all drugs and alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
SEE partners with the Kent County Human Trafficking Task Force, the FBI, the Grand Rapids Health Department and others organizations to eradicate the problem in the city. The organization finds places were trafficking acts are being held, and then calls law enforcement officials who shut it down.
According to Stella Moldy, 20, of Grand Rapids, an intern at SEE, the organization’s mission is to end human trafficking.
“We meet with human trafficking task force to eradicate the problem in Grand Rapids,” Moldy said. “We try to get everyone on the same page.”
The Kent County Human Trafficking Task Force website includes a list of indicators to help spot a person in danger. The signs include: avoiding eye contact, carrying around hotel room keys, made to leave place of residence because of complications in family, substance abuse, branding, lost sense of time and more.
Some action steps included on the site are to call the Kent County Human Trafficking Hotline at (616)726-7777, this is a 24/7 service. They also suggest keeping communication open, making sure your child’s activities online are monitored and asking if a situation seems strange.
For victims the site provides some safety tips. These include: trusting their judgement, keeping important documents and numbers with them, and notifying a family member, friend, neighbor or police that they are in danger.
Safety is important. When walking around, especially downtown, perhaps wait for friends or family. GRCC campus police provide escorts to classes or your car upon request.