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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

WGVU's First Mutually Inclusive Town Hall To Air

Mariano Avila

WGVU held the first Mutually Inclusive Town Hall last week, the topic was Sex Trafficking in Michigan. It is hard enough to talk about it when discussing other countries. But here in Michigan it’s not a foreign concept. The first Mutually Inclusive program on WGVU started the conversation telling the stories of two survivors. Here is one, Deborah Monroe:

"My intentions were that I was going to run away with the fair. He took me to a home in Southfield and in that home there was other girls there, I think there was three other girls besides me, maybe even four. I want to say, I was thirteen, up to fifteen years old.”

Monroe spent 20 years enslaved and was about 38 when she finally a clean start. But getting girls out usually requires interventions from local police officers like Grand Rapids Police Department Detective Jeff Bouma.

“We had a case this past summer where we had a circumstance of a juvenile that was out on South Division, she was 13 years old. Our officers had contact with her and there was a person with her, and that led to an investigation where this person was charged. .”

Sometimes though, help comes from nonprofits like the Manasseh project at Wedgwood Christian Services who brings in professionals like Clinician Ashley Anderson.

“There’s a couple of different things that are kind of the core of our treatment. One is being able to process the trauma that they’ve experienced. The other part is that we find a lot of times there’s limited life skills.”

Michigan Senator Judy Emmons participated in the conversation. She helped push over 20 bills around sex trafficking since she realized how big the problem is. Her approach:

“We needed to pursue legislation from the perspective of a survivor and what they needed and work from there.”

The program airs Monday, February 15 at 11:00 p.m. on WGVU TV.   Mutually Inclusive is made possible with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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