Human Trafficking Work Group

PNG image of understanding sex trafficking in grand rapids


The Human Trafficking Work Group (HTWG) raises awareness of sex trafficking in Grand Rapids. The HTWG collaborates with the Kent County Human Trafficking Task Force and local social and human service organizations.

Guiding principles – our trafficking definitions:

  • When someone is exploited for labor or sex through force, fraud, coercion or when someone under 18 is participating in commercial sex
  • Activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited such as by being forced into prostitution or involuntary labor

See something suspicious? Speak up!

If you witness an active trafficking situation, call 911 immediately. 

Have you observed warning signs of trafficking? Call the national human trafficking hotline to report your suspicions: 1-888-373-7888

When you call to report, you can remain anonymous.

Learn the warning signs:

  • Evidence of physical abuse, such as burn marks, bruises
  • Unexplained absences from class
  • Less appropriately dressed than before
  • Sexualized behavior
  • Overly tired in class
  • Multiple cell phones
  • Withdrawn, depressed, distracted or checked out
  • Cutting
  • Brags about making or having lots of money
  • Displays expensive clothes, accessories or shoes
  • New tattoo (tattoos are often used by pimps as a way to brand victims. Tattoos of a name, symbol of money or barcode could indicate trafficking)
  • Older boyfriend or new friends with a different lifestyle

Do you or someone you know need help? The Kent County Human Trafficking Task Force compiled local resources for those working and dealing with human trafficking.

Human Trafficking Resource Hub

See the PDF version: Human Trafficking Resource Guide(PDF, 338KB)

Missing children 

Is your child missing or suspected missing? Make sure to file a missing persons police report. You can also try to find them by checking with local organizations and shelters such as:

Arbor Circle -The Bridge

HQ - Runaway & Homeless Youth Drop-In Center


Homeless Shelter Directory

You can also check with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. You can call them at 1-800-843-5678

Sex trafficking happens when someone is exploited for sex through force, fraud, coercion or when someone under 18 is engaged in commercial sex. Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery.

You’ll know if an activity is sex trafficking if you see human beings treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited such as by being forced into prostitution.

Sex trafficking happens throughout Grand Rapids:

  • Through social media
  • Through online ads or escort services
  • On the street
  • At truck stops
  • Hotels
  • Motels
  • Residential brothels
  • Strip clubs
  • Phone sex operators
  • Massage parlors
  • Pornography

Victims can be:

  • Any race
  • Affluent or poor
  • U.S. citizens
  • Foreign nationals
  • Women
  • Men
  • Children
  • LGBTQ individuals

The situations that sex trafficking victims face vary dramatically.

  • Many become emotionally involved with someone who then forces or manipulates them into prostitution
  • Others are lured in with false promises of a job, such as modeling or dancing
  • Some are forced by their parents or other family members to sell sex

They may be involved in a trafficking situation for a few days, for weeks, or may remain in the same trafficking situation for years. It only takes one voice to identify the situation.

Want to help abolish modern day slavery? Make an impact through the things you do in your daily life.

Check your slavery footprint

Find out how many slaves work for you. This is determined by your spending habits, diet, and resource usage. See how you can change your habits to limit the amount of slavery need to support your lifestyle. Visit to find out.

Speak up

Share information about sex trafficking in Grand Rapids with your family, friends, co-workers and others in your network. The more people who are aware, the better equipped we all are to:

  • Identify sex trafficking when it's happening
  • Address warning signs when we see them in our children, students, friends, loved ones, neighbors and others
  • Educate others about sex trafficking

Take photos of your hotel room

Next time you stay at a hotel, upload photos of the hotel room to TraffickCam. This is a nationwide app that collects hotel room photos and provides them to law enforcement. The photos are used to determine where perpetrators of sex trafficking are committing their crimes. Download the app or use the website here.

Shop with a purpose

There are many local organizations that raise awareness and donate a portion of their proceeds to anti-sex trafficking causes. Check them out next time you go shopping:

Adored Boutique

Crowned Free

Lorde Beauty and Cosmetics

Women at Risk International

Check out End Slavery Now's Slave Free Buying Guide.

Eat with a purpose

Hankering for some ice cream? Support Cone Apetit, a local creamery that makes ice cream from scratch and uses proceeds to fight human trafficking.

Cone Apetit


Local organizations working to stop trafficking have more capacity when they have more volunteers. Check out the Human Trafficking Resource Hub for a list of organizations. Find one (or more!) you want to start volunteering with.

Contribute financially

Unable to give your time? Consider giving money to local organizations to help them with anti-trafficking efforts. Check out the Human Trafficking Resource Hub for a list of organizations.

January 14, 2020

Understanding Sex Trafficking in Grand Rapids 

Almost 200 people joined to watch local videos about sex trafficking in Grand Rapids.

Check out the Facebook event

Download the event flyer(PDF, 4MB)

January 23, 2018

Understanding Sex Trafficking in Grand Rapids

Over 150 people attended this film screening and expert panel discussion. The event highlighted how sex trafficking is impacting our community. 

Event flyer(PDF, 3MB)

Event handout(PDF, 11MB)

Third Ward City Commissioner Senita Lenear leads this work group. We meet the second Tuesday of the month from 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM at City Hall.

Members include:

Laketa Alexander

Lynn Brown, ASR Health Benefits

Dawn Carowitz, Anti-Trafficking Team

Heather Dainelis, ASR Health Benefits

Nikeidra DeBarge, Manasseh Project

DeDe Esque

Jane Gietzen 

Karen Haisma, Self

Barbara Hazlett, North/West Lower Michigan Snyod - Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church

Betty Sue Hinton

Janet Howard

Leslie King, Sacred Beginnings

April Lagrone

Lyonel Lagrone

Debra Lambers

Tyler Lecceadone, SeyferthPR 

Maria Mier, PNC Bank

Marcela Moralez-Morris, Kent County Circuit Court - Family Division

Lieutenant William Nowicki, Grand Rapids Police Department Vice Unit Commander

Stephanie Pierce

Nicholas Remes, JW Marriott Grand Rapids

Ayda Rezaian-Nojani, State Appellate Defender Office

Dee Sherwood

Jared Siangani, Downtown Grand Rapids Ambassador Program

Dan Spaans, Sacred Beginnings

Jennifer Smith, Grand Rapids Community College

Jessie Sterling, City of Grand Rapids

Rachel VerWys, Solutions to End Exploitation (SEE)

Missy Weismann, Solutions to End Exploitation (SEE)


We've developed some videos to help raise awareness of sex trafficking in Grand Rapids.

Help spread the word and share with your networks and on social media!

2-minute videos


Partner organization videos