ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A local non-profit is raising awareness of human trafficking happening in our community. Illinois ranks eighth in the nation for highest cases of human trafficking. But it’s an even higher risk in Rockford.

“Rockford ranks in the top five or six for highest cases of human trafficking in the state of Illinois”, says Brittany Kemper, with Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (RAASE). “If you’re breaking down that math in the amount of cities we have in Illinois, that puts Rockford in the top 1 percent.”

Human trafficking is the recruitment or coercion of people for commercial sex. Signs of trafficking can range from sexual exploitation to labor trafficking, like begging rings, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Kemper says one film released earlier this year, “Sound of Freedom”, motivated her to start focusing on human trafficking in our community. The film is based on a true story of a former government agent who helps rescue children from sex traffickers in Columbia.

“You can’t watch that movie and not be impacted. I have two toddlers, a 3-year old and a 1-year old, so that hits home as a mother,” Kemper says.

Members of RAASE say human trafficking can look different in our community versus what people see across the nation and in other countries.

RAASE will be hosting a March for Freedom event on October 14th to raise more awareness. That’s taking place at the Breakthrough Church in Rockford. People are planning to silently walk a mile and a half while holding signs. Organizers say more information will be on site for those interested in getting more involved with the non-profit. Registration starts at 9 a.m. The walk kicks off at 10 a.m. If you’re interested in learning more about the resources RAASE has to offer, click here.

If you are a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, visit our Stateline Strong page for resources.