A church group that works to fight human sex trafficking is planning to visit hotels and motels across New Jersey later this month to raise awareness about the problem and hopefully reach out to victims. They're doing this by handing out bars of soap.

“We will be reaching more than a thousand hotels,” said Mandy Bristol-Leverett, the executive director of the Church and Community Abolition Network.

She said on the morning of Saturday, June 15, volunteers will get a Human Trafficking 101 training course and then be dispatched in teams to nearby hotels and motels.

“What we’re giving them are bars of soap labeled with the national hotline number — 1-888-373-7888 — and then we give them posters with updated pictures of area missing children.”

She said in the past, “every time we’ve done a regional outreach that might reach a hundred hotels or 200 hotels, at least one of those kids on our missing children poster has been identified by staff.”

Bristol-Leverett explained the idea to distribute bars of soap came from sex trafficking survivor Theresa Flores 10 years ago.

In addition to the hotline number, stickers on the soap ask whether you've seen someone being prostituted? Are you free to go? Have you been asked to do things that you're ashamed of?

Bristol-Leverett said teens forced into prostitution frequently work in hotels and motels, and the soap bars give them a way to reach out for help.

She said many sex trafficking victims are between the ages of 11 and 14 when they become ensnared by traffickers.

She said while some teens forced into prostitution by traffickers are runaways, others are groomed.

She said training sessions for the event, co-sponsored by the New Jersey Ministry Network, will be held at the Bethel Church in Blackwood, the Evangel Chapel in Bridgewater, Mountaintop Church in Hackettstown, the New Life Community Church in Little Egg Harbor and the Oasis of Grace in Wayne.

Information on how to volunteer is available at canfreedom.org.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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