La. First Lady Edwards speaks on human trafficking
First Lady of Louisiana Donna Edwards spoke at the Church of the Assumption Friday in Franklin.
Edwards was invited by the Catholic Daughters to address the Franklin community concerning human trafficking, an issue that Edwards said she and her husband have been socially and legislatively scrutinizing throughout his administration’s tenure.
Edwards discussed being previously unaware of the degree to which Louisiana’s human trafficking issue pervaded, until she was visited at the governor’s mansion by the Sisters of Mercy, who educated her, much to her reported horror.
“The average age (of human trafficking victimization in Louisiana),” Edwards said, “is 13.
“People from the ages of two to 65 are being trafficked.
“Even as a teacher, after having listened to these stories for over two years now, I still can’t believe it.”
Edwards shared some of the stories of trafficking victims which she had heard, after which she said, “Louisiana has two of the biggest human trafficking corridors in the country. We have I-10 and we have the I-20. Those are the two worst in the country.”
She further stated that while the number of human trafficking cases across the state has increased, so has the number of cases of discovery by law enforcement, and she attributed that to the education of the public and the education of law enforcement.
“It’s estimated that human trafficking generates many billions of dollars of profit every year,’ she said. “Just a thought for you—illegal drugs can only be used once, a person can be used over and over.”
Returning to her experience with Sisters of Mercy, Edwards said they built, just outside of Baton Rouge, a refuge for adolescent victims of human trafficking, called Metanoia Manor.
She said Metanoia is a place built on donated land through donated funds and that the staff of the home “rescues girls from everywhere: Shreveport, Monroe, Lake Charles, and they pull them in and get them the counseling they need.”
She said she feels that Louisiana needs more homes like Metanoia and that she is meeting with hospitals across the state in order to discuss possibilities for possible refuges to be made available at their facilities, as well.
According to Edwards, there are churches in Shreveport that make arrangements to have families agree to foster trafficking victims.
“I came here today,” Edwards said in closing, “because I want you to know that we can make a difference in our communities. We need to be aware of that child at McDonalds that doesn’t look like she belongs with the person she is with.
“We used to say, ‘That’s not my business.’ Well, no longer! It is our business to step up.”
To donate to Metanoia Manor, go to http://metanoia-inc.org/donate/ or call 225-615-7085.