Update: This transcript has been updated to reflect the current AP Stylebook guidelines. 

Amantha Dickman, News Director: You’re listening to “KZUM News” on 89.3 KZUM Lincoln and KZUM HD.

[Fades in on the “KZUM News” program music, an original production of Jack Rodenburg. The music fades out.]

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Good afternoon and welcome to today’s edition of “KZUM News,” an hour dedicated to learning more about what is going on in Lincoln and the surrounding areas. I am the News Director, and your host, Amantha Dickman.

Today we are learning more about World AIDS Day, which falls on December 1 annually. Then we have Stephanie Olson of the Set Me Free Project joining us to talk about her recent coordination with Lincoln Public Schools and School Community Intervention & Prevention – better known as SCIP – to host the community awareness event about protecting your children from human trafficking on social media. But, first, we have some relatively breaking news.

To start us off, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department put out two updates this last week.

The first update announced that the Covid-19 risk dial will move back to elevated yellow, as several key indicators continue to increase. The yellow position on the dial indicates that the risk of the virus spreading in the community is moderate.

This change in the position of the risk dial is based on multiple indicators, including an increase in cases and an increase in the number of virus particles in the wastewater surveillance system.

Health Director Pat Lopez released a statement about the change, saying that a bump in key indicators was expected after Thanksgiving. Director Lopez encouraged community members to get their booster doses to protect against Covid-19.

If you are looking for upcoming clinics or wish to schedule an appointment, you can find more information at covid19.lincoln.ne.gov or by calling 402-441-4200.

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Departments’ second announcement reported significant increases in local flu cases. Most cases are school-age children ages 6 to 19, with adults age 20 to 64 also starting to trend higher.

Officials say to keep an eye out for symptoms. The flu is a highly infectious disease of the lungs that can cause mild to severe illness and can lead to hospitalization and death. Symptoms may include fever or feeling feverish, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue.

Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department wants to remind the public that the flu vaccine is also widely available to the community. The public can contact a healthcare provider or find a flu vaccine location at vaccines.gov. They will also provide free flu vaccinations to uninsured or underinsured adults.

Additionally, other respiratory illnesses are circulating the community in addition to the flu. Cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus – otherwise known as RSV – remain high. While there is no vaccine for RSV, there are actions that can help prevent the spread of the flu, RSV, Covid-19, and other respiratory illnesses.

This includes staying home if you’re sick and avoiding contact with others who are sick. If you cannot avoid contact, wear a mask if you have symptoms. Wash your hands often. Cover coughs and sneezes. And, finally, clean and disinfect surfaces.

Now, we head downtown with our next announcement. The Lincoln Transportation and Utilities transit system, StarTran, will be temporarily relocating the bus boarding area at the Gold’s building along South 11th Street to just east of the current location effective Monday, December 12. The boarding area and passenger shelters will remain at this location for the next five months as demolition of a portion of the Gold’s building continues.

Americans with Disabilities Act access to and from the bus stops will be maintained. Bus schedule times will not be affected. Traffic, however, will be reduced to one lane on Souther 11th Street during the work.

For more information on routes and schedules, visit transit.lincoln.ne.gov.

Lastly, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Child and Family Services (CFS), Economic Assistance (EA) will be issuing Summer Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer benefits to Nebraska Households with school-age children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals during the 2022-2023 school year and who temporarily lost access to meals at school due to the Covid-19 public health emergency and to children under the age of six who received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits during the 2022 summer period of May 31, 2022, through August 13, 2022.

2022 Summer P-EBT benefits will be issued for children in childcare on December 8, and school children on December 13 for students in the Omaha Metro Area, and December 15 for students in the remainder of the state. P-EBT is a USDA program designed to provide cash benefits on an EBT card to purchase food.

Families with questions about P-EBT can contact DHHS.NebraskaPEBT@Nebraska.gov. Please include the following information on the email: the parent’s name, Master Case Number, address, email address, phone number, child’s name, and child’s date of birth.

And that wraps up our relatively breaking news for the day.

December 1 was World AIDS Day, an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of the HIV infection and honoring those who have passed due to the disease.

Today, we have TJ King one of the outreach specialists with the Nebraska AIDS Project joining us. They will be telling us more about the mission of the Nebraska AIDS Project and the work that their organization does. Hello, TJ. Thank you for joining us.

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: You are very welcome, dear. Thank you for having me.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. Now, I know that it’s been a crazy year with the shift of coming out of Covid-19, getting back into a bunch of events. So how has that been going for you?

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: It’s been pretty crazy. It’s definitely been pretty crazy. But it’s definitely been something that I feel that has been needed.

I feel with the pandemic, it kind of hindered a lot of people from getting out and doing what they’ve needed to do as far as being proactive with their sexual health. So we have definitely seen, here at the Nebraska AIDS Project, our numbers have increased as far as people wanting to get tested, wanting to know their status, and just wanting to be proactive with their sexual health.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: So, obviously, you just mentioned testing is a really big part of what the Nebraska AIDS Project does, but can you tell listeners who maybe are not quite as familiar with the organization about the more nuanced faceting of what goes on with the Nebraska AIDS Project?

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: Most definitely. The Nebraska AIDS project is the only HIV organization in the state of Nebraska that does what we do.

So not only do we do testing and preventative work as far as that is concerned, but we also do, if somebody should happen to be living with and thriving with HIV, we happen to take care of those needs as well.

So what I do on my side though, is the preventative work. So I guess it starts with me.

So I do testing Mondays and Thursdays here in the Lincoln office. We do have offices in Lincoln, Omaha, Scottsbluff, Norfolk, and Kearney. And if I would’ve forgotten one, they would’ve killed me. But I think I got them all. I think I got them all.

So we do the testing here. So we do SCI testing or HIV testing, either one. It’s a free service, so of course, you can just come in. And I don’t care if I see you once a week or twice a month or whatever. As long as you are being proactive with your sexual health and knowing what your status is, that’s what’s important. That’s what’s important to us here at the Nebraska AIDS Project.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. And then you also are going to these events. You’ve got an advocacy branch. You’re showing up, making the public aware of the work that you do here. And I guess the other thing I want to start out with today is talking a little bit about the history of HIV and AIDS in our community.

Because I wonder if most people logically know that there are individuals who have  IV and AIDS out there in the broader world, but they often don’t think of those individuals as being here in our local communities.

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: Most definitely. And it’s so funny that you say that because I was at an event a couple of weeks ago and talking with somebody and they’re like, “is that still a thing? Is HIV/AIDs still a thing?” And I’m like, “It’s very much still a thing, you know?”

But I think that sometimes… outta sight, outta mind. I think that – since the medical strides that we’ve made as far as the medical research that we’ve done as far as HIV/AIDS is concerned – with it being so much of a treatable disease as it is now, I think people sometimes forget that it is still something that is still out there and it’s still pretty prevalent.

A good thing: HIV is no longer the death sentence that it was back in the early ‘80s, in the early ‘90s when it first popped out. People were being diagnosed and then they would have maybe six months to eight months to live, unfortunately. To put it bluntly, to live. But now people are living and thriving with HIV in numbers that are astronomical and we are so, so, so, so happy about that.

One of those reasons is “U = U,” meaning that if you are undetectable it’s untransmittable. Meaning that if you are somebody that is living with HIV and you are on your regimen as you are every day – as you’re supposed to be, every day – you have less likelihood of passing that disease on somebody else.

Another thing that is in our little arsenal of fighting HIV is PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis). PrEP is huge right now. And PrEP is a once-a-pill day regimen that somebody can take that if you should happen to come in contact with somebody that is HIV positive, you’re not going to contract the HIV virus.

Another thing that I think that we need to have in our arsenal – that’s a little bit stronger than what it is – is ending the stigma associated with HIV because I think that is so big. Because, as you know, if something is silent when something comes to the light, it’s in the light and people can see what’s going on. But I think with the stigma associated with HIV, it’s one of the biggest things that’s going to help us eliminate this disease. Because if you don’t talk about it, people don’t know about it. And if you don’t know about it, you can’t learn about it. So I think it’s important that we get that out there and just know that HIV is not something that is a them disease or an us disease or those people over there disease. It’s an everybody disease. And it’s something that it affects everybody, regardless of your color, your economic background, your religious status, if you go to church if you don’t go to church, if you’re this or if you’re that, it affects you. It’s kind of like taxes, huh? Kind of like taxes. So it affects you.

But yeah, I think ending stigma is going to be one of the biggest ways that we’re gonna be able to eradicate this disease.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Most certainly. Especially because the transmission rates for STDs are going up currently if I’m not incorrect.

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: Mm-hmm. And Douglas and Lancaster County have one of the highest rates, which is crazy, you know, so yeah. It’s pretty high.

You know, I think a lot of people thought that – when the epidemic happened, not HIV but Covid-19 – that there would be an onslaught of everybody having all these babies because of the time, you know when everybody was cooped up together. We haven’t seen that big of an onslaught of babies. But we have seen a rise in the STI and HIV numbers. Which is… I guess we know what people were doing when they were hunkered down.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: The quarantine blues, obviously.

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: Mm-hmm.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: That’s really interesting. Do you think it was just a case of people were bored or was it just the forced proximity for so long in this case?

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: I think it’s a combination of both. I think and then we have to put into the factor that sometimes people, they don’t want to be proactive with their sexual health.

I think we sometimes take the ostrich, you know, the ostrich head in the sand type thing. If we can’t see it and we don’t and we can’t see it, it’s obviously not going on. But I mean, that’s not the case. And I think that’s why it’s so important that people know their status. Because, if you know your status, you’re able to deal with whatever you need to deal with head-on. But if you put the blinders on and bury your head in the sand and you don’t deal with it, then that creates an even bigger problem.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. The testing is obviously very important, but. , what are your standards for when you should get tested? How often should you be getting tested and what kind of signs and symptoms do you need to be keeping an eye out for?

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: Yeah, so generally when I see somebody and after I’ve given them an HIV or STI test, I generally say that I like to see them within three months. But everybody’s case is different than everybody else’s. So, I don’t care if I see you every week. If you feel like you need to get tested every week and that’s what you wanna do, great. I’m all about it. As long as you’re being proactive with your sexual health, that’s what it’s all about.

And a lot of people ask about symptoms and things like that. There are some things that can be affiliated with STIs. Whether it be a burning sensation, whether it be a rash or some other things down yonder way or other places. But it’s not always a case where you are exhibiting symptoms. So one of the things that I do a lot of outreach and one of the things that I always ask to my kids is I say, “So if you’re not exhibiting any symptoms with an STI, that means you don’t have one.”

And you would be surprised at how many people will say, “Yeah.”

And I’m like, “No, that’s not how it is.”

So, You can definitely have an STI and not exhibit any symptoms. With HIV, it’s a little bit different. You can actually be carrying the virus and not exhibit symptoms for months. So I think that’s why it’s so important to know your status and know what’s going on.

And it’s not a big, huge, lengthy bunch of tube blood withdrawal here. Just a little finger prick, a little poke. I do my little chemistry. Mixing. Mixing. And you can get the results as far as your HIV test is concerned. Now, when it comes to STIs, that’s going to be a couple, like two or three, days longer because I have to send that out and then I get it back.

But any of these tests… I just strongly recommend and suggest that, if you’re wanting to know your status, please, please, please stop in and see us.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: And then, of course, this is gonna sound like a bit of a silly question, but I also understand that not everyone who is listening to our program has the same information that you or I do. So can we go over how HIV is transmitted really quick?

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: Well, yeah, most definitely.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: For educational purposes.

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: Most definitely.

So, HIV is generally something that is contracted by five different things. And we will say vaginal secretions, anal secretions, breast milk, blood, and, of course, semen. You know, a long, long time ago, there were so many there were so many myths out there that you could contract HIV by holding somebody’s hand. That you could contract HIV by kissing somebody. And that… a big, big, big misconception is that you are able to contract HIV by saliva. It would take 20 semi truckloads at least, which is a pretty nasty thought, but at least to have that spread through saliva. So it’s not going to happen that way.

You can’t get it from holding somebody’s hand. You can’t get it from using somebody’s silverware. You can’t get it from drinking out of the same water fountain. You can’t get it out of kissing somebody.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: So no toilet seats?

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: Yeah, no toilet seats. Unfortunately, you can get other things from the toilet seat, but not HIV.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: So, yeah. Perfect.

Yeah, I just like to go over those just in case there are listeners out there who are maybe not quite as familiar with this information as you are, seeing as how you’re the professional, of course.

So… and then I mentioned it a little bit earlier. But talking about the history in the prevalence of this in our community… Obviously, we are a community radio station. We focus primarily on our city and the surrounding areas. So I guess I would like to know, do you know around the time when HIV and AIDS became a big thing here locally?

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: I do. You know, I’m showing my age now because I can remember back in the early ‘80s and early ‘90s when we were dealing with the epidemic.

At the forefront of it, when it was early, nobody knew what was going on. Everybody had an idea that “Oh, it was something that was sent down from God to punish the homosexuals” or “It’s a these people disease or it’s a that person disease.”

So I remember… and I remember rushing home every day after school to see what was going on with Ryan White. You know, the poor gentleman who contracted HIV – not because he was having promiscuous sex, not because he was a member of a certain community, or because he was using intravenous drugs. Unfortunately, he contracted the HIV virus by a blood transfusion. And even then, at that time, the way that he was being treated was just unbelievable.

And I always say it’s unfortunate that something bad has to happen in order for something good to happen. But Ryan White – and the Ryan White Foundation is one of the main ways that we are able to meet the needs of the people in our community that are living with and thriving with HIV. So, unfortunately, something bad had to happen. But the gifts that he has bestowed on many of our clients and many of the people that I know is amazing and we certainly appreciate that.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And, of course, World AIDS Day is internationally recognized now. And we’ve been making significant strides in research. And even here locally, I heard recently that we had increased the funding for – I don’t wanna say this wrong but I think they pronounce it HOPWA.

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: Mm-hmm.  Very good. Yes.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yes. I was hoping I would get that right on the first try.

So are you working with HOPWA to look at increasing that funding more? Or do you… or have you been doing any work with this?

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: Yeah, you froze, but I’m hoping that I’m gonna answer the question correctly.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Can you hear me?

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: I can. Can you hear me?

Amantha Dickman, News Director: I can now.

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: Yes, I can. Can you repeat the question for me?

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yes. I was going to say HOPWA… they have a meeting coming up about the increased funding for individuals within our community living with AIDS. Have you been doing any work with them to do this increase or have you had any say in that?

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: We have. And, unfortunately, one of the big things that we are trying to get out there and get the message across is PrEP.

It is so important that the amazing things that PrEP is doing is something that we never ever thought would be possible. Who would’ve thought back in 1984 or 1985, ‘83, even ‘81, when this epidemic was running rampant and being how it was, that there would be a once-a-day regimen that you would be able to take to stop the spread of this deadly disease? That is crazy to me.

And I so wish that that was available 20 years ago because I feel like a lot of people that I, you know, cared about would still be around so many years.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: And you’ve mentioned PrEP a couple of times. But can you tell us a little bit about what treatment options there are for individuals who have been diagnosed with HIV?

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: Well most definitely.

So PrEP is going to be geared towards somebody that is not HIV positive. It is to prevent them from becoming HIV-positive.

However, in the fight for somebody that is HIV positive, there are so many things that are available right now. There are so many things that are out there, that are once-a-pill-a-day regimens. There’s also some injectables that are out there right now.

Years and years and years and years ago, people would have to take many, many, many pills just, you know, just for one regimen. Now they are taking one pill a day, and, hopefully, that is making them undetectable. Which means… undetectable means untransmittable. And that’s what everybody means. Meaning that the virus is so low in their body – because they are on the regimen that they’re on – that they can’t pass it on to anybody else. And that is something again that we are very, very fortunate about.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Excellent. Well, thank you so much for sitting down with us, TJ. We appreciate you taking time out of your day to come help educate us on World AIDS Day and honor those who have passed as well as educate us.

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: You are very welcome. It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having us.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And then listeners keep in mind that the Nebraska AIDS Project does their testing on-site. They’ve got four different locations like TJ mentioned earlier. We’ve got Lincoln, Omaha, Scottsbluff… and you had one more. Can you give it to me?

TJ King, Outreach Specialist for the Nebraska AIDS Project: Kearney and Norfolk.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Kearney and Norfolk. Two more. I was close. There we go.

You can head over to Nebraska AIDS projects website at nap.org to learn more.

Now we are approaching the first break of the hour. We have a few messages, and then once we return, we will be learning more about the Set Me Free project. Grab your coffee, but don’t change the dial because we will be right back.

[“KZUM News” transition music, an original piece composed by Jack Rodenburg, fades in and then out. KZUM Radio’s usual underwriting and public services announcements air at scheduled times throughout the hour.]

Content Notes: Please be aware that the upcoming segment deals with the subjects of human trafficking, sexual trafficking, sexual assault, and grooming. These subjects can be distressing to listeners. Please take care of yourself. Listeners who need help can find a list of resources on today’s transcript. 

Amantha Dickman, News Director: And welcome back to the last segment of today’s episode of “KZUM News.”

Before the break, we learned more about World AIDS Day from TJ King of the Nebraska AIDS Project. Now, as we mentioned in our introduction, we have Stephanie Olson the CEO and founder of the Set Me Free project joining us this afternoon.

The Set Me Free Project is a nonprofit based out of Omaha that aims to prevent human trafficking before it begins. Stephanie recently spoke at a community awareness event that was coordinated by Lincoln Public Schools and the School Community Intervention & Prevention group — better known as SCIP — about how families can protect their children from human trafficking on social media.

So thank you so much for joining us today, Stephanie. We appreciate it.

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: Thank you, Amantha. I appreciate you having me.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely.

So obviously as I just mentioned, you coordinated this event with LPS, had families coming in from all across the district to learn a little bit more about social media, how their kids interact with it, and how to keep an eye out for those red flags when it comes to human trafficking and online forums.

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: Yeah, I can’t take credit for it. That was all SCIP’s doing. And they did an incredible, incredible job. But I love being a part of those presentations and sharing any knowledge that I have.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: So SCIP was the primary organizer in that case?

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: Yes. Which is school prevention… Oh, I should know that. I should know that.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: School Community Intervention & Prevention.

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: Thank you. Gotcha. I just call ’em SCIP.

So, they are fantastic partners of ours. But they do great work in the schools.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. So I guess we’re just going to get right into it because we’ve got a lot of material to cover here. Social media has, for many years, been widely debated as to whether we need to be letting kids on social media, preventing them from being on social media, and what kind of dangers that proposes.

You are focused on one very specific aspect, so can you tell us a little bit about how the Set Me Free project got its start and where your information came from?

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: Absolutely. So I had personally been working in the area of sexual and domestic violence with women, addiction, things like that.

And I had been traveling and speaking. And I had also been going into the schools talking to middle and high schoolers on healthy relationships. And when… I had a coworker who actually said, “Hey, let’s help sex traffic victims.” That was a quote.

And I thought “Sure.” And I really had no idea what that meant.

And, once I started to really research what was going on in our community, in our schools, I realized, “Whoa, this does not look like what I thought it did. And our kiddos are at risk.” And that’s how it all began. Within a two-month period, we spoke to a couple of educators and wrote a curriculum. Because there was a lot of stuff out there that was very fear-based. That was really.. just not really written for youth. Just very high level: here’s the problem, this is what’s gonna happen, good luck. And we wanted to get youth to do some critical thinking skills. We wanted to make it fun and engaging despite the topic. And within a two-month time period – from the time we spoke to administration to the time we were in the schools – it was quick.

And because the schools got it, they saw it. And that’s really how we began.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. So, just to clarify for parents and families who are maybe listening to this segment, can you define sex trafficking for us? Because I feel like that isn’t always the clearest.

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: Yeah, absolutely. I’m actually gonna define human trafficking and break it down into sex trafficking.

So human trafficking is the buying and selling of a human being for the personal profit or gain of another through force, fraud, or coercion. Now, there’s a couple of different forms of human trafficking and one of those forms is sex trafficking.

So, with sex trafficking, it is the buying and selling of a human being for the purpose of sex. And when we’re talking about adults, force, fraud, or coercion must be proven.

Now we – in order for there to be a conviction – we, a lot of times, think of that force piece. So, you know, the movie “Take”n is the one movie that pops into everybody’s head. It’s about kidnapping, shipping overseas. And that’s what we think a lot about. But the reality is that’s not what it typically looks like in the States and especially in the Midwest.

And so we are really looking at that fraud piece, which is deception. [It] could be fake relationships, fake jobs, things like that. Or coercion, which is manipulation, blackmail, things like that. That’s how traffickers are finding and luring the individuals they traffick.

Now, for youth, for minors… that forced fraud or coercion does not have to be proven. Any commercial sex is considered sex trafficking for a minor. So whether we’re talking about sex work/prostitution is what we might think of or pornography, sexual abuse images, and exotic dancing. Any of those things are considered sex trafficking for minors.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah, and I mean… I’m assuming that there are red flags that go along with an individual who is being trafficked. Can we cover some of those red flags really quick?

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: You bet. When we’re talking about things with our own kiddos, what we’re gonna be looking for are things… and first of all, let me just say that traffickers aren’t kidnapping. There’s no fear of the white van driving around.

I mean, that’s what we often think: kidnapping. And the reality is traffickers are building relationships. That’s what they’re doing. And they’re building them on social media. That’s one of the number one places that traffickers find and lure the individuals they traffic.

And, so, when we’re talking about something like social media, that’s in our home, right? That’s happening. That can be happening anywhere. When our kids have access to the world, the world has access to them.

And so, when we’re talking about some of the red flags, we’re looking at things that might just even indicate a troubled teen kid. So all of a sudden they are changing what is typical for them. Maybe they’re changing their clothes, maybe they’re changing the way they speak, maybe their grades are slipping, whatever that might be. You might see something like they’re being introduced to drugs or alcohol, some of those things.

But those can look a lot like any trouble that we’re dealing with, with youth. And so it’s asking the questions behind the questions, which I will talk about in just a second.

More red flags might be an older person in their life, not even a ton older but it could be just an older romantic partner, an older friend. Or not even older. It could be somebody that is new. But there are some things about that person that are red flags: you haven’t met them, you don’t know much about them. Things that can’t be vetted.

But we could be looking at behavioral issues, changes there. Maybe they’re falling asleep in class. That could be “Yeah, I’m on video games all night.” Or that could be, “I’m being sold.”

So those are some of the red flags that we might be looking at with a youth that you know.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: And, as you just mentioned, social media is one of the primary places where individuals are going to be seeking other individuals they can traffic. Right. And you just mentioned that that’s a process. Can you run us through that process? What those steps are, for lack of better terms?

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: Yeah, absolutely.

It… that’s exactly what it is, is the grooming process. And we hear sometimes about the grooming process when we’re talking about sexual abuse or things like that. It is very, very similar.

What is going to happen is somebody who wants to do harm to our child or to us, you know, whoever it might be, is going to target us. Now, traffickers go after the vulnerable. And there are a lot of things that can make us vulnerable. Things like poverty, homelessness… those are some of the things we might think about. But we could be vulnerable because of our age. We could be vulnerable because we’re on social media and we’re posting some things that aren’t maybe the best thing to post on social media. We could be vulnerable because we just don’t feel like we have self-worth and value as a human being. So traffickers find those vulnerabilities and they go after them. And, so, they ‘target.’

Then they ‘gain trust.’ And that can look like a number of different things.

If I’m following you on social media and you post something like, “Oh my gosh, my parents are such jerks. I wish they…” you know? I might come along and say, “Oh, I get it. My parents are the same way. I’ve totally been there,” and start a conversation. And that might happen over a long period of time. Then I’m gonna fill a need of yours.

Now, that need could be, I don’t feel good about myself. That need could be money. That need could be I’m lonely. Whatever it may be. But I’m gonna fill a need… “Gosh, you’re amazing. I would love to spend more time with you.” You’re, you know, whatever it may be.

And then I am going to ‘isolate.’

Now that isolation doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical isolation. That could be, “Hey, your friends? Your friends aren’t around anymore. That’s because nobody cares about you. I’m the only one that cares about you. Your parents? So controlling, I would never treat you like that.”

And then I’m gonna ‘sexualize you’ as a product. And that could look like a number of different ways. And then I’m gonna ‘maintain control.’

And that grooming process can take a week. But, more likely, it can take a long period of time. A year. Maybe even more. And that relationship building that happens over time, you don’t even recognize that you’re in a grooming process situation.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah. So for individuals who have gone through the grooming process and are looking to get out or have gotten out, what kinda resources are available for them locally besides just the Set Me Free project?

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: That is a great question. So here’s what I will say.

First of all, it is only about one to 2% of trafficked individuals that are recovered. That’s a staggering loan number, which is why we really do wanna prevent it. We wanna stop trafficking before it starts. But we do have some resources.

And certainly, there are… we do, on our website setmefreeproject.net, have a list of resources for people if they need to find both national and local resources. But there are restoration homes that have programs that can help you recover through that. There’s an organization right in Lincoln, called Voices of Hope, which is a great organization that you can connect to and get some help and resources through that. And so I think there’s a lot between Lincoln and Omaha specifically, there’s a lot of good places that can help. There’s Heartland Family Service has a safe house for individuals who are needing immediate help. But there are also resources that you can go just to have conversations, therapy.

We wanna find good trauma therapists. So I would highly recommend checking out our research resource page because that does have a list of very strong resources that are within the community. In Lincoln, there’s an organization called I’ve Got A Name, and one of the women who does outreach there is an incredible person who really knows how to talk to and help survivors.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And, of course, we will link some of those resources in today’s transcript as well. Listeners, you can just head right over and click on those links if you would like to check it out.

Now, we’ve laid a pretty good groundwork for what sex trafficking is and what that process looks like. I guess the next big question that a lot of families are gonna have is how do they prevent it? How should they be monitoring their kiddo’s social media to make sure that they are not at risk?

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: I always say the number one way to prevent human trafficking is to build and have a strong relationship. Traffickers have incredible relationships. We need to have better ones. And so as parents, as community members, as guardians… we need to make sure that we are in our kids’ lives, consistently we’re having conversations. We’re providing a safe space for them to come to us if they’re having problems. And that can be challenging. But that is probably the number one way.

I also think that parents need to be actively having conversations about social media, actively monitoring social media, and so having media checks where you check out their browser information, their texts. I know it sounds very invasive, but we, as parents, have an obligation to get our amazing children to become strong, independent, constructive, and alive adults. And that’s our goal. And, so, you know, checking their social media, seeing what apps they’re on. But, really, again, that relationship and having conversations is so key.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. And if families are struggling with maybe secrecy, their children have multiple accounts, secret accounts, or, you know, are not always entirely honest about their social media… what steps can those families be taking? What tips do you have for them to help open that conversation with their child for starters and then also keep on top of all of the trends, [be]cause they are so fleeting these days?

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: You know what, it moves very quickly. And I think that is where we come into play. We love educating parents and having those conversations with social media and how do you find this app? What does this look like? How do you keep them safe?

And we love doing webinars. We love being in person, but that’s not always feasible for everybody. And so we do love to have those trainings. Get a group of your friends together, we will be there.

But there are some real key things that you can do. And, again, we’ve got great resources on our website to show how to keep up with some of those apps to look up. You know. What is a safe app? What might you need to be a little bit more diligent about?

But there are also great tools that parents can utilize. For example, there is a company called Bark that was created by a dad who wanted to know what his kids were doing with social media. And, so, having those monitoring apps – LIFE360 is one of those – and just being able to monitor that doesn’t have to be a secret thing. That can be a very, “Hey, we’re open about it, we’re talking about it, but we want you to stay safe.” And helping them safely navigate social media while it’s in your home. And I think those are important things.

One of the things that we are working on – and we don’t have it quite yet but we would love to hear feedback and what you would like to see – but we are working on an online training, so to speak, for parents on how you talk to your kiddos about social media, how do you talk to your kiddos about human trafficking? How do you have those conversations? Because it is not easy to do. And sometimes it is nice to have somebody step in and help you have that conversation.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Yeah, absolutely. And we are quickly running out of time here, but I do just have one more question.

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: Yes.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Obviously this event was coordinated with LPS and SCIP. Do you have other upcoming events or do you do annual events? I know you mentioned that you also do your own training.

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: What a fabulous question. Yes. We actually do community trainings like… throughout… with webinars, so we can provide community training anywhere.

But we are having a lunch and learn in Omaha on December 15… and, actually, in Des Moines. I know it’s a little further away… on the 14. But if anybody’s interested, we would love to do a lunch and learn in Lincoln.

And then we also, and I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you, we have our annual fundraiser coming up on March 31, called Comedy for Change: Laugh your Cash Off. So we have Fun. It’s a fundraiser, so we want you to laugh your cash off, but we bring in a comedian. We have a fun dinner, a silent live auction. So we have a great time, but we would love for people to be a part of that. And that’s all on our website. But we would also love to do more community-wide events. And so that’s always great if somebody steps up and said, “would you come to our community?” And we absolutely would.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Well, there you go, folks. setmefree.org??

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: So set me free project net.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: There we go. Yes, it was not close.

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: That’s all right. You’ll find it. Yes. Setmefreeproject.net and reach out to us. You can shoot us an email through there. And you can chat on our website. We would love to answer any questions, be a resource for you, or put on an event for you.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Stephanie. We appreciate you taking time out to discuss human trafficking on social media with our kids, and I’m sure people will go check out that website for future events. Hopefully, LPS will have another one. If you missed the last one.

Stephanie Olson, CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project: Yes. Yes. Well, thank you so much for having me on.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Absolutely. Thank you and have a lovely afternoon.

That was Stephanie Olson, the CEO and Founder of the Set Me Free Project. Olson recently spoke at a community awareness event coordinated by the Lincoln Public Schools and the School Community Intervention and Prevention Group – better known as SCIP – on how to keep your children safe from human trafficking via social media.

Now, we have one more break for the day. After that, we have another installment from this year’s Ignite Lincoln. Stick around to learn more.

[“KZUM News” transition music, an original piece composed by Jack Rodenburg, fades in and then out. KZUM Radio’s usual underwriting and public services announcements air at scheduled times throughout the hour.]

Content Notes: Please be aware that the upcoming segment includes a brief reference of torture, sexual assault, and rape. These subjects can be distressing to listeners. Please take care of yourself. Listeners who need help can find a list of resources on today’s transcript. 

Amantha Dickman, News Director: Welcome to the last segment in today’s episode of KZUM News.

Before we get into it, I want to quickly remind everyone to please take our perceptions of the news survey.

We are quickly approaching 2023 which means our Media Literacy Series is creeping up on us. In preparation for the series, we have our ‘Public Perceptions of the Media’ survey posted everywhere. We are still trying to gather more information about how individuals – like yourself – perceive local and national newsrooms. There are a couple of questions about bias, misinformation, journalism ethics, and a place to include questions. These questions will then be presented to our panel of professionals and educators, who will explain why newsrooms operate the way they do.

If you have a moment, please, check that survey out. The more people who participate, the better our data and the better our conversations will be during our Media Literacy Series. You can find a post with the survey links under the “KZUM News” tab at kzum.org. You can also find the link in today’s transcript or on our social media pages.

Please check it out and, of course, thank you to everyone who already has participated.

And, without further ado, we have that installment of Ignite Lincoln.

If you are not familiar with Ignite Lincoln, I want to give you an introduction before we jump in.

According to organizers, Ignite was ‘born’ in 2006 in Seattle. Since then, Ignite events have been held in more than 350 cities around the globe. The goal of Ignite is to help build community through public speaking. This allows anyone, anywhere to present their ideas and stories.

Of course, you might still have some questions about how Ignite Lincoln works. So I’ll break it down for you. These events have a line-up of speakers who are each given five minutes to speak on a subject they are passionate about. Additionally, they have each put together a slideshow that goes along with their presentation.

Now, we are a radio station. Obviously, we can’t show you the slideshows. That is why we have linked to Ignite Lincoln’s youtube page in today’s transcript at kzum.org. If you head over there, you can watch the slideshows that go with each speaker.

We were lucky enough to be invited to cover this year’s event, which took place on August 11. And several community members came prepared to present. So, we will be including a presentation or two in each show until we have covered all of the presentations.

Today, we have the presentation by Tut Kailech. Let’s give it a listen.

Tut Kailech, Ignite Lincoln Presenter: What is up Lincoln?

My name is Tut Kailech. I’m a refugee from South Sudan, but due to civil war and being displaced, I was born in the neighboring country of Nairobi, Kenya.

Let me give you guys a little background. The north and south of Sudan has been experiencing ongoing conflict due to political differences, religious differences, differences in culture. This has led to torture, rape, famine, murder, disease, pillaging of villages, and roughly two and a half million people have died as a result of this violence.

And my parents have been directly affected since they were about 15. So when my parents arrived at the refugee camp, we applied to have sponsorship to come to the United States. Two years later, got the opportunity. Mind you, we’re very poor. All we have is clothes on our backs, a change of clothes, and my best friend who happened to be a chicken. In fact, my nickname was chicken.

So mind you, we had to take a long trek to the airport and we’re starving. So, in order to survive, had to kill my best friend. And hearing the sound of his neck snap, and then it’s still traumatizing to this day.

So now imagine my parents are in America with a two-year-old. They don’t know any English. They don’t have any work experience. They don’t know the culture. Then to me, being confronted by men in white sheets and pointy hoods and not knowing who they were.

I say all of that to say this; my message is simple counts your blessings.

We humans tend to focus on the negative side more often than the good. Maybe it’s our nature. We usually only realize how blessed we are once something is gone or taken away. And in this case, my family and my people have had their innocence and peace of mind taken in them.

So we moved around a lot when I was younger. So I know what it feels like to be alone. The only African kid in class or even in school, and getting picked on because I didn’t know any English. All those feelings are valid. But I understand now. It is what made me who I am today. And I’m strong because of that. I’m always reminded by my parents that I have the opportunity to make a better life for myself, for my family, and for others. So I should never take that for granted and realize that I have a purpose in this life.

All these struggles and past traumas are what pushed my family forward. So it’s important for me to not sit and dwell on our shortcomings. This isn’t a battle by who suffered the most. My friends who have and will perform in front of you tonight showed you that we all struggle. We all have a story to tell. We all want to motivate and inspire. I just want my story to be a reminder that you can make it through any circumstance whether you come from a wealthy background, a poor background, [a] different race, religion, sexual orientation. Because the human spirit is the most powerful force on its planet.

So we should continue to be resilient. We should be hopeful for our future. And if you have the opportunity to make an impact, please do it no matter what it is.

And one of the ways that I wanna make an impact is by expressing myself through music. So if it’s okay with y’all, I would like to perform this original song that I wrote called “You Are.”

But I need y’all help. I’m up here by myself. Okay… So whenever I point to you guys, I need you guys to say “you are,” okay? I’m gonna start out.

You are.

Ignite Lincoln Crowd: You are.

Tut Kailech, Ignite Lincoln Presenter: Yeah. I said you are.

You are.

Yeah. Oh, we’re kind of… we’re ahead. I like that. I’m stressing about five minutes. Can you fast-forward that? Auto-advance that?

Here we go. You know what to say whenever I pointed you right. Hold on.

[Tut Kailech’s performance of his original piece, titled “You Are.” The lyrics to this work have not been included out of respect for Mr. Kailech.]

Thank you, Lincoln.

Amantha Dickman, News Director: We are fast approaching the end of the hour, so here are your reminders for today:

The KZUM newsroom is always open to hearing about any questions, concerns, suggestions, or even any story ideas that you want to share with us. All you have to do is give us a call at (402) 474 – 5086, extension line six. If you give us a call and we aren’t available, don’t forget to leave a voicemail. Or, if you aren’t much of a phone person, you can also find our social media handles and more newsroom information at kzum.org under that ‘About’ tab.

Speaking of our website, if you happen to miss a show, you can always head to the “KZUM News” tab where we archive all of our shows and include a transcript with links to that day’s content.

And, lastly, I just want to give a shout-out to Jack Rodenburg of the Rodenburg music experience. He put together all of the amazing original music that our news program uses. So, once again, thank you, Jack.

That wraps up our reminders for now. As you head out into the world, I hope you have a lovely day. Thank you for listening and we hope you’ll join us next time.

[Fades in on the “KZUM News” program music, an original production of Jack Rodenburg. The music fades out.]

You just finished listening to “KZUM News,” an original production of KZUM radio that airs every Saturday at 11:00 a.m. Coming up next is “Beta Radio,” so stay tuned.