Founders of the Lifeguard Group appeared on Monday’s KGVO Talk Back show for an update on their plans for a shelter in Montana for victims of human trafficking.

Founder Lowell Hochhalter and his son Carson spoke at length about how human traffickers enslave their victims psychologically to keep them from seeking help.

“That perpetrator is going to play on those past experiences on that vulnerability,” said Lowell Hochhalter. “He’ll remind them that the police are not your friends, and you know where they'll take you and that's just simply not the case, not with the law enforcement officers that we've worked with, and certainly not the law enforcement in this community. I can tell you that right off the bat that that is not at all the way they would be treated, but perception is reality, and that's the perception that they're fed.”

Hochhalter said many longstanding traditions must be altered or eliminated to help keep school children safe, such as that proud photo of a child heading off to school on the first day, or getting on the school bus, because traffickers can use that information to get access to your child.

“Don't take a picture of your kid getting on or off the bus with the bus number and the bus company that that's transporting your child,” he said. “That opens the door. Don't list the name of their school. If you take those pictures and you feel like you've got to post them, pull your locations off, turn those off on your phone, and take those geo locations off.”

Hochhalter told one heartbreaking story of an 11 year-old girl that had been trafficked by her own family. She approached Hochhalter at a school assembly.

“Her mother had sold her to the air conditioning repairman, so that her house would be cool, and her mother got put in jail,” he said. “In fact, they said what's one of the best days of your life? And she said the day that my mom went to jail, but then grandpa and grandma took over and grandpa begin to assault her. And out of that situation as negative and as awful as it was, we were able to get authorities involved, and the grandpa was placed in jail.”

Hochhalter said the effort to raise more than a million dollars to renovate a shelter somewhere in the Bitterroot Valley for victims of human trafficking is being funded by very generous foundations and individuals.

“The Gianforte Family Foundation just gave us half a million dollars to help,” he said. “The Dennis and Phyllis Washington foundation dropped us a very nice grant to help in the process. The generosity has been there from the Gallagher Foundation, the Silver Foundation, and other foundations I had never heard of before.”

The hotline number is 1-833-406-STOP.

Click here to listen to the entire Talk Back conversation.

Click here to find out more about the Lifeguard Group.

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