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Preventing Abuse Conference

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- Advocates from around the country are gathering in Cedar Rapids to tackle a growing problem - what many call modern day slavery. This weekend, people are coming together at the hotel at Kirkwood to discuss human trafficking at the 'Preventing Abuse' conference.

For Johnny Gosch, September 5th 1982 started as normal as possible.

"My son got up and went to deliver his Sunday morning newspapers," says Noreen Gosch, Johnny's mother.

Child abductors changed her world forever.

"They pretty much ganged up on my son, they threw him in the back of a car and sped away," Gosch says.

It was her first experience with the world of abductions and human trafficking - a world she's now fighting to bring down.

That's the purpose of the 'Preventing Abuse' conference - ending the cycle.

Advocates say it's a tough industry to topple however - as it's a well-organized one that thrives on efficiency.

"The drug industry they have to manufacture it and sell it," says Ric Lumbard, the CEO of WFM Missions Base. "With human trafficking, they have to re-use the little girls and boys over and over and over again."

Advocates say it's a never-ending source of victims. An estimated 800,000 children are reported missing every year, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

"Bottom line, we identify the problem, focus on the solution," says Tony Nassif, Founder of the Preventing Abuse Foundation.

One of the problems says Tim Winter, President of the Parents Television Council, is the over-sexualization of children in pop culture.

"Pedophilia, sexual trafficking, the rape of a child, are being used as punchlines to jokes," Winter says.

"We are just flooded day and night with images that are inappropriate," Dran Reese, President of the Salt and Light Council.

As people gathered in the room searched for answers and raise awareness, Gosch stands as a reminder that it can happen here.

"It's worse in Iowa than it's ever been," Gosch says.

The conference continues Saturday, from 8:30 to 4:30 at the hotel at Kirkwood. Those that didn't register beforehand will be able to pay and register at the door. For more info, visit http://www.preventingabuse.org/about.html.
 
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