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Girls invited to Empower HER! addressing dating violence, internet safety and human trafficking

#Love&LipGloss. It may sound like the preoccupation of a middle school girl, but at this event, far more serious topics will be addressed.

On Feb. 8, girls in middle school and high school are invited to Church of the Good Shepherd in Washington to learn about dating violence, internet safety and human trafficking in the inaugural Empower HER! event hosted by Daughters of Worth, a mentorship-oriented nonprofit promoting the education and empowerment of girls. Daughter of Worth is joining forces with ENC Stop Human Trafficking Now, True Justice International, the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office, Boys & Girls Club of the Coastal Plain, Bright Futures Beaufort County, Ruth’s House domestic violence shelter and Church of the Good Shepherd to bring this program to local girls — to create awareness, generate conversation and share community resources, according to Daughters of Worth founder Liz Liles.

“These Empower HER! events are open to every girl in the county,” Liles said.

Liles said this the first of the planned quarterly Empower HER! gatherings that will tackle such topics as bullying, self-harm, substance abuse, mental health and other issues relevant to teen girls today. Though Daughters of Worth is equipped to serve 25 girls in each middle and high school in the county, the Empower HER! events will allow the organization to serve even more.

“We have had a lot of growth over the last couple of years. I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls from parents wanting to get their daughters involved in Daughters of Worth,” Liles said. “It’s kind of a new program. No one is talking about these different issues.”

Liles said this first event will address something that many people wouldn’t be able to recognize even if they saw it: human trafficking.

“Trafficking has been part of my heart since day one and one of the reasons why Daughters of Worth was started,” Liles said, recounting working with two girls who had been trafficked by their grandmother for rent money. “We see it a lot. I feel like there’s a lot of people who are completely oblivious that it is happening here.”

At the first Empower HER! event, Sarah Tellis of True Justice International, a safe house in New Bern, will talk to girls about the warning signs of trafficking, how it works and people, including family members or boyfriends, who might serve as recruiters for the abuse. Pitt County Sheriff Paula Dance, and Diane Taylor and Desha Lane, also of the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office, will speak about internet safety and dating violence.

Empower HER!, however, is not all discussion of the dangers lurking: entertainment and food are on the agenda, as are gift bags — lip gloss included.

Empower HER! will run from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Feb. 8.

Those who would like to attend can register at www.eventbrite.com/e/lovelipgloss-tickets-54723697051 or simply get their ticket at the door on the night of the event. Church of the Good Shepherd is located at 2425 N. Market St., Washington.