Rani Hong, founder of the anti-human-trafficking nonprofit the Tronie Foundation, says she's getting the feeling that human trafficking is finally becoming a topic of mainstream conversation.

"In the last six months to a year, I've been like, 'Oh my goodness, people are catching on that this is a major issue in our state and in our country,'" Hong said Thursday night in Portland. "They're realizing that this is happening right in their backyard."

And if the turnout at last night's Human Trafficking Workshop at Providence Medical Center in northeast Portland is any indication, she may be right.

Roughly 100 people crammed into the hospital's conference room to attend the free workshop, organized by the Seattle-based Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center. About the same number of people gathered for a similar workshop the center held in Seattle on Oct. 23. Another will be convened in Spokane on Nov. 12.

Hong, a victim of human trafficking, recounted to a rapt audience her experiences, Among them:being kidnapped from her neighborhood in India when she was 7, trafficked across state lines, held as property and routinely beaten for a year, and then sold into adoption in the United States.

In 2000 she lobbied Congress to pass the country's first human trafficking legislation – the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 [PDF] – the anniversary of which she celebrated at the White House last week. Now she's focusing on getting a new 5-to-8 bed shelter for trafficking victims in Western Washington up and running, and is working with Hillsboro-based Transitions Global to help them open a similar shelter in Portland (see "Traffic Report," WW, Nov. 6).