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BEND, OR -- The Guardian Group, a Bend-based anti-human trafficking tech company, is helping girls build self-esteem through self-defense. COO Jeff Tiegs says a predator doesn't have to live near his victim in order to lure her into the life. He believes the best way to protect her is to teach her how to protect herself. "The biggie is this confidence and self esteem. A girl that's confident in herself - and she has high self esteem - she's not looking for what these traffickers offer, or pretend to offer. So, the more we can build a girl's inner confidence and inner self esteem, the less she's going to be a risk."


Guardian Group developed a software program to help lodging companies identify traffickers and their victims. Tiegs says it's a local and national problem.


Through a partnership with a local martial arts studio, the company offers a two-day seminar to help young women learn not to be a vulnerable victim. "What we talk about, at the self defense seminars, is we start from 'how do you protect yourself online?'; 'How do you protect yourself as they're beginning to shift from who you thought they were, maybe a boyfriend, into, actually, a controlling predator?'; and then we finish all the way to the point where 'everything has gone wrong, you are now hands-on, face-to-face with a predator, and how is it that you can defend yourself?'." 


The two-day women only seminar begins Friday night at Clark's University of Martial Arts in Northeast Bend, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. It continues Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. Click HERE to register. January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. 


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