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January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

partners1-00614Adriana is a Bilingual Sexual Assault Advocate (English/Spanish) at Tri-Valley Haven. Along with providing services to Spanish-speaking survivors of sexual assault, she is working to increase and improve Tri-Valley Haven’s services for survivors of human trafficking.

This year, Tri-Valley Haven is increasing efforts to provide support and advocacy services to victims of human sex trafficking. I was hired as a sexual assault advocate that will lead outreach and services for victims of human sex trafficking.

Preparation for our advocacy for victims began last year, through the joining of the H.E.A.T. (Human Exploitation and Trafficking) Watch Task Force meetings where  local service providers, law enforcement officials, and district attorneys collaborate to strategize the manner in which the human trafficking rates in Alameda County can be reduced. I have also begun bringing more awareness to the issue through discussions with individuals with whom I interact with daily at work, school, and among friends. These interactions have shed light on a major problem with the manner in which human sex trafficking is perceived: There is a lot of unfamiliarity regarding its prevalence and who victims are.

H.E.A.T. Watch defines human sex trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion.”

According to UNICEF, every 2 minutes, a child is being groomed for sexual exploitation. Polaris reports that every year, at least 100,000 children are prostituted in the US. Globally, it is estimated that there are 4.5 million individuals in forced sexual exploitation, according to statistics from the International Labor Organization in 2012. A study conducted by the Urban Institute in 2007 demonstrated that there are cities in the United States, such as Denver, that have an underground sex economy worth an estimated $290 million. These statistics are believed to be greatly underreported, as not all victims come forward to report the crime they have been subjected to and there are underground sex traffickers that were not a part of the study.

Super_Bowl_50_logoAlameda County is a thriving center for the sexual trafficking market, at is the center point to a triangle between San Francisco and Contra Costa Counties. In 2015, 80% of all reported human trafficking cases in California came from the Bay Area.  Alameda County will also be hosting one of the largest events for human trafficking, the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is a prime event for sex trafficking, as victims can be run in and out of the event with little notice, due to the large amount of individuals focusing on the game. Individuals are not only forced to work in the sex industry at this game, this is also a place where many are abducted and forced into the industry.

Trafficking victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. Traffickers look for individuals they perceive as vulnerable- maybe they are illegal residents, economically unstable, non-English speakers, mentally unstable, or too young to fight back (among an endless list of reasons). These individuals are abducted or coerced into the industry. They are made to believe that they deserve to be in these circumstances, that the police are out to get them and they should not cooperate with them because they will be the ones arrested or jailed, that they have no other resources, or that they will never have a quality of life better than what they are experiencing.

Tri-Valley Haven and the  H.E.A.T. Watch Task Force aim to reduce accounts of trafficking at the Super Bowl and overall in Alameda County. Tri-Valley Haven’s crisis line (1-800-884-8119) can be contacted for resources to aid a victim of sex trafficking, our shelters have housed victims previously and can continue to if there are available spaces, our legal advocates can help in the process of acquiring a visas available to non-resident victims of crimes, and our counselors are ready to provide psychological support as well. We can also provide services in languages other than English.

You do not have to be a part of a task force or agency to help victims of sex trafficking. But how can you help without putting yourself at risk? Know the signs, report locations and individuals you believe to be involved with sex trafficking, and spread accurate knowledge of the issue as to educate others to do the same. You can help save lives.

To learn the signs of human trafficking, follow this link: https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/blue-campaign/bc-inf-ht101-blue-campaign-human-trafficking-101.pdf

If you suspect somone is being trafficked or an individual is a trafficker, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline  at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to: BeFree (233733).

P4PArtwork2014 WinnerFor more information about our services for survivors of human sex trafficking, please call 925.449.5845 or visit www.trivalleyhaven.org

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