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Human Sexual Trafficking: A Local and Global Issue

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When we hear the phrase “human trafficking,” it’s easy to think of it as an abstract act that doesn’t occur near us. Human trafficking is a highly organized crime that is unfortunately prevalent in California. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline’s Ranking of 100 Most Populous U.S. Cities, five California cities are ranked in the top 25: Los Angeles is second, San Diego came in at eleventh, San Francisco followed at twelfth, Sacramento was close at thirteenth, and Oakland fell at twenty fourth1. As an agency in the Tri-Valley area, these cities are close to home but they are not the only ones affected. The Tri-Valley is also a common place for human trafficking and trafficking in the Tri-Valley looks much different than it does in those other cities.

Women, pain, closeup.

As there is a lower population in the Tri-Valley compared to the cities mentioned above, the trafficking is less visible to the naked eye, but it still exists in high numbers. There is no common street where trafficking happens in the Tri-Valley (as there is in Oakland); here, it is kept more private: moved to the internet, parlors, salons, restaurants, and other businesses. Adults and kids are recruited at their schools, through other kids, on social media, or at local hangouts. Our own staff have accompanied police on stings at local restaurants and have also seen salons and parlors suspected to be fronts for trafficking. Our staff has also been sent to local Tri-Valley high schools to provide counseling and resources to teens who were being recruited by other teens or who were trafficked themselves.

Before we move forward, we all need to understand the definition of human trafficking, because it truly is modern-day slavery. It involves exploiting an individual through force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of forced labor, commercial sex, or both. Human trafficking is an epidemic in California and many juvenile victims are members of our communities. A teacher in Contra Costa County recently shared that a storefront six blocks from the high school she works at was shut down due to human trafficking2.

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As one might suspect, it is easier to manipulate/groom a child and by the time they become an adult, they are broken down and dependent on their trafficker. Once the trafficker gets into their mind, it’s easy for them to maintain control, similar to a domestic abuser. We are seeing an increase in predators using technology and social media to identify a potential victim’s vulnerabilities or weaknesses in order to exploit them for personal gain. Technology also allows the trafficker to keep constant tabs on their victim.

The state of California recently decided that our youth needs to be educated and the Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act (AB 1227) was passed in 2017, which requires all public schools to order education and training about human trafficking to both staff and students, with an emphasis on identification and prevention. I am proud to say California is the first state in the nation to adopt such a mandate and we hope to see other states follow suit.

Tri-Valley Haven has an Anti-Sexual Trafficking Program to support sexual trafficking survivors. We strive to bring community awareness, introduce education into the community, and provide support and stability to survivors of trafficking.

If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma due to sexual trafficking, Tri-Valley Haven’s program offers housing (upon availability), a restraining order clinic, counseling services, advocacy services, and access to our food pantry. For more information about these services, call us at (925) 449-5845, or if you are in crisis, our crisis line is (800)884-8119.

References:
1. National Human Trafficking Hotline. Ranking of 100 Most Populous U.S. Cities (2017).
2. California Educators. A Vile Epidemic: Sex Trafficking (2018).


Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 09.58.59Megan is the Sexual Assault Lead Advocate at Tri-Valley Haven.  For more information about how you can support our life-saving services for survivors and families, please call our office at (925) 449-5845 or visit http://www.trivalleyhaven.org

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you for writing this important blog post and reminding us that human trafficking is occurring right here is the Tri-Valley, throughout the Bay Area, California, the Nation and Internationally. We all need to do more!

    Reply

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