Southern California is home to two of the 13 FBI-identified high-intensity child sex trafficking regions in the nation. The region’s extended international border, major harbors and airports, powerful economy and growing population that includes a large immigrant population make it a prime target for traffickers. The statistics are disconcerting, and the problem is more tragic than some realize. In the U.S., 82 percent of suspected incidents of human trafficking during 2008-2010 were classified as sex trafficking, with 40 percent of cases involving the exploitation of minors. Of all the victims in confirmed sex trafficking incidents, 80 percent were U.S. citizens.
One such victim, just 15 years old, was recently sexually trafficked in San Diego County. The young lady’s story begins like so many; she was taken advantage of by an adult male who befriended her. She wasn’t aware that he had ulterior motives. Through threats and force, this former friend became her pimp, posting her picture on adult websites for solicitation and selling her body for his financial gain. Thankfully, her story didn’t end here. With tremendous courage and strength she reached out to a high school counselor for help.
This young woman was able to escape this life that was forced upon her, but not everyone is so lucky. The names and faces of the over 12.3 million men, women, boys and girls who have been enslaved mostly go unnoticed.
Our work to ensure the rights of human trafficking victims, prevent future violence and reach all victims has never been more challenging. Now more than ever, collaboration is the pathway to success. Many great partnerships are already forming and we have made many advances in both prosecution and healing services. Our collective energy, skill, and commitment will lead the way to realizing freedom. Everyone can get involved. Everyone. Anti-trafficking organizations have many needs, affording us numerous ways to get involved:
• Volunteer your time and skills at a nonprofit or agency. Organizations in every county need assistance with public relations, training, office work, graphic art, fundraising and awareness and outreach efforts.
• Donate care package items such as backpacks, sweats, underclothing, journals, shampoo and bus passes. Most agencies need help meeting the basic needs of trafficking survivors.
• Donate money to help fund a local anti-trafficking program.
There is a long way, but if we each play our part, we can end this battle.
Learn more at Julie Nauman’s San Diego Union-Tribune article: Helping Victims of Sex Trafficking.