The Yakima Association of Churches and Faith Communities and the Seattle-based Faith Action Network have made the issue of human trafficking a priority. So has the Zonta Club of the Yakima Valley, a service group whose goals include promoting the status of women and advocating respect for human rights.
Zonta has done basic awareness training in schools, whose staffers then are calling the Yakima Police Department. After training, one principal identified 11 children in a particular school who fit the profile of a victim. Gang members are responsible for much of the trafficking.
Just as Zonta and the faith community have recognized the problem, so has the Washington Legislature. The Legislature started addressing the problem more than a decade ago, being among the first in the nation to criminalize trafficking. Minors accused of prostitution are first referred to social service agencies instead of being prosecuted; those who pay for sex with a minor can be assessed a $1,500 fine. In this session, a bill is moving forward that would deem domestic servitude — bringing someone to work into a house that essentially becomes a prison — as human trafficking.
Much work remains to be done. Zonta Club member Danielle Surkatty, who focuses on the trafficking of minors who are sexually exploited, says, “… we’re looking at it through a new lens.” The new lens will sharpen a new focus that lets a growing number of people see the problem as is really is.
Learn more at the Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial Board article: A new focus on problem of human trafficking.