The latest data from the County’s Human Trafficking Task Force shows that last year they served 75 survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Looking more closely, 68 of 75 survivors were United States citizens, the majority of them with a history connected to our county. The first shock to the system for all of us is that trafficking is happening locally and the survivors are our own local young men and women.
The next question is, “What do we do about it?” The answer is very complicated and sadly has to do with supply and demand and the hundreds of thousands of dollars changing hands from consumers to traffickers. The International Labor Organization estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide.
It reflects a side of humanity most of society would rather not know about.
SB ACT has made a decision to come alongside the Human Trafficking Task Force and seek to increase their capacity to tackle the issue both through prevention and through working to provide immediate, short term, and long term resources for survivors. We have been a part of the task force near its inception, and recently we have been chairing their Education Working Group and their Housing and Supportive Services Working Group. We are interested in seeing the entire county become aware of the issue, and align needed partners and services to assist this vulnerable population. Just recently we have also helped organize faith communities to come together and form their own working group to mobilize hundreds of individuals to get to work.
Small steps are of huge importance! This month we helped organize a meeting between dental practitioners and Behavioral Wellness with the goal of providing free dental care to survivors. Appointments are just now being set up.
Thanks to all our supporters who make this work possible!
Jeff Shaffer serves as the collaborative coordinator for SB ACT’s SB Coalition for Freedom and the liaison with the DA’s Office Human Trafficking Task Force.