In honor of January being National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we want to take the opportunity to encourage you to join us in the fight to end human trafficking – all year long.
As a mental health agency, The Guidance Center provides a safe place for victims of sex trafficking to heal from trauma, and offers preventative interventions for children who may be vulnerable to trafficking through education and encouragement of healthy relationships and safe daily living.
Since 2014, we’ve partnered with the Long Beach Human Trafficking Taskforce as a mental health resource to create change and eliminate trafficking in Long Beach and beyond. We’re also fortunate to have compassionate local law enforcement – the Long Beach Police Department – who are dedicated to helping victims and fighting to eliminate this horrendous violation of human rights here locally.
But you don’t have to be a mental health professional or a member of law enforcement to fight human trafficking and help victims. It all starts with awareness.
What is human trafficking?
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.”
It’s easy to think that human trafficking only happens in other parts of the world, but it’s actually happening right here in our community. Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the U.S., with California – specifically Los Angeles County – being a prime destination.
How does it happen?
So many children in our community are at risk because they are neglected, abused or traumatized from the stress of living in extreme poverty. Traffickers exploit these vulnerabilities and manipulate children into slavery.
It happens to the young girl next door who is neglected and aches to be loved and nurtured. By acting as “Romeo” and showing her affection she’s never felt before, the trafficker manipulates her into “proving” her love and traps her into a life of sexual exploitation.
It happens to the teen boy who feels responsible for his family’s financial problems. The trafficker entices him with a “job” offer that’s too good to be true. Once he starts, he can’t escape for fear that his trafficker’s threats to kill his family will come true.
Victims’ existing feelings of shame and unworthiness are only magnified. They believe the lies their traffickers tell them about how the police will punish them, and how no one else could ever love them now. They are psychologically, emotionally and physically tortured. Escaping this life feels hopeless.
How can you fight human trafficking?
- Get educated.
Read articles on human trafficking published by local and global news outlets. Inform yourself and others of the myths and facts of human trafficking on the Department of Homeland Security’s website.
- Be aware.
Knowing the key indicators of human trafficking can help save a child’s life.
- Report it.
Don’t be afraid to report suspicious activity or behavior to law enforcement.
- Provide victims with resources.
The Human Trafficking Resource Center can be accessed 24/7 at traffickingresourcecenter.org or call 1 (888) 373-7888.
- Help victims find a safe place.
As part of LB Safe Zone, Long Beach Fire and Police stations are designated “safe houses” for child sex trafficking to be reported without fear of legal consequences for the child. Encourage victims to seek refuge there.
- Get involved.
Visit http://socalhumantraffickingevents.info/ for information on human trafficking awareness events and opportunities across Southern California. Attend the 2017 Youth Exploitation Safety Symposium (YESS) on Saturday, March 11 in Long Beach and encourage the young people in your life to join you!
- Vote consciously.
Look for upcoming local and federal legislation combating human trafficking and support it with your voice and vote.
Join local organizations that are dedicated to fighting human trafficking and helping victims. If you’re in Long Beach, attend Long Beach Human Trafficking Taskforce monthly meetings to find out about opportunities to serve in the Long Beach community. Meetings are open to the public and take place the first Thursday of every month at The Gathering Lutheran Church from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Spread the word.
Share articles on human trafficking across social media. Start conversations about trafficking with family and friends. Raising awareness and building a more supportive community starts with you.
Gather your colleagues, friends and family to help provide assistance to a local organization whose mission is to abolish trafficking and support victims.