January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. As an organization dedicated to helping those experiencing trauma and abuse, we invite 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 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?
Human trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit. In some cases, traffickers trick, defraud or physically force victims into providing commercial sex. In other instances, victims are lied to, assaulted, threatened or manipulated into working under inhumane, illegal or otherwise unacceptable conditions. It is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 27.6 million people around the world. Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the U.S., with California – specifically Los Angeles County – being a prime destination.
Who are the victims?
Human trafficking can happen to anyone but some people are more vulnerable than others. Significant risk factors include recent migration or relocation, substance use, mental health concerns, involvement with the children welfare system and being a runaway or homeless youth. Often, traffickers identify and leverage their victims’ vulnerabilities in order to create dependency.
In the United States, victims of trafficking are almost exclusively immigrants, and mostly immigrant women. Immigrant women and children are particularly vulnerable to the deceptive and coercive tactics of traffickers because of their inability to speak English, immigration status, and lack of familiarity with U.S. employment protections. Furthermore, they are vulnerable because they often work in jobs that are hidden from the public view and unregulated by the government.
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 to fight human trafficking?
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.
Knowing the key indicators of human trafficking can help save a child’s life.
Don’t be afraid to report suspicious activity or behavior to law enforcement. Call 1-888-373-7888, text HELP to BEFREE (233733), or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Human Trafficking Resource Center can be accessed 24/7 at 1 (888) 373-7888.
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.
Visit http://socalhumantraffickingevents.info/for information on human trafficking awareness events and opportunities across Southern California.
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. These meetings take place at 11 AM, the first Thursday of every month at The Salvation Army Long Beach Corps. 3000 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90807. You can visit their site for more info.
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 a local organization whose mission is to abolish trafficking and support victims.
We urge you to join us in making a difference today – if you or someone you know is being or at-risk of being trafficked, please call the human trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or visit https://humantraffickinghotline.org/