The Rising Issue of Human Trafficking

California 2016 Statistics

Kate Wang, Features Writer

A 12-year-old girl, one who could be any girl from Folsom, ran away from an unstable home. She met a man who gained her trust and friendship only to force her into having sex, and then he locked her in a hotel room. From that point, she was a sex slave without any freedom or home.

Now a lawyer and human trafficking activist, this same girl tells her story to spread awareness and prevent this from happening to others.

Human trafficking — or in other words, modern-day slavery — is the practice of illegally transporting people from one area to another for the purpose of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. It is a growing issue that requires the public’s attention, whether affected or not.

In the U.S., California is ranked number one of the top five most human trafficked states, Los Angeles and Sacramento being the central hubs of trafficking activity.

“It has increased over the years, but at the same time, more people are spreading awareness and a lot more people are becoming aware,” said Jasmeen Kairam, My Sister’s House human trafficking specialist.

As people continue to spread awareness, a further rise in organizations help to fight human trafficking. Many organizations like WEAVE, My Sister’s House and The Grace Network, are all there to combat human trafficking.

WEAVE, Sacramento County’s sole rape crisis center and primary domestic violence agency, has always worked with survivors of sex trafficking. However, recently they built their Anti-Trafficking Response Team (ART) program.

“To provide services to victims of sex trafficking, ART reaches out to vulnerable populations as well as agencies that touch the lives of sex trafficking victims and survivors and providing information and education,” said Tabitha Thomas, WEAVE’s Director of Response Services. As WEAVE (Woman Escaping A Violent Environment) continues to combat human trafficking through services, other organizations have begun to spread awareness in ways of education and social media.

The Grace Network provides networking and trainings to equip those fighting against human trafficking in their local area. Recently, The Grace Network has launched Grace City center to provide information and programs for urban and youth families living in Del Paso Heights and Old North Sacramento area.

“To explain the center’s impact on human trafficking, we like to use the analogy of a bicycle wheel. If human trafficking is the hub of a bicycle wheel, the spokes are the challenges that contribute to the issue of human trafficking,” said Emily Mazzariello, The Grace Network community mobilizer. These issues that surround certain neighborhoods, such as gangs, broken families and gun violence, can lead people to desperate situations. At the center, Grace City addresses these issues by providing counseling and avenues such as education, employment, and the arts.

Education is the basic method for providing people with knowledge but with today’s ever growing technology, the Grace Network has developed other methods.

“We also have an app called GraceCity app. GraceCity™ is a centralized, user-friendly mobile resource app allowing first responders immediate access to short and long-term services for exploited and high-risk individuals,” said Mazzariello. Technology allows us to provide help and information more accessible to the individuals that need them. However, information on the web or social media can also put teens and internet users at risk.

“Teens are vulnerable. Through social media, traffickers can sweet talk teens to become friends with them and build relationships. Traffickers may then ask them to meet at restaurants, and that’s where it all starts,” said Kairam. Social media makes befriending someone as easy as a click of a button. Anyone from any age group can be targeted through social media.

Every day, children as young as 5 years-old, men and women, and even those 60 years or older, are a target to modern-day slavery. However, there is a common pattern between victims.

“Foster care youth, youth that are runaways, homeless youth, and other youth in broken families or desperate situations are

the most vulnerable,” said Mazzariello. Though anyone can be a victim, teens and younger children are still in the age of developing. The teenage years, specifically, are a unique time when young individuals go through massive developments while also gaining independence. That added with whatever is happening within their support system can impact the choices and decisions teens make. They might not be aware of “stranger danger” or how to deal with certain situations.

Teens, especially, need to be more aware of their surroundings and the people they met over the internet.

“Get involved, many schools have clubs that are geared towards raising awareness – or create one. Raise awareness of abusive tactics that take place on social media. Teens can support friends/peers who may be at-risk or involved in the life,” said Thomas. Although, teens are the majority of people who may use social media. Technology is not the only method traffickers take to target humans, though it is the most common way. Human trafficking is an issue that can impact any community and the people in it.

“Human trafficking’s prevalence is affecting our teens and young adults in communities in Sacramento. The horrific crime takes advantage of people who are already disadvantaged,” said Mazzariello. Human trafficking won’t disappear on its own, it takes more than one to fight for a whole society.

“We often say it takes a community to end violence. This is everyone’s issue,” said Thomas