A lot of people here in the United States, even on APU’s campus, hear the term “Sex Trafficking” and think the issue is only an international one, something we only hear about because it doesn’t exist here. Moreover, that it simply can’t exist here, because how could we let something like that happen? The unfortunate truth is, that this is an issue that is actually hitting us much closer to home than any of us would like to think, especially in Southern California.
On a global scale sex trafficking is the world’s fastest growing type of organized crime. It is an estimated $32 billion a year global industry (I). It is a form of modern day slavery that profits from the exploitation of human beings in their most vulnerable state. So while many people are aware of this huge issue throughout the world, too many turn a blind eye to what is happening here at home.
According to a report on the State of Sex Trafficking in California in 2013 done by the California Department of Justice, 41% of calls to the National Human Trafficking came from just Southern California (II). In Orange County over half of the victims of sex trafficking are female and just over a third are female minors. Just last month in August five people were arrested for running a trafficking ring out of San Gabriel that trafficked women against their will all over Southern California (Read the article below) (III). The horrors of sex trafficking that each of these women had to face aren’t taking place in a far away land where we as a community can simply write it off as “not our problem.” It’s only a few miles away.
Here is the good news; while the exact number of women getting out of this industry is unknown (to protect the identities of survivors) more and more women are finding ways out of the industry every year, while others have to be rescued. Many find ways out because they realize the one who lured them into the industry, who was supposed to protect and provide for them in a multitude of ways, has always been doing them more harm than good. There are a few reasons for how more women are finding a way out, the first being the hard work of so many non-profits and safe houses. These nonprofits, safe houses, and support groups (like us at Project Cultivate) are opening the conversation about this topic on a wide scale, conversations about a topic that is often hard to talk about for many people. By talking about the issue we as a collective are bringing a voice to the survivors of sex trafficking and creating awareness of just how big an issue this is.
So here is our call to action. To listen to the cries of the afflicted, to encourage them to find hope and a way out, and to defend those who are currently trapped in this industry. Whether you take action simply by starting a conversation or donating to one of the many non-profits listed below or even by volunteering, you will be making a difference; bringing a voice and a purpose to those who need it most. So while Sex Trafficking is a very real, very big monster that exists in our everyday reality, there are ways we can defeat it. Every woman in this industry who wants to be heard or who wants to find a way out should know that there is hope, that they are valued, and that there are others out there who are there to help them build the life they want outside of all this. This is a big part of our mission at Project Cultivate, as a group that works to reaffirm the identities of survivors of this industry through professional development, transitioning these women out of safe houses and into professional and sustainable careers (check out more information on our Professional Development Program Here (IV)).
Some for-purpose groups to take a look at (outside of Project Cultivate): Treasures (V), The Not For Sale Campaign (VI), Daughter’s Rising (VII), and International Sanctuary (VIII).