Human Trafficking Prevention Month
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. For organizations like SAY, this is a poignant time to highlight the expansive reach of this growing criminal enterprise and to advocate for more resources for survivors.
Current data continues to show an increase in trafficking cases across the country. In California, 5,257 ‘signals’ were made to the Human Trafficking Hotline in 2021, up from the 4,970 signals made the year before. Each ‘signal’ represents a unique contact made by an individual through a variety of outreach options, including: phone calls, text messages, emails, online chats, and web reports. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking reported their highest call volume in history for 2021, announcing they had seen a 556% rise in cases of emergency response to escaping survivors.
The data also shows that human trafficking impacts underserved communities at much higher rates. The White House highlights this imbalance in The National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking: “Because we know that human trafficking disproportionately impacts racial and ethnic minorities, women and girls, LGBTQI individuals, vulnerable migrants, and others from historically marginalized and underserved communities, our mission to combat human trafficking cannot be cut off from our broader efforts to build equity for members of marginalized communities.”
A significant percentage of trafficked individuals are youth. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 18% of potential trafficking situations in California involved minors. Young people are often targeted through online platforms: groomed via social media, multiplayer gaming, and private messaging. When the pandemic shut down schools and young people were more accessible online, this kind of exploitation and outreach surged.
Of course, collecting data on this type of crime is difficult and so these numbers reflect only a portion of the individuals who are survivors of trafficking.
SAY provides supportive services to trafficked youth across Sonoma County. These services include dedicated shelter beds for survivors of trafficking, counseling services, and support applying for SSI and other benefits. Many youth who enter into our services do not have personal documents, such as an ID card or Social Security card; SAY Case Managers assist them through the process of getting new cards.
“Helping a young person have a fresh start is just the beginning,” says Anita Maldonado, SAY’s Chief Executive Officer. “Once their basic needs are met, our focus lies on helping that young person to rebuild. SAY offers resources that provide a safety net for our youth.”