Human trafficking has been called the “modern-day slavery” and it has grown significantly during the coronavirus pandemic.
In an effort to confront this problem, the city of West Hollywood is hosting a free educational training about issues related to human trafficking. Residents and community members are welcome to attend the online training, which aims to equip participants with the tools to support and advocate for victims.
The Human Trafficking Community Training will take place on March 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. via Zoom webinar. The training is free and open to the public, however registration is required to attend. To register, please visit https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_NHNZ8sA_Q2G789u9pkMpKQ.
“As important as it is to conduct training among our public safety personnel, it is just as critical to educate and raise awareness among our city’s commissioners, advisory board members and the community at large,” said City Councilmember Lauren Meister. “Being able to recognize the signs of human trafficking is the first step to combatting human trafficking.”
“Human trafficking is a crisis throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands of victims are trafficked in the United States,” said Councilmember Sepi Shyne. “This training provides our community and city officials with the crucial tools needed to join the fight against human trafficking. We need to know what to look for in order to see something and say something.”
The training will be led by Dawn Schiller, an expert survivor-leader in the anti-trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault movements. Schiller provide firsthand insights to community advocates on survivorship, education, and service to others.
Schiller, an educator, consultant and author, participated in the city’s Human Rights Speakers Series panel discussion in 2020 about human trafficking. In 2019, she provided training to city public safety, law enforcement and fire department personnel as well as code compliance officers about human trafficking, notice requirements and standards for businesses.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Victims of human trafficking are of all genders, ages, races, countries, and socioeconomic statuses.
While human trafficking can happen to anyone, people who are already in vulnerable situations — including migrants and refugees fleeing conflict or disaster, homeless LGBTQ youth, women and girls, and children in poverty — are preyed upon and may be more likely to be targeted by traffickers. The different kinds of human trafficking include sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude. Any person under the age of 18 involved in a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking.
According to the Polaris Project, which publishes data based on calls, text messages, webforms, emails, and webchats with the National Human Trafficking Hotline, more than 25 million people are trafficked worldwide, and California is one of the largest sites of human trafficking in the United States.
The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the scope and impact of human trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Hotline has seen a 40% increase in emergency calls. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), a Los Angeles-based human rights organization and one of the nation’s largest provider of services to survivors of human trafficking, has seen a 185% increase in human trafficking cases during the pandemic, compared to last year. Additionally, 100% of CAST’s most urgent trafficking cases have been homeless people who were trafficked.
If you are a victim of human trafficking or if you are aware of a trafficking situation, there are resources to help:
• The National Human Trafficking Hotline connects victims and survivors of sex and labor trafficking with services and support to get help and stay safe. The hotline also receives tips about potential situations of sex and labor trafficking and facilitates reporting that information to the appropriate authorities in certain cases. Toll-free phone and SMS text lines and live online chat function are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days. To contact the hotline, call (888) 373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree or 233733. Deaf or hard of hearing or speech-impaired people can contact the hotline by dialing 711.
• The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) helps people who have been in forced prostitution, forced labor, and slave-like conditions by providing legal and social services. To request services or report tips regarding potential human trafficking cases, contact the toll-free, 24/7 hotline at (888) Key-2-FREE or (888) 539-2373.
For more information about the Human Trafficking Community Training, please contact Kerry McCormack, City of West Hollywood Event Services Coordinator, at (323) 848-6385 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.