Feb 26 2014
By Sam Solakyan
I typically begin each of my blogs with a bit of levity to set the tone from the outset. Sadly, today’s topic is the incredibly tragic narrative of human trafficking, and levity would be inappropriate.
The Huffington Post recently reported that the FBI uncovered an operation involving 16 teenagers forced into sex trafficking for the Super Bowl in New Jersey. According to the report, children as young as 13 were involved in the prostitution ring.
This tragic story highlights the disturbing fact that human trafficking is not merely an odious and despicable crime, but also widespread and big business for the perpetrators involved. In recent years organized crime has recognized that sex trafficking is more lucrative because you can sell a human being over and over again. After drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second-largest criminal industry in the world. Gangs now view child prostitution as a safer way to earn money, given that the authorities heavily monitor drug and gun trafficking, whereas child sex trafficking rings have been relatively neglected.
Thankfully, in this particular instance the FBI intervened and arrested those involved — including more than 45 pimps — in addition to rescuing 50 adult women who were being exploited as prostitutes.
Tragic stories such as these, as well as witnessing firsthand the unbearable suffering endured on the part of families whose children are abducted and forced into a life of prostitution, compelled me to become involved in the fight against human trafficking and helping those that have been victimized.
While we can all agree that human trafficking and sexual abuse is abhorrent and intolerable, those who wish to support the fight against this type of criminal activity may be unaware of their options. I’ve met countless people who are passionate about fighting human trafficking, but are simply unaware of how to lend their support to such causes. Should you volunteer at your local police station? Should you make a donation somewhere? In truth, there are several exemplary organizations that are working to combat human trafficking and need help and support from volunteers.
The Los Angeles YWCA provides victims of sexual abuse with counseling, crisis intervention, prevention education, and 24-hour advocate support at hospitals, law enforcement agencies and courts. The Children of the Night organization in Van Nuys is dedicated to rescuing America’s children from the horrors of prostitution. They provide 24-hour shelters at no cost to victims, and fund airfare or ground transportation for those outside of the area. Additionally, NightLight Los Angeles provides anti-human trafficking programs and establishes partnerships with churches, law enforcement, social service organizations and community members in and around Los Angeles to provide services and programs that meet victims’ needs. These are but a few of the many important organizations in the Los Angeles area that are undertaking critical efforts in the fight against human trafficking and can use your help.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is yet another organization that is improving our community by protecting children from exploitation and trafficking. NCMEC is a nonprofit and its mission is to keep children safer from abduction and sexual exploitation. They provide the resources necessary to do so while working closely with law enforcement, families and the professionals who serve them. Since 1984 NCMEC has been one of the leading organizations in protecting our children.
When I first became passionate about helping the cause against human trafficking, I began volunteering with NCMEC. In witnessing the positive effect they were having in keeping our children safe, I became inspired to continue supporting NCMEC’s mission on a greater scale. Last month I sponsored a training course in Los Angeles with NCMEC for law enforcement officials, which focused on the growing crisis of child sex trafficking. The course utilized specialists from the field to teach and equip law enforcement personnel with the best methods and resources available to help thwart the perpetrators. Ultimately, advanced training and development is vital because it keeps law enforcement one-step ahead of the criminals.
Anti-human trafficking initiatives are also receiving notice from our nation’s leaders. There is currently a movement in Los Angeles, supported by Mayor Eric Garcetti, to raise public awareness of human trafficking. Los Angeles city and county leaders have joined with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, and the National Council of Jewish Women, in publicizing the mission through multiple language Public Service announcements. County Supervisor Don Knabe likened the scourge of human trafficking with the war on drugs, and stated that, “This issue should have the same credibility and same awareness as the war on drugs did several years ago. It is that bad, that horrific.”
It is clear that child sex trafficking is a prevalent issue in our country that demands our attention and vigilance. I urge community conscious CEOs and executive professionals to sponsor a training seminar like the one we hosted in Los Angeles last month with your local law enforcement representatives. As a NCMEC board member, I can put you in touch with the staff at NCMEC to bring the same training program to your community. Individuals interested in sponsoring this type of specialized training for their law enforcement officials can contact me for additional information via: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organizations working to vanquish human trafficking are always in need of help from volunteers and benefactors providing their time and financial contributions. They work tirelessly for this cause and are only able to continue their mission through support from concerned citizens like you. A complete list of organizations opposing human trafficking is also available online. Together we can raise awareness and keep our children safe from human trafficking predators.