Combating human trafficking in the United States

By Past District Governor Bob Deering, Rotary Club of East Sacramento, California, USA

According to Polaris, there are an estimated 100,000 – 300,000 prostituted children in the United States. 244,000 American children and youth are estimated to be at risk of child sexual exploitation, including commercial sexual exploitation. According to the California Attorney General Office, California’s extensive international border, airports and harbors, large native and immigrant populations and strong economy make it a prime location for human traffickers. From mid-2010 to mid-2012, California’s nine regional human trafficking task forces identified 1,277 victims, initiated 2,552 investigations and arrested 1,798 individuals.

The clubs in Rotary District 5180 and in the Central Valley of California, USA, have been working together for two years towards developing a project to combat human trafficking at home.  We partnered with Districts 3870 in the Philippines, 4140 in Mexico, 4420 in Brazil, 9550 in Australia, and 4815 in Argentina, along with the Rotary Club of Chapala Sunrise in District 4140.  Our goal was to develop a project that had an impact on the growing problem in our district and that could be replicated in other Rotary districts.

In our communications with the many agencies fighting this problem, we found that the number one need that was not being addressed sufficiently was education, both to those who were most vulnerable and also to the general community.

With this is mind and with the support of the Rotary Foundation, we developed a global grant that consists of a sex trafficking education program rolled out to selected teachers, administrators, and students in 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th grades in District 5180, which is now mandated by the California legislature (with minimal funding). We have also organized a three-month human trafficking public awareness campaign aimed at making our communities aware of these atrocities.

We partnered with leaders with expertise in each of these areas in order to bring resources to our district.  We choose to work with 3Strands Global of El Dorado Hills who partnered with two other non-profit organizations, Love Never Fails and the Frederick Douglas Family Initiatives, along with Cisco Systems to develop a comprehensive educational program which has been certified by the Attorney General’s office of the State of California.  We also partnered with The Voices and Faces Project in Chicago, USA which has conducted outreach campaigns called The Ugly Truth to combat trafficking in Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, and Washington D.C.  Statistical results show that this campaign has increased awareness in the problems that exist and allows the general public to know where to go when they see a problem.

Since the global grant was approved, the outreach program kicked-off in July 2018 with a press conference with Rotary members, the police chief of the City of Sacramento, the District Attorney of the County of Sacramento and several legislators from the State of California. News stories about the initiative were aired on all major television stations in the greater Sacramento and surrounding areas.  Although it’s still early, we are seeing signs from around the district that people are seeing, reading and understanding the problem in the area.  The real results will come from statistical date that is being compiled through The Voices and Faces Project and the Trafficking Hotline.

Several schools in the area received training on the human trafficking education that is now required by the State of California prior to the summer and many others are set for training later this year.  We are finding that once the mandated education is understood by school districts, the Rotarian-led program not only far exceeds the state’s minimum requirements, but has far exceeded our expectations of being accepted and well received.

Want to start a similar initiative in your region? Contact me for more information.

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