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Ending Human Trafficking Through Education and Awareness
Opening Doors Strives to Eliminate Misconceptions about Human Trafficking
Educating the public about human trafficking is essential to ending this modern day slavery. All of us are needed to identify it where it hides and bring it to the attention of law enforcement. The human trafficking endemic may appear overwhelming for those who want to help, but there are ways to make a difference. Our Survivor of Human Trafficking (SOT) outreach program helps professionals who are likely to come in contact with trafficking and the general public to better understand the practice and to recognize its victims.
Misconceptions about human trafficking thwart efforts to stop the practice. One major misconception is the idea that only women can be its victims. Men can also become victims, especially of labor trafficking. Men often have a harder time identifying themselves as trafficking victims and they have access to fewer emergency resources, like safe houses, than women have. Another common misconception is that human trafficking is only sex trafficking. Labor trafficking and domestic servitude are major forms of trafficking, especially in the Sacramento-area where the agricultural industry is central to our economy.
By eliminating these and other misconceptions, Opening Doors can empower victims and encourage the public to take action. Someone who finds themselves trapped in a situation where they are being held and exploited feels utterly powerless. But naming that situation as trafficking and recognizing that they are a victim can enable them to begin to break free. By the same token, when all of us understand the many forms that trafficking can take, our eyes open to situations we previously ignored.
We provide three types of outreach to the community: basic information on trafficking for the public to raise overall awareness; in-depth trainings for professionals who will likely come into contact with victims; and in-depth or brief trainings for faith-based organizations and other groups such as Soroptimist chapters. In all situations, we teach participants the definition of human trafficking, how to identify human trafficking victims, obstacles to identification, services available to victims, and immigration relief options for victims.
Generally, victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Identifying victims can be a challenge, especially for the general public. However, some indicators that human trafficking is occurring include restricted or controlled communication; signs of fear, anxiety, depression, submission, tension and/or nervousness; not being in control of one's own identification documents; and performing odd tasks at odd hours. Working and living environments also tend to have very poor health and safety conditions, and often have peculiar security precautions such as bars on the windows or being surrounded by barbed wire.
Our trainings have been successful at educating a wider population of professionals on how to identify victims of trafficking, how to implement a victim-centered approach, and the legal resources available to victims. Several organizations, such as Child Protective Services, Sacramento International Airport, the Sacramento County Highway Patrol, and various health care professionals, come in contact with victims of trafficking on a regular basis. Their being fully aware of trafficking and ready to take appropriate action can make the difference between a life of slavery and a chance at a new beginning for a victim.
Many community members want to help end trafficking, but do not have the tools or resources to do so. Our outreach staff, interns, and volunteers find it gratifying to educate community members and provide them with tangible resources to make a difference.