Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery where people profit
from the control and exploitation of others.
Modern Day Slavery
Slavery is a harsh reality for millions of people the world over who find themselves trapped in an exploitative and abusive system, bought and sold like objects, and treated with no dignity or human decency.
Slavery exists in a variety of permutations, but all forms of modern day slavery share some common characteristics: slaves are forced to work; are owned or controlled by another person; are dehumanized and treated as commodities; and are physically or psychologically constrained and unable to escape.
One type of slavery and exploitation that is proliferating at an alarming rate—and that has a particular relevance to women and girls—is sex trafficking/slavery. Seventy-nine percent of human trafficking victims are women and girls. Also, seventy-nine percent of the victims of trafficking end up in sex slavery.
Since the early 2000s, when our clubs first became aware of the issue of forced prostitution and CSEC - the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, the members of Desert Coast Region began asking, "What can we do?" Below are just a few examples of programs that Soroptimist clubs in Desert Coast Region have undertaken. These programs focus primarily on domestic sex trafficking of women and girls but also span into other forms of human trafficking.
Soroptimist International of Vista
Our Vista club was the first to jump into the issue of human trafficking and led the charge in Desert Coast Region. Located in San Diego's North County, their focus has been on sex trafficking as well as labor trafficking, due to the large amount of agriculture in their area. One of the first things they did was form the North County anti-Human Trafficking Collaborative. The collaborative is comprised of SI Vista members, law enforcement, victims services providers and other community members interested in working on the issue.
SI Vista also:
- Conducts and annual awareness event in January
- Maintains a speaker's bureau to provide information to other organizations
- Provides updates on legislation relative to Human Trafficking
- Provides news articles about Human Trafficking
You can learn more on their website
Soroptimist International Brea/La Habra
Anywhere teens gather can be a target for human trafficking. Anywhere you can reach hundreds of people in less than a day is ideal for getting out information about human trafficking awareness. We found the Brea Mall to be such a place.
In the early 2000s, members of SI Brea/La Habra began having a table with information on human trafficking at the Brea Mall, usually the third Sunday of each month except December when “free speech” tables are not allowed.
In 2009, Soroptimist International Brea/La Habra, partnered with the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force and some of their volunteers joined Soroptimist in providing information at Brea Mall to educate shoppers about the risks and signs of human trafficking.
Terri Daxon, SI Brea/La Habra president and the club’s former Human Trafficking Awareness chair said, "The reaction and response from the public back in 2001 was often shock and often anger that we were bringing up a subject that “doesn’t happen here.” Today, it is just the opposite. People stop and pick up the information and thank us for presenting it there."
STAT! Soroptimists Together Against Trafficking
Now it it's fourth year, STAT! is a collaborative effort of Soroptimist clubs throughout San Diego County. STAT! was formed after Soroptimists were invited to participate in a San Diego County meeting organized to bring law enforcement, victims services, educators and community groups together to tackle the problem of sex trafficking of minors in San Diego County. Of the 70 people at the meeting, 17 were Soroptimists, nearly 25%! Then and there the Soroptimists, who came from many different clubs, decided they needed to work together to tackle such a huge problem. STAT! was formed a few months later.
To date, STAT! has:
- Refurbished an interview room at the San Diego Police Headquarters that is used to interview victims of sex trafficking
- Participated in fundraising walks to help pass California's Prop 35
- Held multiple awareness events/film screenings
- Honored people and organizations, not directly connected to the anti-trafficking movement for their efforts to combat the issue and help survivors.
- STAT! recently partnered with the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition to receive a grant to raise awareness about all forms of human trafficking in San Diego and Imperial Counties.
Because of STAT!'s success, clubs in District I are now looking to duplicate it's efforts.
Soroptimist International of La Jolla
The Soroptimists in La Jolla made human trafficking their "Three Year Focus" project from 2011-2014. In partnership with The Bilateral Safety Corridor Coallition (BSCC) SI La Jolla was able to impact the lives of 70 women and girls affected by human trafficking. Their work helped open and equip San Diego County's only emergency shelter for people rescued from trafficking. This included helping furnish and repair the three bedroom home being used for this purpose as well as providing food, hygiene supplies and transportation when needed.
The club also made public awareness a focus of their project by hosting events, sending out news releases and writing articles for publication They also helped with the thrift shop, which is one of the ways money is raised to support the shelter, by providing volunteers to help staff and organize the store.
SI La Jolla was one of the founding clubs of STAT! Soroptimists Together Against Trafficking, and continues to be an integral part of its success.