Rotary Funds Trainings to Prevent Human Trafficking
Students surveyed after the trainings say that they can define human trafficking, they understand how traffickers recruit victims, they know how to contact the human trafficking hotline, and they know how to protect themselves and others from trafficking. Stock image purchased.
Works Towards Protecting Children through Education
SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry and is the fast-growing criminal activity in the world. California has the highest volume of sex trafficking, and the Sacramento region is a hotbed for trafficking in the United States.
The local Rotary District 5180 has undertaken a large-scale campaign to combat the issue of human trafficking in the Sacramento Region.
Rotary members Brian Gladden and Bob Deering (former District Governor) initiated the project more than three years ago. Through their research, they discovered that education is the key to preventing human trafficking. District 5180 raised more than $383,000 in grant funding to educate youth and the general public about the risks of human trafficking.
District 5180 partnered with local non-profit 3Strands Global in a public awareness campaign that reached approximately 78 million people.
Deering spoke at a recent Fair Oaks Rotary meeting to explain just how insidious trafficking is in our area and to update local Rotary members about the project’s progress.
Deering said that traffickers initially contact most victims online and that approximately 65% of the victims come from broken homes. When a stranger online begins showing them love and attention, the children are extremely vulnerable to becoming a trafficking victim.
Deering explained that one of the reasons Sacramento has such high trafficking rates is due to the prevalence of gang activity. He said that trafficking is “quickly becoming the number one revenue producer for gangs.”
While drugs can only be sold once and there are numerous risks in obtaining more to sell, the traffickers view young people as merchandise that can be sold repeatedly.
Because Interstate 5 and Highway 80 both run right through the Sacramento region, traffickers can easily transport victims throughout the state. Deering said that the practice of frequently moving the victims to new locations leaves them in a constant state of confusion because they don’t know where they are or how to find help.
Deering said that the project’s most important component was getting the 3Strands Global educational trainings into local schools. Deering described AB 1227, the Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act, which was sponsored by 3Strands Global Foundation and signed into law in 2017.
The law requires California public schools to train county leadership, administrators, and educators in how to identify children who have been, or who are at risk of being, exploited — as well as how to proceed when potential victims are identified. The schools must also provide human trafficking prevention education at least once in middle school and once in high school as part of sexual health education.
Due to the passage of AB 1227, Deering thought it would be easy to get the 3Strands curriculum into local schools, especially since District 5180 would be paying for it with grant funds. But Deering soon found that navigating the politics of the local school boards was no easy feat.
At many of the schools, Deering said it took months for the local curriculum committees to review and approve the 3Strands training curriculum. He explained that some individuals at the schools didn’t appreciate outsiders coming in and suggesting curriculum improvements and that those individuals believed the schools already knew how to handle the problem.
Deering said they also dealt with one angry parent who mistakenly got the impression that the training targeted students of color. Her frequent complaints that the training was racist made that particular school board initially hesitant to accept the trainings.
But Deering knew just how crucial it was to bring these trainings to the students, especially because the average age of trafficking victims is 12 – 14 years old. So they kept pushing, and now they have educated over 25,000 students and more than 650 teachers.
The trainings are already having a significant impact. Deering said that at each training, at least a few students approach the trainers afterward to say they now recognize they were being groomed for trafficking — or that they are already being trafficked and want help getting out.
Students surveyed after the trainings say that they can define human trafficking, they understand how traffickers recruit victims, they know how to contact the human trafficking hotline, and they know how to protect themselves and others from trafficking.
Deering expressed his thanks to all the clubs in the District for supporting this project. He estimates that the remaining grant money will be spent by the end of the year, so he asked that local clubs consider using some of their funds to sponsor trainings in their neighborhood schools.
“We want to find ways to keep this going even after the initial funding runs out.”