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California: Don’t leave human trafficking victims behind



The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a terrible toll on all Californians. While Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recently announced California Comeback Plan allocates billions of emergency aid funding to those hurt by the pandemic, one group hit harder than most has been left out of the budget proposal: human trafficking victims.

I and Assemblymember Miguel Santiago urge Gov. Newsom and the California State Legislature to correct that omission. We call for $10 million in one-time additional funding for human trafficking victim services.

Recently, a woman, Laila (an alias), called the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking’s (CAST) 24-hour hotline, desperate. She had run away from her sex trafficker, who had always beaten her but now threatened to kill her three children, aged 5, 3 and 2 months. They were hiding out in her car, terrified, with no place to go. Due to the outsized demand for safe housing as a result of COVID-19, CAST’s shelter was full; though they called more than 30 other shelters, none could accept all four of them.

CAST provided services to this brave survivor and her children in her car for a week until they were finally able to secure a room in their emergency shelter hotel. Pondering her situation, Laila said “it shouldn’t be this hard to get into safe housing and to protect my children. They always tell you to leave but they never tell you there might be nowhere to go… You guys (CAST) never gave up on me or my kids and because of that we are going to make it.”

Sadly, Laila’s plight is far from unique.

California is home to several of the most concentrated hubs for labor and sex trafficking in the country. Victims of this heinous crime were made ever more vulnerable by the pandemic, due to the suspension of mechanisms which ordinarily would have uncovered trafficking situations, economic desperation due to job loss, school shutdowns, lockdown and travel restrictions, being quarantined with potential traffickers, housing insecurity, unfair evictions, and shelter scarcity due to social distancing capacity restrictions, closures due to reported COVID-19 infections and lack of funding.

Last summer, Cast saw a 185% spike in urgent human trafficking cases. The sharp rise has prevented massively overburdened service providers from being able to keep up with the increased need. This leads to survivors falling through the cracks, with some re-trafficked, landing right back into a horror show full of violence and trauma in which their life is no longer their own.

The Golden State’s preponderance of trafficking cases is due in part to large runaway and homeless youth populations, proximity to international borders, the number of ports and airports, a significant immigrant population, and industries that attract forced labor and sex trafficking.

For many individuals working in the “informal economy,” (often ineligible for unemployment assistance), pandemic-related income loss and layoffs force them to turn to higher-risk employment situations to meet basic needs or avoid homelessness, increasing their vulnerability to being trafficked.

The one-time funding of $10 million, extremely modest compared to some of the allocations for other groups impacted by the pandemic, would be administered by the Office of Emergency Services and divided among the 21 anti-human trafficking direct service providers across the state. Their immediate, trauma-informed services not only help victims escape their traffickers and prevent them from staying with them longer, but prevent vulnerability to being trafficked or re-trafficked

The human trafficking survivors I have interviewed since 2009 for my ongoing work as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for the Global Fight Against Human Trafficking are among the most extraordinary, brave and generous-hearted people I have ever met.

Most, upon exiting a veritable nightmare, make great use of services to rebuild and reclaim their lives, but never turn their backs on their sisters and brothers left behind in the bondage of this growing, hideous crime. Their survivor voices are growing in volume, but the vast majority remain silenced while still victimized – many right here, under our noses, unheard and unseen.

Whether a debt-bonded migrant worker picking vegetables whose family is threatened should he run away, a trans homeless kid being forced to participate in survival sex trafficking, or a woman trafficked here from another country as an unpaid, physically abused nanny, all are worthy of our most vigorous efforts to help ensure their freedom, survival, and potential to thrive.

Please, Gov. Newsom and the state Legislature: Don’t let California turn its back on them in their greatest hour of need.

Editor’s Note: Academy Award-winning actress Mira Sorvino is a UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for the Global Fight Against Human Trafficking. Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) represents the 53rd District, and leads efforts to fund services for human trafficking survivors.

Mayor Garcetti and LA City Council President Nury Martinez, Champions For Human Trafficking Survivors



Long before they were Mayor and First Lady, Eric Garcetti and Amy Elaine Wakeland were simply Amy and Eric, friends of Cast. Along with eleven other couples belonging to Liberty Hill Foundation’s Pobladores Fund, they rallied together to help create community spaces for survivors of human trafficking to develop leadership skills. Now, 17 years later, having achieved extraordinary things together, our partnership with Mayor Garcetti and First Lady Amy Elaine Wakeland is more crucial and ever-growing.

Last year as lockdown mandates were being issued around the county, Mayor Garcetti and City Council President Nury Martinez courageously stepped up with funding that allowed us to move survivors into hotels where they would be safe as part of Project Safe Haven. This allowed us to prevent homelessness of more trafficking survivors, provide housing for survivors together with their families, and place trafficked men in housing who previously would have been placed in general shelters without specialized care and safety measures for trafficking survivors.

The city’s leadership was essential for organizations providing emergency housing across LA, and it inspired a generous $4.2M donation from Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Cast and our shelter partners immediately put these funds to work keeping survivors and our staff safe even as we saw massive spikes in the daily case count.

We count ourselves lucky to call Los Angeles home with the partnership of our city leaders and donors like you who understand the essential nature of Cast’s mission during a pandemic and its aftermath.

Finding Freedom



During the height of the pandemic, Cast received a call from a young mother, Laila, with 3 children ages 5, 3 and 2 months, who were fleeing their trafficker. Cast’s shelter was full and so were the hotel rooms we had allocated for the COVID-19 overflow of survivors needing emergency shelter. Our housing team called over 30 other shelters; none could accept Laila with her children. After a week of providing daily emotional support, basic necessities and safety planning in her car, Cast was able to secure a room in its emergency shelter hotel, where we could quarantine safely and ensure mom and kids had all they needed to rest and heal from this harrowing ordeal.

“It shouldn’t be this hard to get into safe housing and to protect my children. They always tell you to leave but they never tell you there might be nowhere to go…You guys never gave up on me or my kids and because of that we are going to make it.”- Laila, Survivor

For every Laila, there are hundreds more, waiting to escape from their traffickers. Take Zahra and Maria, who were born nearly 10,000 miles apart, in the Philippines and Ethiopia, yet they crossed paths, were trafficked by the same Saudi Princess, and both landed at Cast, supporting one another through a global pandemic.

When the princess took a vacation to Los Angeles, Zahra saw a rare opportunity to escape the horrific abuse she faced, but Maria was too afraid to escape with her. Zahra called our 24-hour hotline and staff brought her to our shelter. She advanced quickly, learning English in under 6 months. She was thrilled when Cast secured a job for her at LAX.

Months later, on a second trip to Los Angeles, Maria summoned the courage to escape with the help of a hotel housekeeper who took her home while they searched online to find Zahra. They reunited and Zahra brought Maria to Cast’s shelter. She had less than a backpack of possessions to her name, and suffered such severe emotional abuse that when staff gave her basic necessities and gift cards to buy clothes, she felt she did not deserve them. She was doing well, but when the shelter in place orders occurred, Maria was retraumatized and put right back into the mindset of being trapped.

Not letting the pandemic halt Maria’s progress, Cast staff supported Maria in getting virtual counseling and her T1 visa, while Zahra served as her mentor. With a new life ahead of her, Maria moved into her own apartment Cast secured for her and will graduate from her medical billing program in a few weeks.   

When our team gets the call, no matter the time of day or the challenges a case might present, Cast’s team and our community of survivors, will be there.

Together, we can be the community survivors rely on. Join us in the new year by making a donation to Cast. Click here to donate.

Driving Systemic Change: The Dr. John Jain Foundation



For Dr. John Jain, Chief Fertility Specialist at the Santa Monica Fertility Clinic, advocating for the rights of others runs in the family. His sister, the late celebrated human rights activist Sunita Jain, has been his inspiration to support Cast.

Dr. Jain takes a humble and entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy. He knows that difficult problems require big, creative solutions, and that no one can solve them alone. That’s why Dr. Jain has centered his foundation around anti-trafficking policy, which supports Cast’s advocacy work through the Sunita Jain Fellowship. By 2025, Cast will create a bridge between practice and policy, where survivors are empowered to work with practitioners to inform a survivor-centered policy agenda. This evolution would be impossible without Dr. Jain’s leadership.

With the support of his Foundation, Cast has built a stronger anti-trafficking movement, including ensuring that almost two dozen other organizations across the state receive funding from the governor’s office.

With Dr. Jain’s support and the partnership of pro-bono government and public relations firms, Resolute and Perry Communications in Sacramento, we are now positioned to make an incredible $10M budget request for these organizations from the state. If approved, these critical funds will help mitigate the lasting impact of COVID-19 on essential programs and services. Dr. Jain is now passing on the family tradition of giving back, as his son Luke helped lead a human trafficking webinar at his high school in partnership with Girl Up. Their dedication is an inspiration to all of us working to end human trafficking, once and for all.

There When Survivors Need Her



Emergency Response Case Manager, Alex Mayugba is used to late-night calls. Within 30 minutes of receiving a call, our Emergency Response staff meet victims where they are, no matter the time of day.

When stay-at-home orders, economic instability, and disruption of social services forced survivors into increasingly vulnerable and unsafe conditions, Alex and the Emergency Response team knew they had to quickly pivot to continue meeting the needs of survivors. Now, emergency response is coordinated virtually – from picking up survivors through rideshare apps to providing emotional support and safety planning over the phone. The team leaned on new technology and innovative thinking to rapidly adapt program models, prioritizing the health of staff and clients in the face of massive logistical challenges.

“I appreciate Cast’s recent initiatives to foster a safe and supportive environment for staff and clients belonging to communities that continue to face mistreatment, violence, and injustice – more recently the Black community and now the AAPI community. I have hope that we will continue to stand up for and support our colleagues and clients coming from any and all marginalized groups in times of distress.”

Alex Mayugba, Cast Case Manager

Day in and day out, Alex and her team are called upon to find ways to better support our clients through an equitable, diverse and inclusive lens. This is especially important as clients struggle with very real fears of interacting with law enforcement or potentially becoming the victim of hate-based violence. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate movements, focusing on how the issues of systemic racism and inequality affect our clients so that we can center justice and belonging in our work. Staff like Alex, who is a strong advocate for preventing violence against the AAPI community, are powerful leaders in this work.

Cast Is A Place to Belong



Human trafficking festers amid injustice and chaos, and the past year has brought plenty of both. Between the health, racial and economic crises of the pandemic, escalating hate violence, social and political upheaval, and a persistent homelessness crisis, Cast saw an 185% increase in urgent trafficking cases from the same time last year.

“Cast is a community where survivors connect, thrive, and discover what it means to have a home.”

Kay Buck, Cast CEO

To meet this moment, our dedicated team of advocates stepped up in extraordinary ways. We took aggressive steps even before the Safer at Home order was declared by shifting survivors out of shelters and into private hotel rooms in order to reduce their exposure to COVID-19. We launched a new Emergency Relief Fund, doubling down on support for survivors who not only lost their jobs and homes, but continued to suffer injustices caused by systemic racism. We saw a 455% increase in costs for providing basic necessities, mental health support and housing, and we continue to meet survivors at this increased cost.

Through this work, we have placed 100% of trafficking survivors in safe housing. Housing has been particularly urgent this year, as every single survivor who came to Cast was homeless since the Covid crisis began, nearly one third higher than the usual rate. Trinity, who was first trafficked at age 15, shared if it weren’t for our housing program, she didn’t ever see an escape from being sold on the streets, where she was vulnerable to COVID-19.

Nearly 50% of survivors we work with lost their jobs or saw reduced hours because of the pandemic, and we acted aggressively to get them back into the workforce. Because of our approach, nearly 80% of the graduated survivors from our programs are either employed or attending school.

These results belong to all of us. Our outcomes are a direct result of the partnership of our dedicated frontline staff, our designation as an essential business under Mayor Garcetti’s Safer at Home order, and the outpouring of support for our work from generous supporters like you.

Cast is a community where survivors connect, thrive, and discover what it means to have a home defined not by four walls and a roof, but by the people who have your back. We will not rest until we have given every survivor the sense of belonging they deserve and a path towards ending human trafficking.

There is no time to waste, #StopAsianHate!



On March 16th, a 21-year-old white man killed eight human beings, six of whom were Asian women. We are heartbroken for the families of the victims and outraged by these increasing acts of violence targeting Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. Racism, misogyny, and xenophobia are urgent public health issues that we must act upon as a community with shared values and a vision to end hate.  

This act of hate is not an isolated event. Stop AAPI, a project run by a coalition of organizations received nearly 3,800 reports of racism and discrimination against Asian Americans between mid-March and the end of 2020. Stop AAPI also noted that women reported hate incidents 2.3 times more than men.   

More than 23 years ago, Cast was founded in response to the El Monte human trafficking case where 72 Thai garment workers were held for eight years in debt bondage. A strong community coalition resulted, and today API immigrants and Asian Americans are the third largest community of survivors we serve.   

We join with the same community partnerships we have sustained for 23 years, and we will fight with our shared values and tireless advocacy to dismantle White Supremacy that fuels racial and gender violence. Our work is intersectional, and our shared approaches are collaborative. Injustice has no place in our community, or the world, and we stand with our AAPI partners and survivors in full solidarity.

There is no time to waste. We urge you to support anti-hate legislation and seek resources for healing and health.

AB886 – Combats Recent Surge in Hate Attacks

Stop Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Hate 

Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council – API Human Trafficking Task Force (includes links to multilingual resources)

Asian Mental Health Project 

Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum 

National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association 

LA vs Hate

Cast’s mission is to end human trafficking through education, advocacy, and empowering survivors.

Manchin Reintroduces Bipartisan Bill To Help Children, Youth, and Families Experiencing Homelessness



Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) introduced the bipartisan Emergency Family Stabilization Act. This legislation would create a new emergency funding stream overseen by the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide flexible funding for community-based organizations working to meet the unique and challenging needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness. Specifically, the bill aims to provide emergency funding to underserved populations and areas, including in rural and tribal communities, who continue to see long-term repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every child deserves a roof over their head and a safe place to sleep but unfortunately, this is not the case today. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made this problem worse due to high unemployment, unstable living conditions, and job insecurity. Recent research has also found the lack of resources in rural areas of America – like West Virginia – create additional burdens for children and youth experiencing homelessness. The Emergency Family Stabilization Act would help address this issue by dedicating emergency funding to help our children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to include this bipartisan, commonsense legislation in the next COVID-19 relief package,” said Senator Manchin.

“Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, in our work with West Virginia children, youth and families, knows well the plight of many families and children, suffering under the dual crisis of the COVID 19 pandemic, and on-going vulnerability, instability of housing, trauma they experience. We toil daily to help children and family in our state.  We wholeheartedly support the Emergency Family Stabilization Act that is being introduced in the 117th Congress.  It will provide very effective supports and services to address many of the needs and issues facing children and families and youth experiencing homelessness and the related traumas.  We applaud the vision and research by the bipartisan sponsors of the Act.  It provides a much needed boost to those suffering during the pandemic,” said Steve Tuck, CEO of the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia.

“West Virginia’s youth are experiencing crises on a level that is historic in proportions. Poverty, lack of jobs, lack of recreation and opportunities for positive development, and the erosion of communities that is inevitable in times of crisis are ripping families, and subsequently the lives of their members apart, one person, one youth at a time. In this environment, communities become fertile ground for substance use and sales, crime, abuse, trafficking, and a spiral of people who once held one another up in times of need now victimizing and taking advantage of one another. In the work of the WV Coalition to End Homelessness (WVCEH), staff and partners have seen time and again, the need for an immediate, kinetic response to the issues that affect the youth of WV. We believe that youth homelessness can be ended in WV and are eager to see this happen soon,” said Zach Brown, CEO of WVF Coalition to End Homelessness.

“Homelessness is a traumatic experience, especially for children. Housing instability and parental stress over finances put children at a higher risk of maltreatment. West Virginia’s child advocacy centers coordinate the local response to allegations of child abuse and neglect, and we are seeing a drastically increased need for basic support for families living on the edge – including rent support, utility payments, food, and hygiene products. By introducing this bill, Senator Manchin is demonstrating the compassion and foresight we need from our lawmakers to reduce trauma and adverse childhood experiences during this uniquely challenging time,” said Kate Flack, CEO of West Virginia Child Advocacy Network.

Original cosponsors of the legislation include U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ). Companion legislation will soon be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives John Yarmuth (D-KY-3) and Don Bacon (R-NE-2).

The Emergency Family Stabilization Act will:

  • Create a new emergency funding stream through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for local agencies that currently receive ACF grants, or have experience in serving children, families, and unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness.
  • Provide $800 million in direct flexible funding to meet the unique needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness in the wake of the coronavirus.
  • Give special consideration to programs serving families and youth who face barriers in accessing homeless services, as well as the needs of pregnant women, pregnant and parenting youth, children under age 6, children with disabilities, families experiencing domestic violence, survivors of sexual assault or human trafficking, and historically marginalized and underserved communities of color.
  • Permit funds to be used for a wide range of emergency housing, health, education, and safety-related activities, including but not limited to: purchasing PPE, food, hygiene supplies, mental health services, transportation services, emergency child care, communications and connectivity needs, education, training and employment-related needs, eviction prevention, motel stays, assistance in seeking housing placements, assistance in accessing unemployment and other federal benefits.
  • Set aside specific funding for tribes, tribal organizations, Native Hawaiian organizations and ensures funds are distributed to urban, rural, and suburban areas.

Fact sheet on the Emergency Family Stabilization Act can be found here.

Bill text can be found here.

Timeline of Senator Manchin’s work to address homelessness can be found here.

This legislation is supported by the following West Virginia organizations: Child Protect, Child & Youth Advocacy Center, Florence Crittenton Services, Inc., Harmony House CAC, Harrison County CAC, Just for Kids, Logan-Mingo CAC, Monongalia County CAC, Randolph-Tucker CAC, REACHH CAC, Safe Haven CAC, Sarah’s House, Team for West Virginia Children, The Lighthouse CAC, Think Kids, Tri-County CAC, The Children’s Listening Place, Women & Children’s Hospital CAC, National Association for Social Workers – West Virginia Chapter, West Virginia  Child Advocacy Network, West Virginia Behavioral Healthcare Providers Association, West Virginia Child Care Association, West Virginia Primary Care Association, West Virginia Infant/Toddler Mental Health Association, West Virginia Parent Training and Information, Inc., West Virginia Children’s Home Society, WV Coalition to End Homelessness, and the West Virginia Head Start Association.

This legislation is supported by the following national organizations: A New Path, A Way Home America, American Association of School Superintendents – AASA, Alliance for Excellent Education, Alliance for Period Supplies, Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking – ATEST, American Art Therapy Association, American Federation of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Medical Student Association, American School Counselor Association, Bethany Christian Services, Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice, Child Care Services Association, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Health Fund, Children’s Home Society of America, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, Covenant House International, Family Focused Treatment Association, Family Promise, First Focus Campaign for Children, Foster Club, Low Income Investment Fund, National Alliance for Hispanic Health, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association for Children’s Behavioral Health, National Association of Counsel for Children, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Center for Housing & Child Welfare, National Children’s Alliance, National Community Action Fund, National Crittenton, National Diaper Bank Network, National Education Association, National Head Start Association, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, National League of Cities, National Network for Youth, National Runaway Safeline, National Safe Place Network, Polaris, Psychotherapy Action Network, Rights4Girls, Safe Horizon, SchoolHouse Connection, StandUp for Kids, Strategies for Youth, The Forum on Youth Investment, The McCain Institute for International Leadership, The Next 100, Third Way, Vital Voices, Youth Homes of Mid-America, YouthBuild USA, Zero To Three.

Human rights org sees 185% rise in human trafficking cases amid COVID-19 pandemic



LOS ANGELES — As COVID-19 cases surge, another hidden issue is taking its toll on our country’s most vulnerable. Human trafficking cases have risen 185% compared to this time last year, one human rights organization says.

Human trafficking “involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act,” according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Common industries for labor trafficking include domestic work, manufacturing and agriculture, while common venues for sex trafficking include massage parlors and strip joints, according to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, one the nation’s largest provider of services to survivors of human trafficking.

The rise aligns with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced many into economic hardship, said Kay Buck, the CEO of CAST.

That desperation has led to more people being tricked into what can be described as modern-day slavery.

“A lot of people don’t make the connection that human trafficking is a human rights issue,” Kay said. “As a human rights issue, human trafficking intersects with so many other issues: homelessness, economic justice, racial justice, gender justice, health disparities, immigration reform.”

About 89% of CAST’s clients are people of color. And while women and girls make up a larger percentage of individuals who are trafficked, Buck said about 21% of CAST’s clients are men and boys.

CAST has also seen a dramatic rise in homeless clients since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. One-hundred percent of its cases classified as “urgent” human trafficking cases have been comprised of homeless survivors.

“In order for us to really tackle this issue, we need to come together as a community and really move forward. All of these issues around racial justice and gender justice, immigration reform, and addressing homelessness once and for all,” said Kay.

To learn more about CAST and how you can help support their efforts in the fight against human trafficking, visit www.CASTLA.org.

WeHo Recognizes National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January



Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

The City of West Hollywood recognizes National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January. Advocates, organizations, and individuals will unite this month to raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking.

The lanterns on Santa Monica Boulevard between N. Robertson Boulevard and Hancock Avenue will be blue through Tuesday, January 19, 2021. Blue is the international color for human trafficking awareness.

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is observed on Monday, January 11, 2021. On this day, the City of West Hollywood will participate in raising awareness about #WearBlueDay, an initiative of the Department of Homeland Security DHS Blue Campaigna national public awareness campaign that encourages community members to help spread the word about human trafficking by taking photos of themselves, friends, family, and colleagues wearing blue clothing and sharing them on social media using hashtag #WearBlueDay.

The DHS Blue Campaign is designed to educate the public, law enforcement, and other industry partners to recognize the indicators of human trafficking and how to appropriately respond to possible cases. The campaign leverages partnerships with the private sector, non-governmental organizations, law enforcement, and state/local authorities to maximize national public engagement on anti-human trafficking efforts for the prevention of human trafficking and protection of exploited persons. For more information about the DHS Blue Campaign and how to participate go to www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign.

Department of Homeland Security reports that human trafficking is: “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Victims of human trafficking are of all genders, ages, races, countries, and socioeconomic statuses. While human trafficking can happen to anyone, people who are already in vulnerable situations — including migrants and refugees fleeing conflict or disaster, homeless LGBT youth, women and girls, and children in poverty — are preyed upon and may be more likely to be targeted by traffickers. The different kinds of human trafficking include sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude. Any person under the age of 18 involved in a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking.

The Polaris Project, which publishes data based on calls, text messages, webforms, emails and webchats with the National Human Trafficking Hotline, states over 25 million people are trafficked worldwide, and California is one of the largest sites of human trafficking in the United States.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline has seen a 40 percent increase in emergency calls during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), a Los Angeles-based human rights organization and one of the nation’s largest provider of services to survivors, has seen 185 percent increased cases during the pandemic, compared to last year.  Additionally, 100 percent of CAST’s most urgent trafficking cases have been homeless people who were trafficked.

If you are a victim of human trafficking or if you are aware of a trafficking situation, there are resources to help:

  • The National Human Trafficking Hotline connects victims and survivors of sex and labor trafficking with services and support to get help and stay safe. The hotline also receives tips about potential situations of sex and labor trafficking and facilitates reporting that information to the appropriate authorities in certain cases. Toll-free phone and SMS text lines and live online chat function are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days. To contact the hotline, call (888) 373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree or 233733. Deaf or hard of hearing or speech-impaired people can contact the hotline by dialing 711.
  • The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) helps people who have been in forced prostitution, forced labor, and slave-like conditions by providing legal and social services. To request services or report tips regarding potential human trafficking cases, contact the toll-free, 24/7 hotline at (888) Key-2-FREE or (888) 539-2373.
  • Journey Out provides comprehensive services and support to help victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. For assistance call (818) 988-4970 or email info@journeyout.org.

For more information about National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Community Events Coordinator Larissa Fooks at (323) 848-6413 or lfooks@weho.org.

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