CSUSB Assistant Professor, Dr. Julie Taylor explained how the U.S. policy affects survivors of prostitution and human trafficking at the Grace and Justice event in Riverside.
Guest speakers of various professional backgrounds held discussions on human trafficking issues such as pimp recruiting and selling, victimization, healthcare, nursing implications and challenges for law enforcement, among others.
While much of the information is meant for the public, the goal was to educate nurses and nursing students on how they can work with people affected by human trafficking.
“The way people view them [victims] from an outsider’s perspective is that they’re one and the same,” said Dr. Julie Taylor, who has been doing research on sexual exploitation for over 10 years.
In efforts to stop the spread of the hidden, organized crime such as human trafficking in the Inland Empire, the organizer of the event, Freeze the H.E.A.T. (Human Exploitation and Trafficking), an organization from California Baptist University, sought to educate the public on the ongoing issue via conference.
The organization held their first conference, Grace and Justice: Human Trafficking in the Inland Empire, at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside on Nov. 3rd.
The conference was held in association with Million Kids, Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, the California Baptist University College of Nursing, Rebirth Homes, Safe House and Harvest Christian Fellowship.
According to the organization’s website, human trafficking is the second most lucrative form of organized crime. However, the question remains of why this crime exists.
Nancy Aguirre, Criminal Intelligence Analyst with Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and assigned with the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force under the Special Investigations Bureau was one of the event’s speakers who gave her input on the question.
Before she dived into the question, she clarified that trafficking can happen from city to city, county to county, and state to state. Hence, how trafficking is happening in the Inland Empire.
“There are gangs that are formed that believe they’re wannabe rappers and there are pimping games that are coming together. It [human trafficking] is the world’s fastest growing criminal enterprise and that’s right below narcotics; drugs,” Aguirre explained to the public. “Drugs have been out on the street for many years but with trafficking because it’s so easy for you to get a victim, it’s so easy for you to go on social media and pick up a girl or guy.”
Aguirre continued, “If I’m a pimp and have to get three victims, all I have to do is manipulate them, tell them how much I love them, sell them to three guys and do it over and over again. Whereas if I’m a drug dealer, I would need to keep going back for more supply.”
Some social media pages and programs that pimps use for recruitment include Facebook, Instagram, Kik, Skype, Omegle, and ooVoo.
Various statistics were presented that showed who can be affected by this crime which encompassed age, gender, socioeconomic background and how many are affected yearly.
Many challenges are faced in the fight against human trafficking for law enforcement, healthcare professionals, advocates for survivors. However, very little is thought of from the perspective of the survivor and how the law affects them.
According to Dr. Taylor, prostitution has been in policy much longer than sex or human trafficking and therefore it remains the governing policy.
“A lot of places are criminalizing prostitution or sex for sale only from the people who are selling sex,” Taylor said, “Seattle has completely reformed the way they are doing their arrests. They’re only arresting people who are buying sex.”
Though Dr. Taylor was discussing research and laws on sexual exploitation, it is important to note that there is a difference between sex trafficking and prostitution. However, because both include sex for sale, victims and workers each gets arrested and prosecuted equally.
Throughout the conference, plenty of resources were also offered for those who would like to help victims, survivors. In fact, new ideas have come into play when victims are seeking help to get out of their situation.
Yvonne Bennett, Program Manager of the Sexual Assault and Forensic Evaluation (SAFE), offers nursing students and nurses a fairly new idea on separation for when a person is seeking help at a hospital or clinic.
“You can’t just call the cops. You need to have a plan and if you work at a hospital, you need to have a multidisciplinary plan,” Bennett said as she presented an image that shows a tear-off flyer in the patient’s only restroom.
Patients seeking help can tear off a piece of paper and turn it into a staff member to let them know they are not comfortable with the person they came with.
During the conference, the public is reminded of red flags to vigilant of, how to respond to survivor trauma, common misconceptions of victims, cultural assumptions and biases.
Later, President and CEO of Million Kids, Opal Singleton, touched on the connection of human/sex trafficking with modern technology and what the future holds for it.
“I believe that sextortion and cybersex on demand will be the biggest crime in the world by 2020. It will be much bigger than human trafficking, though it’s a form of human trafficking,” Singleton said.
Though victimized children are the focus of Singleton’s discussion here, the same can be said for others in different age groups.
Singleton suggested that people train themselves, understand, unite, alert, educate themselves and everyone around them on the subject and not pretend that the issue doesn’t exist.
On a more personal note, she also suggests people talk about digital morality, practice intimacy, help at-risk kids, and practice leadership with younger generations.
“Let’s put the pride of leadership back,” Singleton said, “This generation is taught to be leaders in technology and will set the stage for generations to come. Their kids, our grandkids…it is a generational problem.”