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“Be the One” to drive change in Orange County during Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Kathleen Neff

Submitted photo

Kathleen Neff, Junior League’s Human Trafficking Awareness Manager

In collaboration with the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF), Junior League of Orange County, California, Inc. (JLOCC), based in Newport Beach, is marking Human Trafficking Awareness Month with a number of activities and educational events to increase awareness of human trafficking in Orange County.

One primary focus is centered on a social media campaign called “Be the One” to inspire people to be the one to drive change in Orange County. Interested people are asked to post a photo of themselves in the month of January holding a sign that reads: BT1. BE THE ONE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Participants in this social media campaign are asked to create a tagline for their photos identifying who they are: “I am a mother,” “I am a teacher,” “I am a police officer,” “I am a volunteer,” etc., then paste in the following statement into their post: [Insert personal tagline]. 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. I encourage you to replicate this photo at home and join the anti-trafficking movement with us. BE THE ONE to make a difference! Visit these websites, www.jlocc.org

and www.ochumantrafficking.com to learn more.  #BeTheOne, #EndItMovement, #HumanTraffickingAwarenessMonth, #StopTrafficking, #JLOCC, #OCHTTF, #OCTA

Another way JLOCC and OCHTTF are teaming up is by holding a drive to collect gift cards in $25 increments from Target, Walmart and Uber, along with other items for distribution to local victims of sex trafficking.

Members of the public can get involved by bringing donations during January to JLOCC’s office at 5140 Campus Drive in Newport Beach. The phone number is 949.261.0823. Appropriate items in their original packaging are as follows: laundry detergent, paper towels, toilet paper, trash bags and tampons. Alternatively, an Amazon Wish List has been created; click here for details: http://amzn.to/2qTJb0n.

According to OCHTTF, human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the county involving primarily female victims as young as nine years old, who are recruited into this modern-day version of slavery, most often kept against their will and then sold repeatedly for sex. Statistics show 241 victims of sex trafficking were assisted in Orange County in 2016 alone, with each victim on average worth potentially more than $200,000 yearly to their pimps. This statistic only indicates those who have been assisted, and does not pinpoint how many victims are actually out there. The fluidity of this crime makes it hard to know how many people are truly affected.

While no young girl is completely safe from potential abuse, foster children are particularly vulnerable to human traffickers in that they often lack a stable home life and support system. Criminals use online advertising tactics to attract their potential customers, and find their victims at malls, skating rinks, schools and other locations.

The OCHTTF states commercial sex or prostitution involving anyone under 18 is human trafficking and those who are prostituted are considered trafficking victims. Members of OCHTTF and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office work proactively to protect women and minors from falling victim to commercial sexual exploitation.

Recognizing the breadth and cost of this crime, JLOCC has committed to focusing on foster youth and human trafficking by pursuing a human trafficking awareness and education campaign. It also supports the Orangewood Resource Center through the Bear Hugs and Bear Necessities project that is focused on supporting teenagers emancipating from the county’s foster care system, and helping to ease their transition into independent living and adulthood.

“Community partnerships, such as that with Junior League, are important to the overall success in addressing this issue in Orange County. The Task Force has always held to the belief that we can’t address this issue alone, said Linh Tran, Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force’s Administrator and Supervisor. “It takes a community to come together to send a message to help make Orange County a safer place for victims who were afraid to ask for help in the past and an unsafe place for traffickers and pimps to commit their crimes here.”

“Most people in Orange County are unaware that human trafficking exists here –and they would be shocked to hear that it’s happening in their own neighborhood. Junior League is pleased to do our part to educate the community and promote Human Trafficking Awareness Month,” said Kathleen Neff, Junior League’s Human Trafficking Awareness Manager. “We believe we can make an impact by expanding existing community-based education programs about how to identify and help victims of human trafficking in Orange County.”

Once a month, JLOCC helps support the Orangewood Foundation provide a public education forum for Orange County residents to continue to drive awareness throughout the year. To attend a public community forum, click here: https://orangewoodfoundation.org/what-we-do/trafficking.

For more information, visit www.egovlink.com/ochumantrafficking or https://jlocc.org.