Two years ago, as they gathered around a conference table at the Coalition to Abolish Trafficking and Slavery, a group of sex trafficking survivors decided that posting a hotline number in bars, truck stops, massage parlors and emergency rooms would be a lifeline for victims seeking help. It would be a sign for a Good Samaritan who is ready to intervene.
And so they wrote letters and brought the idea to legislators in Sacramento. The result of their efforts is a state law that now requires these businesses and facilities to place a poster in a place that is visible.
“As a survivor myself, I believe that the outreach with the posters is critical in helping people identity victims of human trafficking and making it easier for victims themselves to seek help,” said Maria Suarez, an advocate for other victims.
This week, advocates, survivors and elected officials, gathered to mark the official launch of the campaign poster, with the number 1-888-539-2373 in bright green font for all to see.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Council Member Nury Martinez and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer all showed their support for raising awareness about the issue of sex trafficking at a press conference held at the National Council of Jewish Women in Los Angeles.
“Today, we celebrate not only the launch of the poster distribution, but we also celebrate the power of survivor advocacy and grass roots initiatives,” said Kay Buck, CEO and Executive Director of CAST. “Across the nation, states which have enacted public posting laws have seen significant increases in calls to human trafficking hotlines. When victims have access to this information, they will call, and their lives will be changed because of it.”
Stating his outrage at the grown men who profit from and exploit children for sex, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said trafficking is the “moral issue of our time.”
“These are victims, not prostitutes,” he said. “These posters are a low risk, non-confrontational way to take action. We know that these Johns and pimps have their own language, special codes and phrases to signal that they want to sell or purchase children for sex. And with these posters, we will let the victims know we will have our own code. A code says we care and want to help.”
Although the notice only will affect businesses and facilities in the city of Los Angeles, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Knabe have introduced a motion for all of Los Angeles County.
Volunteers started a city-wide, door-to-door poster distribution campaign. In addition, the city attorney’s office has spearheaded the mailing of an enforcement notice so that businesses know that the city of L.A. is taking this new law seriously.
Added City Attorney Mike Feuer, “This notice has had meaningful impact in other states. This is a cause we have pledged to join.”
Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) (888-539-2373) and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (888-373-7888).
Click here to view the motion passed by the Board of Supervisors.
More information about the SB1193 Implementation Taskforce can be found at http://ncjwla.org/our-programs/advocacy/human-trafficking-outreach-project.