A presentation being held today will discuss how sex trafficking and human slavery affect the Santa Barbara community.
The event is free to the public and will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Schott Center’s Tannahill Auditorium located at 310 West Padre Street. The conference is sponsored by the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, Santa Barbara City College Adult Education and 14 other organizations as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Alana Walczak, program director for the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, said human trafficking is a lot closer to home than most people realize.
“Most cases of trafficking have been in L.A. and surrounding areas,” Walczak said. “We know it’s happening in Santa Barbara, but we don’t have official proof because law officers don’t have the training yet.”
Walczac said it is important to hold this event in Santa Barbara because locals and law enforcers here are not aware of these issues, so the problem is difficult to identify.
“We haven’t really scratched the surface in legally identifying individual cases, and this training is a first step to help,” Walczac said.
The event will inform and train local community members and law enforcement officers on how to deal with these issues. Jennifer Stanger, a representative of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, will talk about how to identify victims of human trafficking.
From 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. there will be an overview of the issues, and from 3:45 to 5:45 p.m. the discussion will focus on the roles of community members and law enforcers in identifying victims.
“We’ll be discussing the social service needs that survivors have and what sorts of legal remedies are out there for traffickers as well as victims,” Walczak said.
Debbie Deem, an FBI victim specialist, and Tom O’Brien, assistant U.S. attorney from the Civil Rights Division of the Central District of California will make presentations on ways the community can provide services for victims.
“Human trafficking is a serious international problem. We see many victims in the U.S. and specifically in the Central District of California, which includes Santa Barbara,” O’Brien said in a press release.
According to the Rape Crisis Center, profits from human trafficking, a $9 billion-per-year industry, surpass profits from drug and illegal arms trades. According to the CIA 45,000 to 50,000 women and children are trafficked to the U.S. each year. Southern and Central California are major points of entry due to the demand for cheap labor.
“Unfortunately, the fear and secrecy involved with trafficking keeps victims locked in silence. Many times they’re afraid for the safety of family members in other countries,” Walczak said. “If we don’t ask the right questions, we really don’t know what’s happening.”