Monday, January 11, 2016

Looking Ahead: Human Trafficking Awareness Month

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

Greetings, and a very Happy New Year to you.

As we enter a new year together, it is a good time to reflect on our accomplishments from the past 12 months, but to also take inventory, and to take action on the work that lies ahead.

Such is the case with the subject of Human Trafficking. The month of January is set aside to increase awareness of this important topic, and to increase access to the services we provide to trafficking survivors. Today we acknowledge and honor Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which is a part of a month-long commemoration set aside to increase awareness of this important topic and to increase access to the services we provide to trafficking survivors.

More than 20 million men, women and children around the world and in our own communities are currently victims of human trafficking — a $32 billion dollar industry that transcends age, gender, race and status. 

We have come a long way in how we now handle these cases. For years, state law did not allow these victims to receive benefits if they had participated in a crime or were involved in the events leading to their victimization. 

They were treated as prostitutes and disqualified, whether or not they had been forced into sexual slavery, and subjected to rape and physical and mental abuse. Many of them did what they had to do, simply to survive. We saw the need for change, and added a regulation in 2014 to allow them to get assistance from our California Victims Compensation Program (CalVCP).  

Since that time, we have received many applications from human trafficking victims — a population we had not served before. But we want to help all of these victims, so we need to collaborate with our partners to reach out to these individuals who desperately need our help.

trauma-informed training

In light of this, we are hosting a human trafficking trauma-informed training to educate our staff and our partners who work with these human trafficking victims. This training will be presented by Chris Stambaugh from The Grace Network, a grassroots organization that has mobilized thousands of people to combat human trafficking. Chris will discuss how they use technology to reach and serve victims, and will give a presentation on their free user-friendly resource app, “GraceCity” that allows first responders to access services for those affected by human trafficking. This training will be live-streamed on January 14, 2016 at 10 a.m. This focused training will be extremely informative and helpful as we continue to explore better ways to meet the unique needs of these survivors.

The training builds upon our earlier human trafficking workshop presented by Opening Doors, which is available to view anytime. This workshop gives insight into how you can identify a victim of sex trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage and the psychological mechanisms behind the abuse.  

Additionally, we have developed a short public service announcement (PSA) featuring our Board member, and San Bernardino County District Attorney, Michael Ramos. District Attorney Ramos has been a leader in California in recognizing that women, men, and children who are trafficked are victims of crime and their trafficking must be aggressively prosecuted. We ask that you share this PSA with your own networks.

As we go forward, CalVCP will continue to engage in the discussion of human trafficking and how this critical subject is handled through law enforcement and the victim services arena.

I am honored to work in a state dedicated to education and action, striving to make a tangible difference in the lives of victims. We invite you to participate in our workshops during Human Trafficking Awareness Month and we encourage you to join us in this effort to ensure that all victims of human trafficking receive the respectful and compassionate help they deserve.

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.