Monday, April 2, 2018

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: A Time to Take Action

by Sandra Henriquez, CEO, CALCASA

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) is excited to partner with public officials, college campuses, law enforcement, victim advocates and communities across California to raise awareness.

Over the past year, we have witnessed sexual assault receive national attention through the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Survivors who once suffered in silence for decades have found the courage to publically speak out and have been greeted by a society no longer tolerant of rape and abuse. As we enter Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we have the opportunity to continue to create positive change.


In February, CALCASA released a new report The Costs and Consequences of Sexual Violence in California. The report was commissioned by CALCASA in an effort to create greater comprehension of the physical, emotional, social, and economic impact of rape and sexual assault upon California taxpayers. For some, the idea of discussing the economic impact of sexual harassment and violence appears unseemly. While sexual harassment and assault are very personal, in order to understand their impact, we need to look at them in the aggregate and in their environments. Families, friends, partners, neighbors and co-workers know firsthand the time and resources necessary to recover from sexual violence. But never before has there been a comprehensive, quantitative analysis of how much this utterly preventable crime costs the state. By collectivizing rapes and other acts of sexual violence, we can see their broader impact.

At a minimum, the report reveals how ALL Californians have an investment in eliminating sexual violence. This year CALCASA’s focus for Sexual Assault Awareness Month brings out key components of our report in order to create greater comprehension of the physical, emotional, social, and economic impact of rape and sexual assault. We believe, and the research demonstrates, that building thriving communities and supporting healthy relationships can prevail over sexual violence and we can do this by investing in prevention.

Moving forward, we need to focus on prevention in response to the impacts of sexual violence in our communities. For Sexual Assault Awareness Month, CALCASA developed resources to share the consequences of rape and sexual assault, enhance the visibility of our efforts to end sexual violence, and the need to move forward with prevention. Focusing on prevention can help strengthen and grow the support for survivors and our communities.

CALCASA is honored to support the 84 rape crisis centers and rape prevention programs that serve all of California, provide survivors with a place to turn in their time of need, and take action to prevent sexual violence. The time for survivors is now, to support and elevate their voices, and the time for prevention is now.

What will you do for Sexual Assault Awareness Month? Join CALCASA’s effort with the Partnership for $50 Million to end sexual and domestic violence.

If you are a victim/survivor of sexual violence, help and resources are available. Victims can call the free and confidential National Sexual Assault Helpline at 1-800-656-4673 or find their local agency at www.calcasa.org/agencies/.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Supply and Demand: The Complex Nature of Human Trafficking

by Emily Butler, on behalf of The Grace Network

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. It occurs in every country, including most regions and cities throughout the United States. California is no exception. Over the last five years, California has reported the most human trafficking cases in the nation according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Trafficking can be defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion. It takes many forms, including commercial sex, bonded labor, domestic servitude, etc.

Victims may be both minors or adults, foreign-born or U.S. born, males or females. Trafficking may take place in homes, hotels, massage parlors, bars, online or any other myriad of locations.

So, what can be done to help victims and potential victims of this exploitation?

Photo of young girl with barcode on her arm. CalVCB logo. Text next to photo: January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. victims.ca.gov.
While law enforcement plays an important role, the truth is that there is work that can be done by any community member to help prevent trafficking in our communities. In trafficking, there is a supply of victims, demand from people willing to pay for their exploitation and facilitators looking to make a profit. The prevention of human trafficking requires that we address all three.

In sex trafficking, most of the supply of victims in California come from youth who end up in the system — kids who are runaways, throwaways or victims of abuse or neglect. These kids are vulnerable to facilitators who pose as loving boyfriends or father figures, people who prey on their vulnerability.

Fortunately, there are already groups and organizations doing just that, often without the label of “fighting human trafficking.” They simply need more resources and manpower to continue their good work.

Groups that are directly or indirectly working to stop the supply of victims are any organizations that help empower and protect vulnerable youth. Among these agencies are group homes, foster care homes, after school programs, community centers, homeless shelters, drop-in centers and trauma recovery centers.

These groups are also helping to transform those who could become facilitators in the commercial sex trade. Young men and women who could become exploiters can find a different path through the influence of mentors and other opportunities.

The demand in sex trafficking comes from sex buyers, mostly men, who consume commercial sex, whether online, in clubs or on the streets. Groups that contribute to ending the demand work to stop the consumption of pornography, provide support groups for men and pursue other forms of accountability in the commercial sex trade.

The fight against human trafficking requires an army — it requires people to be aware and it requires that people get involved in their communities to serve vulnerable youth by helping give them opportunities for a safe future.

If you are a victim of human trafficking, help is available. Victims can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or The Grace Network at (916) 850-0846 for assistance.