Raising Awareness: Northern California Shines the Light on Human Trafficking

January is human trafficking awareness month. This form of modern-day slavery affects millions of people around the world. But this plague is not just a problem in the far corners of the world, it’s happening in our hometowns.

WEAVE, is a Sacramento non-profit dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual assault, and proving support for victims. According to WEAVE, Sacramento is one of the top 5 cities in the U.S. experiencing an epidemic of child trafficking. That’s because California is a point of entry for trafficking victims. Sacramento is one of the cities located along a route used to move and hide victims — made easier because of our diverse communities and sprawling geography.

Trafficking victims have no rights, no voice and no hope for a future. But the community is doing its part to raise awareness about the problem, and fight it.

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Women’s volunteer group, Soroptimists Int’l of Sacramento of South Sacramento joined local non-profit, My Sister’s House to shed light on the problem, and empower others to take action. My Sister’s House designed a one-sheet poster, identifying the signs of a victim of human trafficking. They’re being used as placemats in Asian restaurants in the downtown and south Sacramento areas.

Restaurants like Louie’s are participating. It’s a Chinese restaurant located at Stockton Blvd. and Broadway. Other Sacramento restaurants include:

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Aviator’s Restaurant: 6151 Freeport Blvd.

AB Indian Sweets & Catering: 78837 Stockton Blvd., Ste. 200

Aura: 1401 G St.

Bento Box: 1600 K St.

Ocean Sushi: 7485 Rush River Dr. #680

Also in the Sacramento area: Roseville has become a major voice for sex trafficking victims. I attended the special screening of the CNN Freedom Project documentary, “Every Day in Cambodia”. Special guests, actress Mira Sorvino and CNN Producer Lisa Cohen spoke at the event at Bayside Church, to a packed crowd — and I mean PACKED — as in, not an empty seat in sight.

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The film takes place at a small village in Cambodia. Svay Pak is an epicenter for pedofiles and victimized children. It documents the lives of sex trafficking victims, turned survivors, thanks to activists who have dedicated their lives to saving one victim at a time.

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Sorvino. an anti-slavery activist, went to Cambodia, interviewing survivors and how they were helped by the group, Agape International Missions. The group’s spiritual leader, Don Brewster is on a human rights mission to end trafficking.

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I attended the screening on a Sunday night, and was surprised to see how large the crowd was and how open they were to understanding this plight affecting a country thousands of miles away. As a Cambodian, this is an issue that means a lot to me. Although it’s a story I’ve seen before, it still hits me hard when I see it again. This documentary touched on something I had never seen any other documentaries touch on before — the societal root of the problem. The filmmakers interviewed the mothers who decided to sell their children to trafficking. Instead of judging the mothers, the documentary takes an objective view. You begin to realize they are part of a greater evil. There’s a sex trafficking industry that preys on poor families, by loaning them money that they can never pay back. It’s a pattern; the families spiral into massive debt, and the same people who loaned them the money present a “solution” — sell your children.

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It’s a powerful documentary, that gives a human face to an issue that we often never get to look in the eye. Bravo, CNN for taking on this important issue and showing to the world that there are people making a difference, and that we can too.

To read and watch more:

http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/category/every-day-in-cambodia/

Reach out:

http://agapewebsite.org

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