The Junior League of San Diego focuses on education regarding the myths and facts of human trafficking, recognition of the signs of victims being held captive, and awareness of how to get involved in the battle against it.
By definition, human trafficking covers sex trafficking and forced labor. It’s a crime involving the exploitation of someone through the use of force, fraud or coercion. The definition includes domestic servitude or even forced labor in the fishing and agricultural industries, both of which have a significant presence in San Diego.
The International Labor Organization estimates there are at least 21 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. San Diego is listed by the FBI as one of California’s hot spots. The San Diego District Attorney’s Office has concluded there are at least 8,000 victims in San Diego alone. The illicit industry also brings in more than $810 million annually, making it the second-largest underground economy in San Diego.
Singer created signs at her home in Pacific Beach before heading to Balboa Park to the Jan. 13 march with more than 100 other women and men to raise awareness about human trafficking in San Diego.
Singer heads a group of women volunteering to raise money and supplies for kids aging out of the foster system. She also leads efforts against commercial sexual exploitation of children. Statistics reveal homeless or foster children are particularly at-risk of exploitation by trafficking.
Singer discussed the motivation behind her Junior League of San Diego involvement.
“I wanted to give back to the community, and I knew that the focus was on foster youth,” she said, adding she’d been sensitized to the issue by her father who worked with troubled teen boys. “So I joined the task force committee working with foster youth and human-trafficking victims.”
“We look at where we can make the biggest impact,” said Singer. “For us, it’s been transitional-age youth, and human trafficking. The average age for victims is 16.”
Why should people be more aware of human trafficking?
“The biggest reason is that it’s happening all around us,” said Singer. “The person sitting next to you could be a human-trafficking victim.”
Of the trafficking rally, Singer said the goal was “to bring education and awareness to the community.”
The rally included booths and a wide variety of speakers including law enforcement and social service agencies, as well as victims themselves.
Singer said more people today aren’t aware of human trafficking because, “They have a mind set that that wouldn’t happen to me. I live in a safe community. That’s not going to happen here.”
What can people do to increase their awareness of trafficking and its consequences?
“Parents just knowing who their children are hanging out with,” said Singer, “Your daughter starts dating a new guy — knowing who he is, meeting him, talking to him. Also, having those conversations with your children, teenagers, so it’s known that [trafficking’s] out there. You’re aware of it.”