Council Committee receives briefing on outreach efforts to help those trying to escape human trafficking
StoryFor the past several years, King County has worked to reduce human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children. At the Sept. 1 meeting of the Metropolitan King County’s Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, committee members received a briefing on one initiative reflective of the county’s continuing effort to end this crime in our region.
“We as a County have an obligation to do everything we can do to put an end to this unconscionable crime, and raising public awareness is one of the tools we can use to help eradicate trafficking,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, the sponsor of the motion requesting the Executive to undertake the public awareness campaign. “Based on the testimony at committee it is apparent that the more locations this information is in, the more calls to the national hotline are made.”
“No one should be forced into labor. No one should be sold for sex,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “By distributing this simple message and a hotline number – in public places like courthouses and clinics – we are providing a tangible means for victims to escape human trafficking.”
In 2013, King County launched an anti-human trafficking transit public awareness campaign using County resources and private sector partnerships with Clear Channel Communications and Titan Media. This campaign involved over 200 Sound Transit and Metro buses, billboards, and radio and TV public service announcements which helped to inform thousands of people in Western Washington about human trafficking.
Last year, the Council unanimously adopted legislation that further supported efforts to combat human trafficking in King County by calling for the development and placement of human trafficking outreach information in government facilities and in other places where the general public or human trafficking victims would see these. The committee briefing focused on the status of this effort to reach out to victims trying to escape and community members who might be able to help if they knew how to identify a potential victim.
A group of more than 65 community partners and King County agencies have posted nearly 500 awareness notices in locations where victims and the public might see them. The campaign was informed by training materials on conducting public outreach campaigns provided by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC). Posters used in the campaign list NHTRC's hotline number, 1-888-3737-888.
“Providing access to help to those in need is essential” said Kathleen Morris, Program Manager for the Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network (WARN). “Identifying victims is challenging so we must do all we can to let people know where to turn for support. I am grateful to King County for going beyond the state mandated posting requirements to bring awareness of Human Trafficking to the general public and to more places where victims of human trafficking may visit.”
Human trafficking is defined under federal law, and victims include children induced into commercial sex, adults age eighteen or over who are induced--through force, fraud, or coercion--into commercial sex, and anyone induced to perform “labor or services,” such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm workers forced to labor against their will.