“Knowledge is power and public awareness is key in combating the scourge of human trafficking, including labor trafficking and sexual exploitation of children and vulnerable adults,” said King County Councilmember and former State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles.
Metropolitan King County Councilmembers Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Reagan Dunn spoke today at the launch of a regional campaign promoting public awareness of human trafficking in King County and informing trafficking victims on where they can find help.
The awareness campaign builds on a successful effort led by the King County Council in 2013, which was launched in response to legislation that Dunn sponsored that year. After the initial 2013 campaign, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline saw an increase in calls made from Washington State of over 63 percent.
“Knowledge is power and public awareness is key in combating the scourge of human trafficking, including labor trafficking and sexual exploitation of children and vulnerable adults,” said King County Councilmember and former State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles. “Although our State and County, along with other local jurisdictions, have led the public sector efforts dating back to the early 2000s, the impetus has been, and continues to be, our community partners who have organized to create visibility around the issue, mobilized advocates and lifted up victims and survivors.”
“As a former federal prosecutor, I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that sex crimes inflict on victims’ lives,” said Dunn. “That’s why I’ve made it a priority to educate the public on what they can do to help, and to remain persistent in our efforts to reach victims so that they may get the help they need. Though it is a crime that often goes unseen, human trafficking for labor or sex is a horrifying assault on human dignity and liberty--and it happens right here in King County.”
King County Councilmembers Kohl-Welles and Dunn were the primary sponsors of legislation passed in 2018 which called for a regional and collaborative public awareness campaign to combat human trafficking. This legislation spurred the formation of a private-public workgroup, which launched their joint Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign this morning in SeaTac.
This workgroup includes leaders representing King County, the Port of Seattle, the City of Seattle, Sound Transit, and private sector partners including Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines. Other participating partners include Expedia, Uber, Lyft, the Snohomish County Lodging Association, and several King County cities.
The public awareness campaign has three main goals:
- Raise public awareness about the nature of human trafficking, how and where it occurs locally, and how to prevent and stop it;
- Help identify victims and promote access to victim services; and
- Decrease demand in trafficking.
The campaign will include placing informational signs in public spaces throughout the region—including buses, trains, airports, libraries, health clinics, and police stations. The signs have the National Human Trafficking Hotline number, which victims can call to find help.
The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to make people provide labor or commercial sex acts. This could include people like domestic workers held in a home, farm-workers forced to labor against their will, or children involved in any commercial sexual activity.
Due to a number of regional characteristics including an abundance of ports and proximity to an international border, King County has always been a focal point for human trafficking.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 163 cases of human trafficking were reported in Washington State in 2017, the majority of these being sex trafficking cases. This is just a fragment of the instances of trafficking and abuse seen in the state.
The experience of being trafficked for sex or labor can be so traumatic that victims may not identify themselves as victims or request help, even in public areas when the opportunity presents itself. Community involvement is essential, which is why authorities encourage victims, advocates, and bystanders to call the hotline with concerns or questions. The number is 1-888-373-7888, or text HELP or INFO to 233733.
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