The annual ECPAT-USA Survivor Solidarity Ride brings awareness to the reality that child trafficking is happening in every state in the nation.
The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and ECPAT-USA, the nation’s leading anti-child sex trafficking organization, held the second annual Survivor Solidarity Ride in Suffolk County on Monday, May 31, 2021. This was the first time the event took place on Long Island.
The annual ECPAT-USA Survivor Solidarity Ride brings awareness to the reality that child trafficking is happening in every state in the nation. The event highlights locations where survivors have indicated they were trafficked and where there have been reports of child exploitation as a symbol of those who stand with trafficking survivors across the country.
This year, the ride began in the morning at the Riverhead Correctional Facility and traveled east through East Quogue to the Shinnecock Reservation, where participants met with leaders and activists to learn more about the movement addressing and raising awareness of the epidemic of violence and exploitation against Indigenous women and children.
The riders then returned to Riverhead, where leaders from the Empowerment Collaborative of Long Island (ECLI) and Sheriff’s Office officials joined participants at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s to speak about what is being done to address this issue specifically on Long Island.
Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon said, “Human trafficking is a common and under-reported problem in Suffolk County and Long Island and we must work harder as a community to educate people about this heinous crime, the signs of victimization, and aggressively intervene when victims are identified. Victims of sex trafficking are essentially enslaved by violent means and sold to clients in motels and private homes on Long Island and around the world. I have no doubt there are many ‘Johns’ who are unaware of the devastating and dehumanizing effect of this sex trade on the women and men with whom they are engaging, but it’s criminal, traumatic, and it must stop. I applaud ECPAT-USA for their efforts to combat human trafficking and child exploitation and I am honored to have my staff ride along with today’s Solidarity Riders.”
Lori L. Cohen, CEO of ECPAT-USA said, “People often perceive human trafficking as something that cannot be happening in their own communities. The Survivor Solidarity Ride is an opportunity to uplift the voices of survivors and raise awareness of how local the issue of trafficking actually is. We are incredibly grateful to members of the Shinnecock Reservation, ECLI, and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department for helping to facilitate the second year of this moving event and to all organizations and individuals who are working to protect children and end exploitation on Long Island.”
The Empowerment Collaborative of Long Island’s Survivor Advisory Board said, “As survivors of human trafficking, we know the deep day-to-day effects it has placed over our lives. We were victimized as children and later on as young adults, we fell victim to traffickers. We had no control over our lives for years and even years later, we still find ourselves struggling to rise above the things that have happened to us. This is why it is so important to be a member of ECLI’s Survivor Advisory Board. We have become a support system to each other and have made it our mission to educate the community. We want to provide safe havens for other survivors. We turned our pain into a purpose and passion to help others like us. Human trafficking is a huge problem right here on Long Island and it’s in our very own backyards. Our message to survivors that feel stuck in this lifestyle is: have HOPE, Hold On because pain ends, you are not alone and we are here to help you.”
“The Suffolk County Anti-Trafficking Initiative (SCATI) is honored to be a part of ECPAT-USA’s 2021 Survivor Solidarity Ride,” said Molly England, SCATI Task Force Coordinator. “SCATI is dedicated to collaborative work and holistic efforts to raise awareness about addressing human trafficking in our community and together, through community events like this, we can have a huge impact on educating individuals and uplifting our communities. Shining a light on human trafficking is the first step toward supporting survivors of human trafficking.”
“The Survivor Solidarity Ride is a great opportunity to show support for victims of human trafficking while also raising awareness on the issue,” said Det. Lt. Frank Messana, Commanding Officer of SCPD’s Human Trafficking Investigations Unit. “The Suffolk County Police Department continues to work with community agencies to provide victims with stability and assistance while we target the traffickers to end victimization.”
ECPAT-USA is the nation’s leading anti-child trafficking organization seeking to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children through awareness, advocacy, policy, and legislation. ECPAT-USA is a member of ECPAT International, a network of organizations in 104 countries with one common mission: to eliminate the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children around the world. For more information, visit www.ecpatusa.org.
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