Dozens of residents gathered in Valencia Thursday to protest against human trafficking in conjunction with “World Day against Trafficking in Persons.”
On Thursday, dozens of protesters lined the sidewalks around the intersection of Valencia Parkway and McBean Parkway in Valencia to protest human trafficking.
“We are here to say it is not okay to traffic humans,” said Judy Mooy, a protestor who regularly supports efforts against human trafficking. “We’re just here to bring attention to it. I think it’s something that people aren’t aware of.”
The protest was organized by members of “Not Silent SCV,” a Facebook group that was created in mid-July in order to help “spread reputable information about human trafficking.”
“(Human trafficking) is even a bigger industry than drug trafficking right now,” said Michele Abadi, one of four residents that started the group. “It’s a $150 billion industry, and the media doesn’t talk about it at all. Between sex, labor and organ harvesting, it’s overwhelmingly important for us to come together as a society and try to help these kids (and) help these adults.”
When Valencia resident Karina McAhren heard this statistic, she said that she felt “guilty for not knowing.”
“I almost felt guilty because I didn’t know that modern day slavery is bigger than any other type of slavery in the past, and that there’s more people in captivity now than ever before,” she said.
In 2015, McAhren started Citizen & Darling, a fair-trade clothing business that aims to “bring awareness in human trafficking,” as well as donates a percentage of proceeds to combat human trafficking.
McAhren brought her three sons with her to the protest in hopes that it would help those driving by “put a face to the facts.”
“Becoming a mother for me is when I became even more passionate about it,” she said. “Just imagining your kids being in sex trafficking, raped five times or more a day (…) as people drive by and see them, I hope it serves their heart a little bit more to be advocators for them.”
See Related: Over 500 Arrested In L.A. County Human Trafficking Task Force Operation
While government officials from the U.S. State Department stated in 2019 report that primary data on human trafficking across the world is “extremely difficult to gather,” multiple protestors noted that an estimated 30 million people are enslaved “at this moment.”
“The media is not talking about it at all,” Abadi said. “They’re talking about how many people die of coronavirus every day, what about the 2,000 people that disappear every day? They don’t hear about that.”
While Abadi conceded that it can be “uncomfortable” to discuss the issue of human trafficking, she stated that it was a conversation that need to be had.
“The more we talk about it, the more we post about it, the more people will begin to rationalize it in their head, and they’ll be able to cross that line,” she said. “The minute we can cross that line and have an honest conversation, is when we’ll actually be able to start seeing a change.”
According to officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, over 400 victims of sex trafficking since 2015 by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force (LARHTTF), with over 300 of them being children.
“The trafficking of young girls and women for sex occurs every day in Los Angeles,” an official post front the department reads. “Their exploitation occurs in plain sight on our streets and through popular social media and internet websites. Children as young as 13 have been rescued from their exploiters and provided services to help them rebuild their lives.”
The LARHTTF works with closely with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and community partners like the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), Saving Innocence, and ZOE International — which has a branch based out of Newhall — to “provide individual support to each victim with the goal of making them whole.”
“Our goal is to reach every person and rescue every child,” said Hanne Fellers, who has been a part of the ZOE organization for over five years. “What’s really awesome about ZOE is that they have a three-prong approach: prevention, rescue and restoration. That means that they’re pretty much involved in every aspect of anti-trafficking work.”
It was this all-encompassing approach to combatting human trafficking that motivated Fellers, who had chosen to write about human trafficking for her master’s thesis, to join ZOE.
“For me, when I heard that Zoe was involved in all aspects, it really narrowed it down from a lot of other organizations that I was seeing,” she said. “I was just so impressed by how much experience they have had.”
LARHTTF officials urged residents who believe that they are either a victim of human trafficking or know someone who is to contact them at (323) 526-5156.
More information on the following organizations can be found at their websites:
Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking
Not Silent SCV
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