Working to ensure that those being exploited know where they can turn for help
Members of the Metropolitan King County Council are continuing King County’s fight against human trafficking by expanding the County’s outreach effort to public and government facilities.
The legislation calls for the placement of human trafficking public awareness materials in county facilities such as the jail, public health clinics, transit centers, courthouses, and other locations where trafficked individuals and the public may see the information. It also calls upon the Executive to explore information posting opportunities with the County’s many partners, such as community clinics, shelters, and hospitals, where trafficked individuals may utilize services and in turn see information on who to turn to for help.
“Human trafficking is a serious issue. This legislation is intended to make sure that those who need help exiting trafficking can get important information that they might not otherwise know about. What’s great about it is that it effectively spreads important information to a wide audience using minimal county resources,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, the prime sponsor of the legislation. “This innovative approach is in use in other states. We hope using it here in King County will assist victims by informing them about the resources available to them. Ultimately, we hope it saves lives.”
“Human trafficking is an egregious form of modern slavery, and by raising awareness we can help vulnerable people from falling prey to exploitation,” said Council Chair Larry Phillips. “The effort is aimed at giving people information that will help them identify and avoid potential dangers.”
“This issue goes to the heart of who we are as a society. Human trafficking of young people or anyone should never be tolerated,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, chair of the Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “Therefore I emphatically support these new measures by King County to educate people and provide resource information so we can help eradicate this problem.”
The legislation calls on the King County Executive, in partnership with Washington Anti-Trafficking Network (WARN) to develop and implement a public outreach and information posting program to increase public awareness of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children.
“Human trafficking is 21st century enslavement. Society must continue working to combat this humanitarian tragedy,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “I am pleased to cosponsor this legislation which represents one step toward reaching victims and raising public awareness of the issue.”
“A public outreach program that raises awareness and provides community resources for victims of human trafficking is an important step towards ending this vicious crime,” said Councilmember Dave Upthegrove. “Along with our community partners, we will continue to stay committed to working towards solutions to eliminate human trafficking in King County.”
“Human trafficking is modern day slavery,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, who represents the inner city neighborhoods of Seattle. “I am pleased the county will partner with advocates on a public awareness campaign. It is imperative that we let the victims know they are not alone and there is help out there.”
The information on the human trafficking materials would include contact information for an existing national anti-human trafficking or exploited children organization, such as the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, and include the telephone number and email address on all public awareness materials. All materials developed will be accessible in multiple languages and based on input from WARN.
“We applaud efforts to provide information and access to services to anyone being exploited through human trafficking,” said WARN Program Manager Kathleen Morris. “It is so important to give people trapped in abusive, exploitative situations the information and tools they need to reach out for help on their own terms.”
Human trafficking is defined under federal law, and victims include children involved in commercial sex trade, adults age eighteen or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of “labor or services,” such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm workers forced to labor against their will.
Human trafficking is considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world, and the human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children are serious crime problems on a worldwide basis, in Washington State, and in King County. It is estimated that between 300 and 500 children will be bought and sold in King County this year alone.
In January 2013, King County launched a comprehensive public awareness campaign using County resources and private sector partnerships such as Clear Channel Communications and Titan Media. The purpose of the campaign on Metro buses, Sound Transit, and billboards across the region was inform the general public about what human trafficking can look like and also to provide a hotline number for people to call if they suspected trafficking or were being trafficked. The proposed legislation builds the previous campaign, one more step in the Council’s effort to fight human trafficking.