Sex trafficking of women and children is not just a global problem affecting millions, it's a disturbing reality at home in the United States, including Sacramento. It is modern-day slavery — and it’s growing. Today, there are more slaves in the world than at any other time in history.
Taking to heart our history as slaves in Egypt and our belief that no one should be exploited as we once were, NCJW aims to expose and address the aspects of this hidden and complex issue — sex trafficking in the US — with a focus on women and children. As we have experienced liberation and freedom, it is our mandate to ensure our communities and laws respond to those trapped in our midst. Every woman and child deserves a life of freedom from coercion, violence, and sexual exploitation.
Through a powerful program of public awareness, education, and advocacy at the national, state and local levels, NCJW endorses and is working for the recognition, prevention, and elimination of all forms of human trafficking and for victim-centered support programs. Women and children are the more likely victims of sex trafficking — sold into dangerous and abusive situations here in the United States, including Sacramento.
Since its founding, NCJW has fought to protect the rights and well-being of women, children, and families. When Jewish immigrants began to arrive in the United States in great numbers at the turn of the 20th century, NCJW volunteers met and cared for incoming women and girls — even creating a permanent immigration-aid station at Ellis Island in 1904. NCJW volunteers in 250 American cities and in European ports received lists of immigrant women, met them at the boats, and brought them to one of the guest houses that had been established in various cities. They protected these women and girls from “white slavery” and provided them with professional training and the help they needed to settle in their new country. Between 1908 and 1911, NCJW helped 19,377 young girls, 4,020 women, and 6,427 children.
The Sacramento Section has been actively fighting human trafficking in our own backyard, both sex exploitation and other forced labor through education, awareness and advocacy. We conduct education and outreach programs on the issue at local Congregations, through the Jewish Voice and for the public at large; we publish educational Op-Ed pieces in the Sacramento Bee and write blogs for the NCJW Insider. To educate the public about the use of child slave labor in the production of chocolate, we sell Fair Trade Chocolate made without child labor.
We sit on the Executive Committee of the Rescue and Restore Coalition and partner with its member organizations, including My Sister's House, Opening Doors, Inc. and Weave. We also partner with local law enforcement including the Sacramento District Attorney's Office and the Attorney General's Human Trafficking Task Force on programs to prevent trafficking.
We advocate for state laws such as SB 1193 which we sponsored requiring businesses to post a human trafficking hotline number for victims and the community. We meet with local county and city government to urge adoptions of local ordinances and actions to end trafficking. And we support a broad array of anti trafficking legislation at the state and national level through direct communication with our legislators.
The Sacramento Section is making a difference in the fight against human trafficking. We invite your interest and involvement.
NCJW Sacramento Section Sponsors DAY OF ACTION to Distribute SB1193 Posters
On May 30, 2014 NCJW Sacramento Section member Claire Lipschultz, the Sacramento District Attorney and Sheriff presented to the press the launch of a human trafficking awareness effort to distribute the posters county wide. In 2012 NCJW co sponsored SB 1193 as a step in fighting human trafficking in the state. The law, sponsored by NCJW, which went into effect in April of 2013, aims to raise awareness about human trafficking in our state by mandating that twelve types of businesses publicly post specific information related to human trafficking, including what it is and the phone numbers of the National Human Trafficking Hotline and the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking Hotline. The notices have proven to be a lifeline to trafficked victims. NCJW Sacramento led the effort to design an attractive poster with three languages giving the vital information. It can be found and downloaded at the District Attorney's website:
With the passage of the law, NCJW began to work on its implementation. There was no state agency responsible for ensuring compliance with the law, so a grass roots effort was necessary to make the law effective.
Sacramento Section's Day of Action: Human Trafficking Outreach Project
Posters were mailed to over 300 targeted businesses in the region along with a letter from the Sheriff and DA asking for compliance in early July. With our partners, NCJW planned for a Day of Action in October where volunteers from many organizations were trained and provided with lists of businesses to visit in groups of 2 or 3 people. During the brief visit, additional posters were provided to the businesses if needed. We had a significant turn out of volunteers for this effort from NCJW and the Jewish community at large.
So often we hear about the tragedy of human trafficking and don’t know what we can do to help end it. The Day of Action project was a simple but very meaningful to get engaged.
100,000 minors are estimated to be sexually exploited every year in the US. Our focus nationally is on forced sexual exploitation of minors. Combatting sex trafficking requires a complex response that includes federal, state, and local policies addressing a range of issues. Through legislative action and community service, the Sacramento Section supports the following efforts:
Provide survivor centered and trauma informed services for sex trafficking victims. Trafficking survivors are the experts on their own experience and are crucial to informing service delivery, public policy, law enforcement, and advocacy efforts. Decisions made without the cooperation and consent of survivors are less likely to succeed and might even leave them more isolated, distrustful, and vulnerable to abuse. NCJW supports efforts to help California and local governments develop and implement comprehensive victim-centered programs to train law enforcement and other first responders to rescue trafficked victims, prosecute human traffickers, and restore the lives of survivors.
Collect data to truly gauge the magnitude in order to adequately address the problem. Statistics on sex trafficking are limited due to the crime’s hidden nature, limited awareness by law enforcement and social service providers, and lack of research. NCJW Sacramento supports legislation that would require local state, and federal governments to regularly report the number of human trafficking crimes.
Strengthen the child welfare system’s response to trafficking. Data suggest that the majority of trafficked youth in the US are in the child welfare system: In 2013, 60% of the child sex trafficking victims recovered as part of a FBI nationwide raid from over 70 cities were children from foster care or group homes. NCJW supports legislation requiring law enforcement to upload photos of missing youth into the National Criminal Information Center database and to notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of any child reported missing from a foster care family home or childcare institution. Another key policy concern is identifying, documenting, and determining services for children and youth connected to the foster care system who are at risk of being trafficked.
Treat trafficked children as victims rather than criminals. More often than not, trafficked children are thrown into juvenile detention and arrested for prostitution. Children who fall victim to domestic child sex trafficking are not criminals, but victims of crime. NCJW supports federal legislation requiring states to adopt “Safe Harbor” legislation prohibiting minors under the age of 18 from being prosecuted for prostitution.
End demand for the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Children are kidnapped or easily lured by exploiters, and buyers can purchase them with ease, anonymity, and impunity — a sale can be executed quickly, conveniently, and privately over the Internet. NCJW supports efforts to enable law enforcement, courts, and the anti-trafficking task forces around the country to effectively target the demand for children exploited for commercial sex.
What is sex trafficking?
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines sex trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age. Transportation need not be a factor.
Is sex trafficking a problem here in the United States?
Yes. The FBI reports that between 2008-2010, 83% of sex trafficking victims found within the US were US citizens. Among children and teens living on the streets in the United States, involvement in commercial sex activity is a massive problem.
Is this a new problem?
No. This is a criminal industry that has operated in the shadows. However, the number of children being sold for sex has increased in recent years because criminals have learned it is more profitable and less risky to sell children than drugs.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can become a victim of trafficking, but certain populations are particularly vulnerable: undocumented migrants; runaway and homeless youth; and oppressed, marginalized, and/or impoverished groups and individuals. They are generally runaways from troubled homes or foster care placements where they have been abused or ‘thrown away’ by their families. Traffickers specifically target these populations because they are vulnerable to recruitment tactics and methods of control. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, approximately 100,000 American children are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation annually. According to the FBI, the average age at which girls first become victims is 12-14; for boys and transgender youth it’s between the ages of 11-13 on average.
How do traffickers recruit and control victims?
Traffickers use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, drugs, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims in the sex industry. Parents or other family members may also be traffickers. Further, traffickers often take their victims’ identity documents — birth certificates, passports, and drivers’ licenses. Criminal networks transport victims — who are abducted or lured by traffickers — and often provide them counterfeit identification to use in the event of arrest. If a victim is able to escape, they have no ability to support themselves, few shelter options, no support system, and lack of information about who can help, so often will return to the trafficker.
What services do survivors need?
Traffickers keep victims isolated from support and opportunity. Thus, for many survivors, it can be extremely difficult to enter the workforce after escaping a trafficking situation. Survivors need to build skills that will allow them to be self-supporting and independent. Client-centered, culturally competent services from emergency housing, legal assistance, specialized health care and counseling services in the short term to immigration relief, job training, long term housing, and community engagement in the long term are key to helping survivors achieve safety, stability, and lives free from exploitation. However, without addressing the systemic issues that allow trafficking to exist, including lack of education and opportunities, we will never fully eradicate the problem.
Who is penalized?
Punishment for traffickers and buyers is minimal. Buyers are rarely charged or convicted for solicitation or pandering, let alone statutory rape or child endangerment. Often, it is the sexually exploited child who ends up in jail for “prostitution,” despite not being of age to provide consent.