TRI-CITIES LIGHTS UP AGAINST HU­MAN TRAF­FICK­ING

Tri-City Herald - - Front Page - BY SARA SCHILLING ss­[email protected]­i­ty­her­ald.com

They showed up to raise aware­ness, yes. But also to send an im­por­tant mes­sage.

“We want sur­vivors to see that the com­mu­nity does sup­port them,” said JoDee Gar­ret­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Sup­port, Ad­vo­cacy & Re­source Cen­ter in Rich­land, which or­ga­nized a walk Fri­day against hu­man traf­fick­ing.

The crime hap­pens in the Tri-Cities in sur­pris­ing num­bers, with sur­vivors here rang­ing from tod­dlers to se­nior cit­i­zens.

Hun­dreds of law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, court of­fi­cials, so­cial ser­vice work­ers, ad­vo­cates and oth­ers turned out for “Shine the Light on Hu­man Traf­fick­ing,” aimed at bring­ing at­ten­tion to the crime and show­ing sur­vivors that they’re not alone.

The event started out with speeches at the Lamp­son In­ter­na­tional build­ing in Kennewick, and then con­tin­ued with a walk over the ca­ble bridge. Par­tic­i­pants car­ried blue glow sticks to “shine the light.”

Al­though traf­fick­ing is a grow­ing prob­lem, it’s a crime that’s often mis­un­der­stood, Gar­ret­son said.

It doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily in­clude trans­port­ing vic­tims from one coun­try to an­other, and can and does hap­pen in a place like the Tri-Cities.

It in­volves us­ing force, fraud or co­er­cion to push peo­ple into la­bor and/or com­mer­cial sex acts, such as pros­ti­tu­tion or pornog­ra­phy. Any child un­der 18 who’s in­duced to per­form a com­mer­cial sex act is a vic­tim, even if co­er­cion wasn’t in­volved.

ISO­LA­TION, FEAR AND SHAME

Lau­rel Hol­land, a Ben­ton County deputy prose- cu­tor, has han­dled nu­mer­ous hu­man traf­fick­ing and child ex­ploita­tion cases.

They’ve var­ied im­mensely case to case, “but one thing that they’ve all had in com­mon is the vic­tims in these cases have shared a sense of iso­la­tion, of fear and of shame re­gard­ing these harms they’ve suf­fered,” Hol­land told the crowd Fri­day.

Hu­man traf­fick­ing and child ex­ploita­tion may ex­ist in ev­ery com­mu­nity, “but as you can see by the num­ber of peo­ple here to­day, our com­mu­nity is not ig­nor­ing the fact that these crimes do oc­cur in our midst,” she said.

Sup­port, Ad­vo­cacy & Re­source Cen­ter has a pro­gram to help sex traf­fick­ing sur­vivors. It’s served 147 peo­ple in the past 18 months.

Since July, it’s had 57 new clients, in­clud­ing four who were un­der 5 years old and two who were over age 60. KIDS TRADED FOR MONEY, DRUGS

When chil­dren are traf­ficked, it’s often a par­ent or other care­taker who ex­changes them for money, drugs or the like.

Older vic­tims may be forced through means from vi­o­lence to ma­nip­u­la­tion.

Often, vic­tims are in their teens or early 20s; many are women, but men also are traf­ficked.

It’s not an is­sue that can be solved by one per­son or a few peo­ple, said Mau­reen Ast­ley, a Franklin County deputy pros­e­cu­tor.

“It takes a com­mu­nity. It takes a vil­lage,” she told the crowd, thank­ing at­ten­dees for show­ing up to help.

Kennewick po­lice De­tec­tive Rick Runge also spoke, along with state Sen. Sharon Brown, RKen­newick.

Gar­ret­son said she hopes vic­tims see the lights and hear the mes­sage that they’re rec­og­nized and sup­ported.

“The more that vic­tims see the com­mu­nity come for­ward and em­brace them, the more will come for­ward,” she said.

For more on SARC, in­clud­ing its pro­gram for sex traf­fick­ing vic­tims, go to http://sup­por­t­ad­vo­cacy re­source­cen­ter.org.

A few hun­dred cit­i­zens, po­lice of­fi­cers and com­mu­nity ad­vo­cates walk over the ca­ble bridge with glow sticks Fri­day dur­ing the Shine the Light on Hu­man Traf­fick­ing Walk. The event started with a rally and fin­ished with the walk to rec­og­nize Na­tional Hu­man Traf­fick­ing Aware­ness Day. For the story, go to Watch a video at

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.