Operation Safehouse launched its first Day of Action and Awareness Jan. 17 to fight human trafficking in Riverside County.
Last April, Senate bill 1193 was passed that mandates certain businesses to post a notice informing the public and victims of human trafficking of telephone hotline numbers to seek help or report unlawful activity. Operation Safehouse sent dozens of volunteers to businesses to post informational flyers throughout Riverside County.
Christine Sanchez, marketing and public relations associate at Operation Safehouse, said she considered the event a success.
“We had an outpour of churches and different community groups that really wanted to help and we are so thankful,” she said. “We had a lot of people who are doing the research on what businesses were in what areas and we got a few, but we know that there’s so much more, so that’s something we still need.”
Operation Safehouse seeks to provide help for teens in crisis throughout Riverside County. It offers counseling, shelters for homeless or exploited youth, and provides help for victims of human trafficking.
Operation Safehouse also works to educate the community about human trafficking and ways to combat it.
Cathy McAdara, executive director of Operation Safehouse, encourages the Riverside community to get involved in the fight to end human trafficking.
“There are tons of ways that you can get involved,” McAdara said. “Be aware, first off. Also, you can help by raising funds for classes that the girls (victims of human trafficking) need.”
California Baptist University hosted a Jan. 17 Break Teen Trafficking event and partnered with organizations in the Riverside area, including the Humanity of Justice Foundation, Street Positive and Woman Wonder Writers.
The event provided participants with the necessary information and tools to take a stand against human trafficking.
Keynote speaker Cody Foute, a former victim of human trafficking, encouraged the audience to recognize the problem of human trafficking.
“I am not just a survivor of human trafficking, I am a thriver,” Foute said, “and thriving means fighting, pushing and working toward a better future for myself and for others.”
Throughout the event, various organizations led workshops that provided facts on what human trafficking is, who is at risk to become a victim of sex trafficking and what participants can do to combat this issue.
Julie Leong, senior sociology major, said the workshops left a lasting impact on raising awareness.
“The No. 1 thing the people can take away from today is awareness about what sex trafficking is and how common it is,” Leong said. “So many people think of sex trafficking as just a global thing and think it doesn’t happen in the U.S., but it really happens a lot.”
Marilyn Moore, associate professor of behavioral sciences, and Dr. Ana Gamez, associate professor of psychology and practicum director of forensic psychology, coordinated the event.
The goal of Operation Safehouse and Break Teen Trafficking is to raise awareness and encourage public involvement in putting an end to trafficking.
Larry McAdara, executive director of the Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center, was in attendance of the Day of Action and Awareness.
“One of the ways that I find to be extraordinarily helpful is education and information,” McAdara said. “It’s just that level of awareness and knowledge that there is a place to go and there is a way out that gives these victims hope.”