Yes, human trafficking happens in our community. There are an estimated 27 million people being trafficked worldwide. Most people think that slavery only occurs in other countries, or if it happens here, it’s only in the metropolitan cities. But human trafficking exists everywhere where there is a vulnerability. It is a hidden crime, so unless we know about what human trafficking is and what it looks like, we may never recognize it occurring in our community.
From 2009-2013, over 130 victims have been identified and rescued according to Central Valley Against Human Trafficking.
We know that there are many more victims and as awareness builds more victims will be identified and more rescues will be made. The Fresno Police Department Human Trafficking Task Force, Central Valley Against Human Trafficking, and community organizations have been working to identify, rescue, and help victims of trafficking.
Fresno, and thus the surrounding areas, have many factors that make it one of the hubs for human trafficking. It is located at the center of the state between other human trafficking hubs- Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Fresno has numerous groups that are particularly vulnerable to exploitation such as migrant workers and foster care youth.
Labor Trafficking and Sex Trafficking
Labor Trafficking exists in agricultural labor, massage parlors, nail salons, restaurants, and domestic service.
Sex trafficking exists in forms of pimp controlled trafficking/prostitution, sex trafficking in illicit massage parlors, truck stops, and agricultural sites, and gang controlled trafficking, and trafficking through the internet. The average age of victim entering sex trafficking is 12-14 years old.
Human Trafficking feeds on other issues in the community. It is the exploitation of vulnerability. However, we also have a growing number of people and groups that are standing up and seeking to create change. They are bringing awareness, seeking creative solutions, and getting to the roots of the issue in our community to address the problems that allow human trafficking to continue.
Jesus is the God of Justice, and promised that He would not grow weary or discouraged until justice has been established in all of the world (Isaiah 46). He declared that He would bring His freedom to the captives (Ps. 61, Luke 4:18-19). He has already been at work to bring freedom to all those oppressed. We are joining him in this work!