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Sex trafficking happening closer than you think

It is only fair to think, that due to the proximity to the US/Mexico border, human trafficking is a border issue.

Surprised, was the shared emotion from attendees at the Human Trafficking Workshop held at the Yuma Main Library by social work students from Northern Arizona University (NAU). The surprised crowd learned that many times recruiters for the multi-million dollar illegal industry lure youth from local area schools.

Estrella Fitch, CEO of The Healing Journey, a local non-profit that works directly with victims of human sex trafficking brought some insight as to how close human trafficking.

She says, “You’re saying that doesn’t happen here in Yuma, one of our counselors that was certified worked directly with girls that were sexually trafficked.”

The group of 8 NAU students decided to raise awareness around this issue after an Imperial Valley crackdown resulted in a human trafficking operation.

One of those social work students, Cristina Rocha, decided that informing the community of the proximity of sex trafficking in our community would be their community event project.

Rocha says, “Because of that we needed to check it out and to investigate it, it’s important to inform our community about it.”

A shocking stat shared to the packed room was that over 70% of the victims that The Healing Journey works with are U.S. Citizens.

“We were astonished, but statistics don’t lie and it’s right in front of our eyes,” says Rocha.

Even more shocking is that the non-profit works with victims who were or are students at local area schools.

“Yuma High, Gila Ridge, they go to your schools, they go to your middle schools,” says Fitch. “If we educate our children they will know the signs, you will know the signs.”

Other statistics shared included the fact that many children who come from abusive backgrounds or who are in foster care, especially ones that jump around from home to home, tend to be the ones at a higher risk of falling victims.

“This is our way which is spreading awareness,” said Rocha. “People in the community that are passionate, get involved and get informed.”

The students are holding another workshop in the Imperial Valley titled: “Human Trafficking Awareness Presentation” on Monday, November 4 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Southwest High School, 2001 Ocotillo Dr. in El Centro, California.

Article Topic Follows: News

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