The fight against human trafficking reaches Bay Area

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The fight against human trafficking reaches Bay Area

ILLUSTRATION BY BRITTANY ENGLAND/THE PIONEER

ILLUSTRATION BY BRITTANY ENGLAND/THE PIONEER

ILLUSTRATION BY BRITTANY ENGLAND/THE PIONEER

Shannon Stroud,
Metro Editor

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Human trafficking is an issue that has plagued the Bay Area for years and has caused multiple anti-trafficking organizations to spring forward over the last decade in different cities.

In 2011, Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition, BAATC, created the Freedom Summit, an event that brings together all the anti-trafficking organizations in the Bay Area under one roof. In its first year, the BAATC brought in 33 organizations, 50 speakers and over 1,700 event attendees to the event.

This year the BAATC will hold the bi-annual Freedom Summit — dubbed “Not in Our Town”— on May 9 at Levi’s Stadium. The event starts at 10a.m.and will have 50 Bay Area anti-trafficking organizations present with over 20 featured guest speakers including Brooke Axtell, the Director of Communications and Engagement for Allies Against Slavery, who also spoke at the Grammy’s about domestic abuse.

While the Freedom Summit has been held at different locations over the years, like Harbor Light Church in Fremont, this year’s new location at Levi’s Stadium holds a specific purpose as it will be the home of the NFL’s 2016 Super Bowl.

Founder and Executive Director of BAATC Betty Ann Boeving explained that human trafficking is a year-round issue but at large sporting events, like the Super Bowl, are events where human trafficking — the illegal movement of people, typically for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation — can happen.

“The FBI have noticed on backpage.com during the Super Bowl, that people are being moved to that city around the time of the Super Bowl. It’s a hard crime to catch because it’s all below the surface, so there’s no solid baseline number, but during the Super Bowl there is a spike in human trafficking arrests,” said Boeving.

Pullquote Photo

It’s the question, ‘what would you do to fight human trafficking if you had ten minutes, ten days or ten months?”

— Betty Ann Boeving

According to a press release from the FBI in 2014, after Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey the FBI in partnerships with 50 law enforcement agencies recovered 16 juveniles during an enforcement action focused on commercial child sex trafficking and more than 45 pimps and their associates were arrested, some who claimed to travel to New Jersey specifically to prostitute women and children at the Super Bowl.

The purpose of the event is not to raise money for individual organizations, although donations are accepted, but the goal is to raise awareness of human trafficking during the large events like the Super Bowl and in the Bay Area in general. Boeving explained that when event attendees come to the Freedom Summit, she wants them to walk away knowing what role each person plays in stopping human trafficking in their community.

“We’ve [BAATC] started the 10/10/10 philosophy,” said Boeving. “It’s the question, ‘what would you do to fight human trafficking if you had ten minutes, ten days or ten months?’ By asking this it gives everyone an opportunity to get involved.”

Boeving explained that to help prevent trafficking, if someone had 10 minutes they could just plug the Human Trafficking Hotline number into their phone to report suspicious activity — 1-888-373-7888. If someone had 10 days they could check out www.slaveryfootprint.org; a website that explains which everyday items are from products of human trafficking and slavery.

Finally if someone had 10 months they could bring human trafficking awareness into their community by planning a meeting or an event.

It’s important everyone knows the basics of human trafficking as it can happen anywhere from streets like International Boulevard in Oakland to upscale neighborhoods in Walnut Creek and Palo Alto and even on college campuses, Boeving explained.

Artwork from the 2011 Freedom Summit hangs in the entrance of Harbor Light Church in Fremont.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF FREEDOM SUMMIT
Artwork from the 2011 Freedom Summit hangs in the entrance of Harbor Light Church in Fremont.

“On [any] campus, in frats, they might bring in a stripper who is a trafficked sex worker. Or the pornography that people are watching in their dorms, are the students asking themselves, ‘are these people doing that based off their own free will?” said Boeving.

One of the organizations that has a table at the Freedom Summit is the Hayward-based organization Ruby’s Place, a non-profit organization that helps combat human trafficking by providing victims with a 42-bed shelter and comprehensive services which include: case management, counseling, a children’s program, life skills classes, support groups, food, hygiene products, clothing and legal advocacy.

While the Hayward Police Department does not have a human trafficking unit, they do work directly with Ruby’s Place to fight human trafficking.

“We are partnered with them [Hayward Police Department] to refer clients back and forth when we need their assistance with legal issues or when they have a client that needs shelter,” said Sophora Acheson, the Chief Operating Officer at Ruby’s Place.

Tickets to this year’s Freedom Summit can be purchased at www.2015.freedom-summit.org. All money from ticket sales goes back to Levi’s Stadium venue fees. Students interested in attending the Freedom Summit can get a $10 discount by using the code “10off” at checkout.