An informative evening at the Veterans Memorial Building was attended by over 100 concerned local residents on April 17th. Much was learned including the “lingo” that is used and what the tattoos mean that may indicate a person is involved “in the life” of human trafficking in this $150 billion/year global “industry”.
Soroptimist International of Rio Vista hosted the event with Deborah Rodan, SIRV President welcoming guests and speakers; Kay Kelley, SIRV Human Rights Committee Chair; Donna Kiecker, Human Rights Committee and Teri Malkin, SIRV Publicity Committee introducing the speakers and short films.
When Keynote Speaker Eric Stovar, Faculty Director of the Human Rights Center and Adjunct Professor of Law and Public Health at the University of California Berkeley was introduced by Dr. Thomas PHD, Scientific Advisor of the Human Rights Center the information flowed out to a receptive audience. Speaking from his experience as a researcher he shared information that has enabled anti-trafficking agencies to not only apprehend the perpetrators of these crimes, but assist and support the victims.
Mary Nguyen, Deputy District Attorney of Solano County, highlighted how hard it can be to bring the traffickers to justice due to the victims being afraid to testify or even give information to authorities. It’s a matter of trust and these victims aren’t able to readily trust the agencies trying to assist them. While most victims are woman and girls, Mary touched on the fact that young men are often targeted as well. However, those cases are even harder to process. Yet, they keep persevering in their quest to take as many of the traffickers off the street as they can; many of whom go away for life.
Angel Aguiliar, Director of the Solano County Family Justice Center, is tasked with helping not only victims of human trafficking but domestic violence and homelessness as well. Partnering with the Solano County District Attorney’s office has allowed a distinct opportunity for the DA to strengthen their victim advocacy efforts. SCFJC has partnered with Solano Advocates for Victims of Violence, Solano Trauma Recover Center, Health and Social Services and many others to provide community services to assist victims. If someone is in need of services they should contact the SCFJC Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 707-784-7635 or after hours at 866-487-7233.
Three short videos were shown to illustrate this horrific crime against our mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, daughters and even our sons and brothers. “Rebecca Bender’s Story”, “I Am Jane Doe” and “Do You Know Lacy?” can all be viewed on YouTube in less than 15 minutes.
The audience was given the opportunity at the end of the program to ask questions of the three speakers and there were a lot of questions. We’d like to thank everyone for asking the tough questions and looking for answers.
In attendance were some special guests including Supervisor Skip Thompson, Mayor Ron Kott, Rio Vista Police Chief Dan Dailey, City Manager Rob Hickey, Naomi Walker President of the Rio Vista Food Pantry, Jim Wheeler Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce and member of the Knights of Columbus.
Also on hand was New Day for Children. This non-profit organization works closely with the FBI, law enforcement, child welfare agencies, social service departments and family justice centers to locate and rescue girls victimized by human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. They take girls into their care as guardians or work with their parents to help the girls recover their lost childhood.
Police Chief Dan Dailey says if you suspect human trafficking or are being trafficked leave him a message at the Police Department on his line (707) 374-6366 and he will be happy to meet with you personally and privately to assist you. Citizens should not try to handle these situations alone, it can be very dangerous.
Special thanks to all who participated… Jacob Awender, Setup; Forest Drury, Audio Visual; Lira’s Supermarket; Rio Vista Lions Club; Rio Vista Rotary Members; Veolia Annual Community Contribution Grant and the Women’s Improvement Club of Rio Vista.