Human Trafficking Awareness Day 2017
Human trafficking can take many forms...from treating immigrants as indentured servants to child labor. But in the Silver State, the biggest issue is with forced prostitution - or sex trafficking.
Human trafficking can take many forms...from treating immigrants as indentured servants to child labor.
But in the Silver State, the biggest issue is with forced prostitution - or sex trafficking. Every January 11th, Human Trafficking Awareness Day is observed.
The staff at Awaken https://awakenreno.org/ and the offices for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges http://www.ncjfcj.org/ in Reno are all wearing blue in support of this special day.
We took a look at what is being done in Northern Nevada to combat the crime that specifically targets our girls and young women.
We begin by having a conversation with one of the survivors; "Yeah, guys would call and say 'can you send me the youngest one that you have'", she remembers. This young woman, whom we'll call "Rose" was born and raised right here, in Washoe County. At the age of 16 she was forced into prostitution and often had to pretend she was only 14 years old.
"Two to 300 minors in Washoe County are currently being trafficked or at very high risk of being trafficked,” Melissa Holland tells us. The founder and director began the non-profit 5 years ago with the mission of increasing “…awareness and education surrounding the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and to provide housing and restoration for its victims”
For “Rose”, who’s still quite young, the memories are all too fresh. "I know what it's like to be drugged and dragged through a basement and brutally raped and forced into this industry."
"Throughout the state of Nevada it's a mandatory life sentence to have sex with a child, except that if you go out on the 4th Street corridor and you buy sex from an underage prostitute there, it's seen and treated completely differently," says Judge Egan Walker of the sickening irony that is all too common in Reno. Judge Walker is a presiding judge in the Second Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada and is responsible for the Juvenile Division.
Over the past 5 to 10 years, that mind set began to change in Northern Nevada. Now, the kids - many of whom are young teen girls - are no longer treated as criminals by law enforcement.
Deputy Jeff McCaskill with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office has witnessed the evolution first hand. "We have options now with things like Awaken, this great group in our local community working hard to assist these victims of these crimes."
Holland says Awaken itself has evolved over the years. "We've now started working with social services, child welfare, FBI and local law enforcement."
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has trained hundreds of judges across the U.S to identify these young victims, who often have strong emotional ties to their traffickers (pimps). "They need to be removed from an industry and a whole circumstance where it's all about using them."
And you can help with that challenge by getting involved - from donations of money, clothes or services to volunteering.
"Foster care. The foster system is another big way to get involved. If you work in a school, invite us in. We will try to work prevention to educate these kids on signs to look for," says Holland
You can support human trafficking awareness and Awaken Wednesday, January 11 at the Reno Bighorns game (vs. Austin Spurs). Tickets are $10. The game begins at 7:00 p.m.