I had no idea of the scope of what was going on in our backyards or how social media had changed the way predators were targeting victims and using various forms of leverage to draw them in.
The client was determined to do something to help prevent trafficking. And she wasn’t the only one.
Chris and a team started meeting others: experts at the UBS Optimus Foundation (UBS-OF), philanthropists, local nonprofit organizations, government and school officials – a broad group wanted to do more to help. "It was amazing," said Chris, "the range of people coming out of the woodwork, eager to invest in any way we could to make an impact."
UBS-OF worked with subject matter experts and university researchers to develop and share best-practice approaches with the community about the issue and understand the data well enough to inform a local approach. The San Diego County District Attorney's Office helped us understand the supply-and-demand aspects of this underground economy, and design a prevention program. Nonprofits came together to share expertise and figure out how they could accomplish more by working in unison.
Private philanthropists offered resources, not just financial support, and helped develop a strategic plan to span all 753 public schools in the county, educating students to better protect themselves and their peers," explained Chris. "So many people made this possible."
Debunking the myths
Myth#1: Human trafficking isn't a significant problem in the United States.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline receives an average of 150 cases per day and an estimated 100,000 – 300,000 children are vulnerable to being trafficked in the United States.4 The FBI ranks San Diego as one of the nation's top 13 high-intensity child prostitution counties.5 In San Diego, sex trafficking produces an estimated USD 810 million annually.6
Myth#2: Trafficking only happens in low-income areas.
In a study of 20 San Diego County High Schools, spread across counties and income areas, staff from every school confirmed that trafficking recruitment of their students is taking place.7 Traffickers use social media, public internet platforms and family members or friends to access their victims.
Myth#3: Most children are trafficked outside of the US and then brought across the border.
In San Diego, 80 percent of sex trafficking victims were born in the US8 and the average age of entry into sex trafficking is 16 years old.9 Children in the foster system, LGBTQ youth, runaways and children with histories of domestic or vulnerable abuse are at greater risk.