If you have been reading Valley News or our sister paper, The Village News, you may have noticed an influx of articles on human trafficking, prostitution and a variety of other sex crimes. While it may seem unusual for a community paper to delve into such “hot button” issues, I believe it is necessary to discuss not only the good things that happen within our community, but also the bad. Sadly, sex crimes are one of those things that I don’t believe we talk about enough, though it happens all the time and right under our noses.
Here are a few statistics to back up my claim.
According to the California Sex Offender Management Board, in 2008 there were 3,265 registered sex offenders, in Riverside County; in neighboring San Diego County there were 3,923. In the same time frame, there were 1,374 incarcerated sex offenders who were required to register upon their release in Riverside County; San Diego County had 1,720 of the same. Of those sex offenders who had been released and had registered in Riverside County, 237 are what the state labeled “high risk.” San Diego County had 217 who fall under the same label.
As of press time, I had yet to receive the most recent numbers, but I certainly hope when I do, those numbers are lower.
Some more food for thought:
“Sexual assault continues to bring tremendous and long-lasting suffering into the lives of its victims, and the communities in which they live,” California Sex Offender Management Board said on its website, www.casomb.org.
According to the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking, “There are hundreds of thousands, and potentially over a million, victims trapped in the world of sex trafficking in the United States. Because of the hidden nature of the crime, it is essentially impossible to know how many for sure.”
USIAHT explained, “Sex trafficking is modern day slavery, happening everywhere in the United States. The victims can be U.S. citizens or of any nationality, age, socioeconomic status or gender. Sex trafficking is a highly profitable crime that exploits an adult through force, fraud or coercion or that engages a child in any form of commercial sexual exploitation.”
According to the FBI, human trafficking is believed to be the third-largest criminal activity in the world.
Human trafficking is a $150 billion business annually, and no one is excluded from the danger. Men, women and children around the world are all susceptible to the crime. According to the Human Trafficking Center, www.humantrafficking.org, 20.9 million people around the world are trafficked each year, although “even the best estimates likely have some degree of inaccuracy since it’s difficult to measure activity within illicit markets.” Additionally, many individuals who are trafficked don’t identify as such, often because of fear or unfamiliarity with the concept of trafficking.
Remember human trafficking isn’t just about those questionable massage parlors and prostitution. More specific forms of trafficking include domestic servitude, forced marriage, child soldiering, forced begging, forced criminal activity and organ trafficking, too.
So, what can we do to help? HTC recommends several things: responsible consumerism, educating yourself and your community and speaking out when you see what you believe to be a sex crime. Remember this rule of thumb: If you see something, say something.
If you believe you are the victim of a trafficking situation or may have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at (888) 373-7888. NHTRC is a national, toll-free hotline with specialists available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year, related to potential trafficking victims, suspicious behaviors or locations where trafficking is suspected to occur.