M.A.L.H.Y. Community Outreach Protective Services hosts human trafficking awareness event

The speaker panel for the human trafficking awareness event with M.A.L.H.Y. Community Outreach Protective Services Inc. imparted their expertise about human trafficking. Valley News/Charles D. Clarke Jr. photo

PERRIS – M.A.L.H.Y. Community Outreach Protective Services Inc. hosted a human trafficking awareness event at Perris High School Tuesday, Oct. 17, with special programs coordinator Robert Bryant of Perris Lake High School presenting. The human trafficking awareness presentation was attended by over 75 students, parents, faculty and staff members. On the panel were experts from the trafficking field such as author, counselor, teacher, advocate and human trafficking survivor Dess Perkins; founder of M.A.L.H.Y. Jessica Smith; mental health counselor Jehrel Bruno; Perris Youth Services representative and Riverside County Sheriff Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force Deputy.

Human trafficking is a monstrous crime that silently plagues society, transforming the lives of countless women, men and children into unimaginable nightmares. While it may seem to be a distant problem, the inconvenient truth is that it thrives right here in Southern California, closer to home than residents might want to admit. It is a dark underbelly that festers within our communities, preying on the vulnerable like a venomous snake waiting to strike.

To combat this harrowing reality and shed light on the often-unnoticed victims, organizations like M.A.L.H.Y. have emerged as fierce advocates. They have made it their mission to raise human trafficking awareness and provide vital support to survivors.

M.A.L.H.Y. stands for “Mental Health; Addiction; Love; Human Trafficking; Youth Literacy.” The resources M.A.L.H.Y. provided are free of charge and include counseling services and recovery programs, housing, job placement, food, clothing, financial education, serving legal documents to alleged offenders, sports camps, notary services, medical exams and mediation services.

Southern California, with its sprawling cities and diverse populations, has become a magnet for trafficking due to its close proximity to international borders, major transportation hubs and a booming entertainment industry. In 2019, the National Human Trafficking Hotline identified 1,353 potential human trafficking cases in California alone; however, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Many cases remain hidden, concealed by layers of fear, manipulation and the constant threat of violence. The victims are coerced into a life of exploitation through various means. They could be lured with false promises of a better future, manipulated by romantic relationships or systematically trapped in situations where the odds are stacked against them. Once trapped, they are subject to physical, sexual and emotional abuse, forced labor and a vicious cycle of manipulation designed to quash any glimmer of hope they might have.

It is essential for all residents of Southern California to be aware of the signs that indicate human trafficking may be occurring in their neighborhoods. Awareness is the first step towards prevention and the eventual eradication of this malignant cancer. Signs to watch for include uncharacteristic withdrawal from social networks, sudden changes in behavior or appearance, fearfulness, lack of identification, restricted freedom of movement and a reluctance to disclose personal information.

Organizations like M.A.L.H.Y. are actively involved in addressing this crisis. They work to educate local communities and schools on recognizing, preventing and intervening in human trafficking cases. If you see something, say something.

Equally important, M.A.L.H.Y. provides support and resources to survivors, helping them rebuild shattered lives with dignity and resilience. While much progress has been made, the fight against human trafficking in Southern California demands a collective effort. Everyone, from citizens to policymakers, can play a role in combating this crime. The community can educate themselves further on the topic of human trafficking by attending seminars, workshops or webinars about the issue to deepen their understanding. Engage with community initiatives aimed at human trafficking awareness and lend a voice to affect change.

M.A.L.H.Y. thanked all their supporters, sponsors and donors this year. M.A.L.H.Y. has a toy drive for children ages 10-17 which runs through Dec. 20. They are looking to receive new unwrapped toys, puzzles, stuffed animals and gift cards to distribute this holiday season. Dropoff locations are currently at Temecula Hera Hub and the Murrieta Postal Center. Volunteer hours will be provided for those who participate in the drive.

For more information, visit http://www.malhy.org or contact 951-704-0025.

Submitted by M.A.L.H.Y. Community Outreach Protective Services Inc.

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