VISTA — Human trafficking remains a serious problem and Soroptimist International of Vista and North County Inland is doing their part to fight it. While Soroptimists work hard in their fundraising efforts to support local organizations, they have become a bright light of advocacy in raising awareness about sexual exploitation with the North San Diego County Anti-Human Trafficking Collaborative.
The collaborative creation was a way to serve as an outreach source to the community.
According to Kaye Van Nevel of Soroptimist International of Vista and North County Inland, the collaborative is about a diverse group of individuals in a community organization who are committed to eliminating human trafficking in modern-day society.
“We provide a platform to share information, improve services, educate ourselves and the public, and advocate for policy and legislation related to human trafficking,” Van Nevel said.
The collaborative has been in existence for nearly a decade. It conducts informal meetings at the fellowship hall of the United Methodist Church in Vista the first Thursday of every other month. In attendance include members of the Vista Unified School District, Child Protective Services, law enforcement and those in the legal profession.
Meetings are dark in the summer but will resume in September.
Van Nevel said that the impetus for the outreach was because San Diego County has a significant problem with the sexual exploitation of children, women, boys and girls. Many residents in San Diego County are shocked to discover that human trafficking is occurring in their own backyard.
Van Nevel wants people to know that youth targeted for human trafficking can be picked up anywhere, including San Diego school campuses; and, the threat continues to be countywide if gangs are profiting from the crime.
“They (victims) are not coerced into forceful labor,” she said. “They are wooed and are courted by very clever young men.” She added that the internet was another solicitation portal.
Education and awareness about issues of exploitation is one powerful way to combat it.
“From there, on a very personal level, we can then spread this information about what to look for such as how to recognize possible victims, to alert our children and grandchildren,” Van Nevel said.
Another way to fight the cause is by joining an organization that supports the collaborative. One example is mentoring survivors.
“We have a safe house in North County and a survivor mentorship who help adult women by teaching them skills they need and helping them get back into the workforce,” Van Nevel said.
Van Nevel said the recovery process of human trafficking is like that for PTSD and the need for qualified therapists continues to grow.
There’s a phrase that prostitution is one of the oldest professions in the world, Van Nevel said. However, Van Nevel refers to it as one of the oldest “oppressions” in the world.
For more information on Soroptimist International of Vista and North County Inland and its North San Diego County Anti-Human Trafficking Collaborative, visit www.soroptimistvista.org.