In an effort to raise awareness of the global issue of human trafficking, Sunnyslope Christian Center of Hollister hosted “Without Permission: Let’s End the Culture of Human Trafficking” by CEO and Founder of Without Permission Debbie Johnson on Sept. 29.
According to Johnson’s presentation, “The sale and purchase of children for sex is the second largest illegal industry in our country and has become a multi-billion dollar industry that is expected to surpass the illicit trade of guns and narcotics within 10 years.”
Johnson said that the youngest victim the organization had worked with was 11 years old, adding that 62 percent of human trafficking victims are age 20 or younger.
This last statistic was not lost on the audience, as Sunnyslope Christian Center Senior Pastor Kevin Townsend said the group was presenting this workshop in part because of a Sheriff’s Office announcement of a recent arrest in Hollister of a man who was on parole for sex offenses that include sex-trafficking of minors. Townsend also said the church wanted to help raise awareness for youth in the community.
“I thought it was important for us to have our eyes and ears open to the community,” Townsend said. “We wanted to make our teenagers aware.”
With a little under 60 people in attendance, those gathered at Saturday’s event included teenagers and seniors.
While going through the seminar, members in the audience heard firsthand accounts of survivors through video and were taught signs of identifying potential human trafficking victims.
“They are targeting our children from all walks of life,” Johnson said.
Johnson explained to the audience that most victims are targeted for vulnerabilities which include, but are not limited to poverty, abuse, loss of a loved one, absentee parents/guardians and being in the foster care system.
Though Johnson said there was no statute in the United States prohibiting human trafficking before 2000, she said that today there is hope, as churches, civic groups and law enforcement agencies partner with groups such as Without Permission to raise awareness and help put an end to human trafficking.
Before leaving the presentation, all attendees were provided pamphlets with more information on Without Permission, as well as business cards with numbers to call, as well as and signs of someone who may be a victim of human trafficking, such as common tattoos used as branding.
Encouraging the group to help possible victims of human trafficking, Johnson said, “You can never over-report.”
More information on Without Permission can be found on the organization’s website.