From Cherise Charleswell, Development & Outreach Manager at Journey Out:

It Takes A Village: Journey Out’s Annual Walk & Community Awareness Festival

Human sex trafficking is a multifaceted human rights and public health epidemic that is the 2nd largest global criminal industry. According to the International Labor Organization this trade in human beings is so lucrative, that it rakes in $150 billion globally; while the United States Department of Homeland Security states that it nets $32 billion nationally.  Although much attention is given to trafficking in international locales —the United States has its own distinctive problem. Sex trafficking in the US is both transnational and domestically homegrown.

How great is the problem? Consider a 2007 study, conducted in the city of Atlanta Georgia that found that the underground sex trafficking economy was two-times larger than the Atlanta Falcons payroll. Unfortunately, while so much money is being made, literally off of the backs of exploited people, minimum financial resources have been put forward to combat the problem, leaving victims without the necessary social supports to come forward and escape exploitation, and they are often additionally burdened with stigma

Three cities in California – Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego are recognized by the FBI as a hub for child sex trafficking, and on July 27th, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell held a press conference to discuss the outcome of a six-months investigation of a human sex trafficking ring involving officials from Los Angeles and Tulare counties, along with the US Department of Justice, that has resulted in the capture of two men — with one woman on the run. Their victims including minors and young adults. More about that story can be read here.

Despite the great prevalence of the problem there seems to be a lack of awareness by the public about how extensive it is, and how it impacts there health and wellbeing as well.

Journey Out aims to change all of this, and will be shining a light on the domestic —local problem of commercial sexual exploitation in Southern California. The problem has been called modern day slavery, and it simply cannot be arrested away. It is literally going to take a village — various stakeholders to mitigate this epidemic, prevent others from falling victim, and helping victims become not only Survivors, but become those who have gone onto Thrive.  That is the purpose of Journey Out’s Annual Walk & Community Awareness Festival. In short, we are on the C.A.S.E.

  • To Celebrate all Survivors of human trafficking.
  • To Assist Journey Out in raising the necessary funding that allows us to carry out our mission of “helping victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking leave a life of abuse and violence, overcome their fears, and empower them to reach their full potential and achieve their goals” through direct services.
  • To Strengthen collaborative efforts in the fight against human sex trafficking.
  • To Enhance understanding and awareness about human trafficking – which is often a hidden crime.

While Journey Out has hosted an Annual Walk in the past, this year things will be different. We want to go beyond the symbolic walk along one of the most active prostitution “tracks” in Los Angeles County (which we will still be taking), and expand the event to include community partners, other service providers, artists, and others who can assist us in amplifying the voices of the clients that we serve, while educating our community members. We want to make sure that supporters do not Walk — march – and then leave, because this is actually representative of the type of assistance that is offered to victims of sex trafficking. After the initial outrage and words of concern, those once offering support stop, or simply give up on them — without considering all of the barriers and difficulties to getting out of “The Life”. At the event we will discuss these barriers, including the role that business owners have in perpetuating sex trafficking, along with discussing the risk factors for sex trafficking, how traffickers recruit, why it is important to discuss the issue with children, and warning signs and indicators that  one can make note of that could help to identify victims of sex trafficking.

But that is not all —- we want to focus on restorative justice and Thriving, and wellness, whether it be self care and mental health, nutrition, medical care, and social wellbeing are essential to thriving. So, we will also discuss these issues, as well as have partners on hand to provide more information and resources. Other elements will include music, door prizes, exhibiting of the art created by Survivors, spoken word poetry and dramatic reelection of the stories and testimonies of our clients, and more.

The event will take place at Woodley Park located at 6335 Woodley Ave. Van Nuys, CA 91406, on Saturday October 7, 2017.

Journey Out’s mission is “to help victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking leave a life of abuse and violence, overcome their fears, and empower them to reach their full potential and achieve their goals. Our overarching goals are two-fold: first, deliver the critical services and support needed to break free from the abuse and violence of sex trafficking and rebuild a life; and second, to ensure that no one enters “the life”.

While Journey Out serves Los Angeles County and neighboring unincorporated cities, we do service clients from neighboring counties, regions, and states – and this is due to the transient nature of sex trafficking, where victims are literally moved across borders and they are trafficked in this way for various reasons – major sporting events, competition over territory by traffickers, and the need to move away from areas that seem to have too much of a police presence. This movement is frequent and constant.

Revenue raised from the Annual Walk & Community Awareness Festival will support our mission, helping us to ensure that these critically needed culturally sensitive, trauma-informed, and most importantly victim-centered services are available at NO COST to victims of sex trafficking.

WHAT BENEFITS WILL THE EVENT BRING TO THE COMMUNITY? Sex trafficking impacts community health in terms of infectious disease and increase violence, because street gangs have now taken over control of the trade, because it provides a better return-on-investment. Little to none investment goes into their victims, and they can sell them again-and-again. For the victims of sex trafficking, the health impacts are life-long and include mental health issues (PTSD, anxiety, trauma-induced mental disorders), physical issues (permanent injury, traumatic brain injury, STI/AIDS infection, infertility, malnutrition, premature death from violence, with the average life expectancy being 35 years), and socioeconomic issues (interruption of education and social development, lack of job readiness skills, financial illiteracy).

This event will benefit the community in many ways, beginning with increasing their understanding of sex trafficking, and help them to be better able at recognizing it, identifying victims (including those being transported on airplanes over national and state borders), and assisting in reporting; as well as prevention. We will be sharing information on recruitment tactics and lingo and acronyms developed by traffickers to use in online forums; along with the health risks involved for community members, including infectious disease.

HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?

There are many ways to get involved with the Journey Out Annual Walk & Community Awareness Festival:

  • Begin building a team, register, and participate in the Walk. Every and any amount raised would greatly benefit our work. For Registration information contact cindy.borland@journeyout.org
  • Do you have a talent for artistic expression? Then we would love to have you come out and share. If you are interested in performing at the event contact cherise.charleswell@journeyout.org
  • Consider making a financial or in kind donation and serving as an official Sponsor of the event. We are happy to work with Sponsors of all types whether individual donors, small businesses, or corporations — once again, addressing this issue “takes a village”. We have a Sponsorship package available. For more information contact cherise.charleswell@journeyout.org
  • Exhibitors Wanted! Whether you are selling art, jewelry, books, clothing, beauty products, health and wellness products, or personal services — there is a space available for you. Again, the day will be focused on Thriving—exploring and finding all of the things that can make one happy. The Exhibiting are rates are as follows: Individuals/grassroots organizations and artists is $25, small businesses and community organizations $50, corporate exhibitors $100. For more information about exhibiting contact cherise.charlesewll@journeyout.org
  • Volunteer Needed! — Once again doing this work “takes a village”, so we are seeking volunteers who can assist with a variety of tasks: promotions, set up, tear down/clean up, and more. Please contact cherise.charleswell@journeyout.org if you are interested in volunteering.

We truly look forward to seeing you out at Journey Out’s Annual Walk & Community Awareness Festival. If you are unable to attend, but would like to learn more about our community outreach and education efforts, and may be interested in scheduling a Speaker— please contact cherise.charleswell@journeyout.org. We have a Speaker Bureau available, which includes survivors of human sex trafficking.

Cherise Charleswell, MPH

Development & Outreach Manager

Journey Out

To learn more about Journey Out and how you can get involved, click here