Soroptimist clubs worldwide devote one Saturday in March to some kind of hands-on community service.
March 3 was the third annual workshop for Stop Human Trafficking in Lodi. This event was hosted by the Women’s Center of San Joaquin County, Soroptimist International of Lodi and Lodi Sunrise, and the Lodi branches of the Salvation Army, Business and Professional Women’s Foundation and American Association for University Women.
The presenters were Nilda Valmores, executive director of My Sister’s House from Sacramento; L. “Rico” Ozaki, Esq., My Sister’s House human trafficking specialist; and John Vincent, the criminal chief in the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of California. They were introduced by former mayor Susan Hitchcock.
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery in which victims are subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of forced labor and/or sexual exploitation. The presentation included information about human trafficking in San Joaquin County.
Examples of types of work where labor trafficking can be found include domestic situations such as caretakers and maids, sweatshops, janitorial jobs, the hotel and tourist industries, and organized panhandling. Sex trafficking can be occurring in massage parlors, spas, strip clubs, night clubs, escort services, Internet bars, night clubs, Internet, pornography, street prostitution, militarized prostitution, mail order brides, servile marriages and anyone under 18 years of age in sex industry.
Some of the signs that someone may be a human trafficking victim include that he or she may not be allowed to contact family or friends or allowed to speak for him/herself. He or she may exhibit signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, confinement or malnourishment and may be extremely submissive or fearful. A potential victim may lack knowledge of their location, may be frequently moved and may not be in control of his or her own identification and other important documents. A potential victim may have no access to his or her bank account or other money. He or she may need to ask for permission to eat, sleep or use the bathroom and may lack the freedom to leave his or her living or working situation unless monitored. There may be inconsistencies in his or her story.
The speakers stressed the importance of paying attention to something that seems unusual. The speakers also stressed the importance of safety. If you suspect that someone may be a victim of human trafficking, and that person appears to be at risk of imminent harm, call local law enforcement. Otherwise, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 888-3737-888 to report a tip or for questions about human trafficking.
Tickets were sold for raffle prizes that were donated by the host groups. All proceeds from sales and donations will directly benefit organizations that work to stop human trafficking: Women’s Center of San Joaquin County, My Sister’s House and Soroptimist International of the Americas Human Trafficking Awareness program.
Soroptimist International is a worldwide organization for women, working through service projects to advance human rights and the status of women and girls. For more information, visit the Soroptimist website at firstname.lastname@example.org or email email@example.com. The SI Lodi Sunrise website is www.silodisunrisesoroptimist.net.