By Michael P. Neufeld
Lake Arrowhead, CA – Child sex trafficking is growing at an alarming rate. . .even in our own backyard!
In fact, it is now the third largest criminal industry in the world. Concern about incidents in the mountain communities have prompted a series of meetings to raise awareness about the topic of human trafficking and how it is affecting us.
Rim Family Services has partnered with San Bernardino County’s Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE), the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, and Mary Putnam Henck Intermediate School (MPH) to improve awareness of the problem locally.
The next free meeting — Tuesday, December 4, at 7 p.m. at Mary Putnam Henck Intermediate School ( 730 Rhine Road in Lake Arrowhead) — is titled “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking.” It features Anne-Michelle Ellis, CASE coordinator, and Deborah Donnelly, LCSW, CASE Team Therapist, Department of Behavioral Health.
The commercial sexual exploitation of youth is a serious and pervasive issue affecting individuals and families around the world, in our own county, and even in our own community. CASE has provided services to several human trafficking victims from our mountain area.
THE FIRST STEP
In San Bernardino County, the average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 years old. When a teen runs away from home, one in three will be recruited by a pimp within 48 to 72 hours. In the United States, the National Runaway Switchboard estimates as many as 1.6 to 2.8 million children are on the streets at any time. Human trafficking trends show that children who engage in risky behavior, such as underage drinking, may be more at risk of being vulnerable to trafficking.
“The first step in solving this problem is for us all to be aware that there IS a problem,” according to Aaron Scullin, Executive Director of Rim Family Services. “That is why we are providing this presentation. I can’t stress enough how important it is for youth workers, teachers, parents, church staff, counselors, business owners and other community members to attend this meeting.”
This will be the first of a few human trafficking-related meetings scheduled by CASE and Rim Family Services (RFS). Plans are underway for RFS staff to use a curriculum called “Deceptions” to give local youth the tools to avoid trafficking, as well as a film screening in the new year of a documentary on human trafficking in San Bernardino County. In the fall of 2013, RFS, MPH, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the Rim Youth Prevention Leadership Coalition will host a Community Night on human trafficking.
For additional information contact Colleen Myers at Rim Family Services at (909) 336-1800.