One of the key mission objectives of the Soroptimist International’s program to stop human trafficking is to raise public awareness about this growing problem — that it is happening everywhere, even in Riverside County, and the signs can be detected if one knows the signs.
From 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 15, the Soroptimist International of Idyllwild is reprising an event it launched in 2011. Celebrating Women in the Arts showcases the work of local artists, the sales of which raise money to bring awareness about this all-too-prevalent problem and support nonprofits helping survivors of human trafficking. More than 20 local women artists are donating work to be available at a silent auction while patrons sample wine, cheese and refreshments at the beginning of the evening. A $20 donation is suggested. Soroptimist International of Idyllwild is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
The second part of the evening features speakers discussing human trafficking in Riverside County: Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Brian Robertson, part of the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, and Kristen Dolan, anti-trafficking director of Operation SafeHouse, a member organization of the county task force.
Funds raised at the event benefit Operation SafeHouse and a community-wide informational event, free to all and geared to parents, teenagers and educators to be held in September.
Human trafficking is a $32-billion-a-year industry, a modern-day form of slavery that involves the transport or trade of people for the purpose of work. According to the United Nations, more than 2.5 million people around the world are ensnared at any one time in the confines of human trafficking. Men are trafficked into hard labor, children into labor jobs in textiles, agriculture and fishing. Women and girls are more likely to be forced into the commercial sex industry, although boys and men also can be victims of this type of trafficking. To underline the importance and ubiquity of this crime, a headline in the San Diego Union Tribune in January 2014 noted that human trafficking had replaced gang-drug sales as the highest gang-revenue generator in San Diego County.
Said Idyllwild Soroptimist President Karen Doshier of the event, “This is your chance to walk away with an original piece of art created by local women, and help stop the fastest growing crime in America.”