Point Loma Nazarene University is hosting a regional summit in recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness month on March 4 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Liberty Station Conference Center.
PLNU Center for Justice and Reconciliation Director Kim Berry Jones said the purpose of the summit, sponsored in part by Rotary district 5340 and their anti-human trafficking task force is “to reach people in our community who do not have a deep understanding of the crisis our community faces” around human trafficking.
A form of modern-day slavery where perpetrators profit from the sexual exploitation and forced labor of men, women and children, human trafficking is illegal under U.S. federal law and California state law.
According to the District Attorney’s office, San Diego county was identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigations as of the top 13 high-intensity child prostitution areas.
“We designed this summit specifically for people in our community who do not already know about the deeply collaborative work already going on in our region. This is not an event for insiders or people already doing the work, it’s an outreach event to find new champions in our community,” Jones said.
The event will bring together “most of the agencies and organizations that provide services to victims and survivors of trafficking, with the intent of introducing them to the community,” Jones said with the belief that by meeting people who represent the agencies working in this space, each person who attends can leave the event with actionable items based on their own particular interests and skills.
The full scope of the collaborative effort to end trafficking will be represented, Jones said, including prevention, housing, emergency services, and legal aid.
“The stark reality is that human trafficking is all around us. The research done by the center and the University of San Diego demonstrated that victims of trafficking are in every neighborhood, and traffickers target any vulnerable person, no matter their race or socio-economic status. Traffickers have a plan to recruit our kids, and we need a better plan,” Jones said.
Diego County Office of Education is one agency partnering with PLNU for the summit. SDCOE Chief of Staff Music Watson said while human trafficking can affect any student, there are some student populations that are more vulnerable to exploitation such as homeless youth, children involved in the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, and LGBTQIA+ youth.
The PLNU summit will feature keynote speaker Nathan Earl, a survivor and advocate for the need to focus services on boys and the LGBTQIA community— the conversation around the victimization of boys is a critical part of the conversation, Jones said, and one that often goes unspoken.
In addition to programs directed toward LGBTQIA youth, Watson said, SDCOE provides training to school staff across the county to recognize risk factors and warning signs, then connect students and their families to appropriate resources.
The comprehensive list of resources they provide on their website at www.sdcoe.net and to county families includes information on service providers who specialize in dating and sexual violence, runaway and homeless youth programs, downloadable resource guides available in English and Spanish, as well as other targeted resource information.
Targeted outreach to students is “an important reason why we asked the San Diego County office of education to partner with us on the Summit,” Jones said.
The Center for Justice & Reconciliation is a founding partner of the San Diego Trafficking Prevention Collective while SDCOE co-chairs the Education committee under the Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Regional Advisory Council. The groups share a similar goal: to introduce new programs that will ultimately reduce human trafficking.
For example, through the prevention collective’s kNOw MORE! human trafficking prevention program, Jones said, they are actively presenting a drama-based prevention program to students from grades 8-12 while other partners focus on students ages 8-18.
“Our partnership with the county office of education is a critical piece to this work. They will be livestreaming the Summit into some classrooms, as well as posting a link to the event on their website that can be accessed at any time. It’s our hope that this reach into the classrooms across our region will help open new doors for the Collective’s prevention programs,” Jones said.
By bringing all of the region’s partners into one event, Jones said, they also hope attendees will connect with one or more of the agencies.
“We are designing a handout guide that provides an overview of every agency which will be in attendance, their contact information and a specific call to action,” Jones said.
Visit pointloma.edu/events for more information or to register for the free event. Liberty Station Conference Center is located at 2600 Laning Road, San Diego.