by Jessica Boyles
Human Trafficking Prevention Manager, YWCA Silicon Valley
At the YWCA Silicon Valley, we are working to bring an end to human trafficking by addressing the issue at both a cultural and systemic level. Our efforts are centered on public awareness, but they extend far beyond spreading accurate information. We picture the real and permanent high-level change that only comes when we reach a critical mass (so to speak) of individual transformation. We pursue this vision by promoting self-examination, encouraging honest dialogue, and dispelling myths and confronting lies, with the ultimate hope that we will change individuals, communities, systems, and society.
This may seem like a lofty, unattainable goal. However, having the end in mind, we are able to break the task down into manageable pieces to help us reach it. Our efforts focus on providing meaningful learning opportunities tailored for specific groups, like faith communities, high school students, etc. We also offer services to trafficking victims through our Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis departments, offering case management, counseling services and emergency shelter for trafficking survivors when there is an intersection with domestic violence. Our community may know that human trafficking exists, but many people think that it only happens far away, in other cities or countries – the truth is that it is all around us.
This month, we will be launching a much-anticipated initiative for local college students to think critically about and actively engage with the issue of human trafficking. Students will compete for two paid internship opportunities with our agency by designing projects that will work to end trafficking. Winning students will be mentored and guided as they implement their project and effect real-world change. This is the type of relevant and creative learning opportunity that every teacher loves. At the end of the day (or, in this case, at the end of the two-year grant), we might not change all of society and end trafficking at once, but we’ll be making our own small dent.
When you get home tonight, raise a glass to finishing the work that William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., along with many, many others, started before us. Here’s to January, new beginnings, and National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Please check out our website for more comprehensive information about human trafficking and our programs, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. You, too, can get involved – here are 15 ways to help fight trafficking in your community.
Jessica is currently operating a two-year federally funded public awareness initiative through the YWCA Silicon Valley. She earned her MA in Urban Community Development through Eastern University after spending ten years working with special education students and foster children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.