Local

Human Trafficking awareness

Friday, February 18, 2011

Human trafficking is being called the modern-day version of slavery.

In Fresno, 25 trafficking cases have been uncovered in the past year. Since a coalition was formed to help and identify victims. Action News spoke to one young woman, who says she was freed after being held against her will by a Clovis family for 10 years.

For 23-year-old Jamelia, it's very difficult to speak publicly about the abuse she says she endured for the past 10 years. Jamelia was sold by her mother in Belize when she was 11-years-old, to a woman who eventually brought her to live in Clovis.

Jamelia's Attorney, Linda Richardson said, "It was physical abuse, it was emotional, psychological abuse that's what traffickers use."

Jamelia says she was forced into domestic servitude, cleaning and caring for the family's four children. She tried to get help many times, but nobody believed her.

Ronna Bright, Project Coordinator for the Central Valley Freedom Coalition says unlike Jamelia, many victims of human trafficking are either hidden or afraid to come forward. That's why public awareness of the problem is so important. "In the last year that we have just started addressing it, even just saying the name human trafficking in our local area, we have identified and served 24 victims."

Sergeant Curt Chastain is in charge of the Fresno Police Department's newly formed Human Trafficking Task Force. He says victims are often forced into prostitution, like illegal massage parlors. Others are found in sweatshops, farm labor and even some nail salons. "All cheap labor may not be legal, it may be forced and someone is profiting out of the service that someone may be getting from that."

Sergeant Chastain says if you're suspicious, ask questions. "In your conversation with them, if your hair raises in the back of your neck, that this is just not right, then you should report it."

Jamelia was finally rescued from her captor a year and half ago, thanks to the help of a friend. The criminal case against her alleged abductor is still pending. Jamelia has this message to other victims who may be watching. "Even if one person doesn't listen, even if two people don't listen, keep trying."

Jamelia was set to be deported back to Belize in the coming days, but was just granted a Human Trafficking or "T" Visa.

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Fresno Police Department's Human Trafficking Hotline:
(559) 621-5950
National Human Trafficking Resource Center:
1-888-373-7888

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