Douglas County NPOs Team Up To Counter Local Child Human Trafficking
ROSEBURG, ore. — Situated in Roseburg, the Mercy Foundation- whose mission is to enrich the health, well-being, and quality of life of children and families in need in Douglas County, is joining forces with the Douglas County Human Trafficking Task Force, bringing greater awareness of human trafficking of children in the community and working on prevention.
A program of the Douglas County Child Abuse Prevention Coalition under the umbrella of Up2UsNow, the Task Force seeks to shift the community norm from intervention, (responding to child abuse after it happens), to prevention, (stopping abuse before it happens). This prevents the harmful impacts of child abuse, which include repercussions that affect the social, emotional, and financial lives of the child and their families.
A subordinate organization under Dignity Health, the Mercy Foundation was established in 1973 and is managed by a board of respected citizens. The two organizations are both driven by their interest in the well-being of the community and will be collaborating with law enforcement, social service providers, and medical professionals.
The Violence Prevention Program Manager attached to the task force- Marion Pearson, has confidence in the reach of the venture, a critical aspect to ensure that awareness and prevention prevail. “The more people that are aware, the less places traffickers will have to hide” explains Pearson. It’s this awareness that will help to identify victims and survivors, as well as prospective victims, and get them the assistance that they need. Getting traffickers locked up is also a primary goal.
Human traffickers- particularly those that prey on children are often active at bars, around the I-5, and in the adjacent rest areas. The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 defines sex trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act.” Revised twice since being promulgated, the Act extends to the making of child porn, as well as specifying that the defense of “I didn’t know how old the victim was” will no longer be accepted in a court of law. Further law- the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) defines any activity where the child is treated as “a commercial and sexual object to be used, sold or traded in exchange for something of value,” and sets out the definition of exploitation.
With several projects ongoing, the Task Force’s Sip Safe project aims to help bars and pubs understand what to look out for. Launched last year, Sip Safe began with nine locations undertaking training. They aim to train people in six more establishments this year. Aside from training, the team provides stickers and drink testers to be made available for use by visitors and staff who don’t feel safe. Leading to better knowledge, Pearson hopes that staff will be better placed and prepared to act where necessary.
The Sip Safe initiative is for patrons who- if they believe that their or their friend’s drink has been spiked or if something just weird is going on, they can reach out to somebody on site. The bar or pub staff can then respond appropriately to the threat, ensuring the safety of their customers. The awareness is also intended to encourage would-be traffickers not to engage. They also point out that traffickers commonly lead victims to believe that they have chosen this lifestyle. This is a manipulation tactic that can extend to convincing their victims to recruit others as part of their exploitation methods.
With over 15 partners, the Task Force- now affiliated with the Mercy Foundation, is dedicated to educating and identifying red flags and indicators, and an advocate has also been engaged to address the complex needs of victims and survivors locally.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center provides more information on human trafficking in Douglas.