Mayor Jenny A. Durkan proclaimed the month of January as “Human Trafficking Awareness Month,” and last Friday, January 10, 2020 to be “Human Trafficking Awareness Day” to proclaim the equality and freedom inherent to all people, to advocate for legislation and protection for survivors, to raise awareness, and to recognize leaders in addressing human trafficking.
“Working to end human trafficking takes passion, commitment, courage, and leadership,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan, at an event held Friday morning at City Hall. “An estimated 400,000 people are believed trapped in forced labor to sex trafficking in the United States. In Seattle, we want that number to be zero, and we must do everything we can to end human trafficking in our City and world. Today, we are honoring key leaders and trailblazers whose collective work have built the foundation for the anti-trafficking movement that we currently have in Seattle, King County, and Washington state today.”
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and addressing it requires a shared community responsibility,” said Jason Johnson, Acting Director of HSD. “I thank Mayor Durkan for her leadership as U.S. Attorney and as Mayor in elevating this issue and supporting the City of Seattle’s work to prevent and end exploitation and abuse. I also want to thank our local leaders, including City staff, that have made it their life’s work to address this issue.”
The Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (MODVSA) hosted this year’s “Human Trafficking Awareness Day” partly to recognize the leadership, legacy, and advocacy of trailblazers in our community who have been leading the fight over the past two decades:
- Former State Rep. Velma Veloria served six terms in the House of Representatives from 1992 until 2004. She successfully lobbied and fought for affordable housing, workers’ rights, racial justice and took particular interest in the impact of international trade and globalization on local communities. Rep. Veloria worked with local activists to gain passage of HB 1175, making the State of Washington the first state in the nation to criminalize human trafficking on a state level. Since the enactment of HB 1175, 48 states in the nation have passed similar legislation.
- King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles created The State Task Force Against Human Trafficking with her Senate Bill 5884 which was enacted in 2015. Currently, she is continuing work on this issue as a County Councilmember by addressing the issue of labor trafficking and economic exploitation. Councilmember Kohl-Welles secured funding for a study to combat human trafficking and economic exploitation in the 2016 budget process.
- Dr. Sutapa Basu coordinated the first anti-human trafficking conference in Washington State. Prior to and since then, Dr. Basu and the UW Women’s Center have been a local leader in research, publications, and conferences to raise awareness of human trafficking and the push and pull factors stemming from economics, globalization, and racism.
- Dr. Debra Boyer authored Who Pays the Price: An Assessment of Youth Involvement in Prostitution in Seattle [pdf]. This report, commissioned by the City of Seattle and released in 2008, initiated the City of Seattle’s investment in services to support survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, and related coordinated response work facilitated by HSD’s Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
- Dr. Sheila Houston has made a difference in the sex trafficking world by leading outreach and victim support teams to work with survivors of trafficking. Her leadership consisted of being directly involved with over 2,500 victims. Her work has been featured in Seattle Pacific University’s Response Magazine “All in a Days Work” and in 2012 Seattle Met Magazine recognized her as “The Finder of Lost Children”. She has appeared on Northwest Today, Headline News with Jane-Velez-Mitchell, the local NPR radio, as well as every local news channel and paper in the Seattle area.
- Emma Catague has 40 years of experience in advocacy. Her “natural helper model” focusing on community-mobilization, community-building, and empowerment has been replicated locally, regionally, and nationally. Her advocacy work locally and regionally resulted in changes in funding policies, established task forces, and initiated legislation to address gender-based violence, which includes anti-trafficking legislation in Washington State.
- WashACT is a multi-disciplinary task force convened in 2006 by the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington. The Committee’s mission is to ensure that victims of trafficking receive all resources available to them, and that human traffickers are identified, investigated and prosecuted to the utmost extent of the law.
After the proclamation and presentation of awards by Mayor Durkan, and some remarks by WashACT Co-chairs, attendees listened to a keynote presentation and panel discussion with service providers and trafficking survivors.
To report concerns that human trafficking might be taking place, please call
the Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network Victim Assistance Line at 206.245.0782or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888.3737.888.