“Someone needs to speak for the Victims, and that is You” were the opening words by Salinas Police Chief Roberto Filice as he welcomed police officers from eleven different Monterey County law enforcement agencies to the Human Trafficking & Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children training sponsored by the Monterey County Human Trafficking Task Force on May 26, 2022.
Speakers included three veteran officers from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, Human Trafficking Unit, and Teyanna M., a survivor of child and adult trafficking. Santa Clara trainers honed in on three areas; Prevention/Education, Suppression, Intervention/Investigation. Popular music videos were shown depicting sex trafficking as the glamorous life of expensive clothes, jewelry, and cars which from the Officers and Teyanna’s description couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, the sex worker sees very little of the money earned and is rarely left unattended by their trafficker, oftentimes physically beaten if they are hesitant or say no to performing the work.
Members of the Santa Clara Human Trafficking Unit stressed the involvement of victim advocates as crucial not only to their investigation but primarily for the mental health and support of the victim as well as offering resources such as clothing, food, and shelter. The point was emphasized that without immediate advocate support oftentimes the trafficked victim, who is left with nowhere to go or any family or friends to reach out to, will return to their trafficker.
This same message was brought home by Teyanna, that without the support of the HT Advocate from the YWCA of Monterey County, she would have had no one who cared, and without the YWCA eight- week program consisting of housing and therapy, she most likely would have gone back to “the Game”, a term commonly used for the commercial sex industry.
The attendees finished their day with a presentation listing local resources by Erika Trejo, Director of Community Program at the YWCA Monterey County, and Advocate Martamaria Rosado from the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office Victims of Crime Unit.
The day concluded with Monterey County officers ready to meet regularly to begin a collaborative effort to reduce human trafficking and “speak for the victims” in Monterey County.
Agencies involved in the training included: