As 2018 kicks off, the Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking hopes to have a bigger impact on the community.
The nonprofit organization, which started in 2011 to educate and provide tools that empower government, businesses, schools and local leaders to take action against human trafficking, is partnering with Seattle Against Slavery to broaden its reach.
“We really wanted to open our umbrella a little more to do more advocacy work, more getting the community mobilized and to collaborate more so we weren’t reproducing the same things everywhere,” FWCAT’s Pam Martin said.
Seattle Against Slavery is a grassroots effort that works to address the root causes of sex and labor trafficking, while advocating for the rights of survivors through education, advocacy and collaboration with local and national partners.
Martin and Brenda Oliver, FWCAT’s executive director, said FWCAT’s mission isn’t changing with the new partnership.
“It gives us a bigger reach,” Martin said. “We will only benefit from their expertise.”
As a part of the partnership, Seattle Against Slavery has hired Claudia Lawrence as a community mobilization director to run FWCAT. Lawrence has more than 20 years of experience working with survivors of violence and leading community safety initiatives, most recently with the Seattle Indian Health Board.
Prior to bringing Lawrence on board, FWCAT was run primarily by volunteers.
“It is not a hobby anymore,” Martin said. “We want it to be a real thing. We want it to be full time, 24/7, on the books, permanent. … The population here is growing and changing, and the problem is still here. It is getting bigger , and we need to get bigger to match that.”
The organization plans to share more details about the partnership and its new full-time employee at a community forum from 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10, at Federal Way City Hall City Council Chambers, 33325 Eighth Ave. S.
The topic is “Put Human Trafficking Out of Businesses,” and will feature guest speakers Mar Smith Brettmann, founder of the Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking, and Valiant Richey, a King County senior deputy prosecuting attorney responsible for prosecuting cases involving sex traffickers.
The forum will provide information on how businesses can implement strategies to prevent human trafficking and protect themselves from the risks trafficking poses.
The community is invited to attend the free event.
It is important for business owners and those who patronize businesses to be aware of signs of human trafficking, Martin said.
“In the bank, whenever you take out a large amount of cash, they have questions they ask: Are you safe? Is this OK? Do you need help?” Martin said. “They need to do the same thing when they see a young girl coming in with an older man renting a room or getting their nails done or something like this when someone is controlling their decisions. They have to be taught.”
Last fall, FWCAT opened a kiosk in The Commons mall to help spread its message.
While much of its focus has been in the schools, the organization wanted to reach more of the community.
“We decided we needed to do something else,” Martin said. “We thought that we had to meet the people where they were and we had to go to them.”
The goal of the kiosk is to keep the organization visible and get people thinking about human trafficking.
“These issues, they peak when something really bad happens and everyone is in panic mode and everyone want to put a Band-Aid on stuff and this happened, so we’ve got to check a box. We’ve got to do something,” Martin said. “So then they start getting involved, the public. Then it waxes and wanes and everyone forgets about it. It seems it is no longer an issue if it is not touching me personally.”
The kiosk, which is staffed by volunteers, is typically open from 3 to 5 p.m. on weekdays and one Saturday a month and provides statistics and resources about human trafficking, as well as information about FWCAT’s upcoming events, such as the Break The Chains 5K in May. In its first few months, the kiosk has provided information to more than 800 people, Martin said.
“We are trying to create a relationship there so we can become even a more integral part of the mall,” Martin said. “We are hoping that the people in the mall who work there also see us as a resource.”
With more people, including youth, connecting to the internet through mobile devices, exploitation is becoming more prevalent, Oliver said.
Oliver sees the dangers first-hand while giving internet safety presentations in schools.
“The number of sixth-graders that raise their hands that they get weird texts from people they don’t know and they respond to them … and what they are exposed to is frightening,” she said. “A lot of parents don’t think it is going to happen to their child, but we have seen it happen to kids from all walks of life.”
For more information about FWCAT, visit fwcat.org.
Click here to view a video from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children marking the 10-year anniversary of then-17-year-old Danica Childs’ disappearance. Childs’ mother, Dianne Zoro of Federal Way, has made it her mission to raise awareness of human trafficking, which Zoro suspects in her daughter’s disappearance.