Letters to the Editor

Coalition thanks city for battling human trafficking | Letters

Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking members with city leaders, including the Federal Way City Council. - Courtesy photo
Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking members with city leaders, including the Federal Way City Council.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking hosted an all-city forum on Jan. 9 at Federal Way City Hall. About 150 people from the community attended to learn how they could participate in the fight against human trafficking.

The coalition would like to thank Mayor Skip Priest, Police Chief Brian Wilson, Nick Lembo, Peter Qualliotine, Women of Vision, Soroptimist of Federal Way, the Justice Council, Advancing Leadership, Paladin Innovators and everyone else who made this event such a big success. We would also like to extend a thank you to the Federal Way Mirror for raising awareness about the forum and the work the coalition has been doing.

At the forum, Priest proclaimed Jan. 10 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and he further proclaimed January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The mayor declared Federal Way will stand up to fight against human trafficking.

Prior to the mayor's proclamation, Wilson reminded the audience that human trafficking is a global, national and regional problem. Wilson said his department has a strategy to address this issue, but they can't do it alone. The police work with the local sheriff's office and the Innocence Lost Task Force, but they also need people to report suspected human trafficking, Wilson said.

“Can we make a difference?” Wilson asked. “Absolutely. But we need to collaborate and communicate with others.”

Many people have the idea that human trafficking is when people are essentially kidnapped and smuggled into new countries, where they are forced to work for little to no compensation.

Human trafficking includes such crimes, but the term also encompasses the domestic buying and selling of people using force or coercion for the purposes of labor, sex or exploitation. Sex trafficking is defined as any minor or any individual who is forced into prostitution. The major misconception is that this is only going on in other countries.

But sex trafficking is happening right here in Federal Way. Young girls, often only 13 years old, are courted and made to feel loved by an older man. He wins her over, wears her down, and he eventually persuades her to do him a favor.

Before she knows it, she is in the life of prostitution, the older man is keeping every dollar she makes, and she can see no way out and no hope for her future.

According to local police officers who started the Genesis Project – a safe place for women trying to escape prostitution – when a girl enters the life, her life expectancy becomes seven years.

The Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking is working with police, government, the city's Chamber of Commerce, Advancing Leadership, and the schools. We are working to generate awareness, advocate for justice and prevent the perpetuation of sex trafficking by educating local people about this heinous crime.

We have implemented a program in local schools that educates students about the reality of trafficking and exploitation. More than 700 students have seen the Deceptions presentation.

At a recent Deceptions presentation, students were asked if they were surprised to learn that human trafficking happens in Federal Way.

"No I wasn't really surprised because I know a person that does this," one student said.

As a result of the work of organizations like ours, several new laws have been passed in the state of Washington. When we all work together, we can make a difference.

In case you missed the forum, there is a link to a recap of the event on our Facebook page. The video of the forum will also soon be viewable on our website, at http://fwcat.org. Special thank you again to Paladin Innovators for making possible a live stream of the event.

If you would like more information on sex trafficking, or if you would like to find out how you can do your part to fight it, please visit our Facebook page or our website, at http://fwcat.org.

Shannon Milliken, Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking (an initiative of Washington Engage)


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