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King County and coalitions promote awareness of human trafficking
In recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, observed nationally on Jan. 11, the King County Council issued a proclamation of the occasion to bring regional attention to the ongoing problem of modern-day slavery.
“In Washington, we can be proud that we were the first state in the union to criminalize human trafficking, and King County successfully prosecuted the state’s first human trafficking case,” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who sponsored the county proclamation and participated in a conference about the issue. “Local officials and rescue organizations are working together to send a strong message that forced servitude and prostitution of immigrants and teens will not be tolerated.”
“King County is a leader in the effort to eliminate this cruel form of human slavery,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “Public recognition is the first step toward taking this crime from the shadows of our society and bringing it to light.”
Representatives from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Bridge Residential Recovery Program for prostituted youth, the Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network (WARN), the Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) Alliance and the advocacy group Washington Engage joined the Council in recognizing the regional partnerships that have come together to combat all forms of human trafficking.
As many as 17,500 people are trafficked annually into the United States. Mostly women and children, these individuals endure forced labor, sexual exploitation, debt bondage and forced marriages. In an effort to bring attention to the issue and combat human trafficking, Congress has designated a National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness, and the state of Washington also recognizes the occasion.
“As providers serving victims of human trafficking in King County, WARN is encouraged by King County’s commitment to increasing awareness and hopes it will help those affected by human trafficking access services so they can escape exploitation and build a better future for themselves,” said Marie Hoffman of the International Rescue Committee.
Anyone who needs help in identifying or rescuing victims of human trafficking can contact WARN at the International Rescue Committee in Seattle at (206) 245-0782 or Seattle@theIRC.org, or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at (888) 373-7888.