A 2021 human trafficking task force identified 207 survivors in Santa Barbara County, and 43% of those people were residents of Santa Barbara, according to a presentation given Wednesday afternoon.
And those are only the people who were confirmed.
SB ACT, in partnership with the county’s Human Trafficking Task Force, held a virtual presentation on the prevalence of human trafficking and tools to identify, report and aid victims Wednesday for members of the community. Members of the Santa Barbara City Council also participated in the informative session.
According to the 2021 task force’s report, 97% of the confirmed survivors were female with 29% 17 or younger.
“The idea that this is happening with children is, there’s not even a word for it. Heartbreaking is not even the right word,” Councilmember Kristen Sneddon said. “If we know this happens, then there must be more we can be doing.”
According to the presentation, the definition of trafficking encompassed people who are subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor with the latter being more prevalent.
Perpetrators can be anyone from a stranger to someone a victim met through school, work or online. Some individuals who have been trafficked might not realize they are being exploited or want to leave the situation.
According to SB ACT, which coordinates task forces, nonprofits, faith organizations and more to combat exploitation, California is one of the country’s top destination states for human trafficking.
Santa Barbara County reported 45 confirmed, unduplicated child survivors of domestic sex trafficking from 2012-2014, according to SB ACT. Another 80 children have been dubbed “suspected” survivors.
The group encouraged people to contact Child Welfare Services at 1-800-367-0166 to report a possible trafficking case involving a minor or Santa Barbara County law enforcement’s victim services at 805-884-8077 for adults.
People can learn more about SB ACT at https://sbact.org.