LOS ANGELES, Sept. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Actress Daryl Hannah, Actor Anthony LaPaglia, and advocates from eight Southern California non-profits gathered to discuss the problem of child trafficking. The Conference, entitled "Hiding in Plain Sight: Finding and Protecting Child Victims of Trafficking," was designed to increase advocates' ability to identify and assist child trafficking victims. Kay Buck, Executive Director of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) noted, "In Southern California, we've only scratched the surface of this growing problem. It is critical that advocates and other members of the community become more aware of child trafficking so that these victims can be identified and rescued and their traffickers can be brought to justice." Conference Sponsors The Conference is sponsored by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking, Children's Law Center of Los Angeles, Public Counsel, Free the Slaves, and San Diego Youth & Community Services. Anthony LaPaglia Actor Anthony LaPaglia, who won a Golden Globe Award for his role as an FBI agent in the TV series "Without a Trace," is a strong supporter of the anti-trafficking movement. He observed, "I was shocked to learn that human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world." He discussed the importance of informing those who are most likely to have contact with child trafficking victims and the general public of this epidemic to improve efforts to rescue children who are forced into prostitution and modern-day slavery. Daryl Hannah Actress Darryl Hannah expressed her concern for child victims of trafficking. Hannah supports the work of policymakers, prosecutors and service organizations that are fighting this battle against human trafficking on the front lines. Kevin Bales Kevin Bales, considered the world's leading expert on modern slavery and child trafficking, was the Conference's keynote speaker. Bales is the President of Free the Slaves and author of "Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy," which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He is the winner of numerous international humanitarian awards a documentary based on his work, "Slavery: A Global Investigation," won the Peabody Award for 2000 and two Emmy Awards in 2002. He recently edited an Anti-Human Trafficking Toolkit for the United Nations, and published, with the Human Rights Center at Berkeley, a report on forced labor in the USA. Conference Highlights Advocates attending the Conference at the Cathedral Plaza downtown participated in workshops on a variety of topics including Immigration Laws that Affect Trafficking Victims, Federal and State Anti-Trafficking Laws, Identifying and Talking to Child Trafficking Victims, Guardianship Strategies for Children, Working With Law Enforcement, and Southern California Resources for Child Trafficking Victims. CAST Executive Director Buck explained, "The organizers and speakers at this conference come from agencies that collaborate with law enforcement to combat human trafficking and assist victims in a broad range of contexts. Community members who attended walked away with a better understanding not only how to identify trafficking victims, but also about legal resources, support services, and other types of assistance available to child trafficking victims." About Child Trafficking According to US State Department data, it is estimated that 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Approximately 80 percent are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. An estimated 14,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year, although again because trafficking is illegal and covert, accurate statistics are difficult to obtain. Victims of child trafficking are exploited and forced to live as migrant workers, domestic servants or prostitutes. Safe housing, health, food, income, and legal services are available for these children but they must first be identified. The Case of "Liliana" At the age of fourteen, "Liliana" was recruited by traffickers in Chiapas, Mexico who promised her a job working in a restaurant in Los Angeles, so that she could help her family financially and escape from a chaotic household in which she was being abused by her brothers. Based on what appeared to be a great opportunity, Liliana agreed to come to the United States. Her traffickers arranged for her to be brought by smugglers from Mexico to Los Angeles. When she arrived, the traffickers told her she would first have to work as a prostitute to earn enough money to pay back the smugglers who brought her here. Liliana was held captive in the house where she was forced to perform sex acts against her will and was continuously threatened that her family in Mexico would be harmed if she refused to comply or attempted to escape. After approximately two months at the first location, Liliana and other sex-trafficking victims were taken to another location where she continued to be forced to work as a prostitute. She remained captive at the second location until police arrived and she was transferred to immigration authorities. Now sixteen years old, Liliana is one of approximately ten sex-trafficking victims who participated in the investigation and prosecution of several of her traffickers. Now free from her captors, Liliana is slowly gaining a new sense of safety. She resides in a foster care group home out of state where she receives support services to help her overcome the long-term effects of the trauma suffered as a result of her trafficking experience. Liliana's experience is a typical scenario of a child trafficking victim.
SOURCE Public Counsel