WEST HOLLYWOOD—The city of West Hollywood is inviting the public to a free virtual educational training to discuss issues pertaining to human trafficking to assist participants in helping support and advocate for victims.

According to a press release from the city of West Hollywood, the Human Trafficking Community Training will take place on Tuesday, March 23, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. via a Zoom webinar; the training is open to the public, but registration is required to attend.

Training will be led by Dawn Schiller, an expert survivor-leader in the anti-trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault movements, who previously provided trainings for a similar topic for West Hollywood. Schiller provides firsthand insight to community advocates on survivorship, education, and service to others. She is a national speaker, educator, consultant, and author.

In 2020, she participated in the City’s Human Rights Speakers Series panel discussion about human trafficking. In 2019, she provided training to public safety personnel, law enforcement personnel, fire department personnel, and code compliance officers about human trafficking, notice requirements, and standards for businesses.

“As important as it is to conduct training among our public safety personnel, it is just as critical to educate and raise awareness among our city’s commissioners, advisory board members, and the community at large,” said West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tempore Lauren Meister. “Being able to recognize the signs of human trafficking is the first step to combatting human trafficking.”

“Human trafficking is a crisis throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands of victims are trafficked in the United States,” said City of West Hollywood Councilmember Sepi Shyne. “This training provides our community and City officials with the crucial tools needed to join the fight against human trafficking. We need to know what to look for in order to see something and say something.”

According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Victims of human trafficking include all genders, ages, races, countries, and socioeconomic statuses. Individuals in vulnerable situations — including migrants and refugees fleeing conflict or disaster, homeless LGBTQ youth, women and girls, and children in poverty — are preyed upon and may be more likely to be targeted by traffickers. The different kinds of human trafficking include sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude. Any person under the age of 18 involved in a commercial sex act is considered a victim of human trafficking.

According to the Polaris Project, which publishes data based on calls, text messages, webforms, emails, and webchats with the National Human Trafficking Hotline, over 25 million people are trafficked worldwide, and California is one of the largest sites of human trafficking in the United States.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline has seen a 40-percent increase in emergency calls since the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST),a Los Angeles-based human rights organization and one of the nation’s largest provider of services to survivors of human trafficking, has seen a 185 percent increase in human trafficking cases during the pandemic, compared to 2019. One-hundred percent of CAST’s urgent trafficking cases have been homeless people who were trafficked.

For anyone who has become a victim of human trafficking or know of a trafficking situation, there are resources to help:

  • The National Human Trafficking Hotline connects victims and survivors of sex and labor trafficking with services and support to get help and stay safe. The hotline also receives tips about potential situations of sex and labor trafficking and facilitates reporting that information to the appropriate authorities in certain cases. Toll-free phone and SMS text lines and live online chat function are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days. To contact the hotline, call (888) 373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree or 233733. Deaf or hard of hearing or speech-impaired people can contact the hotline by dialing 711.
  • The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) helps people who have been in forced prostitution, forced labor, and slave-like conditions by providing legal and social services. To request services or report tips regarding potential human trafficking cases, contact the toll-free, 24/7 hotline at (888) Key-2-FREE or (888) 539-2373.
  • Journey Out provides comprehensive services and support to help victims of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. For assistance call (818) 988-4970 or email info@journeyout.org.

For more information about the Human Trafficking Community Training, contact Kerry McCormack, City of West Hollywood Event Services Coordinator, at (323) 848-6385 or at kmccormack@weho.org. For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, call TTY (323) 848-6496.

To register, visit https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_NHNZ8sA_Q2G789u9pkMpKQ. A link to the Zoom event, including a call-in number for those unable to join online, will be emailed to participants prior to the event.