FAIRFIELD – The Solano County District Attorney’s Office advanced its campaign against human trafficking Wednesday by bringing in an expert – who survived being a victim to talk – to local law enforcement about what to look for and how to combat the problem.
District Attorney Donald du Bain and Sheriff Thomas Ferrara said the workshop is their followup to the task force started last year to come up with ways to help local law enforcement and social services better detect, investigate and prosecute human trafficking.
A noontime press conference was part of a daylong workshop headlined by anti-trafficking advocate Carissa Phelps, head of the nonprofit Runaway Girl. She talked about the human trafficking problem and showed testimonies from those who suffered as victims.
“We know this exists, but most folks are not aware of how big a problem this is,” Ferrara said.
The workshop was led by Phelps, who talked to law enforcement officers, prosecutors and terrorism liaison officers about how to find and help human trafficking survivors, who are often hesitant to work with law enforcement officers and to request services or assistance.
“We are grateful to have one of the leading experts on human trafficking here,” Du Bain said.
Phelps was abandoned when she was 12, dropped out of school and fell into the arms of a brutal trafficker. She was unable to escape from the pain and shame of sexual assault and abuse until she met a juvenile hall staff member and a juvenile hall math teacher, who helped her escape that life.
By the time Phelps turned 30, she accomplished the unimaginable, graduating from UCLA with a law degree and a master’s degree in business administration. Her story is documented in her memoir, “Runaway Girl.”
Phelps now organizes resources for survivors of human trafficking, including social networks and people who protect and care for survivors. Runaway Girl offers training to improve responses to human trafficking within communities, while offering employment and career development opportunities to runaways, former runaways and survivors of human trafficking.
“People who have been through this have to be at the table,” Phelps said of working with law enforcement to combat human trafficking. “If this was in place, my own trafficking would have ended a lot sooner. We have to overcome the disbelief that this is happening.”
Du Bain said he does not know enough about how prevalent human trafficking is in Solano County, but said the creation last year of a county task force to take on the problem will give local law enforcement the information and programs it needs to find solutions to the problem here.
Anyone who suspects human trafficking or who are victims of it can call 888-373-7888 or email Phelps at [email protected]
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.