Tahoe Talks at Incline Village Library: Human trafficking | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe Talks at Incline Village Library: Human trafficking

Special to the Tribune

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and one of the most devastating forms of abuse is human trafficking.

According to a United Nations report published in January, human trafficking is increasing around the world and sexual exploitation is the main driver. Especially horrifying is that 30 percent of these victims are children and most of them are girls.

Almost daily, incidents of human trafficking are reported by news outlets. Yet, there is a distinct difference between human trafficking and human smuggling that is often not delineated in these reports.

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) defines the differences as: “Human trafficking involves exploiting men, women, or children for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Human smuggling involves the provision of a service — typically, transportation or fraudulent documents — to an individual who voluntarily seeks to gain illegal entry into a foreign country. These are not inter-changeable terms. One is transportation based; the other exploitation based.”

The Department of Homeland Security estimates that human trafficking generates billions of dollars of profit per year, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime.

“Human trafficking is a hidden crime as victims rarely come forward to seek help because of language barriers, fear of the traffickers, and/or fear of law enforcement.

Traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. They look for people who are susceptible for a variety of reasons, including psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, lack of a social safety net, natural disasters, or political instability. The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings,” according to DHS.

The Incline Village Library’s Tahoe Talks series will address the topic of human trafficking, its impacts and prevalence in the region on Tuesday, April 9, from 6:30-8 p.m. Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life.

Guest experts for this community conversation will include:

Darin Balaam, Washoe County Sheriff

Sheriff Balaam’s career includes more than 21 years at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. He held every rank from deputy sheriff to third-in-command as an assistant sheriff. His experience encompasses all three bureaus: operations, detention and administration.

Melissa Holland, founder and executive director of Awaken

Awaken, a Reno nonprofit whose mission is to increase awareness and education surrounding the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and to provide housing and restoration for its victims.

Imelda Valdez, bilingual advocate in the residential and transitional housing program for Tahoe SAFE Alliance.

Jessica Moore, social worker at Renown Medical Center

Her primary focus is working in the Emergency Department where she interacts with multiple populations and their families with complex needs. She has partnered with Awaken and local law enforcement on several projects and cases that come into the ER regarding trafficking.