Mayor Hales Dedicates Funds to Helping Human Trafficking Survivors
WEDNESDAY, JULY 30, 2014 — Mayor Charlie Hales and commissioners at Wednesday’s City Council meeting approved a $297,000 grant to support Janus Youth Programs’ shelter beds, treatment and case management services for human trafficking victims between 18 and 25 years old.
“The program saves women’s lives,” Hales said. “And it helps make the community safer by removing gangs’ revenue source.”
With this grant approval, Portland Police have garnered nearly $1 million to support human trafficking survivors through partnerships with service organizations.
Humans have become the second-most lucrative commodity on the black market behind drugs, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office reports. Gangs and other criminal organizations prefer humans because they’re a reusable resource; they can be resold.
That horrific dehumanization most frequently affects teenagers, both girls and boys, and is becoming more common in Portland because of the city’s position on Interstate 5 and the airport. Traffickers recruit girls who are 12 to 14 years old, spanning socioeconomic status, education level, and race, according to the district attorney.
Portland Police Sgt. Mike Geiger on Wednesday spoke in support of the funding. His highlighted the tremendous need to support safe places for trauma victims.
Transcript of Sgt. Geiger's remarks at Council
"This has been a long fight, a difficult one. We’ve been engaged in it for a few years now, and I think that much of what we’ve been trying to come to grips with is how does that happen here and what’s going on with our children and our community.
Human trafficking is becoming one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises in the world today. We’ve been trying to figure out how we strike a balance between accountability, between law enforcement, and the needs of the child — the needs of the vulnerable and the violated.
What this funding shows me is confirmation that the city of Portland has chosen to take a stand on behalf of the vulnerable, and on behalf of the violated. And I would say that support for law enforcement and support for the victims are not mutually exclusive. What we have come to learn is the way in which we view an individual dictates the way we respond to that individual. So, by providing advocacy resources and a safe place to stay, we’re telling them that the overriding goal is the restoration, and their removal from the life of exploitation and victimization to one of health and safety and a positive future. Those things can’t be accomplished absent the support services we brought to bear on their behalf.
Young people, whether they are teenagers or people in their twenties or whoever they are, they desire safety, and they desire security, and they need first and foremost to have their emotional and physical needs met before we begin to address the other facts. I think this is what this funding does, what we have seen is a dramatic increase in our ability to prosecute cases both at the state and federal level. It has been remarkable.
What I would submit, we would have never been able to accomplish that absent the support from the people like Janus Youth Programs and the Sexual Assault Resource Center. What that is, that has done, is allowed them to rebuild their emotional state, to gain a sense of security and empowerment, and to recognize finally there is a degree of victimization that they had not faced before, which empowers them to give us the information we need in order to put together a comprehensive case that brings accountability.
We are accomplishing both, and I am very happy about that because it speaks to what we think about these young people. It speaks to the priority that we have here in our community. That we want the best for them and for them to be free of exploitation. To me, that speaks to the character of our department and it speaks to the character of this council, and your support is just very much appreciated. So, thank you."
Sgt. Geiger's written statement
“For the last several years Portland has taken a leading role in the fight against human trafficking and child exploitation. We have learned this type of exploitation is difficult to identify, and even more difficult to prosecute. Much has been learned, and many relationships have been developed. The city of Portland has dedicated police resources to this fight and has made it a priority at all levels. The city has partnered with local and federal prosecutors and has taken part in many educational and awareness opportunities. Of even more importance, the city of Portland has come to recognize that if there is to be accountability, we must first meet some very basic necessities. Victims of sexual trauma very much need two things: safety and someone to care for them.
Absent a safe place, trauma victims will return to their exploiter and will likely find themselves in an even more dangerous circumstance. While it is likely they will not at first recognize safety is a priority, they will if the doors remain open. Janus Youth Program has a long record of working with vulnerable children, and has become a vital component in ensuring there is a safe place for victims. Janus is dedicated to long-term care, recognizing that there is no short-term solution.
Beyond shelter services, trauma victims need to be able to talk to a caring adult who will not judge or condemn. The Sexual Assault Resource Center provides confidential support services and advocacy. They have in many circumstances become the lifeline to children who have been left to their own devices. The relationships they maintain are what have allowed so many victims to reach a place of healing. That in turn has increased their ability to help children out of a life of exploitation.
Support from the city has allowed the Resource Center to serve more children, and even develop a response to those between the ages of 18 and 25. This is in recognition that many children identified prior to 18 continue to need help. Support from Janus will make certain we have long term shelter for those in the most need.”