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Every year, millions of women, men, non-gender identifying individuals, and children are trafficked worldwide—including right here in the Central Valley. Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain an individual or group for some type of labor or commercial sex act. In 2021, more than 1,500 cases of human trafficking were identified in California. 114 cases were identified locally by Fresno EOC Central Valley Against Human Trafficking (CVAHT) from January through July of 2021, including 25 cases involving children.

Fresno EOC CVAHT is at the forefront of efforts to raise awareness and help survivors. On January 4th, the team was recognized for its work and was supported with a proclamation by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors who declared January “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the County of Fresno.” The City of Clovis will recognize CVAHT on January 10th with a proclamation.

Members of Fresno EOC Central Valley Against Human Trafficking (CVAHT) along with local partners were recognized for their work by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

Amber Secundino, CVAHT Manager, says the program offers a wide range of services but the overarching goal is to identify and serve victims of human trafficking. “Once an individual is identified, we provide services depending on what their goals are. So, say hypothetically, somebody doesn’t have a home. They’re identified as homeless and their goal is to get housing and to get employment. We would help with emergency housing, and then we’d help them to access the Coordinated Entry System to obtain housing on their own as well as helping them to find employment. The most important point is that each individual client has the autonomy to choose what those goals are, rather than us tell them what they should do or who they should be, to put the power back into their hands.”

CVAHT was established in 2009 after staff members at Fresno EOC Sanctuary and Support Services discovered a disturbing trend. Amber says, “They were recognizing that a lot of youth were coming into our youth shelter, leaving, and then returning to the youth shelter. Staff members learned the youth were engaging in what we would call survival sex, so having to engage in sexual activity to have basic needs met. That means, for example, if they needed a place to sleep, they were exploited in some way to have that need met.”

Amber says during the past year, a number of clients were referred to CVAHT from other states. “Law enforcement has been cracking down on larger organizations, trafficking multiple people, and then they’re relocating them to different areas. So, we’ve had a huge increase in foreign national individuals who were exploited in another state and brought here locally, to receive support services and then immigration relief.”

“If somebody is a foreign national and needs help with some sort of immigration support, we offer that support as well.” Amber points out that CVAHT has a great partnership with Centro La Familia and the Mexican consulate in Fresno and they have even been able to do outreach directly into the fields and provide people education on how to recognize and prevent human trafficking.

Pledge 2 Stop Human Trafficking January 18, 2022 banner.

CVAHT plans to do more outreach with proceeds from an upcoming fundraiser. They are part of a collaborative group taking part in the “Pledge 2 Stop Trafficking” on Tuesday, January 18th. They invite anyone who would like to volunteer to sign up for the event which will take place in Fresno. Volunteers will take to the streets with buckets and ask for donations.

If you are a victim of human trafficking or feel you know a victim of this crime, you can call CVAHT at (559) 527-5869. Or contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.

About Central Valley Against Human Trafficking (CVAHT)

Central Valley Against Human Trafficking (CVAHT) provides awareness, training, technical assistance, advocacy and direct services about human trafficking and trafficking-related issues. Through Sanctuary and Support Services’ other programs, emergency shelter, transitional housing, case management, transportation, referrals, and other assistance is provided to victims of all forms of human trafficking. CVAHT-funded partners provide additional assistance to victims of human trafficking; including services for immigrants and victims of domestic violence. CVAHT leads the anti-trafficking effort throughout the Central Valley of California and consistently represents the region in state and nation-wide efforts.

Through partners and stakeholders, CVAHT serves a six-county region including Merced, Madera, Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern counties.

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