Part of a vital partnership between law enforcement, faith-based organizations and nonprofits, The Salvation Army of Orange County has operated an eight-bed safe house for survivors of human trafficking since 2009, serving 131 survivors and families over the past seven years.
“Our approach is that we walk alongside them, from crisis to self-sufficiency to thriving,” said Priscilla Santos, the Army’s anti-trafficking program services coordinator. “It’s the relationship that makes the difference, not necessarily the program.”
Worldwide, nearly 36 million people are victims of human trafficking, according to the 2014 Global Slavery Index. In the US, California has seen the biggest number incidents reported. Many of these cases involve domestic servitude, but the practice can also be found in the hotel housekeeping and hospitality industry as well, where subcontractors engage in forced labor. According to Santos, Orange County has lately seen a big influx of a different brand of the practice, something called servile marriage, in which wives of both Americans and foreign nationals are brought to the U.S., kept in isolation and forced to be domestic servants.
As a founding member of the local human trafficking task force, the Army serves as part of the group’s core leadership, helping to make decisions on how human trafficking efforts are addressed in the region. They also undertake extensive outreach efforts, including training law enforcement and educating the general public, who are often the first line of defense against the practice.