The following is a press release issued by Court Appointed Special Advocates of Mendocino & Lake Counties
In coordination with iEmpathize.org, numerous local community sponsors have organized a multimedia exhibit the week of March 28-31, 2022, at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center at 200 South School Street in Ukiah. The “APATHY” Effect Exhibit informs, engages, and empowers communities to recognize and respond to the issue of sexual exploitation and human trafficking, which exists even in small rural counties like Mendocino. This immersive experience through film, photography, and artifacts depicts the stories of resilient survivors of human trafficking worldwide.
Mark Brende, the president of iEmpathize, travels with the exhibit and will be on hand at the Conference Center to lead guided tours and “equip adults to empower youth,” he said. “The exhibit is meant to move people from apathy or sympathy to empathy. When we can enter someone else’s life, it helps us to an understanding that is beyond statistics. And when we know and understand, then we must act.”
Because this is a Mendocino County and a Northern CA issue, local sponsors of this event recognize the importance of building community awareness of Human Trafficking, of which Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is a severe result. Building awareness is prevention! Thank you to Alliance Auto Service; CASA of Mendocino & Lake Counties; KWine; Mendocino County Department of Social Services; Project Sanctuary; Redwood Community Services; South Ukiah Rotary; and Ukiah Unified School District for their support of this presentation.
Trafficking victims have certain commonalities that make them vulnerable to exploitation, including poverty, history of sexual or physical abuse, a lack of family or family support, young age, and limited education. Traffickers can be foreign nationals or United States citizens, males and females, family members, intimate partners, acquaintances, and strangers.
Teens are a prime target. “It’s as simple as one text inviting someone to become friends on a social media platform,” said Sheryn Hildebrand from the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Mendocino & Lake Counties (CASA). “These outlets are prime places for perpetrators to try to get our kids, especially in a rural community like ours. The perpetrator will first establish a friendship and then continue with ongoing communication leading to a personal meeting, an intimate relationship, and blackmail in the form of a threat to disclose the extent of the intimate relationship or a video of shared intimacy leading to forced prostitution.”
Traffickers approach and obtain victims in many ways. False promises of jobs can initially lure victims of trafficking; however, for many domestic victims, traffickers lure already vulnerable victims with flattery and a false sense of unconditional love that victims may crave. Once baited, traffickers create a dependent relationship with extreme power differentials where the trafficker has economic and psychological power to keep the victim as a commodity and keep the profits. Traffickers convince victims to distrust outsiders, particularly law enforcement, and victims are kept unaware of their rights. Cultural beliefs may also be used to keep them in line, such as shame to their family if they leave. Researchers have identified five main themes that keep victims entrapped: (1) fear (of violence, retaliation, deportation, law enforcement, and family repercussions); (2) lack of knowledge about alternatives (available services, victim rights); (3) isolation (from transportation, language, lack of social support); (4) confinement (physical and psychological); and (5) shame.
Brad Riley, founder and president of iEmpathize, whose mission is to provide an exploitation prevention curriculum that equips adults to provide effective, positive, and empowering prevention education to youth aged 12 and up, launched the program many years ago with a small group of like-minded creative media professionals.
This event is FREE and not recommended for children under 11 as some content will not be appropriate for this age group. iEmpathize also provides special First Responder Training during this event.
SELF GUIDED & GUIDED TOURS:
Monday, March 28, 2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday, March 29, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday, March 30, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 31, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
FIRST RESPONDER TRAINING:
Tuesday, March 29 & Wednesday, March 30
Session 1 – 4:00 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
Session 2 – 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.
For more information or to volunteer at the event, please call Sheryn Hildebrand with CASA at 707-463-6503.
This is a really awesome thing. Parents and all community members need to go. It is so real and it is happening here in our county. I can’t stress the importance of this. I know all about it all to well. My daughter was a victim of this!
I hope she’s charged with negligence!