March Against Sex Trafficking Addresses Increase Throughout Pandemic

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LOS ANGELES — The recent, periodic marches in Los Angeles, organized by the RightWay Foundation and Friends Collaborative, aim to reduce sex trafficking in the county.

They are being supported by trafficking survivors like Kia, who was abducted into sex trafficking at the age of fifteen. Kia explained how the challenges of a pandemic make the risk of abduction for young girls even worse.

"I come from duel trauma," she said. "I had a crazy upbringing, but just because my crazy upbringing was off the charts, and it led me to be a little bit more vulnerable, that doesn’t mean that girls that grew up with two parents, or had a good life, that doesn’t mean that they’re not vulnerable as well."

Now that Kia has escaped her old life, she is encouraging young women who are trapped to come forward and seek help. Working with Restoration Diversion Services, she helps provide practical resources like employment opportunities and mental health tools. She noted, however, that transitioning is never easy.

"My transition was rough. My transition was a lot of shelters, a lot of therapy, a lot of groups of support. I didn’t really have a family growing up, so I didn’t really have anybody that I could call or lean on to, so a lot of times, the nonprofits became that for me."

Calls to the human trafficking hotline have increased by more than 40% during the COVID-19 pandemic, with economic hardship being a key factor. Here in L.A. County, nonprofits like Two Wings help survivors with the tools they need to recover independently.

Kia explained how one of the most important tools young women need is the simple reminder that they are valued and loved.

"Learn how to love yourself," she said. "Learn how to take care of yourself. Learn how to talk kindly to yourself. I always tell my clients, 'If you wouldn’t let somebody in the streets say that to you, why would you say that to yourself?"