OUR STORY

Dealing with the challenges of today require problem-solvers who bring different perspectives and are willing to take risks in a technological era where crime is able to move at a faster rate of speed than people's ability to respond. The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force emerged out of a pursuit to inspire and support the victims of human trafficking in this new era of exploitation and slavery, and a desire for actions to speak louder than words. 

 

Established in 2004, a small group of leaders from different organizations came together and held a meeting to talk about a newly identified crime: human trafficking. In part, it was due to the first victim identified in Orange County in 2002, a 10-year-old Egyptian girl who was a victim of labor trafficking. The first meeting was marked the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force and it did not stop at meetings. The work began.

 

With very little knowledge and resources on what we were facing with the victims and perpetrators of human trafficking, we set on a committed quest of the work that needed to be done and at the same time try to figure out how we were going to get it done. There were two options, do it alone or do it together. Before we even realized it ourselves, the standards that we set for our own accomplishments in anti-trafficking efforts, albeit growing pains and all, continued to progress in a direction that made an impact in the areas of protection, prosecution and prevention. There were also valuable lessons learned in teamwork towards a common victim-centered mission and that admittedly we were better together than apart.

 

The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force was built on stories, the story of the first foreign victim, to the first American victim, to the first child victim, to the first case charged with human trafficking, to the first case found guilty by a jury; and those stories were passed on. As the nature of any new understanding or looking at an old problem through new eyes, it requires a certain amount of room to fail, learn, and grow as we continue to ask ourselves the ultimate hopeful and helpless question - why was human trafficking able to live and thrive in our society, yet those who are victimized by this scourge could not.

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In 2004, it was my honor to be one of the Founding Co-Chairs of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force.  We began the Task Force in a quest to learn more about the emerging crime of human trafficking.  While the crime itself wasn’t new, the dreadful nature of human trafficking and the impact on the victims was becoming clearer.  The initial response from the community was validating and we began a remarkable journey. 

 

One of the lessons we have learned through our work is that the more we know, the more there is to learn.  Human Trafficking is a multifaceted issue and the challenges faced in fighting the crime and serving its victims are complex. That is why the work of the Task Force is so important. The fight against Human Trafficking cannot be waged by a single entity.  

 

The overarching goal of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force is to create an environment where human trafficking is unable to thrive, but the victims of the crime can and do. Waymakers is proud to be a partner in this incredible work.  

Ronnetta Johnson, Executive Director, Waymakers

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