The Riverside County Department of Social Services will begin hosting its annual conference on human trafficking prevention virtually on Monday.
Dr. Katariina Rosenblatt, a trafficking survivor and author of the book Stolen, will speak at the conference on Thursday. She said trafficking is a challenging problem to bring awareness to.
“People are having to get out of their comfort zone and realize they themselves and their children here in the U.S. are being targeted and could become victims of human trafficking," said Rosenblatt . "It’s not just something that happens in other countries.”
The four day conference will bring together survivors, educators and local community organizations, including the Riverside-based Operation SafeHouse, to educate the public during National Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
Trafficking is a crime where people are forced to provide labor or commercial sex acts, and California is a top destination for it in the U.S. A report from the Los Angeles-based Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking says the pandemic has made things in the state even worse. They responded to 185 percent more trafficking cases in 2020 than they did in 2019.
Rosenblatt is not surprised by those numbers and said there’s been an increase of traffickers targeting children at home through social media without parents’ knowledge.
“They’re creating a false relationship with the child, creating a false sense of belonging and friendship, where kids who would have normally had peer support in their school system are longing for a sense of belonging,” said Rosenblatt.
Most tips on trafficking come from the public, so Rosenblatt asks people to trust their gut. If something feels off, call the national human trafficking hotline at 888-373-7888.
"It’s better to report it and be wrong than not report it and be sorry,” said Rosenblatt.
To learn more about Riverside County's conference and register for free visit the event link here.