“STOLEN” is a year-long NBC 7 investigation into the sex trafficking and exploitation of children in San Diego County. The seven-episode documentary series is told from the perspective of survivors, advocates -- even traffickers, and sex buyers, explaining the depth and scope of this problem in our communities and our schools. And with more children online during the coronavirus pandemic, experts say they are at greater risk of exploitation now more than ever. “STOLEN” celebrates the strength of survivors and their families, as they struggle to free themselves from the bonds of sex trafficking. See the full series here.
NBC 7 started working on STOLEN more than a year ago with the express mission to bring the facts and the severity of the problem to the forefront.
During our investigation we spoke with survivors, advocates, prosecutors, and a number of experts on the topic.
Regardless of who we were speaking to, most all were sure of two specific facts: That sex trafficking is everywhere, in every neighborhood from the beaches of La Jolla and the mansions of Rancho Santa Fe to the lower-income communities in South and Eastern San Diego County; and the fact that there are millions of dollars tied to it means exploiters and predators will continue to find new victims.
We hope that every STOLEN viewer is inspired to become an ally in the fight to save those young lives that were snatched from underneath them.
Survivor resource groups that we consulted for this project say there are a few ways you can help:
Have a Conversation
How many of the facts presented in the project were new to you? Many San Diegans aren't aware just how pervasive the human trafficking industry is in our county, and in our own backyards.
A simple conversation with your family, network of friends, or colleagues about what you’ve learned about sex trafficking will help bring awareness to the risk factors and warning signs, and could even be catalyst for action.
Facts and stats that can drive conversation:
- Initial point of contact between traffickers and victims often occurs on the most popular social media apps like Instagram or Snapchat
- San Diego was identified by the FBI as one of the top 13 high intensity child prostitution areas
- Perpetrators are often thought to be anonymous criminals, possibly connected to organizations and gangs, but often times traffickers are family members, guardians, partners, and peer recruiters.
More San Diego-specific info and data can be found on the District Attorney's Office website.
Host a Community Awareness Meeting
The old adage that it takes a village to raise a child is truer than ever since the advent of the internet. Empower and educate your neighbors by hosting community awareness meetings at your home. Encourage leaders from your neighborhood school, or place of worship, as well as experts and outreach specialists to meet for a discussion. In these settings you can discuss related issues specific to your community, and make sure you and your neighbors are all on the same page.
Create Education and Career Opportunities
Do you work for, or are you connected to, an educational institution or vocational training program that could offer educational support for survivors, or educational opportunities for children and parents? Do you have the ability at your place of work to create, or can you present the idea of creating, employment or internship opportunities for sex trafficking survivors?
Donate Money, Items, or Your Time
Your money goes a long way in sponsoring the work of nonprofits and local groups working to save victims and support survivors fighting for restoration and rehabilitation.
Consider your areas of expertise or unique skill sets and think how you might be able to give your time in a meaningful way. If your time is booked, consider more tangible donations.
Donate household or clothing items to sex trafficking victims and survivors. Anything from used clothes to basic hygienic items can help them right what could be years of wrong. Other items to consider donating include gift cards to grocery stores and supermarkets ; bus passes or transit passes to help them gain access to services or to find work. Click here for more donation information and ideas from Project LIFE.
Here is a list of organizations working every day to end sex trafficking in San Diego:
- San Diego County District Attorney's Office
- Polaris Project
- Department of Homeland Security - Blue Campaign
- Abolish Human Trafficking - A community resource of Point Loma Nazarene University's Center for Justice and Reconciliation.
- Alabaster Jar Project
- Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition - News, info and resources dedicated to cross-border human trafficking
- Center for Community Solutions
- Churches Against Trafficking
- Free to Thrive
- Freedom from Exploitation
- Generate Hope
- Hidden Treasures Foundation - Residential treatment facility for underage victims
- Humans Against Trafficking
- Lynch Foundation for Children
- North County Lifeline
- PCI Global
- PETALS Ministry
- San Diego Youth Services
- Survivors for Solutions
- Refuge For Women SoCal
- Safe House Project
- Sisters of the Streets
- The Well Path
- U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Trafficking