By GABRIELLA BOCK | Reporter
In an effort to curb sex trafficking in the United States, new Palisadian human rights campaign Awareness Is Power is gearing up to launch the first order on its agenda.
Working in alliance with the nonprofit organization Together 1 Heart, the campaign is in the midst of developing a trafficking awareness and prevention platform that can be used as education material in middle and high schools across the nation.
Spearheaded by Australian actress Viva Bianca, who may know about the roots of slavery after starring in Starz TV serial “Sparticus: Blood and Sand,” Awareness Is Power was co-founded by Palisadians Jessica Allen, Sky Brewer and Mila Daraz early this year.
“Although we’re pretty new, our campaign is united and passionate about making real change and lowering statistics through preventative education,” Bianca told the Palisadian-Post.
On Thursday, Sept. 14, the campaign celebrated a first victory after a fundraising event held at the Brewer’s Huntington residence received a wide community turnout.
Soon-to-be-local sponsor Sweet Laurel Bakery donated cakes, centerpieces and flowers for the event, and Canadian musician Daniel Powter performed his number one Billboard hit “Had a Bad Day.”
The most moving portion of the evening, Allen told the Post, was when a brave, young survivor shared her story of being trafficked by her own father beginning at the age of 4.
“The message she shared was strong,” Allen said. “She was unheard, unseen and unnoticed.”
Much to their delight, the evening’s garnered proceeds were generous, and will be enough to back the campaign’s pre-production of Bianca’s short film “MilkshakeGirls” by late October.
Based on the true story of two Ohioan teenagers who were abducted, groomed and trafficked in 2008, “MilkshakeGirls” is positioned to become a critical tool in advancing the campaign’s goal of using mixed-media resources to educate young people about the telling signs of trafficking.
And the threat is much more real and much closer to home than one might imagine.
Human trafficking is a $42 billion-per-year global industry and is considered to be the third most lucrative black market crime, behind drugs and weapons trade.
In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that 100,000 children are current victims of sex trafficking, with the state of California housing the highest number of reported human trafficking victims in the nation.
Earlier this summer, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department unearthed a massive sex trafficking ring that included 13 victims.
The girls, eight of whom were as young as 14, were sold in underground brothels across California and Nevada.
“While there is much to be done in America to abolish modern day slavery and trafficking,” Allen concluded. “This is our first step at making an impact.”