San Francisco: Sisters’ Coalition Steps Up Fight to End Human Trafficking

Pictured: The Stop Slavery Coalition, Northern California Sisters Against Human Trafficking had a recap meeting on February 2, 2018, at the Sisters of the Presentation motherhouse in San Francisco. In the back row, from left to right are Rita Jovick, PBVM; Fran Tobin, RSCJ; Therese Randall, RSM; and Ruth Robinson representing the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. In the front row, from left are Jeanne Zarka, associate of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Redwood City; Marie Gaillac, CSJ; and John Paul Chao, SMSM.

reprinted with permission from Catholic San Francisco | January 11, 2018

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and women religious from 11 Northern California congregations are redoubling efforts to educate consumers and the general public about labor and sexual exploitation and to advocate for victims.

Presentation Sister Rita Jovick, a member of the Stop Slavery Coalition – Northern California Sisters Against Human Trafficking, said labor traffickers mostly exploit young girls.

“The scenario is they go to these extremely poor countries and say give us your daughter and we’ll send money back to the country, which never happens,” she told Catholic San Francisco.

But Sister Rita said it is a fallacy that such exploitation originates only outside the U.S.

“Unfortunately for some, they’re abused in their own home and they go to a bus and land here,” she said.

Hunger is the biggest reason that victims fall prey to exploitation, Sister Rita said, adding that victims may feel trapped in abusive situations because “they’re seen others be punished.”

“They also do not have marketable skills and are afraid of becoming homeless,” she said.

The International Labor Organization estimates human trafficking grosses $150 billion a year and is rapidly growing, with profits beginning to match those made in the illegal drug and arms trades. Human beings are highly lucrative, because a drug sold on the street can only be used once, while a person can be used and sold over and over again.

One human rights group estimates traffickers can make $100,000 a year for each woman working as a sex slave, representing a return on investment of up to 1,000 percent.

LGBTQ men, women and youth are disproportionately affected by sex trafficking, the coalition says, adding that the trafficking web has expanded with affordable, accessible and anonymous consumption of online pornography.

A brochure by the Stop Slavery Coalition says victims may be recognized by the following signs: Isolated from friends and family, submissive and fearful, works excessively long or unusual hours, forced to work or to beg in the streets, controlling and/or much older partner or boyfriend, signs of physical or psychological abuse, no identification or documentation.

California Senate Bill 1193 requires specified businesses and other establishments to post a notice that contains information related to slavery
and human trafficking, including information related to specified nonprofit organizations that provide services in support of the elimination of slavery and human trafficking.

The notices must display the following information: “If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any activity and cannot leave – whether it is commercial sex, housework, farm work, construction, factory, retail, or restaurant work, or any other activity – call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888- 373-7888 or the California Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) at 1-888-KEY2-FRE(EDOM) or
1-888-539-2373 to access help and services. Victims of slavery and human trafficking are protected under United States and California law.”

An anti-trafficking toolkit may be downloaded from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at