Lian* is a foreign national, brought here to Ventura County from China under false premises and forced into the sex trade. She knew no one in the United States, no family, friends, or contacts – no support network at all. She was cut off from everyone she knew, unable to communicate with her family at home.
Human trafficking happens all over the world, on a regular basis, including here in Ventura County. Human trafficking is a crime in which force, fraud, or coercion is used to compel a person to perform labor, services, or commercial sex. It affects all populations: adults, children, all genders, foreign nationals, U.S. citizens, and all economic classes.
We know the risk factors: recent migration, substance use, mental health concerns, previous history in the foster care system, or being a runaway or homeless youth. We know that fully a third of youth living on our streets have engaged in the sex trade in some way. These are clear patterns, and they should grieve us. But I am encouraged that our incredible teams have an effective response. While each survivor’s story needs unique support, our team at Interface offers consistent and comprehensive care to aid in transforming human lives.
In 2023, Interface celebrates 50 years of service to the community and as we delve into anniversary preparations, communications, and events, we are fortunate to be able to revisit standout moments in our history. Despite early iterations of Interface primarily focusing on services for youth in crisis and their families, our services have evolved to address the needs of our diverse community. In 2019, Interface was named the lead victim services provider in support of the Ventura County Human Trafficking Task Force in partnership with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. This work was rooted in our Family Violence Intervention Services program until 2022 when Interface established a distinct Human Trafficking Prevention & Intervention services department, which focuses its efforts on providing comprehensive services to survivors of labor and sex trafficking. As January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month this achievement feels particularly profound.
After a little over a year of being trafficked, Lian was able to escape her trafficker and reach out to law enforcement, who connected her to Interface. Lian immediately received our wide range of services, including legal aid and immigration services. Lian graduated after a year and a half in our HEART program, which offers confidential human trafficking shelter, case management, advocacy, mental health services, classes, and life-skills training, and she transitioned into one of our community-based programs. She obtained a visa and still lives in the United States. With the support of our programs and services, Lian gained lawful employment, a driver’s license, and stable housing. When she arrived in the United States, Lian spoke only Mandarin, but she is now fluent in English after immersing herself in English language studies. Since graduating from our program, Lian has been promoted at work and lives in a healthy relationship.
Lian’s life went from unpredictable in its pain and trauma to consistent in its access to resources that heal. I’m so grateful for the work of our Human Trafficking team in enabling survivors like Lian to see real change.
*name changed here to protect her identity
Visit us online at www.icfs.org to learn more about our programs and services and follow us on Instagram at @InterfaceWhatIf for updates on services, programs, and events.