“There are more slaves today than ever before in our history,” Kay Buck, executive director of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), said on Monday, Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Buck was speaking at the Museum of Tolerance at the launch of CAST’s first annual “From Slavery to Freedom” campaign, a monthlong effort timed to coincide with President Obama’s declaration of January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month and continuing through Feb. 12, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
Law enforcement officers, task force representatives and members of the CAST survivors’ caucus were in attendance for the launch. The survivors’ caucus was created in 2003 and provides a place where, Buck says, “victims can and do become powerful agents of change.”
Two such victims, Mimin Mintarsih and Flor Molina, shared their stories and their hope that others might be rescued.
Mintarsih came to Los Angeles from Indonesia and found herself working 16, sometimes 24, hours a day for seven years for a family who verbally abused her. “[The woman who brought me to the United States] told me I’m a worthless person,” she said, in tears at the memory. She was rescued because a man learned of CAST through a television program, and enlisted their help because he knew of her and suspected something was not right.
When asked what message she would send to all those victims yet to be saved, Mintarsih answered, “Don’t lose hope. There’s always someone to help you.”
Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz announced the state government’s pledge to give $450,000 to each of six taskforces over the next three years, and the creation of two new taskforces, in the Central Valley and Northern California, which will each receive $750,000 to get up and running.
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez talked about her work with various committees and sub-committees related to the cause and said, “We are here because there are a lot of Mimins in the world.” An estimated 800,000 people are trafficked internationally every year, Sanchez said, and raising awareness is the first step toward ending the problem.
In addition to the speeches and calls to action, a mural by Chilean artist Guillermo Bert honoring of CAST’s campaign was unveiled. It remains on view at the museum.
To offer help or learn more, visit CASTla.org, or call the 24-hour hotline at 1-888-key-2-free.