SPOKANE, Wash. — After months of planning and preparation, Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST), will launch the Not Alone Campaign, the first ever statewide, multi-agency, anti-human trafficking campaign.
The Not Alone campaign is the first survivor-led program to raise awareness for current trafficking victims, whose goal is to help victims and survivors self identify and get connected with services by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
The Not Alone campaign was created by Rebecca Covington, who was a victim of human trafficking, and who is now the corporate relations manager at BEST.
"I created the not alone campaign because as a survivor of human trafficking, I know how it feels to be in a situation where you feel like there's no way out, or there's no one to talk to, or there's anyone to truly understand you," Covington said.
Covington said if she had heard the words, "you are not alone," instead of the quiet snickering or the judgment from onlookers, during the time she was a victim of human trafficking, she would have felt hope.
"I knew we needed a campaign that spoke directly to people experiencing a trafficking situation, so that they could hear the words you are not alone, and that there is a way out," Covington said.
According to BEST surveys, 38% of trafficking victims have traveled by plane, and 63% used mass transit during the exploitation. About 26% of victims reported that public and mass transportation played a role in at least one escape attempt.
Spokane City Mayor Nadine Woodward who also attended the virtual conference said that in Spokane and eastern Washington human trafficking is a serious concern.
"Raising awareness of the magnitude of the problem is a first important step," Woodward said. "If you are a victim, you need to know that law enforcement is looking for you and resources are in place to help you. And if you are a family member, there are steps you can take to protect your loved ones.”
Woodward said that taskforce members estimate that since 2013, there are more than 1,400 women, men and juveniles advertised for commercial sex in Spokane.
Woodward said the Spokane Police Department is part of an FBI child exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force that has successfully brought justice to some victims.
"Since this targeted effort began in 2016, task force members have been successful in putting some of the most prolific and violent traffickers in prison," Woodward said. "Last year alone, that task force was responsible for 20 criminal convictions for federal indictments and bringing justice for 26 victims, including five children and their families."
Cho said about 26 cities, counties, transit authorities, airports, and seaports across Washington are coming together to support the campaign.
Some of the posters will be displayed at Seattle Tacoma International Airport close to 80 locations throughout SCA such as at the International ticketing, badging, baggage claim area, and gates.
About 40 more signs will be posted at the ports, parks and maritime properties.
The main goal of the campaign is that victims and survivors can self-identify and get connected with services by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or texting 233733 (BEFREE).