Ventura County’s READY TO STOP Initiative launches campaign distinguished by a blue check mark to raise awareness about the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Just when you think your county and your home are safe, your child can fall victim to exploiters and predators in the blink of an eye. Ventura County’s Commercially Sexually Exploited Children’s (CSEC) READY (Respectfully Empowering and Defining Yourself) Program is stepping in with their first campaign, READY TO STOP Child Trafficking in Ventura County, to ensure our children and our community stay protected, informed and vigilant around increased levels of exploitation here in Ventura County.
The READY Program is a program within the County’s Children and Family Services Agency. The program provides support to social workers as they seek to identify and offer assistance to children and youth within the child welfare system who are experiencing commercial sexual exploitation or are at high risk of such. The program liaisons with stakeholder agencies, non-profits, law enforcement, and other partners to build a network of response to address child trafficking.
The commercial sexual exploitation of children is one of the largest criminal industries in the world. According to the Child Welfare Council CSEC Action Team, the FBI has determined that three of the nation’s thirteen High Intensity Child [Trafficking] areas are located in California in the metropolitan and surrounding areas of San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles.
It is crucial to understand this is taking place right in our own backyards. In Ventura County alone, an average of 1.4 referrals per week have been made to the child abuse hotline in 2019. In 2018, there were 17 identified youth in care at high risk of CSEC.
The READY TO STOP campaign aims to raise awareness by educating the public about the warning signs surrounding sexual exploitation of children. The campaign will inform members of the community about existing hotlines for those who need immediate assistance, as well as what resources are available for survivors.
“The people of Ventura County have proven their compassion for one another many times. It is time for the Ventura County community to learn about and acknowledge the vulnerability of our children and youth to predators,” said Ronna Bright, READY Program Coordinator. “It is time for all of us to come together to protect our kids and to stop trafficking and exploitation in our neighborhoods. We are READY TO STOP.”
In addition to raising awareness, CSEC’s READY Program works closely with local initiatives and nonprofits to amplify the businesses and organizations who are already fighting for the protection of our children in Ventura County. These organizations include, Forever Found, Interface Children and Family Services, Coalition for Family Harmony, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA of Ventura Co.) and Casa Pacifica.
For more information about the READY TO STOP campaign, visit http://fostervckids.org/ready-to-stop.