Human trafficking means the enslavement of the innocent, the child made in God’s image, in God’s very likeness, who bears within the spark of the divine. If we truly believe each child is sacred, what are we doing to save and protect them?
Children who have been trafficked have multiple wounds: physical, emotional, spiritual. Thus, their healing is complex and must be guided carefully by highly trained professionals. As one who works in the field says, “If this were easy, everyone would be doing it!” Indeed of 160 Catholic Charities nationally, only one has tackled the question of housing victims after their rescue. (Please correct if I’m wrong!)
There are only about 300 beds available nationally for those who are rescued. There are none in the Oakland, CA area, which ranks #3 nationally for trafficking. Therefore, Nancy O’Malley, DA for Alameda County, who has prosecuted over 400 traffickers locally, asked Bishop Barber for help.
He responded in the only way a Christian could: “Of course. The whole diocese will help.”
And so, Catholic Charities of the East Bay will open Claire’s House, a safe haven for minor girls who are victims of trafficking. These children need more than a bed; they need a home. An institution can’t repair deep psychic and physical damage; that’s the work of a trained and merciful staff. Here, victims will receive respite, hope, trauma counselling, medical care, educational and vocational training, and a spiritual dimension without which their healing is incomplete.
In the ancient Latin, “Adsum” means “I am here.” No matter what the evil has been, the Catholic community has across centuries, arisen to meet the challenge. This is one effort that can make us all proud.
Remember: if you have suspicions that someone, especially a child under 18, is forced to engage in sex or a labor activity and cannot leave, call:
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888