BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Human trafficking has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic. There’s one local non profit using strategic marketing to fight it.
Magdelene Hope, an anti-trafficking non profit, put up three billboards on Union Avenue to raise awareness of this issue. They organized a march against trafficking on Saturday where they walked to each billboard in the hope of catching the attention of local sex workers. Dozens came out in their yellow shirts today to support the fight against trafficking.
“We’ve rescued 120 women out of human trafficking, 115 of them off of this street behind me, said Doug Bennett, founder of Magdalene Hope. “That’s why we launched the billboard campaign, because we know the severity of human trafficking in our city and the majority of it happens on Union Avenue.”
Doug says a majority of sex workers did not take their job by choice. He says they are being forced into labor and are being trafficked.
“In our opinion there was no better street to do a march on,” he said. “And to tell people that this isnt okay that selling people and buying them is not right.”
“Every one of them when they were a little girl, they didn’t dream about doing what they are doing, said Niko Morrow, vice president of Magdalene Hope. “As far as that goes, every one of them is being trafficked. They’re not doing what they were gonna do when they were a little girl. So as far as that goes, they all need to be helped.”
Each billboard is in plain site for the women on union to see and has a hotline for those being trafficked to call for help. The long-term goal is for Bakersfield to allocate money towards creating a joint task force against human trafficking.
“We want to bring awareness to human trafficking,” Niko said. “The squeaky wheel gets the oil. We want to be the squeaky wheel right now. We want to be the loudest squeaky wheel in town so we can be heard.”