By Amanda Pool, 1/25/18
Human trafficking is another term for modern slavery, and it is the fastest growing criminal industry today, according to Washington State Office of the Attorney General. Not only that, but Spokane itself is nationally ranked as a hot spot for trafficking; especially because of its proximity to Canada and Mexico.
The Jonah Project wants to change that.
So what does The Jonah Project do?
“One survivor at a time, we will rescue, provide safe housing, and access to resources so that these survivors of trauma can experience real freedom,” according to the Jonah Project mission statement.
“We offer rescue, relocation, advocacy and aftercare to help people right where they are at.” Michelina Cozzetto said, an ambassador for the organization. Cozzetto describes her job as someone who gets to do life alongside trafficked victims and work on the everyday challenges together. That can include encouraging them to pursue an education or career, taking them to interviews, or holding their hands in doctor appointments.
“[The Jonah Project] is a group of people, teachers, parents, social workers, and students, committed to helping at risk teens and especially those who have been trafficked,” Cozzetto said.
Treatment and Facilities
“The Jonah Project offers treatment on three primary fronts: Proactive, Reactive, and Restorative,” said Nicole Bishop, The Jonah Project’s Director of Operations, School, and Agency Relations.
By proactive, Bishop says the organization works to prevent sex trafficking before it happens by educating and teaching the warning signs and areas to be aware of. Reactive work includes the Jonah Project’s 24/7 rescue line, available at anytime ready to send a trained rescue team to any situation, and shelter in their two available safe houses.
Bishop said restorative works aims to provide advocates to each survivor.
“We know that it is important to replace the critical figure of the pimp with a positive influence, which is what our advocates seek to provide,” Bishop said.
Who is being targeted and where?
The project typically works with vulnerable, impoverished teens. Many of these teens are either in foster care or on the streets. According to the Project, 1 in 3 teens will be lured into slavery within 48 hours of being homeless and 1 in 5 runaways were reportedly sex trafficked.
“The total number of sex trafficking victims has substantially grown in the past 10 years. In fact, recent estimates from police and state representatives indicate that the current number is likely closer to 1500–2500 per night- with that number doubling at peak events like Bloomsday and Hoopfest,” Bishop said.
How to help
The Project encourages community volunteers. “I have opened up my eyes, seeing that mission trips and volunteering is not only needed abroad, but for here, for Spokane,”Cozzetto said.
The Project encourages consumers to be aware of companies that may benefit from human trafficking. Many brands use slave labor for their merchandise, according to End Slavery Now.
“Hearing them say that I changed their life is just a small glimpse of how I get to make an impact,” Cozzetto said. “The job is very emotionally taxing and intense, but it’s what fills me up, it makes me realize that I have a purpose here, and that is getting to look at these people and say that their life would look different if I had not been here.”
The Jonah Project will be hosting an event — IF YOU REALLY KNEW ME: Stories of Survivors and Warriors, a collaborative and interactive art exhibit at the Spokane Public Library on Tuesday, January 30 at 5:30 pm in honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
For more information about the Jonah Project, click HERE.
Rescue Line — 509–655–7886