Human Trafficking: Los Angeles County Steps Up Awareness

By Miriam Hernandez
Published on February 10, 2014 on ABC7 News

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There’s a new effort to reach people being victimized by human trafficking. Organizers say they’re helping hundreds of victims, but there are many more out there.

If you think enslavement is over in the U.S., hear Ima Matul’s story. She was brought from Indonesia to West Los Angeles to be a domestic servant.

“I was abused almost every day. I was beaten on my face, on my head,” said Matul.

A public service announcement by Rescue & Restore aims to get the word out in multiple languages. Los Angeles city and county leaders on Monday joined the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking and the National Council of Jewish Women to take awareness one step further. They passed around posters with the human trafficking hotline number.

With the passage of Senate Bill 1193, the posters are required at bus stations and businesses throughout the state, as well as clinics and bars. Volunteers will soon be posting them on Western Avenue, south of Koreatown.

“This issue should have the same credibility and same awareness as the war on drugs did several years ago. It is that bad, that horrific,” said Supervisor Don Knabe.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said some workers that we see in domestic industries or restaurants are trafficked people.

The coalition mapped out some hot spots. For example, Beverly Hills, Century City and Pasadena are among the hot spots for forced labor in homes. Officials say the difficulty is the secrecy.

“That family took me to church every Sunday, but I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone,” said Matul.

For Matul, there was no hotline. She says it took three years to learn enough English from children’s cartoons to write a note, saying, “Please help me. I can’t take it anymore.” She said she had the courage to give the letter to the neighbors.

The coalition says it currently has 200 active cases — a number it is certain will go up.