Originally posted by Ryan Masters on January 21, 2015, for Santa Cruz Sentinel—
“Deborah Pembrook is an advocate for victims of human trafficking. She is also a survivor of the human sex-trafficking trade.
On Tuesday night, Pembrook joined a panel of community leaders which included police officers, social workers and representatives from faith-based organizations for a community conversation about human trafficking in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
Described as one of the fastest growing problems in the Monterey Bay region, human trafficking is a misunderstood epidemic that requires community education, increased dialogue and greater trust between victims and support services, according to members of the panel.
As a child and teenager in Ohio, Pembrook was sexually exploited for financial gain by a trusted adult in her community. Unfortunately, like most human sex-trafficking victims, the support she needed was not readily available. She eventually escaped the cycle of abuse by moving to California at the age of 17.
Yet even after arriving in the Santa Cruz area, she had a difficult time finding resources to effectively help her cope with the traumatic experience.
“Although each survivor’s story is unique, they are all sadly similar,” Pembrook said. “The average age of entry into the human sex-trafficking trade is 12.”
Human trafficking in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, however, is not restricted to the sex trade.
“There’s a myth that it only occurs in brothels and massage parlors,” said Capitola Police Chief Rudy Escalante. “It can also be committed at legitimate businesses like restaurants, nanny services and the agriculture industry.””
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