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Compelling Art Exhibit on Human Trafficking Reveals Plight of Faceless Victims

County of Santa Clara and City of San Jose Raise Awareness about Human Exploitation in Anticipation of SB50
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – At a press conference this morning, the  County of Santa Clara, the City of San José Office of Cultural Affairs and the Office of the District Attorney unveiled Peep, a thought provoking visual and auditory art display symbolizing the faceless plight of victims of human trafficking and forced labor. The exhibit is a timely opportunity to raise awareness and educate residents and visitors about human trafficking, as part of local events leading up to SB50.
 
The art installation, Peep, was created by Jonathan Fung, a local, accomplished artist, filmmaker and film production professor at Santa Clara University.  Peep is currently on display at Parque de los Pobladores (Gore Park), at S. Market at E. William Street in Downtown San José, and will run through March 12, 2016.
 
“Human trafficking and forced labor can happen anywhere and anytime,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Cindy Chavez, Co-Chair of the Santa Clara County Human Trafficking Commission, established in 2014 to collaborate with partners regionally, nationally, and internationally to share information and strategies for ending human trafficking.  “This insightful art exhibit is a reminder of how important it is for everyone to be aware. We can all do our share to help raise awareness and decrease the number of people trafficked in our neighborhoods. Remember: if you see something, say something.” 
 
Estimated as a $32 billion-a-year global industry, human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise, and profits from the exploitation of the most vulnerable populations. Considered as modern-day slavery, human trafficking is hidden in plain sight, and robs individuals of their freedom. According to a congressional research service, approximately 100,000 U.S. citizen children are victims of trafficking within the United States.
 
“The City of San José is pleased to participate in the presentation of Peep. The City is committed to ongoing efforts to identify and eradicate instances of human trafficking in our community,” said San Jose Vice Mayor Rose Herrera. “By bringing the issue to the attention of the community through this impactful artwork, more people will become aware of the issues.”
 
The San Francisco Bay Area is listed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as one of the top 13 destination spots for child sex trafficking in the United States, because of its diverse hubs, booming commerce and immigrant communities. In fiscal year 2014 alone, the Santa Clara County Service Response Team provided services to almost 60 youth who had been commercially sexually exploited. 
 
“Although human trafficking and forced labor cases are widespread and underreported, we warn anyone treating another human being as a commodity that our office is committed to prosecute traffickers to the fullest extent of the law,” said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Co-Chair of the Santa Clara County Human Trafficking Commission.
 
Peep is a 20-foot shipping container converted into compelling artwork. It includes various portholes with visual and auditory symbols offering the viewer an opportunity to better understand the enormous impacts of human trafficking.  The display is complemented with printed educational materials that include information on red flags and available resources to the public.
 
“My goal was to create a poetic work of art with visual impact and a strong message to engage the Santa Clara County community in a dialogue on human trafficking,” said Fung, who is also a member of several organizations committed to eradicating this crime.
 
Red flags for identifying victims of human trafficking:
Lack of freedom: Being shadowed by someone, receiving repeated calls from a “boyfriend”, not in control of their own money.
Poor mental health: nervous, subdued, paranoid; avoids eye contact; fearful of receiving help from law enforcement; defensive or argumentative.
Poor physical health: Malnourished, exhausted, sleep deprived; bruises, cuts, tattoos or scarring.
 
If you suspect you are in the presence of a trafficking victim and he/she is alone, you may ask them:
·        Can you leave your job as you want to, and come and go as you please?
·        Have you or your family been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
·        Do you live with your employer? Are you in debt to your employer?
·        Do you have your identification and passport?  If not, who has them?
 
Victims of human trafficking or individuals seeing something suspicious should call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Call Specialists are available 24/7 to take reports of potential human trafficking. All reports are confidential and may remain anonymous. Interpreters are available.
 
Media Contact: Laurel Anderson/Marina Hinestrosa, County Office of Public Affairs,(408) 299-5119;  Julie Ramirez, SCC Office of Women’s Policy, (408) 299-5135; Jennifer Easton, City of San José Office of Cultural Affairs, (408) 793-4338.
February 1, 2016