A room full of 300 people listened intently as Stacy Jewell delivered her powerful vignette, “7 Layers Captive,” recounting her experience of being abducted at age 19 and forced into sex trafficking for two years, then finally rescued from her trafficker and the long process of healing years after.
“You see, ten years it took, ten years to truly admit, ten years to really understand that I was a victim,” said Jewell, one of several speakers at this year’s Priceless Luncheon on September 22 at Fashion Island Hotel in Newport Beach.
Organized by Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice, the fundraising luncheon raises funds to support the center’s nine programs aimed at raising awareness for human trafficking education and prevention.
“People are often very surprised to find out that human trafficking happens right here in Orange County,” said Dr. Sandra Morgan, the center’s director, “The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force has helped over 700 victims of modern day slavery and the number of child victims is astounding year after year.”
She added that in Orange County, 55 children were trafficked last year for commercial sexual exploitation and 64 children were sold for sex the year before.
“People are buying children and that has to stop and one of the most important aspects of ending human trafficking is education,” said Morgan. “A recent research report showed 87 percent of commercially sexually exploited victims had seen a healthcare professional while they were still victims under the control of a trafficker.”
Over the last four years, the center has trained over 3,000 doctors, nurses, educators, law enforcement and social workers to identify signs and rescue victims.
Deidre Pujols, founder of Open Gate International and Strikeout Slavery, as well as wife of Major League Baseball’s Albert Pujols, served as the keynote speaker.
Open Gate International is an organization that offers life skills training, employment and advocacy to vulnerable populations, including victims of human trafficking. Strikeout Slavery is an awareness campaign hosted at Angel Stadium that reaches millions of fans. Now in its second year, Deidre Pujols’ goal is to use the baseball platform to have a baseball player on every major league baseball team serve as an ambassador for Strikeout Slavery.
“We need to collaborate,” she said. “No one person, no one group, no one law enforcement agency, no one government is going to fix this mess. It really is going to be a collaboration of all of our efforts and Strikeout Slavery is an alliance platform. Getting everyone who is involved in this fight to come together and be a louder voice and be stronger together.”
The event hosted an auction of several items including a signed home run baseball by Angels Baseball’s Albert Pujols for $5,000. The event raised a grant total of $210,000.
To learn more about the Global Center for Women and Justice, visit vanguard.edu/research/gcwj.