SEATTLE — A proposed bill making its way through Olympia will create more help for trafficking survivors -- and the measure is survivor led.
Jeri Moomaw escaped exploitation 24 years ago and dedicates her life to helping other survivors.
“I’m a survivor of child sex trafficking and the adult commercial sex industry. I started my own organization because there was no one there to help me,” Moomaw said.
Moowmaw is the Executive Director of Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative. Moomaw is an Indigenous survivor and her organization offers tribal training and outreach. She supports a bill that will break down the biggest obstacle for victims: lack of options.
“What happened to me as a youth really led me to all of these different barriers to be able to move forward in life,” Moomaw said.
Those barriers still exist today, but Senate Bill 5114 aims to break those down. It will create first-of-its-kind services solely for adult trafficking survivors.
“You need options for an off-ramp,” Moomaw said. “This bill is going to be life-changing.”
The proposed legislation would create a host of services for survivors. From housing, mental health services, and even help with substance abuse.
“This bill is survivor driven, written, edited, we have put our blood sweat and tears into this because we know what those people out there need,” Moomaw said.
The bill also aims to have services in eastern and western Washington.
“It's not just in Seattle. It's in Yakima, tri-cities, Bellingham. We're seeing it all over the state and that’s why we need a statewide solution to the problem,” said Mar Brettmann, CEO and Executive Director of Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking.
Brettmann said the need for services is crucial. She said six service providers reported serving 1,200 people a year, and some clients are on waiting lists for help.
The proposed legislation will help close the gap when it comes to a lack of services across the state.
In 2020, 89% of adults in Washington state who tried to get out of trafficking said they were first trafficked when they were children.
“It’s a misunderstood and hidden population with untold stories and that’s why we need to get the story out and we need to get the services so people can go and live fulfilling contributing lives,” Brettmann said.
Moomaw said she’s trained nearly 200,000 people on what trafficking is. She said it can take years and multiple attempts to escape and the proposed bill could help change that.
“A lot of times we only have one chance with someone that's been brave enough to come forward and say I need help,” Moomaw said.
For survivors of sex trafficking looking for resources, visit Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative's website or get in touch via email.