America’s finest city, beneath the illustrious façade of pristine beaches, parks, and sunny weather, is severely ill, and so many of her citizens are unaware of the epidemic. San Diego, ranked 8th in the nation for the prevalence of child sex trafficking, sees a harrowing $810 million flow into the illicit sex trade on a yearly basis. Additionally, our city’s monetary contribution to the illegal sex trafficking industry worldwide is almost thirteen times that of an average area of comparable population. With these statistics in mind, there is no doubt that sex trafficking is a problem that plagues the city of San Diego. So, what is being done to help the victims of San Diego’s second largest illegal economy?
One organization that is making an incredible difference in the city of San Diego is GenerateHope, a non-profit charity organization that provides an on-site recovery program for women who have survived and are trying to escape the tragic cycle perpetuated by traffickers and gang pimps. GenerateHope relies largely on donations and fundraisers to attain the monetary resources required for providing its women with basic necessities, long-term housing, tutoring, college preparation, and psychotherapy. The organization’s current budget sufficiently provides these services to approximately six women at a given time, but unfortunately, the cost of college tuition is well outside of this budget.
“The first step is to bring true healing to these women,” says Dan DeSaegher, Executive Director of GenerateHope, “but without the target of a strong vocation and a strong education, you’re never going to be able to be truly independent. You’ll always be vulnerable to the original pressures that caused you to become a victim. Education and financial solutions are critical for these women.”
UC San Diego has over 220,000 students and alumni, yet our effort to make a difference when it comes to sex trafficking has been limited to occasional awareness events and the rare publication of related research. As a university, we have the obligation to serve our community, and we can do a lot more to support the victims of San Diego’s underground sex trade.
UC San Diego ought to introduce a scholarship fund to afford survivors of sex trafficking the opportunity to receive a college education. This has proven to be one of the most impactful actions take by Point Loma Nazarene University to serve San Diego’s women, and its one that may be taken by UC San Diego as well.
A tenth of the size of UC San Diego, Point Loma Nazarene funds its “Beauty for Ashes Scholarship,” primarily with donations from its alumni, faculty, and students. Following this example, the implementation of such a scholarship fund would incur minimal expenses, and because of UC San Diego’s size and the general altruistic nature of its graduates, the fund would undoubtedly be greeted by an impressive volume of donors. Furthermore, a scholarship fund of this caliber would receive a lot of press attention and would certainly inspire other universities to buy into an emerging humanitarian trend, positioning UC San Diego at the forefront of a new movement by universities to do more for the victims of sex trafficking.
Most importantly, the scholarship fund would change lives, providing its recipients with a path to security and independence, a sense of worth, and a hope for the future. “UCSD is in a position of influence and empowerment,” says DeSaegher. “I would love to see that strength become a very practical option for these survivors of the trauma of sex trafficking. These young women, and there are many that could qualify, need access to the same resources, community, and training as any other student.”
A scholarship fund is certainly a realistic and attainable way to serve the city’s victims of sex trafficking, and there is no question as to whether or not UC San Diego can provide one. So, the only question is: will we do it?