YWCA Anti-Human Trafficking Interns Host the H.E.A.T Watch

On Tuesday, February 28, the YWCA Berkeley/Oakland Anti-Human Trafficking internship hosted Robyn Levinson, the coordinator of the Human Exploitation and Trafficking (H.E.A.T.) Watch, an advocacy group that operates out of the Alameda County District Attorney’s office (ACDAO).

The ACDAO founded H.E.A.T Watch in 2009 with the purpose of providing an example for all communities to model in combating human exploitation and trafficking. The group abides by a five point strategy: raising community awareness, training law enforcement, aggressively prosecuting offenders, coordinating existing services, and promoting sustainable policy changes. By providing interventional and prevention strategies, the H.E.A.T. Watch has continued to provide resources to victimized youth while fighting to abolish human trafficking.

In her conversation with the Anti-Human Trafficking interns, Levinson shed light on the complexities of human trafficking and what measures H.E.A.T Watch has taken to address this multi-faceted pervasive issue. As a relatively new field of research (the term for human trafficking was not coined until the early 2000’s), anti-human trafficking advocacy is an area that Levinson describes as constantly developing. One area that H.E.A.T Watch advocates for is better-informed interventional strategies. They emphasize the need for trauma informed care through a survivor’s lens, the only individuals with expert knowledge on the issue. Levinson stressed the need for others to recognize their privilege and align themselves with survivors in order to develop the most effective prevention and interventional measures.

The Anti-Human Trafficking interns were able to discuss the widespread issues of human trafficking including the differences between labor trafficking and sexual exploitation, the implications human trafficking has on the Bay Area community, and what the future of anti-human trafficking legislation looks like. Levinson provided incredible insight into the intricacies of the current state of law enforcement and the changes that need to be made in order to protect survivors’ rights.   For example, the H.E.A.T Watch in tandem with the District Attorney’s office has committed to providing all officials involved in human trafficking cases proper trauma informed care. Currently, the ACDAO has an 82 percent prosecution success rate.

Looking forward, Levinson touched on the variety of policy areas that need refurbishment in order to stop human exploitation and trafficking. She addressed the need for school curriculums to include HEAT workshops and the need for industries, like real estate, to receive specialized training on HEAT detection skills. While incredible progress has been made as a result of collaborative efforts between the H.E.A.T. Watch and other Bay Area social justice groups, Levinson explained that attaining justice for exploited youth is going to take time.

You can get involved with and learn more about the H.E.A.T. Watch via their website, www.heatwatch.org. To join the YWCA Berkeley/Oakland anti-human trafficking internship call (510) 848-6370 or e-mail youthdev@ywca-berkeley.org.