Chautauqua County Commemorates National Slavery Prevention and Human Trafficking Awareness Month

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Pictured from left to right: Marilyn Fiore-Lehman, Assistant District Attorney; Leanna Luka-Conley, Deputy Commissioner of Adult, Children and Family Services; Christine Schuyler, Commissioner of Social Services/Public Health Director; Paul Wendel, Jr., Chautauqua County Executive; Kayleah Feser, Safe Harbour Coordinator; Jim Quattrone, Chautauqua County Sheriff; Sherri Rater, Administrative Assistant to Commissioner of Social Services

Human trafficking in Chautauqua County? For some it may seem hard to believe, and it surely looks different than the stereotypical images we see in movies and on television. But, we’d be ignorant to believe that human trafficking doesn’t happen here at home.
In the past three years, 75 youth have been identified as being trafficked or at-risk of exploitation by the Safe Harbour program – Chautauqua County’s coordinated multidisciplinary response to ending commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking of minors.

Simply defined, human trafficking is “taking advantage of someone for labor or sex in order to receive something of value (money, drugs, food, shelter, clothing).” The person being taken advantage of is forced, lied to, or blackmailed and threatened. When a person under 18 is engaging in sex or a sex act in exchange for anything of value they are, regardless of the circumstances, a victim of a crime.

Since its inception in 2016, Safe Harbour had primarily focused on prevention efforts. Through the use of research and evidence-based curriculums, prevention educators with the YWCA of Jamestown have been teaching trafficking prevention and awareness education to students in grades K-12 in several school districts in Chautauqua County.
In 2019 alone, 46 Chautauqua County youth were referred to the program. “We recognize that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Safe Harbour Coordinator Kayleah Feser, “the more people that are trained to identify red flags and warning signs, the more referrals we receive.” Thus, Safe Harbour, now a part of the Child Advocacy Program of Chautauqua County, is concentrating efforts on raising awareness and streamlining our community’s response to identified cases. In partnership with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, government agencies, and private and non-profit organizations, Safe Harbour is committed to strengthening our county’s response to ensure that no more Chautauqua County youth fall through the cracks.

To learn more about the realities of human trafficking in Chautauqua County, schedule a training, or to make a referral to the program contact Safe Harbour Coordinator, Kayleah Feser, LMSW at (716) 268-1464 or feserk@capjustice.org and follow us on Facebook at @chqsafeharbour.