In the news: Zonta Club of Oswego urges 16 days of action on human trafficking

People may not think it can happen in Oswego County, but it does. Human trafficking is a national issue, experts say, even in seemingly wholesome communities.

To raise awareness locally, the Zonta Club of Oswego, USA, is spearheading a coalition of other local organizations for a free online event titled “That Doesn’t Happen Here: Trafficking in Rural Communities” set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10.

According to Zonta Club President Sonia Robinson, this event is part of the larger international “16 Days of Activism,” but this is the first virtual opportunity in Oswego County.

During this time, Nov. 25 to Dec. 10, the Zonta Club is joining thousands of organizations across the globe to raise awareness and support against gender-based violence.

According to the United Nations, the campaign was initially started in 1991 by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) and is now practiced in more than 187 countries worldwide.

“In times with such uncertainty, it continues to be an honor and privilege to provide support and increase awareness of many forms of victimization in Oswego County,” said Stacie France, Oswego County Opportunities response coordinator.

“The goal is to increase the awareness of how trafficking impacts communities such as Oswego County and share information related to national statistics,” France said.

According to France, Oswego County Opportunities will provide training for the event and was contacted to bring this event to professionals throughout the community.

The training for officials at the event will be led by New York State Department of Health Rape Crisis Counselor Kate Salmonsen.

“We were incredibly thankful to have Zonta ask us to provide a training on trafficking in rural communities. This is an issue that many people are unaware of, as well as how prevalent it is in their own community.” Salmonsen said. “It is a true privilege to be able to share resources with members of my community.”

France said Salmonsen will moderate discussions, provide information, statistics and available services.

According to state officials, Human Trafficking is an issue worldwide, and specifically in New York, it has been on the rise.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York had a 70 percent increase in trafficking reports between January and June compared to the same time in 2019. Between March and June of 2020, state agencies had more referrals than any other four-month period prior.

“There is a deeply troubling and prevailing misconception that human trafficking only happens in the shadows and in faraway nations, when in reality it’s a heinous crime that often happens in plain sight and in our communities,” Cuomo said in statement.

According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, two types of human trafficking are recognized by New York: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Sex trafficking is when someone profits from prostitution, and labor trafficking is coercing or transporting someone to perform labor or services.

Two New York State Penal Laws introduced in 2007 authorize the repercussions for the offenses. One determines that sex trafficking is a class-B felony carrying upward of a 25-year sentence. The other law determines labor trafficking as a class-D felony carrying a punishment upward of seven years.

Robinson said the Zonta Club will be posting updates about the event. To get more information, visit

Robinson urges community members to contact their representatives in Congress to urge continued funding for the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

According to the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, VAWA grant funding has expired. Appropriations for grants stopped on Feb. 15, 2019, and Congress has yet to re-appropriate grant financing.

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