M. Terry / SFVS

Stephany Powell (right), executive director for Journey Out, confers with communications director Mary David (left) and case worker Erin Wilson.

On July 30th, the United Nations World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, LA Councilmember Nury Martinez and Dr. Stephany Powell of the Van Nuys-based organization Journey Out announced the next effort to help victims of human trafficking, and launched an outreach effort targeting the areas they frequent.  

Martinez and Powell were joined by LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, and representatives from the office of county District Attorney Jackie Lacey for what they called the “Human Trafficking Posting Project.”

With the passage of SB 630, it’s now mandated that posters with emergency hotline numbers must be placed in massage parlors, motels, hotels, bed-and-breakfast establishments, and other places where those who are trafficked may frequent.   

Victims and anyone who suspects human trafficking is taking place will have greater access to two 24-hour hotlines and be better positioned to report a potential incident of human trafficking.

Powell was a former LAPD Officer who worked in Vice at the Mission Division. She worked to clean up the Sepulveda corridor which, for years, was known as a place to pick up prostitutes. After she retired from the LAPD, she continued her work in a different capacity and took the position as Executive Director at Journey Out.    

“When I was working in Vice at the Mission Division, we had really cleaned it up and Nury Martinez really pushed to get the Van Nuys section cleaned up,” Powell said. The message was sent out that even the ‘Johns’ would be arrested. 

“We are a safe space to provide wraparound services — we provide the social services side and law enforcement handles the police side.”

Journey Out will be taking on the tasks to see that posters with the hotline numbers will be put up in establishments. Getting people out of prostitution and the clutches of trafficking can be challenging.

“We walk them through it,” said Powell, where people are offered therapy and counseling and help to locate housing for them.

Powell points to the startling statistics that can make it a huge leap for victims to change their lives.  

“The average age for domestic human sex trafficking is very young. The entry age is between 12-14. We could have a 24-year-old who was trafficked at the age of 14, but she may be out there on her own and may not have finished school and have a long history of victimization.”

Women who are used as prostitutes may feel very dependent and even believe they are in love with their pimp and don’t believe they can survive on their own, she said.  

Powell said 85 percent of their clients were molested as children. But the good news is that once people go through the program at Journey Out, about 66 percent don’t return to the life.

Journey Out also has a drop-in center at the Van Nuys location.  They are able to reach people in need of their services through outreach or handing out information. Or they may get them through law enforcement and the courts. They may have their charges dropped once they go through the classes at Journey Out. 

“Once they become our client, we help them through the process,” said Powell. “We hope to be able to help them move those boulders that are standing in their way and fill in those gaps to help them to give them options.”

For more information on Journey Out, visit their website at https://journeyout.org or call their drop-in office at (818) 988-4970. You can also call the National Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888, or text ‘BeFree’ to 233733.