Conference puts spotlight on human trafficking in Delaware

DOVER — Zoë Ministries Inc. is bringing many resources together in hopes of combating Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in Delaware.

Zoë Ministries sponsored the first statewide Human Trafficking Conference on Thursday at Dover Downs, which brought together law enforcement, victim advocates and community providers in Delaware.

“We are building a groundswell in Delaware,” said Yolanda Schlabach, executive director of Zoë Ministries and co-chair of the Victim Services Committee of Delaware’s Human Trafficking Coordinating Council. “Our goal is to create a paradigm shift within our state as we work together as partners to fight trafficking.”

Ms. Schlabach said that Human Trafficking and CSE are realities in Delaware. In fact, CSE is the second most profitable crime in the United States, after drug trafficking, enslaving an estimated 300,000 youth and netting traffickers a minimum of $32 billion annually.

Trafficking involves girls, boys, women and men.

Ms. Schlabach said the problem in Delaware is evidenced by postings on explicit websites such as, non-licensed massage parlors and spas, prostitution arrests, and the high number of runaway and “throw-away” children.

“It’s about cross-system collaboration and working differently to achieve a different result,” said Ms. Schlabach. “We need to create a way out of trafficking for the victims and provide them a path to recovery.”

Thursday’s event took a look at the national and regional picture of trafficking and discussed strategies for responding to trafficking survivors.

“A crucial component to prosecuting the traffickers is to help the victims feel safe and supported,” added Ms. Schlabach.

Speakers at the conference included: Sen. Margaret Rose Henry; Secretary of the Delaware Dept. of Health and Social Services Rita Landgraf; Jeff Barrows, founder of Gracehaven; Allison Blake, commissioner, New Jersey Department of Children and Families; Barbara Loftus, Survivors in Abuse and Recovery; Dr. Amy Thompson, Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children; Hugh Organ, executive director of the Covenant House in Philadelphia; Linda Shannon, program manager for the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Families and Susan Brotherton, director of the Philadelphia Social Service Ministries, Salvation Army.

The conference was supported by: The Matt Haley Trust, Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children, Delaware Health and Social Services, Sexual Assault Network of Delaware, Soroptimist Seaford, Survivors of Abuse in Recovery, Inc. and Delaware Commission for Women.

Zoë Ministries is a faith-based non-profit whose goal is to serve Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking survivors by providing long-term, comprehensive treatment using the infrastructure that is currently in place in Delaware.

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