By LUCIA VITI | Uptown News
The Junior League of San Diego, Inc. (JLSD) is inviting guests to don a mask for its fourth annual Gala masquerade ball to be held on Nov. 2, at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.
“We are thrilled to host our fourth annual Gala to support community projects,” said Emily Green Lake, president of the JLSD. “The Gala is the perfect way to celebrate fall in such a magnificent location, while raising awareness and funds for causes that directly benefit San Diegans in need.”
The Junior League is an international organization of women committed to empowering women to be leaders. Described as “exclusively educational and charitable,” these voyeurs of volunteerism advocate positive social change through mission-based projects that include facilitating support for youth transitioning out of the foster care system and assisting San Diego County partners fight human trafficking.
Hailing its 90th birthday, the JLSD will honor Jamie Gates, M.Div., Ph.D., with its Outstanding Member of the Community Award for exposing issues surrounding San Diego’s human and sex trafficking endemic.
“Dr. Gates has been instrumental in bringing San Diego’s human trafficking epidemic to the forefront,” continued Green Lake. “Dr. Gates works tirelessly to educate the community to recognize the signs of human trafficking in order to eradicate this atrocity.”
Gates admits to accepting the award with humility in light of the “many wonderful women involved in the movement that deserve recognition far before I do.”
The JLSD and the faith-based organizer have aligned themselves against the horrific brutality of human and sex trafficking with events such as a countywide prayer vigil — Churches Against Trafficking — in conjunction with JLSD’s annual Human Trafficking Awareness Rally.
Dr. Gates, a professor of Sociology and director of Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU), touts an extensive list of educational accomplishments including a doctorate in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Florida; a master’s of Divinity from the Nazarene Theological Seminary; and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology/Theology from Eastern Nazarene College.
Lauded nationwide for his work battling human and sex trafficking, Dr. Gates also serves as the director of the Center for Justice & Reconciliation; co-chairs the Research and Data Committee of the San Diego County Advisory Council on Human Trafficking and CSEC; and directs San Diego County’s Human Trafficking Research and Data Advisory Roundtable — a group he founded.
Working with Dr. Amy Carpenter, Dr. Gates co-led a “groundbreaking research” expose on the scale of human trafficking in San Diego entitled, “Measuring the Extent and Nature of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in the San Diego/Tijuana Border Region.”
Dr. Gates also initiated PLNU’s Beauty for Ashes Scholarship Fund, which affords human trafficking survivors the opportunity to pursue a college education.
Among his many efforts to raise awareness of the issue, Dr. Gates designed and continues to implement drama-based, peer-to-peer human trafficking awareness training throughout San Diego’s middle and high schools.
San Diego County tallies between 3,000 and 8,000 sex trafficking victims per year. Perpetrators — oftentimes a boyfriend — coerce victims as young as 16 into sexual exploitation and prostitution. While homeless and foster youth are disproportionately targeted, the clutches of human and sex trafficking affect every socio-economic group.
Victims — many of whom are high school-aged teens described as lonely and insecure — often rely on social media for relationships. Parents are either absent or non-participatory. Gangs and San Diego’s ever-present transient and military populations give abusers access to these vulnerable minors.
“These are our children,” said Dr. Gates. “No neighborhood in San Diego is exempt. No school is exempt. And there are no class distinctions.”
Other human trafficking victims include household slavery and forced labor in nail salons, massage parlors and agriculture.
Gates encourages students through education and engagement with organizations like the JLSD as well as the San Diego Traffic Prevention Collective in order to prevent human trafficking.
Dr. Gates leans on his faith, family and community to deal with the difficulty of this plight.
“If not for my deep faith, I would have imploded by now,” he said.
Dr. Gates humbly acknowledges the efforts of the JLSD along with staff members and students in fighting San Diego’s war on human and sex trafficking.
— Lucia Viti can be reached at email@example.com.