By: J. S.
Hawaii State Legislature is proposing a resolution to construct a task force to study and offer recommendations for the ongoing crisis of violence and trafficking of indigenous women and girls in Hawaii.
The resolution requests that the “Hawaii State Commission On The Status Of Women convene a task force to study missing and murdered native hawaiian women and girls.” CR 8 is not a bill, but rather a resolution. This means it was adopted by both houses of a legislative assembly and does not have the force of law. The resolution outlines statistics regarding missing and exploited indigenous women and girls in Hawaii and lists stakeholders from the government and important organizations such as Ho‘ola Na Pua that would make up the task force once approved.
In addition, participants would be welcomed to include additional parties as participants. The study would include identifying causes, gathering data and identifying barriers to gathering data, building information sharing networks with other organizations, and informing the legislature on recommendations to data gathering and sharing in order to eliminate harm to indigenous women and girls. Read the full resolution here.
The resolution refers to a number of statistics supporting the need for greater awareness, understanding and action planning in order to combat violence against women and girls in the islands. As stated by the bill, women and girls in Hawaii are facing an epidemic of violence and human trafficking. It is grave but true that Hawaii has a long and dark history of human trafficking that stretches over hundreds of years. The way human trafficking shows up in modern culture may appear different than 50 or 100 years ago, however it is no less harmful to individuals and families within our island communities.
Findings in a recent study by Arizona State University in partnership with Child & Family Service and the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women provide a glimpse of the current statistics. Source. The report found that of 363 male and female participants of the Child & Family Service survey, 97 were trafficking victims at some point, and 64% were of Native Hawaiian descent. The participants ranged in age, from minors to adults and were both male and female. Although 363 is a small data pool for a survey, it is most frequently the case that exploitation occurs in private and is under-reported, making the full extent of the problem unclear. Source. Report findings showed that one of every five trafficking victims reported first being trafficked as a child. In these instances, the average age of the children was 11.3 years.
Beyond the government agencies that would be represented in the task force, the members would also include representatives from Papa Ola Lokahi, the Sex Abuse Treatment Center, Hale Kipa, Residential Youth Services and Empowerment, Susannah Wesley Community Center and Ho‘ola Na Pua. It is notable that the state plans to include community members in the committee, which may show a true commitment on the government’s part to finding viable solutions to this issue.
According to the survey above by ASU, Child & Family Service and the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, citizens who reported that they had been trafficked were from five different islands. The sex trafficking victims had a significantly higher rate of reported Adverse Childhood Experiences (4.65 compared to 2.43) than the non-sex trafficked participants. With the events of the pandemic over the last year, it is a reality that women and children already at risk for human trafficking were left in vulnerable circumstances more-so than previously, with stay at home orders that confined them from methods of seeking and receiving aid.
What are warning signs of human trafficking? According to Child & Family service website, people who are most at risk for human trafficking might be living in poverity, have a history of abuse, suffer from individual substance abuse and show signs of running away. The website also gives a list of important factors that may indicate a person is a victim of trafficking, including warning signs and physical signs that indicate they are in danger.