The personal toll of the sex trade: Ride along with Fresno police and community leaders fighting human trafficking in the valley

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Community partners and Fresno police unite to help survivors of a so-called "victimless crime"

FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) — In the early 2000s Breaking The Chains founder Debra Rush says it was widely believed that women sold themselves for sex as a matter of choice. Debates on whether or not prostitution was a “victimless crime” were common.

However, at that time Fresno police chief Jerry Dyer began to change the Fresno Police Department’s views on the sex trade. Dyer met Rush who told him her story. She was a human trafficking survivor and had been being controlled and coerced over the years by people who exploited her.

Today, Rush’s organization Breaking the Chains is one of the biggest organizations in the Central Valley tackling the issue of human trafficking.

The organization provides food, shelter, and other services geared at helping survivors of human trafficking. Rush says they saw a 62% increase in their caseload in 2020, prompting a need for additional resources for their work.

The Fresno Police Department’s vice unit continually monitors instances of sex trafficking including online dating sites and local massage parlors that are suspected of offering acts of prostitution.

One of the challenges Breaking The Chains faces is identifying sex traffickers and preventing the crimes from occurring.

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