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Women's college organizations sponsoring forum today on human trafficking in Bay Area

'Hidden in Plain Sight' discussion being held in Danville with $5 attendance fee

Two regional women's organizations are presenting a public forum on human trafficking later today, bringing together law enforcement officials, trafficking-prevention advocates and a trafficking survivor to highlight a crime they all say is far too pervasive in the Bay Area.

Dubbed "Hidden in Plain Sight: Human Trafficking in the Bay Area," the event will teach attendees about the "modern form of slavery, what is being done to fight this crime and what local agencies and nonprofits are doing to rescue victims ... and what you can do to help," according to organizers.

Co-sponsored by the Danville-Alamo-Walnut Creek and San Ramon branches of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the forum is being held in recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Contra Costa County.

"California is one of the top four destination states for human trafficking, and the Bay Area is one of the top destinations in the entire country," forum organizers said. "Human trafficking disproportionately affects girls and women, which is why AAUW has focused on this issue during the last decade."

AAUW officials referenced revelations from last August when authorities arrested a local couple and an Oakley man for allegedly taking part in a nationwide sex trafficking ring centered in San Ramon and Danville over the past 14 years.

Panel speakers today include Brian Wo, co-founder of the Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition; Aron DeFerrari, deputy district attorney for Contra Costa County; Alexandra Madsen, human trafficking prevention coordinator for the Zero Tolerance Initiative, Contra Costa County; and Cynthia Peterson and Carly Devlin of Community Violence Solutions.

San Ramon police detective Matthew Malone and a human-trafficking survivor will also attend the forum as guests, according to organizers.

The event is set for 7-8:30 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Veterans Memorial Building at 400 Hartz Ave. in downtown Danville. There's a $5 entry fee.

To reserve a spot for the forum, visit the registration page or contact program co-chair Charla Gabert at charlagabert@yahoo.com.

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