Local Group Working to Make Sure Young Girls Aren’t Victims of Human Trafficking

SOUTH SACRAMENTO -- A 17-year-old girl sprinted down a South Sacramento street. In the middle of the night she knocked on doors searching for help. Deputies says she was escaping Kennedy High School Coach Elan Seagraves.

Seagraves has since been charges with pimping and trafficking her and another 17-year-old girl.

"You never would imagine it would be them,” co-founder of City of Refuge, Rachelle Ditmore, said.

Ditmore says the Sacramento City Unified School District reached out to her the morning Seagraves was arrested to discuss expanding their programs warning students about human trafficking.

“I think I got a text that day saying we need to find more money to expand the services in SHINE," Ditmore said.

City of Refuge is an Oak Park group contracted to teach their six-week SHINE program at nine Sacramento schools. They educate and encourage young girls to stand up for themselves, specifically against the pressures of being pimped. They are taught that they are not under any circumstances supposed to be for sale.

“We ask these girls at school rallies how many of you have a sister or an uncle or a brother who has either sold someone, or you know, who their body has been given for money. And you’ll watch a sea of little fourth-grade hands go up, kind of look around and you see the me," Ditmore said.

Ditmore says most of the victims she's worked with are targeted because they had rough childhoods. They're from low-income neighborhoods and strained families.

"For many of them, fathers have been absent, mothers have struggled, and they need a positive influence,” Ditmore said.

She says keeping young girls off the streets is a matter of building stronger relationships -- not only with them, but with the adults who influence them.

“I think our greatest tool is to not only screen adults, but to teach our young people to stand up and have good boundaries and to find their voice,” she said.