The Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST): At the Forefront of Change


This Spring, we're on a mission to raise funds for the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST), the largest provider of comprehensive services for trafficking survivors in the United States. Read on to find out more about their incredible, groundbreaking work.

In August of 1995, the El Monte sweatshop was raided, and so birthed the discovery that slavery still existed in America.

In August of 1995, the El Monte sweatshop was raided, and so birthed the discovery that slavery still existed in America.

In 1995, Los Angeles County learned about 72 Thai workers who had been kept in slavery and debt bondage for years. These women had been lured from their home country with the promise of a massive pay increase to work in Los Angeles. Upon arrival, their passports were taken and they were forced to live in a crowded, monitored housing complex turned sweatshop.  They lived this way until they were discovered in a law enforcement raid. This was the beginning of a public awareness that slavery was still happening in America. It also was the inspiration that launched the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST).

For the past twenty years, CAST has been at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking in the city of Los Angeles, the state of California, and across the United States. Today, CAST provides support at every phase of a human trafficking victim’s journey from the moment they leave their situation to the day they can call themselves an empowered survivor. 

The Coalition does it all, including community outreach, lobbying for legislative action and providing vital services to victims. CAST is committed to defending the most vulnerable and does so by taking on the entire issue holistically. In 2016 alone, CAST empowered more than 350 survivors, provided legal services to 6,194 people, granted 6,782 social services and received 1,347 hotline calls.

CAST is committed to defending the most vulnerable and does so by taking on the entire issue holistically.

As a pioneer in comprehensive services for survivors of human trafficking, CAST has led the way in incorporating survivor’s perspectives into anti-trafficking efforts. Here is one amazing example of how they have done this: The California Attorney General’s office tried to produce an outreach poster to highlight a 24-hour hotline for trafficking survivors. When actual survivors saw this poster, they spoke up and told the office that the images used were unwelcoming and could actually scare victims instead of inspiring them to come forward. CAST took their feedback and worked with community partners to develop different poster ideas, which CAST survivor leaders approved. These posters are used across L.A. County, and because of their feedback, calls to CAST’s hotline have more than doubled in the three years since the poster was designed.

CAST has won many victories for anti-trafficking efforts, and we are thrilled to tell you about a few of the most recent achievements. CAST helped pass the Survivors of Human Trafficking Empowerment Act, which created a council of survivors to advise the United States government on trafficking, a federal effort mirroring CAST’s own survivor leadership work. The first council convened in 2016. In that same year, CAST spearheaded a successful policy reform package to ensure that trafficked minors were not arrested for crimes their traffickers forced them to commit. This continues to encourage trafficked minors to seek help without fear of retribution (punishment for a criminal act).

Victims of trafficking have a legal right to restitution, which usually comes in the form of money. This right comes from the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which requires defendants to pay back the “full amount of the victim’s losses” to the victim, including the gross income of the victim’s services or labor. But the Human Trafficking Legal Center reported in 2014 that restitution was only actually awarded in 36% of federal human trafficking cases despite this mandatory requirement (Read the entire report here.) CAST is working to combat this injustice and in 2017 helped trafficking survivors to receive $1.66 million in restitution by giving survivors access to Victim’s Rights Attorneys.

In 2017, CAST helped trafficking survivors to receive $1.66 million in restitution by giving survivors access to Victim’s Rights Attorneys.

CAST is one of few specialized, comprehensive service providers serving victims of all forms of human trafficking, including labor and sex trafficking. CAST’s diverse team of experts serve males and females, all age ranges from children to elderly, and both US Citizens and foreign nationals in the greater Los Angeles area. That statistic of empowering 350 survivors a year remains consistent, and that includes everything from their initial escape to helping them find safe housing and even mentoring them until they attain complete independence.

The work of CAST has created an incredible impact in California and beyond. The state has some of the highest trafficking rates in the United States and holds nearly a tenth of the foster children in this nation. In 2010, the Public Policy Institute of California reported that an estimated 60,000 children under the age of 18 in California were in foster care. In addition, California harbors multiple port cities and has a high population density making it easy to transport people within the state, over borders and even overseas.

Through our You Can Do Anything In a Dress (or Tie) 5K, Dressember will create a special grant for CAST to help fund their Transition-Age Youth (TAY) Program. CAST has developed specific youth-focused programming for youth survivors of human trafficking. The services provided to these youth include monthly group activities, case management, interventions and individual assistance. The TAY program offers internships that build job skills and professional development. Dressember is honored to partner with CAST this Spring to benefit their work with survivors from 67 countries around the world and especially in the state of California. If you’re running in the 5K - either in Griffith Park or in your own city - encourage donors by informing them about the great work CAST is doing not only in California, but all over the world!


You don't have to wait until December to be a part of the impact. Join the Dressember Collective and become part of a powerful community of advocates and donors furthering the work and impact of the Dressember Foundation through monthly giving. 


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About the Author

Rae Rohm.png

Rae Rohm is an avid baker, an enthusiastic storyteller, and a thoughtful writer who hails from Delaware. She is a graduate of Biola University, where she studied journalism. When she is not teaching people about the glories of her home state, she can be found enjoying nature with her sweet but mischievous puppy, singing along to music while running on the treadmill, and making gifts for her family and friends. Rae loves using her skills and talents to bring all people -  past and present, near and far - into fellowship with one another.