Reprinted From: Rancho Santa Fe Review
There are more than 8,000 victims of sex trafficking every year in the San Diego region, according to a recent joint study by the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University. The William D. Lynch Foundation for Children, founded by longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident Bill Lynch, is helping raise awareness and funds to prevent child sex trafficking in San Diego by holding a fundraiser on Thursday, May 11. Chaired by Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan, the event will be held at The Abbey in downtown San Diego from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“Child sex trafficking is not an evil phenomenon in faraway third-world countries but a rapidly growing epidemic here in the United States and especially here in San Diego,” said Lynch, an active San Diego businessman and philanthropist for the last 40 years who currently owns the William D. Lynch Company. “We are committed to making a serious impact on this social crisis plaguing our region. Every child saved is a universe preserved and opportunity awakened.”
Lynch established the foundation in 1989. He had met a child who was abused by the father. Once the child was in a safe place, Lynch said it was important to him to help other children. Since then, he has worked to support a variety of youth causes throughout the years.
“Our mission is to organize, motivate and support the care and education of children,” said Lynch, chairman of the board of the foundation. He has received numerous recognitions including “Man of the Year” from the San Diego Nice Guys and the “Champion for Children Award” from the San Diego County Office of Education.
“Recently, the foundation has expanded our commitment to children by partnering with law enforcement to stop child sex trafficking,” said Lynch. “Our goal, while ambitious, is to raise $200,000 to fight this atrocity.”
The foundation uses a three-pronged preventative approach focused on education, legislation reform and locating runaways and missing children.
“In San Diego County specifically, the average age of entry into child commercial sexual exploitation is 16,” said Brooke Mosteller, the policy director at the William D. Lynch Foundation for Children. “The underground economy ranks second only to illegal drug trafficking at over $800 million annually in San Diego County.”
Mosteller said that although 100 percent of 20 San Diego County high schools reported that recruitment occurs in their schools, the California sex trafficking prevention curriculum requirements are minimal. The foundation is looking to change that through its educational programs Lynch is supporting such as Point Loma Nazarene University’s kNOw MORE curriculum, which uses drama to teach students about trafficking situations and will be performed at the Lynch Foundation fundraiser. “Education is key for prevention as most kids do not always even know they are victims,” she said.
In terms of legislation, the Lynch Foundation works closely with the University of San Diego’s School of Law Children’s Advocacy Institute to enact new laws protecting those at risk. “We support legislation that creates higher penalties for buyers and specific protections for exploited youth victims,” said Mosteller. Currently, she said buyers who solicit minors are rarely caught; instead, a citation is issued and they are fined a few hundred dollars.
She said Lynch recently asked her to represent the foundation in Sacramento, Calif., in support of human trafficking bill AB 1495: Child Rape Liability Act. The bill was authored by Brian Maienschein and allows for civil action to be brought against those found guilty. It also enables victims to ask public prosecutors to bring a lawsuit against the buyers. It was passed unanimously in the Judiciary Committee meeting held in April and it will now go to the Appropriations Committee. Mosteller said an assemblyman mentioned he had never seen a bill tackling the issue like this one. Ed Howard from the Children’s Advocacy Institute was in attendance as well as Tiffany Mester, one of the survivors in San Diego.
Last year, there were 26 bills related to child sex trafficking that were proposed in the California General Assembly. “Seven of the eight trafficking bills that passed were ‘victim-centered’ and focused on rehabilitation rather than prevention,” said Mosteller. The foundation’s hope is to support the County’s Human Trafficking Advisory Board, chaired by Chief Dep. D.A. Summer Stephan, and to create a business model to prevent child sex trafficking from occurring in the first place. “Many efforts focus on rehabilitation, which is of the upmost importance, but it is after trauma has inevitably occurred,” said Mosteller.
The Lynch Foundation is also involved in locating runaways and missing children through its support of Saved in America (SIA). The nonprofit organization is made up of law enforcement officers and three teams of Navy Seals who have become licensed and insured private investigators. Over the past 26 months, they have assisted law enforcement by locating 34 runaways and missing children at no cost to their families. “Finding the runaways is truly the last act of prevention,” said Lynch.
“We found that people are interested in different aspects of helping with this issue,” said Mosteller. “Our foundation is trying to give a concrete way for people to get involved.” This includes writing letters of support, assisting with the educational programs and supporting the cause financially. “There is something that everyone can do to make a difference,” she said.
Business, political and philanthropic leaders will come together at the Lynch Foundation event, which is sponsored by Sycuan and Hornblower. There will be a hosted bar, dinner buffet and short program as well as complimentary valet parking. During the event, attendees will have the opportunity to hear from some of the parents whose children were found by SIA.
The event will be held at The Abbey located at 2825 Fifth Ave., San Diego, CA 92103. The Abbey, believed to be one of the only classical-revival structures standing in San Diego, is more than 100 years old and listed on the national register of historic places.
Tickets to the event are available by visiting: bit.ly/lynchchild2pij2pR