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Sunol mom organizes car caravan to raise awareness about child sex trafficking

Sign-adorned vehicles drive from Livermore to Pleasanton on Sunday afternoon
A line of cars cross an intersection during Sunday's car caravan to raise awareness for child sex trafficking. The caravan started in Livermore and ended at the Raley's on Sunol Boulevard in Pleasanton.

A group of 18 Tri-Valley residents took to the street on Sunday with their cars covered in paint and signage to raise awareness about child sex trafficking.

Rachel Jergensen, a resident of Sunol and mother of six, told Livermore Vine that she had wanted to contribute to the fight against child trafficking for years.

She had previously signed up to receive texts from Operation Underground Railroad, the anti-child sex trafficking organization that recently gained recognition after the release of the movie "Sound of Freedom", which depicts a former federal agent rescuing children from exploitation.

But it wasn't until after she saw the movie that she received the notification from the organization -- also known as OURrescue -- telling her about the idea of organizing a car caravan to raise awareness.

"I watched closely for their texts, because my heart was broken by the movie," Jergensen said. "When I received the text from OURrescue about the caravan, I decided that is something I could do to help fight against this terrible wrong."

The caravan of cars started its journey at the Livermore Walmart parking lot, on 2700 Las Positas Road last Sunday afternoon at around 3 p.m. as it followed the route, which went down Railroad Avenue and Stanley Boulevard.

Then, after passing through downtown Pleasanton on First Street and turning a lot of heads, according to Jergensen, they ended at the Raley's parking lot on Sunol Boulevard.

"There was a sense of solemnity and urgency as we briefly discussed how the United States ranks in the top 3 of consumption in the child sex industry, many years even ranking No. 1," Jergensen said. "We also had a sense of fellowship as we joined together to help spread the word."

According to Special Operations Finding Kids, an organization based in the Bay Area that deploys private investigators to help find missing and exploited children, almost half a million American children are reported missing every year.

"Since 2018, our contract private investigators have helped identify, recover and support over 100 victims of child sexual exploitation in the Bay Area and Nevada," according to the organization's website.

To add to that, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported a 93% increase in online enticement reports during COVID-19, according to OnWatch. OnWatch is an online training program led by survivors and industry leaders to help communities combat sex trafficking.

According to its website, only 1% of sex trafficking victims in the U.S. are ever identified.

It's because of these statistics that Jergensen wanted to organize Sunday's caravan in the hope that people would feel motivated to do something in order to help children escape or avoid sex traffickers.

"I hoped people would benefit from feeling a sense of community in fighting this evil," she said. "Alone, we might feel weak. Together, we are powerful."

She said that apart from planning on organizing another caravan next year, she hopes that people complete more online training to help them recognize and prevent sex trafficking.

"Then, people can encourage their friends, family and perhaps their social media followers to do the same," she said.

One of the families during Sunday's car caravan hold up hand made posters, which outline the caravan's goal of raising awareness for child sex trafficking. Photo courtesy Rachel Jergensen


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