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RCAHT Task Force Spotlight: Brian’s Dinners

One of the deep needs of survivors of human trafficking is the need for safety and security, and law enforcement is a key part of promoting the safety of each person served by Rebirth Homes. Investigator Brian Robertson of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is instrumental in fighting human trafficking in Riverside County through his work on the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking (RCAHT) task force and the way he invests in connecting with and caring for participants at Rebirth Homes.

The RCAHT task force is on the front lines of detecting, fighting, and preventing human trafficking in Riverside County. What makes this such a dynamic team is the way it prioritizes a victim-centered approach that connects a broad range of agencies. The team started in 2010, and in 2013 when he was on another assignment in the Riverside Sheriff’s Office, Brian was approached about joining the RCAHT task force. After finding out that those on the team were asking for him by name and discussing the opportunity with his wife, he decided it was a good time to take on a new challenge, and he applied and joined the RCAHT task force.

The RCAHT task force has been such a different experience than many of Brian’s other assignments because victims of human trafficking experience complex trauma that often makes them wary of cooperating with law enforcement. Brian and the team always offer services and help to trafficking victims regardless of whether they cooperate on the criminal case. “Now, I’m a cop, so I want to get the bad guy,” Brian said, “but sometimes they need more time.” Giving survivors of trafficking that time and space for healing is one of the places Rebirth enters the picture. When survivors of trafficking choose to share their experience with law enforcement and give evidence for a criminal case, Brian can work with the Riverside District Attorney’s Office and prosecute traffickers and stop them from victimizing others.

Brian has been an integral part of the team, and one of the ways he has worked to further develop the victim-centered approach of the RCHAT task force is by starting Dine with a Deputy. At Rebirth Homes, Dine with a Deputy is a night the participants really enjoy. Brian serves as the head chef and the people on his team serve as his sous chefs. Amidst the delicious food, the fun conversation, and the fast-paced card games, there’s a deeper message being communicated. Brian is flipping the script and showing each woman at Rebirth Homes that he and his team are approachable and that they care deeply for each person who has been victimized by a trafficker. He actually got the idea to start Dine with a Deputy when he visited a group home in Ventura county. A young woman at the home asked to speak with a local detective by name, and Brian found out that he came to the home once a month to hang out and have dinner. The investment in connection and community through Dine with a Deputy has also worked well in Riverside, and survivors now ask to talk to Investigator Robertson by name.

One of the challenges Brian faces is that they don’t have a lot of traditional success stories. The chains of psychological coercion are strong, and some women return to the life and are trafficked again after initially getting out, but seeing survivors who are doing well and continue to do well years later is what he finds so rewarding in the work. He is also proud to have passed on his passion for helping. His son, who reached Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts by designing and completing an Eagle Project to raise donations for and build a chicken coop at Rebirth Homes.

When asked what the general public can do to help fight human trafficking, Brian pointed to the importance of prevention. If you have kids yourself or have kids in your life, work to support them and educate them on how to avoid traffickers. Devices are a key part of this. “If you allow your child unsupervised use of a device, they have access to the entire world. You’ve left the door unlocked” Brian shared. Getting to know your kid’s friends and parents can also be an important way to protect children from danger.

At Rebirth Homes, we are so thankful for Brian’s support for our mission and goals and for how he invests in the community to clearly send each participant the message that she is safe and that she is cared for by passing around a plate of BBQ and sitting down for a game of UNO.

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