Barbara Rubin Receives PACT 2023 Freedom Award

By Joanne A Calitri   |   October 31, 2023
Barbara Rubin with CEO of PACT Lori Cohen (photo courtesy of PACT)

Protect All Children from Trafficking (PACT) presented their 2023 Freedom Awards to five recipients for their work in advancing human rights globally. Santa Barbara resident Barbara Rubin is a recipient. Rubin’s work started in the 1990s when she initiated the protection of women and children from sexual exploitation. She volunteers with the Presbyterian Women USA and Girl Scouts USA.

Also receiving the Freedom Award were Marcellus W. Osceola Jr., Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida; Mariann Billie, Councilwoman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida; James Dold, Founder & CEO, Human Rights for Kids (HRFK), Washington, D.C. and Brentwood Union Free School District, Long Island, New York.

I reached out to Barbara:

Q.How did you get involved in the cause of human trafficking?

A. My awareness of human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children began in the 1990s. Prior to that in the 1980s, I was active with the Mary Magdalene Project, now Journey Out, through Presbyterian Women (PW) in Los Angeles and served on the Mary Magdalene Project Board of Directors for many years. Our work involved supporting women, helping them find housing while escaping exploitation and abuse, and putting them on a path to social reintegration.

PW and the Mary Magdalene Project helped open my eyes to the global problem of human trafficking. Every three years, PW organizes an international mission trip. In 1996, I was selected from the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii as one of 24 women to travel to Thailand and the Philippines and one of six women to visit Cambodia. During the trip, I learned a great deal about the women and children who were being prostituted and exploited.

After returning to the United States, I had a new perspective on trafficking and wanted to share what I had learned. For the next year, I traveled throughout California speaking to various groups about children being abused; the American businessmen who were huge consumers; and how human trafficking was not just an overseas problem.

How many years have you been with PACT?

As a volunteer and supporter for the Mary Magdalene Project, now Journey Out, beginning in the 1980s through 1996. As a volunteer and supporter for End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA), now Protect All Children from Trafficking (PACT), beginning in 1996 through the present.

What do you do? 

At the PACT 2023 Freedom Awards: Marcellus W. Osceola Jr., Lori Cohen, Durante Blais-Billie, James Dold, Wanda Ortiz-Rivera, and Barbara Rubin (photo courtesy of PACT)

I assist with educational outreach, public speaking, advocacy efforts, Board membership, and ongoing philanthropy.

To shed more light on PACT’s work, they replied to my interview questions:

What are the current stats on trafficking?

There are 27.6 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide.

Twenty-three percent of them are in situations of forced commercial sexual exploitation. Four out of five people in these situations are girls and women. Half of all children forced into labor are in commercial sexual exploitation. [Source: The International Labor Organization (ILO), 2023]

How is the trafficking discovered and stopped?

PACT programs focus on training professionals from the travel and tourism industries, educating parents, teachers, caregivers, and children themselves on the multiple forms of human trafficking through youth curriculum and community workshops. 

PACT works with businesses to educate them on how human traffickers and child exploiters use their structures to exploit victims, and help them identify, develop, and deploy best practices to protect children. 

Experts in the field of child sex trafficking at PACT believe that prevention is key in educating children about the risks of trafficking, online sexual abuse, and exploitation, and in empowering them, so they do not fall into the hands of traffickers. 

We need to raise awareness of this heinous crime and let people know this is not just an overseas issue. 

Trafficking is happening right now in the United States – in every community of every state.  



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