The latest pimp in the Central Valley to be sentenced to jail raised eyebrows nationwide. It wasn’t because of the nature of the crime, but rather who the pimp was: a 16-year-old girl from Hanford.

Now 18, Jelinajane Bedrijo Almario will serve 13 years for human trafficking.

This headline sensationalized a crime that scars Central Valley youth every day…every evening. Thankfully, in Fresno there is someone who has taken up this fight.

“Know that the first step is always the scariest step, but if you will make that first step there is a team of people who will come beside you who will protect you, who will help you through the healing process and more importantly will help you regain your life back,” said Breaking the Chains Co-Founder and CEO Debra Rush.

Having once lived on the street, Rush now calls herself a survivor, and with three paid staffers and more than 30 volunteers, her organization Breaking the Chains is trying to rescue victims of human trafficking.

“The impact that Breaking the Chains is making is not only are we rescuing the victims, the ones who have been terrorized by this horrific crime, we are actually providing advocacy and awareness and beginning to open the eyes around us to let people know that this mindset is not OK,” Rush said.

Debra identifies red flags to look for if you suspect someone may be a victim of human trafficking.

“Money that is unexplainable, a sudden change of appearance, a sudden change in demeanor,” Rush said. “One of the key things that we see in almost all DV (domestic violence) and human trafficking situations is the perpetrator will begin to isolate them from friends and family.”

Her advice to parents? Monitor kids’ social media use.

“The internet, the dark web, social media is no joke. There are predators laying in every corner and in every area. Social media is shaping the way our children look at themselves, the way they look at the world, the way they value themselves, the way they value others and the way they value the world, and right now over 95% of the trafficking here domestically is occurring via the internet,” Rush explains.

For Debra, the results are always gratifying.

“It’s amazing, it’s beyond fulfilling, and that’s what we do here at Breaking the Chains. We offer women and children a new life,” Rush said. “Action, advocacy and education is the key to eradicating human trafficking here in our area.”

Contact Veronique Werz

Phone: 559-440-8394 / e-mail

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