On Saturday, October 20th the Walk For Freedom against Human Trafficking was held at the capitol. This event was held to emphasize the importance of abolishing modern day slavery.
Four years ago, the Human Rights Society dubbed Sacramento with the title of “Second Worst City in the US for Human Trafficking.”
In December of last year, Elan Seagraves, a soccer coach at John F. Kennedy High School, was arrested on human trafficking charges and for pimping at least two minors.
In early February, 58-year-old Yun Escamilla was booked into Sacramento County Jail on five counts of felony pandering–the act of persuading/forcing someone to become a prostitute. Escamilla housed five young women, constantly transporting them between three different Sacramento residences. It was reported that some of the women being prostituted were from Hong Kong and all were of Asian descent.
“Sex trafficking”, as it is called, is a global epidemic.
Thousands of people worldwide have been sold into, coerced or manipulated into sex-slavery. It has poisoned countless communities, but how big is Sacramento’s human trafficking problem?
“It’s been highlighted that there is more human trafficking in Sacramento than in other jurisdictions, but I think that it is equal to other jurisdictions,” Cindy Stinson, Lieutenant for the Sacramento Police Department and co-founder of Community Against Sexual Harm or CASH, told AccessLocal.Tv in an interview. “One reason that, if there is more human trafficking on Sacramento is because we have lots of freeways that run through Sacramento and there’s something called the circuit, where women will be driven to different cities where the freeways are close.”
Lt. Stinson thinks that another one of the reasons human trafficking in Sacramento is so highlighted is because the city is so informed on the issue and strives to do more about it through nonprofit organizations like CASH and WEAVE.
But is there any way individuals can fight against human trafficking in Sacramento?
“One way we can fight against sex trafficking in Sacramento is to focus on the demand,” Lt. Stinson explained. “So instead of going out and arresting the women or focusing on forcing action on the women who really are the victims, we can really focus on the men who are creating the demands to buy women–who are trolling around looking to buy girls and women for sex.”
“If all the law enforcement agencies in Sacramento got together and decided, ‘Hey, we’re not going to put as much of our effort on arresting the women, we’re going to put a lot of our effort on arresting the men who are pimps, who are trafficking the women, that would have a huge impact. It would also deliver the message that Sacramento is not a place that you want to come to buy women or traffic women.”
If you or someone you know is or might be a victim of human trafficking, please encourage them to call 1-888-373-7888, or text HELP to 233733.
The California Endowment recently initiated the “No Such Thing” campaign with the hope to promote awareness of the fact that slang terms such as ‘underage hooker’ and ‘child prostitute’ are invalid. This movement came to fruition after the Associated Press declared it would remove such terms from their dictionary and replacing them with “child rape” and “child sex trafficking victim”.
“There is, in fact, no such thing as a ‘child prostitute’ because children cannot legally consent to sex, and under federal law, they are considered victims of human trafficking,” said Yasmin Vafa, the Executive Director of the Rights4Girls program. “In any other situation this would be seen as child or statutory rape. There is no difference between raping a child and paying to rape a child. Money cannot erase violence and trauma.”
Human trafficking of every genre is a major crisis in America, and especially so in the city of Sacramento, which is widely known as the human trafficking capital of this country. The AP move toward terminating the use of demoralizing and inaccurate slang terms in the media is seen by many as a step toward humanizing these exploited children.
“Each year more than 1,000 children are arrested for prostitution in the US despite not being old enough to even consent to sex,” says Vafa. “Instead of being seen as victims of child rape, these children are instead seen by law enforcement and other first responders as criminals.” She suggests that more accurate terms will help “showcase the true reality of what is playing out in the lives of these children. These terms help evoke the elements of abuse and victimization that characterize the condition of children bought and sold for sex.”
90 minutes to the west of Sacramento, the Oakland Police are experiencing their own scandal involving a young adult by the named of Celeste Guap. Thanks to an investigation by a local newspaper, the public has been given access to her private messages and comments wherein she seems pleased to have sold her body to sworn law enforcement officers for protection or money. According to Vafa, it is important to note that Guap remains a victim of her environment and “that the difference between 17 and 18 is just one day. We cannot pretend that someone who was first trafficked and exploited as a child magically becomes an empowered ‘sex worker’ once the clock strikes 18.” It is very likely that Guap is making the best out of a situation in which she probably threatened daily and has very little freedom.
Whether we see it or not, children in communities all across the country are still arrested for being raped. As Vafa said, “this is truly one of the biggest human rights failures facing our country today.” With movements such as #NoSuchThing, it is hoped that the hearts and minds of the American people will begin to rally around these victims in the shadows.
Recently an article published by dailynews.com shared how young girls all over California are being arrested for prostitution while they are really the victims of statutory rape. These girls, who have been forced into a life of sex trafficking, are being thrown in jail while their “customers” receive a warning or slap on the wrist. These young ladies are being bought and sold by men while they are sometimes just 12 years old. In any other circumstance a man having done these things with a girl of that age would be sent to prison, but since money is involved it immensely changes the circumstances.
Sacramentians often boast that their city is close to everything. That attribute, however, also helps make the city a hot spot for sex trafficking. Sacramento is unfortunately a hub for all sorts of child trafficking due to its easy access to large cities through the freeway system. Since 2005 the police department have arrested over 70 young girls for “child prostitution”. Just last year, 9 girls from the Sacramento region were rescued.
Luckily there is a local group who helps combat sex trafficking in Sacramento known as CASH which stands for Community Against Sexual Harm. This groups mission is to “assist women that have been commercially sexually exploited through survivor-led peer support and harm reduction services, while providing education about the harm inflicted on women and the community.”
To contact the CASHSAC feel free to call them at 916-856-2900 or Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Think it doesn’t happen in America?” That is the tagline for a national issue that the City of Sacramento wants to shed some light on. Human trafficking is a bigger problem in the US than many realize, and state capital is no exception.
According to a CBS Sacramento report, the city had one of the highest rates of human trafficking in the country just a couple years ago, and the problem as hardly improved. But the Sacramento Neighborhood Services Division is working to change those statistics by promoting its Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign, as well as local organizations that help the cause.
“Human trafficking is modern day slavery,” says the Neighborhood Services Division. “…It is the process of controlling a person with the intent to exploit them.”
This awareness campaign is designed to inform the people of Sacramento that human trafficking is not a third world problem.
“They are women. They are men. They are children. Modern day slaves can be found all over the world, including in every state in the U.S. In fact, it is also estimated that there are up to 300,000 children at risk of being trafficked in the United States alone.”
Victims of human trafficking are often used for forced labor or sexual exploitation. Many are even born into the multi-billion dollar a year industry. Sacramento leadership not only wants to inform the public, but empower it with the resources necessary to kick human trafficking out of the city for good.
Citizens may not know about the variety of resources of available to them, but hopefully this campaign can change that. Groups like WEAVE, Bridget’s Dream, and My Sister’s House all specialize in different parts of the campaign, but share the same goal.
To learn more about the campaign, click here.
To reach out to a local anti-human trafficking group, click here.
(Featured image from Flickr under Creative Commons, desaturated from original)
According to Sacramento Poster Outreach 2 Stop Trafficking, the FBI considers Sacramento a major hub of sex trafficking of minors, as young as 12 years of age. This problem is continuing to grow so the community of Sacramento has developed new programs that will hopefully decrease the numbers of human trafficking cases. By informing people about the illegal activity being done by underage girls, SacPOST is dedicated in taking steps to better the surrounding areas.
One definition of human trafficking is sexual slavery that is forced, while those in control make profit off of that force.
“It was either stick to the family business and bring home some money, or be forced on the streets to basically be pimped by a stranger,” says Alice. Born and raised as a resident of South Sacramento, her dream was to escape the hardships of her neighborhood in Meadowview. Consequently due to the lifestyle of being a young prostitute, her familiar neighborhood has actually become her worksite. She knows the streets, the geography, and it’s easy for her to pick up customers because she knows everyone. The neighborhood people even protect her from law enforcement. Alice went on to say that is is not law enforcement she is afraid of, but her mother, the person that has been profiting from her pain since she was 14 years old.
Because of a new law, twelve different types of businesses actually have to post a notice that has the national human trafficking hotline number listed along with other anti-trafficking information. This law was established in April of 2013. The girls will hopefully see these notices and start to come forward to receive the proper help and care to restart their lives. Girls like Alice now have a chance fight for their freedom and hold on to what has not already been lost.
Upcoming on November 2, 2014, SacPOST will need volunteers to visit the local businesses in areas of Sacramento to make sure that these notices have been displayed. If the notices are not viewable, the volunteers will have copies made to do so themselves for the business. All the volunteers will also be attending a human trafficking educational class before hitting the streets of Sacramento taught at McGeorge Law School.