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Sunday, June 3, 2012
Woodland Soroptimists event raises local awareness of human trafficking
Often when people hear about human trafficking, they might believe it is not happening in their area.
But recently, a Yolo County man bought a mail-order bride from Asia over an Internet "pen pal" website based out of Davis. Almost immediately after the woman had a baby via cesarean-section surgery, her husband ordered her to wash his truck and when she didn't, locked her in a room with little food.
Eventually, Child Protective Services was called but when the woman went to court, her husband got custody of the baby. He canceled her immigration papers and said the restraining order was because of that, not abuse.
Strive2Free, a local nonprofit organization focused on stopping human trafficking, used this example in a presentation to the Woodland Soroptimists at the County Fair Mall Wednesday evening.
About 30 people attended the discussion, and almost all of them were women. Many of the perpetrators of human trafficking are men.
One of the Soroptimists' main goals is to stop human trafficking. President Michiko Pate wants to work more with law enforcement on the issue.
"A lot of people don't realize it's happening at the local level but it is," she said.
Sacramento is one of the top five cities for human trafficking, according to Strive2Free board vice president Krystal Callaway Jaime. Part of this has to do with the freeway systems that lead to state and international borders, along with the region's diversity and the demand for labor.
Krystal Callaway Jaime, Strive2Free board vice president, gives anecdotes and statistics about human trafficking at a Woodland Soroptimists event Wednesday at the County Fair Mall. (Deo Ferrer/ Democrat)
trafficking not only deals with sex trafficking but can be related to agricultural labor, especially in the Sacramento Valley, Jaime said. Workers from Central America may be promised immigration documents but then are not paid and given little food.
"Human trafficking has actually been around in the Sacramento Valley for quite awhile even before we necessarily labeled it as human trafficking," she said.
Human trafficking deals with the force, fraud or coercion of a person -- physical or psychological -- for forced labor, sexual exploitation or both.
Mary Molinaro, Strive2Free board president, said some statistics show human trafficking is more lucrative than drug trafficking.
"A human, on the other hand, can be reused, reused, reused," she said.
But when people face charges with human trafficking, the penalties are usually low that district attorneys opt to go for higher penalty charges such as child pornography, Jaime said.
This week, the California Senate unanimously passed a bill that enable prosecutors to seize more profits from human traffickers who deal in children. Half the money would go to aid victims, with the rest to state or local governments.
The state's attorney general office said while a third of 200,000 children who ran away in 2009 and 2010 were estimated to have been lured into prostitution and pornography, just 13 people were sent to prison in California for human trafficking during that time.
Both Jaime and Molinaro did not know much about the recent bill but Strive2Free is deciding whether to endorse the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, which will be on the November ballot.
It will increase prison terms for human traffickers, require sex traffickers to register as sex offenders and require fines from convicted human traffickers to pay for services to help victims.
While Strive2Free waits to see if legislation is passed to increase penalties, its members are working on its first youth summit set for January and February 2013. Molinaro said she wants to spread awareness to high school students.
"I am very, very excited about this youth summit because it's ... the possibility to impact change," Jaime said.