Scripta Varia

Human Trafficking Education and Awareness

Tamila E. Ipema

Judge of California Superior Court, San Diego

A brief Public Education Video on Human Trafficking.

We know what Human Trafficking is. This is also referred to as Modern-day slavery. Human Trafficking is a crime under the international laws, also U.S. Federal laws, and State laws. Under the law, the person is guilty of Human Trafficking, if he or she recruits, transports, or delivers a person for sex trafficking.

And does this by Coercion, Force, or Deception for the purpose of sex slavery or labor slavery.

Two of the most severe forms of Human Trafficking are Labor, and Sex. We also have Organ trafficking now as the third form.

San Diego is ranked in the top 8 cities in sexual exploitation of children (moved up from number 13 in the nation). This is an 810 Million-dollar industry and second only to drug trafficking. In San Diego, we have 8,830-11,773 victims of sex trafficking per year. We have not had too many arrests in San Diego because victims are afraid to come forward.

In January 2017, we had 38 arrests.

In December 2014, 22 gang members were indicted.

In January 2014, 24 were indicted and 70 minor girls were identified as victims.

In April 2011, 30 girls were rescued.

In Jan. 2017, prosecutors’ office in San Diego and Los Angeles conducted a sweep called “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” for the third year in a row. Prosecutors put fake advertisements on internet and offered sex for money. And, when people showed up to buy sex they were arrested. The goal is to disrupt the Demand. So, they are going after the organized crimes and also the users.

Unfortunately, Human trafficking is increasing in San Diego County because it runs on a renewable funding source. It has low risk and high yield. It is lucrative because they can sell the girls multiple times. There is an endless pool of victims. And it is easy to recruit the girls and boys over the internet. The criminals (often gang members) use the social media and internet to recruit the girls. They use internet to post their prostitution advertisements (for example: Backpage.com). They use the internet to solicit sex.

We have to educate our communities about Human trafficking. Teach them about Human Trafficking law. Teach them how to identify the trafficking victims. Teach them how to deal with trafficking victims and where to direct victims to get help. This is a picture of a community group on the streets of San Diego with loud speakers educating their community about Human Trafficking; the signs read: humans are not for sale. And stolen people, stolen dreams.

We have to learn how to deal with the victims. We have to understand that is a very long process to create a safe environment, build trust, and break the cycle of sex trafficking with the victims. It is extremely difficult for victims to come forward because most of them do not consider themselves as victims. Some victims do not think there is a way out. Our goal is to bring them from victims to Survivors; and teach them how to get treatment and live a productive life.

How can we identify the victims?

This advertisement says: look beneath the surface. Victims of trafficking may look like many of the people you see every day. Report human trafficking. Most victims are runaways or homeless children. They often have signs of physical or psychological abuse. They are often accompanied by someone who seems controlling or abusive. They ask for permission to eat, sleep or go to bathroom. They do not know where they are geographically. Their stories do not add up.

They have signs of trauma, fatigue, injury and poor health. They are withdrawn and afraid to talk or are censored if they talk. They have no freedom of movement. They work and live in the same place. They owe a debt to the employer. They don’t have access to their identification documents or passports. They are not allowed contact with others or are controlled. They are often branded with tattoos. The picture says: You pay me.

The other says: I, name of the person, am the property of Shaft (name of the criminal); all those who come in contact with me are in debt to him.

There are new laws in California as of 2017. Laws dealing with minors and prostitution charges. Minors are no longer arrested or charged with a crime if they are believed to be victims of trafficking. Instead they are given treatment. We do not want to victimized them again by charging them with a crime and putting them in prison. And the law creates a path to vacate their past convictions.

We have created specialty courts for human trafficking for adults in N.Y. and for Children in California. The California Juvenile Human Trafficking Courts are called “RISE”. Rise stands for Resiliency Is Strength and Empowerment. The purpose is to better address the needs of these children.

RISE court is a collaborative court modeled after drug courts where the judges, prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, child welfare services all come together in one room to discuss how they can help a specific juvenile by designing a treatment program that fits the history of that child victim. The juvenile has to show up in court once a week and report on the treatment programs the child has attended. Once the child graduates and completes the program, the charges against that child is dropped and all criminal history is expunged. This is a trauma-informed court that uses multi-disciplinary approach to address the needs of a specific child individually. The child is given several chances to succeed; and ultimately if the child does not cooperate, the child will be charged and serves time.

We have advertisements for people to call a national trafficking hotline to report human trafficking. There are organizations that house victims and provide psychological and other treatment. We go into the community and educate the public, the kids and their parents in schools. We encourage everyone to see the documentary called “A path appears” to educate the community. You can google it.

We also have created a Court-Clergy Conference in San Diego County where the judges get together with the leaders of clergy from different faiths, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Bahia’s, Zoroastrians, and all other religions and educate these clergy men and women on human trafficking and other laws so that they could in turn help their faith-based communities.

Thank you! Please do not hesitate to talk to me if you have any questions.

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