Over the past months, I have posted several times on sex trafficking. Rick and I support Crossing the Jordan, a local ministry that is on the front lines. Recently, my daughter, grand-daughter and I attended a rally put on by the Sonoma County Task Force Against Sex Trafficking. Our city and county have become increasingly aware of the problem and are joining the fight to end human trafficking. Public meetings last year brought together representatives from our local police department, homeland security, FBI, non-government agencies and several ministries and encouraged citizens to become involved. We now have billboards up and down the 101 freeway announcing our county is actively fighting sex trafficking, with a list of those groups involved.
Thankfully, there is a growing understanding of the connections between oppression, childhood sexual abuse, poverty and violence and the commercial sex trade which are helping to debunk the myth that prostitution is a “victimless crime”.
Frankly, with the opening of another large casino in our area, sex trafficking has been on the rise. Sonoma County has become part of an established circuit through which girls and women from the Bay Area and even as far as Las Vegas are transported here by slave owners and forced “to work”. Unfortunately, many who come to blow money at the casino also come with an “out-on-the-town” mentality. Think of the ad, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” That’s not going to be true in Sonoma County.
The other day, police officers from Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and the sheriff’s department worked together to pull off a “sex sting”. By posting an ad on a website dedicated to massage and escort services, a detective posed as Amber and recorded 1800 page views in a weekend. More than 200 calls from unique phone numbers were placed, some inquiring about “the cute younger sis” mentioned in Amber’s post. One john said, “The younger the better.”
When the “johns” came to buy Amber, the police officers were waiting to arrest them.
One district attorney’s office is developing a court diversion program known as “john school”. Offenders would hear information about the typical sex-provider profile: someone vulnerable, likely abused, suffering from psychological trauma (severe PTSD), as well as the frequent involvement of pimps who exploit them for profit. From reports elsewhere, few of the attendees are arrested a second time.
Soliciting a prostitute may only be a misdemeanor now, but with more education, the public as well as enforcement and our court system will see it for what it is: slavery.
A few suggestions: Publish the names and pictures of the johns who are arrested a second time. File charges for statutory rape when a john is arrested with a minor. Confiscate all property of any business proven to knowingly harbor the sex trafficking market, and all proceeds should be earmarked for services to the victims.