WASHINGTON, February 25, 2012 — Human trafficking has been a felony in California since 2005. But in reality, California authorities often treat victims as criminals. As a result, justice is remote for many child trafficking victims.
A California native, Sara Kruzan, was only 11 years old, when she first met her 33 year old pimp, G.G. Her pimp groomed her for two years to earn her trust. Growing up with an often absent drug addict mother, G.G.’s attention meant more to Sara than anything else.
G.G. was there at some times…and he would talk to me, take me out, and give me all these lavish gifts…” Sara recalled.
After earning Sara’s trust, G.G. forced Sara into prostitution for three years. G.G. forced Sara and other victims to work on the street for 12 hours a day from 6:00 p.m. to 6 a.m. During her sexual slavery, Sara had no holidays, vacation, or even a day off from constant rape. After enduring G.G.’s sexual, physical, and emotional abuse for three years, Sara finally ended her slavery by shooting her pimp.
A Californian judge sentenced her to life without parole for murder. Sara was only 16 years old at that time and received neither victim assistance nor the protection she deserved.
Many traffickers in California enslave children. In 2003, the FBI identified Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, as three of the thirteen high intensity child prostitution areas in the U.S. Advocates argue current Californian laws are neither sufficient to protect children nor to deter sex trafficking of minors.
Experts say the state law doesn’t protect child victims of sex trafficking. Though human trafficking is a felony in the state, the law allows pimps and johns to walk free when they prove minor victims’ consent to prostitute.
Criminalization of victims hinders children from coming forward to escape sexual slavery. California’s prostitution law fails to identify children involved in prostitution as victims of sex trafficking. Neither does it offer an affirmative defense to children charged with the offense. As a result, experts say that different districts subject victims to different protocols and placements, including detention.
Since 1995, arrests of minor sex trafficking victims in California increased an average of 6 percent on annual basis.
Ironically, the law is gracious when it comes to traffickers and buyers of sex. In particular, pimping a minor between the ages of sixteen and eighteen only carries penalties as light as a fine up to $5000 and imprisonment for three to six years.
Many survivors say that their pimps required them to make $500 on a weeknight, $1000 on a weekend night or holiday. On a typical week, a pimp makes $5000 a week from the sexual servitude of each minor he sells. In an average year, a pimp makes $240,000 from each prostitution victim. According to the Well House, Inc., a shelter for trafficking victims in Alabama, the average cost of victim assistance runs between $20,000 and $40,000.
The law imposes very light penalties on johns buying sex from children in California. Experts say authorities do not use human trafficking law to prosecute people buying sex from children. The state’s law enforcement could prosecute buyers of child prostitution under disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor carrying imprisonment no more than six months and a possible fine of $1000 or less. Under federal law, the same buyer can spend a maximum of 30 years in prison.
California Against Slavery, an anti-trafficking organization, is collecting signatures from Californian voters for a petition to strengthen the anti-trafficking law. If implemented, the C.A.S.E act will increase penalties for human trafficking, including prison sentences up to 15 years to life and fines up to $1500,000. It will also allow the fines collected from traffickers used for victim assistance and law enforcement training. According to California Against Slavery website, the registered voters must sign the petition by February 29, 2012.
Actions you can take:
Sign the California petition PETITION
Sign to FREE SARA KRUZAN
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