Modern-Day Slavery In San Diego County?
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Federal authorities have indicted 38 people in gang-run prostitution ring in Oceanside. U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy called the operation "modern-day slavery." We'll find out why teen prostitution has been called a growing problem across the country.
When KPBS news recently broadcast a series called San Diego Gang Stories, one of the most troubling parts was about local gangs coercing girls into prostitution. Now, a Federal indictment has been handed down against suspected gang members in Oceanside for allegedly running a prostitution ring. Nearly 40 people have been implicated in the ring and 30 underage girls were rescued from the operation. Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney for San Diego, says the girls were caught up in a form of modern-day slavery.
Marisa Ugarte, Executive Director of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, which works to eradicate human trafficking.
Human Trafficking Conference
The Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition Conference will host a conference to raise awareness about the relationship between human trafficking and transportation. The conference will be held May 11-13, 2011 at the San Diego Sheraton Hotel & Marina
CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. When KPBS recently broad cast a series called San Diego gang story, one of the most troubling segments was about local gangs coercing gangs into profit news. Now a federal indictment has been handed down against suspect gang members in Oceanside for allegedly running a prostitution ring. 38 people have been implicated in the ring, and 30 under aged girls were rescued from the operation. US attorney for San Diego, Lauren Duffy, says the girls were caught up in a form of modern day slavery. Joining us to talk below what happens to these girls now, is my guest, Marisa Ugarte. She's executive director of the bilateral safety corridor coalition which works to eradicate human trafficking. And Marisa, good morning.
UGARTE: Good morning, how are you?
CAVANAUGH: I'm very well, thank you for joining us.
UGARTE: My pleasure.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, where are the young girls who were rescued from the prostitution ring in Oceanside.
UGARTE: Well, basically, the girls have been rescued for the past 18 months. There were no girls the day of the raid.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.
UGARTE: That were rescued. We were able to serve three girls out of the 18-month investigation. With these gang members. The indictment really was to the pimps that were doing this, and the information was compiled through innocence lost for the past 'months.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, three, you said three of the underaged girls who were rescued during this 18 month operation got treatment through your organization. What type of treatment do they need and what do you provide?
UGARTE: Well, we provide an array of services. And we have housing facilities as so needed, we have two shelters that only shelter women, and one that houses minors. The and 1 to 2 minors only because minors are very difficult to handle, especially when they suffer so much. Counseling, dental services through the Maestra, medical services through the maestra, and operations. We have adult education school. We also enroll them in city college so they can do their GED, from there go to a junior college. So basically, we also you know, give them their basic needs, and now, we are trying to open eye thrift store where we can put the girls to work there so they can learn the retail business and look into other avenues like microenterprising so we could do this for them.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Marisa, you said that during the course of this investigation, at the end of it, there were no girls rescued because they had all been disbursed or tap up for treatment somewhere. And the U.S. attorney and investigators are being criticized for allowing some of the young victims to undergo abuse while that investigation went on, while they built their case. Why was that allowed to happen ?
UGARTE: I think somebody's getting it all wrong. Because the girls during this investigation were the ones arrested and taken out of the life, so they could provide some of the intel information necessary for, you know, for the law enforcement to continue the investigation of the pimps. The girls did not remain in prostitution. They did not remain being prostituting. They were taken out. So through the -- several arrests of these victims, and pulling them out, law enforcement was able to get enough intelligence to indict the men. So the criticism is a wrongdoing to law enforcement that we need so badly to help in these cases because they have pulled out the girls. So every time that they find one in the Internet or in a hotel; they would intervene, they would go to that hotel, and they pull that victim out. The problem that we have in San Diego as many other places is the placement for minors does not exist for this type of population. So most of the girls either end up going to [CHECK AUDIO] which is the social services, shelter, or they end up going to juvenile hall, depending on the issue.
CAVANAUGH: Now, how -- you know, it just is so surprising Marisa, how could a problem like this be happening in our own backyard and we don't even realize it?
UGARTE: Well, we've been working here for the past ten years, a little bit more, and I believe Rachel and other people in New York, trying to, you know, let people know that this is ongoing, that the human trafficking is not justice international business, that it's also domestic victims. But we're having a problem with that in the sense that nobody wants to know that this is happening. Remember that used to happen in domestic violence, and with child abuse?
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.
UGARTE: Nobody wanted to recognize how bad child abuse was? And we've been training law enforcement, we've made videos with law enforcement, we have post trainings with law enforcement, but it's the community that sometimes has a -- it's very hard for them to accept that this is happening in our own backyard.
CAVANAUGH: Right. Now, I know that you have actually a conference coming up here to raise awareness about human trafficking. Tell us about that.
UGARTE: Oh, thank you, Megan. Yes, it's a conference called Planes, Trains, Trucks, and Automobiles, and what is the relationship to human trafficking. We have an array of people coming to talk to us about the business end of it. We have Angie Salazare from the blue campaign, we have equal opportunity employment coming in, media, J. W August, Kimberly Hong, Rachel Macguire, and CNN is coming in to talk about what they have done. We have the commissioner of human rights. We have a victim that is gonna come and speak who is incredible. We have truckers against trafficking that are going to show what they're doing, how those circuits are predating those girls. So all these things are happening as we speak.
CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Marisa Ugarte, she's executive director of the Bilaterial Safety Corridor Coaltion, and Marisa, thanks for talking with us this more.
UGARTE: Thank you so much. It really is a pleasure. And thank you for giving me that opportunity. The [CHECK AUDIO] is going to hold -- marina, and you know, just let them know about our phone number.
UGARTE: So they can call us if they're interested.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That'll be posted at KPBS.org/These Days. I want to let everyone know we're gonna continue our conversation about this event, this federal investigation in Oceanside, with my next guest, activist and author Rachel Lloyd. That's going to happen as These Days continues, we have to take a short break. Stay with us for more of these on KPBS.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, You're listening to These Days on KPBS on KPBS. We've been talking about an 18 month federal investigation in Oceanside, that they broke up a prostitution ring run by gang members of authorities say more than 30 under aged girls have been rescued during the course of that investigation. I'd like to welcome my guest, Rachel Lloyd, she's founder of Girls' Educational and Mentoring Services. Rachel escaped her own victimization to welcome an advocate for abused teens of she's the author of the book girls like us. Rachel, good morning.
LLOYD: Good morning.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How do American teens get lured into sex trafficking?
LLOYD: Oh, well, we know already that 70 -- anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of girls and adult women who end up in the commercial sex industry have a prior history of sexual abuse. So we're talking about a large population of the young people that we see being recruited in having severe histories of trauma and abuse prior to recruitment. And then they're young. I mean, to put it simply, if you are 13, 14, 15 years old, and an adult man whose sole purpose in life is to recruit you and to make you feel that he cares about you comes along and starts saying the right stuff, and you already have some issues at home, you've already experienced abuse, and so many of the young people we work with, they're already homeless and run away, it's actually not that hard to lure a 14-year-old in.
CAVANAUGH: Right. So is there a type of story that you hear over and over from the girls that you counsel?
LLOYD: Yeah. I mean, sadly, it's kind of depressingly familiar. It's a young person who has had trauma at home, sexual abuse, physical abuse, substance abuse in the home domestic violence, young people who've been in the child welfare system, about 70 percent of the girls have spent time within the child welfare sorry at some time. So they have been separated from their families go then meet a guy. In some cases, girls are literally kidnapped. But the majority of girls it starts off as kind of a boyfriend scenario, where he's offering to take care of them, and be there for them, and before they realize kind of what's happening, all of a sudden, then, they're in the sex industry. And it isn't a choice of just being able to get up and leave.
CAVANAUGH: Now, there was a column by Nicholas Christov in the New York times recently, and one of the things he said was when we hear about human trafficking with victims from southeast Asia, or other pars of the world, our hearts automatically go out to these victims. But we don't want tend to be as sympathetic to teenagers who are victims of sexual exploitation in the United Staters. First of all, do you think that's true, and if so, why?
LLOYD: Yeah, I mean, that was kind of what the whole book was about. I think it's true because I think one, who we see impacted by this, it tends to be low income girls, boys, transgender youth, girls of color, girls who have been in the juvenile justice system, girls who have been in the juvenile welfare system, kids who are not ranking very high on anybody's priority list, kids who are already seen as damaged or abused. I mean, I was just reading before we got on the phone, the list of coverage, and I've been looking at the coverage over the last week on this case, specifically in San Diego, and an article mentioned that most of the girls were from broken homes, but some were from middle class homes as if that kind of, like, had to be mentioned in order for people to maybe pay attention a little bit more. I think if this issue was impacting frankly, white middle class kids from across the country, we would have seen a very different response to this. AND if we're looking at what happens in our own country, then we have to address who's doing the buying. This isn't some boogie man who just like -- some pedophile who gets on a plane and goes to Thailand. These are men within our community who are supporting this industry of selling of children and youth.
CAVANAUGH: What -- Rachel, what do you think are some of the big misconceptions that we have in this country about prostitution?
LLOYD: That it's a victimless crime. That it's either this idea that these girls are working their way through college, and be it's totally harmless, and they're having a great time doing it, and that may be true for a teeny, tiny, tiny percentage. But that isn't true for millions of women and girls around the world for whom the sex industry really isn't about choice. It's about lack of choices. And it's about lack of options. I think the idea, you know, that people are getting to keep the money when they're under the control of a pimp, not true. The idea that pimps are kind of, right, what we see in a movie or in cartoons or whatever, this caricature of a pimp with a big hat, a fur coat, and he's kind of like this benign figure. Pimps are traffickers, i mean, they're brutal violent adult men who are preying on the most vulnerable girls in our society.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What are some of the things these rescued teens from this Oceanside investigation are gonna have to deal with? What are they gonna have to over come?
LLOYD: There's a lot of trauma that you have to kind of process. And frankly, generally trauma prior, again, to your recruitment. So I mean for many of the young people we work with, their experience in the commercial sex industry are kind of in a long line of abuse and trauma and violence, and it has been sort of normalized. So I mean, there's that process. There's the process is kind of reintegrating back into society, into a society that is really judgmental about this issue. So the stigma that you kind of carry when people find out what happened to you, and most people don't view you as a victim, they view you as a quote unquote profit toout, and that may be your family member and your community, and even social service providers can be really judgmental. So that feeling of being really different ask kind of tainted, and you need people in your life who are gonna tell you it wasn't your fault, and this is something that you can halfrom and recover from, and that there are examples of those of us who've done that, and you need lots and lots of support.
CAVANAUGH: What about as you mention, the men who are buying sex? Who can communities do about that?
LLOYD: The first we need too just be talking about it. I think the fact that we are not even -- right? It's the dirty little secret, it's something that nobody really wants to talk about. Men -- I don't know, every time I do a panel or a conference, there's so many women in the audience, and I say, liege, how many women have asked a man in their lives, father, husband, whoever, if they've ever bought sex? The room goes quiet. This sometime something we really want to know about. In order for us to talk about -- in order for us to address this, we have to talk about. And a lot of men and boys are socialized to believe that it's harmless. That buying sex from an individual is -- there's nothing really wrong with it. And we need to be able to help resocialize men and boys, particularly boys who are growing up in this society to kind of see this very differently.
CAVANAUGH: Rachel Lloyd, thanks for speaking with us today, I appreciate it.
LLOYD: Thank you for having me.
CAVANAUGH: Rachel Lloyd is author of the book, girls like us, and founder of girls' educational and mentoring services. We have to take a short break, but stay with us, because These Days will return right here on KPBS.