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San Diego County Launches Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign

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San Diego County Launches Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign
San Diego County Launches Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign GUESTS:Summer Stephan, chief deputy district attorney, San Diego County Tiffany Mester, survivor of human trafficking

If you think sex trafficking is something that usually happen somewhere else and some other city among different kinds of people than the ones you know, a San Diego public awareness campaign is about to open your eyes. The San Diego County District Attorney's Office is starting the campaign called the ugly truth to debunk myths about human trafficking. Here is part of the radio spot from the campaign.  Prostitution by numbers. 16 is the age at which the average prostituted women enter the sex trade. 50% of homeless youth engage in prostitution. To meet their basic need for food or shelter. 80% of prostituted women have been the victim of a rape and 83% of people in prostitution are victims of assault with a weapon.  Joining me now are chief deputy DA summer Stefan. She had the human trafficking task force in San Diego. Welcome to the program.  Thank you for having me.  Tiffany master is a survivor of human trafficking. Welcome to the program.  Thank you.  Summer we heard many people of the your skull prostitution a victimless crime. Have you ever thought of it that way?  I haven't. Sadly I know these victims. When they come to us beaten and broken after somebody just bought them for sex like the latest case we had used a ranch on her face. That is when we encountered there. I never saw them as victimless. The medical evidence and the everything we know tells us it is not victimless. We know that these are girls. They start as girls and young boys. Just because they turn 18 doesn't make me a victimless crime.  What is his public awareness campaign going to consist of?  This is going to be a huge campaign covering San Diego County. It will have billboards. It will have bus shelter ads. We know that a lot of the route -- run -- runaways will be at the shelters. It wasabi the health clubs because with that's where we know the buyers are. Businessmen are using the health clubs will get the real truth about prostitution. They will also be in movie theaters and across buses.  What are some of the other messages? We heard that clip from the radio at. What are some of the other messages that will be on the posters?  It is the way you started the program. It tells you what the myth is. One will read sex trafficking not in America's finest city. Then you get the ugly truth. That is that San Diego is beautiful as it is is on the top 30 list for child prostitution. It gives you the myth and then it debunk said.  Tiffany, let me turn to you. You have gone public with the fact that you were a victim of sex trafficking. Many people forced into the sex trade don't want to publicly known. Why have you decided to let people know about it?  It has always been a goal of mine from a young age, even when I was being physically abused was to use it for good. The best way I can use my story in my victimization for good is by spreading awareness and helping with campaigns such as this.  What do you think are some of the public misconceptions about prostitution and human trafficking?  The biggest myth that I have come across is that these girls like sex and so they are doing it because they enjoy it. In reality, they don't enjoy it. Another myth is that the girls keep the money and the pimps and that keeping the money. When the Johns purchased sex they think the girl doesn't because they want to do. In reality, she is forced into it. Sometimes they will take the girl for granted and rape her partakers services without paying for it. They don't understand that they are causing more harm to the girl because she gets in trouble by her trafficker.  That is a terrible picture that Tiffany just painted for us. Last week your office announced that after a year-long investigation, three people were arrested in connection with a sex trafficking operation in San Marcos. Why does it take a year to make these arrests?  These are large-scale arrests. Many arrest are happening all around the county. The ones that we like the public to know about are the ones that are the ringleaders, the ones that are responsible for a lot of the damage and a lot of the money that is being made. $800 million is being made in San Diego off the back up these prostituted women and girls and boys. The money goes to the traffickers like Tiffany said. What we like the public to know is we are hitting back. There is a human trafficking task force that is taking on the masterminds, that people have the large organized trafficking operations. In addition to the daily arrest going on, too big operations happened. It was one week after another. One close down an entire social Internet where women were being sold day after day on the Internet with thousands of subscribers. Another one was the hotel tango operation as examples.  Some people are having a hard time really believing that $100 million. Are you confident about that figure as how much San Diego is actually make it to the  Worldwide it is the second largest criminal industry. It is the second largest in the United States. What we now know is that San Diego is consistent with those United States and with the world figures. That does not surprise me. Drugs are first and second is this trafficking of humans. I think gangs have gotten involved in this because they feel that they can maybe get away with it. This at is meant to shed more of a light to give victims a place to call, to give traffickers a warning that we are coming after them, that we have come after them. Now we are making the entire community aware so everyone is on the lookout.  These posters are going to go up around the county as you said. They will go up in multiple languages. Tiffany, if you had seen a poster like the ones created for this campaign, you think it might have helped you in any way while you were still in the life?  I was in a life about 10 years ago. At that time, people did not leak prostitution to human trafficking. Just being able to see these posters and seeing how they bring out prostitution and that they teach it is human trafficking and that it is a victimization, it would've been powerful for me. It would have taken the idea that I was just a prostitute away from me and I would have been able to learn that I was being sex trafficked.  One of the ugly truth about sex trafficking is that activity tends to go up like the All-Star game. Is that one of the reasons that you are launching this effort now?  This effort is strategic because it is going to run for three months to include the Summer Trace a month, and All-Star. It is not just those two events. Anytime you have a large gathering where there are a large number of people spending money and men specifically spending money, they will spend money family on buying people. The myth that most of them have in their mind is that these people are willing participants. When the reality is that they are exploited and traffic and have to do this to survive.  I've been speaking with summer Stefan, the head of the human trafficking task force and San Diego and Tiffany master, a survivor of human trafficking. Thank you both very much.  Thank you. 

The Ugly Truth
A poster developed for San Diego County's "The Ugly Truth" campaign. It reads, "The Prostitution Myth, I don't know anyone who pays for sex. The ugly truth, yes, you probably do.
To view PDF files, download Acrobat Reader.

Following the recent arrests of three suspected sex traffickers in San Marcos and two San Diego men accused of running a prostitution website, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office on Monday announced a public awareness campaign on commercial sex exploitation and human trafficking.

The new public outreach effort is aimed at debunking myths and shining a light on sexual exploitation and human trafficking in the county.

The group behind "The Ugly Truth" campaign developed posters in multiple languages to be placed around the county on buses, in emergency rooms, at truck stops and at sex shops, among other businesses. Public service announcements also will run on the radio.

According to officials, the campaign grew out of a simple belief: That until the public understands the truth about the conditions that drive women and girls into the sex trade, and the violence prostituted persons are likely to encounter while working in it, there won't be a community consensus or public will that can lead to change.

The FBI has classified San Diego as a "High Intensity Child Prostitution Area" on a list of top 13 cities for prostituting children.

"Until our community sees the damage done to women, girls and boys being forced to work in prostitution, they will lack the will to take on this threat to our children and end demand," said Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan, who heads the county's Human Trafficking Advisory Council. "Media can play a critical role in creating this awareness, particularly in an era where TV, print, film and online representations of prostitution are often so glamorizing."

According to a recent study by the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University, the average age for entry into sex trafficking is 16.

Homeless and foster youth are at the greatest risk for recruitment, and about 85 percent of sex trafficking is controlled by gangs, according to the study.

The study also confirmed that sex trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in San Diego County.

The scale of the illicit sex economy is $810 million a year, with each trafficker controlling about four victims and making an average of $670,625 a year, according to the study.

Mester, who was trafficked by her sister and a friend when she was 13, said she didn't understand that she was a victim of human trafficking.

"In my mind, I was a prostitute," said the 27-year-old Mester, now a college graduate. "This campaign is exactly what we need."

The three-month campaign cost less than $120,000 and was funded by a grant through the county's Health and Human Services Agency, officials said.

The decision to launch the effort during the summer before Major League Baseball's All-Star Game and Comic-Con International was strategic, Stephan told KPBS Midday Edition.

"Any time you have a large gathering, where there are a large number of people spending money and men spending money specifically, they’re going to spend money sadly on buying people," Stephan said. "The myth that most of them have in their mind is that these people are willing participants, when the reality is that they are exploited and trafficked and have to do this to survive."