On Tuesday, Santa Clara County proclaimed the week of Aug. 21-26 as “Freedom Week.” The facts are staggering. Roughly 80 percent of slaves in the world today are women and it is an increasing problem.
In Santa Clara County a group of leaders, including representatives from the District Attorney’s office, Probation Department, Social Services Agency, and community-based organizations (CBOs) are meeting to discuss the problem here, especially looking at sex trafficking of adolescents. The YWCA along with Community Solutions is leading a countywide effort to educate the community on the very real problem of human trafficking and slavery.
The Social Services Agency estimates that 100 teens in foster care are currently either at-risk or involved in sex trafficking. These kids are often the easiest targets for pimps and human traffickers, because they are living away from home and often run away from their placements. The pimps offer them a place to stay and a new “family.”
Bill Wilson Center is also working with this group, developing new support services for youth trying to leave their sex traffickers. There is much to do be done, and I applaud all those involved in tackling this difficult problem. We cannot let these pimps come into our community and enslave our children.
Most of us are not focusing on the upcoming November elections, but there is one state ballot measure, Proposition 35, that will help us battle sex trafficking. Proposition 35 will:
• Increase prison terms for human traffickers
• Require convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders
• Require all registered sex offenders to disclose their internet accounts
• Require that criminal fines from convicted human traffickers pay for services to help victims
I hope you will join many others and me and vote “Yes” on Proposition 35.
Sparky Harlan, Executive Director/CEO at Bill Wilson Center, is a nationally recognized advocate for youth in foster care and in the juvenile justice system, as well as homeless and runaway youth.