By City Councilmember Libby Schaaf, District 4

You may have noticed new billboards around Oakland with a startling message: “Buying a teen for sex is child abuse. Turning a blind eye is neglect.”

An estimated 100 children are sold for sex in Oakland on any given night, according to police. Advocates who provide victim counseling say that it’s more like several hundred.

I started working to end Oakland’s problem of prostituted teens – a modern form of slavery and exploitation – a decade ago. I’ve spoken to many experts about combating the problem, but my most poignant memories are of late night walks on Oakland’s “track” talking with the actual girls.

Stacia (not her actual name) had run away from an abusive home at 14. Her “boyfriend,” with whom she was living, told her she needed to help earn her living expenses. Lisa was a 16-year-old single mom who wasn’t earning enough to support her and her new baby with her house-cleaning income. Both depended on their pimps to keep them from financial ruins.

That was a decade ago and, tragically, Oakland’s child sex trafficking problem has only grown. The average age of entry into the sex trade here is 12-14 for girls and 11-13 for boys. Children are recruited at and around their schools, malls, parks, foster homes and through social networking sites. Victims come from every socio-economic class and race. None of our children are safe from this threat.

The City of Oakland and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office have been on the forefront of intervention and rehabilitation, recognizing these minors are victims, not criminals. In addition to the many organizations combating this problem like MISSSEY, our District Attorney, Nancy O’Malley, is a nationally-recognized leader. She has successfully prosecuted more human trafficking cases than any DA in the country.

This year, the Oakland Public Schools have agreed to educate all 7th-graders and their parents about the dangers of sexual abuse and exploitation. Also, a newly-passed state law will require certain businesses to post signage about where exploited minors can get help.

In honor of January being National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, I urge all Oaklanders to learn more about this serious threat to our children. Great resources are Heat Watch and Protect Oakland Kids. It is an uncomfortable subject, but Oakland’s children are counting on us to talk about it.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. See our guidelines.

2 Responses

  1. r2d2ii

    One wonders about the “billboard approach” to solving the very upsetting problem of child sex trafficking in Oakland. Is this a proven method? Is there evidence for successful approaches elsewhere?

    Indeed, would-be mayor Schaaf says she has been working on this problem for ten years. Just wondering how successful her work and her kind of thinking on this problem have been over this long period. After a decade of “work” 100 children are sold every night, according to Schaaf.

    Like most of our elected officials, Schaaf seems to have good intentions. She likes to say, again like other Councilmembers and Mayor Quan, that she has been working on problems.

    Maybe we need to think more about actually solving problems effectively rather than “working” on them year after year.

    Reply
  2. Miss Park

    By City Councilmember Libby Schaaf, District 4
    You may have noticed new billboards around Oakland with a startling message: “Buying a teen for sex is child abuse. Turning a blind eye is neglect.”
    An estimated 100 children are sold for sex in Oakland on any given night, according to police. Advocates who provide victim counseling say that it’s more like several hundred.
    Stats from Sharmin Bock @ the 10-115-12 SF CAHT Meeting @ HRC in SF.
    “In Alameda County, from 1-1-06 to 4-30-12 = 251 cases felony human trafficking w/ 177 convictions. 2 cases taken by Feds.”
    That is 1.) not all underage sex trafficking & 1.) 42 cases per year. Not hundreds.
    I started working to end Oakland’s problem of prostituted teens – a modern form of slavery and exploitation – a decade ago. I’ve spoken to many experts about combating the problem, but my most poignant memories are of late night walks on Oakland’s “track” talking with the actual girls.

    Slavery is the only thing comparable to slavery. To compare human trafficking to slavery does a racist disservice to the 250 years of oppression. Respectfully request cease & desist this emotional button pushing comparison.
    Stacia (not her actual name) had run away from an abusive home at 14. Her “boyfriend,” with whom she was living, told her she needed to help earn her living expenses. Lisa was a 16-year-old single mom who wasn’t earning enough to support her and her new baby with her house-cleaning income. Both depended on their pimps to keep them from financial ruins.
    Who was the “pimp”? The boyfriends, friends, the poverty, the lack of resources, lack of agency?
    That was a decade ago and, tragically, Oakland’s child sex trafficking problem has only grown. The average age of entry into the sex trade here is 12-14 for girls and 11-13 for boys. Children are recruited at and around their schools, malls, parks, foster homes and through social networking sites. Victims come from every socio-economic class and race. None of our children are safe from this threat.
    The “Average Age of Entry” is a myth that has been thoroughly debunked. However, many NGO’s & anti-trafficking, law enforcement, anti-sex work “feminists” & politicians initiatives still used old stats, especially when it’s time to donate, vote or otherwise try to get donors, volunteers & votes.
    From Emi Koyama: http://eminism.org/blog/entry/62
    A simple chart, from Emi Koyama: http://eminism.org/blog/entry/161
    From Maggie MacNeill: http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2011/11/27/the-law-of-averages
    The City of Oakland and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office have been on the forefront of intervention and rehabilitation, recognizing these minors are victims, not criminals. In addition to the many organizations combating this problem like MISSSEY, our District Attorney, Nancy O’Malley, is a nationally-recognized leader. She has successfully prosecuted more human trafficking cases than any DA in the country.
    Current Law, including Federal and the newly adopted Prop 35 state:
    1. Minor aged youth, CANNOT consent to sex. Therefore ALL minor aged youth having sex are “trafficked”, regardless of whether or not that sex is with a partner their age, or an adult aged individual. It would behoove you, as a politician to read the statutes & understand that this is being used to futher criminalize, youth, especially, homeless & at-risk youth.
    2. Coercion does not need to be proven. Which means that any underage youth with a grudge against any adult can claim sexual assault and/or rape & not have to prove it.
    3. Per Federal TIPS, minor aged youth involved in trafficking for sex or labor, do not have to cross city, county or state lines to be considered, ‘trafficked’.
    4. Seizure of property = 70% goes to NGO’s. 30% to Law Enforcement, so there is additional fiscal incentive as well.
    5. Additionally, in order for any victim of rape, human trafficking to access restitution, the victim MUST testify in OPEN court, against a “pimp, perpetrator or trafficker”. So, again, financial incentive to create a fictional “perpetrator”, so that the victim and access restitution. Along with the fact that victims aren’t given any money. They are forced to submit applications, with receipts & the California Victims Compensation Program pays the providers, directly. NO actual money goes to victims.
    That means, any youth, under 18, having sex, even if consentual, are considered ‘trafficked’. Further feeding the “School to Prison” pipeline.
    This year, the Oakland Public Schools have agreed to educate all 7th-graders and their parents about the dangers of sexual abuse and exploitation. Also, a newly-passed state law will require certain businesses to post signage about where exploited minors can get help.

    • Do you have adequate social workers in place, because youth who have been sexually assaulted, raped & victims of incest may come forward, or want to discuss it with their families. What assistance do you have in place to support them?

    • In 2010, California had 343,793 total referrals for child abuse and neglect. Of those, 228,535 reports were referred for investigation.*

    • In 2010, 82,879 children were victims of abuse or neglect in California, a rate of 8.8 per 1,000 children, representing a 3.9% increase from 2009. Of these children, 84.7% were neglected, 11.0% were physically abused, and 6.6% were sexually abused.*

    • The number of child victims has decreased 7.4% in comparison to the number of victims in 2006.*

    • In 2010, 120 children in California died as a result of abuse or neglect.*

    The 42 odd cases per year of felony human trafficking pale in comparison to the confirmed by social worker statistics in one’s own backyard, as the agencies that do provide support & assistance to these youth are underfunded, while MISSSEY & Heat Watch are awarded undeserved grants, that end up funding NGO 6 figure salaries, law enforcement & juvenile detention.

    *Source: http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/statefactsheets/2012/california.pdf

    Additionally, anti-trafficking is rooted in institutional racism & colonialism, which remains, largely unaddressed.

    North American Congress on Latin America:
    http://nacla.org/blog/2012/9/4/old-anti-trafficking-propaganda-same-new-anti-trafficking-propaganda

    RH Reality Check:
    http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2011/01/11/todays-efforts-combat-human-trafficking-reflect-historical-racism-sexism

    Maggie MacNeill:
    http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/rooted-in-racism

    Reply

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