Your Turn: Must pass the CASE Act (Prop 35) to fight human trafficking in California
by District Attorney Nancy O’Malley (Op-ed published in Contra Costa Times on June 30, 2012)
In 2010, a 13-year-old girl from San Francisco came across the Bay Bridge to Oakland. She thought that she was visiting friends, but one of these so-called friends put her in the clutches of a human trafficker. She was taken to a house where her clothes were taken away, all contact with her family cut off, and she was put out on the streets for sex trafficking.
At all times, a man with a gun followed her, and she was abused physically, mentally and sexually. She was forced to have sex with strangers for money collected by the trafficker.
This girl represents just one of the many women and children caught in the web of human trafficking throughout California and the Bay Area. I’ve seen the faces of children who have suffered at the hands of traffickers and heard their halting stories of abuses and traumas.
For these children, we must pass the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act (Proposition 35) this November. The CASE Act (Prop 35) is a ballot initiative that will fight back against human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women and children.
For more than a decade, I’ve been on the front lines of fighting trafficking, first by establishing pilot programs combating child sex trafficking, and later by starting HEAT Watch, a program that pools local resources and brings communities together to combat the sexual exploitation of children.
The CASE Act (Prop 35) will help district attorneys like myself and other law enforcement agencies crack down on trafficking by increasing prison terms for human traffickers, requiring convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders and requiring all registered sex offenders to disclose their Internet accounts to the authorities.
Other states are making these requirements part of their laws; it is time for California to do so as well.
Increasing penalties against human traffickers is our first line of defense against these crimes. The sociopaths who engage in trafficking rarely target just one person. Their networks are vast and they often use victims to recruit others. They destroy lives through manipulation and violence.
To human traffickers, the CASE Act (Prop 35) sends a clear message: California will not allow you to prey on our women and children.
The CASE Act (Prop 35) will also use fines imposed on convicted traffickers to pay for victims’ services. Helping victims break free from exploitation is an important part of fighting trafficking. It may be too late to prevent years of abuse, but it’s not too late to give victims a second chance at life.
I saw a 14-year-old girl transformed by victim services after she escaped from being trafficked. She became a child again, not just another victim condemned to a life of misery.
To many people, it may be shocking that human trafficking is happening in our community. But I can tell you that the problem is real and it’s growing.
In the district attorney’s office, we’re seeing 10 times the caseload of human trafficking cases than we had 15 years ago.
There’s no time to lose in this fight. We must seize the opportunity to protect women and children by enacting tougher penalties against traffickers. We must give law enforcement the tools its needs to fight back against these crimes. We must give victims a chance at a safe, stable and fulfilling life.
Pass the CASE Act (Prop 35) this November.
District Attorney Nancy O’Malley was sworn in as the Alameda County’s first female district attorney in 2009. She has been an attorney in the district attorney’s office since 1984 and has prosecuted thousands of felonies, including numerous human trafficking cases.