This message is for those who are dedicated to the anti-trafficking movement. Here are my reflections on the past year – the victory of Prop 35 and opposition – and the future of the anti-trafficking movement and California Against Slavery.
California voters just sent a loud and clear message to human traffickers: We are ready to defend and uphold the dignity and rights of our community’s most vulnerable members. Thank you for your hard work and contributions, which led to the historic victory for Prop 35 in 2012. With over 81% approval, Prop 35 is a clear mandate for justice.
California voters who supported Prop 35 this past November passed the 10 million mark at 10,078,476. Prop 35 was also the first initiative to pass with over 80% of the vote, and is the most successful ballot initiative since Californians began the process in the 1914 election.
81% is a huge victory, but some wonder why not 99%. Human trafficking is a huge industry because many people involved. I saw a Swedish poster that says one in eight men is a buyer. How would these girls be able to meet their $500 daily quota unless there’s a huge group of purchasers, exploiters, or “johns?” And a small group bought into the misreading of Prop 35 and sensational scenarios like my 10-year-old son or grandmother become a trafficker because me as an adult wants to sell my body. Let me assure right now that this is not true. Let me also insert here that sex workers who vehemently promote prostitution may be the squeaky wheel, but they do not represent the most women trapped in it. Read the studies on www.ProstitutionResearch.com.
And within the anti-trafficking community, there were oppositions expressed. Most were due to differences in perspectives, and others were simply untrue.
I’ve learned in the process about the importance of survivor voices in the movement. It’s possible to lose focus on the big picture and turn this heinous crime into a philosophical or ideological topic. But survivors have to deal with the aftermath of their abuse on a daily basis. They can help this movement focus on the core issue that has compelled you and me to join it. They tell the human stories behind human trafficking.
As movement, every forum, every project, every training must have survivor voices in the epicenter. This is why Prop 35 and California Against Slavery featured survivors in videos that you can see on our website. This is why we have them be our spokespeople in the media, write the op-eds, and co-sign the ballot arguments.
I urge the community to take a broad view of what it means to be victim centered. I like to use the analogy of the boat. If someone is pushing people off the boat, we need someone on the bottom rescuing them and helping to restore them. But we also need someone to stop the person who’s pushing people off. Preventing the next person from being victimized is just as victim-centered as providing services to survivors.
The work to stop human trafficking is more energized now than ever. We need to come together as one community and use every tool available to tackle this issue from every angle.
Moving forward together
Now, we have a tangible numbers behind us to press forward. Prop 35 is a real change. Every major change in history has been politicized because every movement faces resistance. But as a community we need to make real change. We need to take the big steps. And yes they are riskier and more difficult than the tiny steps. But real lives are at stake.
If people want to politicize it, let it be. But we as a community have to be focused on saving lives and preventing this crime. We must keep pushing forward, pushing the envelope.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” MLK Jr.
Let’s not let challenges and controversies scare us from bold steps forward.
Future of California Against Slavery
Many have asked what California Against Slavery will do next. At this point, I can assure you that whatever we do next is where I believe we can make the most impact and add the most value. My vision for CAS is not for it to be a permanent organization. It will exist as long as we can add value and make significant changes.
In the next few months, I will be looking at the needs and where CAS can make the most impact.
A human trafficking measure now holds the record as the most popular initiative in CA history. This is a huge win for our movement. And we need to ride on this mandate from citizens in CA.
The US 19th abolition movement had Abraham, the civil right movement had Martin Luther King, and overseas the Indian Independence movement had Gandhi. These men sacrificed their lives.
If we are to win this fight against human trafficking, we have to be willing to make personal sacrifices and take courageous steps for change. History will judge us justly. We are on the right side of history.
Executive Director, Founder of California Against Slavery