Jun 11, 2012
Rising up to help victims of child sex trafficking
Last week, I had the great privilege of participating in a fundraising event for UpRising Yoga. For the last several months, Jill Weiss, the head of UpRising Yoga, and her team of volunteers have been going to our Probation Halls to offer yoga classes to our young people. In this short time, we have already seen a decrease in fights and altercations. While I am not much of a yogi myself, I am thrilled about the impact they are having at our Probation Halls!
I think that the most important part of my job as a County Supervisor is to protect the most vulnerable in our community. That is why I am absolutely committed to ending the child sex trafficking that is occurring right here on our streets in Los Angeles County.
I think of it like I do the Safe Surrender program, which I have been working on for 10 years. Through this program, 91 babies have been safely surrendered, giving a baby who might have ended up in a trash bin or the ocean a chance at a happy and productive life. Similarly, a new path forward is what we are trying to do for the victims of child sex trafficking.
What can we do to end this horrific crime? First, make people aware. I can’t tell you the number of people I talk to about this issue who can’t believe it is happening right here in our streets and neighborhoods. It is not a problem “over there.”
A few weeks ago, we publicly launched a new outreach campaign in collaboration with Metro and Clear Channel. All buses, trains and stations will have posters and fliers about child sex trafficking. Clear Channel generously provided over 65 billboards to be shown across the County. This is a great example of the public and private sectors coming together to address a community issue.
In addition to raising public awareness of this crime, our Probation Department is developing a comprehensive prevention and healing program which I am confident will be a model for other cities and counties across the nation. Because of the great success that UpRising Yoga is already having at our Halls, Probation has decided to make it a part of the healing for these victims. We hope yoga will be a big part of the physical and emotional process for these girls to move on to a better life.
Sadly, during last week’s event, we learned that a 10 year-old girl had been picked up for prostitution that evening. This was the youngest girl we have had enter our system for prostitution and a sickening example of the depravity of those behind this crime.
I would like to thank Jill and her team for their extraordinary commitment to be there for our kids, week in and week out. These incredible volunteers are spending a lot of their own time to help the most vulnerable in our community. This is not an easy topic to confront, but I know they can have a profound impact on a young person’s life, by giving them a chance for empowerment and control over their own bodies and lives.