Last week, I proudly joined Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, Probation Chief Jerry Powers, DCFS Director Philip Browning and local law enforcement, Probation and DCFS staff, and our advocacy partners to launch the next phase in our fight against child sex trafficking here in Los Angeles County.
Our staff has been on the frontlines since the beginning, and for the last two and a half years, we’ve raised the level of awareness of this horrific crime to the public’s consciousness. We’ve changed the understanding that these are girls—maybe a neighbor or maybe even a relative—who are being tortured with physical and emotional abuse, and sexually exploited for money.
Like everyone—I was absolutely floored when I was briefed by our Probation staff over two years ago on the situation occurring in our communities.
I have heard the horror stories of what our girls endure when they are forced into this life. But, I have also met survivors and despite everything they’ve gone through, they still have a fiery spirit and hope for a better life.
We know that the victims come into contact with staff every day across county departments.
We need to have a process in place for how we can get these girls the wraparound services needed to help them escape the streets and walk the path to a bright future.
Thanks to the efforts of Judge Catherine Pratt and our STAR Court, we’ve been able to provide much needed support, mentorship and services to our young survivors.
We are launching a set of protocols that will get more girls these services.
A collaborative effort by Probation, DCFS, law enforcement and others brought us to this point—changing culture, especially in government, can be difficult.
But when we are united by a common goal to protect our County’s must vulnerable children we get these results.
Los Angeles County’s efforts over the last two and half years have turned us into a national leader in the fight to end child sex trafficking. Other municipalities are looking at us for direction and guidance.
Let’s use this position to help change the stigma surrounding sex trafficking. I challenge every single person across the County to be a part of this shift.
Let’s start with the language. Remove the word “Prostitute” from your vocabulary.
Stop referring to these children as “Prostitutes” or “Child Prostitutes.”
Kids who are forced to sell themselves night after night on a street corner are not prostitutes. Kids who are brutally beaten by their pimp for not making a quota are not prostitutes. Kids victimized and sexually exploited by grown men are not prostitutes.
No child grows up dreaming of becoming a prostitute. They are victims—manipulated emotionally and physically into a hellish life.
We need to be there to protect these victims. We need to wrap our arms around them and get them everything they need to get on the road to recovery and the path to a better life. I’m proud of how much we have accomplished as a County so far—but now the real work begins.
The lives of our girls depend on it.