Proposition 35, Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, on the California Ballot tackles a torture chamber of human rights abuses. One atrocity it seeks to end is the sale of thousands of children in this state for sex. It happened yesterday, it’s happening today, and it will happen tomorrow.
Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Sharmin Bock reported that many child sex trafficking victims are sold ten times a day at $50 per assault as traffickers profit over $150,000 yearly from each child slave.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children issued a “conservative estimate” that 100,000 children in the U.S. are being sold for sex. California has 12% of the nation’s 10-17 year olds. California also has 23% of U.S. metro areas designated by the F.B.I. for having a “high intensity” of children being sold for sex.
These crimes are modern slavery, whether using the definition of the United Nations or the Federal Government. As President Obama stated, “the outrage of human trafficking . . . must be called by its true name: modern slavery.”
Since 2000, federal law established that any minor subjected to a commercial sexual act is a sex trafficking victim. However, current California law requires minors who have been sold for sex to prove coercion, force, or fraud to prove that they are victims. Otherwise, they are criminals. Prop 35 will correct that injustice.
Since 2000, over 5,000 juvenile arrests in California have been made for the crime of being enslaved and sold by the fraction of an hour–about 700 were of children between 12 and 14 years old. Every one of those arrests represents child sex abuse, a child rapist, and a child sex trafficker.
Some election endorsements have suggested voting “no” on Prop 35 because not all human trafficking and legal experts, social work practitioners, law enforcement professionals, judicial prosecutors, and politicians agree an all elements of Prop 35. Another reason offered for a “no” vote on Prop 35 is that voters should let the state legislature determine when and how to address human trafficking.
When English abolitionists tried to raise public and political support to end slavery, they made a compelling appeal in 1787 through a medallion depicting an African man in chains asking, “Am I Not A Man And A Brother?”
The effectiveness of their appeal was making the free and protected actually care about the enslaved and abused. Prop 35 supporters are attempting the same with video testimonials of child sex trafficking survivors.
Yet politicians wrangled over the issue for another 20 years before passing the Slave Trade Act, which didn’t emancipate slaves yet merely ended the slave trade. Another 25 years passed before Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act.
The 1776 Declaration of Independence stated that “all men are created equal,” but it wasn’t until the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation until progress was made towards legalizing that statement.
In 2012, if it were my or your niece or nephew, son or daughter, sold in increments of minutes, 10 times a day, every day, with the most likely legal response being arrest rather than rescue, criminalization rather than protection—we would not be content to wait and see what the legislature might do or insist that every detail be agreed upon unanimously without a single difference of opinion.
We would not be willing to wait, after waiting 12 years already, for the state legislature to match federal law recognizing these children as victims rather than prostitutes. Nor would we agree that further deliberation over details of the CASE Act should take priority over acting with urgency and aggressiveness to the brutal savagery being inflicted upon our child.
From our fellow Californians, we would hope for the same outrage they raised against Jerry Sandusky’s crimes to be vented on behalf of our sexually abused child. We would find it incredulous that the livid protests against Sandusky’s offenses did not apply to our child despite the additional offense of the “barbaric . . . debasement,” in Obama’s words, of also being sold into victimization.
The suggestion to let the legislature address injustice because it’s their job to do so and they know how best to do it sounds quite reasonable, which is why it is so insidious. The alluring snare that we needn’t take personal and pressing responsibility to protect others has perpetuated the worst human rights abuses in history—and still does.
In 1849, the Constitution of the State of California declared, “neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude . . . shall ever be tolerated in this state.” 163 years later, we’re still tolerating it.
Prop 35 is a moment in the history of abolishing modern day slavery in California. History holds its harshest judgment for inaction during injustice. Vote “yes.”