Social welfare field faculty member Michelle Talley has worked with some of the victims of human trafficking and in September put on the first of three forums at the Luskin School on human trafficking.
With a proposition on the state ballot to enforce stricter penalties against those caught trafficking in California, Talley answered some questions about Proposition 35 and what it could mean if it passes and if it does not. For more information on all of the propositions and to read about former Governor Gray Davis and Assembly member Cameron Smyth's debate on the propositions at a Luskin event, please click here.
Question: Although most would vote to pass Prop. 35, some in fact reject the proposition. What are the most prominent reasons why it should not go into effect?
Michelle Talley: Although it seems like it will help to protect victims of commercial sexual exploitation, it also does not solve the problem. "Criminalization" without comprehensive supports and services never solve the problem. The victim is also at risk of further being exploited, as one would need to testify against the trafficker. This may place the victim at more risk of harm and abuse if the trafficker is not convicted. This proposition was not well written and thought out to combat the problem long term.
Q: Could you expand upon the financial ramifications of passing such an act? Would a measure such as this be taxing to resources?
A: The financial ramifications would be great. It seems like the financial resources would go to survivors of trafficking but a comprehensive approach is needed and the amount of financial gain would not cover what is needed to support the survivors. Also current services have not been evaluated long term to assess if they are meeting the needs of the victims.
Q: How are those responsible for human trafficking currently found, convicted and punished? It seems that many continue, and have systems in place, to successfully evade the law.
A: Yes. The trafficker who is at the mastermind of the organization is not reachable. There are previous victims not placed in the role of trafficker (bottom girl). The "bottom girl" is the one that is usually on the streets and have the direct contact with the victims.
Q: The issue of human trafficking remains a mysterious and elusive topic for many. Where in the world is this problem the most prevalent? Does it occur to a great extent with the United States itself?
A: Yes, it is a bigger problem than most would like to think or imagine. Homeless, foster, and probation youth in the U.S. are the most vulnerable. This is a huge problem that is growing as the local gangs are now using sex trafficking to increase revenue. There are more financial gains as they are able to use the same "girl" over and over again. Some reports say that Los Angeles County is the second largest county that hosts sex trafficking. Most of this is domestic. Although there still remains the problem internationally it is a growing problem within the U.S.
Q: The potential revenue that the proposition could bring may be used to benefit human trafficking victims. In what ways would this support be implemented? What support can we offer these victims?
A: There will be an opportunity for some of the existing services to be expanded to support more victims. Although the services have not been evaluated thoroughly, the existing services seem to meet some of the youth's needs. Different types of services such as vocational programs could also be explored or added. Additional services could also be added. Some of the money gained can be used to further research this problem to ensure the services reflect the needs.
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