Eggman bill would help victims of sex trafficking

Assemblywoman Susan Eggman has reintroduced a bill that aims to aid children exploited by sex traffickers.

Assembly Bill 223 would call for a pilot project in three counties — San Joaquin, Alameda and Sacramento — in which the county’s probation department or child welfare agency, or both, would be required to create a program to offer services to juveniles who have been sexually exploited.

The bill, if passed, would include funding in order for the counties to include programs that assess a victim’s condition, provide “trauma-informed” counseling and provide trained staff and peer mentors. A keystone of the legislation would be to secure a “protective setting secluded from the victim’s trafficking environment” within one of the participating counties.

Eggman, D-Stockton, said it is difficult to reintegrate victims into society, especially when they must stay in the same city where they were trafficked and remain vulnerable to get siphoned into it again. The bill would make it easier for victims to make it out of the illegal trade by placing them out of the area and providing wraparound services, she added.

“I think we all know it’s a critical need in our Valley,” Eggman said. “We know it’s a growing problem, and we need to do everything we can to repair the lives (of victims) and provide them options to repair their lives after they escape human trafficking.

“It’s not enough to punish (their predators) if we don’t provide the care for survivors,” who oftentimes are the most vulnerable youth, Eggman said.

Human trafficking is a market-driven criminal industry, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, a national anti-trafficking hotline serving victims. It’s a form of “modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his/her will.”

The bill is in the Assembly’s Committee on Human Services.

Eggman and then-Assemblywoman (now State Sen.) Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, introduced a similar that Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed in September.

At the time, Brown wrote: “There are numerous federal, state and local efforts underway to combat commercial sexual exploitation of children. In this year’s budget, the state provided $19 million to fund the development of trafficking prevention and intervention services. Establishing a new pilot program in this area should be considered in the budget process.”

Supporters of the bill include the American Academy of Pediatrics, California, and the County Welfare Directors Association of California.

San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar also is in favor of the legislation.

The bill “would offer services to a particularly vulnerable group of youth who live each day at the mercy of their traffickers,” she wrote. “The bill would provide shelter specifically designed for those youth who are manipulated and exploited on a daily basis, to remove them from the immediate access of their traffickers…”

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By Almendra Carpizo
Record Staff Writer

Posted Mar 18, 2017 at 1:41 PM