From my earliest years, I was raised in a home marked by abuse and a family struggling with addiction. At age 14, I left home for what I thought would be a better life. But instead I ran right into the arms of a human trafficker who sexually exploited me for profit.
For too many years, I was trafficked on the streets of California including in Sacramento and sold online as well. I was vulnerable to recruitment and, as a child, easy to control.
When my trafficker was finally convicted, he served only three years. Today he is out of prison, back on Facebook flaunting a Bentley and other assets and I suspect is trafficking young women and girls again. It is because of my experience that I strongly support Proposition 35.
I ask that you support Proposition 35 in recognition of the struggles of thousands of California women and girls, some as young as 12, who are sold on California's streets and online. The problem of human trafficking is real, local and urgent. Proposition 35 will take concrete steps to end this plague in our community and our state. I want to share a few reasons why your yes vote is so critical.
This is an urgent issue. Women and girls are shuttled between Fresno, Sacramento and the Bay Area and even sold online. They are born here, trafficked here and sold here. Three of California's cities rank among the worst 13 in our country for child sex trafficking. Across our community, too many families know the anguish of losing a daughter to a trafficker and deal with the lifetime of pain that comes with it. This issue is not about statistics; it is about real girls and women who are being forced to sell their bodies for the profit of others.
This is a well-designed initiative. Proposition 35 contains narrow and specific guidelines for law enforcement and prosecutors. It was written by one of the most experienced sex trafficking prosecutors in the state. Like the federal law, it increases prison sentences for human traffickers. Like the federal law, Proposition 35 removes the requirement to show that the young girl was forced into prostitution. Proposition 35 is supported by every major law enforcement organization in California, representing more than 95,000 law enforcement officers, and by district attorneys around the state.
Proposition 35 also requires convicted sex traffickers to disclose their Internet accounts. Today, there is an explosion of the use of online and social media tools to recruit and traffic women and girls. I was just one of thousands of girls who have been sold online for sex. The criminals who traffic women and girls for sex online are most certainly sex offenders, and they should register their email addresses and other online identifiers so they cannot engage in online sexual exploitation any longer.
This proposition protects young women. Like the federal human trafficking law, Proposition 35 removes the need to show coercion or force to prove exploitation a massive help to those who are prosecuting the traffickers. This mirrors the well-established rape shield law, where a woman's actions cannot be used against her. This makes sense and helps empower young women to speak out.
This proposition puts the traffickers in jail, for a long time. Today, a convicted trafficker will be back on the street in no time and a survivor, and her family, must make a harrowing choice between trusting the legal system and their long-term safety. Too many human trafficking survivors tell us that they are reluctant to testify against those who exploit them because the jail time is just too short. Proposition 35 brings sentencing in line with federal standards and will empower girls and their families to stand strong against those who traffic them.
California passed one of the nation's first state-level human trafficking bills in 2005 but stopped there. Since then, we have tried to get the Legislature to move bills to increase fines, sentencing and online safety, but it lacked the courage to fight for new laws. Sadly, in a recent hearing that I attended on behalf of Proposition 35, some legislators treated us and our cause with disdain.
I faced life on the streets alone, with no one to turn to. Today, we have a chance to say to any girl being exploited that millions of us stand with her and that we will fight for her safety and for justice. Please join me in voting yes on Proposition 35.