San Diego was at the top of the headlines for a story [video] that broke on April 18, 2011 about a prostitution and trafficking ring that was busted in Oceanside CA. Many of the reports stated that 30 underage girls were rescued during this bust. What happened to the girls? An editorial posted in the North County Times accused law enforcement of leaving children in danger while the police continued their investigation. So again where are the victims, and who is providing services for them? The truth may be that there was not 30 girls rescued that day, and in fact the girls were rescued over an 18-month time span, while investigators built a case against the traffickers. So why was it spun this way in the news? Well your guess may be as good as mine, but it probably has to do with making the story more powerful.
Marisa Ugarte, Executive Director of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, stated in a KPBS radio interview that her agency received 3 of these girls in order to provide services for them. Ugarte also stated that these girls were not left in harms way during the investigation, contrary to many accusations. Ugarte stated that, like domestic violence issues, the community does not want to know about this issue of child trafficking in San Diego. The views on domestic violence may have changed in our community, but child trafficking is still burdened with stigma and misunderstanding. Rachel Lloyd, Executive Director of the New York-based Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) and author of the book “Girls Like Us” stated, in this interview, that 70-90% of victims are from broken homes and are runaways. However, Lloyd pointed out that there were girls involved in this San Diego incident, which came from middle class families. Lloyd claims that the first step in addressing this issue is to keep talking about it. Many are unaware of who these girls are and who the solicitors of these girls are. Studies show that the majority of individuals who pay to exploit children for sexual reasons are white middle class males who are married.
When it comes down to it, San Diego should not be outraged that this bust may have been misrepresented in the news or that there may have been a discrepancy in the number of girls being victimized, but they should be enraged that there are men in San Diego who make this crime profitable and prevalent.