SF launches campaign to fight human trafficking

January 11, 2010 10:21:46 PM PST
The city of San Francisco is joining forces with several public and private agencies to fight human trafficking in a big way. They want to raise awareness and pass legislation to help stop child trafficking cases.

Saundra Domingue was forced into prostitution as a young girl.

"There were a lot of promises of this being a glamorous life, but it was not 'Pretty Woman.' Some of the women were beaten with chains," she said.

Domingue is now an advocate for other victims of trafficking. She was at City Hall on Monday when Mayor Gavin Newsom launched the collaborative effort against human trafficking that includes the city and non-profit groups.

Among participants is San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon.

"This is slavery. There is really no other way to put it," he said.

One of the first things the newly formed collaborative wants to do is help pass a bill in Sacramento that would allow district attorneys to prosecute child trafficking cases without having to prove in court that they were forced.

"The fact that she is 15 in that circumstance is statement enough about the predatory nature of that offender," San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris said.

"San Francisco has a big problem with human trafficking," Newsom said.

The government says California is a major entry point for trafficking with almost half of the victims entering through the Bay Area.

They're forced to work not only in the sex trade but in sewing factories, farms and households.

"In the case of the person who is 60, she's been working for a family for about 15 to 20 years," Hediana Utarti from the Asian Women's Shelter said.

The new collaborative is also gathering signatures for a ballot measure that would among things, give at least half of the assets seized from traffickers to victims' support groups.

"So hopefully, we are going to take the financial incentives out of this horrible situation," St. Senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said.

While San Francisco may be a hub for human trafficking, the new collaborative hopes the city can also become a hub for change.


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