CHINO – La Veda Drvol is a survivor.
And she wants nothing less for thousands of young girls who are trafficked into the United States just to be sexually exploited.
“God saw me through everything that happened to me so I could be of help to someone else in the future,” Drvol said.
Hoping to spread the word about human trafficking, the Chino Hills resident hosted an informational meeting last month at the Mosaic, a faith-based organization that meets in Chino and elsewhere.
A small group of community members sat in silence as the stories of lost childhoods unfolded on the big screen TV.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008 defines a human trafficking victim as a person induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud or coercion.
Any minor who performs a commercialis considered a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud or coercion was involved.
According to the U.S. Department of State, 800,000 people are trafficked internationally every year, and between 14,500 and 17,500 of them are brought into or moved around the United States.
After drug dealing, human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today, generating $32 billion in annual profits. UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center reports that between 1998 and 2003 more than 500 people from 18 countries were involved in 57 forced labor operations throughout California.
Prostitution accounted for 47 percent of the cases.
Several types of sex trafficking cases have emerged within the United States including club operations with inflated price schemes, residential brothel settings or pimp-controlled prostitution at truck stops.
“I’m absolutely surprised,” said Carlos Scoltock of Chino. “I’m overrun with numbers. I live five miles from a truck stop.”
San Bernardino County’s District Attorney’s Office has filed 91 prostitution cases in Juvenile Court since January 2005. In one year Ontario police made more than 500 arrests with 300 of them 18 or younger. Most of the 18-year-olds had been prostitutes for at least two years.
Like many children who are forced into prostitution, Drvol was sexually abused as a young child, then raped later on in her youth.
After hearing about human trafficking problems abroad, Drvol wanted to know what resources were available in her community.
“I was horrified how little was known,” she said. “These are people being trafficked for sexual abuse. And people who were supposed to help didn’t even realize the extent of the problem. It’s in our backyard.”
Many victims arrive in California illegally, believing that they have agreed to honest work in legitimate places of employment, and not to virtual slavery in brutal conditions with no freedom to return home or to contact their families, the Human Rights Center reports.
Sometimes na ve or desperate parents will turn their children over to traffickers believing that they are giving them the chance at a new life in the United States.
Once a victim, escape is almost impossible. According to Trafficking in Persons Report 2009, various forms of coercion are used against victims, including threats of deportation, as well as severe harm to reputation or finances that make victims feel they have no choice but to continue in service.
Drvol found out that the only suitable place for sexually exploited children in Southern California is Children of the Night center in Los Angeles.
Ontario police refer children there, but the kids must volunteer for the program, and there are only 24 beds.
The United Nations International Labor Organization estimates that 12.3 million at any time are engaged in forced labor and sexual servitude, including as many as 2 million children.
As if the statistics were not bad enough, the global economic crisis is making more people vulnerable to labor and sex trafficking, the Department of State stated.
“This is modern slavery, a crime that spans the globe, providing ruthless employers with an endless supply of people to abuse for financial gain,” said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The demand side of human trafficking is also going up. According to the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime, the worldwide rise in modern-day slavery is a result of a growing demand for cheap goods and services.
In an effort to eliminate human trafficking at home, the federal government designated $23 million in 2008 for domestic programs.
Also in 2008, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Innocence Lost National Initiative led to 486 arrests, 148 convictions at state and federal levels, and the recovery of 245 children. The U.S. courts ordered traffickers to pay restitution awards totaling more than $4 million.
As of April, 42 states, including California, had passed criminal anti-trafficking legislation.
“There are some sick people out there,” said Chino Mayor Dennis Yates. “We have a responsibility to find out where our products come from.”