Check out what Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe
has to say about yoga reducing violence in juvenile hall from UpRising Yoga!
JUN 11, 2012
Rising up to help victims of child sex trafficking
Last week, I had the great privilege of participating in a fundraising event for UpRising Yoga. For the last several months, Jill Weiss, the head of UpRising Yoga, and her team of volunteers have been going to our Probation Halls to offer yoga classes to our young people. In this short time, we have already seen a decrease in fights and altercations. While I am not much of a yogi myself, I am thrilled about the impact they are having at our Probation Halls!
I think that the most important part of my job as a County Supervisor is to protect the most vulnerable in our community. That is why I am absolutely committed to ending the child sex trafficking that is occurring right here on our streets in Los Angeles County.
I think of it like I do the Safe Surrender program, which I have been working on for 10 years. Through this program, 91 babies have been safely surrendered, giving a baby who might have ended up in a trash bin or the ocean a chance at a happy and productive life. Similarly, a new path forward is what we are trying to do for the victims of child sex trafficking.
What can we do to end this horrific crime? First, make people aware. I can’t tell you the number of people I talk to about this issue who can’t believe it is happening right here in our streets and neighborhoods. It is not a problem “over there.”
A few weeks ago, we publicly launched a new outreach campaign in collaboration with Metro and Clear Channel. All buses, trains and stations will have posters and fliers about child sex trafficking. Clear Channel generously provided over 65 billboards to be shown across the County. This is a great example of the public and private sectors coming together to address a community issue.
In addition to raising public awareness of this crime, our Probation Department is developing a comprehensive prevention and healing program which I am confident will be a model for other cities and counties across the nation. Because of the great success that UpRising Yoga is already having at our Halls, Probation has decided to make it a part of the healing for these victims. We hope yoga will be a big part of the physical and emotional process for these girls to move on to a better life.
Sadly, during last week’s event, we learned that a 10 year-old girl had been picked up for prostitution that evening. This was the youngest girl we have had enter our system for prostitution and a sickening example of the depravity of those behind this crime.
I would like to thank Jill and her team for their extraordinary commitment to be there for our kids, week in and week out. These incredible volunteers are spending a lot of their own time to help the most vulnerable in our community. This is not an easy topic to confront, but I know they can have a profound impact on a young person’s life, by giving them a chance for empowerment and control over their own bodies and lives.
June 6 Event to Benefit CSEC in Los Angeles
When Los Angeles County Probation Department workers recently analyzed arrest data for prostitution, they found numbers that defy the notion that underage sex trafficking is a Third World problem. In 2010, 174 prostitution cases that were referred to the department involved girls under the age of 18. Another 2,351 involved 18-to-24-year-olds, officials said.
“People just don’t realize that child sex trafficking is happening right here,” County Supervisor Don Knabe said Thursday at the launch of a campaign to heighten public awareness of the problem. “Some as young as 12 and 14 are being bought and sold on the streets of Los Angeles County.”
Posters in Spanish and English are being installed in thousands of Metro buses and rail cars and Clear Channel Outdoor is donating space on 65 digital and conventional billboards to call attention to the sexual exploitation of youngsters. Metro has also released nearly 80,000 brochures asking members of the public to call a hotline -- (888) 950-SAFE -- if they see a young person they believe is involved in the sex trade.
“They’re kids who have no attachment,” and are susceptible to the enticements of pimps who promise to care for them, said Michelle Guymon, a placement director for the probation department. Girls as young as 11 have been picked up for prostitution in the county. She said the average age of teen prostitutes her department works with is 15, but many report that they started on the streets when they were 12.
Statistics paint a grim picture of poverty and troubled family lives. Of the 174 underage cases analyzed by probation, 84% of the girls were from poor communities in the county’s southeast. Nearly 60% of them had been in the child welfare system and 92% were African American, officials said.
Guymon said she was working with one teenager who lost both her parents to AIDS. In some cases, she said, young teens have been sent to the streets to earn money to support the drug habits of their mothers. “We’re trying to look at them more as victims than as criminals” and get the girls in touch with support services, Guymon added.
But unless harsher penalties for pimping are enacted, she said “things will never change for the girls.”