Human Trafficking Conference Held in Fresno
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The number of cases of human trafficking in the Valley is growing exponentially ... and those involved are mostly young girls involved in sex trafficking. New numbers show there were nearly 20-thousand victims of forced labor in the U.S. over a five year period. Most of the victims were in California, Florida, New York and Texas. This alarming trend has experts from dozens of Valley agencies coming together to find help for the victims.
Carissa Phelps was just 12-years-old when she was sold for sex. She had run away from home and was living on the streets of Central Fresno when she turned to sex for survival. Carissa said, "I had learned about it through things at home ... TV ... and now through people who were on the streets ... so when a friend's uncle asked me to go with him and asked me if I took care of him he would take care of me ... I knew what that meant ... even at 12-years-old. "
Because of her experience ... Phelps is passionate about helping other sex trafficking victims. As an attorney and an advocate she helped spearhead the first ever conference on human trafficking in Fresno on Wednesday. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center shows 32 reported cases in Fresno County for the years 2008 and 2009 combined. In just the first quarter of 2010, there have been 14 reported cases of human trafficking. The numbers represent only those victims who've come forward ... many don't ... for fear of retaliation by their pimps ... or fear of prosecution.
Jody Ketcheside of the Central Valley Freedom Coalition said, "They need to be recognized as victims ... because they aren't criminals ... many of them are minors and aren't even old enough to consent for sex ... let alone be prosecuted for criminal prostitution."
Ironically it's often an arrest that first removes victims from life on the street. But Phelps is working to gather the resources to help heal the deep wounds sex trafficking can leave behind.
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