Jada Pinkett Smith: How Moms Can Help Stop Sex Traffickingby Jill Simonian
Are you "political?" I'm not. Never have been. I've voted in every election since I turned 18, but I'm not "political." (I'll admit, the most riveting thing I've done recently to affect society is expose hidden germs on TV).
That said, I'm voting YES for California Proposition 35... and I'm voting with all my might. As a woman, citizen and MOM, I'm taking this imperative proposition personally. My eyes well up with tears when I think about it. And I can thank a famous Hollywood mom for it.
Attending Jada Pinkett Smith's joint discussion panel with The Moms this past week opened my eyes and shook me to the core about the horrific and realistic issue of sex-trafficking in the US. I was disgusted. I was moved. I was utterly dumbfounded.
I had no idea - NO IDEA - the numbers of young women and children who are held against their will and forced (through psychological brainwashing and actual physical force) to sell their bodies at the hands of men masquerading as boyfriends and guardians of these women and children.
The FBI has identified San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego as high intensity child sex trafficking areas. Voting YES on California Prop 35 will solidify penalties for human traffickers by increasing prison terms, requiring them to register as sex offenders and mandating that they disclose their internet accounts (sex trafficking is most prevalent online, with traffickers selling women and children to purchasers online... yes, that includes Craigslist).
A YES vote on Prop 35 (CA) will also mean that the victims will remain victims in the eyes of the law, as opposed to being prosecuted and incarcerated as though they were willing participants (the law currently views these victims as accessories to the crime).
I was appalled by the facts of this industry that I learned last week. But on the upside, I was inspired by Jada Pinkett Smith's passion for this issue and for her candid admission that it was her young daughter who initially brought it to her attention, asking "Mom, do you know that there are girls my age being kidnapped and sold for sex?" Jada's daughter Willow is 12 years old.
Becoming mothers does strange and remarkable things to us women. Even though I'm barely a few years in (with a 2 year old and a 7-month old), being a 'mom' for me includes having a mind turned toward the future and getting much more emotional that otherwise considered appropriate.
Sitting in a swanky meeting room filled with members of the media and mom-bloggers like me, I wept. Yes, I wept like a real mother that day... many of us did in that room. I was proud to weep.
I wept for the 23-year-old survivor who told her story of first being sold for sex at the age of 4 years old so her mother could have heroin.
I wept listening to Leah Albright-Byrd, as she told her story of being forced into trafficking when she was 15, getting out alive and starting a foundation called Bridget's Dream to help other victims.
I wept for the brave parents who told their story of their star-student daughter who ended up with the wrong boyfriend while attending college, a man who brainwashed her, abused her, threatened her life and sold her for sex... she is now incarcerated, as though she were the perpetrator of the crime.
I was horrified by these true stories told firsthand, but I am forever honored to have been in their presence. Their strength, their faith, their dedication to overcoming the most unthinkable. Again, thank you Jada.
Sex trafficking seems so farfetched to so many of us, but for where many of us live it's happening in our own backyards. In the words of the brave parents that openly shared their story with us that day, consider this: Victims of sex trafficking are victims of kidnapping, brainwashing, physical/mental abuse and molestation/pedophilia all in one.
That's heavy. And that makes the mom in me get scared, enraged and downright bossy. Californians have a chance this election day to change the law so that these underage victims can get the help they need (as opposed to being treated like criminals, as they are now) and so human traffickers will have tougher penalties for being the pedophiles, abusers and criminals that they are. The passing of Prop 35 (CA) is merely the beginning of a nationwide campaign.
As a tough mother, I am proud to vote YES of CA Prop 35. Will you?