Lyles: Good and bad news on measure
By Dick Lyles
Proposition 35, The Human Trafficking Initiative, mandates that those found guilty of human trafficking will face increased prison sentences and fines. Money collected will go toward services for victims and law enforcement. Traffickers will have to register as sex offenders. The proposition will also strengthen registration requirements (such as disclosing online identities) for all sex offenders, protect use of victims’ past sexual conduct as evidence in court, and require human trafficking training for police officers.
The good news is that it will probably pass with the highest margin of any question on this year’s ballot. Only a few who are either irretrievably stupid or morally bankrupt will vote against it — reminding us that as a species we humans are not that long out of the trees.
Don’t misunderstand. Proposition 35 is not perfect. For example, the law mandates higher penalties for trafficking adults than for trafficking minors. But these minor flaws are not the bad news.
The bad news is the implicit statement Proposition 35 makes simply by appearing on the ballot. This kind of law should have been fast-tracked through the state Legislature years ago. Yet our Legislature — virtually guaranteed of perpetual incompetence by term limits — has done nothing, and neither has our governor, most probably because these victims don’t have union representation.
But the complacency doesn’t confine itself to elected officials. One can reasonably argue that many laws already on the books would make it tougher on traffickers, if only they were used. For example, if Utah can convict a polygamist cult leader for accessory to rape charges because he married an under-age girl to an older man, then why can’t pimps be tried on the same charges for arranging rapes with dozens of different men who are several times the ages of their young victims? How long could we incarcerate pimps if they were convicted of multiple counts of accessory to rape? How about convicting a john for rape? California laws do apply in these cases. The problem is that those who could apply them don’t.
The dilemma here is akin to the challenge that exists in dealing with child predators. Not enough people care enough about the victims. We often stigmatize them and blame them for their plight. The result is we go easy on the predators.
Don’t get me wrong. Programs for helping victims are popping up all over the place. But one that received front page coverage on USA Today this week serves a total of 50 young women. Low estimates predict that there are more than 100,000 victims annually in America. This means this program is serving one-twentieth of 1 percent of those victimized, leaving 999,950 victims unaided each year. That is 99.995 percent!
San Diego County ranks 10th in the nation in sex trafficking for minors, almost all of whom are female. The problem exists in all our communities, not just those neighborhoods with long histories of illicit sex trade. And we are not doing enough to fight it.
Every governmental entity should have a plan to address this issue beyond the requirements of Proposition 35. For example, local governments should review zoning ordinances to see what can be done to eliminate possible locations for such activities. Schools should have aggressive programs to educate teachers on how to identify or prevent potential problems. Each of us should be on the alert, because the problem is more pervasive than most of us think.
Dick Lyles, a Poway resident, is a business/management consultant and best-selling author.
Roost works in the book publishing industry. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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