Dana Point Women’s Club donates $1,000 to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking
By Steve Sohanaki
When Jackie McElroy, domestic violence chair of the Dana Point Women’s Club, learned that the human trafficking of young women into sexual slavery is happening throughout southern Orange County, she immediately got involved in the fight against it and made arrangements to share her knowledge with fellow club members.
During a gathering at the Dana Point Community House on Nov. 6, the club donated $1,000 to the Coalition Against Slavery and Trafficking. The message of the gathering was that human trafficking and sexual slavery aren’t things that only happen in faraway places; it happens in south county too.
The donation, she said, was made after the club’s research found their membership impressed with the organization’s work.
“It’s so sad that these young girls get taken advantage of and they have no one to help them,” McElroy said. “Our goal is to spread awareness about this issue in Orange County so people get educated and are able to help.”
Guests included CAST Communications Manager Sabrina Wong and featured speaker Orange County Deputy District Attorney Brad Schoenleben, who specializes in human trafficking cases.
“Anywhere there’s a hotel and money, there’s bound to be human trafficking of sex slaves,” Schoenleben said. “People have this notion that human trafficking involves people in third-world countries being packed into crates, but in reality, that’s not the case.”
During his presentation, Schoenleben said human trafficking can be any illegal movement of a person who’s forced into labor. The DA surprised the audience when he said that Orange County is actually a go-to place for traffickers due to the area’s wealth and abundance of customers.
“There’s this myth that prostitutes make a lot of money, but most of their money, if not all of it, actually goes to their pimps,” Schoenleben said. “Their pimps use physical abuse and psychological methods to control them and take their money. Most of these girls are 12 to 16 years old and are too scared to do anything about it.”
Some of the methods of control pimps utilize to dominate their prostitutes include branding them with tattoos, telling them they love them, not allowing them to have any breaks and controlling whom they have contact with by taking their cell phones and money.
When Schoenleben was asked how many of the victims were brought from over the border, he replied that 72 percent of sex slaves in California were born in the state and it is a common misconception that most sex slaves are smuggled in to the U.S. from foreign countries.
“Most of these girls don’t want to have anything to do with law enforcement,” Schoenleben said. “Even thought their pimps beat and abuse them, they still think they love them. It takes time to convince these young women that there’s a better life than what their pimp is providing for them.”
For law enforcement and prosecutors, arresting prostitutes is an ineffective strategy because the girls often refuse to turn in their pimps and usually return to prostitution upon release. The only way to effectively combat trafficking and sexual slavery is to arrest the pimps, which can be hard to do if the prostitutes refuse to turn them in.
When asked if he had knowledge of traffickers operating in Dana Point, Schoenleben confirmed that he recently prosecuted a pimp who was doing business not far from the clubhouse and that human trafficking is abundant throughout the coastal cities of southern Orange County.
For more information about human trafficking and CAST, visit www.castla.org/homepage. For more about the Dana Point Women’s Club, see www.danapointwomansclub.org.
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