Anti-Sex Trafficking groups are calling on the California Legislative Women’s Caucus to live up to their stated goal of “ensuring the safety of all women,” by opposing a bill to make it easier for sex traffickers to exploit poor women. SB 357, a bill authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to legalize loitering for prostitution, has already made its way through the Senate and is now ready for a vote any day by the full Assembly.
Over 50 anti-trafficking organizations, sex-trafficking survivors, family values non-profits, and several individuals signed an SB 357 opposition letter sent to all 38 members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. The letter asks the caucus to “formally” oppose SB 357 for three main reasons.
First, the bill would cripple law enforcement’s ability to arrest and prosecute sex traffickers/buyers enabling an increase in human trafficking demand and gender-based violence. Secondly, SB 357 moves California toward full decriminalization of prostitution for survivors, buyers, and exploiters. And finally, the bill degrades low-income communities where women and families live making them unsafe and vulnerable to human trafficking and other gender-based violence.
One of the SB 357 opposition letter signatories is Sable Horton, sex-trafficking survivor, founder of Shades of Beauty, and 2021 SF Coalition Against Human Trafficking Abolitionist of the Year.
“As a survivor of human trafficking, I find that the SB 357 bill that Senator Scott Wiener recently introduced, although likely introduced with good intent, falls short when it comes to protecting and defending some of the most vulnerable populations,” Horton wrote in a recent media release. “When I read the bill I was disheartened because instead of sharing the true fact that girls and women of color are disproportionately affected by human trafficking in our nation, the Senator made it seem like this group simply gets judged and targeted because they are minding their own business and standing on corners, and that’s just simply not the case.”
“I believe this bill is attempting to use the plight of exploited individuals to push the ‘sex work is work’ agenda, an agenda that does not speak for nor defend the rights of those forced into the industry,” Horton continued. “People get into sex work for the same reason people are vulnerable to exploitation, because there is a need somewhere that is not being met. The need can be anything, whether spiritual, emotional, material, or psychological. People, like me, who are forced into the sex trafficking industry go through unimaginable pain and trauma. We are raped, beaten, tortured, our identity is stolen, we are threatened, and often killed.”
Horton concluded her comments by writing, “If this bill is enacted in our community, then more people like me and like so many others who have been exploited, will become even more invisible and fall between the cracks that have already claimed so many lives. This bill and the ‘sex work is work’ agenda does not speak for me, it does not speak for survivors of human trafficking, nor does it take into account the growing issue of sexual exploitation.”
Another letter signatory was Dr. Stephanie Powell, the Director of Law Enforcement Training and Survivor Services with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. As a 30 year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, she understands the dangers of legalizing loitering for purpose of engaging in prostitution.
“[SB 357] cripples law enforcement in its ability to arrest and prosecute human sex traffickers,” Powell explained in a recent radio interview. If prostitutes are waving down cars on any public street, in any neighborhood, in front of any business, or if a girl walking to the store is continually harassed by sex buyers, “the police will be able to do nothing about it.”
“It also repeals law enforcement’s ability to make contact by arrest or by citing sex buyers, who would be loitering for the purposes of prostitution,” Powell said. The goal of the bill “is to pave the way to full decriminalization of prostitution,” she explained.
SB 357 was approved last week by the Assembly Appropriations Committee 12 to 4 with Democrat members voting yes and Republicans voting no. The bill could be voted on by the full Assembly as soon as tomorrow. SB 357 will also need to go to the Senate for a final concurrent vote if it is to make it to Governor Newsom’s desk by the September 10 deadline.
Call to Action:
Click here to Call Your Assembly Member “Don’t Help Sex Traffickers Sell More Women: Vote No on SB 357”