Action Force Network Newsletter
Wed Sep 2, 2015
Giving a Voice to the Voiceless
Survivors are adamant, if they had been educated about the warning signs and tactics employed by the perpetrators, they would have been armed with the knowledge they needed to protect themselves from falling victim to the horrific crime of sex trafficking. That is why AFN is unyielding in its passion, commitment and dedication to educate communities and empower our youth about this crime. It can happen to anyone! Jolene is not the exception...
In some ways Jolene is like most survivors; strong, tenacious, resilient and determined to fight to end what held her captive for 10 years...sex trafficking. With that spirit of determination, she leads a weekly trafficked survivor support group in Orange County offering encouragement to any girl who has escaped the commercial sex trade industry. However, what sets her apart is her unwillingness to hide in the shadows fearing public scorn for what our society has classified as the "World's oldest profession" prostitution. She is brazenly transparent when talking about her years "in the life" wanting such honesty to shine a light on the evils of this crime. She has been free for three years and is only now coming to terms with the psychological chains her traffickers had on her for ten years in captivity.
In an effort to expose the realities of this crime, she speaks openly about her servitude; the rapes, the beatings, being taken from state to state to work the major sporting events and making hundreds of thousands of dollars for her trafficker, only to be left broke and homeless after his arrest. Not unlike most survivors, her real disdain isn't for her trafficker, it's for the countless buyers or "johns" that purchased her. "The buyers are the true evil in the war on sex trafficking. The traffickers may be the ones selling the girls, but they wouldn't be in the business of selling them as commodities if there wasn't anyone buying." (Human trafficking is now a $32 billion a year industry second only to drug trafficking.) Jolene wants to have stronger penalties for anyone who is found guilty for purchasing sex. "If a man had to spend ten days in jail after his conviction, it wouldn't over crowd our prisons, but it would be a strong deterrent for any CEO, Sunday school teacher, lawyer, mechanic, husband, father, Politician or anyone else who thinks they can purchase a girl for an hour."
She is also not shy about talking openly regarding her childhood. Born into a California middle class family, her mom a nurse & college instructor and dad employed in the agriculture industry, as the middle child, she was targeted by her dad and endured years of emotional and physical abuse. Her mom unwilling to acknowledge the abuse classified her as a "troubled child" and offered no help or way of escape. Jolene ran away from home several times in her young teen years trying to escape the pain. She finally left at age 18. With no real plan in place, she found herself homeless at Union Station in Los Angeles where she met a young man that offered her help and assistance but unbeknownst to her, he was a trafficker. Soon after that meeting, he had her working selling her body to make money for their new "family". A couple years later she would become pregnant by him.
"I was arrested about eight times throughout my years in the life. The charges were prostitution, soliciting with the intent of prostitution, loitering with the intent of prostitution, and trespassing. The arrest experience was always the same. I was harassed and my money was taken by the police with absolutely no services offered to me or intervention. I always considered them the enemy and was trained by my trafficker to never say anything about him. I was also too scared to say anything fearing they wouldn't help me if I did."
After four years, she was able to get away from her first trafficker when he was arrested on another charge. Her baby was 8 months old then, so trying to build a normal life, she went to work and began supporting herself. She never received therapy or the help that she desperately needed to recover from being a victim of trafficking.
Being a single mother with a broken family she found herself desperate for a way to provide for her child. Going to school and working long hours became lonely and she found herself comforted by her second trafficker. In a matter of months, he convinced Jolene to leave her child with her mom for a few days so they could go out of town. It was then she was trafficked across the country and signed guardianship of her child to her mom at her traffickers demand.
This left her even more broken and lost than ever before. Her mother moved from Northern California down to Southern California, which eventually became a blessing and escape for Jolene. After a number of times of leaving and going back, Jolene was finally able to leave for good. "When I was finally able to leave him, I went to an Easter service at church and accepted God into my heart. On a visit with my daughter she looked me in my eyes and told me she never wanted me to leave her again. That was the moment I knew I had to make a change... that along with seeing three girls I knew in the life be killed that year." (The two leading causes of death for trafficked victims are murder and suicide).
The same survivor's spirit that kept her alive for those ten years in the life is what enables her to build a life today. Wanting to clear her criminal record, she fought to have one of the charges dropped by identifying herself as a victim of trafficking, not a willful prostitute. In a landmark decision in the state of Nevada, the judge granted her request. She made history being the first adult in Nevada to have a prostitution charge cleared and be classified as a victim of trafficking.
Jolene now works full-time for a transitional housing program in Orange County and is a youth leader in her church. She volunteers to tell her story in classrooms and churches to educate the younger generation regarding the perverse world of sex trafficking, knowing it is the one weapon in this fight that will be effective in combating this crime. She still struggles with her family relationships and is fighting to regain custody of her daughter. Her dream is to have a welcoming and God loving home and family. She wants to open a home for other survivors to help them in transitioning into a new life. Her desire is to teach them about God's love and help them through the hardest part of leaving the life...RECOVERY!
Action Force Network is honored by the request of The City of Mission Viejo to provide a Community-Wide Awareness Night on Monday, September 28th to help educate and inform parents and teens on how to "detect and protect" themselves from the tactics used by predators to lure our children into trafficking. Please join us for an eye-opening presentation designed to protect our communities and youth from the fastest growing crime in America - human trafficking.
The need is certainly there. Human trafficking happens every day in Orange County and local youth are at risk of falling victim to this crime. The average age of a trafficked victim is 12 to 14. Worldwide, human trafficking is a $32 billion-a-year industry, and California has the highest reported human trafficking cases in the country. Orange County is a hotbed for this crime. In fact, it has become such a problem here that the District Attorney's Office formed the Human Exploitation Trafficking - or HEAT - unit in 2013 to combat it.
Through a host of experts and people impacted by this crime, the September 28 presentation will cover the victim profile, recruiting tactics used by perpetrators, warning signs of a dangerous relationship, local statistics, safety practices and resources. The night’s itinerary will include:
- Action Force Network - Overview of sex trafficking
- What is Sex Trafficking
- Recruitment tactics used by the pimps
- Warning signs of a dangerous relationship
- Ann Sarmiento - Mother of OC Trafficked Survivor
- Cyber Safety Cop Sheriff Clay Cranford - Online dangers - Safety Practices on the Internet and Social Media
- Sgt. Juan Reveles & Lt. Baker - Reports of Sex Trafficking in South Orange County
- Updates on Task Force Efforts in OC
- Open Forum Q&A
This event is recommended for mature audiences only, no one under the age of 13 should attend. It will take place at the Norman P. Murray Senior Center, 24932 Veterans Way in Mission Viejo on Sept 28th from 7:00 - 9:00pm.