Donald A. Promnitz/The Madera Tribune
Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward discusses the issue of human trafficking Thursday at the monthly meeting of the Madera Republican Women Federated at the Madera Municipal Golf Course.
Human trafficking and child sex slavery became the the topic of discussion at the Madera Republican Women Federated’s most recent monthly dinner.
The Thursday evening at the Madera Municipal Golf Course event saw Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward discuss the efforts of his office to tackle the sex trafficking problem in his county, as well as the warning signs of a potential pimp and a prospective victim. In his speech, Ward outlined that his office has been able to assist in the cases of 30 victims of human trafficking, and is working on the prosecution of 15 cases against alleged predators related to this crime.
“There’s no such thing as a child prostitute. A youth, underage, cannot consent to that,” Ward said, “but as a society, we want to frame, or pigeonhole, if you will: ‘well, they’re child prostitutes.’”
According to Ward, the average age in which a girl is trafficked is between 12 and 14 years. Eighty percent of girls who are runaways, he said, will be contacted by a trafficker within their first 48 hours on the streets. Victims encountered by his office, however, have reportedly come from all walks of life.
“Our victims that we’re seeing in Tulare County aren’t being brought by one stereotypical group,” Ward said. “They’re not coming from one socioeconomic background, they’re not all runaways — certainly some are.”
These victims, according to Ward, had been trafficked from across California. It was also common, he stated, for them to be held in hotels for days on end, coerced by their pimps and traffickers into having sex with numerous men in any given day. Afterwards, they are commonly taken to another location to
repeat the cycle.
Throughout the presentation, Ward also presented cases encountered by his office, including one in which a young girl had been reportedly tricked by an acquaintance on social media into performing sex acts for money. This contact, Ward said, later turned out to be a 42-year-old man posing as a teenage girl. The attorney used the incident to stress the dangers of social media.
“If you take nothing else from this, go home,” Ward said, “and check your childrens’ cellphones — your cellphones as well.”
Ward also urged families to teach their children about the dangers of trafficking, particularly if girls are dating older men.
“The real first responders in this crime are not law enforcement, not us, not a community group,” Ward said. “The real first responders are the junior high kids that are going to school with these victims.”