Central Valley Justice Coalition has been moving forward to address an issue that has been on our hearts and minds and drawing boards for sometime- human trafficking hidden behind the doors of illegitimate massage parlors.
Within our community are many legitimate, skilled massage practitioners offering important beneficial therapeutic services. We want these businesses to thrive in their part in bringing wellness.
However, there are also businesses under the name “massage,” whose aim is not wellness, but profit through exploitation of their workers. These businesses entice the women, who come from other countries under false pretenses of promises of a job in the U.S.
Most often, a girl arrives from a foreign country with little, aside from a work visa, hope for a better future, and poor understanding of the English language. She may immediately apply for amnesty, but the process to attain this is a relatively slow one and requires an amount of money she is unlikely to possess (in the thousands.) This makes her an easy target for sex-traffickers who advertise in publications that are distributed in U.S. cities. These ads give the promise of easy work and comfy accomodations which lure the unsuspecting girls to cities such as Fresno. (of course, transportation is provided by the ‘do-gooders’.)
Then the exploitation, humiliation, threats of shame and violence begins.
Once they are brought to the massage parlors, they are compelled to work, and for the most part, the work includes providing sexual services for their customers in addition to forced labor doing massage. The women are either directly or indirectly demanded to perform sexual acts for their customers. Even among those given an option to decline, they may comply in in order to make enough money in hopes of survival outside the walls of their prison one day.
The women are paid very little money and are refused the option to leave their job. This refusal, and the demand to work, is backed up by withheld identification documents and visas, threats that law enforcement would arrest and mistreatment them, threats that they will be harmed, threats that their family would be shamed and/or their families would be harmed, the actual use of force, and physical, emotional, and mental harm. They also face the fact they are in a strange country with little or no English language skills, no resources, no understanding of the laws, no one to go to for help and to start a new life. They are required to pay for their housing and meals out of their meager pay. They eat, sleep, and work in the same building and are not allowed to leave the premises.

This is not just a “possible” situation in Fresno. There are already numerous documented cases by the Fresno Police Department, who have been actively working on effective law enforcement.

Here are some “Statistic Snapshots” from the forefront human trafficking organization, Polaris Project:
* “Johns” who frequent brothels disguised as massage parlor make it a “hobby” to buy sex and to track all massage parlors nationwide. There are more than 5,000 brothels disguised as massage parlors nationwide.
* Standard pricing structure: Johns pay a house fee of $60 – $90 per half hour or hour plus they occasionally pay tips; the women are pressured to “please the customer” in order to receive tips. These unpredictable tips are the women’s sole source of income to pay the numerous fees and interest rates they are charged by the network.
* Standard day for a woman in a brothel disguised as a massage parlor: 10am – 2 or 3am, 7 days a week
* Estimated average number of men a woman must have sex with daily: 6 -10

As bad as all this is, this is not the extent of the injustice done to the women, as well as to all those affected. For one, everyday in these businesses means that each woman’s identity, giftings, potential, and dreams are be suppressed.
On top of that, almost always the women do not realize that they are human trafficking victims (see “What Is Human Trafficking?”). This adds difficulty to the task of helping them, because police officers cannot respond to them as victim, if the women do not report themselves as victims, and the police cannot tell the women that they are victims. As victims of human trafficking, victims are not culpable for the activities they have been compelled to do by force, fraud, or coercion. Often, if women do not report themselves as victims, however, police have little choice but to arrest or cite them for the apparent crimes they see.

So what are we doing? We have been helping bring the issue to light. We know that there has been a growing concern from the community and we are partnering with law enforcement to educate the community.
We have also been working with local authorities to get an ordinance developed, approved, and implemented in the City of Fresno. The ordinance will serve to strengthen laws for businesses that provide massage services, in order to provide deterrents and legal ramifications for sex and labor trafficking in illegitimate massage parlors.
Actually, that’s one of the areas where we need your help.

What You Can Do
The Central Valley Justice Coalition is holding informational meeting concerning human trafficking in massage parlors on August 4 and August 13.
Our informational meetings will provide information about human trafficking in the massage parlors, and proposed actions to provide deterrents and greater legal action against this activity.ommunity. FPD Sergeant Chastaine from the Central Valley Human Trafficking Task Force will be giving a presentation along with representatives form the Central Valley Coalition.

Information on the meetings are as follows:
Thursday, August 4, 12:00 p.m., Fresno First Baptist Church parlor room, 1400 E Saginaw Way, Fresno 93704.
Saturday, August 13, 9:00 a.m. Fresno Pacific University BC Lounge.
(These meetings are identical in content, so it is only necessary to attend one meeting.)
Please RVSP with the date you intend to attend at cvjusticecoalition@gmail.com.
We would also appreciate your help in spreading the word to others and inviting people to attend one of the meetings.

We also need support in prayer. We ask you to intercede for the work to end human trafficking in massage parlors, those being oppressed, which includes both the women and those involved in the trade, our law enforcement, our local leaders, including our councilmen and mayor, our community, and the Central Valley Justice Coalition. See our prayer guide for some tips.
Contact us if you would like to support the work of CVJC at 725-1865 or cvjusticecoalition@gmail.com.
More information by Polaris Project on Asian Massage Parlors.

Central Valley Justice Coalition is honored to be supporters of the local ministry Beauty For Ashes, founded by Gina Loera.
Beauty For Ashes reaches out to women, boys, and girls trapped in prostitution and human trafficking* with the love of Christ. For most, if not all sexually exploited persons, there is no one they feel they can trust. The people in their lives have manipulated, used, and physically, emotionally, sexually abused them for their own gain. According to a recent survey of prostituted women throughout the U.S., most prostituted women surveyed said they would like to leave, if they felt they could. So what keeps them from leaving? For many or most, they have a seller or sellers (commonly called a pimp) who uses threats, control, and violence to control them. I have seen how these sellers has gone as far as tattooing those they came to own with their own name, so the women/girls know who they belong to. For all the victims, there is the the problem of not having another way to support themselves and any children they may have and, again, not having anyone they can trust.
Notice how I’ve mentioned girls and boys among the victims. The average age in which females are brought into commercial sexual exploitation is 12 to 14. Most of those being sold out on the streets either are or started off as children. There are also boys, and men, that are being sexually exploitation.

Beauty For Ashes’ approach to those they serve is simple, yet calls for great commitment and love: Every Friday night, they go out to tracks in Fresno, areas where commercial sexual exploitation occurs, give gifts bags to women (girls and boys) they encounter, and offer prayer. And then they return the next week. That regular presence has helped form relationships in which trust can be built, where openness to the gospel can be given a door, and where the women can seek help to leave, if they wish.

We want to invite you all to consider getting involved in supporting Beauty For Ashes. We will have a “Gift Bag Party” on Monday, June 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Fresno First Baptist Church campus.
This will be an opportunity to help make the gift bags for the month, but also to here from Gina about the ministry and their needs. Gina will be going on maternity leave at the end of July.

Among the greatest needs of the ministry are regular volunteers to commit to go out on Friday nights, both men and women. Volunteers do not have to go out every week, but we do ask that they commit to a regular schedule, such as twice a month, the first Friday of the month, etc.
We also need:
Volunteers to get donations of gift bags items or donate themselves (see Gift Bag Items)
Volunteers to prepare gift bags once a month
Volunteers for the Prayer Team

Gift Bags Items Needed:
Items such as lotions, candy, body wash, hand soap, nail polish or make-up, body spray, hair accessories, small Bibles or devotional books.

*What is the difference between prostitution and human trafficking? By federal definition, human trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor service or sex acts (from adult victims) for financial gain. If the women being sold for sex is doing so without use of force, fraud, or coercion, by federal definition they are not human trafficking victims. HOWEVER, both prostitution and sex trafficking is considered commercial sexual exploitation. Any as noted before, women that may continue to be prostituted without the force, fraud, or coercion of a seller, started off as children who were sold, and thus were human trafficking victims.

So we have many bills currently proposed in the state legislature. (see our previous post)
However, even if these pass, there are still needs to be addressed that are not in the current law. One major need is for the state law to reflect the federal definition of human trafficking of minors in prosecution of perpetrators of such a crime. In order to prove that a suspect is guilty of sex trafficking of an adult, it must be proven that there was force, fraud, or coercion involved. However, any juvenile who is being sold for sex is a sex trafficking victim, regardless if force, fraud, or coercion was used, according to the federal definition of human trafficking. As of yet, though, California state law requires that force, fraud, or coercion be proven for all human trafficking cases, including those involving juvenile victim. (Fortunately, California has one of the highest ratings for key Human Trafficking provisions, granted by Polaris Project)
California Against Slavery is working to get an initiative on the 2012 California ballot.
According to the group, this ballot initiative would strengthen California’s human trafficking laws by:
Increasing penalty for human trafficking from the current 8-year maximum in prison to a maximum of life in prison and fines up to $500,000
Protecting minors by allowing prosecutors to prove sex trafficking of a minor without a showing of force
Mandating human trafficking training for law enforcement officers.

To get the initiative on the ballot, they need to get 700,000 signatures and raise $1 million.
CAS has a list of their needs and volunteer opportunities on their website at http://californiaagainstslavery.org/get-involved/

Dear friends of The Central Valley Justice Coalition,
We would like to invite you to partner with us in sending Christine Riley and Gina Loera (leading Beauty for Ashes Street Outreach) to the International Christian Conference on Prostitution. The conference is May 22~27 in Wisconsin.
This is a tangible way that we believe you can invest in the work God is doing through Gina and Christine with those who are trapped in prostitution in our city. They will receive valuable training and make strategic connections with others working toward the same goal, and be personally encouraged in many ways.
The need for your donation is URGENT and TIME SENSITIVE. The total amount needed is apx $2000. To make your tax deductible donation online, go to http://www.fresnofirst.org/connect/onlinegiving/ . (NOTE:When giving through paypal, MAKE SURE to indicate in the memo that the donation is for “Justice Coalition/Conference” so that your donation get to the right account. Or, you may donate through mail or in person at Fresno First Baptist Church, 1400 E Saginaw Way, Fresno, CA. 93704)

Also, Central Valley Justice Coalition member Brandi Nuse-Villegas is helping to raise finds by offering professional massage therapy sessions.
Contact Brandi to make arrangements for an appointment at brandi.nusevillegas@yahoo.com or at 305-2617. This is available for individuals or small groups at your convenience (sessions held at your home or church).

Thankfully and humbly,
The Central Valley Justice Coalition

Legislative Options to Fight Human Trafficking

Welcome, friends!
It’s been a busy year so far, and we are happy to start launching our blog updates.
You ask, How can I get involved?
One of many ways is to contact your representatives and ask them to support efforts to end human trafficking.
Contact your council members, mayors, state and national congressional representatives. Tell them about human trafficking, see what they know and what they are doing, and encourage them to take steps to respond to human trafficking in their area of influence.
We in Fresno are blessed to have an active partnership with one of our councilmen, whose district happens to include several major tracks of commercial sexual exploitation/ sex trafficking. He has been invited and has sent his assistant to several of our events and he is learning much.

In California, we have at least seven bills in the legislature related to efforts to end human trafficking. Read up on the bills. Contact your representative and share your passion to end human trafficking and ask them for their support concerning the bills you support.

A summary of the current proposed bills:
AB 12: Abolition of Child Commerce, Exploitation, and Sexual Slavery Act of 2011. It would require that
a person who is convicted of a crime involving substantial sexual
conduct, as defined, with a victim who is under 16 years of age, or
who seeks to procure or procures the sexual services of a prostitute,
if the prostitute is a minor who is under 16 years of age, be
ordered to pay an additional fine of $25,000 to be deposited in the
Victim-Witness Assistance Fund to be available for appropriation in
the same manner as specified above. The current fine is $5,000.
http://e-lobbyist.com/gaits/text/74652.

AB 90: This bill would also expand the scope of the offense of human
trafficking to provide that any person who causes, induces,
encourages, or persuades a person under 18 years of age to engage in
a commercial sex act, as defined, with the intent to effect or
maintain specified felonies is guilty of human trafficking.
California Against Slavery is trying to get an initiative on the 2012 ballot.
See http://e-lobbyist.com/gaits/text/236043

AB918: This bill amends a 2000 law to punish gang related activity to add pimping, pandering, and human trafficking as offenses that may be used to establish a pattern of criminal gang activity punishable by law.
See http://e-lobbyist.com/gaits/text/227527

SB 557: proposes development and authorization for a city, county, or city and county to establish a multi-agency, multidisciplinary family justice center to assist victims of domestic violence, officer-involved domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, stalking,
cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and human trafficking, to ensure
that victims of abuse are able to access all needed services in one
location and to enhance victim safety, increase offender
accountability, and improve access to services for victims of crime,
as provided. The bill would permit the family justice centers to be
staffed by law enforcement, medical, social service, and child
welfare personnel, among others.
http://e-lobbyist.com/gaits/text/275825.
AB 764: This bill would allow an individual taxpayer to designate on the
tax return, that a specified amount in excess of the tax liability be
transferred to the Victim-Witness Assistance Fund and that all moneys contributed to the fund be allocated for community-based
organizations that serve minor victims of human trafficking.
http://e-lobbyist.com/gaits/text/243719

SB 123: California Runaway, Homeless, and
Exploited Youth Act would require, subject to the availability of adequate resources, the California Emergency Management Agency to develop , in collaboration with the Senate Office of Research and various interested parties, a statewide plan for runaway, homeless, and exploited youth, as specified.
http://e-lobbyist.com/gaits/text/232988

AB 1188: Amends the Victim’s Bill of Rights Act to include, within the definition of a violent felony, crimes related to the willful harm or injury to a child, assault resulting in death of a child under 8 years of age, and cruel or inhuman corporal punishment of a child, as specified. The bill would include, within the definition of serious felony, the crimes
noted above as well as human trafficking and luring or transporting a
minor away from the minor’s home without consent.