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/

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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

Today was a fantastic day. The Central Valley Justice Coalition, along with Ronna Bright of Central Valley Against Human Trafficking and FPD Officer Fries, was invited to be a part of “College Hour” at Fresno Pacific University and to speak with students at a special coffee hour afterwards. It was a great honor to share with students and staff about the reality of human trafficking the the community and the role that believers play in responding to it.
We’ve had wonderful opportunities over the past few months to meet with people throughout the community and provide education, training, inspiration, and other tools. Thank you to everyone who has responded.
We encourage you to keep asking God how He wants you to move forward and feel free to contact us. We treasure the partnerships we have and may have among you in this community.