“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery.”

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp says that is the unvarnished reality of prostitution and for those who become ensnared by it.

“They live in fear that the pimp is going to hurt their family.”

In an interview with GV Wire, Smittcamp says many are unwittingly lured in by traffickers who know how to prey on the trust of their victims – and even families.

Victims Feel Powerless to Escape

“A wolf in sheep’s clothing” is how Smittcamp describes many of these predators. “Sometimes (family members) think, ‘Oh look, he’s such a nice guy.’ Their daughter met the man of her dreams,” she said. “And, all of a sudden, she disappears.”

A perfect example of how such a scenario might unfold was the Christmas Day arrest of a Kennedy High School soccer coach in Sacramento on suspicion of selling underage girls.

Traffickers then “break” their victims with threats and physical violence. That leads to a feeling of utter powerlessness, Smittcamp says. “They’ve lost their self-worth and they live in fear not only for their own life, but they live in fear that the pimp is going to hurt their family.”

Fighting Back Against Trafficking

Smittcamp points out the key to combatting human trafficking is to shine a bright light on the crime. “When you know better, you do better,” she said.

Sending a message that the community is fighting back is also a critical part of the strategy, Smittcamp continued. “It’s not going to be ‘carte blanche’ anymore. The longer they do it, the higher the risk is of getting caught.”

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