You Are Here: Home » COMMUNITY » Forum on the issue of commercialized child exploitation in SCC

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Arturo Hilario
El Observador

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As April brings about warm seasons and change, an important social issue comes to light during the 4th month of the year. April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and to show support the County of Santa Clara brought experts of the field to host a public forum on Monday the 14th  at the Board of Supervisors Chambers at 70 West Hedding.

The aim was to highlight what is happening in our community in regards to sexual exploitation, and the strides to combat this troubling trend. The purpose of the forum included talking about the data that revolves around commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking and the perspectives of the guest speakers, whose experiences help shape the context of commercialized sexual exploitation of children.

Indications from findings by the Institute of Medicine show that the range of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking victims is 1,400 to 2.4 million nationwide. Within Santa Clara County nearly all of the victims have been girls, thus the importance of the Commission on the Status of Women’s active support and participation in the forum. Their expert testimonies, among many others in the field, helped those in the audience understand and begin to process this issue.

This open forum allowed people with different roots and life experiences to try and aid in deciphering the causes, psychology and theories behind the victims and their victimizers. Those victimizers can include authority figures, which routinely arrest or send youth to homes for being runaways under current laws and regulations. Guadalupe Rodriguez, the chair of the Commission of the Status of Women, began the discussion by addressing that the purpose of the forum and open discussion format was to better understand “crisis intervention and long term stability for sex victims.” She added that the findings of this forum “will also lead to a greater understanding of the realities of commercial sexually exploited children in Santa Clara County.” These findings will be available to the community at large.

Expert testimony included Captain John Tepoorten of the San José Police Departments Bureau of Investigation. His background includes over 28 years of duty with the SJPD, where he worked a variety of assignments including Patrol, as well as K-9, Homicide, Sexual Assault, and Gang Investigation Units. His current position within the Bureau of Investigation includes working on cases involving children who have been sexually exploited. One of his poignant stories recounted a 13-year old runaway girl who was involved with prostitution, and suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder from her years working for a pimp who routinely abused her. The part of the story which was the hardest for her to tell was that this  grown woman, with all the distancing from that part of her life, could not change the haunting of that life to the present day. “20 years after, it all came back”.

The changes and measures that are necessary to combat and help the victims of commercialized sexual exploitation are reachable, if the community is informed and able to help in any way. This forum certainly will be used to continue methods of approach, and most importantly to help those who have already gone through the torment.

If you would like to include comments or your own experiences, the final record of the forum will be closed after April 30th at 5pm. Until then you can send in your written testimonies to the county to be added to the finalized record. Contact the Santa Clara Office of Public affairs for more information at (408) 299-5151.

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