One California Judge is Trying to Fix the Way US Courts Treat Sex Trafficking Victims

Hoo boy. This is one of those pieces that makes you want to stop everything you’re doing and find a way to help.

A lot of young women – often very young women – who work as prostitutes all over the world are there because they’re victims of sex trafficking. They were abducted, tricked, or even sold by their families into sexual slavery, working under threat of violence to pay off a ‘debt’ that never diminishes. Yet in the US, it’s not the pimps or johns who get arrested when the cops show up – it’s the girls; and instead of helping them escape slavery, the system makes their lives even worse.

“But in Los Angeles County, Judge Catherine Pratt has set up a special juvenile court to help victims of sex trafficking.

During the last few years, Pratt has been consumed by her work helping young victims of sex trafficking get treated as just that: victims. She says it’s been a tough battle because the justice system treats anyone who sells sex as a criminal — even a child.

In normal juvenile courts, young women who are picked up for prostitution don’t get counseling and other services — they get punished. Girls can be sentenced to juvenile detention or forced to testify against their exploiter…

Pratt remembers one case that made her believe the system was broken. A young girl was asked to testify against her pimp, in a public adult court, in a case that involved her being drugged into unconsciousness. She was asked by the district attorney to review a tape of the incident, which she had never seen, and identify the defendants in the court.”

I cannot even.

In a desperate search for an upside, thank goodness awareness of this crisis is beginning to gain traction, and people like Judge Catherine Pratt are working to find ways to enact some desperately needed change.