By Megan G. Razzetti and Gustavo Buenrostro
Sex trafficking, undocumented survivors of sexual assault and sexual consent were all the topics of workshops the past week for Sexual Assault Awareness month.
The Sex Trafficking workshop was held last Tuesday. The workshop was presented by the East Los Angeles College Sexaul Assault Awareness Violence Education and East Los Angeles Women’s Center. “Sex traffickers can look so innocent,” said ELAWC Outreach Specialist Lisa Vargas.
The use of social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook are just a few places where sex traffickers look for their victims.
The use of social media is just one of the many tactics sex traffickers use to lure victims into a life of slavery.
Vargas says that social media is also used to groom underage pornography and other sex services. “There is a huge market for children,” said Vargas. “There are men out there who are willing to pay more to have sex with a child than a woman.”
Adults are more likely to buy and sell children because they can be groomed from a young age.
“Growing up, you are able to do what you want with them and help them grow into this kind of service,” Claudia Arevalo, Hotline Coordinator of East Los Angeles Women’s Center, said.
Victims of sex trafficking are made up of those living in poverty, addicted to drugs or runaways. Gang affiliation is also a factor, which includes selling women or prostitution within a gang or others for a profit. “Use a slave to catch a slave,” said Arevalo.
This is a Sudanese phrase used by traffickers to influence others into joining.
“In sex trafficking, victims are being forced to do things,often they are not getting the money or drugs that they were promised,” said Vargas.
Some of the risks victims come across include but are not limited to: unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, HIV/AIDS, severe physical injury, malnutrition, abuse and trauma.
The Legal Rights for Undocumented Survivors workshop was held from on Wednesday. Angela McNair Turner, staff attorney at the Los Angeles Center for law and justice, and Amy Goldman, supervising attorney at neighborhood legal service of L.A. County.
This workshop provided information on different types of immigration statuses, which are available to those who are suffering from domestic and mental abuse.
The immigration statuses are U-Visa, a nonimmigrant visa that is meant for victims of crimes and abuse, the T-Visa, a visa for human trafficking victims, and the Violence Against Women Act, which investigates and prosecutes violent crime against women.
According to Goldman, applicants have to work very closely with law enforcement and go through the court process.
Whether the case is successful or not, it doesn’t affect the applicant that is applying.
Once the case is closed, the next step is meeting with an attorney to start the U-Visa petition but they need a police certification which states this person was helpful. “Without a certification from law enforcement there is no path to U-Visa,” said Goldman.
The letter of approval or denial will take up to two years. However, applications are limited to 10,000 cases a year with a waiting list, which can take at least five years.
“Our advice now in general is for those who are undocumented without status to not leave home with their identification that shows their country of origin,” said Goldman.
T-Visa is the same as a U-Visa but works differently because it involves human trafficking and sexual assault. According to Turner, “There are a lot less of them to file.” Law enforcement’s needs to be involved in these case as well. The VAWA applies not only to women who are without immigration status but for men who are victims of sexual abuse.
It can also apply to children. Victims need to provide legal documentations that they were married and provide police reports of abuse.
“The best proof in our cases if they have children together” Goldman said. If the man or woman gets a dissolution of marriage and believe they can’t qualified for the VAWA anymore, that is not the case. “You have to file within two years before the divorce is final” Turner said.
The Healthy Consent and Sexual Assault workshop, which was held from on Thursday.
To provide students with further information, Eileen Ie, sociology professor at East Los Angeles College put together the workshop and explained why getting the word out about sexual assault is crucial. Ie showed FBI statistics that said, one in every three women have been sexually assaulted in some way.
Those statistics are based off on the cases that are reported to the police. Ie asked the audience to raise their hands if they knew someone who had been sexually assaulted in some way. Half of the audience raised their hands.
“Now, out of those people who have their hands raised, keep your hand up if they reported it or went to the police,” Ie said.
The audience hands went down. People don’t feel comfortable going to the police when sexual abuse occurs. The main reason is how little can be done without hard evidence.
In a court case, evidence must be shown to prove the charges being pressed against an individual, Ie says. When sexual assault occurs to an individual, the crucial thing to do is to take off all articles of clothing that were worn during and after the rape, put them in a bag and go to a nearby clinic or hospital.
“They can perform a rape kit on the victim” Ie said. The rape kit collects any body fluids, such as semen, to test against the suspect and see if the DNA matches. Ie also explained how the victim usually knows the attacker.
There are cases where the attacker was a stranger but incest rape is more common. Rape doesn’t occur to just women, according to Ie. Men are just as likely to be pursued and attacked.
Most don’t come forward, feeling that they will bring shame to their families.
Rene Ruada, Jocelyn Romo and Steven Garcia contributed to this story.