SOC 301 Social Problems
Local Claimsmaker Analysis Midterm Paper
Description of the group
Stand Up Placer is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Auburn, California. According to their website, the organization was founded in 1974 by a group of concerned women as a rape crisis line. The organization has grown a lot since then. Today it includes nearly a hundred people of many genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations. I had lunch with CEO Jenny Davidson to talk about how Stand Up Placer provides services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking throughout Placer County, and about what kind of impact they are trying to have on the issue of underage prostitution as a subset of human trafficking in the area. I also spoke with one of Stand Up Placer’s volunteers who works with the FBI and local police on human trafficking stings as a decoy, luring Pimps and Johns as part of a larger strategy to tackle the underage prostitution issue in a novel way.
I selected this group because I was already familiar with the important work they are doing in the community, and because I have many homophilies with the people involved through other causes and organizations we share stakes in. The main interview took place at Panera in Auburn and lasted about an hour. I also spent about an hour attending a meeting of the Roseville city council along with several staff members from Stand Up Placer. This included Jenny who was scheduled to speak about the issue of human trafficking and child prostitution along with Roseville Police Captain Glynn. The officer was very enthusiastic about Stand Up Placer and about the work being done between the organization and the local police on the issues of prostitution and human trafficking. My last interview with the volunteer who works the front line doing stings with the FBI took place the next day at a Starbucks in Auburn. This interview lasted about an hour as well. The main sources of secondary information were the organization’s website and data published by local police, newspapers, and the Department of Homeland Security.
According to the Department of Homeland Security website, “Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” According to Davidson, in practice in our area, this usually means young people being forced to have sex with “Johns” by a romantic partner or family member through threats of violence or other types of coercion. In most cases, the trafficking victim is underage.
Quoting from the DHS again, “Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. They look for people who are susceptible for a variety of reasons, including psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, lack of a social safety net, natural disasters, or political instability. The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.” When trafficking victims are caught by police, the traditional view holds that the child has committed a crime and should be held responsible as a prostitute.
According to Davidson, the problem is getting much worse, not better. In fact, Stand Up Placer has helped more than fourteen times as many survivors of human trafficking in the first half of 2018 as the entire year of 2015. They are on track to help twice as many people as last year, which was double the year before that. More than half of the survivors are minors, and almost all survivors are under 22 years old.
The traditional view that child prostitutes should be held responsible has recently come under scrutiny. Groups like Stand Up Placer are reframing the issue. Talking about child prostitution is an issue with many positions, but when child prostitution is phrased differently becomes human trafficking; a valence issue. The traditional view ignores the obvious fact that child prostitutes are typically victims of human trafficking. They are being coerced into this kind of work through threats and other means. The real criminal is the trafficker. They are taking advantage of vulnerable children and forcing them into prostitution.
According to one of Stand Up Placer’s FBI sting volunteers who I interviewed, an average child in the trafficking industry in our area is forced by the trafficker to have sex with up to ten “Johns” per night. The child is not the criminal here. The idea of punishing a child caught in a bust after they were just forced to have sex with a dozen “Johns” becomes inconceivable to the person who was arguing for punishing criminal child prostitutes under the traditional view of the issue
I think Stand Up Placer’s use of typifying examples and an excellent rhetorical strategy to redirect attention from what used to be considered criminal children to the real villains, traffickers, is an excellent and effective strategy for accomplishing the change they sought to make on this social problem.
Through recent legislative, judicial, and policy accomplishments, the bizarre traditional view is changing. Stand Up Placer is one of the organizations at the forefront of this issue, working with local police and policymakers to change the priority from targeting children who are victims of human trafficking, to instead targeting traffickers. “It’s been years of work to get here,” said Davidson.
When I visited Roseville city council with Stand Up Placer, Roseville Police Captain Marc Glynn described the new strategy around the human trafficking issue in the area. As quoted in the Press Tribune, “Our crime suppression unit will be a victim-centered approach focused on supply and demand. The ‘supply’ will involve undercover operations where we rescue the victims and arrest the pimps,” Glynn said. “The ‘demand’ part of it is where we will set up sting operations where we use ‘reverse Johns’ (in an effort to entice and catch the traffickers). This operation will be a positive move in the right direction.”
Councilman Scott Alvord responded, “I’m really appreciative [sic] how (Roseville Police Department and Stand Up Placer) are working together… You guys (Roseville Police) are catching them and you guys(Stand Up Placer) are taking care of the victims.”
Per Councilman Alvord’s comments, survivors of human trafficking have the need for many important services such as therapy, legal, medical, and housing services. Stand Up Placer provides all of these things free of charge to any survivors who need them.
This change in perspective to treating victims as victims instead of criminals marks a new chapter in enforcement around human trafficking in Placer County and especially in Roseville. No longer will children and other victims of human trafficking be subjected to punishment or treatment as criminal prostitutes rather than the victims of human trafficking that they really are.
Stand Up Placer does outreach through seminars taught at schools and organizations around the area, as well as through awareness events like Take Back The Night. Many of these outreach methods are targeted at survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence which are other issues the organization deals with. The majority of the human trafficking survivors who come to the organization are coming not from media outreach but directly from police stings. They are rescued and taken to Stand Up Placer in order to get those critical services and start rebuilding their lives.
Relationship with/use of media
Stand Up Placer has a weekly TV show on local public access TV where they talk about important issues relating to human trafficking. They also use social media and lots of outreach events and fundraisers to reach a wide audience with their important message. Most of the substantive policy work they do is done directly with local officials or through Federal intermediaries like Title IX or the FBI.