Alameda County DA reports child sex trade epidemic in Oakland

I live in San Francisco and right across the bay, Oakland is the epicenter of human trafficking in the Bay Area. At this moment, 13 year old girls are being sold as sex slaves and practically everyone chooses to look the other way.

That’s right, in 2014 slavery exists in America and the victims are young girls. Of course, this slavery isn’t legal, but when no one does much to stop it, it may as well be.

Starting today,  Nancy O’Malley, the DA of Alameda county is putting up 27 billboards to educate the public about human trafficking, because for some reason, a lot of people seem to know nothing about it.

In an op-ed for the Contra Costa Times explaining her PR move, O’Malley writes:

The FBI has identified Oakland as an epicenter of trafficking in the Bay Area counties. The majority of exploited children are 13 to 16 years old, some as young as 11…Even more shocking, the number of commercially sexually exploited children is increasing, while the average age of those exploited is decreasing…There are two sides — supply and demand — that make sex trafficking of our children possible. Human trafficking exists because there is an endless and disgraceful demand for children for sex and traffickers fill that demand daily.


What can you do? O’Malley is clear on steps she’d like you to take. Below are quotes from her op-ed:

(1) If you see something, say something. Keep the human trafficking hotline in your cellphone, 888-373-7888 or text Be Free (233733), and report anything suspicious. Through this hotline, more than 75,000 calls have come in to identify nearly 9,000 survivors.

(2) You can also sign up for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Human Exploitation and Trafficking Watch mailing list at to learn more about human trafficking and what you can do to join the fight. Download a free toolkit so you can build your capacity to hold traffickers accountable and keep victims safe.

(3) Donate your time and money to organizations that are making a difference, such as Misssey, Bay Area Women Against Rape, West Coast Children’s Clinic and HEAT Watch.

(4) Speak out: Let policymakers know we need the toughest penalties for traffickers and the predators who buy children for sex and resources for victims of human trafficking. Together, we will we put an end to modern-day slavery.

I have another suggestion for you. Please, do what you can to stop contributing to the sexualizing of young girls. Read my post here and don’t help to spread propaganda, in the form of media and toys, that sexualizes young girls. These products are not innocuous but dangerous. Sexualizing girls happens everywhere, so ubiquitous it’s paradoxically invisible.

Here are just a few examples of how we sexualize kids. Take a look at the popular Polly Pocket toy. This toy is marketed to girls ages 4 – 7 and the toy is all about dressing the doll in “sexy” outfits. Why would a parent buy her little daughter a toy like this?


Here are the Bratz dolls.


Melissa Wardy of Pigtails Pals recently wrote:

Try this test: If the image can be lifted from the child’s toy/backpack/t-shirt and placed on the billboard for a strip club and not look out of place, then things are seriously fucked.

Wardy blogged that after she and her young daughter walked to school behind a first grade girl wearing this backpack.


Wardy writes:

Given what we know about how early sexualization harms young girls,  I cannot understand how parents allow this kind of imagery and media in their homes.

This year, France outlawed child beauty pageants because they are so dangerous for children. The New York Times reports:

Ms. Jouanno, a former junior minister for environment and a senator representing Paris from the center-right party U.D.I., wrote a report on the “hypersexualization” of children in 2011. The report was commissioned by the health minister in response to public outrage over a photo display in Paris Vogue that featured under-age girls in sexy clothes and postures, with high heels, makeup and painted fingernails.

But in the USA, we have hit TV shows like “Honey Boo Boo” and “Toddlers and Tiaras” that glorify the exploitation of girls. Here, in the home of the free and the brave, sexualizing kids is accepted and normal. We allow it and condone it.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. That is my interpretation of O’Malley’s billboards. I am so grateful she is taking a leadership position to end child trafficking. Please follow her example and act to end the sexual abuse of children.



11 thoughts on “Alameda County DA reports child sex trade epidemic in Oakland

  1. What makes me wanna puke with human trafficking (regarding both underage and older girls) is this:How can these guys (the ‘clients’) have sex with a girl who is clearly abused/beaten/terrorized ? wth is going on inside their heads?

  2. Parents really do need to open their eyes. I can’t find clothes for my 10 year old girl in big box stores that don’t attempt to dress her like a little woman. The shorts are too short, the shirts are too tight or cut too low, the shoes have heels, dresses are too clingy… I am grateful my girl is sporty and lives in soccer shorts and tshirts.

    I agree that the sexualization of young girls enhances the sex slave problem–the more the media puts these images out there as “normal,” those who have these sick tendencies can justify their wrongdoing. I also agree that it is a crime that crosses the gender divide–let’s just agree that child sex slavery is evil whether involving girls or boys.

  3. Pingback: Connect the Dots: How That Sexualized Doll Plays Into Child Sex Trafficking

  4. The sexualisation of girls is not the root of the problem here. Your problem is that you link anything related to sexism with gender stereotyping, which, doesn’t work as often as you’d think. Many young boys are enslaved as well, though mostly sold at an older age than girls.

    Yes, the sexualisation of women in media does objectify them in the heterosexual male gaze, which leads to sexism and violence against women, but the examples you cited are not really pertinent to the issue of child trafficking. First off, shows created by women and are intended for a female audience are less likely to exploit their female characters than those default action-oriented, andro-centric shows. In fact, girls are more likely to be the leading cast, and while fashion is focus, so are other aspects of their life. They aren’t always boy-crazy shopping fanatics. Take Sailor Moon for example, which is female-empowering. These shows are shown from the female casts’ perspectives, and thus less likely to objectify girls as just love interests. They have their motivations, struggles, etc, and are more developed than characters just meant to be eye-candy. These shows aren’t necessarily bad.

    As for child trafficking, there’s also a considerable percentage of child slaves that are boys. That’s when the reasoning of female sexualisation doesn’t really work. These child sex slaves must be there for a reason, that is, they are meant to cater to adult customers who (I believe) are mainly pedophiles. Women also frequent such brothels, which may be also be a factor of the prevalence of male child sex slaves.

    Besides, a high percentage of trafficked children are not white, and I suspect it has something to do with the fetishization and exotification of people of colour. It is also linked to their poverty, so POC children are sold off as income. Another factor is that of the foster care system, in which many white people, who fetishize “exotic” races and adopt them to fulfil their fetishes, and also how orphaned POC children (who are impoverished) are sent to foster homes where their foster parents would groom them to be sex slaves and sell them by a certain age.

    To reduce this as a simple issue of sexualisation is to ignore the complicated intersectionality that comes into play and to erase the suffering of many of these children. You can’t talk about child trafficking without mentioning the effects of race and class too.

      • I too believe that sexualisation is harmful, but the examples you listed are inedequate. You seem to have a victim complex and believe that many issues that women face revolve around the (problematic yet not as significant) issues you face. You place the issues you face on par with more severe forms of discrimination that you do not experience personally, using people from other disenfranchised and marginalised groups to validate your argument. Again, you have the privilege of being white and middle/upper class, such that the issue of child sex slavery will never affect you or your daughters. You will never experience fetishization because of your race (thus the demand for POC children in sex trade and sex tourism), you will never have to sell off your daughters for a livelihood (the main motivation for child trafficking – it is easy money with low risk). Being privileged entitles you to ignore the suffering of other marginalised groups and elevate yours as more/just as significant. By maintaining your narrow-mindedness and refusing to accept that the issues you face doesn’t apply for every woman or that your stand on the issue is irrelevant, you are part of the problem. Your toxic ignorance only serves to benefit you from the inherent privilege you have. By simplifying the issue, it is erasure of groups who are directly affected by child sex slavery and trafficking. Child trafficking is an issue that is not limited to the USA, but prevalent in underdeveloped countries as well, when poverty and cultural influences have a strong effect. For example, in some middle-eastern countries, child trafficking is common, and the main factors are that of pervasive poverty, where upward mobility for the poor is extremely difficult, and children and women have little to no autonomy and social status, which makes them easy targets. In this case, sexualisation in American media does not apply. However, the reasons are similar to the issue in the USA, where lack of awareness and neglect of victims are also contributing factors.

        I am capable of accepting ideas different from mine if sufficient and thorough evidence and explanations are presented. However, your argument is weak and you’ve been rehashing the same old material repeatedly such that your stand is not substantiated and unconvincing. If you oppose my idea so much, please support your idea first before outrightly dismissing mine.

        As a side note, I’ve noticed that many feminists like you have a bad habit of judging shows directed at girls because of the way the female characters are dressed. There is much more to a show than the outfits, and some of these shows, despite sexualising their female cast, can also contain female empowering elements. For example, in Sailor Moon, while the girls wear miniskirts and makeup, they are bestowed with world-altering powers and responsibilities and often end up saving their boyfriends instead of the other way round. As Anita Sarkeesian says, “it is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of it’s more problematic or pernicious aspects”. That being said, shows for girls can also be great in other aspects.

        • Hi valkyrie,

          I am really sick of these long emails where you talk down to me.

          The sexualization of girls and abuse of women and girls is a global issue, which some have called (Ktistof and Wudunn) and I agree, the moral imperative and challenge of this century. As they wrote, in “half the Sky” when one Chinese dissident was a political prisoner, it is fa ront story. When 100,000 women and girls go missing, sold into slavery, it is not even news. These are New York Times reporters and “privileged” people. When the United States, the so called leader of the free world, doesnt take the rights of women seriously, doesn’t consider them human rights, that affects the whole world, and everything from our health care to foreign policy.

          I am writing about the apathy towards sexulaization of girls and the rights of girls and women which are human rights, the way too many people look the other way instead of taking action to stop it. It’s sad that you label me privileged and disregard what I have to say.


          • I am not disagreeing to everything you have to say, just that your usage of female sexualisation as the root cause of child sex slavery is not entirely correct, though it does have an effect to some degree. Sexualisation is a serious issue, but what I’m saying is how there are various factors to consider other than that of sexualisation. When it involves discrimination that you won’t experience, you should take a back seat and allow those who do experience it have a say in it. You are privileged because you can worry about television shows and toys that only people of higher classes consume frequently, yet not care about other forms of discrimination that happen to women who are not like you and who experience sexism in a different way than you. They may not be affected by the sexualisation of girls in media, but there is still the pervasive social attitude that if you’re a woman, especially if you’re poor and not white, you rights do not matter at all, and you can be freely exploited for financial gain, and that your bodies belong to men. That’s an issue that many women face, but it manifests in varying degrees according to factors other than just sex. Being poor and a woman of colour makes you more susceptible to inhumane treatment because of your lower status in society. You have no right to complain about being labelled privileged because of your race and class when you have no idea of the benefits you have because of these factors. If there’s such a thing as male privilege in a patriarchal society, then there must also be white privilege, which many privileged people are unaware of and completely deny. You cannot just bother about your own problems as a woman and disregard everything else that you don’t personally experience. Race and class, along with sex, are also big factors in child sex slavery. Instead of listening to what I have to say on how race and class affect child sex slavery, you chose to focus on my talking down on you. If you don’t think race and class should also be considered important factors other than sex, you are ignoring the reality that many poor women and girls of colour constantly experience and the even less regard society has for these women and girls.

            We can all agree that media can have disturbing influences on the way people think and perceive the world around them, but all this doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There must be an attitude in the first place before the action, and in this case, it is sexualisation of women. And there must be more causes of this attitude that women are secondary in society. It is human nature to want to dominate others and socially segregate people as this moulds their identities, so people can uphold their own social group over another and reap benefits out of it. They use inherent differences, which are mainly physical, to justify their claim that a certain group of people are superior, as in the case of sexism. This results in the dehumanization of groups with lower social status in order to uphold the other groups’ privilege. The real root of girls and women being targets of sex slavery is due to their secondary status in society and how the lack of protection for these people, who are mostly lower class and woman of colour according to statistics, creates ignorance in the general public. There is also the destructive issue of victim-blaming, and the high social stigma that comes with being a victim of sexual abuse, such that these victims are not receiving the proper help they deserve.

          • Hi Valkyrie,

            “You are privileged because you can worry about television shows and toys that only people of higher classes consume frequently, yet not care about other forms of discrimination that happen to women who are not like you and who experience sexism in a different way than you.”

            This blog is about “worrying about television shows and toys.” If you don’t think that is a relevant issue, why do you keep coming to this blog? I never said the issues I write about are all things to all people. Yes, I am privileged. I am white, heterosexual, and middle class, also a professional in the media and non profit world and a writer. I blog about my experience raising 3 daughters. My blog is not all things to all people.

            “when it involves discrimination that you won’t experience, you should take a back seat and allow those who do experience it have a say in it.”

            Once again, this is my blog and I’m not taking a “back seat.” I am writing about sexualization which is something pretty much every female has experienced. I have not experienced poverty or racism and that is not a reason not to write about sexulization of women and girls. I’m not really interested in creating a heirarchy of what is worse. I see everything as related and feeding into eachother, which, ironically, seems like what you are trying to say. I don’t know where you get off telling me that I don’t care about racism or poverty. Your arrogance is shocking.

            Many people have told me children’s media and toys are trivial issues and are not related to real feminism. Obviously, I disagree. Once again, that is why I have a blog. THis is what I blog about. It seems like you have a lot of opinions and things to say and I suggest you start you own blog and not tell me how to write mine.


          • What I’m saying is that this post is inaccurate in that it omits crucial information which is also pertinent to child trafficking. I’ve never trivialised the way in which sexist media affects women and isn’t “real feminism”. It is a big part of feminism, but you should have provided more concrete details and examples on sexualisation other than that of solely children’s show and toys. I know your main purpose is to expose sexism in children’s media, but there are many other ways to analyse media other than that of how its characters are dressed. It can also include how the story, tropes and advertising sexualise women and reinforces male power fantasies.

            I’m not saying how you don’t care about other marginalised groups, as I’ve seen your other posts on such matters.

            What I do need to make clear is that not every issue affecting women is directly caused by the same issues you face too. Sexualisation can happen differently to women of different races and ethnicities with different attitudes surrounding it. The girls of colour that are victims of sex slavery are affected by different types of media which sexualise them in a different way, which makes them appealing to sex predators for different reasons. Latin@ women are characterised as overly sexual and thus it makes them “desirable” in a way different from how white women are sexualised. It is also why some people think that it is impossible to rape Latin@s because they “wanted it”.

            “I have not experienced poverty or racism and that is not a reason not to write about sexulization of women and girls.” I never said how not experiencing certain discrimination does not allow you to write about the ones you do personally experience. I’m saying how you shouldn’t make everything out to be only about the issues you face, especially in cases where you aren’t directly affected (here referring to child sex slavery, not sexualisation) and yet divert it to something that you do experience or something other women experience differently.

            I’m not forcing you to write your blog in a way that I want, and neither am I telling you to care about “all people”, because there are people that I don’t give a damn about. I just want you to review some of your ideas that are problematic don’t serve to really solve the issue at large.

  5. It’s interesting…I just moved overseas with my young daughter and one thing I noticed right away is that young girls dress like little girls where we now live whereas in the US, I always felt uncomfortable with the clothes young girls were wearing — heels for a 7 year old? Short shorts for a 9 year old? I applaud the leadership O’Malley is taking. I’m a Bay Area native and this has provided some food for thought and action.

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