The Los Angeles County Probation Department is the only probation department in the nation with a dedicated Child Sex Trafficking Unit, specifically formed to address the needs of commercially sexually exploited children who have been arrested and/or detained by law enforcement for prostitution crimes.
The development of the Child Sex Trafficking Unit demonstrates the Department’s understanding and commitment to girls who have been sexually exploited.
Human trafficking today is viewed as the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the 21st Century with a $9 billion industry, second largest to drug trafficking. Our Probation staff noticed a disturbing trend – girls under supervision after being convicted of prostitution-related charges, talking about being tortured, transported, and bought and sold for sex. Probation officers realized these girls were not criminals, but victims of highly sophisticated sex traffickers.
Through 2012, the founding directors of DMST, Michelle Guymon and Hania Cardenas, used the $350,000 grant from Title II funding to launch a pilot project to provide health, mental health, mentoring and after-care services for these youth.
The Probation Department has been working collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors, the courts, law enforcement, and social services agencies, to develop an effective prevention/intervention strategy for rehabilitative services for Department of Children and Family Services and Probation youth who are at risk or have been victims of sexual exploitation.
As part of the Department’s strategic effort to combat further commercial sexual exploitation of youth, the following county-wide strategies have been implemented: awareness training provided to 2,000 individuals to date, a 10-week prevention curriculum titled “My Life Choice”, and extensive media coverage. The Probation Department’s most proud moment occurred on June 25 and 26, 2012, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Downey, CA. – the DMST program hosted the first annual “Inspiring Hope through Survivor Leadership” two-day Empowerment Conference for 42 juvenile DMST victim/survivors and community partners.