Sex Trafficking in Humboldt County

Apr 12, 2016

Many of us think of prostitution as a victimless crime. And many of us think of sex trafficking as a thing that happens in places far away, to people who look different from us. Most of us agree it has nothing to do with us personally, right?

But domestic sex trafficking is booming in the United States, probably in large part because we have so little awareness of what it is or how it works. It probably doesn’t help that some of our American pop culture celebrates the “pimp life” and the are even Grammy and Oscar award-winning songs glorifying a culture that probably, hopefully, sounds fantastical and unreal to a majority of the audience consuming it. Here is your trigger warning! As you have no doubt intuited, this is a terribly upsetting show and blog. If you find your emotions becoming difficult, we have many online resources for you to get help and support and answers about human trafficking, at the bottom of this article. Please avail yourself if you feel the need. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline number is 888-373-7888. Gorgeous, thirtysomething, blue eyed Elle Snow enjoys cooking, and when coaxed she’ll admit to making a mean short rib. She is a self professed math whiz who does algebra equations in her head to relax, a photographer, and a fan of Tom Waits’ music, populated by tragic characters and gritty underworlds. But what she says consumes her life is the brief window of time she spent at age 19 being trafficked for sex. These days, Snow has been generously sharing her story of terror again and again and again in the hopes of helping others. In an age of misunderstanding that Snow is working to help end, police have frequently identified the prostitute as the perpetrator of a crime, failing to recognize them as the victim. Once that happens, the trafficking survivor with an arrest record for prostitution faces years of stigma, discrimination and missed employment opportunities, long after they escape their pimp.  And if the trafficking survivor and law enforcement can actually build a case strong enough to put a pimp behind bars, the survivor must remain wary of the pimp’s network of cronies on the outside who may be seeking revenge on his behalf for years to come. The victimization continues, possibly forever. Since testifying against her captor and putting him behind bars, Snow has placed her personal safety and emotional wellbeing on the line to found the organization Game Over, which helps law enforcement, social workers, and others grasp the bigger picture of domestic sex trafficking in the United States in the twenty first century,  with training workshops customized to various industries and circumstances. She is also collaborating with the Dell’Arte International school of physical theater creating an educational performance that will eventually tour and bring even more awareness to the issue. “It’s a wonderful way to have a horrible conversation,” Snow says. Here is Elle’s home page for her organization, Game Over: