Under current California law, sex trafficking of a child or minor under 18 is not considered a serious felony. Changing the law to make that horrific crime a serious felony seems like a no-brainer, or at least that is what state Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, thought when she introduced Senate Bill 14. Our local state assemblywoman, Pilar Schiavo, however, has refused to support the bill.
Democrats and Republicans, parents, law enforcement officers, victims’ rights groups, and others are left scratching their heads as to why strengthening penalties against criminals who traffic children for sex is seemingly too tough for Assemblywoman Schiavo.
Earlier this year, all 40 state senators — Democrats and Republicans — voted to pass this bill, and 46 Democrat and Republican state Assembly members joined as co-authors of this landmark bill. Schiavo still refused to add her name to the list of supporters.
Official supporters of this bill to make sex trafficking of a minor child a serious felony include the city of Santa Clarita, Crime Victims United, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the California Medical Association, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, and dozens of others.
Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo’s support is nowhere to be found.
As a former Los Angeles County deputy sheriff, I have witnessed the abuse, exploitation and pain inflicted by sex traffickers. Every day, we see children, primarily girls, as young as 7 or 8, trafficked in our local communities while traffickers boldly operate without fear. Los Angeles County has identified itself as one of the highest-intensity child exploitation areas in the country. Human trafficking is happening everywhere in our communities and does not discriminate against ethnicity, gender and age, nor does it consider immigration or socioeconomic status.
There is no excuse for any member of the state Assembly not to sign on as a co-author of this bill to make the sex trafficking of children a serious felony, and that includes Pilar Schiavo. Whether she does in the future or not is irrelevant — she hasn’t yet, and now it’s too little too late as the bill’s passage is in jeopardy.
Along with a handful of other state legislators, Assemblywoman Schiavo’s lack of compassion and support for sex trafficking victims and their families endangers lives. It is unbelievably callous and should alarm every parent in this community.
Currently, this bill sits on the state Assembly Appropriations “suspense” file. That term refers to bills that will cost over $150,000. Often, this is where bills that strengthen penalties on criminals die. But as state Sen. Grove said in her recent statement on this bill, “There is no price tag that can be placed on a victim of human trafficking, especially a child. Selling a child to be raped repeatedly is a crime so grotesque, immoral and barbaric it should be prevented and stopped at any cost.”
I agree with Sen. Grove. This is absolutely an immoral, barbaric and perverted crime. Traffickers selling young girls for sex should be prosecuted as serious felons and face the toughest penalties.
Unfortunately, Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo disagrees and would instead put criminals over victims and bow to an extreme pro-criminal ideology that eliminates punishment from our justice system. While rehabilitation is an important component of our system, it cannot come at the expense of punishment, particularly for those who commit heinous crimes against children.
Shame on Schiavo.
Patrick Lee Gipson
Republican Candidate, 40th Assembly District