Former prostitute: Kern County Fair hotspot for illegal sex activity
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Rides, fried food and families are generally thought of in association with the Kern County Fair.
Dana tells a different story of what goes on when people from all across the county gather at the fair.
"There's an increase in women out (at the fairgrounds). They're coming from other counties. There are paying customers out there, unfortunately," describes Dana, claiming the Kern County Fair also brings a spike in prostitution.
Dana, a former prostitute, spoke to Eyewitness News on condition that her last name not be used. She says she spent many days and nights herself walking up and down Union Avenue - a prostitution hotspot - in Bakersfield.
"I spent a great part of my youth prostituting. Prostituting for pimps, pimps that would threaten me by physical harm," says Dana while reminiscing about the 30 years she'd spent working on the streets.
Prostitution hotspot Union Avenue also happens to border the fairgrounds, which makes the county fair a great place for the illegal business to spill over, she says.
"They'll rent a hotel, the whole hotel. Seven to 10 rooms. They'll put a girl in each room, and they'll work them for days on end," says Doug Bennett, the founder of Magdalene Hope, an organization that works to help victims of sex trafficking and prostitution.
Bennett says many women are forced into the lifestyle, by human sex traffickers and pimps who physically and mentally harm the women.
"From Canada to Mexico, they"ll stop at every major city along the way, and Bakersfield's one of the stops," says Bennett.
Through Magdelene Hope, Bennett says he's worked to rescue many other women who confirm the Kern County Fair is a booming time for the sex business.
"We see the corn dogs, and we see the grandstand, the Budweiser Pavilion, and that's all good if you're coming there for a family event, and that's what it should be. But, you also have the pimps that will bring in carload, van-loads of women," he says.
Dana says she has since turned her life around, and she's been off drugs and off the streets for the past year and a half. She credits Magdalene Hope for her recovery.
"I felt that i was spiritually dead before. I felt lost and in fear. Everything, I was afraid of everything," she says. "I just walked out the door and said, 'That's enough, I've had enough.'"
If you are a victim of human trafficking, or if you know someone who is, you can seek help from the National Trafficking Hotline by calling (888) 373-7888. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.