The focus on human trafficking is shifting
Hundreds of women in Kern County are being sold like inventory every month.
Last year, Kern County Human Services identified 139 children who were sexually exploited, 101 children were found to be at risk – overall, the department investigated 82 cases.
Doug Bennett, founder of Magdalene Hope, has been working with human trafficking victims for 10 years and said it's his life's calling.
"If you ask a little girl what she wants to be when she grows up, she doesn’t say a prostitute. She wants to be a princess, she wants to be a veterinarian, wants to be a doctor, or a teacher. She not looking to prostitute herself," Bennett said, adding that when a minor is sold for sex, she’s not a prostitute, she’s a victim.
Bennett said somewhere between 750 to 1,000 different women are sold in Bakersfield during a 30-day period.
However, the tide is shifting, citing notorious cases like that of Cyntoia Brown, who was granted clemency after serving 15 years in prison for killing a man who bought her for sex.
Dustin Contreras, codirector for the Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking, said California sets the tone for human trafficking laws across the country.
"We kinda lead the way in that, but the rest of the culture needs to catch up," Contreras said.
Bennett says Brown's case is a start in the right direction but not enough.
"We have stricter laws for selling drugs then we do people. So that needs to change," Bennett said.