An alarming warning from panelists at Cal State Bakersfield Saturday morning says human trafficking exists in Kern County. Inspired by Trade of Innocents, a movie that will play for the next week at Maya Cinemas in Bakersfield, the symposium is meant to open the eyes of the Central Valley.
Local law enforcement and attorneys warned the audience that human trafficking not only happens internationally, like it did in the movie, but also in our backyard.
"It's in the tiny towns around Bakersfield," said Sacramento area Detective who wishes to remain unnamed. "It's here. It's in pretty much every community in the country."
That is why Saturday, Cal State Bakersfield held a symposium to talk about the problem of trafficking locally.
"This is the atrocity of our generation," said California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly.
The symposium was inspired by this movie Trade of Innocents that premiered in Bakersfield Friday night. The movie is based on real events of sexual trafficking in Cambodia, but the assistant U.S. attorney for our district was quick to point out the exploitation of young girls also happens here.
"They're not just in Bakersfield or Fresno or San Jose," said Elana Landau, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of California. "They're in all of them and the way that they do that is they advertise that they are going to be in Bakersfield next week and you can start setting up dates."
Landau says local gangs are switching from trafficking drugs and guns to trafficking people for more profit. "Human victims can be used over and over and over again."
"From the outside, my life looked pretty average but in reality it was far from normal and filled with very dark secrets," said Diana Cisneros who grew up in Bakersfield and was the daughter of an abusive preacher. "At about age seven, my father began taking me to run so-called errands. He began taking me to have sex with other men."
That type of abuse continued into her teens until she got help, help that this symposium hopes becomes more accessible in Kern County.
"We are here to abolish the slave trade. We are here abolish sexual trafficking. We are here to protect the innocents," said Assemblyman Donnelly.
This is the second symposium of it's kind. The first was held in New Haven, Connecticut at Yale University.