BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – She was just 13 when johns started bringing her to motels on Union Avenue for sex – motels with similar features. Hourly rates, for one thing.
Her name is Dess Perkins. She knows a little about sex trafficking, having been sold into prositution from the age of 13 – by her mother.
Her mother – a prostitute herself – would fresh up her junior high school daughter, and then walk her the four or five blocks to what was then a 7/11 mini-market – just across H Street from Bakersfield High School. They’d wait in the parking lot for a drug dealer to meet them as arranged. The dealer – there were many over the years – would pay Perkins’s mother in drugs or money – and then he’d drive away with the girl. He’d take her to a hotel, do what he wanted for two hours or so and then drop her off at the family’s apartment.
“It was, as I was told, to help the family,” Perkins said. “There was no money, we were on welfare. Welfare checks back then were the 1st and the 15th, and so you had to do what you had to do to make it, is what I was told. It was for drugs. The money was for drugs. My body was in exchange for her to get high.”
It’s stories like that of Dess Perkins that inspired the Kern County District Attorney’s Office to partner with other law enforcement and social services agencies to form a sex trafficking task force – modeled after one in Orange County – to identify and rescue victims and prosecute their captors and co-conspirators – as it did at the Desert Star Motel on Union Avenue one year ago.
D.A. Cynthia Zimmer says this is about rescuing young women who may feel they have no options.
“We are training teachers, we are training parents, we’re training the hotel-motel industry of what to look for,” Zimmer said.
Dess Perkins escaped. She still has her dark days, but she is helping others with her story and her willingness to listen. She has written a book, titled Warrior – and is now an intervention counselor at Bakersfield High School, her alma mater. A little over 30 years ago, she was turning tricks after school. Now she’s turning around young lives – as best she can – in school.
If you are being taken advantage of, or know someone who is, talk to a teacher, talk to a police officer, talk to a counselor. There’s help out there. And more than ever, that help is out there looking for you.