American Slavery: San Diego Human Trafficking

By: Jessica Walker

The FBI wrote on a “Human Sex Trafficking” bulletin that human sex trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery, and estimates place the number of its domestic and international victims in the millions, mostly women and children.  They are enslaved in the commercial sex industry for very little to no money. A lot of people may be familiar to human trafficking and sex slavery occurring in other countries such as Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, etc., but what many do not realize is that it is occurring right here in our own backyards – from El Cajon, Downtown San Diego, all the way up to the Carlsbad Flower Fields, and more local spots.

“The FBI has identified San Diego as one of the top destinations for sex trafficking,” reports Michelle Tzonov, a board member of Rescue Children from Human Trafficking Foundation. The non-profit, whose founding chapter is in San Diego, has a mission to provide shelter and lifestyle alternatives to victims of trafficking.

Human trafficking is a huge criminal industry that plagues the United States and San Diego County directly.  Human trafficking is tied with drug dealing as the second largest criminal industry in the world, second only to arms dealing, according to Interpol.

“San Diego imports, exports, and victimizes children here,” Cate Frederick clarifies, also a board member of Rescue Children from Human Trafficking Foundation.  “The problem is, there is no place for these children and young women to go if they do escape.  San Diego has a limited number of shelter beds available for victims of sex trafficking, less than 15.  Sex crime victims can’t go into regular homeless shelters where there are homeless men.”

Over 300,000 San Diego children run away from home each year.  They often are trafficked within 48 hours of being on the street.  Other children are abducted.  Sometimes they remain in San Diego, other times they are exported to other countries.  The average age of entry into the life of prostitution is 12 years old.

What is the next step?  “We are planning a black-tie gala in February in Del Mar.  There will be dinner, speakers, and an auction.  We hope to raise enough funds to open up a much-needed safe house for victimized children in San Diego,” Michelle elaborates.

Right now, there are not enough places to take the victims to when they are rescued off the streets, so the goal of the gala would be to raise enough money to open up a safe house to bring the girls to. Being given a safe place would help give these girls a chance to get on their feet and start a new life for themselves.

Simply spreading information by word of mouth to help others become aware of what is going on in our own backyards is incredibly helpful. Or, to find out more about how you can help defend these trafficked victims, please contact (858) 888- 2038 or email  To make tax-deductible donations online, visit or mail the non-profit charity directly to: P.O. Box 615, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067.

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