But nobody did.
At the time, the laws were not set up to help me. I was that girl who went to juvenile hall, and I was shamed. I was victimized over and over. And the man who trafficked me was never really threatened by the laws on the books.
Today, I'm a survivor of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and a strong supporter of Proposition 35 to stop human trafficking in California.
Every day, I work as a counselor to young women up and down the Interstate 80 corridor who find themselves in the same position. These are women who were born here, raised here and are tragically young and thoroughly exploited.
Today, too many young girls are exploited on the streets and sold on major websites, misused for exactly that purpose. The entrapment for the girls is total and the penalties for those who exploit them are far too lenient.
Trafficking women and girls for sex is a booming enterprise in California. For many criminals, exploiting girls poses less risk and offers greater profit than selling drugs. After all, they can sell a girl over and over again.
That's why Proposition 35 is so critical.
Three California cities rankamong the nation's worst for human trafficking. Our state's laws receive an "F" grade from national advocacy organizations.
Proposition 35 was designed by prosecutors, online security experts and human trafficking victims' advocates. Their goal was simple. Create a series of realistic and cost-effective tools to help law enforcement, prosecutors and communities stop those who exploit our women and girls.
Once implemented, Proposition 35 will increase prison terms for human traffickers. For the man such as the one who exploited me, this would mean 15 years to life in prison.
Proposition 35 will require convicted sex traffickers to register as sex offenders and make neighbors aware of risks in their midst.
It will also require all registered sex offenders to disclose their Internet accounts. When we require this, we start to give law enforcement the resources they need to stop the use of the Internet for recruiting, blackmailing and selling vulnerable women and girls.
Finally, Proposition 35 will require criminal fines from convicted human traffickers to pay for services to help victims. Each survivor we save can help us all create a state we can believe in.
The case for Proposition 35 is clear. In California, vulnerable women and young girls are held against their will and forced into prostitution for the financial gain of human traffickers. By voting yes, you can take a stand and say that we won't tolerate the sexual exploitation of children. You can learn more at www.VoteYeson35.com.
The author is a human trafficking survivor and a substance abuse counselor. She lives in the Sacramento metropolitan area.