The numbers are alarming. Within six years, the number of prostitutes working the streets of Bakersfield has tripled.
Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing international crimes and 7 out of 10 women are trafficked through forced fraud.
Bakersfield is a key player, partly because Kern County is along the pipeline between Canada and Mexico.
23ABC met with a woman who escaped the life, and another hoping to follow her lead.
Kitty, who only wanted to be identified by her first name is one of an estimated 750 prostitutes working the streets of Bakersfield.
If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking and/or needs immediate help, please visit:
VICTIM SERVICES/RESOURCES AVAILABLE:
- Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault - http://kernalliance.org/
- Clinica Sierra Vista - https://clinicasierravista.org/
- Magdalene Hope - http://www.magdalenehope.org/
- Womens Center High Desert - http://womenscenterhighdesert.org/
- Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance - http://gbla.org/
- YWAM City Initiatives - http://ywamcityteam.wix.com/cityhub#!speakers/cfvg
- Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking - http://www.combathumantrafficking.org/
- Central Valley Against Human Trafficking - http://www.fresnoeoc.org/CVAHT
Kitty said, "It went from worse to worse to worse and then when you get down to where I'm at, what do you do?"
Kitty's story is not unique on the streets; she said she was trying to make a living on her own and then lost hope.
But after 20 years, she wants out.
Candice Shepard, started prostituting when she was only 19. Clients knew her by her street name, "Cash."
Candice said, "I had so many different clients that i lost track of what was happening and you just become so numb and emotionless."
But before the clients, there was sexual abuse. Candice said that she was molested by her uncle when she was only 9 years old.
Candice said, "At the beginning, it would start out with him slapping my butt or telling me that if he was ten years younger or fifteen or sixteen he would be all over me."
The National Task Force on Prostitution estimates that more than one million people in the U.S. have worked as prostitutes.
Many are survivors of incest or early sexual abuse.
Candice said, "It was the most paralyzing feeling because at the time it takes your voice from you. My parents were in the house and I was so scared to scream out because he was so much stronger than me."
And like many other prostitutes, Candice turned to drugs, using crystal meth by age twelve.
Candice said, "My mind was consistently replaying everything that had happened to me and i just became so bitter."
Doug Bennett has dedicated his life to the fight against human trafficking.
If you would like to learn more about human trafficking, the Kern Coalition of Human Trafficking has a list of events taking place in the Bakersfield area.
- 03/09/2016 - Prevention Classes at East High School in Bakersfield
- 03/23/2016 – Labor Trafficking and Rural Communities Meeting
- 03/24/2016 – Alliance against Family Violence and Sexual Assault (Open to the public – 1921 19th St., Bakersfield)
- 04/11/2016 – Awareness class at CSUB
For Candice, his ministry was a lifesaver.
Doug used her to reach other women who were in her position.
Doug is the founder of the Magdalene Hope Ministry in Kern County - a non profit organization dedicated to restoring women's lives who were victims of human trafficking.
Doug is a former John and used to pay for sex.
Doug said, "Who better to send back to the women and tell them about Jesus then the guy who used to buy them."
After leaving her baby with her mom and turning to the streets, Candice said the road to the Restoration Ranch took a lot of courage.
After two dangerous pimps -- one even tracked her every move and threatened to kill her -- she knew her life had to change.
Candice said, "I know that God knew that it was going to take me being faced with life or death to scare me off the streets."
Candice said she followed God's order to escape and jumped out of a two story window and ran.
Candice said, "If I wouldn't have gone through everything I went through, I wouldn't be where I am now. I didn't ever think I would hear my own name again, it took me a long time. Which was kind of a blessing because I was able to let Cash go and put her to rest."
At 25 years old, Candice closed the door to her past and the broken nine year old girl is healing.
Candice said, "I'll never give up on myself again."
Candice said that she found hope, but thousands others, like Kitty, are still fighting for survival on the streets of Bakersfield.
If you would like to get more involved in the fight against human trafficking, please visit the Kern Coalition against Human Trafficking's website here. http://kcaht.org/?page_id=110
And if you would like to donate to the Magdalene Hope organization, please visit magdalenehope.org