BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - An initiative to end child trafficking across the country was held in Bakersfield, and people marched in the downtown area to raise awareness for the cause.
23abc's Lezla Gooden attended the event.
More than 50 people took to the streets of Downtown Bakersfield on Saturday right after 6 p.m. to march. A sea of signs that read save our children and stop human trafficking were seen through the crowd.
"You see something, say something, don't be afraid, perpetrators like to play like they are tough guys. You're not a tough guy if you touch a child. So, I'm talking to you if you're a perpetrator. We're coming for you. We're tired of you touching and hurting our children." said attendee Jamie Benford.
At the heart of the cause is one of the organizers of the march, Doug Bennett, founder of Magdalene Hope. Magdalene Hope is a local non-profit that helps individuals save women from human trafficking, shelters them, and reintegrates them back into society. Helping to host the event, Bennett says witnessing the trauma of trafficking is why he's marching.
"About three years ago we pulled up to a girl, a block off of Union. There were two girls on the corner one was about 30 years old, and the one she was training, had to be no more than 11 years old. She still had her baby teeth in her mouth and she looked scared to death. And that just crushed me." said Bennett.
Bennett is not the only one among the crowd that has witnessed the pain and sorrow of human trafficking. Several attendees shared that their loved ones were victims of trafficking and child abuse.
"I actually know two individuals that were part of the trafficking, human trafficking, and the damage that is left on them, it's great. It scars them for life, and some of them are very scared to speak up about it." said attendee Consuelo Villafuerte.
The crowd began on 17th street and marched to several key locations that they asked to help their cause. The first stop was the courthouse, where they are asked for stricter sentences of offenders involved in trafficking. The next stop was the Bakersfield Police Department, which the crowd applauded for the departments continued sting operations in catching predators. The last stop was the Fox Theater, where they asked everyone in the entertainment industry to stand up.