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Sex trafficking and prostitution remain big problem amid pandemic, officials say

Sex Trafficking
Posted at 5:59 AM, Jun 25, 2020

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Prostitution and sex trafficking continues to be a problem in Kern County, and around the country. Magdalene Hope, a non-profit that rescues women from human trafficking, shelters them, and reintegrates them back into society, is being hit hard economically right now. And they say trafficking has not been slowed at all by the pandemic.

Shepard says the work is doubled because customers have more downtime, and are looking for an escape from anxieties amid the pandemic. Shepard herself is a survivor of trafficking and underlines the importance of the work the nonprofit does.

“We’re doing something I feel like that’s benefiting the good of the people, we all deserve to have a shot. Just because you get caught up doing drugs or human trafficking, doesn’t mean you’re any less of a person than anyone else," she said.

Magdalene Hope says the problem of sex trafficking and prostitution in Bakersfield is big. The organization estimates that about 1,000 different women are for sale in town over the course of a given month. Which is why they say they’re operation is critical. But the pandemic has put a strain on their resources because they rely on donations.

“With the economy taking a hit, with a lot of people being out of work, and we get that. We have suffered greatly financially," said Dr. Doug Bennett, the founder of Magdalene Hope.

The organization requires about $3,000 in donations a month to operate, but lately, they’ve been getting roughly about a third of what they need to operate comfortably. Bennett said they’ve now used up their financial reserves.
“It’s literally day to day going to the P.O. Box to see what’s in there. So it’s been tough, it’s been a hard hit," he said.

Bennett says there are currently four women staying in their shelter. More information about Magdalene Hope can be found on their website.