Human trafficking: Many people think of it as something that happens to young people from third-world countries who arrive in the U.S. in cargo containers. 

Not so.

Human trafficking is not human smuggling. Unlike smuggling, which involves an illegal border crossing, a victim of human trafficking does not have to cross a border. “You don’t even have to leave your own house,” said Anne-Michelle Ellis, coordinator for the Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation, better known as CASE, during a December interview with the Mountain News.

The statistics are grim: The average age of entry into prostitution is 12 to 14 years old. When a teen runs away from home, Ellis said, “one in three will be recruited by a pimp within 48 to 72 hours.”

At the root of human trafficking is a lie about the promise of a better life. Those who control the young people being trafficked—the majority of whom are girls—restrict their daily life, like when they can eat, sleep or use the bathroom.

About 100,000 young people in the U.S. are victims of criminal sexual exploitation, Ellis said. 

Most have been sexually abused so it is not that big a leap into prostitution, she added. The pimps tell these girls, “I’ll give you power. You can make money.”

But that money is kept by the pimp, for whom it represents power.

“Teenage $ex for Sale” is a documentary film produced by the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office focused on the problem of sexual exploitation in the county. It will be shown during a presentation Thursday, June 6, at the Big Bear Lake Performing Arts Center. Sponsored by the Big Bear Valley Coalition Against Sexual Trafficking, the evening of awareness includes a panel of experts discussing the sexual exploitation of children and answering questions. The presentation is from 6 to 8 p.m.

The film highlights a unique coalition of government agencies and how they are reaching deep into the community to eradicate human trafficking.

Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, according to information provided by the county district attorney’s website. 

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos premiered the film in January. Since then, it is making its way to communities throughout the county. In April, it was shown in

Lake Arrowhead. 

James Ramos, San Bernardino County 3rd District supervisor, along with the district attorney Ramos plan to attend the screening June 6. The event is free and open to the public. The film is not appropriate for children. Childcare is provided.

For more information, call 909-878-0101. The PAC is at 39707 Big Bear Blvd., Big Bear Lake.

Mountain News editor Mary Justine Lanyon contributed to this story.

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