Lynsey Clark, a master’s degree student at UC Berkeley’s School of Social Welfare, recently published an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, focusing on the child sex trafficking epidemic in her local community.
Clark became interested in this phenomenon because of its visibility in her Oakland neighborhood where she has lived for the last 13 years. “My community’s health and well-being is the most important research topic for me,” said Clark, who was originally drawn to social work for its potential to make lasting positive social change.
The decision to attend Berkeley was an easy one for her. “UC Berkeley has a deep regard for diversity, a long history of education, a deep commitment to helping those who need it, a strong community, and experienced professors,” said Clark.
Because of the clandestine nature of commercially sexually exploited minors and lack of public awareness, Clark found few studies to draw from, so she turned to her professors for help with her research. “They supported me to explore different angles and to problem-solve in creative ways,” said Clark.
According to Clark’s article, Oakland is at the epicenter of child sex trafficking in California with more underage girls and more pimps per capita than any other city in the state. The article states the average age of exploited children has decreased in the last 10 years to 12 years old. “In Oakland, we see 13-year-old girls who are being pimped out on street corners instead of attending school,” said Clark, adding that often such minors are victims of child abuse earlier in their lives.
Due to inadequate law enforcement and child protective services protocols, trafficked children are often criminalized and penalized despite not being old enough to consent to the sexual acts that they have been coerced to engage in. “They’re essentially being victimized twice,” said Clark, who wrote the article in hopes of raising public awareness and to push for policies that will treat trafficked children as victims of abuse instead of criminals.