I recently visited one of California State Prisons and what started out as a skeptical visit turned out to be the encounter of a lifetime. During my visit, I met a man who was sentenced to 199 years-to-life plus four months. This draconian sentence was reduced from his original sentence of 229 years-to-life and eight consecutive life sentences. He has been incarcerated since 1999.
He began to tell me about his life before being incarcerated beginning with his childhood. This is where it dawned on me that often the perpetrator comes from the same or similar environment as the victim. This man grew up in an abusive and dysfunctional household. His mother was a victim of sex trafficking and his father was a pimp. He witnessed his father abuse his mother and force her and other women to have sex for money. As all this was happening, he was being sexually abused by his older siblings and their friends. This man was simply a product of his environment. He didn't know he could live a more positive, fulfilling lifestyle as this very harsh one was embedded in him since childhood. This prompted me to do something about this atrocity that continues to plague our society.
I came to realize that hurt people hurt others while healed people can begin to help heal others. I believe if we can start the healing process for those who are hurting others in our society, we might be able to combat this atrocious behavior. We provide a Restorative Justice type of environment that allows individuals to feel safe talking about the childhood trauma that leads them to partake in this exploitative behavior.
This will give them a better understanding of the choices they have made and allows the healing process for them to begin.
I decided to open this nonprofit in hopes of working with young men/women who are the actual perpetrators of human trafficking, as well as pimping and pandering, so we could combat this from the source. Who'd know how to combat these crimes against humanity better than those who have committed such acts?
Oana Mihaltan -