The Emerald Triangle can’t hide behind its secrets after a report of widespread abuse, sexual exploitation and worker exploitation was published last week by Reveal News. There’s both worker and sexual exploitation. Cosmopolitan Magazine published another version of the story. Here are some of the most hideous incidents affecting children and teens.
- A girl from Humboldt County started working for a local grower at 12. He gave her methamphetamine to speed up her work as a trimmer, and passed her around to pay off debts. She ran away to a homeless shelter and found that pimps were using it for a hunting ground.
- Two other teens in that same homeless shelter report having been trafficked for sex. Both local and out-of-town teens may be involved.
- They give girls weed, alcohol and food in exchange for trimming. Sex is also expected to go with it.
- A 15-year-old runaway from southern California, was kept inside a box and forced to have sex with the two growers from Lake County, near Humboldt County, who had found her.
Federal prosecutors said they directed her to trim marijuana and have sex with them, sometimes while chained to a metal rack. For several few days, she was kept inside a box.
The men also shocked the girl with a cattle prod and told her she would be shot by neighbors if she attempted to leave, an employee later told police. The men were initially charged with human trafficking. When federal authorities took over, the trafficking charges were dropped. The men are expected to plead guilty to lesser charges of employing a minor and illegal marijuana cultivation. (The Cosmopolitan article has more information about this incident.)
- After exploitation, teens and other workers many end up in homeless shelters
A housing and homelessness report of Humboldt County showed that 33% of the homeless said they had a substance abuse problem. (Not everyone with substance abuse disorders knows or admits it.) The same report said 37% had been victims of domestic violence. Mental health affects 30% of them. Parents Opposed stands by its belief that preventing substance use in the first place will diminish all these problems and save so much anguish. (Read one of our testimonies about marijuana and domestic violence.)
In summer and fall, temporary workers come in town to work the marijuana harvests. These “trimmigrants” sometimes end up homeless and without jobs. In one article, it’s reported that 100 European “trimmigrants” were stiffed for pay, broke, without a place to go and ended up in homeless shelters. Mexican and other immigrants also face abuse.
There’s a frequent “missing persons” problem in the area, which shows up through a quick search on the Internet. Sometimes the lost people are found, but at least 5 women have never been found.
In fact, Cosmopolitan reports that Humboldt County, center of the marijuana cultivation, has the largest number of missing persons in the state on a per capita basis.
Reveal is based in San Francisco and is a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, found in 1977. Journalists Shoshana Walter and Elle Snow (not her real name) did outstanding jobs in their respective publications, Reveal.org and Cosmopolitan. Elle is a victim of sexual trafficking and she is now working against this problem and has started an organization in Eureka, Game Over. Listen to Against Their Will.