The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

September 3, 2013

Who's a victim of human sex trafficking?

(Continued)

Tiffany Schipitz, a 35-year-old inmate, said she eventually escaped from a pimp who threatened to kill her if she didn't work for him.

"I'd never been put out on the street. I'm a white suburbanite girl.. That was unheard of growing up," Schipitz says, describing how she fled the car of the first man who came to pick her up for sex. Eventually, though, she ended up back on the street, high, looking to earn more money for drugs.

"The next thing I know, I'm out on that corner, taking cars — one, two, three — like it's nothing," she says.

These are the sorts of stories Sgt. Craig Friesen, head of the vice unit for the police department in Anaheim, Calif., hears often.

"I never met any prostitute who said, 'This was my ultimate goal in life,'" Friesen says. "They've all been brought into this life by someone. They've been exploited by someone."

When determining who's a victim of trafficking, though, his officers are trained to look for signs of coercion. They might ask a hotel clerk if the prostitute was not allowed to speak, or seemed frightened, when checking into a room. They look for bruises and other signs of abuse and bring in former prostitutes to do the interviews.

"You can dig more deeply and ask specific questions," say Friesen, whose department began working with a local social service agency in 2010 in hopes of getting help for prostitutes and cutting the number of repeat offenders.

Department statistics show that from August 2011 through October 2012, Anaheim police arrested and charged 38 pimps. In that time, the department also got help for 52 women who were determined to be victims of human trafficking — and thus, were not charged. Of those, four are known to have returned to prostitution.

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