Cover photo of Eliberto Cruz Jacobo, credit to Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. 5 minute read.
When it comes to porn and sex trafficking, secrecy and lies fuel these huge, toxic multi-billion dollar global industries. We’re all about breaking up taboos and changing the conversation from secrets and shame to openness and honesty, and that starts in every one of our communities. And one conversation may not seem like a big deal, but it can start a ripple effect of change and action that can make a visible dent on these issues and change the world in the process.
That’s exactly what happened at one high school in California recently, after what was supposed to be a normal school presentation on human trafficking. When the talk was over, a couple of female students opened up, detailing their experiences of being messaged on Facebook by a woman attempting to recruit them into doing sex acts for money—sex trafficking, in other words.
Their tip proved to be a bigger deal for them and a bigger win for the anti-trafficking cause than anyone could have expected.
One Tip, One Big Catch
When these two high school students spoke up, their tip sparked a full-on investigation by authorities that revealed about 70 potential victims within the course of just one year in Riverside County, California. As it turns out, the “woman” named “Marlissa Garcia” who reached out to these potential victims, a lot of them minors, wasn’t exactly who she portrayed herself to be.
“Marlissa” was actually 46-year-old Eliberto Cruz Jacobo from Hemet, in just one of his fake online identities used to recruit young women and young girls for commercial sex acts. And if that wasn’t disturbing enough, the commercial sex acts he was recruiting for were often with himself. Unfortunately, he was successful in exploiting some of the girls he reached out to. Not cool, and not okay.
According to the news report by local reporter Katie Widner, Jacobo went on trial, facing “62 felony counts, including human trafficking of a minor, inducing or persuading a minor to engage in a commercial sex act, statutory rape and possession of child pornography.” He was convicted on all counts, and sentenced to more than 122 years in prison for his crimes.
Unfortunately, cases like this happen way more often than many people believe.
A Rare Victory
While it’s a relief that this investigation has been so effective, it’s not always the case. As Kristen Dolan, an anti-human trafficking director of SafeHouse of the Desert, said in a report, “It’s hard to get them and prosecute them in the way that we need to because there’s so much investigation that’s involved and it’s happening so often.”
This shines a light on how absolutely helpful and important it is to speak up and speak out, especially if you have any suspicious interaction with someone you don’t know, in person or online. And as social media continues to be our generation and the next’s main form of communication, it’s essential that we’re continuously on the lookout for anyone or anything that doesn’t seem right.
The truth is, sex trafficking is everywhere, including the porn industry. Obviously, human trafficking is an underground business, making firm statistics hard to come by, but the facts in cases that do come to light are chilling. For example, in 2011, two Miami men were found guilty of spending five years luring women into a human trafficking trap. They would advertise modeling roles, then when women came to try out, they would drug them, kidnap them, rape them, videotape the violence, and sell it to pornography stores and businesses across the country. 
That same year a couple in Missouri was charged with forcing a mentally handicapped girl to produce porn for them by beating, whipping, suffocating, electrocuting, drowning, mutilating, and choking her until she agreed. One of the photos they forced her to make ended up on the front cover of a porn publication owned by Hustler Magazine Group. 
Those cases are only the tip of the iceberg; many more like them exist, and for each victim discovered, countless others suffer in silence. 
Still, others are victimized by being forced into the commercial sex world—AKA sex trafficking—like what could have happened to the high school two girls in Riverside, California.
If there’s one thing that always hits home with every human trafficking story we hear, it’s that no community is immune. This is a widespread problem that happens not just in big cities, but in neighborhoods and towns all across the world. Sex trafficking is a global issue in local communities, and it’s up to us to speak out when we see something that isn’t okay.
As porn is becoming more normalized, and as sex traffickers are finding new ways to lure victims into exploitation, these issues should be openly talked about in middle schools, junior highs, and high schools. We need to expose not only the dangerous world of human trafficking, but also the link of how porn fuels trafficking and how the two are inseparably connected.
That’s where we come in.
School presentations can be empowering and powerful for individuals wanting to learn about the harmful effects of porn for themselves, their relationships and in their communities. As these discussions and presentations help de-stigmatize the conversation on the harmful effects of porn, and the local crisis of human trafficking, you never know what can happen to help combat sex slavery. Except, in this case, we do know—conversation starts here, with each one of us opening up and taking a stand. We CAN do something about it. And that is extremely empowering.