The FBI ranks California as one of the worst states for the crimes of sex trafficking, child labor, forced labor, and domestic servitude.
Kacie Klinnert and her mother, Vickie Zito, would not learn of human trafficking until March 2008, when Klinnert, a developmentally disabled young woman who was 17 at the time, was abducted by a man with whom she shared mutual friends outside a Safeway in the quiet suburb of El Dorado Hills, about half an hour east of Sacramento.
“He basically got a gun out from the center console and said, ‘If you try to run, I’ll kill you and your family,’” Klinnert recalled, her voice low. “Later that night, he raped me and then the next morning he took me to a hotel in Rocklin. That’s when he put an ad on Craigslist and told me that I had to do this.” He then sold her off to two “gorilla pimps,” a term used to describe more violent and aggressive pimps. Klinnert said they drugged and starved her for days, who admitted the same thought terrified her constantly, “You don’t know if you’re going to come out alive.” Eight days later, the FBI tracked her to a Motel 6 in Fremont. Through tears, Zito said it’s difficult to shake off the nightmare of what felt like forever. “What I really clung to at that moment, because it was just too much, was that she was found alive and she was on her way home.”
Zito has shifted her role from the side of victim to advocate for the most vulnerable out there. She worked on Proposition 35, the measure to increase prison sentences and fines for human trafficking convictions. Ravi Sanwal, Klinnert’s abductor, was convicted of using force and coercion to engage a 17-year-old in prostitution and sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison. That still hasn’t been comfort enough.
“Recovery isn’t a destination, it’s a journey, and for us, it’ll be a journey that we walk out for the rest of our lives,” explained Zito. “Some days are better than others, some days are easier than others, and there are definitely days that are more challenging. But you never forget about it and the pain just always seems to be right there under the surface. I always say my daughter’s home but there are daughters not home.”
Learn more at Stephanie Chuang’s NBC Bay Area article: Sex Trafficking, Abductions, Sad Reality in Bay Area.