An authoritative report done by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) into northern California’s pot-growing area has uncovered dozens of accounts of sexual abuse and exploitation of workers known as “trimmigrants,” or bud trimmers.
Students from Humboldt State University, and others, reported being forced to give their bosses blow-jobs to get paid or being offered higher wages if they trim topless.
Amy Jarose, an experienced trimmigrant in the region, told investigative journalists that when a grower she was working for in the mountains began to pressure her for sex, she immediately left without her pay.
“You pack up your bags and hit the road and hope to God a really good person will pick you up,” Jarose said.
Growers often target women for trimming jobs; male trimmers told news publication Reveal that they are repeatedly passed up or let go to make room for female workers.
Unfortunately, many young women who suffer abuse or exploitation refuse to report it to police. Those who have, say their experience was unsatisfactory, even frustrating. Authorities are more focused on what they view as the root cause of the problem—the drug trade.
That’s no surprise. Years of confrontation between law enforcement and pot farmers have created a culture of silence, fear and secrecy, easily exploited by predators.
“Women believe they are getting hired for trimming work, and then they’re drugged and raped,” said Maryann Hayes Mariani, coordinator for the North Coast Rape Crisis Team. “Everybody looks at (the region) like it’s the Land of Oz. I’m just so tired of pretending like it’s not happening here.”
Another horror in this story is the number of trimmigrants who go missing, which is apparently overwhelming law enforcement. In 2015, Humboldt County reported 352 missing people, more per capita than any other county in California.
The demand for female companionship has contributed to sex trafficking in these rural areas from all over the country and the world, including Mexico and Eastern Europe, according to social service providers and victims.
One local trafficking survivor, interviewed by Reveal, started a nonprofit organization to spread awareness in Humboldt County called Game Over, a survivor-led organization, “joining the battle to end sex trafficking in Humboldt County and beyond.”