When Holly Joshi joined the Oakland Police Department at 23, she was quickly recruited from patrol to work as a decoy prostitute on International Boulevard, a major hub for the sex-trafficking trade. But unlike most officers who were white and male, Joshi, who is biracial and grew up in Deep East Oakland, had herself been approached to sell her body for money when she was in her early teens.
“I was going down that path with older guys and bad boys,” said Joshi, 40, a mother of three. “My experiences are close mirrors to a lot of girls growing up in an urban environment.”
After a brief stint at YouthUprising, a youth advocacy group in East Oakland in September, Joshi took on a new role as executive director of MISSSEY (Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth) that taps both her personal experiences and her professional expertise with youth sex trafficking. The Oakland-based nonprofit helps youths who have been victims of commercial sexual exploitation rebuild their lives through intensive case management and mentoring.