Romantic Relationship Escalates to Incidents of Sex Trafficking


By Lauren Smith and Aishwarya Rajan

SACRAMENTO – Alleged sex exploiter Tigan Duvall—previously known as the boyfriend to a 19-year-old sex trafficking victim—is deemed likely guilty and is set for jury trial after a preliminary hearing conducted by Judge Steve White Tuesday in Sacramento County Superior Court.

According to testimony, on November 26, 2020, defendant Duvall beat his alleged girlfriend, causing multiple “injuries to the right side of her face and head,” injuries later found to be related to sex trafficking.

Sacramento Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Clark testified that when he questioned the victim, she stated that there was a history of unreported domestic violence but that she was “pretty vague about it” at the time of questioning.

Deputy Clark stated that the vague descriptions could have been the result of the victim thinking “she was going to die…afterwards she was fearful to even leave in the vehicle…that she was being followed. I actually had to escort her…she thought somebody was going to follow her.”

Detective Neay Chhlang was called to the stand next to testify to his investigation into the human and sex trafficking charges and to detail a four-hour interview he conducted with the victim on Dec. 1.

In his initial investigation, the detective wanted to confirm if there was “evidence” that the victim “was involved in sex trafficking.” He discovered about 80 “sex ads for prostitution for the victim.”

In the interview, the victim initially denied being involved in sex trafficking; however, after her parents left the room, the victim “explained in detail how she got involved in human sex trafficking.”

Det. Chhlang learned that Duvall and the victim initially met when she was 16 years old and in high school. He stated that the victim told him the relationship started out as “boyfriend and girlfriend.”

The detective detailed the defendant’s and the victim’s relationship and stated that Duvall was grooming her.

“When an exploiter grooms a victim, they go with a boyfriend type role where the victim is comfortable with them and then [the abuser] gradually takes away a lot of their friends and family contacts [and] tries to isolate them,” Chhlang stated. “That’s when they start talking about ‘hey…we’ve been together this long…would you be willing to have sex with sex buyers in exchange for money?’”

Det. Chhlang stated that from the interview he learned the victim was “manipulated and physically abused by the defendant.” Duvall allegedly threatened that he would “shoot [the victim’s] sister in the head if (the victim) were to get in trouble with law enforcement.”

In the interview, the victim recounted an incident in which the defendant hit her to the point where she was knocked unconscious and had to go to the hospital.

In a separate incident, the defendant allegedly gave the victim a “large gash” on her head causing her to stay away from family and friends because she did not want to be questioned about it.

Chhlang testified that the victim “was very concerned to the point where she didn’t want detectives at her residence,” and that the defendant was controlling what she would wear, what she could and could not post on social media, and whom she could hang out with.

Eventually, the victim left home to live with Duvall, according to testimony. However, since she was a minor at the time and Duvall was unemployed, they became homeless. According to the statements in the detective’s testimony, the victim became a sex worker not long after in order to make money.

The victim stated that it was a temporary situation until she and Duvall could get back on their feet.

The transition from boyfriend to sex trafficker became apparent when Duvall and the victim went to a hotel where he took pictures of her and posted ads on websites soliciting sex.

When the victim went to her first “date,” she told Duvall that she felt “used” but he was “enthusiastic about making the money anyway.”

Det. Chhlang defined “dates” as a sex worker or trafficker setting dates for a location as to where sex acts would be done, and the sex buyer would make the transaction.

After each “date,” the victim would give the money to Duvall, however she stated to the detective that the defendant would “spend it all” causing them to “end up in the same place again and again.”

Throughout the interview, the detective learned that Duvall was exploiting other women simultaneously. The victim shared that there were three or four other women that the defendant would set up dates for, but she never met or spoke with any of them.

Judge White ruled that there was “sufficient evidence” proving that the charges against the defendant were committed, and jury trial was set for later this year.

Lauren Smith is a fourth year student at UC Davis, double majoring in Political Science and Psychology. She is from San Diego, California.

Aishwarya Rajan is a first year Political Science Public Service major and Cognitive Science major at the University of California Davis. Her various experiences living in her hometown in Danville, California, have shaped her passions to deliver justice through a career in law.


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