Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Man Sells Foster Daughter Into Prostitution

**This is a case from Maryland, but I wanted to repost this blog entry by Amanda Kloer to highlight an issue that often gets overlooked in our overburdened foster care system. When I worked in New York, I ran into a couple cases of this as well, so this is not a fluke occurance. We need to keep our eyes open to identify these cases even in the homes of people we assume are there to care for the children.

by Amanda Kloer

Published October 26, 2009 @ 01:24PM PT

Pimps can be strangers to their child victims, but they are often someone the victim trusts, like a boyfriend, a parent, or a family member. In a case out of Maryland recently, Shelby Lewis sold his 12-year-old foster daughter, along with three other girls, into prostitution -- the price of the "rent" he charged them for living in his home. This case is an excellent case study of what domestic minor sex trafficking looks like in the U.S., since it has a number of very common factors present.

First, the victim was a part of the foster care system. It's common for American girls who are eventually trafficked by pimps to have been in foster care at one point in their lives. The connection between foster care and trafficking is due to both the vulnerability of young people without stable homes and the dysfunction of many foster care systems in the U.S.
Second, the pimp was someone the victim knew as a protector. While pimps can be strangers, they often approach victims first as boyfriends, friends, stepfathers, family members, etc. They groom the victim to rely on them and then claim, as Lewis did, that the cost of their protection and love is prostitution.

Third, the victims started in their early teens. Lewis first began pimping his foster daughter out when she was 12. He also sold three other girls, who he began exploiting at 13, 14, and 16. The average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 in the U.S., so the ages of the victims in this case are typical.

Fourth, one of his victims was registered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It's not unusual for children who are reported missing, either as runaways or as kidnapping victims, end up in the hands of pimps like Lewis.

Lastly, child pornography makes an appearance in this case, as it does in many others. Lewis had pictures of his victims tied to beds in sexual poses at his apartment. Pimps can earn money by selling pornographic images of the girls they exploit in addition to selling the girls themselves.

While one of these factors might not be present in all cases of domestic minor sex trafficking, they are certainly present in a number of them. This case is an example of how the issue of child trafficking in the U.S. is deeply connected to the need for reform of the foster care system and better education for girls. The questions this case begs are much broader than just those related to human trafficking: Why are foster youths so susceptible to trafficking? Why are men buying girls so young for sex? It's a reminder that we must always view trafficking within the context of social issues pimps utilize to help them traffic girls.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Human trafficking `survivor' to speak at Miami summit

Posted on Wed, Oct. 28, 2009


She was only 13 years old, a runaway fleeing an abusive father, when a pimp reeled her in with the promise of fast cash and an independent life.

`You're 13 years old and you see $400, $600, $800 in your hand,'' she said in an interview. `I'm seeing all this money and I'm like, I could get somewhere, I could make it on my own. I don't need my parents for nothing.''

Mia, who did not want to disclose her last name, would end up far from her Arizona home, trafficked by pimps to California, and later traveling to New York. She estimates she was arrested more than 50 times.

Now, five years later, she lives in Miami and is trying to rebuild her life. She has a job and is in school. Her priorities have changed -- now she has a young son to take care of.

On Thursday, Mia will tell her story during the second day of a two-day statewide Summit on Human Trafficking at the Miami Hilton downtown.

The summit, the first of its kind in Florida, brings together law enforcement authorities, social workers and community groups to help combat human trafficking and assist `survivors.''

Among those addressing the summit: Department of Children & Families Secretary George Sheldon and Cameron Holland, the State Department's legal counsel on human trafficking.

`Traffickers are selling women and children on our cities' streets, they are forcing large numbers of victims to work in our fields and in our factories. They are enslaving workers in the very hotels we stay in,'' Sheldon said in a written statement.

`We must ensure that we have more people who can recognize trafficking for what it is and establish the ways for reporting, investigating, prosecuting perpetrators and treating victims, giving them the support and services they need to become survivors and lead healthy and successful lives, free from oppression,'' he said.

Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature created the Statewide Human Trafficking Task Force, to be co-chaired by DCF and the commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

U.S. Justice Department officials estimate that as many as 200,000 children each year are trafficked within the United States as part of a vast sex industry. As many as 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year.

United Nations officials say human trafficking generates $31.6 billion a year in global business profits, second only to drug trafficking.

The summit -- Recognizing the Problem, Collaborating on a Response -- is being held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Miami Hilton Downtown, 1601 Biscayne Blvd.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Clinton Global Initiative: The Body Shop Unveils Latest Action to Stop Child Sex Trafficking

NEW YORK, Sept. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, CEO of The Body Shop International, Sophie Gasperment, unveils an innovative new approach to addressing the global issue of child sex trafficking, at the fifth Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York.

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) this year is offering a unique opportunity to bring world leaders together to recognize the importance of tackling child sex trafficking, an issue, by its very nature, affecting every country around the world. At the CGI, Ms. Gasperment will unveil an innovative 'Progress Card System' which paints a global picture of how the world's governments are taking action and assesses their progress in their efforts to tackle child sex trafficking in more than 40 countries worldwide.

The Body Shop has been invited to participate at the CGI in recognition of its 'Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People' campaign which launched across the world in August in partnership with ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes). The Body Shop and ECPAT International believe the launch of these ground-breaking cards will dramatically accelerate progress to end child sex trafficking over the course of the next three years.

"When The Body Shop undertook its global commitment to help bring an end to child sex trafficking we wanted to do more than just talk about it; we wanted to take action that could really have a tangible and positive impact in the countries where we have stores. The Progress Cards System we are launching today takes us that next step closer to effecting measurable and essential change," states Ms. Gasperment.

The Body Shop is the original, natural and ethical beauty brand, with more than 2,500 stores across over 60 countries, and a strong heritage of campaigning on important issues.

Ms. Gasperment adds: "We are proud to have been invited to the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting to present this new approach and gather feedback and support from so many truly inspiring global change-makers. It will be invaluable to the development of this powerful campaign. Today, the first findings from the Progress Cards we release reveal that many countries are still ill-equipped to deal with the issue of sex trafficking of children and young people."

Carmen Madrinan, Executive Director of ECPAT International added, "The first findings from the Progress Card project reveal a truly challenging situation. By reaching out to the public with this information, we aim to elicit broad interest in child protection and enable wide public participation and support to accelerate change in partnership with the private sector, civil society and with government in the lead."

Ms. Gasperment will take part in a CGI Working Session entitled, "Leadership Solutions to End Human Trafficking and Forced Labor," alongside panel members including Ambassador Luis de Bacc of the US State Department, Kailash Satyarthi - Global March Against Child Labor; a representative from Rugmark; and actress Julia Ormond, a UN goodwill ambassador and founder of ASSET.


The comprehensive Country Progress Cards focus on the specific situation at a country level, enabling its citizens to:

Monitor the measures implemented by individual governments to protect children;
Assess their nation's effectiveness against child sex trafficking;

Identify urgent actions required to protect children from becoming victims of sex trafficking; and

Encourage countries to turn binding and moral agreements into concrete positive outcomes for children.

Key Progress Card findings for 2009:

Only 10% of countries reviewed have special police units established across the country to investigate child trafficking cases with appropriate specialized training;

60% of the assistance and care services offered to children in countries reviewed are not comprehensive or specialized for child victims of trafficking;
1 in 3 countries do not have help lines to provide specialized assistance to vulnerable children or child victims of trafficking;

1 in 3 countries do not have specialized shelters to accommodate child victims of trafficking;

Only 2% of nations are reported to offer comprehensive and specialized counselling services to specifically address the particular needs of child victims of trafficking for sexual purposes, whilst 29% do not offer any type of services to accompany the psychological healing of child victims.

Over the next three years of the partnership between The Body Shop and ECPAT International, it is believed the Country Progress Cards will:

Increase the amount of information made available, reflecting the urgency of the situation in more countries and analysing the progress made to "Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People";

Increase resources and knowledge to build commitment to the goals of the campaign among a larger public and strengthen the grassroots base in each country;
Create a channel to mobilize active supporters and demand action from governments and decision-makers.

About the Campaign:

The Stop Sex Trafficking of Children & Young People campaign complements and supports the continuing work of the various monitoring bodies, such as the UN Human Rights Council and, in particular, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and on Trafficking in Persons, to ensure that the rights of children are respected and that nations are held responsible for guaranteeing this commitment is fulfilled.

By 2012, when the final global assessment is released by The Body Shop and ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), it is expected that significant progress will have been made by individual governments and other relevant stakeholders to honor their commitments and secure a safer world for children.

The Body Shop has taken a major leadership position on the issue of child sex trafficking, working with ECPAT International to launch a report, "Their Protection is in Our Hands - The State of Global Trafficking of Children and Young People for Sexual Purposes."

To learn more about and to support the Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People campaign visit http://www.thebodyshop.com/stop.

The Body Shop is raising funds through sales of a new Soft Hands Kind Hearts Hand Cream, all proceeds of which go to ECPAT affiliates and ECPAT International.

A summary of the Country Progress Cards System is available upon request.

About The Body Shop

The Body Shop International is the leading natural and ethical cosmetics company, now operating more than 2,500 stores in over 60 markets worldwide. The Body Shop has constantly sought out wonderful natural ingredients from all four corners of the globe to bring you products bursting with effectiveness, to enhance your natural beauty. We strive to use our planet's resources wisely, searching for outstanding natural materials and ingredients from across the globe to include in our range of products. We continue to lead the way, introducing 100% recycled packaging, raising funds and awareness to help prevent the spread of HIV/ AIDS, and continuing to support marginalized communities around the world through our unique Community Trade program.

About ECPAT International

ECPAT International is a global network composed of more than 81 member organizations in 75 countries. Members of ECPAT work to combat commercial sexual exploitation, including providing direct care to child victims' public information campaigns and working with governments to design and implement action to protect children.

About the Clinton Global Initiative

In 2005, President Bill Clinton established the Clinton Global Initiative to turn ideas into action and to help our world move beyond the current state of globalization to a more integrated global community of shared benefits, responsibilities, and values. By gathering world leaders from a variety of backgrounds, CGI creates a unique opportunity to channel the capacities of individuals and organizations to realize change. To fulfill the action-oriented mission of CGI, all members devise practical solutions to global issues through the development of specific and measurable Commitments to Action.

CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 100 current and former heads of state, 14 Nobel Peace Prize winners, hundreds of leading global CEOs, major philanthropists and foundation heads, directors of the most effective non-governmental organizations, and prominent members of the media. These CGI members have made more than 1,400 commitments valued at $46 billion, which have already improved more than 200 million lives in 150 countries. Commitments made at the 2008 Annual Meeting are expected to impact almost 160 million people.

Mike Rosen or Tara Madden Shelley Simmons
Bratskeir & Company (for The Body Shop) The Body Shop
212.679.2233 212.480.9878
mrosen@bratskeir.com shelley.simmons@thebodyshop.com

SOURCE The Body Shop International

Friday, September 11, 2009

More ACORN videos

Here are links to Part II and Part III of the ACORN videos that expose two staffers for trying to aid a "pimp" in tax evasion and trafficking of minors from Honduras for prostitution. Part I is embedded below.

Part II

Part III

ACORN staffers assisting traffickers - VIDEO

Here is the video of the ACORN staff members assisting a "pimp" and his "young prostitute" in tax evasion and trafficking of 13 Honduran minors for prostitution. Most notable is when the ACORN worker is advising the pimp to "train the 14 year old girls to keep their mouths shut".

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rachel Lloyd Receives Prestigious Ashoka Fellowship

**CONGRATULATIONS!! I am so proud of Rachel Lloyd, and so honored to have had the opportunity to work for her and share her innovative model of working with DMST victims here in Miami.** -Sandy

Rachel Lloyd, the founder and executive director of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services has been recognized by the renowned Ashoka organization as one of the worlds leading social entrepreneurs and awarded its prestigious “Ashoka Fellowhip”.


PRLog (Press Release) – Sep 02, 2009 – Rachel Lloyd, the founder and executive director of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) has been recognized by the renowned Ashoka organization as one of the worlds leading social entrepreneurs and awarded its prestigious “Ashoka Fellowhip”. Ashoka Fellows are recognized for their innovative solutions to some of society’s most pressing social problems and benefit from being part of the Ashoka global fellowship for life along with a 3-year stipend to support their work.

Ms. Lloyd was elected for her work as a voice and activist at the local, state and national level to promote policies that support American girls and young women, ages 12-21 who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. GEMS is the largest non-profit organization in America designed to empower commercially exploited and trafficked youth.

Ms. Lloyd successfully completed Ashoka’s rigorous selection process to join the global fellowship of over 2000 leading social entrepreneurs, Nobel Prize laureates and exceptional nonprofit leaders who share qualities traditionally associated with leading business entrepreneurs – vision, innovation, determination and long-term commitment – but are committed to systemic social change in their fields.

Being awarded an Ashoka Fellowship is a significant achievement for Ms. Lloyd as she continues her efforts to transform public perception of sexually exploited youth that has included being instrumental in the successful passing of the NY Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Act and co-producing the critically acclaimed Showtime documentary, ‘Very Young Girls’.

A graduate of Marymount Manhattan College and City College with degrees in Psychology and Applied Urban Anthropology, respectively, Ms. Lloyd is an activist, educator, author, mentor, and recipient of other notable awards including The 2006 Reebok Human Rights Award, Susan B. Anthony Award from the New York City Chapter of the National Organization for Women and named one of Ms. Magazines '50 Women Who Change the World'.

Rachel Lloyd’s vision and success is exemplary of one of Ashoka’s core tenets --that citizens who channel their passion into action can do almost anything.

For more information about GEMS: www.gems-girls.org
For more information about Ashoka: www.ashoka.org

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fort Myers ministry helps women leave sex trade

Click here to see full article with photos and video

August 31, 2009

BY Cristela Guerra

For seven years and in 13 cities, Julie Taylor Shematz was Diamond. She danced in front of strangers in dark, smoky rooms to make a living.

In the dressing room, it was a different story.

“She would come in and say she’d had it,” Shematz said. “She” was any of her fellow strippers at any given time.

“She’d be bawling, crying and cussing, saying she’s quitting. And everyone knew she’d be back.”

Shematz, 44, has given up the strip-club circuit and now headlines Beauty From Ashes with her husband, Steve. The nonprofit counsels erotic dancers, sex workers, porn actors and sex-trafficking victims.

Starting Tuesday, Shematz’s ministry will hold its annual Beauty From Ashes National Strip Club Outreach & XXX Ministry Training at Word of Life Church in Fort Myers.

Its purpose is to coach volunteers on how to reach out and offer workers in sex trades a way out.

In the sex industry, Shematz said the line between stripping and exploitation can often become blurred.

“I didn’t realize was how all that mental, physical, verbal abuse would affect me over time,” she said.

On the horizon, Shematz is seeking to develop Freedom Children’s Home, a home for minors who are victims of domestic sex trafficking.

Nola Theiss, coordinator of the Lee County Human Trafficking Task Force and executive director of Human Trafficking Awareness Partnerships, said there are only two other homes in the nation that reach out to juvenile sex victims.

“A 12-year-old gets picked up and forced into the sex trade,” Theiss said. “She’s under the radar for three years until she’s rescued. But what do you do then? You don’t put her in the 10th grade and say ‘good luck.’”

Detective Mike Zaleski of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office has seen too many trafficking cases with young girls in prostitution rings.

“There are many documented cases where victims have been sexually battered, beaten, tied up, and also tortured,” he said by e-mail. “In every instance there have been emotional traumas that the victim has endured.”

Shematz works up to 60-hour weeks with the “overcomers,” as she refers to the women. Through her Web site and social networking sites such as Facebook, she reaches dozens.

“It takes a long time for these girls to become adjusted to society,” she said. “The temptation to go back is always there crouching at your door.”

Aid could be assistance through education, job placement, relocation if necessary, and short-term housing.

Shematz visits the ministry’s adopted club, Fantasy’s at the Beach in Fort Myers Beach, once or twice a month, bringing food, provisions and sometimes prayer. She also has referred women to her home church, Word of Life Ministries in Fort Myers.

The church’s New Life Center on Collier Avenue is a self-contained haven for people looking to change their lifestyle, and an alternative to jail. The facility houses 113, providing room and board while clients go through a rigorous 18-month program.

“We provide personal counseling and biblical healing. There’s a need in the community for restoration,” said Bishop Gaspar Anastasi, who founded the first center 26 years ago in Freeport, N.Y., and in Fort Myers six years ago.

The program costs $700 per student, which the church’s congregation pays for through donations. The ministry boasts a 98 percent success rate.

Woman and men at the Word of Life Church eat, sleep and pray in separate areas.

Some mothers live at the facility with their children.

Arneteria Benford-Jones, 36, hopes to join the program. The Fort Myers woman met Shematz through church.

“I started at a (strip) club in Tampa,” Jones said. “I was 19 years old. You see all activities, club owners, drug dealers and pimps. It made me grow up fast.”

Jones said she’d been beaten and raped while feeding a cocaine addiction. Now, she considers herself an “overcomer.”

“I look at Julie and I don’t know why she loves me so much,” Jones said. “God sends people into your life for a reason. Though you struggle and go through storms, that’s what makes me special. If God can help me, he can help anyone.”

Reality struck Shematz when she decided to complete her college degree at 28. She was taking classes in Indianapolis while working up to five part-time jobs.

“I just thought to myself, ‘I’ll do it for a short while,’” Shematz said about stripping. A short while turned to years, even while working at what she called “the nicest club in Indianapolis.” Stripping fed her desire for attention, Shematz said, but it also made her hate herself later.

Today, Shematz has trained outreach groups in Indianapolis, Detroit and Daytona Beach — all cities in which she performed.

“All little girls, when they’re young, get up on a coffee table and ask their dad, ‘Am I pretty? Am I pretty?’” she said. “A lot of these girls never had this, and on stage what they’re saying is, ‘Look at me, do you like me? Do you want me?’”

Jeff Isacksen, 41, night manager at Fantasy’s, has watched Shematz come in to speak to his club’s dancers for years.

“The truth is, it’s a tough business that takes a lot of trust,” Isacksen said.

“But it gets old fast,” Isacksen said. “It’s more grief and heartache than anything else.”

Fantasy’s is the only strip club in the area in which Shematz has ministered. She’s waiting for the right time to go to other clubs in town.

Not all performers want to be saved. At Lookers on Fowler Street, Zahara works on her routine making what she said is up to $500 a night at times.

She’s not ashamed, but said she’s used to people such as Shematz telling her to quit.

“Everyone sees strippers as drug addicts and whores, but the thing is, a lot of the girls aren’t,” said Zahara, who declined to give her real name. “I’ve been clean for six months.”

The 21-year-old said she strips to provide for her sister and niece. She said it’s hard to do sober, but she tries.

As a professionally trained dancer, Zahara’s love is the waltz. Instead of gliding across a ballroom, her body takes shape around a pole, spinning and contorting with the rhythm.

To her, “Lookers is like a family.” But Zahara has other dreams. “Sometimes it’s hard to put on that smile,” she said. “But it pays the bills.”