Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Norma Hotaling, founder and Executive Director of the SAGE Project in San Francisco died on December 16, 2008 following a short illness.
Norma Hotaling transformed her own experiences in prostitution into a mission of social justice for her sisters and brothers who had also been trafficked and exploited in prostitution. As a direct result of Ms. Hotaling’s life work, many now have a profound understanding of the harm of prostitution and the responsibility of buyers for that harm. Through Ms. Hotaling the voices of survivors of commercial sexual exploitation reached the forefront of the global movement against human trafficking. Her life and her work dissolved myths about prostitution, proving it to be the world's oldest oppression rather than a victimless crime. She was a beacon of courage and an extraordinarily effective champion of victimized and marginalized women,children, men and transgendered people.
At the SAGE Project, Ms. Hotaling created a service agency for all survivors of sexual exploitation. SAGE especially welcomed those who had been prostituted and trafficked. Her model of peer-led services offered by those who had “been there, done that” as she explained, inspired people in prostitution who felt that they previously had no hope. Many survivors of prostitution who arrived at the doors of SAGE are emphatic that their lives were saved by the example of Ms. Hotaling’s life and her affection for them as people who she deeply cared for.
Ms. Hotaling founded The First Offender Program , a prostitution diversion program run jointly by SAGE and the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. Informally referred to as the "johns’ school,” the First Offender Program continues to offer educational programs to men arrested for soliciting prostitution, teaching them about prostitution’s harms to women, the community, and to their own health. Hotaling's model of the "johns’ school" is now used throughout the United States and in Canada, South Korea, and England.
Ms. Hotaling led The SAGE Project's staff while she also frequently spoke at conferences and provided counsel to public policy experts. She frequently testified for the United States Congress and the California legislature about the harms of prostitution and the needs of those in it. Although based in San Francisco, Ms. Hotaling’s work took her around the world where she worked with governmental leaders and agencies. She worked tirelessly with journalists in the print and broadcast media to help create a comprehensive picture of prostitution.
Ms. Hotaling was a board member and leader of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), one of the many organizations she worked with. She received numerous awards for her work. In 1998, SAGE and the First Offender Prostitution Program were recognized as one of the best examples of innovation from among more than 1,800 nominated programs. The programs were given the Innovations in American Government Award jointly from the Ford Foundation, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the Council for Excellence in Government.
In 2000 SAGE’s peer education program was celebrated with the Peter F. Drucker Foundation Award for Nonprofit Innovation.
In 2001, Ms. Hotaling was honored with an Oprah’s Angel: Use Your Life Award which brought national recognition to SAGE. Ms. Hotaling accepted the award on behalf of SAGE on the Oprah Winfrey show.
In October 2008, Ms. Hotaling was most recently honored by the Center for Young Women’s Development who gave her the Cheyenne Bell Award honoring her work with young women escaping San Francisco street prostitution.
When she spoke, Norma Hotaling used experiences from her own prostitution that moved her audience to tears while educating them about the cruelty of prostitution. She made it clear that almost everyone in prostitution had a burning desire to get out. Yet when Hotaling herself was struggling to escape prostitution, the only available services were inside jails.
At a San Francisco Health Department hearing on harm reduction Ms. Hotaling described the time in her life when she was turning tricks, was addicted to heroin and was prostituting for a pimp who frequently beat her but to whom she was attached. She described having approached a San Francisco health department program to ask for help and they told her she should resolve her heroin addiction. In the meeting, Ms Hotaling said, "You don't understand, I said I need help."
Norma Hotaling dedicated her life to what is called harm elimination in today’s public health language: providing women, men, and the transgendered in prostitution not only condoms and emotional support but services informed by an understanding of the multitraumatic nature of prostitution. Rather than assuming that exit from prostitution was impossible, as some allege, Ms. Hotaling fought for the right of those in prostitution to the same quality of life that others in society have.
Ms. Hotaling’s legacy is that the help she herself sought is now far better understood by public health agencies, even if budgets are not yet offering those services to the thousands of people in prostitution who seek to escape it. Her pioneering work lives on in the expansion of services for trafficked and prostituted people, and in the requirement of accountability for those who buy and sell human beings. The loss of Ms. Hotaling is felt and mourned by the thousands of people she touched in her too brief life.
Born July 21, 1951 and raised in Palm Beach Florida, Ms. Hotaling attended San Francisco State University. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Education. She is survived by her mother, Norma Louise Hotaling, her brother James Hotaling, and her beloved companion dog Emma. A public memorial will be announced for January. In lieu of flowers, donations are requested to SAGE Project, 1275 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, in honor of her life and work.
-written by Melissa Farley, with help from friends of Norma Hotaling.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
This film was shown with much acclaim at the Miami International Film Festival this year. The exploitation of underage girls who are forced, bullied and coerced into prostitution is examined in this documentary from director David Schisgall, that also follows the efforts of survivor Rachel Lloyd to rescue young women from the streets with her New York-based organization, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS).
Congratulations to Rachel from GEMS and to all the young women whose voices and stories are heard loud and clear in this film.
United States Attorney
Southern District of Florida
99 N.E. 4 Street,
Miami, FL 33132
November 21, 2008
FOUR ARRESTED FOR SEX TRAFFICKING OF IMMIGRANT WOMEN IN BROTHELS ACROSS SOUTH FLORIDA
R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Anthony V. Mangione, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced today that Arturo-Rojas- Gonzalez, Elodia Capilla-Diego, Fidel Gutierrez-Gonzalez, and Rosalio Valdez-Nava were arrested on November 19, 2008 for sex trafficking of women in several brothels across South Florida following an ongoing investigation coordinated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
This investigation was made possible by the extensive collaboration among law enforcement agencies committed to combat this modern day form of slavery. Law enforcement also worked with non-governmental organizations to identify, rescue and provide assistance to the victims. The defendants made their initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres yesterday at 1:30 p.m. in Miami, and detention hearings are scheduled for each of the defendants on November 25, 2008 at 10:00 a.m..
According to the criminal complaints filed with the United States District Court, ICE conducted an intensive investigation into more than a dozen brothels and stash houses where immigrant women were being forced into prostitution. Through statements of former victims, corroborated by surveillance and evidence obtained through search warrants, ICE arrested the four alleged brothel operators as part of a larger criminal organization operating similar brothels across South Florida. Additionally, as part of ICE’s efforts to dismantle this brothel network, nine victims were rescued from locations where search warrants were executed on November 19, 2008.
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who worked on this investigation with the assistance of other partner agencies of the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force, which included the Miami Dade Police Department (MDPD), Homestead Police Department, The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) and the Miami Dade Medical Examiner’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel Rashbaum and Brent Tantillo. A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
Monday, November 24, 2008
By John Holland and Luis F. Perez
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
November 22, 2008
They spent the hours between the beatings and threats and forced sexual encounters cloaked in suburbia, stashed invisibly in quiet family homes.
Now they are free, and the ring of smugglers who prosecutors say kidnapped them in Mexico and shuttled them to brothels across South Florida to service as many as 100 clients per week are behind bars.
Federal agents this week charged five people with operating a prostitution gang that targeted girls as young as 14, smuggled them across the border and forced them into a "modern day form of slavery," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Arturo Rojas-Gonzalez, Timoteo Reyes-Perez, Rosalio Valdez, Fidel Gonzalez and Elodia Capilla Diego are being held without bond on charges of federal sex trafficking. They will be back in court next week; the investigation is continuing.
The arrest affidavits outline the victims' lives spent bouncing between homes and brothels in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Homestead, Miami and elsewhere, always watched over by vicious handlers. At least one was held captive for nine years.
According to the affidavits:
The women collected $25 per encounter. Nearly all of the money went to their pimps. Some called the men their husbands, but all said they lived in constant fear that they or their families back home would be harmed.
The plot began unraveling in January when a victim started cooperating with law enforcement agents. From then until this week, investigators talked to more victims and tracked the smugglers.
The first woman to come forward had been kidnapped in Mexico in 1999, smuggled through Arizona and wound up on the streets of New York.
"She had no freedom of movement whatsoever, and was closely watched by her husband and his associates," Immigration & Customs Enforcement agent Mildred Laboy wrote in the criminal complaint. "She attempted to escape several times, but was unsuccessful and severely beaten for her attempts. She also attempted to take her life on numerous occasions."
Eventually she was ushered to South Florida, joining an organized and elaborate network of "stash houses" where the women were kept. Often, the cover included families, some with children, living in the same house. The women were imprisoned there until they were shipped out to spend up to a week in various brothels, a 15-year-old girl told investigators.
On June 23, law enforcement officers stopped a van carrying three of the women near Naples.
"All three women had small notebooks containing phone numbers and dates," the affidavit said, along with "tallies indicating how many customers they had seen on the particular date."
Officers let the group go, but federal agents installed a global positioning system tracker on the van. Investigators traced it to a Homestead home where the teenager lived and to "some of the brothels that Victim 2 has identified."
On Wednesday, agents searched a home occupied by Valdez, "who matched the descriptions of the pimp running the locations," agents wrote.
They found passports and luggage belonging to the victims, along with $2,000 in cash. Inside Valdez' car agents found "20-50 condoms and a commercial size bottle of lubricant."
With the first batch of arrests complete, prosecutors Friday released a statement that served as a reminder of the dangers the women faced: the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office had been brought into the investigation, because of fears that the beatings could turn into murder.
John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or at 954-385-7909.
Copyright © 2008, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Friday, November 21, 2008
The World Congress is organized by the Brazilian Government in partnership with ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), UNICEF and the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The First World Congress took place in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1996 and the Second one was in 2001, in Yokohama, Japan.
Kristi House began its initiative in 2007 to coordinate a system of care for children being exploited in prostitution and pornography in Miami-Dade County. Commercial sexual exploitation is a severe form of human trafficking affects up to 300,000 American children and thousands of foreign nationals annually. The connection between child sexual abuse and CSEC is strong with estimates as high as 80 to 90% of child victims of sex trafficking having been sexually and/or physically abused in the home.
Kristi House’s Sandy Skelaney has emerged as a local leader on this issue by creating the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children’s Project at Kristi House. The program combines a prevention curriculum aimed at empowering and raising awareness among at-risk girls, with intervention and rehabilitation services that assist those who are in need of case coordination and therapy.
Throughout the three-day World Congress, workshops and intensive discussions will focus around five key areas: forms of commercial sexual exploitation and its new scenarios, legal framework and accountability, integrated cross-sector policies, initiatives of social responsibility and strategies for international cooperation.
Congress organizers see it as being practical, solution-driven and innovative; promoting a genuine dialogue and exchange of good practices; setting practical targets; and fostering new cooperation between governments, civil society and the private sector. The outcomes document that will be created and agreed upon by world governments will be a tool to guide the pubic and private sectors in preventing and caring for all children being exploited in the sex industry.
"Sexual exploitation of children is a crime against humanity, and one that knows no boundaries," said Sandy Skelaney. "American and foreign-born children are being exploited by the hundreds in our own backyards, right here in Miami. The damage it causes to its victims is hard to over-estimate."
According to the 2007 UN Study on Violence Against Children, sexual exploitation of children and adolescents is on the rise. In addition, trafficking in human beings - many of whom are children - is now considered one the most lucrative and fastest growing transnational criminal industries, worth some US$ 10 billion a year to its perpetrators according to some estimates.
Founded in 1996, Kristi House has served more than 7,000 victims of child sexual abuse and their families. Thousands more are reached every year with education and prevention outreach programs. Services include case coordination/case management, therapy, comprehensive assessments, transportation, advocacy and emergency assistance. Visit www.kristihouse.org for more details.
Click here for more information about the World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and instructions on how to watch the Congress online.
Not so for the domestic victim of sex trafficking. Advocates for children who were being exploited in the sex trade here in America began to raise their voices, and after many long years, it appears that people are begining to recognize that these children are not delinquents who are committing crimes of prostitution willingly. They are in fact victims who are often manipulated and controlled by pimps and subject to great deals of violence on a daily basis. Many of the elements involved in prostitution that American girls find themselves in are the same for international victims, only we tend to see international victims as having no choice and no agency, while domestic victims choose this lifestyle. This ethnocentric and infantalizing view of foreign-born victims has been central to the formation of our policies and funding on this issue for many years. Domestic victims "choose" a life of violence and exploitation just as much as the international victims do. It's about time we began seeing that domestic victims of sex trafficking here in our own backyards are just as deserving of services, money and simple empathy as international victims.
I am happy to see that UNICEF, as an agency of the United Nations, recognizes that domestic sex trafficking of minors is a problem within the United States, and that the American government has been taking an increased interest in the issue over the last several years. I feel like all the hard work done by a relatively small group of advocates and survivors in a rapidly growing field is finally paying off. We have a long way to go, but this is a good sign of things to come.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Details are below, as is the link to the online registration and instructions. The conference is hosted by the Initiative to Stop Human Trafficking at Harvard University's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation. Please forward this invitation to your professional and personal contacts and consider organizing a group of colleagues to watch the conference together.
LinaLina NealonManager Modern-Day Slavery Project *working title*Hunt Alternatives Fundoffice: 617.995.1943 cell: 617.448.5864 fax: 617.995.1982 www.huntalternatives.orgProvoking change...for good
Online Event: Sex Trafficking: Best Practices to Combat Demand
Sex Trafficking: Best Practices to Combat DemandNovember 18, 2008: 2 - 4 pm (EST)
~Online event. Registration required, and free of charge.~
The trafficking industry flourishes due to the persistent demand for commercial sex. Robust demand unleashes powerful market forces: the opportunity for profit ensures a steady supply of pimps and traffickers, and there is no domestic or foreign shortage of women and girls in desperate circumstances who are vulnerable to exploitation.
What is being done to address the consumer side of this human rights issue? This online conference will focus on the best practices to combat the demand of sex trafficking. The discussion will be moderated by Michael Shively, Ph.D., Senior Associate, Center on Crime, Drugs, and Justice, Abt Associates, Inc.
The panel will feature:
Donna Hughes - Ph.D., Professor and Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Chair, Women's Studies Program, University of Rhode Island
Sgt. Lavonnie Bickerstaff - Bureau of Police, Pittsburgh, PA
Stephanie Davis - Policy Advisor on Women's Issues, Office of the Mayor, City of Atlanta, GA
For more information about this free online event, visit our event page at:http://www.innovations.harvard.edu/spotlight.html?id=1761&preview=0
Thursday, October 30, 2008
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Tampa Bay Online (www.tbo.com) October 28, 2008
Undercover Operation Video
TAMPA - One became a prostitute at age 12.
All six Tampa Bay teens rescued in a law enforcement operation last week worked prostitution hotspots such as Nebraska Avenue or were pimped on the Internet.
The operation to combat trafficking of children for sex led to the rescue of five Tampa teens and one from St. Petersburg, according to the FBI. The six were 16 or 17 years old, FBI Tampa spokesman Dave Couvertier said.
Five adults from Tampa were arrested on prostitution-related charges during "Operation Cross Country II," which was completed last week, authorities said. The FBI, Tampa Police Department, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and other agencies participated in the crackdown locally.
Law enforcement agencies conducted the operation in 28 cities. There were 642 arrests, and 47 children were affected. A similar operation occurred in June and one child was rescued in Tampa.
Authorities focused on "hot spots" for prostitution, including motels along Nebraska Avenue in Tampa, casinos, large events that take place in the Bay area and online social networking sites.
Law enforcement agencies used stakeouts, undercover officers and tips from the public to find the children, Couvertier said.
Four of the six area children rescued were categorized as endangered runaways by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The teens are typically runaways who come from foster care or broken homes, Couvertier said.
Pimps or people who work for pimps coerce the children into a life of prostitution by preying on their weaknesses, he said.
Some children are given drugs to feed their addictions. Others are promised "the good life," money, or more emotional fulfillment than what they have at home, Couvertier said.
It is very difficult for children to escape because pimps intimidate and threaten them to stay, he said.
Most teens are rescued during undercover operations. Sometimes, it's as simple as locating the children, getting into contact with them and arranging for a law enforcement officer to pick them up and drive them to safety, Couvertier said.
"Sex trafficking of children is one of the most violent and unconscionable crimes committed in this country," FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole said in a written statement.
Reporter Josh Poltilove can be reached at (813) 259-7691.
Find this article at: http://www2.tbo.com/content/2008/oct/28/282015/fbi-says-operation-effective-against-trafficking-k
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
October 3, 2008
A Virginia man was arrested Thursday on charges of bringing two minors to Jacksonville to engage in prostitution.
Marvin Leigh Madkins, 28, of Newport News was indicted last week by a federal grand jury in Jacksonville on two counts of sex trafficking of minors and one count each of transporting minors to engage in criminal sexual activity and possessing a shotgun to further a crime of violence.
Federal prosecutors said Madkins recruited the two minors in Virginia and brought them to Jacksonville between April and June. He faces a life prison sentence and $1 million in fines if convicted.
U.S. Magistrate Monte Richardson ordered Madkins held until Monday, when he has scheduled a detention hearing.
The Klaas Kids Foundation works to search and assist missing and trafficked children and their families. They provide many resources to families whose children run away, are missing or are known to be exploited in the commercial sex trade; including search and rescue services for children deemed "endangered" runaway/missing. They are also a wellspring of information and resources for the general community. Inquiries are taken from private citizens, social service agencies, law enforcement and others at (415) 331-6867.
Click here for Klaas Kids' October 2008 newsletter.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
CSEC 101 / Identifying & Engaging Victims for Services (MIAMI)
1265 NW 12th Ave.
Parking is free and plentiful. Water and coffee provided. Feel free to bring your own food.
RSVP / Questions: Sandy 305-547-6855 or firstname.lastname@example.org
CSEC 101 / Identifying & Engaging Victims for Services (FT. MYERS)
8am - 12pm
Sugden Welcome Center
Florida Gulf Coast University
Ft. Myers, FL
RSVP / Questions: Christina email@example.com
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
The CSEC Project at Kristi House is preparing to launch the Girls are Not for Sale outreach campaign spearheaded by GEMS and using the documentary film Very Young Girls . Watch the trailor below and check out the links and the following article to find out more. Contact Sandy at 305-547-6800 if you are in South Florida and you would like to schedule a training on CSEC.
Village Voice - July 2, 2008
Feminist Law Professors Blog
New York Sun – July 3, 2008
New York Times – July 4, 2008
“Very Young Girls” trailer – You Tube
By Sewell Chan
“Very Young Girls” is an 83-minute documentary film that opens on Friday at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village. This is the film’s first commercial release; it received critical acclaim at its premiere last September at the Toronto International Film Festival. (See a review by Jeannette Catsoulis of The Times.)
The film offers a vivid and disturbing look at the sexual exploitation and trafficking of teenage girls in New York City. The average age of girls when they enter the sex industry is 13. The girls interviewed in the film — all identified by their real first names, except for one given the pseudonym Nicole — were participants in a New York-based nonprofit advocacy group, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, which was established in 1998 by Rachel Lloyd, a former prostitute, originally from England, who has dedicated her career to combating human trafficking and sexual exploitation of girls. GEMS now works with about 200 girls a year.
Among the girls interviewed are Shaneiqua, a former A student who craved affection and described her first time having sex with her pimp in this way: “I thought that was the best thing that ever happened to me — the best, best.” Soon the man, nearly 20 years her senior, told her, “I would love you a lot more if you brought in more money.” After the first time she had sex for money, she said, “My whole body just felt dead.”
Another girl, Shaquanna, 15, is shown on a hospital bed, ingesting liquid medication that had been injected into a cup of Jell-O for her. She had been found on the side of a road, unconscious; she could not remember who had attacked her. Yet even in her painful condition — bruised, bloodied, her front teeth missing and chipped — she expresses relief. “I was praying for a situation to happen so that I’d be able to go home.”
The filmmaker, David Schisgall, said he had been making films about young people in war zones for MTV’s “True Life” series. “International sex trafficking was on our list of topics,” he said in a phone interview. “In the course of our search we found that there was trafficking going on in the United States that nobody was talking about.”
Mr. Schisgall, 40, who grew up in the Maryland suburbs outside Washington, said the “audience response has been overwhelmingly positive.” He said the film would be broadcast on Showtime in December.
He said he believed that the criminal justice system treated child prostitutes as criminals, rather than as victims. “It struck me as a great scandal,” he said, “and also as a great story.”
The girls make clear why leaving the men who exploit them is not easy. As one girl, Kim, tried to pack her suitcases, she recalled, her pimp “told me the next time I leave, he’s going to put me in a suitcase.”
Another former prostitute, Martha, put it this way: “I am his investment. I am his way of getting money. At the end of the day, if you think about it, a pimp does nothing more but collect the money.”
But the emotional ties are even stronger, in some cases, than the threat of violence and the relationships of economic dependence.
Ms. Lloyd, who was an executive producer for the film, says in the film: “Our primary competition is pimps. They’re spending 110 percent of their time and energy on recruiting, on brainwashing, on making this girl feel loved and special, and pulling her back in every time that she almost leaves. This has been four years of her life, from 12 to 16. He’s 35. He basically raised her.”
Ms. Lloyd is shown winning a human rights award from Reebok, the athletic footwear company. In her acceptance speech, she says that many Americans recognize sexual exploitation in countries like the Philippines, Thailand and Ukraine, but not in their own backyards. “When it’s happening two blocks away from this auditorium, when it’s happening in Bedford-Stuyvesant or Hunts Point or Queens Plaza, we look the other way.”
The film provides only a fleeting glimpse at the men who patronize prostitutes, showing a scene from the “Brooklyn John School,” a program in which men arrested for patronizing prostitutes complete an educational course and have their charges dismissed if they stay out of trouble for six months.
Several of the girls in the movie made it out of the sex trade. Mr. Schisgall said that Shaquanna, the girl who had been beaten and hospitalized, recently graduated as the valedictorian of her high school class in New York City.
Other girls had less certain futures. One, Ebony, became a prostitute at 15 and moved to Miami to be with a pimp. Despite Ms. Lloyd’s efforts to save her — including tracking her down during a vacation to Miami — Ebony ultimately returns to the street life, in part because she cannot stand the disapprobation and stares of her neighbors during a brief return to New York.
“I’d rather have him beat me than being over where people are looking at me sideways,” Ebony says, adding, “I have a home in Miami where I can go back to with no problem.”
July 13, 2008
Last month, FBI Director Robert Muller announced a nationwide sweep of pimps who trade in the most abhorrent form of prostitution - child prostitution.
Tampa was one of the 16 cities mentioned by the FBI. That may be shocking to some, but authorities say child prostitution is common, if little noticed, in the region.
Tampa's inclusion on the FBI's list underscores the need for a concerted local effort to wipe out this vicious crime.
The local office of the FBI is tight-lipped on the case that was included in Muller's announcement of Operation Cross Country.
Officials say only that one child was recovered in a joint investigation with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. The FBI says the investigation is continuing into what might be a case of multiple pimps and multiple victims.
The local child was one of 21 rescued nationwide during Operation Cross Country, and one of 433 rescued in the five years of the FBI's Innocence Lost initiative.
The law does recognize the pimping of children - formally known as domestic minor sex trafficking - as a serious offense. It's considered human trafficking in federal law, and Florida law has made it a first-degree felony to recruit, transport or coerce a child into prostitution.
But the laws have been inconsistently enforced.
This spring, Shared Hope International released a report on child sex trafficking in the Tampa Bay area that concluded teen prostitutes were largely hidden from view and the legal system tended to consider them criminals, not victims. The organization, headed by former U.S. Rep. Linda Smith, concluded there was "an acute lack of awareness" that allowed pimps to ply their trade and victims to go unnoticed.
Smith says the biggest problem is that the law enforcement and social workers most likely to encounter young prostitutes have not been viewing them as victims, but as individuals who have chosen to break the law.
The reality is many of the youngsters are brainwashed by their pimps, dependent on them for drugs and have been taught not to trust authorities.
Local court systems are not particularly punitive to teen prostitutes - most plead guilty to lesser charges and are released. But they often return to their pimps, and Smith says law enforcement generally hasn't focused on bringing charges against the pimps or traffickers.
And the teens aren't getting the kind of counseling and rehabilitation services they need to break free of their pimps, Smith says.
So for now, the practice of prostituting minors goes largely unchecked. Yet the victims are not hard to find: They are the boys and girls being ferried up and down Florida's highways, where they sell their bodies at truck stops. They are brought to town for major conventions and sporting events. They are even sold to tourists, who don't have to go all the way to Thailand to sexually exploit a child.
Consider the case of Wayne Banks Jr., an Ohio man who was arrested in Florida after beating up one of his teen prostitutes. He is now serving an unprecedented 40-year sentence for child sex trafficking.
"They were like a traveling sales company: city to city to city," Escambia County Sheriff's Detective Troy Brown told the Toledo Blade. "They'd been to Tampa, Miami, Atlanta."
Law enforcement agencies are notably aggressive when it comes to protecting children from child pornographers or from predators who try to entice victims via the Internet.
But the youngsters working the streets and truck stops are often viewed with less sympathy.
It is easy to forget they are only children - and children worth saving. Tampa's place on the FBI's list should alert us all to the need to furiously combat the vile trade that sells their bodies and steals their souls.
Monday, July 21, 2008
By JOHN R. MILLER (July 11, 2008 - Washington)
PRESIDENT BUSH has won support abroad and bipartisan praise at home for his efforts to combat human trafficking, the slavery of our time. But now that work is imperiled by his own Department of Justice.
At the United Nations in 2003, Mr. Bush denounced the sex trafficking of women and girls around the world. A little more than two years later, he signed into law a bill that included a broad array of measures to reduce the domestic demand for sex trafficking.
Sex slavery is not the only modern incarnation of this ancient institution — factory slavery, farm slavery and domestic servitude are still with us — but it is the largest category of slavery in the United States. People who have spoken with the president say that he wants the fight to end modern slavery to be one of his legacies as president.
From 2002 to 2006, I led the State Department’s efforts to monitor and combat human trafficking. I felt my job was to nurture a 21st-century abolitionist movement with the United States at the lead. At times, my work was disparaged by some embassies and regional bureaus that didn’t want their host countries to be criticized. I didn’t win every battle, but the White House always made it clear that the president supported my work and thought it was important.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the Justice Department started a campaign against a new bill that would strengthen the government’s anti-human trafficking efforts. In a 13-page letter last year, the department blasted almost every provision in the new bill that would reasonably expand American anti-slavery efforts.
Should the State Department’s annual report on trafficking, which grades governments on how well they are combating modern slavery, consider whether governments put traffickers in jail? The Justice Department says no. Should the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services Departments streamline their efforts to help foreign trafficking victims get visas and care? No. Should the Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, State and Justice Departments pool their data on human trafficking to help devise strategies to prevent it? Amazingly, no.
In its letter, the Justice Department even opposes authorizing the president to create new awards for the international groups that are leading the struggle for abolition. It also doesn’t want the State Department to be required to give the names of American anti-trafficking phone lines to visa applicants at American consulates overseas. It doesn’t want a citizen task force to help develop an information pamphlet for victims.
Some objections like these are, regrettably, to be expected in a Washington turf battle. But the Justice Department is consistent — it opposes changes to expand its own efforts to combat human trafficking, too.
Should the department prosecute the American sex tourists who create demand for adult human-trafficking victims in foreign countries? No. Should Congress make clear that there should be increased penalties for Americans who sexually abuse children abroad? No way. Should we give our courts jurisdiction over Americans who traffic human beings abroad? Certainly not. Should the attorney general include information in his annual report on his department’s efforts to enforce anti-trafficking laws against federal contractors and employees? No. Too “burdensome,” says the Justice Department.
The department strongly objects to a provision that would make it easier to prosecute pimps, the chief slaveholders in the United States. The Justice Department opposes taking away from pimps the defense that they did not know a child’s age. And it opposes easing the requirement to prove force, fraud or coercion in order to prosecute a pimp for human trafficking.
How did President Bush’s Justice Department come to these positions? In conversations, department employees emphasize the threats of diversion of federal resources and intrusion on state and local rights.
But it is hard to believe these are the reasons. After all, the Justice Department knows that it will prosecute only the biggest pimps just as it goes after only the biggest drug dealers. It knows that pimping has long been recognized as an interstate activity with a federal role. And the Justice Department knows that the states have had very limited success when trying to convict traffickers.
A culture clash, I suspect, is the real reason for the Justice Department’s opposition. This isn’t the usual culture clash of right and left, religious and secular. In this case, the feminist, religious and secular groups that help sex-trafficking survivors are on one side. And on the other are the department’s lawyers (most of them male), the Erotic Service Providers Union and the American Civil Liberties Union — this side believes that vast numbers of women engage in prostitution as a “profession,” by choice.
As one Justice Department lawyer put it at a meeting I attended, there is “hard pimping and soft pimping.” The department’s letter hints at this view. Adult prostitutes who are transported across state lines, in violation of the Mann Act, should not receive grants under the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 because they “do not meet the legal definition of ‘victim,’” the letter states.
Both sides agree there is a small group of expensive call girls — the kind paraded in recent political scandals — who may choose to engage in prostitution. But that’s where agreement ends. Those who work with trafficking victims and those who have interviewed survivors believe that most prostitutes are poor, young, abused, harassed, raped, beaten and under the control of pimps against their will.
Put me on the side of those who have worked with the victims. I have talked with survivors all over the world, including the United States, and I share the view that these women and girls — the average age of entry into prostitution is 14 — are not participating in the “oldest profession” but in the oldest form of abuse. They are slaves.
It is hard to believe that the Justice Department’s perspective reflects the man at the top of the Bush administration. Yet the unusual anti-slavery coalition that President Bush helped to forge now finds itself battling the president’s own Justice Department.
The department lost the battle in the House, which passed the new anti-human trafficking bill almost unanimously, by a vote of 405 to 2. Unfortunately, the department seems to have more influence with the Senate, where the bill is stalled in the Judiciary Committee. And Senator Joseph R. Biden, Democrat of Delaware, has introduced a bill that largely complies with the department’s views.
The president may never have seen the Justice Department’s letter. But Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York, and Deborah Pryce, Republican of Ohio, two of the leaders of the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking, have been unable to arrange a meeting with the president to express their concerns to him.
President Bush should meet with them — and his own Justice Department — before he loses his legacy and his leadership on the abolition of modern slavery.
John R. Miller, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, is the former State Department ambassador at large on modern slavery.
Friday, July 18, 2008
You can submit your favorite search string and everytime new things are posted on the internet matching your search string, Google will deliver them to your inbox.
Try submitting "human trafficking" "child trafficking" "commercial sexual exploitation" and variations on that theme to get all the breaking news and initiatives in the field.
This is the Positive Youth Development philosophy that is a hot catch phrase right now to describe "Youth Participation", a concept that has been prioritized in the fight against CSEC since the the First World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Sweden in 1996. Motivational Interviewing is one tool that can be used to help facilitate that process. There are many other resources available through a simple google search. Here are some that I have found useful:
Positive Youth Development Toolkit 2008
Motivational Interviewing Assessment: Supervisory Tools
The Psychosocial Rehabilitation of Children Who Have Been CSE
The Psychosocial Rehabilitation of Children Who Have Been CSE - Study Guide
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Legislation would decriminalize actions of children involved in sex trade, instead treating them as victims.
By Kamika Dunlap
OAKLAND — Potentially landmark legislation that would decriminalize the actions of minors involved in the sex trade and instead treat them as victims, reached Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk Tuesday to be signed into law.
Assembly Bill 499 this week cleared the Assembly 66-0 after passing the Senate 73-1 last week, with bipartisan support along the way. Lawmakers' voting indicates the need to address the growing number of sexually exploited youths in the Bay Area who have been forced into prostitution, child pornography or human trafficking. During the past several years, the sexual exploitation of minors has exploded in Oakland, with children as young as 11 peddled on the streets and over the Internet for sex, authorities said. In addition, the city has become a stop on the sex-trade circuit in the Bay Area and Las Vegas.
"Unfortunately, commercially sexually exploited minors are currently arrested and processed through the criminal justice system as offenders," said Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, who sponsored the legislation. "These youth do not receive the services necessary to protect them from harm, with the result that many repeatedly fall victim to the same predators upon release."
Schwarzenegger has until Sept. 30 to sign the bill into law, otherwise it will automatically become law.
Currently, if a minor younger than 18 is picked up for prostitution, she is charged as a criminal and sent to juvenile hall.
However, social service workers and law enforcement agencies are hoping a new law would change that and connect them with the services they need. The law also would help girls who want to bring charges against a pimp.
"It is a moral imperative that we act quickly to rescue these children and track down the violent predators who are the true criminals," Swanson said.
The outcome of AB499 will help to crack down on pimps, prosecuting them with maximum sentences, Swanson said.
Recently, authorities in Oakland rescued four child victims of human trafficking and arrested 12 people in connection with child prostitution charges, according to FBI officials. The arrests by the Oakland Police Department were part of a larger federal sweep that lasted five days and targeted 16 cities nationwide. Called "Operation Cross Country," a Justice Department-led effort, recovered four children in Oakland June 18, the most children recovered in any location that night, FBI spokeswoman Patty Hansen said.
Oakland police also conducted their first citywide sweep last month to make sure several hundred registered sex offenders were in compliance with state laws, including verifying residency and having DNA samples on file with authorities. Operation Compliance Check 2008 resulted in 231 compliance checks, which netted 12 arrests and the collection of DNA from five registered sex offenders.
"The biggest problem is the issue of awareness," said Lt. Kevin Wiley, commander of the Special Victims Unit for the Oakland Police Department. "(AB499) brings everyone to the table, makes it everyone's problem, and gives them the opportunity to solve the problem through education, training and awareness."
Reach Kamika Dunlap at 510-208-6448.
**Increase coordination between government, law enforcement and child advocates working with sexually exploited children to ensure they are treated with similar types of care to that received by victims of domestic violence, which includes access to shelters and counseling.
**Create a pilot program in Alameda County to implement a uniformed training curriculum to properly treat sexually exploited minors as victims of coercion and not criminals of intent. The curriculum also would train law enforcement, prosecutors and public defenders to properly recognize the signs of sexual exploitation of children.
**Require that the training curriculum be available to area law enforcement and criminal justice agencies.
Other links to AB499:
SGT. BYRON FASSETT and DET. CATHY DE LA PAZ
Dallas Police Department, Child Exploitation Squad
Monday & Tuesday, July 28 & 29, 2008
University of Miami Campus, Coral Gables
Organized for service provider and law enforcement professionals in Miami-Dade County, this two-day, intensive training will focus on adolescent victims and sexual abuse, and will be led by two experts who have conducted thousands of interviews of high risk victims. The goal is to provide specialized education and skills for working with populations of vulnerable and victimized teens, in particular runaways, the seemingly compliant and those commercially sexually exploited. These adolescents have traditionally been among the last to receive help or services, and are frequently further victimized by systems of justice and care that should be protecting them. Through presentations, mock interviews and case studies, the training will advance the skills of those dedicated in Miami-Dade to punishing perpetrators and helping children escape abuse and recover.
8-8:30 a.m. Registration / 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Training
(12-30-1:30 Lunch on your own both days)
To register for this conference, please visit the Kristi House website at http://www.kristihouse.org/conferenceinfo2008.php.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
The work of the Innocence Lost Task Forces throughout the country last week is commendable, yet I must also point out that it was just the tip of the iceberg. Changing public perception of exploited and enslaved children as victims rather than willing participants in prostitution is one step that you can take to help stop the violence.
Child prostitutes sell themselves on Craigslist
By Veronica De La Cruz and David FitzpatrickCNN
SACRAMENTO, California (CNN) -- For more than two years, undercover cops on the Sacramento Police Department's vice squad have been working one of the most draining beats: trying to crack down on online child prostitution.
Police have nabbed nearly 70 girls under the age of 18 since 2005. Most of the girls were released to foster or group homes. Those are just the official figures; investigators think there are many more child prostitutes out there.
It is no easy task.
"We're asking these girls to do a big thing ... which is to stop what they're doing," said Sgt. Pam Seyffert of the Sacramento Police Department. "Stop what's working for them. Surviving is basically what they're doing."
Sacramento police are working with the FBI as part of a nationwide campaign to combat underage prostitution called Innocence Lost. The goal of the program, which is now in almost 30 U.S. cities, is to decriminalize the girls and concentrate on catching the pimps who control them.
"It really makes me angry," Seyffert said. "I think everybody on the team has different reactions to it, but I just flat out get really angry that some guy thinks he can take this girl and basically deprive her of her freedom."
It is not uncommon for the officers on the unit to put in 30-hour shifts. Oftentimes, their work is heart-wrenching.
Child prostitution is even tougher on the parents of these girls. Roslyn and Sergio's daughter had been missing for more than two weeks. They waited for hours at police headquarters in hopes that their daughter would be found.
Vice squad officers found her in a downtown apartment with Bruce William Carter, a 21-year-old man who police said had posed on the Internet holding fistfuls of cash. He pleaded not guilty to charges of statutory rape and was held in lieu of $35,000 bail.
The couple's daughter, who had just turned 17, was detained but not arrested.
"It hurt," said Roslyn, who appeared weary and a bit shell-shocked. "Because you don't want to see your children involved in things like this. You don't realize how dangerous the Internet is. Now, we got to keep her away from the Internet."
Police say most of the ads appear on Craigslist, the popular and free Internet classifieds site, under a category named "Erotic Services." Even though Craigslist has posted a bold disclaimer warning against human trafficking and the exploitation of children, law enforcement officials said it doesn't seem to deter girls from posting the ads or men who are searching for sex.
But why would a girl sell her body online?
To help answer that question, Sacramento police made arrangements for CNN to interview a 14-year-old girl who said she'd started selling herself as a prostitute at the age of 11.
"I wanted to feel loved. ... I wanted to feel important," said the teen, who wanted to be identified only as Monique.
She said she used Craigslist because it was free and she could post dozens of ads a day. Even though she understood the seriousness of what she was doing, she said she didn't care.
"You could put stuff in your ad like 'wet and wild,' 'fun and sassy,' things like that to catch their attention, to make them want you," she said.
Craigslist executives said they abhor the fact that their site is being used for child prostitution but believe that the problem could be harder to track if they removed the category.
"It would be a bigger problem if we removed that category and had those ads spread throughout the site," said Jim Buckmaster, chief executive officer of Craigslist.
Both legal experts and police say Craigslist bears no legal responsibility. Undercover officers said the fact that the listings can be traced helps them pinpoint the girls and sometimes leads them to pimps.
For her part, Roslyn has a strong message for the man arrested in connection with her daughter's detention.
"I want him to stay away from my daughter," she said. "I'm going to put a restraining order on him. Every time he goes near my daughter, I'm going to call the police and have him put in jail."
Even though they have more work than they can handle, vice officers hold out hope that they can save more girls from a life of prostitution.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Police: Luxury Bus Caught In Prostitution Sting
Investigators Say Vehicle Was 'Brothel On Wheels'
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. --
Miami Beach police said 75 people were arrested during a weekend prostitution sting -- including some people on a quarter-million-dollar luxury bus. Investigators described the bus as a "brothel on wheels." Undercover detectives spotted the bus cruising Miami Beach. When they boarded the bus, they saw five women servicing customers, police said.
"There were lap dances, friction dances and sexual acts," an officer said in court. Police said the bus was owned by Christine Mortha, 29, who also stripped on it.
"There was a charge of $40 to enter the bus," an officer said in court. Police said money was all over the bus. "It was on the floor, it was on their G-strings, you name it," a police officer said in court. "It was in the register. In 19 years, I've never seen this."
The arrests on the bus were part of weekend-long prostitution sting. From Thursday through Saturday, 75 people were arrested. Seven of them were charged with felonies.
During the effort, police said they also seized narcotics, a firearm and located a missing woman.
Agents Rescue 21 Kids, Arrest Pimps In Nationwide Crackdown
WASHINGTON (AP) ― Hundreds of people have been arrested and 21 children rescued in what the FBI is calling a five-day roundup of networks of pimps who force children into prostitution.
The Justice Department says it targeted 16 cities as part of its "Operation Cross Country" that caps off five years of similar stings nationwide.
Many of the children forced into prostitution are either runaways or what authorities call "thrown-aways" -- kids whose families have shunned them. Officials say they are preyed upon by organized networks of pimps who lure them in with shelter or drugs, then often beat, starve or otherwise abuse them until the children agree to work the streets.
"We together have no higher calling than to protect our children and to safeguard their innocence," FBI Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday. "Yet the sex trafficking of children remains one of the most violent and unforgivable crimes in this country."
In all, authorities arrested 345 people -- including 290 adult prostitutes -- during the operation that ended this week. Since 2003, 308 pimps and hookers have been convicted in state and federal courts of forcing youngsters into prostitution, and 433 child victims have been rescued, Mueller said.
The cities targeted in this week's sting are: Atlanta; Boston; Dallas; Detroit; Houston; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; Montgomery County, Md.; Oakland, Calif.; Phoenix; Reno, Nev.; Sacramento, Calif.; Tampa; Toledo, Ohio and Washington.
The problem of child prostitution has taken on a new urgency in recent years with the growth of online networks where pimps advertise the youngsters to clients. The FBI generally investigates child prostitution cases that cross state lines.
The cases aren't easy to convict.
In April 2006, for example, charges against a Nevada man resulted in a hung jury after his 14-year-old victim refused to testify against him. Months later, however, a second jury found Juan Rico Doss of Reno, Nev., guilty of forcing two girls -- ages 14 and 16 -- to sell sex in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and Oakland.
A University of Pennsylvania study estimates nearly 300,000 children in the United States are at risk of being sexually exploited for commercial uses -- "most of them runaways or thrown-aways," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
"These kids are victims. This is 21st century slavery," Allen said. "They lack the ability to walk away."
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
For more information contact Ayesha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DSS to help teen sex slaves
Figures: 70 percent of prostitutes are runaways
By Marie Szaniszlo
Sunday, June 15, 2008
The state Department of Social Services will open more than a dozen beds for youngsters next month as part of a groundbreaking $1 million program to help victims of sexual exploitation.
Beginning July 1, DSS will reserve nine beds at a secure, undisclosed Boston location for girls ages 12 to 21, most of whom are former runaways who were coerced into prostitution, said Jennifer Kritz, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
The move comes amid a spike in cases of runaway teens who become prostitutes. “In recent years, there have been growing concerns nationally about youth exploitation and human trafficking,” Kritz said.
Lisa Goldblatt-Grace, director of the My Life, My Choice prostitution prevention program at the Home For Little Wanderers in Boston, called DSS’s program “groundbreaking, both for Massachusetts and nationally.”
“This is the first time in our entire country that a child-protective services system has stepped up to the plate in terms of providing money, resources and time to fund a continuum of care for commercially, sexually exploited kids,” Goldblatt-Grace said.
Statistics released in 2007 from the Teen Prostitution Prevention Project indicated that 70 percent of underage prostitutes identified in Suffolk County since 2005 are runaways. Nationwide, National Runaway Switchboard estimates that 1.6 to 2.8 million youths run away every year, and many are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
Last week, a 17-year-old runaway from Boylston who had been kidnapped and forced into prostitution in New York was found shaking and beaten in Brighton after she bolted from her captor’s car. The victim gave a description of the car and her alleged kidnapper was arrested.
The state also is setting aside five beds for girls, boys and transgender youngsters in private homes with foster parents specially trained to work with teenagers who have been sexually exploited, Kritz said.
“There’s definitely a huge need for safe beds for these kids,” said Stacy Dellorfano, development officer at Bridge Over Troubled Waters in Boston. “A lot of these kids come from broken families. They’re runaways - sometimes throwaways - who fall into the wrong hands.”
All 14 youngsters, as well as approximately three dozen others referred by DSS, also will have a mentor to help guide them, Kritz said.
“In most communities, child protective services say this is a juvenile justice problem,” Goldblatt-Grace said. “In Boston, we know these are kids who have survived, who are strong and who have a right to have adults who don’t betray them and don’t exploit them and instead go to great lengths to ensure their safety so that they can find hope.”
Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/general/view.bg?articleid=1100873
Monday, May 12, 2008
By Missy Diaz | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
May 9, 2008
A Mexican national has pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle Mexican women and girls into the United States and force them into prostitution, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Thursday.
Juan Luis Cadena-Sosa, 43, is one of 16 defendants charged in 1998 with smuggling the women and girls from Mexico to Florida and South Carolina. Cadena-Sosa remained a fugitive until November 2007 when he was extradited from Mexico to the United States.
Nine of the defendants, including Cadena-Sosa, have now been convicted in federal court; one was convicted in state court and another was convicted on related charges in Mexico. A third defendant died while a fugitive. Three remain at large.
According to federal court documents, Cadena-Sosa, his brothers and a nephew operated a number of brothels, some staffed by girls younger than 18, throughout South Florida. The women and girls were smuggled into the country primarily from Veracruz, Mexico, by Cadena-Sosa and his associates. Once in the United States, the women and girls were informed that they owed a debt to the Cadena organization for bringing them here and that they would be required to repay the debt by working as prostitutes. The women were not allowed to leave the organization. Those that tried to escape were tracked down. The men used physical violence and threats of physical harm to intimidate the women and girls, according to court records.
Cadena-Sosa, who pleaded guilty on Wednesday, will be sentenced on Aug. 20. He faces 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Prosecutions of human trafficking cases have increased seven-fold over the past seven fiscal years, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Missy Diaz can be reached at email@example.com or 561-228-5505.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Monday, April 14, 2008
Thursday, April 10, 2008
By Ani Martinez
Two young girls who were allegedly videotaped or photographed by a 36-year-old Hollywood man accused of sexually abusing underage girls have been identified by authorities.
Matthew Sheley faces one count of sexual performance by a child and one count of sexual battery on a child less than 12 years old, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said. He is accused of sexually abusing underage female victims and videotaping the encounters -- a capital offense.
Investigators identified the female victim in the videotape in Sheley's former residence. A second juvenile victim was identified through photographs, FDLE said.
Police are still trying to find other victims, who authorities suspect were possibly between the ages of 7 and 9.
Hallandale Beach detectives and FDLE investigators said they issued several search warrants and have seized videotapes, computer equipment and other items.
The challenge for police: The reported crimes occurred at least five years ago and few clues exist to identity the victims.
''We are looking at hundreds of videotapes, but we have not been able to identify a victim by name,'' said Andrew Casper, a spokesman for Hallandale Beach police. ``We are concerned about their whereabouts.''
''Additional child pornography-related charges are pending,'' Casper said. ``We believe there are possibly other tapes and other victims.''
''This is going to be a long, long process,'' he added.
Click here for the rest of the article: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breaking_news/story/487639.html
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
That’s a dangerously unrepresentative glimpse of prostitution in America. Those who work with street prostitutes say that what they see daily is pimps who control teenage girls with violence and threats — plus an emotional bond — and then keep every penny the girl is paid.
“Sometimes I meet a girl who says, ‘I have a really good pimp — he beats me only with an open hand,’ ” said Rachel Lloyd, a former prostitute who runs a program for underage prostitutes in New York City. “Many of the girls see the pimps as boyfriends, but violence is integral to everything that happens in the sex industry. That’s how you get punished for not bringing in your quota for that evening, or for looking your pimp in the eye.”
Bradley Myles, who works in Washington for an antitrafficking organization called Polaris Project, says it is astonishing how similar the business model is for pimping across the country. Pimps crush runaway girls with a mix of violence and affection, degradation and gifts, and then require absolute obedience to a rigid code: the girl cannot look the pimp in the eye, call him by his name, or keep any cash.
Every evening she must earn a quota of money before she can sleep. She may be required to tattoo the pimp’s name on her thigh. And in exchange he may make presents of clothing or jewelry.
It’s complicated: What keeps her isn’t just fear, but also often an emotional connection. “When somebody wields power over you to kill you and doesn’t, you feel this bizarre thankfulness,” Mr. Myles said. “It’s trauma bonding.”
When a middle-class white girl ends up controlled like this — think of Elizabeth Smart, the Utah girl who was kidnapped in 2002 and apparently did not try to escape — then everybody is outraged at the way the kidnapper manipulated her. But when the girls are black, poor and prostituted, there is either indifference or an assumption that they are consenting to the abuse.
“It’s about race and class,” said Ms. Lloyd, who is bewildered when she sees Amber alerts for abducted children. Last year she worked with 250 teenage girls who had been prostituted, and not one of them ever merited an Amber alert.
“If we served 250 white girls from upstate middle-class homes, we’d be rolling in money,” she added, “and we’d be changing the law.”
Changing the law is on the agenda. The House of Representatives passed a landmark bill in December, by a vote of 405 to 2, that would make the federal authorities much more involved in cracking down on pimps and trafficking.
But the Justice Department is fighting the House bill, and Senator Joe Biden, who is chairman of a crucial subcommittee, has dawdled on it. A broad coalition of antitrafficking leaders from left and right sent the Justice Department a furious letter scolding it for being soft on pimps.
That may be the only letter in history signed by both Gary Bauer and Gloria Steinem, by executives of the National Organization for Women and the National Association of Evangelicals.
Of the 100,000 prostitution-related arrests each year, the great majority of them are of women and girls; pimps and johns are much less likely to be arrested.
All those girls will never get a tiny fraction of the attention of the Elizabeth Smarts or Natalee Holloways, who fill the cable television niche for a “missing blonde” story. So let’s not let “Kristen” displace the broader reality.
Sure, there are young women who voluntarily sell sex; some of them have posted lately on my blog, nytimes.com/ontheground. Reasonable people can disagree about whether the police should devote resources to such cases.
With prostitution as with narcotics, no legal model has worked perfectly. I’ve argued that the approach with the best record is the Swedish model — decriminalizing the sale of sex, while making it an offense to pimp or to buy sex.
But whatever one thinks of legalizing prostitution, let’s face reality: The big problem out there is the teenage girls who are battered by their pimps, who will have to meet their quotas tonight and every night, who are locked in car trunks or in basements, who have guns shoved in their mouths if they hint of quitting. If the Spitzer affair causes us to lose sight of that, then the biggest loser will be those innumerable girls, far more typical than “Kristen,” for whom selling sex isn’t a choice but a nightmare.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Wendi J. Adelson and Sandy Skelaney
Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has received a fair share of sympathy for what some perceive as cruel and unusual punishment for bad choices that did little harm to anyone other than his family and himself.
Some say that prosecuting Spitzer to the full extent of the law for consensual conduct between adults would force arrest of all the "johns," which would overwhelm the legal system.
Left out of that debate, however, is that we already flood the system with prostitution arrests, but usually only the prostitutes are punished. This classic double standard further disempowers women and girls who may be victims of controlling and violent pimps.
Another provoking question that arises from the Spitzer fallout is what should happen to prostituted minors. Research has shown the average age of entry into prostitution in the U.S. is 13 years old. That means that many of the girls assumed to be adult prostitutes are actually children who are being commercially sexually exploited.
Introduced in the Legislature this year is Florida HB 605 (sponsored by Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, and Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami), which offers some protection in a state that some experts consider ground zero in human trafficking. The legislation seeks to eliminate the "force, fraud or coercion" requirement for a child to prove that he or she was induced to perform a commercial sex act. This bill's passage would bring greater protection for prostituted children in this state, and it marks an important first step in addressing the needs of trafficked and prostituted children.
Children are extremely vulnerable and more easily manipulated and controlled by pimps and exploiters who often use violence to extract obedience. Shockingly enough, most criminal statutes around the country fail to distinguish between adult prostitution and the prostitution of children.
Those urging criminal law reform need to address whether the thousands of children who are prostituted should be treated as victims, the way the federal statute covering human trafficking treats them, or as criminals, the way many state statutes treat them.
In 2000, Congress enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) to "combat trafficking in persons, a contemporary manifestation of slavery whose victims are predominantly women and children." With the TVPA in effect, it became indisputable that victims who might otherwise have been in violation of U.S. law (because of engagement in prostitution) are to be treated not as criminals, but instead as victims of crime.
Under the TVPA, sex trafficking of a minor is treated like statutory rape. However, counting the victims has proven very difficult. New York and Chicago estimate that there are between 5,000 and 10,000 children being exploited in prostitution in each of their respective cities.
We also know that there are as many as 2.8 million homeless youth in America today, one-third of whom will be solicited to sell sex within 48 hours of leaving home. The numbers are staggering, and there has yet to be a targeted study done in Florida that would reveal the numbers of children being exploited in the sex industry that exists in our back yards.
In Miami, there were 22 arrests of children for prostitution in 2007, but this number pales next to the 500 prostituted youth who were served by agencies. Several reasons explain why the number of prostituted children is larger than the arrest numbers would indicate.
First, children are usually picked up for other prostitution-related crimes such as loitering, disorderly conduct and other minor misdemeanors. Many prostituted children are also mistakenly arrested and processed as adults because of the difficulty in accurately determining their age. Runaway teens are often placed in detention.
It is also more difficult to charge someone with prostitution, because the amount of evidence needed to prove the crime is higher for prostitution than it is for disorderly conduct, for example.
Therefore, while it is almost impossible to possess exact statistics on the population of commercially sexually exploited children, it is known that the number is a large one.
Florida law, under HB 605, can begin to address this vulnerable and growing segment of the population.