Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wyndham Hotels on

From 2006 to 2011, Crips gang members in San Diego ran a child sex trafficking ring out of area hotels that destroyed the lives at least 16 girls.
An 18-month FBI investigation discovered that the gang was able to use two Wyndham-owned hotels (Travelodge and Howard Johnson) regularly for child prostitution with the knowledge and even assistance of staff.
In California, the staff at a Howard Johnson in Escondido, CA, refused to stop sex trafficking -- and at the San Diego Travelodge, staff actively facilitated and profited from the sexual exploitation of children.
Travelodge staff knowingly rented rooms to Crips gang members for use in child prostitution -- and demanded higher rates for these rooms in exchange for cooperation. They even set aside specific areas in the hotel for sex trafficking.
Members of the staff also allowed the gang members to use the hotel computer to post online ads advertising sex with minors and agreed to warn the Crips if police were nearby.
Although Wyndham has a child protection policy, it has failed at least 16 children -- with more cases emerging.
Just last week in Alexandria, Virginia, a grand jury indicted a MS-13 gang member for selling sex with girls as young as 15 on another Wyndham property, a Super 8.
Two major American hotel chains -- Hilton Worldwide and Carlson Companies, an entity that includes Radisson Hotels and other chains -- have already signed the international child protection policy, as have 945 other companies across 37 countries.
Click here to make sure Wyndham is next to sign the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children and call on the company to implement this stricter child protection policy in order to prevent future instances of child sex trafficking:
Thanks for taking action,
- Patrick and the team

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TIP Time

On Monday, June 27, 2011 the State Department released the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report in Washington. Here is the link to the new TIP report. .The link includes a video of the actual ceremony from yesterday’s event. The TIP report is an invaluable tool that examines trends in the U.S. and around the work, both in terms of topical issues and individual country progress on addressing human trafficking. For instance, the report highlights the fourth “P” of Partnership – an important addition to the other alliterative TIP goals of Prevention, Prosecution and Protection.

Sheila Roseau, one of the TIP “sheroes” is a friend and colleague from years ago. She spoke on behalf of the several people there who received special recognition from the Secretary of State. She has done so much work on violence against women issues and our team worked with her under the auspices of the Florida International Volunteer Corps – FAVA/CA to do training on domestic violence and sexual violence in Antigua and Barbuda, where she heads the Directorate of Women’s Affairs – with wonderful brilliance, passion and dedication. I mention this because as Sheila’s work includes human trafficking, it highlights the issue and the needs for us in Florida to do more to understand human trafficking from the Caribbean to Florida and within the Caribbean, our neighbors. Please share if you know of any program that includes specialized expertise on human trafficking in and from the Caribbean. I’ll be linking up with Sheila to find out more about their work in Antigua and Barbuda and keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

U.S. State Department Releases Report on Human Trafficking

U.S. Warns of Worsening International Human Trafficking Crisis

State Department says nearly two dozen nations aren't doing enough to combat modern-day slavery.


The international fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery is losing ground, the U.S. State Department said in a new report out Monday.

The total number of countries that are not meeting international standards to stop human trafficking nearly doubled to 23, according to the department’s annual report. The worst offenders were the Republic of Congo, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Another 41 countries were placed on the State Department's “watch list,” which could lead to sanctions unless their records improve, the Associated Press reports.

“The problem of modern trafficking may be entrenched, and it may seem like there is no end in sight,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement. “But if we act on the laws that have been passed and the commitments that have been made, it is solvable.”

Roughly 27 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide, according to the report, with 100,000 of them in the United States.

The analysis ranks 184 governments around the world on their efforts to stop sexual exploitation, forced labor and modern-day slavery.

Those countries meeting the baseline of expectations include the U.S., Canada, Australia, Scandinavia and most of Western Europe. The bottom tier is comprised mostly of nations in Africa and the Middle East.

The report is based on information collected from U.S. embassies, government officials, nongovernmental and international organizations, published reports, unofficial tips and research trips to every region.

The first State Department human trafficking report was released 11 years ago. Since then, 148 countries have joined the Palermo Protocol, the U.N. effort to combating trafficking, and 130 countries have enabled laws criminalizing all forms of trafficking, according to CNN.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New article from CNN Freedom Project

Media For Humanity

I am so impressed. Check out this fantastic organization based in NYC:

Media 4 Humanity (M4H) is an organization of media professionals and students dedicated to eradicating child slavery and exploitation, starting here in the United States.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

His Life As An Undocumented Immigrant

I had to share this beautifully written story by an undocumented immigrant living a closeted life about his status. Victims of trafficking can also be undocumented immigrants, and we can see the vulnerability and potential for exploitation present in the lives of trafficking victims in this man's life as well.

International Language

I enjoy looking at international newspapers to check out the way different countries report on human trafficking. Check this out:

I like that the article refers separately to a human trafficking and prostitution ring to show that the two aren't one in the same.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Transatlantic Comparison of Human Trafficking

Check out this new article positing that human trafficking is an economic crime, focusing on exploitation of victims and profitability of the offense.

"The Transnational Illegal Market of Trafficking in Human Beings – Actors and Discourses: A Transatlantic Comparison" Free Download

JÜRGEN NAUTZ, University of Vienna
EURIDICE MARQUEZ, University of Vienna

The paper analyses the development of trafficking in human beings (THB) as an economic crime and as a severe violation of human rights by focusing on the different actors’ involved in counter-trafficking efforts. The paper outlines how the crime evolved in Austria, Germany and the United States of America (USA) since the 19th century until present.

The phenomenon of human trafficking as defined by the UN Trafficking Protocol of 2000 it relates to slavery and it is considered as modern day slavery. Finding the right words to describe the crime remains a persistent challenge in combating human trafficking.

Most formulations used to describe trafficking focus on the trade or buying and selling of people, or they mean something closer to “smuggling,” which relates specifically to movement over borders. These words, including the word trafficking in English, may not adequately capture the most important aspect of the practice: exploitation.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that in the 19th and early 20th century practices nowadays considered as human trafficking referred as ‘White Slavery’, Slavery and ‘Mädchenhandel’. THB was also primarily saw as a feeding of the sex industry; excluding forced labour, domestic servitude, forced begging, among other forms of human trafficking from the today internationally agreed upon definition.

A growing demand for (cheap) labour, sexual services and women for (forced) marriages, economic and demographic disparities have stimulated the trafficking and smuggling in human beings through time. The perpetrators force the individuals to work in conditions of forced labour, servitude, or debt bondage; this privation of freedom and poor living conditions is thus a severe violation of human rights. Efforts to combat THB have mostly been geared at victim support and prevention as a response to the severe harm to victims, but little has been done to diminish the profitability of the business, which is why it is valuable to look at how this business has developed through time. Trafficking still remains a very profitable business in which the traffickers face relatively small risks.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Feeling Good About Slavery Free Tomatoes

(Reprinted from the St. Pete Times in Florida)

When was the last time you bought a good tomato?
You know how it usually goes. You pick up a shiny, rubbery red globe at the supermarket, carry it home, cut it up and take a mealy, flavorless bite. "Bleah," you say, "I paid two bucks a pound for that?"
It cost a lot more than you think.
In Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, Barry Estabrook slices open the tomato business, focusing mainly on Florida, which is "the source for one-third of all the fresh tomatoes Americans eat."
Anyone who eats tomatoes will learn a great deal from this book. And for anyone who lives in Florida, it's must reading. Whether you know it or not, the tomato industry has an impact on your life — and not just by providing a red spot in your salad.
Estabrook has won the James Beard Award for food journalism and been an editor of Gourmet magazine and founding editor of Eating Well. He brings a foodie's passion and an investigative journalist's determination to finding the people who can tell the story of Solanum lycopersicum and the Sunshine State.
His curiosity was piqued, he tells us, when he was driving on I-75 near his mother's home in Naples. An open truck was loaded with what he first thought were Granny Smith apples. A few bright green fruits fell from the truck as it zipped along at 65 mph, hit the road surface — and bounced. Then rolled, then came to rest unmarked by their high-speed tumble. What could survive a fall like that intact?
A modern, industrially farmed tomato.
Estabrook begins with a history of the plant, which originated in the extremely arid Andean foothills. There it still survives and maintains some diversity in the face of habitat loss. But one variety, S. lycopersicum, was brought to Mesoamerica and domesticated by the Mayans and others. That was the start of centuries of inbreeding that produced the single species — despite its variations in color and shape — now consumed around the world and, because of that inbreeding, highly susceptible to pests and diseases.
Florida's tomato industry began just south of Tampa Bay in 1880, when Palmetto farmer Joel Hendrix shipped a cargo of green tomatoes from his farm to New York City in January. Tomato acreage in the state grew from 214 acres in 1890 to 29,000 in 1930. About that time, scientists developed a process that used ethylene gas to turn green tomatoes red, meaning they could be picked hard and green and rouged at will, just before going on the market shelf. They would look vine ripened — although they wouldn't taste that way. But for produce-hungry Northern consumers, that was, and remains, good enough.
Florida's winter growing season was key to its success in tomato growing — even though in every other way this is a really bad place to grow them (see excerpt, right). Because their land is so unsuitable to the crop, Florida farmers use a torrent of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides; Florida tomatoes get hit with five times as much fungicide and six times as much pesticide as California tomatoes.
Maybe eating tomatoes won't give you a serious dose of those chemicals, although many of them linger inside the fruit where they can't be washed away. It's a different story for farmworkers who plant, tend and pick them, and Estabrook paints a picture of their lives that will break all but the most shrunken heart.
He takes us from Naples, the United States' wealthiest metropolitan area, with an average net worth of $1.7 million (its megarich residents include Florida's governor) to Immokalee, less than an hour's drive away, where the average income is $9,700, one-quarter of the national average, and half the 15,000 residents live below the poverty line. Almost everyone in Immokalee works in the tomato industry.
Estabrook recounts crew leaders, the go-betweens for growers, purposefully recruiting workers who are undocumented, uneducated and who don't speak English, precisely because they will be easier to control — and cheat. He documents not just appalling conditions but outright slavery. He talks to Douglas Molloy, a U.S. attorney who has an international reputation for prosecuting slavery cases in Florida — at any given time, he's working on six to 12 cases. He tells Estabrook "that any American who has eaten a winter tomato, either purchased at a supermarket or on top of a fast food salad, has eaten fruit picked by the hand of a slave. 'That's not an assumption,' he told me. 'That is a fact.' "
What Estabrook finds makes him angry, no question, but he doesn't just leave readers with a bitter taste in their mouths. He looks for solutions, and he finds them on many fronts. He recounts the efforts of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which had its roots in 1996, when a 16-year-old worker, beaten bloody by his crew boss for having taken a drink of water, looked for help. Six hundred workers protested by marching on the boss' house and refusing to work for that crew boss — and it worked.
Since then, the coalition has grown into a national organization whose best known accomplishment is its Campaign for Fair Food, which has used boycotts, marches and coalitions with students and clergy to persuade fast food companies and the Florida Tomato Exchange, a growers' organization, to pay fair prices and support fair treatment of workers. Estabrook talks to a range of developers, lawyers, activists and workers about other efforts to improve conditions.
And as for the tomato itself, he visits two University of Florida researchers competing to create better ones. Old-school Jay Scott takes him through the Wimauma garden where he used traditional crossbreeding methods to come up with the Tasti-Lee, a commercial-style tomato that actually tastes good. Harry Klee's approach is a "multidisciplinary team that includes psychologists, food scientists, statisticians and molecular biologists." In his shiny Gainesville lab, Estabrook taste-tests tomatoes served to him through a slot by anonymous gloved hands.
Tom Beddard takes Estabrook on a tour of the Charlotte County acreage of Lady Moon Farms, the largest organic produce operation on the East Coast. Beddard uses traditional techniques like crop rotation and cover crops to grow tomatoes and other vegetables. His per-acre yield, he says, is lower than conventional growers', but he "more than recoups the differences in yields through the higher prices he can command for organic produce."
Not only does the farm use organic methods, it makes a point of fair treatment of and pay for its workers. Beddard tells Estabrook, "Organic farming in Florida can be a bitch. … But it can be done."
Put Tomatoland on your reading menu. It will surprise and perhaps enrage you, but its final flavor is hopeful.
Colette Bancroft can be reached at or (727) 893-8435.

If you're still hungry for more good information about your produce, try these delicious sources:

The New York Times (food writer Mark Bittman) also had a good blog article on bad tomatoes (and terrible tomato-picker working conditions) a few days ago:

Bittman highly praised the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and included a link to their action page, which features an on-line petition we can easily sign & send to major food suppliers (Publix, Kroger, et al) urging them to join CIW's Penny-A-Pound campaign to begin making improvements in the slavery-like conditions of tomato pickers. Here's that link, for those who'd like to sign the petition:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Training Opportunity on Human Trafficking


HHS Rescue & Restore to Host WebEx Training

“Reducing Demand for Commercial Sex

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

2:00 – 3:00 p.m. (Eastern Time)


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is hosting a series of free, online WebEx training sessions on a variety of topics related to human trafficking. The information session on Wednesday, June 22, will focus on how to reduce demand for commercial sex and address the following:

· San Francisco's First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP), commonly known as the "John School";

· Benefits of the FOPP for the community and the criminal justice system; and

· Intervention services for prostituted adults.


Ms. Kristie Miller, Administrative Manager

Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE) Project

The Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE) Project is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization with one primary aim: to bring an end to human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) of children and adults. SAGE contributes to this goal by raising awareness about trafficking and CSE issues and by providing treatment services for survivors.

Ms. Miller has worked for the SAGE Project since 2002, where she had the privilege of being personally mentored by renowned CSE expert and SAGE Project Founder Norma Hotaling. Currently SAGE Project’s Administrative Manager, Ms. Miller coordinates and moderates San Francisco's FOPP.

How to Register:

To register for the Wednesday, June 22th, 2:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) training session, please click on the link below (or place it into your Internet browser):

Multiple participants from an organization are encouraged to register one individual for the session; participants can view the training through one computer and a speaker phone.

For those of you not familiar with WebEx trainings, all you need is access to a computer, the Internet, and your phone.

After you register, the WebEx system will send you a confirmation e-mail with login information for both the web and the teleconference portions. Please save the confirmation email because it includes the following information:

Toll-free phone number and participant passcode for the audio portion of the training session; and

Web site link and passcode (same as the phone passcode) so you can view the PowerPoint (ppt) presentation as it is being presented. The ppt will advance automatically during the training session.

As part of the WebEx session, you can ask the presenter questions. Once on the call, the technician will guide you on how to ask questions orally. The speaker will answer questions during the last 15 minutes of the presentation.

We look forward to your participation!


Maggie Wynne

Director, Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division

Rescue & Restore

National Human Trafficking Resource Center • 1-888-3737-888

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Taking of Passports 1-2-3, 600

Farm supervisor admits taking Thai workers’ passports to prevent them from fleeing work sites

HONOLULU — A Hawaii farm supervisor has pleaded guilty to confiscating passports from Thai laborers to prevent them from fleeing in one of the nation’s largest human trafficking cases.

Sam Wongsesanit, 40, entered his plea to a conspiracy charge in U.S. District Court on Tuesday as part of a deal with prosecutors to dismiss other charges against him.

Wongsesanit is the third defendant in a federal human trafficking case involving Los Angeles-based labor recruiting company Global Horizons to plead guilty in U.S. courts. The company recruited Thai laborers to work on farms in Hawaii and Washington state.

Eight defendants were indicted in January on charges of luring about 600 Thai nationals to the U.S., putting them into debt, confiscating their passports and threatening to deport them, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Through successful prosecution of those who take advantage of immigrant workers, we strive to ensure that the United States continues to be a land of economic opportunity, as it has for generations of workers preceding them,” said Florence Nakakuni, U.S. attorney for the District of Hawaii.

Wongsesanit faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution to the victims.

“I took their passports, but I didn’t know I was breaking the law, but now I do and I take full responsibility,” Wongsesanit told U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin S.C. Chang.

He acknowledged confiscating passports from May 2004 to January 2008.

He was charged with several additional counts of forced labor and document servitude, but those charges were dropped when he pleaded guilty to a single crime.

Two other defendants, Shane Germann and Bruce Schwartz, pleaded guilty earlier this year. Another associate of the defendants, Podjanee Sinchai, was charged and convicted in Thailand with recruitment fraud and sentenced to four years in prison, according to the Justice Department.

“These defendants pleaded guilty to participating in the largest human trafficking scheme ever seen by the Department of Justice,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division. “The department is committed to prosecuting cases of human trafficking, both large and small, in order to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our country.”

The president of Global Horizons, Mordechai Orian, is still awaiting trial.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Film on Human Trafficking in Eastern Europe

THE PRICE OF SEX, a NEW documentary from Women Make Movies, delves deep into the world of human trafficking in Eastern Europe as filmmaker Mimi Chakarova goes undercover to unearth this terrifying industry. Check it out at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in NYC 6/24-6/26!

A blog of note

Check it out:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

TED on Trafficking

Please check out this excellent TED talk on trafficking, pointed out to me by my college roommate and soon-to-be first year law student, Brenna Carney Ferrick. For this woman, it's personal.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Traffickers Like Us

Here is a case where the trafficker was a wealthy woman and she trafficked two young women 17 and 20 from her home country of Nigeria into domestic servitude. The facts of the case show extreme and inhumane treatment of these victims.

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Monday, June 13, 2011
Nigerian Citizen Convicted in Atlanta for Trafficking Young Women from Nigeria to Work for Her as Nannies
Bidemi Bello Forced Two Victims to Care for Her Daughter and Perform Household Chores, Yet Never Paid Them for Their Years of Work

ATLANTA – Bidemi Bello, 41, a former resident of Suwanee, Ga., and a citizen of Nigeria, was convicted on eight counts by a federal jury late on Friday on charges of two counts of forced labor, two counts of trafficking for forced labor, one count of document servitude, one count of alien harboring and two counts of making false statements in an application to become a U.S. citizen. The trial lasted one week.

“The defendant both physically abused and psychologically intimidated these women for her own personal gain,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute individuals who force persons to do work against their will.”

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Sally Quillian Yates said of the case, “The evidence showed that this was a case of modern day slavery hidden within an expensive home in an upscale neighborhood. The two women who were abused here thought they were going to be nannies; instead they were treated inhumanely. The laws of the United States protect all victims from such abuse, regardless of where they came from or how they came to be in the United States.”

Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, said, “The FBI worked very hard to not only apprehend Ms. Bello, who had previously fled the U.S., but to provide the much needed assistance to the victims, one of whom hadn't seen her parents in ten years. The close coordination with the many law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Attorney's Office in bringing Ms. Bello to justice is a testament to those agents that work these difficult and emotionally exhausting human trafficking cases.”

“Few crimes are more shocking than the trafficking of human beings in this country,” said Brock Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (ICE HIS). ”No one should have to live in a world of isolation and forced servitude. Together with our federal, state and local partners, ICE HSI is committed to protecting those who cannot protect themselves.”

According to evidence and testimony at trial, the jury heard from two victims who had been separately recruited in Nigeria by Bello’s offer to come to the United States to work as her nanny. In return, Bello promised she would send the young women to school in the United States, and for one victim, she promised to pay her as well. The first victim, identified in court as “Laome,” traveled with Bello in October 2001 when she as 17 years old, using a fraudulent British passport the defendant had obtained for her. The second victim, identified in court as “Dupe,” traveled with an associate of Bello’s to the United States in November 2004, when she was 20, also using a fraudulent British passport.

The evidence showed that once in the United States, Bello became verbally and physically abusive to both young women. She beat them for not cleaning well, beat them for not responding fast enough to her crying child and beat them if they talked back to her. The young women testified Bello beat them with a large wooden spoon, shoes, electric cords and her hands. One young woman was able to take pictures of her injuries with a disposable camera and in the pictures the jury saw her cut and bloodied lip from when Bello hit her while wearing rings.

Two witnesses, one a friend and one a relative of Bello, also testified about the abuse they witnessed. One woman described seeing Laome with bruises and swollen eyes from defendant’s abuse. Both women counseled Bello to stop abusing the girls. One of the women testified she told Bello about a criminal prosecution in Maryland of a couple for “modern day slavery.” Bello refused to stop her abuse and send the young women home, telling her friend, “I will not live in fear.” This friend helped the first victim, Laome, escape from Bello, by hiding her in the back of another woman’s car, who covered her with blankets, and drove her away. Bello then traveled back to Nigeria for the second victim, Dupe.

The evidence showed that even though Bello’s upscale home had multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, Bello made the young women sleep on the floor or a couch, and would not let them use the shower, but instead required them to bathe with the water in one bucket. Even though the young women cooked all of Bello’s meals, they were not allowed to eat the food they cooked, as Bello made them eat cheaper food or, sometimes, food that had spoiled and was moldy. Laome testified that she often threw up from the food Bello made her eat, and that at on at least one occasion, Bello made her eat that vomit.

The evidence also showed that the victims were sleep deprived, and forced to be on call for Bello’s child all night. The women were given ceaseless tasks such as mopping the floor with rags; washing a privacy fence in Bello’s backyard; cutting the grass with a tool called a cutlass, described as a long knife blade with a wooden handle; and washing the clothes and linens by hand in a bucket. Bello would not let the young women use modern appliances such as the washing machine, dishwasher or the lawn mower. The evidence showed that Bello never sent the young women to school as she had promised and never gave them any money for their years of work. Bello made the young women totally dependent on her for all their basic necessities and would not let them interact with anyone without Bello being present. Dupe finally saved up $60, given to her by friends of Bello, and called a cab. She was assisted by pastors at a church in Marietta, Ga., after taking the cab to the church.

Bello moved out of the United States during the investigation. She was indicted on the charges in September 2010. She was found and arrested at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston upon re-entering the United States.

Sentencing for Bello has been set for Aug. 24, 2011, before U.S. District Judge William S. Duffey Jr. The two forced labor charges and the two labor trafficking charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The two document servitude counts carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Lastly, the alien harboring count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the FBI, ICE HSI and special agents with the U.S. State Department, Diplomatic Security Services. Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Coppedge and Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section Deputy Chief Karima Maloney are prosecuting the case.

Very cool new blog across the pond

Please check out for an excellent new blog fighting the good fight!

Film, Human Trafficking, and Ways to Get Involved

Benjamin Chambers: Speaking in a Loud Voice - A Juvenile Probation Officer Makes Documentary about Sex Trafficking

Written by Ryan Schill on Jun 9, 2011

Charles Taylor Gould, a former co-worker of mine, is a juvenile probation officer in Multnomah County, Ore., who's been hearing stories for 15 years from teenage girls in the juvenile justice system who've been sexually exploited or victimized by sex trafficking.

So what did he do? He did what anyone would do: he made a full-length documentary. And along the way, he interviewed people like U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and actress Daryl Hannah.

Your American Teen "follows three teens for approximately two years. All three girls suffered severe trauma as children and throughout their adolescence; all three had parents that were unable or unwilling to care for them." Gould and his fellow producers, Tyler Benjamin and Keith Murphy [the latter is also a juvenile probation officer and co-worker of Gould's], "interviewed survivors, detectives, organization executives, celebrities, lawyers, policy makers and many others in [a] quest to find out what is being done to prevent sexual exploitation of vulnerable girls" in the Northwest.

Q: What inspired you to make this documentary?
Mainly, it was that you see kids in deep pain . I've been doing my work 15 years now. I work with all populations at juvenile justice because I lead skill groups [educational, cognitive restructuring, etc.], which means I get kids from all units - a girl who was trafficked and in our system because of that, a gang member, sex offender - any of them. I hear their stories and they're almost unbelievable.

As a juvenile court counselor, your voice can be loud - but only so loud, and the only other way I knew how to yell to Joe Public to hear these stories was to do the other thing I love, and that's making films. It's the best way to get people to hear these stories.

Q: Does this affect boys as well as girls?
It's predominantly girls, yes. Make no mistake, there are boys out there who are sexually victimized. The thing that kills me about it is some of these kids are 4 and 5 years old when they get raped, beautiful kids, and they live in silence with this unbelievable pain. It happens to boys and girls, but mostly girls.

Q: Does your film address the issue of criminalizing prostitution when teens are victims of sex trafficking? Yes. And about how drugs play a role in this. An amazing amount of young women and girls end up addicted to drugs and are exploited sexually because of that addiction. It happens all too often. In fact, you see a young woman talk about that in the film trailer.

These girls are treated like criminals. They're brought into detention facilities, they're sometimes tried, they can have felonies that go with the prostitution charge.

There are more than 100 girls in Portland at any given time that are victims of sex trafficking by a pimp. And we have three beds [in the service system] dedicated to help these girls. That sounds horrible, but it's three more than we did have. So the movement is going in the right direction. People are starting to understand that these girls are victims and not criminals.

It's amazing to me that we have 100 girls in absolute crisis right now. Many need up to 9 months of treatment [which can be a combination of drug and mental health treatment, cognitive restructuring, and trauma-focused care] - you do that math, that's a lot of money and beds. I don't know what the answer is. We've asked a lot of people, and no one has one. The money's not there, but the problem continues.

Q: Based on the trailer, it looks like you're dealing with more than just sex trafficking. Can you say more about that? I can't stand the term "sex trafficking." It doesn't describe what's really happening. That really comes from moving bodies from one place to another. This happens - because Portland is on the I-5 [highway] corridor, the city is a great hub for sex trafficking. Pimps will trade girls from Seattle to Portland, Vegas, then back up to Tacoma [Washington] - we're talking about selling children for sex. That's one end of the spectrum.

But there's more going on than that. Other facets of the documentary are about girls dealing with sexual exploitation every day, as young girls and teenagers. The sexual exploitation issue is that we as a society seem to be upping the ante as far as what is acceptable in how we sell things and what we perceive to be sexy. There's all these different things happening at once. The way they're connected - from actual pimping to pressure to dress a certain way - these girls are being exploited around their sexuality. It's all connected.

Q: How can the film help?
By getting the message out there, it can help young girls know they're not alone. One thing the three girls we followed in the film all have in common: they all suffered severe trauma and were left to deal with it by themselves, because their parents were unable to help because of their own depression, or locked in drugs, or didn't care about their kids the way they should have.

The girls are still fighting their battles. Two are doing quite well, and one is still struggling. The reason they were so willing to do these interviews was that they wanted to help younger girls deal with similar situations. So I think the film can help younger girls know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and there are people to help.

Equally as important, the general public needs know that the issue exists, that the service systems are aware of it, and are fighting to do something about it, that there are people out there who are at least trying to help. The more people who are aware, who stand up, who don't buy into the garbage media tells us about sexuality and girls, the better off we'll be. This is a call-to-action film.

Q: What can people do?
First, I'd say, face your own issues. We're all guilty at some level - we have a huge issue with pornography in this country, but beyond that, we often buy into the idea that younger is sexier, or women believing that they have to look young and be ditzy to get love. The experts we interviewed in the film all say, "Dive in, face your own issues, but be honest."

Second, find out who's working on this issue locally. Join an activist group, like the Soroptimists.

Third, let your local government officials know this issue's important to you. Find champions and support them.

Fourth, work to educate kids in schools about this. We need to forget this idea that kids in middle school can't handle this subject, because if we're not teaching them ways to deal with their own sexuality, and how to draw lines in terms of sexual exploitation, they're going to learn it from their peers.

Q: What's next for the film?
It still needs to be edited, but its world premier will be in January 2012, at the next conference held by the Northwest Coalition Against Trafficking. Beyond that, we're working on our distribution plan. We'd like to cut a version for use in schools, and another for adults.

The above story is reprinted with permission from Reclaiming Futures, a national initiative working to improve alcohol and drug treatment outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More Kristof

She’s 10 and May Be Sold to a Brothel

M. is an ebullient girl, age 10, who ranks near the top of her fourth-grade class and dreams of being a doctor. Yet she, like all of India, is at a turning point, and it looks as if her family may instead sell her to a brothel.

Her mother is a prostitute here in Kolkata, the city better known to the world as Calcutta. Ruchira Gupta, who runs an organization called Apne Aap that fights human trafficking, estimates that 90 percent of the daughters of Indian prostitutes end up in the sex trade as well. And M. has the extra burden that she belongs to a subcaste whose girls are often expected to become prostitutes.

M. seemed poised to escape this fate with the help of one of my heroes, Urmi Basu, a social worker who in 2000 started the New Light shelter program for prostitutes and their children.

M., with her winning personality and keen mind, began to bloom with the help of New Light. Both her parents are illiterate, but she learned English and earned excellent grades in an English-language school for middle-class children outside the red-light district. I’m concealing her identity to protect her from gibes from schoolmates.

Unfortunately, brains and personality aren’t always enough, and India is the center of the 21st-century slave trade. This country almost certainly has the largest number of human-trafficking victims in the world today.

If M. is sold to a brothel, she will have no defense against H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. Decisions about using a condom are made by the customer or the brothel owner, not by the girl. In one brothel I slipped into to conduct some interviews, there was not a single condom available.

The police make more effort to help girls like M. than they did a few years ago, and in a column a week ago I described a police raid on a brothel and the rescue of girls inside ages 5, 10 and 15. Yet the police force’s progress is uneven, with one prostitute explaining why brothels hide young girls from police: “Because when the police come through, they confiscate the very young girls, and then the brothel owners have to pay a bribe to get the girls back from the police.”

Now at age 10, M. is running out of time. Her parents have pulled her out of her school in Kolkata and are sending her back to their native village hundreds of miles to the west.

“Our family situation is such that we have to take her back,” said her mother. She is vague about the reasons, except to say that the girl’s grandfather insists upon it. M. has a scholarship through New Light to study free in Kolkata, so the cost of M.’s education is not a factor.

This leaves Basu and me with an extremely bad feeling, fearing that once she is back in the village and away from her protectors at the New Light shelter, her grandfather could sell her to a trafficker for transfer to a red-light district anywhere in India.

When we ask M. what she thinks, she looks down and says in a small voice that she worries as well. But she says she will never give up: “I will not stop my studies,” she told me firmly.

Then again, she is unlikely to be consulted. And traffickers offer families hundreds of dollars for a pretty girl.

I’m here in Kolkata with America Ferrera, the actress from “Ugly Betty,” to film a television documentary. Ferrera fell in love with M., and M. with Ferrera; they spent much of their time giggling together.

“When I look at her, I see all the 10-year-old girls I’ve ever known,” Ferrera said. “She’s bubbly, silly, and optimistic. It would be heartbreaking to lose such a beautiful spirit to a life of violence and prostitution.”

Ferrera, Basu and I jammed into M.’s one-room shack to beg her parents to let her stay in school in Kolkata. “I’m pleading with you,” Basu said. “Let your daughter have this opportunity!”

We got nowhere. Her parents have bought M. a train ticket back to the village in a week’s time.

I don’t know how this will end up. Ferrera said she will be writing letters to M. in hopes that this may make her family nervous about a sale. And Basu is counseling M. on what to do if she is sold to a trafficker. We just don’t know what else to do.

What I do know is that it is surreal that these scenes are unfolding in the 21st century. The peak of the trans-Atlantic slave trade was the 1780s, when just under 80,000 slaves a year were transported from Africa to the New World.

These days, Unicef estimates that 1.8 million children a year enter the commercial sex trade. Multiply M. by 1.8 million, and you understand the need for a new abolitionist movement.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The DREAM Act: vulnerable young people, seeking a solution

Without passage of the DREAM Act, vulnerable young people seeking a resolution to their impermanent status are in greater danger of being trafficked. Please check out this interesting new film:



Fresh off his award-winning performance opposite Benjamin Bratt in La Mission, Jeremy Ray Valdez will be filming in Houston in October of 2011. The film, Dreamer, is helmed by local filmmaker, Jesse Salmeron.

Jeremy Valdez will play Jose, an undocumented college graduate who is living the American Dream until his employer discovers his immigration status, and the life he has worked so hard for begins to crumble around him. Widely considered the hottest young Latino actor in Hollywood, Valdez has remained busy the past few years with stints on primetime dramas such as 24, The Closer and NCIS. He also starred in Edward James Olmosʼ Walkout.

The title of the film, Dreamer, references the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal and deportable alien students who graduate from U.S. high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. illegally as minors, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment.

The director, Jesse Salmeron, came to the U.S. undocumented at the age of three during the Salvadoran Civil War. He received refugee status and went on to attend the University of Houston and studied Creative Writing, Theatre, and Film. Salmeron has a full slate of films planned for the coming years. His film company is Undocumented Productions.

Principal photography for Dreamer will begin in Houston in October of 2011.

Good Anti-Trafficking Work Going On

I'm impressed with and the work that they are doing to inform and eradicate human trafficking. Please check out this website as a clearinghouse for information on anti-trafficking efforts in the U.S. and abroad.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Film and Human Trafficking

Trade In Hope (working title) is a feature length documentary about American children being sold for sex in the Land of the Free and what we can do to stop it. The film will follow the journey of an American woman, Cyndi, trafficked into prostitution at age nine, her escape at age nineteen, and the steps she took to find true healing. Over the course of two years, the film will document anti-trafficking efforts in the US in order to present a story of community solution that has national relevance. By weaving the collaborative art from painters, dancers, poets, graffiti artists, actors and animators with more traditional documentary footage, Trade In Hope's innovative cinematography and allegorical elements will help its audience to gain a comprehensive understanding of the sex trade in our own backyard.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Baby Selling

Selling one's baby for profit speaks of desperation. This article concerns me for a number of reasons, but I'm left with more questions than answers. Do we know, for example, that the teens knew that their children would be sold as part of a trafficking ring? Did they instead think it was some form of profitable adoption? What was the involvement of these girls' parents in this whole situation? I'll post any follow up articles that I find. For now, see below...

Nigeria: 32 Pregnant Teens Arrested in Baby-Trafficking Scheme

Dozens of pregnant teenagers could face charges after being accused of planning to sell their babies to a child trafficking operation, officials said Thursday. Thirty-two girls between 15 and 18 years old were arrested Saturday during the raid of a clinic in Abia State, the state police chief said. The director of the clinic was also arrested, accused of buying babies from the young mothers for $160 to $190 and selling them to childless couples for up to $6,400. He denied the charge, saying he was a volunteer doctor who placed unwanted babies in orphanages.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kristof, You Rock My World

Op-Ed Columnist

Raiding a Brothel in India

Nicholas D. Kristof

On the Ground

Nicholas Kristof addresses reader feedback and posts short takes from his travels.

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At the beginning, I knew only about a young teenage girl imprisoned on the third floor of a brothel in a red-light district here in Kolkata.

The pimps nicknamed her Chutki, or little girl. She had just been sold to the brothel-owner and seemed terrified.

Investigators with International Justice Mission, a Washington-based aid group that fights human trafficking, had spotted Chutki while prowling undercover looking for prostituted children. I.J.M. hoped to convince the Kolkata police to free the girl, but it would help to have more evidence that the girl was still imprisoned. So an I.J.M. official asked: Would I like to accompany him as he sneaked into the brothel to gather evidence?

India probably has more modern slaves than any country in the world. It has millions of women and girls in its brothels, often held captive for their first few years until they grow resigned to their fate. China surely has more prostitutes, but they are typically working voluntarily. India’s brothels are also unusually violent, with ferocious beatings common and pimps sometimes even killing girls who are uncooperative.

Unicef has estimated that worldwide 1.8 million children enter the sex trade each year. Too many are in the United States, which should prosecute pimps much more aggressively, but the worst abuses take place in countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Cambodia.

So I set off with the I.J.M. investigator (who wants to remain anonymous for his own safety) into the alleys of the Sonagachi red-light district one evening, slipped into the brothel, and climbed to the third floor. And there were Chutki and three other girls in a room, a pimp hovering over them. Perceiving us as potential customers, he offered them to us.

We demurred but said we’d be back.

The Kolkata police agreed to raid the brothel to free the girl. I.J.M. told them the location of the brothel at the last minute to avoid a tip-off from police ranks. The police casually asked us to lead the way in the raid since we knew what Chutki looked like and where she was kept.

So along with a carload of police, we drove up to the brothel and rushed inside to avoid giving the pimps time to hide Chutki or to escape themselves. With the I.J.M. representative in the lead, we hurtled up the stairs, brushed past the pimp and found Chutki and the three other girls in the same room where we had seen them before.

Two female social workers from I.J.M. immediately began comforting Chutki, who police said was about 15 and looked terrified. They explained that this was a police operation to rescue her, and they helped her put on a robe for modesty’s sake.

Then another of the girls in the room asked if she could be rescued — but a few days later. She explained that if she left now, the brothel-owners would blame her for the raid and possibly harm her grandmother, whose address they knew.

We told the girl that this chance might not come again. She dissolved into tears, wavered and then decided to come out. Then a third said that she wanted to escape as well.

The girls tipped off the police that the brothel-owner was in another building, arranging to sell a new girl named Raya for the very first time, either that evening or the next night. The police hurried off and returned with Raya, a wide-eyed girl of about 10 years.

It seemed that the brothel had purchased Raya just a week earlier, after her own brother-in-law tricked her and trafficked her. If the raid had been delayed by a few hours, she might have faced the first of many rapes.

With Raya was a 5-year-old girl who seemed to have been abandoned. Perhaps the brothel-owners were grooming her for sale in a few more years. So we emerged from the brothel with five lives that had just been transformed.

Equally important, one pimp had been arrested and arrest warrants had been issued for two more. There are no quick fixes to human trafficking, but experience in several countries suggests that prosecuting pimps and brothel-owners makes a difference. A study in Cebu, Philippines, found that helping police and courts target child prostitution resulted in 87 arrests over four years — and a 79 percent reduction in the number of children in the sex trade.

We drove the five girls to a police station to fill out paperwork so that they could move into shelters and receive schooling or vocational training. Raya, the 10-year-old who otherwise at that moment might have been enduring her first rape, was giggly and carefree as she pretended to drive the car. She behaved like a silly little girl — which was thrilling.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Numers, Finally

  • Contact: Kara McCarthy (202) 307-1241
  • After hours: (202) 598-0556


More than 2,500 incidents of human trafficking investigated between January 2008 and June 2010

WASHINGTON – Most suspected incidents of human trafficking investigated between January 2008 and June 2010 involved allegations of adult prostitution (48 percent) or the prostitution or sexual exploitation of a child (40 percent), the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today.

Federally funded task forces, led primarily by local law enforcement agencies, investigated 2,515 incidents of suspected human trafficking between January 2008 and June 2010. Although most incidents involved allegations of sex trafficking, 350 incidents involved allegations of labor trafficking in unregulated industries (e.g. drug sales, forced begging, or roadside sales) and/or more commercial industries (e.g. hair salons, hotels, and bars).

Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion. Any commercial sex act performed by a person under age 18 is considered human trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion is involved.

Among the incidents with sufficient data quality, 30 percent were confirmed to be human trafficking, 38 percent were confirmed not to be human trafficking, and the remaining incidents were still open at the end of the study period. Law enforcement agencies reported 144 arrests. Of the 87 victims identified as foreign nationals, 21 received special visas and 46 applicants had pending visas or the visa status was unknown.

The task forces identified 527 confirmed human trafficking victims and 488 confirmed suspects during the study period.

Among the confirmed incidents, sex trafficking victims were overwhelmingly female (94 percent), compared to confirmed labor trafficking victims (68 percent female). About 13 percent of confirmed sex trafficking victims were 25 or older, while more than half (62 percent) of the confirmed labor trafficking victims were 25 or older.

Four-fifths of victims in confirmed sex trafficking cases were identified as U.S. citizens (83 percent), while most confirmed labor trafficking victims were identified as undocumented aliens (67 percent) or qualified aliens (28 percent).

Based upon cases where race was known, sex trafficking victims were more likely to be white (26 percent) or black (40 percent), compared to labor trafficking victims, who were more likely to be Hispanic (63 percent) or Asian (17 percent).

Most of the confirmed suspects were male (81 percent). More than half (62 percent) of confirmed sex trafficking suspects were black, while confirmed labor trafficking suspects were more likely to be Hispanic (48 percent).

Law enforcement agencies led nearly all (98 percent) of the suspected sex trafficking cases. Labor trafficking investigations were more likely to show evidence of collaboration among agencies. Eighty-two percent of labor trafficking cases identified multiple agencies as part of the task force team, while 49 percent of sex trafficking cases identified multiple agencies. Federal agencies were more likely to lead labor trafficking investigations (29 percent) than sex trafficking investigations (7 percent).

Data in this BJS report are from the Human Trafficking Reporting System (HTRS), which was designed to capture performance measures from law enforcement agencies in federally funded human trafficking task forces. The information in the report is provided in response to a congressional mandate for biennial reporting on the scope and characteristics of human trafficking incidents in the United States. HTRS is currently the only system that captures information on state and local law enforcement agency investigations of human trafficking incidents.

The report, Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010 (NCJ 233732), was written by BJS statisticians Duren Banks and Tracey Kyckelhahn. Following publication, the report can be found at

For additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics' statistical reports and programs, please visit the BJS website at

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The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson, provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has seven components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; the Community Capacity Development Office; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at