Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Want a Real Reason to Be Outraged?

Hello readers,

This isn't about human trafficking, but it touches on related topics and is worth a read...

Want a Real Reason to Be Outraged?
Published: October 27, 2012

THE silliness began when Todd Akin claimed during his Senate campaign in Missouri that in the case of “legitimate rape,” women “shut that whole thing down” to prevent pregnancy. Then, a few days ago, Richard Mourdock of Indiana seemed to blame God for such pregnancies, saying this was “something God intended to happen.” I think God should sue him for defamation.

But our political system jumps all over verbal stupidity, while giving a pass to stupid policies. If we’re offended by insensitive words about rape, for example, shouldn’t we be incomparably more upset that rape kits are routinely left untested in the United States? And wouldn’t it be nice if Democrats, instead of just firing sound bites, tackled these underlying issues?

A bit of background: A rape kit is the evidence, including swabs with DNA, taken at a hospital from a woman’s (or man’s) body after a rape. Testing that DNA costs $1,200 or more. Partly to save money, those rape kits often sit untested for years on the shelves of police storage rooms, particularly if the victim didn’t come outfitted with a halo.

By most accounts, hundreds of thousands of these untested kits are stacked up around the country. In Illinois, 80 percent of rape kits were going untested as of 2010, Human Rights Watch reported at the time — embarrassing the state to begin a push to test all rape kits.

In Michigan, the Wayne County prosecutor, Kym Worthy, said she was shocked to discover more than 11,000 rape kits lying around untested — some dating to the 1980s. Worthy said that her office is now going through the backlog and testing those that are running into statute of limitations deadlines.

So far, of 153 kits tested, 21 match evidence in a criminal database and may involve serial rapists. But Worthy, who herself was raped while she was in law school, says the broader problem is indifference to sex crimes.

“Sexual assault is the stepchild of the law enforcement system,” she said. “When rape victims come into the criminal justice system, they are often treated poorly. They may be talked out of pursuing the case.”

The bottom line, Worthy said, is that “sexual assault is not taken as seriously as other crimes.” That — more than any offensive words — is the real scandal.

Kamala Harris, the attorney general of California, eliminated the rape kit backlog in state crime labs after she took office. “If you don’t test it, you’ve got a victim who is absolutely petrified, and you’ve got a rapist who thinks he got away with it,” she said. “There could be nothing worse as a continuing threat to public safety.”

The lackadaisical attitude toward much sexual violence is seen in another astonishing fact: Sometimes, women or their health insurance companies must pay to have their rape kits collected.

“No other forensic evidence collection is treated in this way,” said Sarah Tofte of the Joyful Heart Foundation, which has focused attention on the rape kit backlog. If her home is broken into, she notes, the police won’t bill her or her homeowner’s insurance company “for the cost of dusting for fingerprints.”

Yet another indication of cavalier attitudes: In 31 states, if a rape leads to a baby, the rapist can get visitation rights. That doesn’t happen often, but the issue does come up. In Massachusetts, a convicted rapist is suing for access to the child he fathered when he raped a 14-year-old girl.

One way to start turning around this backward approach to sex crimes would be to support the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (Safer) Act, a bipartisan bill in Congress that would help local jurisdictions count and test their rape kits.

According to data from the Department of Justice, one person in the United States is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes. A slight majority of rapes are never reported to the police, and others are never solved. For every 100 rapes, only three lead to any jail time for the rapist, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

There has been plenty of outrage this year, justifiably, at the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts and Penn State for averting their eyes from sexual abuse of children. Yet America as a whole typically does the same thing when it comes to the trafficking of teenage girls by pimps, which amounts to rape many times a day. The police often treat those girls as criminals, rather than victims, even as the pimps get away.

These problems are not insoluble, and we are seeing progress. Some prosecutors are going after pimps in a serious way, and according to surveys, sexual assault has fallen by 60 percent over the last couple of decades. Even the furor over the comments by Senate candidates shows that times are changing.

So, sure, let’s pounce on politicians who say outrageous things. But even more, let’s push to end outrageous policies. Routine testing of rape kits would be a good start.

I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook and Google+, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on October 28, 2012, on page SR13 of the New York edition with the headline: Want a Real Reason to Be Outraged?.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Remedying The Situation

Several of you have commented that I don't post nearly enough information about Iceland.  Here is my attempt to remedy this unfortunate situation:

31.10.2012 | 11:00
Over 100 Victims of Human Trafficking in Iceland
Managing director of the Icelandic Human Rights Center Margrét Steinarsdóttir says she has encountered more than 100 victims of human trafficking in Iceland over the past years. Eights persons have sought her help so far this year.

Photo by Páll Stefánsson.
According to Fréttablaðið, in most cases, victims of human trafficking end up in the sex industry and most of the victims are women.

However, men are also reported to have fallen victims to human trafficking, usually ending up working for low or no salaries. They often have to work throughout the day, distributing papers, in the construction or service sectors.

Margrét states that slavery is a fact in Iceland. Although things changed when stripping was banned in 2010, she says she has assisted a number of women who have sought help after starting out as strippers but were later forced into prostitution.

“Some women married men who later prostituted them. Many of these found themselves in violent relationships after they stopped working as strippers and couldn’t control their lives,” Margrét explains.

She finds it important to carry out further investigation of human trafficking in Iceland and increase police surveillance with means through which victims enter the country, such as through family agreements and au pair licenses.

It must be kept in mind that victims of human trafficking aren’t necessarily smuggled to Iceland, are deceived or forced to come to the country, but may arrive on their own free will, Margrét points out.

She references the Palermo Resolution. “If you take advantage of a person’s poor condition, his or her consent doesn’t matter.”

According to her, many of the women who worked as strippers in Iceland came from the Russian minorities in the Baltic countries. “These girls often had a good education but couldn’t get a suitable job and this was the only way for them to earn a living.”

The Reykjavík Metropolitan Police and the Directorate of Immigration are currently investigating a case of suspected human trafficking at Chinese massage clinics in the capital. Individuals who have worked there claim that they didn’t receive the suitable salary.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Human Trafficking in Argentina

Argentina's Susana Trimarco: One Mother's Fight Against Human Trafficking
by Scott Johnson Oct 29, 2012 1:00 AM EDT
Susana Trimarco’s quest to find her kidnapped daughter has uncovered the dark underbelly of Argentina’s sex trade.

Susana Trimarco has so many questions, but they all return her to the same sorrowful place: what became of her only daughter, María de los Ángeles Veron—known in Argentina as Marita—who disappeared a decade ago and is still missing? She folds and unfolds a piece of gold-leafed paper, blinks, and frowns. At 58, Trimarco has straight dark hair and bright, alert eyes. She speaks quickly and passionately. Her intolerance for bureaucracy is soaked in personal tragedy.

Susana Trimarco: ‘These people were powerful and I was a nobody ... I had to be smarter than them if I wanted to get my daughter back.’ (Joao Pina / kameraphoto for Newsweek)

She wonders, for instance, why some neighbors who may have witnessed Marita’s kidnapping a decade ago have consistently refused to speak to investigators. Or what about the bicycle-riding carpenter who told Trimarco he saw two men shove Marita into a red car with tinted windows that day and who later vanished—“as if the earth just swallowed him whole,” she says—and was never heard from again. Trimarco ponders these questions, imagines her daughter’s fate. She dreams about Marita constantly. She looks into the eyes of her 13-year old granddaughter, Sol Micaela, and sees the physical resemblance—the dark hair, the sloping, heavy-lidded eyes, the adolescent cheeks flushed with pink. To herself and anyone who will listen, she asks, where are you, mi hija, mi vida—my daughter, my life. Where are you and will I ever see you again?

For a long time, many in Argentina took the view that Marita’s vanishing was, in some fatalistic way, her own doing. In those early days the press, if it paid attention at all, was often unsympathetic. And so, overwhelmingly, was officialdom. Human trafficking was not yet a crime in Argentina in April of 2002, when 23-year-old Marita disappeared half a block from Trimarco’s house. And since prostitution was then, and still is now, legal in Argentina, the widely accepted implication was that anyone involved in the business of sex was there by choice.

Over the years, however, as Trimarco has bullied and pushed and shoved and pursued, never giving an inch, this perception has begun to change. “When it comes to human trafficking in Argentina and across Latin America, there is a before and an after, and it is divided by the Trimarco case,” says Marcelo Colombo, a federal prosecutor and director of Argentina’s anti-trafficking unit. “Susana’s struggle and achievement in this area is incalculable.” Trimarco’s efforts have led to many accolades at home and abroad. In 2007, at a Washington, D.C. ceremony, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice presented Trimarco with the Women of Courage award for her efforts to combat human trafficking. Last week Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner received Trimarco and Micaela in her residence. And last April, a lawyers’ association nominated Trimarco for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Most important for Trimarco, seven men and six women now stand accused of crimes relating to Marita’s disappearance—their trial began last February and is likely to conclude in early November. The defense strategy has relied largely on an unverified smear campaign alleging that Trimarco herself was a prostitute who sold her own daughter into sexual servitude with the connivance of Marita’s husband, David Catalan. (Trimarco and Catalan have categorically refuted such allegations.) But over time, the local press coverage of Trimarco has veered from vaguely skeptical to mostly favorable, and in the process Argentina, too, has begun to change. “Everything, absolutely everything that has happened in Argentina around the issue of human trafficking is because of Susana,” says Carlos Garmendia, Trimarco’s sprightly, blue-eyed attorney. “No one can overestimate her role in changing the way we think about human trafficking here.”

Trimarco and Marita in happier times. They last saw each other over an ordinary breakfast.

Or, for that matter, across much of the rest of the world. The United Nations estimates that human trafficking generates more than $31.6 billion each year, the second-most lucrative illicit market in the global economy after the drug trade. Some 2.5 million people are trafficked each year, 1.2 million of them children. In the United States, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and Immigration Control and Enforcement have all recently established programs dedicated especially to human trafficking. “Nations must speak with one voice—that our people and our children are not for sale,” President Barack Obama said during a speech in September at the Clinton Global Initiative. And yet ultimately, international treaties can do only so much when in individual countries, like Argentina, the issue has only recently been recognized as a problem deserving of attention.

Trimarco has helped change that. In 2008, largely because of her lobbying efforts, Argentina made human trafficking a federal crime. And since then more than 3,000 people have been rescued in thousands of police raids. Trimarco has personally rescued more than 150 girls, some as young as 12, often at considerable personal risk. “I don’t care if they kill me,” she says. “My immense love for Marita is bigger, stronger, and more powerful than anything these people can do to me.” Former U.S. ambassador Earl Anthony Wayne wept openly when he bid farewell to Trimarco during a reception at his residence, according to her attorney Garmendia, who watched the exchange. As a sign of his admiration for her, Wayne gave Trimarco the American flag that had graced the embassy during his tenure, and today it hangs in a folded triangle in the front hall of the María de los Ángeles Foundation that Trimarco created to help find people who have been trafficked.

The intersection where Marita was last seen. A witness said two men hustled her into a car. (Joao Pina / kameraphoto for Newsweek)

But Marita is still missing. And Trimarco’s questions remain. After more than a decade of relentless searching, Trimarco and her team of five lawyers have reconstructed what they believe happened to Marita the day she disappeared and in the weeks and months that followed. The full details of the scenario are impossibly byzantine, and the official documentation for the case fills up more than 60 professionally bound folders called cuerpos, each of which is 200 pages long—in all, more than 12,000 pages detailing the sordid twists and turns of Marita’s story. “It’s a barbarity of information,” says Garmendia.

Trimarco believes it all began with an unfriendly neighbor of Marita’s, a nurse who Trimarco says was working with a network of human traffickers operating in Trimarco’s hometown, San Miguel de Tucumán, and a frontier town called La Rioja, 230 miles to the southwest on the border with Chile. (The nurse has said she didn’t have anything to do with Marita’s disappearance.) In 2002, Marita had one toddler already and wanted to keep it that way, at least for a while. So she decided to get an IUD, a popular birth-control device in Argentina. According to Trimarco, the nurse had told Marita that her boyfriend was the chief of personnel at a local maternity hospital. She could introduce the two, she allegedly told Marita, thereby saving her the cost of a private facility. Trimarco says she warned Marita to stay away from the nurse. “I had a bad feeling about her from the beginning,” she says.

Sure enough, when Marita next saw her mother, she told her a terrifying story. Marita had gone to the hospital, but once there she had discovered that the man she had been introduced to wasn’t the chief of personnel at all. He was a janitor. At the hospital, she said she had seen a police alert with a picture of the nurse alleging that the woman was a suspect in a case of infant theft. “Don’t worry,” Marita told her mother, “I won’t have anything to do with [the nurse] anymore.” Still, she decided to get the IUD at the maternity ward. She had an appointment scheduled for 9:30 the following morning.

On April 3, mother and daughter shared a light breakfast at the kitchen table, maté—a bitter Argentinian brew—and some biscuits. Trimarco loaned her a T-shirt to wear. A little after 9 a.m., Marita left the house. “Don’t worry,” she told her mother, “I’ll be back within the hour.” According to two witnesses—neither of whom are testifying at the trial—Marita was a block away from her house, at the intersection of Thames and Santiago, when a red car with tinted windows pulled up next to her. If anyone knows exactly what happened next, they aren’t saying. Maybe the men hustled her into the car, maybe they beat her or threatened her with a gun. What is certain is that Marita never made it to the hospital. One neighbor said she saw two men hustle the girl into a car and speed off, but she has always refused to talk to police. The elderly carpenter rode by and saw the same thing. But then he disappeared. Trimarco believes Marita’s kidnappers found the carpenter and killed him. And just like that, María de los Ángeles Veron—Marita, who loved her parents and her child, who wanted to be an artist and a poet, who loved the sun and named her child after it, who never missed an opportunity to cook for her mother—was gone. Vanished. Una desaparecida. One of the disappeared.

The first hours were the worst. A pit of despair began to grow in Trimarco’s stomach. As she began frantically searching for her daughter, reports of sightings filtered in here and there. A street prostitute said she had heard about the kidnapping. In May, just four weeks after Marita disappeared, the residents of a small town called Adelantos, adjacent to the northwest city of Tucumán, called local police and said a disheveled woman who looked to be drunk or high on drugs, or lost, was wandering along Route 304, headed north. About a dozen people called in, all with the same story, and each caller described a woman who could have been Marita. The police who picked the woman up later told investigators that she had said her name was Mirta Bron, a common enough name in Argentina. They said they put her on a bus heading south, paid her fare, and left. Garmendia points out that if Marita was drugged, or drunk, her name, Marita Veron, could easily have been misheard if it had been slurred or mumbled. “Mirta Bron,” he says, pinching a mosquito and dropping it on the floor, “Marita Veron ... it could have been her, it could have been ...”

Defendants accused of crimes related to Marita’s disappearance wait in court. (Joao Pina / kameraphoto for Newsweek)

Soon after, another lead opened up the possibility that traffickers had routed Marita to a disco whose owners, police investigators say, have had ties to organized crime. The reports kept coming. But whenever Trimarco asked for police help, it seemed to her they put more obstacles in her way. “Whatever way I told the police to look, they would look the opposite way,” she said. It took the police days to follow up on leads, if they followed them at all.

Trimarco felt ragged with fear and rage. The police had started investigating Marita’s husband as a suspect (nothing ever came of their inquiry). The rumor mill was already churning. With her daughter missing, and her family falling apart, Trimarco had come to believe that the authorities weren’t just incompetent, but also somehow complicit in her daughter’s disappearance. “I cried, I cried, and I screamed,” Trimarco remembered, shaking her head, “I screamed until I couldn’t scream anymore. And then I realized that I had to be strong. I had to think with my head and not just my heart. These people were powerful, and I was a nobody, and I had no money, no power, no resources. I had to be smarter than them if I wanted to get my daughter back.”

So she took action. Trimarco decided to go after her daughter on her own. She began dressing up as a prostitute and visiting bars in La Rioja that doubled as brothels. She got the phone numbers of people she suspected of being involved in trafficking and called them saying she wanted to buy girls. In June 2002, she set up a meeting with a female trafficker and gained access to a safe house where 12 girls were being held hostage. “Minors or adults?” the woman asked her. When Trimarco said minors, the woman told her each girl would cost her 3,500 pesos—roughly $900—and up. Promising to return with the funds, Trimarco left, informed the police, and the first girls were saved. But not Marita.

With the help of a police investigator named Jorge Tobar, Trimarco began tracking and documenting in extraordinary detail what is now widely acknowledged as a vast human-trafficking network with ties to the police, the legal system, and government officials. In October 2002, when Trimarco and three Chilean journalists went undercover in La Rioja, men with ties to the brothels pursued and shot at them. In operations like these, Trimarco continued to find and rescue trafficked girls.

In more than a decade of work, she has returned hundreds of girls to their families. But the more she and Tobar searched and the harder they pushed, the more they came to understand who their powerful enemies were. If Tobar went on a raid, he would later discover that his targets had been warned. Judges and government officials told him to back down, warning him that his activities would land him in trouble. One day a secret raid Tobar had planned was suddenly announced on the radio. He began receiving death threats. “I realized I was walking a very thin line between the government and the mafia,” Tobar said recently at a bar in Tucumán. “It became difficult to discern where one ended and the other began. It got to the point where I couldn’t talk to anyone. I couldn’t tell if someone was a friend or an enemy. How are you supposed to fight that?”

By May 2003 the clues about Marita’s whereabouts had almost dried up. That year, Tobar got a solid tip that Marita had been sent to Spain. One of the suspects from the gang of alleged traffickers based in La Rioja had apparently been sending girls to Spain for years. So Tobar and Trimarco traveled there to investigate. The trip resulted in the rescue of 25 girls from Burgos and other Spanish cities, 19 of whom were from Argentina and Central America. But still no sign of Marita. Dejected, Tobar and Trimarco returned to Argentina. It was the last solid lead Trimarco ever got about her daughter’s whereabouts.

Marita loved to cook, write poetry, and dote on her 3-year-old daughter, Sol Micaela.

In the meantime, threats against Trimarco began to pile up. Men called and told her they planned to cut her head off and throw it in the river. Several times drivers attempted to run her over. Someone set her house on fire and burned half her roof. Her husband, Daniel, who had fought so hard to find Marita, succumbed to depression and, eventually, to death. “I don’t want to live anymore,” he told Trimarco toward the end of his life. “I don’t want to live without Marita.” Now Trimarco lives with a constant security escort. Police accompany her granddaughter, Micaela, to school every day. Garmendia, who once worked at the Argentinian Human Rights Commission and loathes the idea of violence, recently bought a 9mm pistol and carries it with him everywhere he goes. Marita’s case has made him a harder man, too. In 2010, after eight years of searching, Tobar quit the police. His doctor told him if he continued, he would die. Tobar believes Marita is alive somewhere, though he has no evidence to back it up. He thinks Trimarco’s efforts have made Marita “too valuable” to kill, that if her body were ever discovered, too many people would be implicated. A few years ago he heard a tip that Marita might have been taken to Mexico, perhaps en route to the U.S. If she is anywhere, Tobar says, it’s probably somewhere south of the Texas border.

One day last week, a small crowd gathered at the Palacio de Justicia in San Miguel de Tucumán as the 13 accused were led into a courtroom. In a back room sat a woman dressed in brown pants and a leather jacket, her hair and face covered with a black scarf. Her name was Lorena, and in June 2002 Tobar rescued her from a brothel in La Rioja, where she had been held captive for a year and a half. On the day she was freed, Lorena identified Marita from a picture and then by name. And she provided key details about Marita’s life that confirmed her story. Earlier this month, Lorena testified that she saw Marita in the brothel and that Marita told her about her 3-year-old daughter and how much she missed her. “She said she couldn’t go on with her life, couldn’t see her daughter,” Lorena said during an emotional court session.

Most observers expect the trial to result in at least some prison sentences for several men and women for kidnapping and assorted other crimes related to Marita’s disappearance. Others may be charged in future investigations. Still others will likely go free. There is no physical evidence of any kind, after all. And witnesses from both sides have changed their stories multiple times, confusing things further. “At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to who the judges believe,” says Garmendia.

Seen from another angle, however, Trimarco has already won. “Before this case, the Argentinian government didn’t see trafficking as a problem,” Garmendia adds. “Now it does, and that’s because of Susana.” Trimarco is proud of the fact that the tragedy of Marita’s disappearance was also the beginning of a process of reckoning in Argentina, an acknowledgment that thousands of people, most of them young girls, are kidnapped each year and sold into sexual bondage. And for Trimarco, the trial is a catharsis and vengeance and a kind of progress. “I knew I had to keep looking for my daughter. She was counting on me, and I had to help her,” she says, shaking her head. “I will never give up. I will never shut up, never, never.”

Argentina is a country that understands loss. Great, heaving, cataclysmic loss. Even as Marita’s trial heads toward its conclusion, the government is pursuing numerous other trials against thousands of people who, in one way or another, participated in the deaths and disappearances of some 14,000 people during the worst years of the dictatorship, from 1975 to 1980. “This idea of a woman searching for her lost daughter, this is something that Argentinians understand,” says Garmendia, “because this is who Marita is. She is a disappeared person, like all the others. And Susana is a mother searching for her daughter.”

It is a search that Trimarco feels with every ounce of her being. She has a recurring dream about Marita. In it she finds herself walking through a vast forest of enormous trees, the kind you find in Europe, she says. At one end of this forest is a palatial house and through one window of the house Trimarco spots Marita. She stops short. Marita is sitting comfortably on a couch watching a flickering television set. The scene is peaceful and calm. And Trimarco has found her daughter. “Every time I hear a report that Marita has been seen somewhere I want to grow wings and fly there right away, just leave everything and fly to her. I will never stop looking for her. I know she’s alive. I can feel her.”

Like The Daily Beast on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for updates all day long.

Scott Johnson was named Africa Bureau Chief in April 2007, after serving two years as Baghdad Bureau Chief since the spring of 2004. In the summer of 2007, Johnson co-authored, with Sharon Begley, Newsweek's July cover story "Slaughter in the Jungle," about a spate of rare mountain gorilla killings in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has also been covering, for the magazine and Newsweek's Web site, the economic collapse of Zimbabwe, health initiatives across the continent and the rise of China in Africa.

Prior to coming to Africa, Johnson worked on assignment in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. He was on assignment in Iraq during the invasion and returned several times during 2002 and 2003 to report on the post-invasion occupation.  During his two years as Baghdad bureau chief, Johnson covered the rise of Iraq's sectarian war, the trial and execution of Saddam Hussein and the American military's attempt to quell the insurgency in places like Ramadi and Baghdad. He contributed exclusive reporting on the growth of death squads in Baghdad, Iran's growing influence in Iraq and American military and political developments in Baghdad.

Before coming to Iraq, Johnson covered the war in Afghanistan from October 2001 to April 2002, reporting on the fall of the Taliban from the front lines of Kunduz and Taloqan. Later on, Johnson traveled across Afghanistan reporting on the hunt for Al Qaeda and the resurgence of the Taliban as American forces drew down its presence.  In both Iraq and Afghanistan, Johnson has done exclusive war reporting, often under fire and in the most dangerous situations. In Iraq, he covered the hunt for Saddam Hussein with exclusive access to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the 4th Infantry Division. He also contributed extensive exclusive reporting early in 2003 on the nascent Iraqi insurgency from Fallujah.

In between posts to Baghdad, Johnson was provisionally based in Mexico City from 2002 to 2006. When not covering the war, Johnson reported on political and economic developments across Latin America.  In 2002 he authored a Newsweek International cover story on the rise of China in Mexico. In 2004 he received an Overseas Press Club Honorable Mention for "Best Reporting in any Medium on Latin America" for "Latin America Lags Behind," about economic trends across the hemisphere.  In Latin America, Johnson also covered violence along the U.S-Mexico border, the creation of Mexico's freedom of information act and an experimental drug treatment center in Peru.

Previously, Johnson reported for Newsweek out of Paris, France, since October 1998. During that time, he has reported on many of the biggest stories to come out of the continent, including Europe's mad cow scare, the backlash against globalization, and Newsweek's military coverage of the Kosovo war out of southern Italy. He has also developed in-depth investigative pieces from Europe, and he contributed heavily to Newsweek's worldwide report on pedophilia and the Internet. He has also covered North Africa, covering terrorism pre-and-post 9/11.

Johnson is a frequent contributor to radio, most recently from Iraq where he has interviewed on NPR, The World and other national stations, and he has been seen on MSNBC, Fox and CNN.  In addition to Newsweek, his writing has appeared in Le Courrier International  and Letras Libres. Johnson was also part of the Iraq team that contributed to Newsweek's 2003 National Magazine Award.

Johnson is a 1996 graduate of the University of Washington, where he received double degrees in Comparative Literature and Comparative History of Ideas. Postgraduate work included Arabic language and Middle Eastern Studies in Fes, Morocco. He is a member of the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris.

For inquiries, please contact The Daily Beast at

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Housing and Human Trafficking
Poor housing - a gift to human traffickers?

Chief Executive Grainia Long discusses statistics published last week on human trafficking, and how the housing sector can help to tackle the problem.
A well timed story in the past seven days offered a reminder of why housing has the capacity to reduce social ills. It relates to a report published by the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group in England on human trafficking, which found that 946 potential victims of human trafficking were referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) last year. Of these, 712 were adults and 234 were children - that's nine classrooms of children. Many housing and other professionals working on the front line of service provision suspect that this is a conservative figure - the reality is much greater.

No one would suggest that housing professionals be directly responsible for eradicating human trafficking - they are neither equipped to deal with this form of criminal behaviour nor is the problem so easily tackled. However, the work done by many CIH members to inspect properties in the private sector, to enhance physical standards often makes them 'eyes and ears' for significant human suffering. Their work is crucial - as is our support for them. Rest assured your membership fees support much of the work we do to provide practice guidance and other professional support for those working on the front line.

And there is more we can and will do. A concerted effort is required across the housing industry to make it even more difficult for traffickers to exploit people in overcrowded conditions. Sub standard housing is appalling whatever the location or its purpose - it is all the more shameful when those properties are specifically used to hide trafficking, criminal behaviour and child exploitation. And yes, it's happening on our watch.

As the professional body for all housing, the CIH takes its role as the home of professional standards seriously. CIH will be writing to the various public agencies responsible for preventing and responding to human trafficking. We will bring together a range of housing and related organisations to better explore the role we can play - so that next year's NRM statistics are less shameful.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

21 Things You Can Do To Fight Human Trafficking

Grab your stationary and pull out a pen! This simple act is an incredible encouragement to survivors along their journey. But don’t be surprised if it has a great impact on you too.  Try it and see what we are talking about. Click HERE for more information.

Everyday changes can make huge impacts in bringing an end to slavery. By simply altering daily choices and saving money, you can become a partner with us as we bring an end to slavery. Instead of ordering a large coffee, opt for a smaller size and save those pennies!  A few small changes for us can help bring about lasting change for a survivor!

That’s right, we want to be social with social media. Whether through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Causes, you can find ways to connect with us for updated information, as well as quickly share information with friends, family, or people you just met. It’s the easiest way spread the word, as well as to stay connected to freedom fighters all over the globe.

No, you don’t have to go back to school or write a term paper to become educated about trafficking. Thankfully there are many ways for you to learn and uncover the ills of modern-day slavery. We’re making this easy for you and including some of our favorite resources! Take some time and get informed.

Recommended Website Resources:

The Problem
News Room
Download the United Nations toolkit to combat trafficking
Recommended Reading Material:

The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade - by Victor Malarek
Terrify No More: Young Girls Held Captive and the Daring Undercover Operation to Win Their Freedom - by Gary A. Haugen and Gregg Hunter
Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade--and How We Can Fight It - by David Batstone.
The Road of Lost Innocence - by Somaly Mam
Ending Slavery - by Kevin Bales
Recommended movies (for mature audiences only):

Nefarious (2011)
Human Trafficking (2005)
The Jammed (2007)
Trade (2007)
Taken (2008)
Lilya 4-Ever (2002)

All around the globe we have teams of people working hard in the fight against injustice. You can join in and fight alongside teams in the following coutnries:

Kiev, Ukraine
Thessaloniki, Greece
Sofia, Bulgaria
California, United States
Sydney, Australia
For more information, visit our internship page and apply today!

Not only can fashion express who you are, but it can also represent what you stand for! In our online store, you can find fashionable attire and accessories to start conversations about human trafficking. Whether it’s a shirt or a wristband, wear it proudly and be ready to let others know why! (Warning: It’s a good idea to complete #4 before you become a billboard.)

Who doesn’t love giving gifts to those in need? This is a great opportunity for you to round up some friends or purchase gifts to women in our care. We’ve seen new clothes to hygiene packs, toothbrushes to hair care come to our facilities and each gift goes directly to women in need. To send items (or gift cards) to Greece or Kiev, click here.

Human trafficking is nothing short of evil, but don’t underestimate the power of prayer.  Whether you opt to pray on the 21st of every month, or the 21st hour of every day, prayer is important! If you would like to obtain a prayer guide, please click here to download or contact us to request a hard copy.

Write a blog about why we should fight human trafficking; paint a picture and display it publicly; use a sports event to raise awareness and funds; write a song or talk about human trafficking at a concert; create a short film and post it on Use what you do best to make a difference!

Being informed about human trafficking in the news prepares you to engage and discuss circumstances that are currently happening. Click here to visit our newsroom, or pickup a newspaper and read about what is happening right now.

 Join thousands of students around the world who are locking arms and taking a stand at their school!  Start an awareness group at your local high school or university and get your friends involved in spreading the truth about human trafficking to your community. For more information on A21 abolition groups, or to download abolition resources, click here.

Grab your friends and throw a party! But not just any party—a party with the purpose of informing those closest to you about human slavery. We provide the brochures, the short films, a party-planning guide, and all you have to do is bring your friends! This can be done at any time, but you can join up with thousands around the globe who party with a purpose for our annual KEY2FREE campaign. Click here for more information on hosting an abolition event.

United we stand, divided we fall. Our core values rest upon the collaborative efforts of those in the fight against trafficking. Together we are stronger than when we are separate. So enroll your friends and enlist your classmates in the fight for freedom! Together we can stand against the injustice of slavery – whatever you do, don’t do it alone!

We believe everyone has a voice to be heard. By lobbying your local politician, you can advocate for those without a voice. Often times adjusting laws and policies surrounding the issue of human trafficking can make it easier to identity and convict traffickers in the court of law. For more information on how to inform your elected officials, check out

15. FAST ON THE 21st
Fasting is simply as personal reminder throughout the day of your commitment to see breakthrough in injustice. On the 21st of every month, join people all around the world and fast for the work that is being done to fight the injustice of human trafficking.

Many companies are now partnering with nonprofit organizations for seasonal moments of giving back. If you work in the corporate world (or know someone who does), ask if A21 could be considered as part of the contenders for a partnership program, matching funds or a sponsored charity. We all need some corporate friends as many can lend their influence to the fight against trafficking in the corporate world!

We love spreading the word about human trafficking through visual storytelling. The best way to get the word out and gain momentum is by sharing the video with our friends, who will in turn share it with their friends, and their friend’s friends! You can help us spread the word by making our videos go viral. Click here to see our latest videos.

Find out who’s in your area and link up with them! That’s right, there are other people in your area who share your passion in abolishing slavery. Whether it’s a local task force, or a student group that is hosting an event, join them and stand together in the fight for freedom.

It’s been said that you never know someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. Whether it’s literally walking a mile in high heels, or doing something a bit different such as rowing across an ocean, climbing a mountain, cycling across the country, or simply organizing a run for awareness, we want to encourage you that your sweat can make a difference to help stomp out human trafficking! Read some of the amazing stories here.

Human trafficking leaves a footprint. The shoes you buy, the chocolate you eat, the toys you play with might very well have been made by a modern-day slave. But if we don’t buy the products, there will be no demand. Demand no demand! Take this test and see how many slaves work for you:

The truth is that every single one of us is wired to be able to bring a truly unique solution to a very real problem occurring today. This list of 21 things does not end here. In fact, it does not end at all.  The reality is that if you want to make a difference in the fight against human trafficking, you can. If there is still breath in your lungs and a beat in your heart, you have the opportunity to add to this list!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Human Trafficking Training Opportunity

HHS Rescue & Restore to Host WebEx Training

“Returning Home, Reintegration and
Family Reunification for Foreign
Human Trafficking Victims
in the United States"

Monday, November 5, 2012
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 Monday, November 5, will focus on how the International Organization for Migration (IOM) assists foreign human trafficking victims in the United States and address the following:

·         IOM family reunification services for trafficking victims and their families;
·         IOM assistance for trafficking victims who choose to return home; and
·         Eligibility for IOM services.


Mariana Rendón, Project Manager, IOM

Ms. Rendón works at the IOM office in Washington D.C where she coordinates the Return, Reintegration, and Family Reunification Program for foreign victims of trafficking in the United States.  She was trained as a clinical psychologist at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium and she has focused on migrant mental health issues throughout her career.  Ms. Rendón previously worked with the IOM office in Mexico in the Counter Trafficking, Migrant Children and Gender Unit providing direct assistance to victims of trafficking and technical assistance to the Mexican Government and civil society organizations.

Emmanuel Martínez, Case Manager, IOM

Mr. Martinez serves as a case manager with the Return, Reintegration, and Family Reunification Program at IOM's Washington, DC office where he coordinates services for foreign victims of trafficking in the United States.  Prior to joining IOM, Mr. Martinez served as the Emergency Response Coordinator at the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) in Los Angeles where he provided 24-hour response to victims of trafficking, intensive case management, and trainings to service providers in the United States and Mexico.

How to Register:

To register for the Monday, November 5th, 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.

Accommodation Request:

In the event that any participant requires reasonable accommodations, such as closed-captioning services, please submit your request to ATIP at by COB October 30, 2012.  

We look forward to your participation!


Maggie Wynne
Director, Division of Anti-Trafficking in Persons
Rescue & Restore
National Human Trafficking Resource Center •             1-888-3737-888    

Monday, October 22, 2012

Human Trafficking and the Phillipines

On Wednesday's PBS NewsHour, special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reported on human trafficking in the Philippines, where people desperate to find work sometimes find themselves in vulnerable situations.  But human trafficking -- illegal sexual or other forced labor -- is not relegated to overseas. Here in the United States in the 1970s, Colorado lawyer Beth Klein saw her grandfather buy a mail-order bride. Even as a girl, she knew it was a "harmful, shameful and inhumane" practice.
As an adult, she decided to focus on helping the victims of human trafficking and founded The Summit to End It. Her organization represents mail-order brides who have been expelled from their homes, child brides and children involved in prostitution.
PBS NewsHour is continuing the conversation about human trafficking both overseas and here in the U.S. in an online Q&A.  I hope you will share the link to the Lazaro’s report and encourage your friends and colleagues to submit questions about human trafficking in the United States and abroad to Beth Klein and Fred de Sam Lazaro.
To be a part of the conversation in our Agents for Change series. Tweet your questions about human trafficking to Beth Klein and Fred de Sam Lazaro @newshourworld and use the hashtag #traffickingAC. You can also post questions in the comments section on our Rundown blog We'll share answers to selected questions on the NewsHour website.
Lazaro’s report from the Philippines is the first in a series of reports about Agents for Change – motivated individuals who respond to entrenched social challenges like poverty, food security and access to basic amenities with innovative solutions that go beyond short-term fixes to create sustainable solutions that change the system, improve the local economy and impact people’s daily lives.
Fred de Sam Lazaro is director of the Under-Told Stories Project, a program that combines international journalism and teaching, and a fellow at the Hendrickson Institute for Ethical Leadership at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota.
He has served as a NewsHour correspondent since 1985 and is a regular contributor and substitute anchor for PBS' Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. He also has directed films from India and the Democratic Republic of Congo for the documentary series, Wide Angle.
Lazaro has reported from 55 countries from Haiti to sub-Saharan Africa to south Asia. He has focused on stories and issues that relate to poverty, including HIV/AIDS and global health, development and social entrepreneurship. Fred was born in Bangalore, India, and lives in St. Paul, Minn.
Anne D. Bell
Public Relations Manager

2700 South Quincy St.; Suite 250
Arlington, VA  22206
Office - (703) 998-2175
Cell - (703) 334-1193

Friday, October 19, 2012

Human trafficking to UK 'rising'

8 October 2012
Human trafficking to UK 'rising'

BBC's Tom Symonds: "Police have been stepping up the fight against the global trade in people"
Continue reading the main story
Related Stories

Trafficked young 'missing in UK'
UK men in 'modern slavery' abroad
2,600 UK prostitutes 'trafficked'
The number of people being trafficked into the UK is rising, latest government estimates suggest.

Last year the authorities learned of 946 victims, compared with 710 in 2010, the inter-departmental ministerial group on human trafficking said.

Trafficking gangs in China, Vietnam, Nigeria and eastern Europe now pose the biggest threat to the UK , it said.

The government said better co-ordination between its departments and with authorities abroad was key.

But anti-slavery groups warned government "failures" had led to "significant steps back" in the fight.

Illegal organ removals
Continue reading the main story
At the scene

Tom Symonds
Home Affairs correspondent
In Ilford, East London, the police moved in at 05:15 BST, smashing through the door of an end of terrace house, but without result. It was empty.

The Met says it carries out two such raids every week, on average.

Two miles away in a second house, they found a Lithuanian family living in one room. A stack of mail showed that a large number of people have stayed there before.

They questioned the Lithuanians who said they were being paid below minimum wage to work in a recycling depot and building firm.

The room costs £140 a week. There was a CCTV camera watching the door of the house.

Are they victims of people trafficking? It's not clear, and often those involved haven't asked themselves the same question.

But police say those who try to run are often subject to violence.

There is currently no official figure for the number of victims trafficked into the country each year.

However, the report said 712 adult victims and 234 child victims were reported last year to the National Referral Mechanism, the official body that identifies and looks after those caught up in trafficking.

Of the victims referred in 2010, 524 were adults and 186 were children.

It is thought the increase could be explained by improvements in identifying victims, although campaigners say the figures of those being trafficked could be far higher as many victims choose not to come forward for fear of being deported.

The report suggested an increase in the number of children being forced into crime, including street begging.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre estimates there are about 300 child trafficking victims in the UK every year.

The report also detailed two cases of people trafficked for illegal organ removals, but they were detected and stopped before the operations were carried out.

One involved the planned sale of a victim's kidneys.

'Better life'
Det Insp Kevin Hyland, of London's Metropolitan Police - which sees the UK's highest rates of trafficking - said some victims travelled to the UK in lorries or containers but the majority arrived lawfully, often accompanied by their traffickers.

"The vast majority of them think they're coming to a better life in the UK," he said.

Mr Hyland said it was often "almost impossible" for border guards to spot victims because they often did not even know they were being trafficked.

Many victims are promised jobs in the hotel or leisure industry, or as interpreters, but when they arrive they are "groomed or threatened" and used for sexual exploitation, forced labour or both, he said.

In London, police deal with more than 100 cases of trafficking a year. Some will involve more than 400 victims but the majority involve about 10 to 15 people.

The report revealed the largest number of referrals of potential victims of trafficking were Nigerian nationals. From within Europe, Romanian nationals were the biggest group referred.

There are an estimated 92 organised crime groups in the UK with known involvement in human trafficking, it said.

And 142 defendants were charged with offences related to human trafficking in 2011/12.

'Vile trade'
Continue reading the main story
Organ trafficking

Philippa Roxby
Health reporter, BBC News
The two potential victims of organ trafficking in the UK in 2011 are the first people identified as being forced into giving up their internal organs for transplant.

But it's still a small problem, with organ trafficking making up only 1% of all potential victims of trafficking last year, according to the Serious Organised Crime Association.

Cases of illegal organ trading are rare in the UK because of safeguards in place.

The Human Tissue Authority sees 1,200 cases a year of living organ donation - 95% involve kidneys and 5% liver lobes.

These cases include people making altruistic organ donations and those coming from abroad to donate organs to family members.

The HTA interviews all potential donors to make sure they are consenting freely and to ensure there is no reward or payment.

The process can take up to six months with the donor required to sign a form stating no coercion was involved.

Only when the HTA is satisfied would the operation be allowed to go ahead.

Advice is being drafted for NHS staff to help them identify potential cases of organ trafficking.

The report concluded intelligence sharing with international police forces was already "proving effective".

Immigration minister Mark Harper said the results demonstrated UK professionals were getting better at "spotting" the crime due to "cross-government" cooperation.

"We're doing a better job of cracking down people involved in the vile trade," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

But the number of those prosecuted was "not enough," he said.

"One of the things we do is to prosecute people for the most serious offences we can, and sometimes that's not a trafficking offence."

Mr Harper also said agencies needed to "make sure victims who are trafficked are treated as victims and not as offenders, which has happened in the past".

Dr Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, said Mr Harper "must face up to the fact" that the problem was worsening "because of fundamental policy failures".

Sophie Hayes said no one helped her. Not even her wealthy clients, which included judges and senior police officers.
He said the government viewed the problem "through the lens of immigration" and had allowed rights for migrant workers to slip from "best practice".

"It would be helpful if the government appointed a national commissioner on trafficking to make sure policy on this issue was unimpeded by politics."

The report revealed thousands of "front-line" workers, including border staff, police and healthcare workers, have been trained to better identify, support and protect victims over the past two years.

Some airlines, including Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook, are also training cabin crew to identify those who engaged in trafficking and their potential victims.

And a 24-hour confidential line has been set up for crew to report concerns to border officials before a plane lands in the UK.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

If you happen to be near Orlando...

   Orlando Rescue & Restore Coalition
"Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force Serving East Central Florida"
 Dear Community Leader, Abolitionist & Advocate:

 The Orlando Rescue & Restore Coalition first met on October 18, 2007 with a handful of  individuals who had a passion to see the crime of human trafficking addressed right here in our own community.  Since then the Coalition has grown to dozens of organizations and has many accomplishments.

 The Orlando Rescue & Restore Coalition is a network of governmental & non-governmental agencies working together to create viable resources to end modern day slavery!  Our mission continues to be the building of a safety network of partnerships that will work together to identify, rescue and restore victims in Central Florida. Our objective is to continue to have a diverse representation from law enforcement, educational entities, civic groups and community service providers including faith based organizations.

 - Please make plans to JOIN US for our historic Anniversary Celebration -
  (*Attached flyers)

When:  Thursday, October 18, 2012 from 5:30 to 7:00 P.M
Where:  Orlando City Hall Rotunda - 400 South Orange Ave., Orlando, FL.  32801 -,+Orlando,+FL&hl=en&sll=28.44249,-81.365951&sspn=0.344747,0.430527&oq=400+S.+&hnear=400+S+Orange+Ave,+Orlando,+Florida+32801&t=m&z=16&iwloc=A
Reports & Statements:  Department of Children & Families, Metropolitan Bureau of Investigations and Department of Homeland Security.
Guest Speaker:  Anna I. Rodriguez, Founder/Executive Director, Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking & Author of "Ma'am Anna", The Remarkable Story of a Human Trafficking Rescuer.                                                                                  

                                                     - There will be entertainment & refreshments -

- 2012/2013 Rescue + Restore Calendar -

Orlando Rescue & Restore Coalition Meetings - November 14th & January 16th@3pm
Florida Hwy. Patrol, S. Semoran Bld.
133 S. Semoran Blvd.
Orlando, FL.  32807

5th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day - Walt Disney Amphitheater Lake Eola - Saturday, January 26, 2013 @11am to 4pm
101 N. Rosalind Ave.
Orlando, FL.  32801

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Trafficking in the U.S.

Victim warns about human trafficking
October 16, 2012
By RAYMOND L. SMITH - Staff reporter ( , Tribune Chronicle |
WARREN - Theresa Flores acknowledges that she is lucky to be alive.

At 15, Flores was forced into the life of a sex slave after another student tricked her into his home, where he drugged and raped her. The boy then used photos of the assault as blackmail to coerce the teen to go to hotels and homes to perform sex acts with a variety of men.

Today, Flores, a successful author, social worker, mother and a Columbus resident, travels the United States talking about human trafficking, its consequences on the young girls involved, and ways to slow its growth.

Human trafficking victim Theresa Flores shows a bar of soap on which a number for other victims to call for help is attached to the wrapper.

Flores spoke Monday night at the Warren YWCA as part of a program sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Coalition on Rescue and Restore and the Y.

More than 100,000 American children are being trafficked, and Ohio has the fifth-highest number of young people involved, following California, Texas, Florida and Minnesota, she said. More than 1,000 children in Ohio are trafficked and more than 3,000 Ohio youth are listed as missing.

"Human trafficking is the second-leading crime in world and in the U.S.," Flores said. "More than 20 percent are men and boys."

Ohio has a large trafficking population because of its excellent highway system, the number of truck stops, large immigrant population, number of strip clubs, military bases and its large university system.

"You can get on the highway and travel out of Ohio in about two hours from just about anywhere in the state," Flores said.

About 62 percent of exploited children are tricked into it by another person; 35 percent are pushed into by a family member; and 3 percent are kidnapped.

Jessica Porter of Hubbard said, "I was aware of child prostitution and human trafficking was happening in the U.S., but was not aware of the extent.''

Ronda Leitch of Howland says she was impressed with Flores' courage and her presentation.

"Awareness is the answer to finding the beginning for finding the solution of this problem," Leitch said.

Kathleen Quintin, 14, of Niles said she knows girls who have faced some of the same situations that Flores described.

"It is happening to girls my age," Quintin said. "It is really, really scary."

Telling her story, Flores said she lived in an upper middle class neighborhood in Detroit. An Irish Catholic girl, Flores was not supposed to date or be with boys.

One day, well-dressed, suave boy who paid lots of attention to her and who was a study partner offered her a ride home.

"It was not a date," she said. "It was a ride."

Instead, he mentioning that he had to pick up something up at his house. Once there, he convinced her to come in, where he drugged her, then assaulted her.

"My mistake was not telling my parents when I got home," she says. "Over the years, my mother told me if I had sex, I would get pregnant and they would kick me out. I did not want to pregnant and homeless."

The boy came back with photos of the assault and told her if she did not "buy" them back, he would send them to her father's job, to others in the community and to her church.

"My father was earning more than $100,000 a year," she said. "I didn't want him to lose his job. The church was my sanctuary. I didn't want to lose it."

So Flores began sneaking out of her home at night, meeting with the student, who took her to clients.

"Sometimes, these were homes of the men. I don't know how the wives and the children did not hear my screams," Flores said.

The men involved would show up at Flores' fast-food restaurant job, follow her home, and call her while she was at baby-sitting jobs.

"If I said anything they said they would kill my family," she says.

Flores said she dropped from being a happy, A student, to one who was sleeping in class and getting D's and F's.

Flores says she does not like the description of child prostitution.

"There are no child prostitutes. They are being trafficked. They are slaves,'' she said. ''No child wants to be taken somewhere to service 5, 10 to 20 men a night."

Flores has helped to create a program which places bars of soap in hotels, at conventions, at sporting events and political conventions. The wrappers of the soap have a telephone number that the victims can call to get help in getting out of that life.

Flores is advocating changes in laws so that the johns and the pimps are arrested and given stiff sentences.

"When police arrest the women, their pimps just bail them out," she said. "We have to dry up the demand."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

California Voters Get to Vote on Harsher Penalties for Traffickers

Initiative raises penalties for human trafficking
AMY TAXIN, Associated Press
Updated 2:47 p.m., Tuesday, October 2, 2012

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — California voters will consider toughening the penalties on human trafficking in a November ballot initiative funded almost entirely by a former Facebook official and opposed — somewhat surprisingly — by some advocates who are trying to stop the exploitation.

If it's approved by voters, Proposition 35 would more than double sentences for human traffickers and impose a life sentence for the sex-trafficking of children. It also would require sex offenders to provide email addresses and other Internet identifiers to law enforcement.

Former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly has contributed nearly 90 percent of the $2.2 million raised in favor of the initiative. He said his goal, in part, is to replicate a crime-fighting program used in New York that requires sex offenders to reveal their online identities to police.

"It requires them to disclose an electronic address, the same way they have to disclose a physical address," said Kelly, who lost a bid for state attorney general in 2010. "It will be used to fight the biggest scourges and the biggest traffickers."

The initiative also broadens the definition of human trafficking and raises the penalties for offenders.

It is endorsed by the state Democratic and Republican parties, a host of law enforcement agencies and police unions, anti-trafficking groups and numerous newspaper editorial boards. But the initiative also faces opposition — perhaps unusually so — from some of the advocates who work with victims of human trafficking in the state.

John Vanek, a retired police lieutenant from the San Jose Police Human Trafficking Task Force, said Proposition 35 might be well-intentioned but could discourage prosecutors from charging cases under the state's human trafficking laws. He said, for example, it could limit the information they can use in court.

Vanek said he also opposes setting different penalties for sex and labor trafficking, and argues that a jury — not voters — should decide the severity of a case.

"It's sort of like this perfect storm of problematic and exceptionally complex law changes, coupled with huge funding, coupled with a slow, unorganized response by the experts," Vanek said.

The Los Angeles-based Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking, which works directly with trafficking victims, said in a statement that the organization welcomed the attention the initiative had brought to the issue but worries that aspects of it could lead to unintended consequences. For example, it could decrease the amount of money available to survivors through civil remedies because of the increase in criminal fines.

When voters begin studying the initiative, the opposition cited in the ballot pamphlets will be sex workers who fear that broadening the definition of human trafficking will render them victims under the law.

Maxine Doogan, president of the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project, said she is worried that the relatives of sex workers could be criminally charged as traffickers for receiving money or support from their family members' work.

"You're really anti-prostitution, but you're calling yourself anti-trafficking," said Doogan, who co-authored the ballot argument against the proposition.

Kelly and anti-trafficking advocates who support the proposition say it has strong backing. They cite poll numbers showing more than 80 percent of likely voter in favor.

The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates will cost several million dollars a year in prosecution and incarceration costs, but also will generate a few million dollars annually through new criminal fines.

No statistics were immediately available on the number of people in California who have been victims of human trafficking, according to the measure's proponents.

Daphne Phung, who founded the nonprofit California Against Slavery after watching a television documentary about sex trafficking victims, said she tried to get lawmakers to carry a bill to push for tougher penalties for traffickers a few years ago. She then sought to get an initiative on the ballot.

She paired up with Kelly after both efforts failed.

Phung, a corporate financial planner, said she hopes Proposition 35 will give law enforcement officers more tools to fight human trafficking, for example, by not requiring proof of force in sex trafficking cases involving children. More broadly, she believes the measure is raising awareness about human trafficking in the state, which she hopes will translate into increased services and funding for victims.

"We're going to send a message to everybody — to the victims, to the traffickers, to the average citizen — that this is a serious crime," Phung said.

Leah Albright-Byrd, who ran away from home at 14, said she was arrested nine times for prostitution as a minor. Each time, she was released without law enforcement agencies questioning her about why she was on the streets.

She now runs a nonprofit in Sacramento to help prevent other girls from falling prey to the same fate. The 28-year-old hopes that providing more training to police under the initiative might make a difference on the streets, where she said traffickers are well aware of the criminal penalties for selling drugs — and children.

"I can't even tell you how redemptive it is for me to see people go, 'Wait a minute.' We're not calling them prostitutes — we're calling them sex trafficking victims. And that's what it is," she said. "People are being moved with compassion. Hey, these are kids."

Read more:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Summit to tackle human trafficking in Scotland

13 October 2012 Last updated at 19:03 ET

Summit to tackle human trafficking in Scotland

The summit will be held in Edinburgh on Thursday, which is European anti-trafficking day

The Scottish government is to look at ways to tackle the problem of human trafficking in Scotland.

A summit will be held in Edinburgh on Thursday, uniting organisations which have a clear role either in tackling the crime or supporting the victims.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill is to host the event, which aims to identify and agree further action to add to existing measures already being taken.

Mr MacAskill called human trafficking an "abhorrent crime".

He said: "It's totally unacceptable in this day and age that victims continue to be exploited for forced labour, sex or domestic servitude. We want to do everything we can to stamp it out wherever and whenever it occurs.

"Thursday is European anti-trafficking day so it is very timely that this summit is being held.

"I am looking forward to discussing the issue with delivery partners and coming up with some real tangible measures which will strengthen our approach to tacking this appalling crime."

'Terrible abuse'

Among the delegates attending will be the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Scotland head of legal Lynn Welsh.

She said: "Almost a year on from the publication of the EHRC's groundbreaking inquiry report into human trafficking in Scotland, we look forward to contributing to this summit.

"It should be an important milestone in the development of a comprehensive Scottish trafficking strategy to address this terrible human rights abuse."

Scottish Trades Union Congress president Agnes Tolmie will also be attending.

She said: "The crime of human trafficking cannot be allowed in any civilised society.

"We must do all in our power to combat the criminal abuse of human beings in forced labour, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation.

"We want all the involved agencies in Scotland who combat trafficking to ensure proper support mechanisms are in place to support the victims of this heinous crime."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

For Malala

Her ‘Crime’ Was Loving Schools

Published: October 10, 2012 19 Comment

Twice the Taliban threw warning letters into the home of Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistan girl who is one of the world’s most persuasive advocates for girls’ education. They told her to stop her advocacy — or else.

She refused to back down, stepped up her campaign and even started a fund to help impoverished Pakistani girls get an education. So, on Tuesday, masked gunmen approached her school bus and asked for her by name. Then they shot her in the head and neck.

“Let this be a lesson,” a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said afterward. He added that if she survives, the Taliban would again try to kill her.

Surgeons have removed a bullet from Malala, and she remains unconscious in critical condition in a hospital in Peshawar. A close family friend, Fazal Moula Zahid, told me that doctors are hopeful that there has been no brain damage and that she will ultimately return to school.

“After recovery, she will continue to get an education,” Fazal said. “She will never, never drop out of school. She will go to the last.”

“Please thank all your people who are supporting us and who stand with us in this war,” he added. “You energize us.”

The day before Malala was shot, far away in Indonesia, another 14-year-old girl seeking an education suffered from a different kind of misogyny. Sex traffickers had reached out to this girl through Facebook, then detained her and raped her for a week. They released her after her disappearance made the local news.

When her private junior high school got wind of what happened, it told her she had “tarnished the school’s image,” according to an account from Indonesia’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The school publicly expelled her — in front of hundreds of classmates — for having been raped.

These events coincide with the first international Day of the Girl on Thursday, and they remind us that the global struggle for gender equality is the paramount moral struggle of this century, equivalent to the campaigns against slavery in the 19th century and against totalitarianism in the 20th century.

Here in the United States, it’s easy to dismiss such incidents as distant barbarities, but we have a blind spot for our own injustices — like sex trafficking. Across America, teenage girls are trafficked by pimps on Web sites like, and then far too often they are treated by police as criminals rather than victims. These girls aren’t just expelled from school; they’re arrested.

Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse of boys provoked outrage. But similar abuse is routine for trafficked girls across America, and local authorities often shrug with indifference in the same way some people at Penn State evidently did.

We also don’t appreciate the way incidents like the attack on Tuesday in Pakistan represent a broad argument about whether girls deserve human rights and equality of education. Malala was a leader of the camp that said “yes.” After earlier aspiring to be a doctor, more recently she said she wanted to be a politician — modeled on President Obama, one of her heroes — to advance the cause of girls’ education.

Pakistan is a country that has historically suffered from timid and ineffectual leadership, unwilling to stand up to militants. Instead, true leadership emerged from a courageous 14-year-old girl.

On the other side are the Taliban, who understand the stakes perfectly. They shot Malala because girls’ education threatens everything that they stand for. The greatest risk for violent extremists in Pakistan isn’t American drones. It’s educated girls.

“This is not just Malala’s war,” a 19-year-old female student in Peshawar told me. “It is a war between two ideologies, between the light of education and darkness.”

She said she was happy to be quoted by name. But after what happened to Malala, I don’t dare put her at risk.

For those wanting to honor Malala’s courage, there are excellent organizations building schools in Pakistan, such as Developments in Literacy ( and The Citizens Foundation ( I’ve seen their schools and how they transform girls — and communities.

One of my greatest frustrations when I travel to Pakistan is that I routinely spot extremist madrassas, or schools, financed by medieval misogynists from Saudi Arabia or elsewhere. They provide meals, free tuition and sometimes scholarships to lure boys — because their donors understand perfectly that education shapes countries.

In contrast, American aid is mainly about supporting the Pakistani Army. We have tripled aid to Pakistani education to $170 million annually, and that’s terrific. But that’s less than one-tenth of our security aid to Pakistan.

In Malala’s most recent e-mail to a Times colleague, Adam Ellick, she wrote: “I want an access to the world of knowledge.” The Taliban clearly understands the transformative power of girls’ education.

Do we?

Meet The Nonprofit Helping the White House Stop Human Trafficking

Meet The Nonprofit Helping the White House Stop Human Trafficking

October 9, 2012 RSS Feed  Print

When President Barack Obama unveiled major actions to fight human trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative late last month, he acknowledged that the White House couldn't do it alone.

In part, that's because the new executive order announced by the president, which bans government contractors from engaging in human trafficking-related practices, was meant to encourage all American corporations to follow suit. That's where Not For Sale comes in.

The Obama administration has confirmed that the California-based nonprofit has been tapped to participate in an upcoming forum at the White House, along with Obama's Faith-Based Advisory Council, to talk to major corporations about how their electronics, apparel and food can be produced without the use of "slaves."

In his September speech, Obama said it was time to call victims of human trafficking—the illegal trade of human beings for labor or sex—"modern slavery." The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency that handles labor issues, estimates there are nearly 21 million slaves globally today.

"We help companies source differently, we say 'here's some great Cacao providers' [that don't use human trafficking]. ... Washington is very interested in those kind of incentives," David Batstone, president and co-founder of Not For Sale, tells Whispers. "There's also a strong demographic under the age of 35 who care about how products are made, so that's a market reward for corporations."

Not For Sale says it will also work with the White House toward a possible new federal law inspired by California's Transparency In Supply Chains Act, which requires every company making $100 million in revenue or more to report where their products were made. The White House declined to comment on the possible new law, but spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told Whispers the president's remarks made clear that the administration will be "working with the Congress and private sector and others [on this issue], because a whole-of-nation approach is needed."

The Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking, a separate coalition of eight major corporations including ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, and Microsoft, will meanwhile work to eliminate potential human trafficking links within their businesses.

Other companies will be targeted by Not For Sale's Free2work rankings, which assign over 600 brands grades from A to F based on what the nonprofit sees as child and forced labor in their supply chain. Zales Jewelry, for example, was awarded a D- by Not For Sale, while Ghiradelli Chocolate received a C-, and Adidas sports equipment a B+.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

American Bar Association Responds

Victims of Human Trafficking
Published: October 9, 2012

To the Editor:

“To Combat ‘Modern Slavery’ ” (editorial, Oct. 2) rightly stresses the need for government policies that rigorously break the demand for forced labor and help human trafficking victims.

The legal community also has a key role to play, by changing the way it looks at victims, some as young as 10.

The American Bar Association is working to ensure that law enforcement officials are trained to better identify victims so they can help instead of punish.

Two bright spots in this effort are the Illinois Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the New York Legal Aid Society, where legal and social service entities team up in their efforts.

Human traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of their victims and count on police officers, prosecutors, judges and public defenders’ lack of experience in identifying and confronting modern-day slavery. It is time to turn the tables on the perpetrators and show the victims that they deserve justice, and a second chance.

President, American Bar Association
Chicago, Oct. 3, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I Am Priceless

EU launches campaign against human trafficking

AS part of its efforts to create awareness among those vulnerable to trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, the European Union (EU) in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is set to launch the ‘I am priceless’ campaign in Abuja today.

The EU has also set aside 4.8 million euros to fight the cause of victims of illegal human trafficking and smuggling of migrants.

At a media workshop organized   by the European Union in Lafia, Nasarawa State at the weekend, the duo of Godwin Morka, Assistant Director, Research and Programme Department   and Arinze Orakwue, Head of Press and Public Relations Unit, both of the national agency for the National   Agency for the Prohibition  of Traffic in Persons and other related matters (NAPTIP) painted a sordid picture of what victims of human trafficking are exposed to, most of the time out of ignorance based on empty promises of a better life  abroad.

According to them, “trafficking in persons involves more than forced sexual act which readily comes to mind as it involves other heinous crimes like harvest of organs, forced labour and in most cases death.”

They added that most trafficking cases were unreported because exploiters were mostly close family members of victims and they were made to swear to an oath of secrecy with threat of death or insanity should they divulge any information to anyone.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Training Amtrak Workers to Stop Human Trafficking

DOT, DHS to train Amtrak workers to stop human trafficking
Eugene Mulero, E&E reporter

Thousands of Amtrak employees will receive training to help them spot suspected human traffickers and their victims under a program launched today by the departments of Transportation and Homeland Security.
Speaking at Union Station in Washington, D.C., Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the opportunity to better educate the Amtrak workforce would dramatically assist law enforcement authorities tasked with tackling human trafficking.
"We cannot let the American transportation system be an enabler of these criminal acts," LaHood said. "Human trafficking is a hidden crime. We may not think human trafficking is happening around us, but it is. Trafficking is going on right now in cities and small communities around America."
The Transportation Department, LaHood noted, is training more than 55,000 of its employees on how to identify and report suspicions of human trafficking to law enforcement authorities.
Last year, Napolitano said, Immigration and Customs Enforcement started more than 700 trafficking investigations resulting in nearly 1,000 arrests, more than 400 indictments and several convictions. This included a recent arrest in Alexandria, Va., of a suspected gang leader charged with trafficking young women.
"As you well know, transportation workers, including Amtrak police, train conductors, ticket counter staff and others, come into contact with thousands of people on a daily basis, making them well-positioned to identify situations that don't seem quite right, including potential signs of trafficking," she said.
The partnership builds on a White House directive calling for a crackdown on trafficking. President Obama last month called human trafficking "modern-day slavery" and pledged to expand training and guidance throughout federal agencies and among law enforcement officials. He also said commercial transportation workers, such as Amtrak's crew, need to partner with federal, state and local law enforcement.
"The bitter truth is that trafficking also goes on right here," Obama told an audience at the Clinton Global Initiative. "It's the migrant worker unable to pay off the debt to his trafficker. ... This should not be happening in the United States of America."
Despite asserting that Amtrak trains might not be used for such trafficking, Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman said he recognizes the value in training nearly 8,000 employees. "Amtrak sees this as being a good corporate citizen and a travel industry leader that needs to partner with those who want to end this," he said.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Teen sex slaves: All too real in Florida

Teen sex slaves: All too real in Florida
Scott Maxwell, TAKING NAMES
9:32 p.m. EST, September 25, 2012


If I told you there was a place where 16-year-old girls are forced to perform sex acts on men old enough to be their grandfather, you'd be disgusted.

And if I told you some of these sexual horror stories start when girls are as young as 12, your stomach probably would turn.

Well, turn it should. Because that place is right here in Florida.

It's as close as International Drive and along the I-4 corridor.

It's called human trafficking. And it's a grotesque practice that state officials say is on the rise.

Need proof? Well, consider that, right now, the state is housing and protecting about 100 girls who were victims. And that represents just a fraction of those actually involved.

Nationally, experts say Florida ranks third in human-trafficking cases.

They are stories like the one the Sentinel carried just two weeks ago from our own backyard: "Palm Bay man forced 14-year-old runaway into prostitution, cops say."

Fourteen-year-old girls are supposed to be planning parties, reading teen magazines and gossiping with their friends — not being pressured into sex by men who threaten to kill them if they don't.

"People just don't think it's happening here — but it is," said state Rep. Erik Fresen, a South Florida Republican who has led the fight to combat this plague. "When I really started looking at this issue and the data, I was A) thrown back, B) incredibly saddened and C) wanted to know what I needed to do to help."

What the Legislature did was pass Fresen's Safe Harbor Act — which was a good first step. (More on that in a moment.) And this week, officials such as Attorney General Pam Bondi are raising awareness through a summit on human trafficking.

So why don't you already know more about this problem?

Well, for one reason, people don't want to think about it. It's hard to comprehend.

I also believe the phrase itself — "human trafficking" — is deceivingly sterile. It's simply doesn't connect with most of us.

I'm reminded of the scene from "Jaws" when the misguided mayor of Amity Island explains to Chief Brody the power of words, saying: "You yell, 'barracuda,' everyone says, 'Huh?' You yell, 'shark,' we've got a panic on our hands."

That's why we need to call this epidemic what it is: "Sex slavery."

Human trafficking also involves indentured servants, often immigrants who are forced to work for nothing or next-to-nothing. But the biggest part of the state's focus right now is sex slavery.

They are runaways, drug addicts and victims of abuse who are tricked into a nightmarish life by depraved predators.

But some of the girls also come from families like yours.

At a briefing I attended a few months ago, state agents talked of a local executive whose daughter was sneaking out of her bedroom at night to prostitute herself. The reason: A group of her male schoolmates had raped her, videotaped the incident and threatened to release the video if she didn't do as they said. Her parents had no idea.

A key part of Fresen's Safe Harbor Act is that it treats these girls as the victims they are, rather than the criminals.

It also bolsters penalties for the deviant dirtbags who abuse the girls.

The bill also calls for more safe places for rescued girls to stay — one of the greatest needs.

Unfortunately, the Legislature didn't include any funding for those safe houses. House analysts said $8 million might be needed. The Legislature designated nothing.

Fresen said he will work to fix that next session. And on Tuesday, DCF Secretary David Wilkins said he was looking for creative solutions.

Nonprofits also need to be in the mix.

We must all step up — and open our eyes to the horrors no one wants to see. or             407-420-6141    

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sex trafficking in the USA hits close to home

Sex trafficking in the USA hits close to home
by Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY Updated 6d 19h ago
Reprints & Permissions

H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY
Asia Graves, 24, is a survivor of human trafficking. She works for Fair Girls, a non-profit that helps human trafficking victims.
Sponsored Links
WASHINGTON -- Asia Graves looks straight ahead as she calmly recalls the night a man paid $200 on a Boston street to have sex with her.
She was 16, homeless, and desperate for food, shelter and stability. He was the first of dozens of men who would buy her thin cashew-colored body from a human trafficker who exploited her vulnerabilities and made her a prisoner for years.
"If we didn't call him daddy, he would slap us, beat us, choke us," said Graves, 24, of the man who organized the deals. "It's about love and thinking you're part of a family and a team. I couldn't leave because I thought he would kill me."
By day, she was a school girl who saw her family occasionally. At night, she became a slave to men who said they loved her and convinced her to trade her beauty for quick cash that they pocketed. Sold from Boston to Miami and back, Graves was one of thousands of young girls sexually exploited across the United States, often in plain sight.
A plague more commonly associated with other countries has been taking young victims in the United States, one by one. Though the scope of the problem remains uncertain -- no national statistics for the number of U.S. victims exist -- the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says at least 100,000 children across the country are trafficked each year.
On Tuesday, President Obama announced several new initiatives aimed at ending trafficking nationwide, including the first-ever assessment of the problem in this country and a $6 million grant to build solutions.
"When a little girl is sold by her impoverished family, or girls my daughters' ages run away from home and are lured -- that's slavery," Obama said in an address to the Clinton Global Initiative. "It's barbaric, it's evil, and it has no place in a civilized world."
Schools in at least six states and the District of Columbia have turned their focus to human trafficking, launching all-day workshops for staff members, classroom lessons for students and outreach campaigns to speak with parents about the dangers American children face.
The efforts by high school and middle-school officials in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Connecticut, Oregon, Wisconsin, California and Florida come as experts say criminals have turned to classrooms and social media sites to recruit students into forced domestic sex and labor rings.
"They are as horrific and brutal and vile as any criminal cases we see," said Neil MacBride, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "If it can happen in affluent Fairfax County, it can happen anywhere."
Across the nation, the stories arrive with varying imprints of the callousness and depravity of the sex traffickers. One girl was sold during a sleepover, handed over by her classmate's father. Another slept with clients during her school lunch breaks. A third was choked by her "boyfriend," then forced to have sex with 14 men in one night.
Young people at the fringes of school, runaways looking for someone to care and previously abused victims fall into the traps of traffickers who often pretend to love them.
The perpetrators -- increasingly younger -- can be other students or gang members who manipulate victims' weaknesses during recess or after school, law enforcement officials say. They often bait victims by telling them they will be beautiful strippers or escorts but later ply them with drugs -- ecstasy pills, cocaine, marijuana and the like -- and force them into sex schemes.
'Too pretty to stay outside'
For Graves, who grew up in inner city Boston, her troubles began early in life. Her mother was addicted to drugs, and a dealer molested Graves as a little girl. She bounced between living with an aunt, grandparents, an alcoholic father and a sometimes-recovering mother.
At 16, Graves was homeless and had been wearing the same clothes for months when a group of girls who had dropped out of school took her in and cleaned her up. "They said they were escorts and that they made $2,000 a night," she recalled. "I figured if I go out one night, I'll never have to do it again."
She followed the girls to the "track," a term used for streets where prostitutes gather. When a terrified Graves only brought back $40 from begging, the girls abandoned her. The next night, she says she was alone on a corner in Boston during a snowstorm when her first trafficker picked her up.
"He said I was too pretty to stay outside, so I ended up going home with him because he offered me a place to sleep and clothes to put on," she said.
The man said he wanted to take care of her but that she would have to earn her keep. "He showed me the ropes," she said. "How much to charge for sex" and other sex acts.
Then came the violence. Her attempts to leave were met with brute force. "He punched me," she said. "He stripped me down naked and beat me."
In one incident, her captor took a potato peeler to her face then raped her as she bled. Years later, the light scar remains just below her left eye. Other violent episodes left her with eight broken teeth, two broken ankles and a V-shaped stab wound just below her belly button.
She stayed, however, and found comfort in other girls -- called "wife in-laws" -- who went to area schools, got their hair and nails done together and then worked the streets for the same man. "You think what you're doing is right when you're in that lifestyle," Graves said. "You drink alcohol to ease the stress. Red Bulls kept you awake, and cigarettes kept you from being hungry."
For two years, she was sold from tormentor to tormentor, forced to sleep with men in cities like New York, Atlanta; Philadelphia; Atlantic City; Miami. She posed for Craigslist and ads and set up "dates" six days a week for up to $2,500 a night.
A captive Graves did what experts say others have done: she recruited others. "We'd go to malls, schools, group homes, bus stations and look for girls who were by themselves or looked very vulnerable," she said.
For some of the time, Graves herself remained in high school, attending classes sporadically in boy shorts, small tank tops and worn heels.
"In the schools, they thought I just dressed provocatively," Graves said of the teachers and staff who missed chances to help her. "Now, people are actually understanding that these girls are victims."
Raising 'the compassion bar'
Graves' journey eventually led her to work for Fair Girls, a non-profit based in Washington, D.C. One of several organizations working to educate schools and students about the issue, Fair Girls has designed a four-hour lesson plan called "Tell Your Friends" for high school and middle-school students.
"I want to raise the compassion bar so that any girl who becomes a victim is never seen as a girl who asked for it," said Andrea Powell, executive director of Fair Girls, which launched the curriculum in 2008.
The model reaches more than a 1,000 students a year at a dozen schools in Washington, as well as young people in homeless shelters and foster homes.
Polaris Project, a non-profit that runs the national human trafficking hotline, has received 58,911 calls since December 2007. At least 2,081 callers have identified themselves as a student and 341 callers identified as school staff members.
Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that about 20.9 million people are trafficked and that 22% of them are victims of forced sexual exploitation.
The growing number of human trafficking cases handled by U.S. Attorney MacBride's office -- 14 in the last 18 months -- reflects the domestic trend, experts say.
In one case this year, Justin Strom, 26, a gang member in Fairfax County, Va., was sentenced to 40 years in prison for forcing girls from local high schools and a juvenile detention center to work as prostitutes.
The familiar echo of these crimes reaches the other side of the country, too, says Alessandra Serano, an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of California.
"You can sell drugs once," she said. "You can sell a girl thousands of times."
A search of's adult section reveals thousands of ads for young women claiming to be escorts, strippers and massage therapists. The women in suggestive poses and little clothing offer good times for a price. "Multiple Females Multiple Hours." "Sexy White Chocolate." "Delicious Petite Blonde Barbie."
Advocates such as Powell say such websites depict modern-day slavery. She scrolls through them often looking for new girls to help. Fair Girls works directly with victims to find them jobs, housing, lawyers and medical resources. They've gone from serving 20 girls in 2011 to 50 this year -- all with a limited budget.
"We just don't have the resources for all these girls," Powell said. "But we can't turn them away."
In classroom lessons, staffers define trafficking, show a video about experiences and ask students to react. As 50 Cent's "P-I-M-P" song thumps in the background, students are asked what they think traffickers and victims look like. They then talk about abusive relationships and how to avoid them, and they are presented with resources they can use if they are being exploited.
A few weeks ago, at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, nine girls sat around a long wooden table talking about trafficking with Graves, who teaches at 12 public high schools in the District of Columbia.
"If you want attention and you see that you're getting it, you just follow your feelings," senior Araceli Figueroa, 17, said. "It's sad."
Graves knows. She can still see the face of a fellow victim whose body she identified. The girl's body had been discarded in an Atlantic City drain pipe.
In Connecticut, Love146, another non-profit focused on trafficking, teaches Fair Girls' "Tell Your Friends" curriculum in 11 schools, said Nicole von Oy, the group's training and outreach coordinator. They've talked to more than 4,000 students in schools, shelters and other places using that curriculum and other initiatives.
Others hope to spread the message to more students.
Since 2006, the U.S. Department of Education has focused on the problem and worked on training with several schools, said Eve Birge, who works for the agency's Office of Safe and Healthy Students.
In doing so, they collaborate with the White House, the FBI, the Departments of State and Justice as well as other agencies.
"For a lot of these kids, school can be the only safe place they have," Birge said.
With their help, schools tell teachers, social workers, counselors and others to look for the signs of a possible victim:
-- Multiple unexplained absences from school.
-- A repeated tendency to run away from home.
-- Frequent travel to other cities.
-- Older boyfriends or girlfriends.
-- A sudden ability to have expensive items.
-- Appearing depressed or suffering physical injuries.
Escaping the 'invisible chains'
For Katariina Rosenblatt, who spoke at a recent training session for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the issue is personal.
Twenty-seven years ago, traffickers in Miami tried to sell her virginity for $505. She was only 13. She ran from them then but fell victim six months later when a classmate's father sold her during a sleepover.
From ages 14 to 17, she says she was drugged, abused, raped and trafficked by several people including that father's friends, a neighbor who ran a trafficking house, and man who offered her a role in a movie.
Rosenblatt, now an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, runs a non-profit called There Is H.O.P.E. For Me.
"They give you money, drugs and a fun time, but in the end they want your dignity and your self-respect," she said. "It's invisible chains that these kids are tied with."
Graves understands. At Fair Girls, she works directly with victims and unwinds her long, painful story with the hope that it will lift these tortured souls.
After she suffered a miscarriage during a beating in July 2005, Graves finally went to police and worked with the FBI and state attorneys to get six men charged with human trafficking. All pleaded guilty or were convicted of conspiracy or sex trafficking. They were sentenced to four to 25 years in prison.
The agencies helped her get housing, and officers even today check on the now poised young professional. She's earning a political science degree and says she wants to start a non-profit much like Fair Girls.
One recent afternoon, her low hazel eyes pierced through a busy Washington street and focused on a young woman's face she recognized from She paused.
Graves sees trafficking when no one else can.
"My main priority is making sure no child has to go through what I went through," she said. "If I can save one girl from not going into it or one girl who has already been in from going back, then I'm already doing more than enough."
(Polaris Project's national trafficking hotline number:             1-888-373-7888      )