Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Victims of Human Trafficking

To the Editor:
The Super Bowl and Sex Trafficking,” by Kate Mogulescu (Op-Ed, Feb. 1), pointed to my office’s work on prostitution and human trafficking, but it didn’t mention a critical point.
When my office took down a major drug and prostitution ring last week, our response reflected a major shift in American law enforcement, which has begun to treat prostitutes as crime victims, not criminals.
Our investigation and arrests focused exclusively on the ringleaders: pimps and drug traffickers who promoted cocaine and prostitutes to generate millions of dollars in illegal proceeds.
As we have done since I became New York’s attorney general, we worked with partners like Sanctuary for Families, whose counselors accompanied our officers during the arrests of the kingpins to ensure that victims received counseling and support.
Attorney General
New York, Feb. 4, 2014
To the Editor:
While Kate Mogulescu’s article correctly identifies the negative effect that the New York criminal justice system can have on victims of human trafficking, it is also crucial to recognize the important changes that have taken place in the New York justice system, changes that are intended to better address the needs of trafficking victims and to help them break away from their abusers.
Just last month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill expanding safe-harbor protections to 16- and 17-year-olds who are arrested for prostitution. Under the bill, they will not acquire criminal records and will be provided with access to social services available under the Family Court Act.
Furthermore, last year, the New York court system created special human trafficking sections that link prostituted people to specialized services with the aim of dismissing their cases.
While there is obviously room for improvement, such steps represent an effort by New York State to act as a positive force in fighting modern-day slavery.
New York, Feb. 3, 2014
The writer, executive director of the New York Center for Juvenile Justice, was a judge for 28 years in the criminal courts of New York State.
To the Editor:
Kate Mogulescu correctly points out that we will fail to make progress in ending human trafficking if we continue to sensationalize and oversimplify the issue.
Public awareness of human trafficking’s horrors has never been higher, but the focus has been centered overwhelmingly on the sex industry. Sex trafficking is abhorrent, and the work done in combating commercial sexual exploitation is crucial, but putting so much attention on sex can have the unintended consequence of obscuring the other, much more prevalent side of human trafficking: forced labor.
While less scintillating, trafficking for labor affects many more aspects of our daily lives and victimizes many more people than sex trafficking. Children make up a full quarter of forced labor and human trafficking’s global victims. Some 5.5 million of them worldwide are made to work against their will, coerced by violence or threats of violence, debt bondage and numerous other means.
To reduce trafficking, we must understand the full scope of the problem, the roles we all play in perpetuating it, and actions we can take to stop it.
President and Chief Executive
U.S. Fund for Unicef
Bayside, Queens, Feb. 3, 2014

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