Demi Moore Sells Personal Toy Collection to End Child Sex Trafficking

Actress and advocate Demi Moore is so committed to eliminating child sex trafficking in the U.S. and around the world, she is selling some of her prized possessions to raise money for the cause. Demi’s personal toy collection is up for auction on Ebay this week. Every penny of the proceeds will go to fund the DNA Foundation, an anti-trafficking nonprofit she set up with husband Ashton Kutcher. Demi’s toy auction and the campaigns it will fund demonstrate how creative celebrities can fight human trafficking.

Demi Moore, as it turns out, is a passionate toy collector as well as a modern-day abolitionist. But she has been generously willing to part with some of her collection in order to support the DNA Foundation, which recently announced the launch of their new “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” campaign at the Clinton Global Initiative last month. The campaign is based on the idea that high-profile men speaking out against child sex trafficking can help reduce the demand for young and younger girls in the commercial sex trade. So far Ben Stiller, Michael Phelps, and Snoop Dogg have signed up, along with Ashton Kutcher. 100% of the proceeds from the Ebay auction will go to support “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” and other DNA Foundation efforts to fight child sex trafficking in the U.S.

The DNA Foundation auction runs from November 1 -11 on Ebay. You can check it out and bid for items here.  And while the idea of celebrities selling personal items to raise money for a cause they support may not be revolutionary, this is (as far as I know) the first celebrity stuff auction of this scale to support human trafficking prevention. And it’s not surprising that Demi and Ashton, who have become the queen and king of celebrities fighting trafficking, are behind this effort. What is surprising is Demi’s apparent affinity for the mid-90s Nickelodeon show Rugrats. I thought I was the only Rugrats fan left in the U.S.

So check out the Demi Moore’s toy auction and bid on something fun, whether it’s for a child in your life or a shelf in your living room. You’ll not only be the proud possessor of something formerly owned by G.I. Jane herself, but you’ll also be helping support an organization working to end child sex trafficking here in the U.S. and around the world.


World’s Creepiest Fairytale Tells Story of Child Sexual Exploitation

Can a fairytale capture the disturbing nature of the growing trend of child sex trafficking in America? The new film The Candy Shop, a fairytale-style parable about child sexual exploitation sure does. And it’s part of a growing movement to bring awareness to the issue in Atlanta, a city some are calling the child sex trafficking capitol of America.

The Candy Shop, a film by Whitestone Motion Pictures, is scheduled for release next month. Based on the trailer, it promises to be one of the creepiest films about child sex trafficking ever made. And that’s saying something.  Is it possible to pack all the emotional wallop of the child sex trafficking epidemic into a film done in the style of a fairytale? When your villain looks like a heroine-addicted, pedophile version of Willy Wonka, little girls are turned into candy by a steampunk-esque machine, and crowds of passersby are blind to the evil goings-on at the local candy store, then yes. Yes, it is possible to make a film that captures the inherent discomfort and creepiness of child sex trafficking. Check out the trailer for yourself, with more after the jump.

The Candy Shop takes place in a through-the-looking glass Atlanta, where a candy store is turning children into candy for chubby, sweaty male customers. In the real Atlanta, over 500 children a  month are sold for sex. Many estimates put it as one of the top cities in the country for child sex trafficking. The film is part of a city-wide campaign with anti-trafficking organizations Doorpost, 12Stone Church and StreetGrace, and 100% of the profits will go to support anti-trafficking programs in Atlanta. But the truly frightening part of The Candy Shop is that it could be set in any city, because child sex trafficking happens everywhere.

Yet despite the estimated 250,000 American children who are victims of human trafficking, there are less than 100 shelter beds in the country for them. That’s not even enough space for all the children victimized in Atlanta. You can ask Congress to fund the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act, which will provide critical services for sex trafficking survivors. Also, check out Street Grace for more information on how to get involved in ending human trafficking in Atlanta.


Branded: How Pimps Use Tattoos to Mark Women as Property

Pimps use a number of techniques to control and manipulate the women they sell, many of which leave long-lasting emotional scars. But one control technique which also leaves physical scars is branding. In the underground world of forced and coerced prostitution, pimps mark women and girls as property with tattoos. It’s the same principal as writing your name inside your shirt, but instead of a garment being claimed, it’s a human being.

Chicago police recently noticed several girls between 13 and 18 in prostitution had the same tattoo — “P-Child” inked on their backs, chests, or shoulders. The distinct markings led them to Datqunn Sawyer, a pimp who was forcing nine underage girls into prostitution. He gave them all new names beginning with the letter P and used the tattoos to brand them as being in his “stable”. Also in Chicago, pimp Alex Campbell, owner of a brothel masquerading as a massage parlor, forced the women he controlled to get his birthday 9/17 tattooed on the backs of their necks. Another California-based pimp managed to ink his 16-year-old victim withing a couple weeks of meeting her on Myspace. And some pimps choose more painful brands for their victims, including signature burns and actual cattle prods.

For pimps, tattoo branding serves a number of purposes. It marks victims as their property, sending a message to other pimps to stay away. It helps them advertise to buyers looking for specific types of girls, especially young ones. And perhaps most importantly, it sends a powerful message to the victim herself: I own you, and I own you forever. A tattoo is a permanent physical mark, and pimps use the psychology of that mark to make victims believe theirs is a permanent relationship. If victims try and leave their pimp, the tattoo serves as a reminder of their abuse. And, of course, it signifies the bearer as a slave.


FBI Denies Facilitating Child Sex Trafficking to Nab Mob

Federal prosecutors in New York City are fighting allegations that they allowed a 15-year-old girl to be forced into prostitution while they investigated the Gambino crime family’s human trafficking activities. A defense lawyer for the Gambinos, however, claims the government allowed the teen to be exploited in order to make their case. Did the FBI allow child sex trafficking?

A few months ago, the infamous Gambino crime family was caught pimping kids on Craigslist, a move that many considered a low point, even for them. The bust was the result of a long government investigation, which included the participation of a cooperating witness who worked for the Gambinos. According to the witness, he began working with the government in 2008. But for most of 2009, while collaborating with the FBI, he acted as a pimp for a 15-year-old girl.

The government claims they broke up the ring as soon as they discovered a minor was involved. However, they apparently learned about and halted the ring in August 2009, but didn’t hand out indictments until 2010, despite the fact that all of the women sold by the Gambinos were under 20. Why the delay? The FBI has stated categorically that they did not and would not authorize the continuation of criminal activity or sexual exploitation involving a minor. But would they care if adult women were being trafficked against their will?


Women Escape Slavery at West Palm Beach Club

Recently, two Honduran sisters traveled to America after being promised jobs as maids for wealthy families in West Palm Beach, Florida. Instead, they were forced to dance in skimpy outfits at clubs in the area. And their story is not unusual. Human trafficking of women and girls at clubs is a serious issue all over the country.

Sisters L.M. and E.M. knew cleaning houses would not be glamorous work, but they hoped to make a decent living at it in America. They each agreed to pay $7000 to be smuggled into the country through Texas by a man named Martinez. Once arrived, however, the sisters were handed skimpy outfits and makeup and told they would have to dance at local clubs. When they initially refused and asked for house cleaning work instead, Martinez threatened their mother back in Honduras. So L.M. and E.M. worked at the club, where they were groped by customers, forced to drink alcohol, forced to sell sex behind the club, and saw every penny of their tips pocketed to repay their smuggling debt. They eventually escaped when one of them got pregnant, and was fired.

While trapped in debt bondage, the sisters where moved from club to club, all of which were owned by Anthony Genovese who owns a number of Latino-themed bars and clubs in the area. He has “hired” dozens of women to dance at those clubs to attract patrons. Giselle Rodriguez of the Florida Coalition Against Trafficking says that means L.M. and E.M. are likely not the only trafficked women to pass through Genovese’s clubs — usually, when one or two trafficked women are used in a club, dozens are. Matrinez is now in jail, but despite the presence of two trafficked women in one of his clubs and evidence indicating the probability of many more, Genovese is still operating bars and clubs, complete with “dancers” around West Palm Beach.


Published in: on September 1, 2010 at 9:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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When Victims Become Traffickers

Burmese police announced this week that out of the hundreds of human traffickers they have arrested over the past several years, at least 100 of them were once victims. Sadly, trafficking victims becoming traffickers is not unusual. But what makes a person go from victim to trafficker?

Most of the 100 victims-turned-traffickers were trafficked from Burma into China and Thailand for forced labor, forced prostitution, or forced marriage. Once discovered, they were shipped back to Burma, sometimes deported, and usually with no compensation. Back in Burma, there were no support services for them, no money for counseling or job training, no help with medical bills or education. The lack of support for victims traps them in a vicious cycle. Some people end up trafficked again and again because they cannot break out of that cycle. Others eventually break the cycle, by becoming traffickers themselves.

Victims can turn into traffickers for a number of reasons. For those trafficked as children, there may be no other conceivable industry for them to enter other than the one they were sold into as a child, whether that’s commercial sex, brick making, or domestic service. So as an adult, they follow the only career path they’ve known and recruit other children into the same industry. Others many find that the only model of power in their life is the person who owns and controls them — their trafficker. When they look around for ways to empower themselves, becoming a subjugater of others is all they see. Still others, as is the case with many of the 100 Burmese nationals, may not even realize what they’re engaging in is against the law. They know the trafficking routes, brokers, and bosses from the time they were forced to work. That they should recruit others to do the same thing might feel like the natural extension of their previous “job.”


Published in: on August 28, 2010 at 10:29 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Sex Tourist Next Door

This week, the founder of a prominent Haitian children’s charity admitted to using the promise of food, shelter, and clean clothes to lure in homeless Haitian boys for sex. But this story is just one of many involving American citizens traveling to developing countries to victimize children. It’s called child sex tourism, and it’s a form of human trafficking happening next door.

Doug Perlitz founded Project Pierre Toussaint in Northern Haiti years before the earthquake put the country in the headlines. It provided homeless boys a place to sleep, food, an education, and other services. But it also provided Perlitz a steady stream of children to rape. This past week, he pled guilty to giving food, shelter, and toys to eight young Haitian boys in exchange for sex. However, some Haitian sources indicate the actual number of children who have been identified as Perlitz’s victims is much higher, around 30. The child sex tourism scheme went on for years, mostly because local staff members were too afraid of Perlitz and losing their jobs to speak up. Perlitz even used his clout in the community with religious leaders to help him conceal his abuse. And when boys from his shelter showed up at the hospital with rectal bleeding, they were diagnosed with typhoid and sent back to Perlitz.

But Perlitz isn’t the only one. Last year Connecticut-native Edgardo Sensei was indicted for taking multiple child pornography road trips through Nicaragua preying on young girls. He bribed a working mother with money, jewelry, and perfume to let him film himself having sex with her four-year-old daughter and forced another six-year-old girl to make similar films with a sadomasochistic twist. And previous to that, Florida resident Kent Frank was convicted of traveling to Cambodia several times to have sex with underage girls and photograph them for profit. The list of heinous deeds and the American men who commit them overseas goes on from there.


Child sex slavery rages in Las Vegas

Officials turn blind eye to massage parlors hiding prostitution

As college students embark upon a new fall semester at UNLV, lawmakers and appointed government officials sit tight, knowing that the glitz of the Boulevard will provide distraction enough to hide Las Vegas’ darkest secret.
Six billion dollars. 1,496. 41 percent.

Respectively, those numbers represent the following: the estimated net yearly worth of Las Vegas’ prostitution industry, the number of domestic child sex traffic victims reported between January 1994 and July 2007 in our city and the percentage of those minors reporting past sexual assault.

Disturbed? It gets worse. Shared Hope International, a non-profit organization combating human trafficking, revealed that the average age of child prostitution in Las Vegas is 12 to 14 years old.

These numbers merely reflect domestic-born victims, not taking into account the thousands of innocent young women kidnapped or coerced in the nations of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Russia, the Philippines and others, who are smuggled into the U.S. and forced to become prostitutes.

While figures regarding international victims are unavailable, one need look no farther than the massage parlors that inhabit numerous shopping centers.

With names like “Oriental Angels Massage,” customers fully expect — and receive — a so-called happy ending. Propped up by casinos, these shops litter the streets of Las Vegas and provide sexual services for money, keeping casino high rollers within city limits (instead of other counties’ legalized brothels) and fueling an influx of child sex slaves from both the U.S. and the Third World.

Who allows this repulsiveness to continue? The State of Nevada Board of Massage Therapy.

Chaired by Billie Shea, the eight commissioners appointed by the acting governor are counted upon to approve or deny massage licenses, as well as investigate malpractices and wrongdoing. This board continues to issue certifications for businesses that offer illegal services.

Local lawmakers also do their part to push child sex trafficking issues under the table. Recently, Oriental Angels Massage was shut down by the Las Vegas City Council. Don’t consider it a victory, though. The closure was ordered only after five incidents of soliciting prostitution between 2008 and 2010.

Five? Was one or two not enough? In order to show they “mean business” when it comes to trafficking and prostitution, the city also slapped the parlor’s owner with a $50,000 fine.

But the Council’s vote on that fine barely passed with a 4-3 margin. Who were the three members of the council that voted against the fine?
Councilmen Steve Wolfson and Ricki Barlow, and our esteemed mayor, Oscar Goodman. I’m hoping Steve and Ricki really meant it when they cried that $50,000 was simply “too much.” However, Oscar is a different story.

He makes no apologies for being a former mob lawyer and persists in his glorified corruption by backhandedly baptizing child sex slavery.

In a 2007 New York Times op-ed, writer Bob Herbert blasted Nevada for its thriving sex trade and detailed the story of a 14 year-old girl in Las Vegas whose drug problem may havebeen her simplest issue.

The girl was undernourished, suffering from a sexually transmitted disease and was carrying a seven-month-old child fathered by her pimp.

Within the same article, Dr. Melissa Farley, founder of Prostitution Research & Education, commented that Las Vegas stands as the “epicenter of North American prostitution and sex trafficking.”

How did Goodman respond to Herbert’s thought-provoking article? By threatening his life. “I have no use for him. I’ll take a baseball bat and break his head if he ever comes here,” Goodman said.

Governor Jim Gibbons fits right in with the vileness of Shea and Goodman. Albeit our governor does deserve some credit for signing a bill that increases sex trafficking penalties.

But Gibbons appointed the Nevada Board of Massage Therapy that appeases the sex trade industry. Furthermore, on Gibbons’ watch, Nevada continues to rank in the second-to-bottom tier of Human Trafficking State Ratings, released annually by the Polaris Project.

Some advancements have been made in the fight against child sex slavery. An FBI Human Trafficking Task Force was created in November of 2008.
Organizations like Shared Hope International and The Shade Tree Shelter operate to uncover child trafficking incidents as well as rehabilitate victims.

And local NBC-affiliate My News 3’s Hetty Chang has been a community leader in investigating and reporting Las Vegas’ trafficking atrocities, while also uniting the Asian-American community in opposition.

Despite these bright spots, the battle has only begun. Shared Hope International’s comprehensive report, “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in Las Vegas, Nevada,” sheds light on the plethora of remaining issues.

For starters, state laws must be changed to treat child sex slaves as victims, rather than as juvenile offenders. (This current law enforcement mentality discourages victims from seeking refuge.) Increased resources must be provided for the psychological recovery, education, protection and health services of victims.

Finally, facilitators across the board must be prosecuted — from the taxi drivers who produce massage parlor patrons in exchange for tips to the international traffickers, local pimps and even the sex-seeking customers themselves.

One more thing: Changing the leadership of Las Vegas and Nevada could help.

What can you do to fight child sex slavery?
1) Volunteer or join a local chapter of a non-profit like Shared Hope International (, the Polaris Project ( or Not For Sale (

2) Write or email your city council and state representatives to express your outrage regarding this issue. You would be surprised at how much these messages are taken into account.

3) Tell a friend. Tell your parents. Tell your professors and the randoms on campus. Lack of public awareness is the biggest obstacle to changing the current system.


Mom, Grandma Accused of Pimping 14-Year-Old Houston Girl

In a disturbing story out of Houston this week, a 14-year-old girl told the police she was being forced into prostitution. The pimps she named? Her own mother and grandmother. And while the idea of a grandmother as a pimp may be strange to the point of almost comical, familial trafficking of teen girls is far from rare.

Elizabeth Buford, her daughter Alicia Melchor, and her 14-year-old granddaughter lived together in a rented motel room in the Houston area. They paid their rent on time, but the motel soon began to receive complaints from other tenants that there was a steady stream of people going  in and out of the room at all hours of the day and night. When police investigated, they found evidence to indicate Buford and Melchor had been forcing their grand daughter/daughter into prostitution, possibly since she was 11 years old. The money the teen was paid to have sex with several men a night went to support the older women’s drug habit and to pay for basic living expenses.

Melchor claims the forced prostitution charges are a lie, and that her daughter had been in her father’s custody until recently. However, the teen told police her mother and grandmother had been selling her for sex for years. The two women were eventually arrested at the motel where they lived for compelling a minor into prostitution and possession of heroin. No word yet as to whether human trafficking charges will be brought as well.


New U.K. Study: One in Ten Women in Prostitution Are Slaves

An explosive new report out of the U.K. has estimated that at least one in ten women in prostitution in the country are victims of human trafficking. It also found that at least 15% of migrant women in prostitution are forced or coerced into the trade and up to 40% of them may be exploited just shy of slavery. These findings could help blow the lid off the notion that exploitation and trafficking in commercial sex is rare.

The report called Setting the Record, which was released this week by the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, used a sampling extrapolation method to estimate the number women in prostitution and the number of human trafficking victims in England and Wales. The results? They found that out of the 30,000 or so women in prostitution in the country, around 2600 are trafficking victims, or just shy of 10%. In addition to those women who are trafficked, researchers found 9600 other women they deemed “vulnerable,” meaning they showed some signs of trafficking and faced cultural or financial factors preventing them from exiting prostitution, but they tended to have day to day control over their activities. Taken together, these estimates indicate that as much as 40% of women in prostitution in the U.K. lack some control of their situation and are at high risk for or in current situations of slavery. You can read the report in full here.

As with any study trying to count human trafficking, this one has some flaws (which the authors readily own). First of all, the study focuses exclusively on organized, off-street prostitution, leaving out any potential trafficking victims in other forms of prostitution, including closed ethnic brothels. Second, the analysis of trafficking appears to have been applied primarily to the 17,000 migrant women in prostitution, leaving out any native trafficking victims. And finally, as with most similar studies of human trafficking, the report only provides estimates based on extrapolated sample data, not actual numbers of victims. Setting the Record has, however, been significantly more transparent about methodology for studying trafficking than many other prominent report-makers. <cough> U.S. Government <cough>.


Published in: on August 19, 2010 at 11:29 am  Comments (3)  
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