Book Your Next Sex Tour Today

For a little under $3,000, G&F Tours will send you on a 10-day “nightlife” vacation to Thailand, the Philippines, or Cambodia, where you’ll enjoy the sandy and tranquil beaches, eclectic club scene, and of course, all the girls you could ever image. Highlights include a tour guide to help you navigate the local party scene, personal transportation, and an insider’s guide to the best clubs (and brothels) in town — all important tools in your belt to make your sex-cation unforgettable.

But if this isn’t for you, and you’re looking for true love, G&F Tours offers a “marriage tour,” where they promise to help you find a faithful and beautiful Southeast Asian girl: your soul-mate. All of this for a modest fee. Book today, before all seats fill up.

Disgusted yet? Well, this industry is growing. And fast. Not only that, but many of these destinations, including the Philippines and Cambodia, are inundated with underage sex-workers. And while we have a law in the U.S. prohibiting American citizens and companies from traveling abroad to patronize prostitution with minors or assisting others in doing so — laws that G&F Tours claims to abide by — who knows what really goes on during the wild and crazy nights in the clubs of Bangkok.

This law is at least a good start, however. It was adopted in 2003 as part of the PROTECT Act and carries with it a maximum sentence of 30 years behind bars. Americans are strictly prohibited from traveling within the U.S. or abroad to have sex with minors, and companies, agencies, or individuals that facilitate this process for them are as well.

So far, the laws have been put to some use. Last August, three American citizens returning from Cambodia were arrested on allegations of sex tourism and prostitution involving children. More recently, a man from Florida was sentenced to 20 years in jail for purchasing sex from two sisters, who were 11 and 12 at the time, while on vacation to the Philippines.

I’m glad to see some justice being served, but I hope that we can go further and put a stop to sex tourism agencies all together. Who knows what really goes on behind closed doors? Companies like G&F Tours only increase the chances that one of their faithful patrons will spend the night with a child — boy or girl — for a modest fee.

Some may argue that such laws go beyond our jurisdiction and state that intent to engage in such nefarious activities with a minor is difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, but I believe that it is our duty to protect those that don’t have the means or capabilities to protect themselves and to fight through such skepticism. We need laws like this, because if we don’t have them, who will?

The laws that we currently have in place are crucial to combating human trafficking and exploitation of some of the world’s most vulnerable and innocent citizens. But we must find a way to apply them more heavily and prohibit companies or individuals from helping others exploit the world’s youth. American tourists are still traveling abroad to prey on young boys and girls and “tourist agencies” are still out there helping them do so. Until law enforcement and government authorities begin aggressively fighting child sex tourism, the industry will continue to grow, and the lives of even more children will be ruined.

Photo credit: r e n a t a


Published in: on March 26, 2010 at 5:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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Oregon Department of Human Services tests whether age factors into child-abuse checks

“Fifteen-year-old Jeanette Maples died despite warnings that she was being abused. A state investigation is looking at whether state welfare workers are less likely to investigate reports of abuse of older children.”

State and private social service leaders say they see no evidence in the Portland area that child welfare workers are reluctant to act on abuse reports about older children.

Still, Department of Human Services officials want to know more about how their workers weigh age in deciding how to respond to reports of child abuse and neglect. They suspect age might be part of the reason child welfare workers failed to respond to calls over a four-year period reporting the abuse of Jeanette Maples, a 15-year-old girl who died Dec. 9 in her Eugene home. Her parents have been charged with murder in her death.

In the 1990s, state child welfare workers responded less to reports of abused older children because of a system that categorized older children as less vulnerable. The rationale, in part, was that older children could flee abusive homes.

Youth advocates challenged the practice, arguing that older children don’t have legal or practical alternatives to living in abusive homes. State officials say child welfare workers have stopped using age as a measure of vulnerability.

“They have tried to get over that (age) mentality,” said Kevin Donegan, director of homeless youth services for Janus Youth Programs Inc. in Portland. “Unfortunately, there is still some of that mindset in the state.”


Read The Oregonian’s earlier coverage of the death of Jeanette Maples.

To determine if Donegan is right, state investigators will audit a sample of cases that abuse screeners closed to see whether age “inappropriately influenced the decision.” That review is scheduled to be complete by March 1.

Investigators say they want to determine whether the flawed screenings in Maples’ case were due to individual misjudgments or to a systemic problem of screeners “over-relying upon a child’s age as part of their evaluation of child vulnerability.”

State guidelines say social workers should consider a child’s vulnerability, but not age, when they are screening calls, said Stacey Ayers, program manager for child protective services.

“If the caller says a 16-year-old got punched in the face by his dad or a 4-year-old got punched in the face by dad, we’re assigning both of those,” he said. “The responses will be immediate.”

Mark McKechnie, executive director of the Juvenile Rights Project Inc., agrees that Portland-area social workers have responded better to abuse reports on older youth in recent years. But he said he still worries that state guidelines for screening abuse reports established two years ago could lead some workers to conclude that older children are not vulnerable.

The model says a child’s vulnerability should be judged “according to the child’s physical and emotional development, ability to communicate needs, mobility, size and dependence.”

Those terms could be equated with age, McKechnie said.

In a report released last week, state investigators said Maples’ age appears to have been “considered as a major factor in the conclusion that she was not vulnerable.”

At least three reports in 2007 and 2009, when Maples had become isolated in home school, should have triggered visits to her home by state child protection workers, the investigation concluded.

Instead, screeners chose against intervention after each call.

In the state’s Multnomah County Child Welfare Hotline office in Portland, social workers do not assume older children are less vulnerable because of their age, said Miriam Green, program manager. Older children may have cognitive or developmental deficits, may be unable to defend themselves or may be isolated with nowhere to go, she said.

As a safeguard, she said, every report is shown to at least one supervisor and sometimes to police.

“We have to get it right 100 percent of the time,” Green said, “and we’re human beings.”

Her 18 screeners fill cubicles flowing over half of the second floor of a Department of Human Services building in east Portland. Police and prosecutors specializing in child abuse occupy the first floor.

The hot-line screeners take child abuse calls for Multnomah County around the clock, seven days a week, and for Washington and Clackamas counties on evenings and weekends. Last year they assigned about 8,000 cases in Multnomah County to social workers in field offices for further investigation. They closed about 6,800 other calls at the screenings.

Cindy Tillman, a part-time child welfare screener for the Portland hot line, said nearly half of the 20 or so calls she takes each week involve teenagers. She received one call this week, for example, of a girl being strangled by a parent. Tillman assigned the case to a social worker. The girl, who is now out of the home in a protective shelter, was interviewed by police and examined at a medical clinic specializing in child abuse. A social worker also interviewed her siblings at her home.

Green said her office has stepped up efforts recently to help older children pulled into sex trafficking and prostitution. The team also is exploring ways to better protect older kids who are home-schooled and isolated — children like Jeanette Maples.


Haiti authorities right to protect vulnerable children from exploitation

An Idaho religious group’s desire to help children is understandable but does not excuse it for trying to take several dozen Haitian children across the border. Following Haiti’s rules makes it less likely that a parent’s desperation is preyed upon and more likely that some of the children may be reunited with relatives.

AN earthquake last month plunged Haiti into crisis. Even deeper poverty and heartbreaking reports of lost and abandoned children have followed. A desire to help Haiti’s children is understandable but does not excuse an Idaho religious group accused of trying to take several dozen Haitian children across the border.

Haitian authorities have in custody a group of Baptists who describe a “Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission” to save abandoned, traumatized children.

Their plan to take 33 Haitian kids, ranging in age from 2 months to 12 years, to a beach resort in the Dominican Republic was thwarted when authorities stopped them at the border for not having proper paperwork. The group was sent back to Port-au-Prince; the children were placed in an orphanage.

Representatives for the Baptists, affiliated with the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, argue that the group had good intentions. Perhaps, but their actions were inarguably wrong.

Haiti’s overwhelmed government had halted adoptions unless they were in motion before the earthquake, allowing the tiny nation to concentrate on rescue and relief efforts.

Authorities are also concerned that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable to being seized and sold. Sex trafficking is rampant in Haiti. The country is right to take steps to protect its children, including demanding assistance be tempered with compliance with Haitian law.

An Associated Press report quoted a Haitian parent who said some in Haiti have given their children to foreign rescuers in the hopes of a better life.

But a different story was told at the orphanage where the children taken from the Baptist group are now housed. On the facility’s Web site Sunday, one of the children, an 8-year-old girl, told workers she was not an orphan and said she believed that her mother had arranged a short vacation for her.

Following Haiti’s rules makes it less likely that a parent’s desperation is preyed upon and more likely that some of the lost or abandoned children may be reunited with relatives.

The group of Baptists from Idaho could face criminal charges of child trafficking and kidnapping. But unless authorities uncover some malevolent twist to the their plan, they should be released.

Let this case resolve itself quickly and without charges. It is unlikely that with Haiti’s court system in shambles, the government truly wants to wage a high-profile prosecution fraught with diplomatic and cultural tensions.


Haiti detains Americans taking kids across border

Ten Americans were detained by Haitian police on Saturday as they tried to bus 33 children across the border into the Dominican Republic, allegedly without proper documents. The Baptist church members from Idaho called it a “Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission,” meant to save abandoned children from the chaos following Haiti’s earthquake. Their plan was to scoop up 100 kids and take them by bus to a rented hotel at a beach resort in the Dominican Republic, where they planned to establish an orphanage.

Whether they realized it or not, these Americans — the first known to be taken into custody since the Jan. 12 earthquake — put themselves in the middle of a firestorm in Haiti, where government leaders have suspended adoptions amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable than ever to child trafficking. While I do not think these people intended any harm, they should have contacted the correct authorities before even trying something this crazy. What they did makes them look guilty. You do not take kids and try to sneak them out of a country. Hopefully it all turns well for these people. I think they had good intentions just went the wrong way about it.


Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 7:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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Youth in lawless Haiti at risk for sex trade, slavery, murder

Brace yourself for a new level of horror in Haiti: Vulnerable children and teens sold into slavery and the sex trade, or simply shot in the streets for no reason.

You can take it from an expert on these miseries. Nicolette Gramms, who worked with an human rights agency, the International Justice Mission that specialized in rescuing the victims, writes for The Atlantic that “natural disasters unfailingly bring us new business.” She says:

In today’s world, the twin causes of human slavery — poverty and vulnerability — increase exponentially after natural disasters… Even without the pandemonium unleashed by a 7.0 earthquake, an estimated quarter-million Haitian children are trafficked (into slave labor or the sex trade) within the country each year.

Now, Rev. Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church who is known nationwide for his blunt talking sermons and in-your-face evangelism, has seen the sex trade revving up amid the rubble.

Driscoll and James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago raced down to Haiti to assess the damages to the church infra-structure and launch a drive to rebuild places of worship,

Faith groups offer the fundamental social network for education, welfare and health in a nation with virtually no government — and that was true before the quake. .

Driscoll’s reports on quake deaths of church choirs, pastors who have lost families flocks and buildings included two particularly chilling experiences, posted to his PastorMark Twitter page and Facebook accounts.

Driscoll described those experiences to me in his first interview back in the states last night.

They were standing at the near the entrance to the Evangelical Theological Seminary, a 75-year-old school on a hill that is now sheltering 5,000 homeless Haitians, when they heard, “Pop! Pop!”

They looked just a few feet outside of the refuge and there they found a teenage boy has been murdered “for no apparent reason. He was just shot in the head and left in the street.”

Driscoll and Macdonald also saw a glimpse of what lies ahead for many young girls. His posting on line:

If u want a phone, cigarettes or a teenage girl you can get them here in Port au Prince. Like the American who said he’s on a relief mission and bought a hungry girl despite our confrontation.

I asked Driscoll more about that scene in a brief phone interview with him last night, minutes after his return last night to the USA.

We were downtown loading up our film crew. There were no police, no medics, to be seen by a huge park with hundreds of people camping out with no where else to go. There was a little cart with a red umbrella and a man selling cell phones and cigarettes — and a few young girls.

“You want to buy loving?” the guy asked me. I said, “What in the world are you talking about?”

But there was another guy there, who claimed to be a translator for a relief agency, who was negotiating a price for a girl. I asked him what he was trying to do. He said, “Oh, she’s a friend of mine. We’re just trying to connect.”

That’s ridiculous. A young girl. A man 20 or 30 years older. I told him this was unacceptable. MacDonald confronted him, too. But there were no police and you could argue all you wanted but the girl took his money and they walked away.”

A prostitute who identified herself as
By Alexandre Meneghini, AP

The pastors plan to send the man’s photo to the relief agency where he claimed to work but the incident has left Driscoll, a father of four, including a teenage daughter, shaking with anger.

So, if you’re within sound or reach of Driscoll or MacDonald this Sunday — and more than 80,000 people are part of their church networks, millions more download Driscoll’s sermons or tune in the MacDonald’s radio show — expect harrowing stories and a challenge from the pulpit that won’t mince words. Driscoll says,

We’re not going to compete with existing aid groups. We just want to use our influence to help churches effectively mobilize to raise funds for relief…

People are desperate. Young girls are ripe for the worst you can imagine.


Sex Trafficking of American Indian Girls and Women

All over the world, indigenous populations are highly vulnerable to trafficking into commercial sex industries. Here in the U.S., the American Indian population is no exception. Unfortunately, sex trafficking among this population is rarely studied. The following is a brief look at sex trafficking of American Indians in the U.S. For a more in-depth analysis, check out this recent report out of Minnesota.

One Native woman, let’s call her Lisa, told a social service agency her story. At the age of 12, Lisa’s mother began selling her to other men on the reservation, to support her mother’s crack habit. To cope with the pain of being raped repeatedly at her mother’s behest, Lisa turned to drugs as well. By the time she was 14, Lisa used the only way to earn money she knew to support her addiction — she began recruiting other young American Indian girls into the sex trade. This system of exploitation rippled through Lisa’s community, until she was eventually able to get out.

Lisa’s story is not unusual. Some advocates claim cultural trauma and a history of exploitation and abuse of American Indians allows traffickers to get a foothold in these communities. Other experts point to a number of risk factors that influence other populations — high rates of runaway or throwaway youth, normalization of sex for children, drug and alcohol addition, and social systems failures. All these risk factors are present in some American Indian communities, and in many cases the problems are acute. American Indians also face many of the same barriers members of other traditionally marginalized communities face, like lack of educational opportunities and cycles of poverty which can be hard to break.


Activist calls for stand-alone Ohio law against human trafficking

Mark Lagon head of the Polaris Project speaks at the human trafficking conference today.

The head of a major international group fighting human trafficking says Ohio stands at a “tipping point” in recognizing the problem and tightening laws and to deal with it.

Mark Lagon, head of the Polaris Project, a former U.S. ambassador and human rights expert under Secretary of State Colin Powell, said at a human trafficking conference today at the Statehouse that federal and Ohio law enforcement officials are making a “high-level commitment” to attack the problem.

Federal officials estimate that up to 17,500 women and girls are trafficked for sex in the U.S. each year. Another 300,000, many of them girls as young as 11, are considered vulnerable.

Lagon recommended that Ohio law be changed to make human trafficking a standalone crime, not simply an add-on to other charges as it is now. He said the law should have a broader definition of trafficking that includes forced labor in addition to coerced sexual activity.

In addition, Ohio and other states need to provide more assistance to trafficking victims, particularly juveniles.

“We don’t have a place to put these prostituted teens when we find them,” Lagon said. Too often, they are viewed as criminal to be locked rather than victims to be helped, he said.

State Sen. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, who organized the conference, said she plans to introduce legislation within the next few weeks that incorporates many of the recommendations from Lagon and other trafficking experts.

Steven M. Dettlebach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said getting at the problem depends on “the beginning of an awakening in our country and a recognition that human trafficking can only happen if we let it happen and look the other way.”


Behind the myth of the “happy hooker”

CHISINAU, Moldova and CHICO, California — “They brought us to a hotel and led us up a staircase — seven floors.

“I remember … wondering when they would let me go to my sister. The big Russian woman led us into a room with couches against the walls. There were men sitting, talking, drinking tea, laughing on the couches. One girl started to cry silently. I suddenly understood what was happening.

“They made the first girl stand in the middle of the room. They ordered her to take off her top. She hesitated so they beat her. Then it was my turn. I lifted my top for a second and pulled it right down. Then I noticed the curtains fluttering out the open window…. Time slowed. I heard a ringing in my ears and the room faded. I remember that I said a prayer — ‘God give me wings.’ I ran across the room and jumped over the men on the couch and out the window.”

When Marina woke up in the hospital she had shattered one leg and broken the other. She had a concussion and some internal bleeding. It was only then that she discovered that the Russian woman she had paid to take her to Italy had taken her to Istanbul instead and sold her to modern-day slavers. She was one of several women being auctioned to brothel owners when she jumped out the hotel window.

I met Marina in the fall of 2008 in her village, Drotcia, where I was doing field research for a book on human trafficking. One of her legs is held together by a pin and she walks with a pronounced limp. She continues to suffer from nightmares and headaches. Yet, hers is a rare success story. Many thousands of other women from Russia and Eastern Europe are not so lucky.

Generating an estimated $32 billion dollars annually, human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal activity in the world today. It is also the most lucrative. According to a 2005 International Labor Office (ILO) report, just a single female held for sexual exploitation yields an average of $67,200 annually in Western Europe and North America.

The United Nations estimates that between 800,000 and 4 million men, women and children are deceived, recruited, transported from their homes and sold into slavery around the world each year. Eighty percent are women, girls and young boys trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation. Of these, more than 200,000 women and children from Russia and Eastern Europe are forced into prostitution each year.

Western demand for Eastern European prostitutes fuels today’s sex-slave industry. Currently, the market for Slavic woman and children in brothels and in pornography in “developed” countries — particularly the EU and the U.S. — is the hottest compared to other parts of the world, and is drawing on an endless supply of impoverished and vulnerable women.

A multitude of recent studies try to explain why women get snared into the trade in flesh. Researchers point to poverty, chronic unemployment, domestic violence and drug addiction as the primary “push factors.”

But sadly, there isn’t enough discussion of the real root of the problem — the men. Human trafficking is basically international sexual terrorism perpetrated against women and children on a mass scale by men. It is their demand for illicit or predatory sex that generates huge profits for the slavers and leaves behind the tortured minds and broken bodies of thosewomen and children they violate.

According to a 2008 study by the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, the majority of men who buy prostitutes do so in order to obtain sex they are uncomfortable asking for. As one interviewee put it, “I want to pay someone to do something a normal person wouldn’t do. To piss on someone or pay someone to do something degrading.” The same study revealed that johns subscribe to a tremendous amount of denial — 87 percent thought women choose prostitution, “just like any job,” and 64 percent believed that the women they bought were sexually satisfied by the encounter.

Though corresponding data isn’t easily accessible in Eastern Europe, it is widely assumed by experts that men in most countries share the same beliefs. Research suggests that in most countries men buywomen with impunity. For example, Victor Malarek, in his recent book “The Johns,” cites numerous international studies that estimate that approximately 70 percent of men in southeast Asia and Japan buy sex; and between 19 and 39 percent of European men regularly buy sex depending on the country.

And yet, the vast majority of women worldwide who engage in prostitution endure extreme abuse and violence, ranging from being raped to being kicked while pregnant or being choked with wire. Many prostitutes interviewed in a U.S. nationwide survey in 2004 said they had been punched, burned with cigarettes, hit with baseball bats and had their heads slammed into walls and floors, or held underwater in the toilet. That same survey revealed that 64 percent ofwomen suffered permanent disabilities as a result of beatings and 33 percent had sodomy forced upon them. A 2006 British study held similar findings — 80 percent reported being “severely” beaten and 90 percent were forced into engaging in sexual acts they refused to perform.

If we are to really address the horror of the buying, selling and trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation, then we must make efforts to stop the demand by making the buying of sex a crime with harsh penalties. At the same time, the selling of sex should be decriminalized so that thewomen, who are already victims, are not further abused by the penal and immigration systems. (Legalization of prostitution only exacerbates slavery — human trafficking flourishes where prostitution is legal.) It is time we recognize that the commodification of women and children is a nefarious form of sexual violence and stop pretending that it is benign.

Prostitution is rarely a free choice and it is never a preferred career path. Behind the myth of the “happy hooker,” hides a horrific human rights abuse.

(Source: GlobalPost)


New DNA bill faces opposition

The government’s plans for a DNA database, which will store samples from criminals and suspects, is likely to face opposition from civil liberties groups.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern is understood to have taken account of concerns raised by the Irish Human Rights Commission when drawing up the DNA legislation. Despite safeguards in the legislation, some aspects of the plan may raise constitutional concerns.

It is understood that Ahern views the measures as a reasonable balancing of rights between the public interest in fighting crime and the need to uphold standards of privacy.

The bill, which will be published next month, gives gardaí powers to take DNA samples from convicted people and suspects who are detained in garda custody for offences that are punishable by five years’ imprisonment. The measures will also apply to a small number of offences linked to drug trafficking that do not meet the five-year threshold.

The DNA bill is a major departure in domestic law and raises constitutional issues such as privacy rights and bodily integrity rights. For this reason, Ahern revised the bill to introduce further checks and balances following the ‘Marper’ court judgment in Britain, which concerned the practice of indefinitely retaining samples of suspects not charged with an offence.

In its judgment, the British court said the ‘‘blanket and indiscriminate’’ collection of such records was a ‘‘disproportionate interference with the applicants’ right to respect for private life’’, as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The British government subsequently proposed keeping DNA profiles and samples for 12 years, but later reduced this to six years. Legislation will be introduced in Britain to afford people the right to go to court to challenge a police refusal to delete their details.

Ahern’s legislation provides for samples to be destroyed and profiles removed after three years for suspects who are not charged and for those that are charged but acquitted.

The provision would also apply where a conviction is quashed or a miscarriage of justice is declared.

However, DNA profiles taken from people who are convicted of offences carrying a jail sentence of five years or more will be retained indefinitely.

The samples of those convicted under the Sex Offenders Act 2001 will also be retained, with a limited exception for some children who have been convicted.

In other safeguards, the bill includes special provisions for the taking and retention of samples from children and other vulnerable persons.

There will be independent oversight of the sampling and DNA profiling arrangements, and provision will be made for the publication of a code of practice, as well as informing the donor of any issues before a sample is taken.

The bill is expected to be enacted as early as spring next year because Ahern believes that building the database as quickly as possible will result in increased intelligence. The design and planning of a purposebuilt Forensic Science Laboratory at the Backwest on laboratory complex in Celbridge, Co Kildare, is advanced and expected to go to procurement stage shortly.

Samples taken for the database will usually comprise either mouth swabs or plucked head hairs, while medical professionals will take samples of an intimate nature from suspects. Prison officers will also take samples from prisoners where necessary.

The samples provided for in this bill do not include fingerprints and palm prints, which are subject to separate statutory provisions. In the case of missing people, samples may be taken for the purpose of identification from blood relatives with their consent and from the missing person’s belongings.

The DNA database is expected to help in the investigation of the remains of unidentified people.

The DNA database system will have two divisions: the investigation division and the identification division, which will be made up of the missing and unknown persons index.


Published in: on December 21, 2009 at 10:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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State official seeks change in human-trafficking investigations

Andra Ackerman wants to change the way law enforcement investigates human trafficking.

Human trafficking is the modern equivalent of. Yet many victims of this crime have traditionally been viewed as “co-defendants ,” she says.

In 2007, New York state enacted its first human trafficking law, making it a crime punishable by up to 25 years in prison to sexually exploit a person, and up to seven years for labor exploitation. The law also makes social services available for most victims of human trafficking.

Since then, there’s been only one conviction under New York’s sex-trafficking statute — a Queens man, David Brown, 32, was convicted this month of making a young woman have sex with “dozens of men” after he purchased her for $2,000 from an old girlfriend, said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Ackerman, 38, a former prosecutor, is director of the state Office of Human Trafficking and Prevention, with the Division of Criminal Justice Services in Albany. Her office was created when the trafficking law was enacted.

She compares the need for additional training and a change in attitude toward victims of sex trafficking to the shift in how people have perceived domestic violence cases since the 1970s.

“Now we have a situation where domestic violence presents a challenge to law enforcement,” but it is surmountable, she said.

Another challenge is convincing local law enforcement that human trafficking is not only a big-city problem.

Ackerman tries to combat this notion by showing local examples of possible sex-trafficking cases when she holds training sessions.

For a recent conference in Kingston, she pulled Hudson Valley Craigslist postings showing very young-looking girls advertising adult services.

“Some of these girls have bodies that are not even fully developed,” she said.

Ackerman contends she’s not defending all prostitutes.

“Someone who is engaging in ‘classic prostitution’ and is the sole proprietor should be held accountable because they are committing a crime in the state,” she said.

“But if you have someone who appears to have committed prostitution and their ‘boyfriend’ took their ID away, that’s an indication that there’s something else going on,” she said.

“If the perpetrator provided them drugs to get them to engage in the activity, or if he’s threatened them in any way, or made false promises , those are also indications,” she said.

Building these cases takes a lot of time and resources and many police agencies are short-staffed or facing cutbacks.

“Traffickers know these cases are time-consuming, that the girls have credibility issues. They choose them for a reason,” she said.

Also, many of these women have children and may live with the perpetrator , she said.

If someone is found to be a victim of human trafficking, they become eligible for immediate crisis services, including shelter, health care, mental-health care, legal services and safety planning, regardless of immigration status, said Christa Stewart, coordinator of the state’s Anti-Trafficking Program with the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Minor dependents are also included under this provision, she said.

While only one human trafficking conviction has resulted so far, Stewart said her office has referred almost 100 victims for services as a result of this law.

Of those, 38 were labor trafficking victims and 61 were sex trafficking victims.

None was from Dutchess or Ulster counties, said Anthony Farmer, acting director of public information for the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Stewart also paralleled human trafficking to domestic violence.

“Domestic violence used to be thought of as a family matter,” she said. “It’s a very hidden problem.”

Federal laws also protect victims of human trafficking.

But cases of one or two local victims can fall through the cracks or don’t fall under federal jurisdiction, Ackerman said.

“These girls are some of the most vulnerable people,” she said. “Many are kids.”


Published in: on December 21, 2009 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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