APRIL - Week 2
||Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.
We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
Search for Holly Bobo: Local reporter ‘Jackets, jeans, courage and hope needed'
by Isabelle Zehnder
PARSONS, Tennessee -- Will Nunley, a local news reporter in Tennessee where 19-year-old nursing student Holly Bobo was abducted Wednesday, said Saturday, "Jackets, jeans, courage and hope are needed" in the search for Holly.
Nunley is keeping the public informed using Twitter, an example of how social networking can be helpful in sharing information in missing persons' cases.
Examiner.com shares some of the information Nunley has tweeted over the past 24 hours in an attempt to keep the public informed about the search for Holly.
At this time Nunley is standing by at the command center waiting for an update.
Nunley tweeted Friday morning that authorities hoped to lead 200 people to search a specific area. They ended up with some 1,500 searchers, a Decatur County Sheriff Department operator told Examiner.com Friday evening.
Officials were pleading for able-bodied manpower, asking that they report to the Decatur County Fairgrounds. They were asking for the same number of people, or more, to come out again to search for Holly Saturday.
Bad weather was expected Friday with winds, rain, thunder storms, and even tornados. But that didn't keep people away.
Friday morning Nunley tweeted that according to The Associated Press, authorities were clarifying the term “dragging” from first witness accounts.
A source, Nunley tweeted, told him authorities say the victim appeared to have been “led” into the woods by a man wearing full “Turkey Camo.”
As we learned Friday, trucks and ATVs were brought in by people joining in the search. Helicopters searched from overhead.
Country singer Whitney Duncan is also on Twitter and Facebook, pleading for help in finding her cousin Holly. Whitney tweeted Friday afternoon, “To every single person that helped spread the word or searched for Holly today, our family deeply appreciates it.”
Days ago Whitney said, “Lord have mercy. I feel like I'm walking in a nightmare.” On Thursday Whitney wrote, “Just drove by the command post at the church. It is so touching how many people in this community & around have come together to find Holly.”
Whitney then wrote: “We are offering a $25,000 reward to anyone with info leading to the safe return of Holly. Please help us. Thank u. If you'd like to contribute to the reward fund please send checks to: Holly Bobo Reward Trust Fund 450 Tennessee Ave. S Parsons, TN 38363.”
On Friday Nunley tweeted that there was a rush on boots, flashlights, and supplies at local stores and said, “THP to volunteers: rest up, get water, its going to be a long day.” #hollybobo
Many female volunteers came out wearing pink, Holly's favorite color.
Nunley said that on Friday morning that the list of volunteers was growing, and that no one was being turned away. He also, “I have *not* confirmed any reports of a car being found, I am not sure where that information is coming from.”
He tweeted Friday morning, “THP to crowd: look for purse, female items, school books.”
Late Friday morning a volunteer, Carolyne Allen, went missing. Nunley tweeted, “Carolyne was helping search Gooch Road this morning … teams head to the woods.
Nunley tweeted: Official to crowd: “Just look for recent things. We think she is leaving a trail … Official: prepare to work through this weather. We may not even stop at darkness.”
Just following Friday morning's press conference Nunley tweeted:
“TBI: she walked into the woods.”
“TBI: we did find a lunch pale [siq], that has been recovered.”
“TBI: no vehicles have been recovered, that information is not correct.”
“TBI: we have searched parts of Henderson county, Decatur County, a massive area.”
“TBI: the boyfriend is not a suspect, the brother is not a suspect.”
“TBI: we feel she was in fear of her life.”
“There are a lot of rumors,” Nunley tweeted late Friday morning. “I am working to only report facts.”
Two hours after searching for Carolyn Allen, the missing volunteer, Nunley tweeted, “TBI: we think the missing volunteer, Carolyn Allen, got a ride from a friend. We believe she is safe (working to confirm.)”
By late morning he said the list had grown to more than 900 volunteers.
Supplies needed for the search include sandwich supplies, pizza, Gatorade, ice, snacks. No bottled water was needed as of late Friday morning.
The search was ended for the night, with a request for more volunteers to search on Saturday morning. “Official: fresh volunteers will be needed in the morning. 7AM.”
Nunley is amazed at the generosity of volunteers. He tweeted Friday afternoon, “An example: Rosalin Lassater brings 10 bags of ice, and 12 bags of groceries. After working all day as a nurse … I see this and it brings me to tears. God Bless you volunteers.”
After the Friday's search ended volunteers ate together. Nunley tweeted, “THP: about search efforts: ‘we have direction now, it's helping.” Those are encouraging words. “THP Official: we need this army tomorrow.”
“I am impressed with the amount of young people here. I dare say a majority of these volunteers are under the age of 25,” Nunley said.
As of Friday afternoon the reward had grown to more than $30,000. “Breaking: Reward money far surpasses $30,000 growing from community donations – Official,” Nunley tweeted. He said: “Source: Parsons businessman makes anon donation of $5,000 towards reward total.”
While people stopped for the night, Nunley tweeted, “Source: Many search operations continue throughout the night, conducted by authorities.”
He tells volunteers to dress in layers Saturday morning because temperatures are much cooler in the early morning when searchers arrive at 7 a.m.
Way Too Little, Way Too Late
More Than A Year After An Adult Went Missing From CVH, State Issues An Alert
by Helen Ubiñas
April 17, 2011
There's too little, too late. And then there's so little, so late — it's ridiculous.
A year and a month after Aaron Torres went missing, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services finally issued a "Silver Alert" for a young man who suffers from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia .
That's about a year and a month longer than the crucial hours after a person goes missing.
Torres walked away from a supervised break at Connecticut Valley Hospital on March 17, 2010. Since then, his mother, Margarita Torres, has relentlessly pressed CVH to do more to find Aaron, turning to anyone she could to get the word out about her only child.
After stories about the state-run psychiatric hospital's failure to look for Torres, family friend and state Rep. Kelvin Roldan had questions for public safety and mental health officials.
Among them: What about that Silver Alert he'd read was never issued? The alert, which went into effect in Connecticut two years ago, is specifically for missing individuals who are 65 or older, or 18 and over if mentally impaired.
In short, it's specifically for people like Aaron, who's spent most of his 26 years in mental health facilities.
Only after story after story about Torres, and inquiries from Roldan, did they finally get around to it.
An alert was issued April 7 – and DMHAS went into CYA mode.
Roldan said he found it "amazing" that the alert was just recently issued.
That's one way to describe how DMHAS has handled Torres' disappearance. I'd opt for: Outrageous. Irresponsible. Heartless — especially when you consider the efforts Aaron's mother has put in to keep people from forgetting her son.
"I'm angry," Torres said. "Before, I believed they were trying to do everything they could. Now I know they didn't."
When I reached out to DMHAS Commissioner Patricia Rehmer Friday, she sent a brief e-mail saying she'd be in meetings "every hour" of the day and referred me to department spokesperson James Siemianowski.
Siemianowski issued a brief statement that in part said after Torres disappeared, a statewide bulletin was sent to local and national law enforcement agencies.
"The Department is evaluating whether a Silver Alert should become a routine part of agency procedure when a patient leaves state-operated psychiatric facilities without permission," the statement continued. "Federal and state privacy laws may prohibit the Department from routinely releasing this information so this patient rights issue must be more carefully reviewed."
Look, I understand patient confidentiality is a concern. But it's an issue to be resolved — not to excuse failing to offer families every option possible in locating their loved ones. Bottom line: Laws shouldn't be an impediment to a person's safety.
More frustrating is that the department doesn't yet have a policy about using a tool that could help in situations just like Aaron's — which might explain why officials told Roldan this was the first alert they'd issued. The Silver Alert, in effect since 2009, is sent to media outlets, police stations and missing persons agencies specifically to help locate adults in danger.
Torres' mother has been asking — no, begging — to get the word out about her son since he walked away from the state caregivers who were responsible for him.
On the 386th day of his disappearance, the officials in charge got around to taking a logical step in the quest to bring him back. That is not acceptable.
"I want to know why," Torres said. "Why did they wait so long? Why now? And is this all they are going to do to find Aaron?''
All fair questions from a mother who's long overdue for some answers and action to find her son.
San Diego police officer fired amid charges that he demanded sex from women
April 15, 2011
A veteran San Diego police officer, charged with demanding sexual favors from women after traffic stops, has been fired, police officials announced Friday.
Anthony Arevalos, 40, an 18-year veteran, faces felony charges involving at least five women who say he demanded sex after stopping them for alleged traffic offenses. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on bail.
Woman suing Match.com over alleged sexual assault speaks out about incident
April 15, 2011
A Los Angeles woman who this week filed suit against Match.com, saying she was sexually assaulted by a man she met on the dating site, is speaking out about the incident.
Attorney Mark L. Webb, who represents the woman identified in the lawsuit only as Jane Doe, said he will ask a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge for a temporary injunction barring the site from signing up more members until his client's demands are met. He said his client wants the site to screen members to determine if they are sexual predators.
"They are a very powerful and successful online dating service, and they have the means to do this," Webb said.
In an interview with KABC-TV Channel 7, the woman said her relationship with the man started innocently enough: "He sent me an email and said he was into golf and tennis and he had a house in the Palisades over Malibu and he liked art and culture, travel and food."
Webb described his client as an Ivy League graduate who works in film and television. He said she met her alleged assailant last year at Urth Cafe in West Hollywood. He seemed charming and she agreed to see him again, he said.
But after the second date, the woman said, the alleged assault occurred: "He went straight into the bathroom when he came in my place and I sat down on the couch and waited for him," she told the TV station. "Then he came out of the bathroom and jumped me and forced me to have oral sex and then he left."
"This horrific ordeal completely blindsided me because I had considered myself savvy about online dating safety," the woman said in a statement released through her attorney last week. "Things quickly turned into a nightmare, beyond my control."
After the man left, the woman went online and learned that he had been convicted of several counts of sexual battery. Charges are pending in the Match.com case, Webb said.
The attorney said his client wants Match.com to check members' names against public sex offender registries. "It's not a guarantee," he said. "But don't you think something is better than nothing?"
Officials with Match.com could not be reached for comment late Wednesday. But in a statement to KABC-TV last week, officials that they provide safety tips on the website and warn members that they are responsible for screening the people they meet.
"While incidents like this one between individuals who meet on Match.com are extremely rare, it doesn't make them any less horrifying," the statement said.
Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher Have Their Hearts In the Right Place Trying to Raise Awareness About Sex Trafficking -- Let's Hope Their Ads Will Be Better Next Time
by Penny Young Nance
April 15, 2011
fox.site.ads.writeInline("frame1-300x250_336x280", "dc"); In this age of transparency, super-telephoto lenses, and extreme social networking, the lives of celebrities are on display 24/7, as well as many of the causes they champion.
Many celebrities use their status for political purposes or cliché “save the whales”-type causes, but it's always refreshing to see stars use their Hollywood power for good things. Honestly, they have amazing cachet on Capitol Hill. I have personally witnessed U.S. Senators become sweaty-palmed sycophants to a visiting star. It's hard to watch.
Married actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are using their star power wisely in working to shed light on the very serious issue of sex trafficking. I really appreciate that they care enough to take on this issue. If their colleagues were as thoughtful about the issues they chose to champion, Hollywood would have a much better reputation.
However, having said that, not everyone is appreciative of their current ad efforts. Their campaign, “Real Men Don't Buy Girls,” seeks to target the demand for prostitutes. Concerned Women for America (CWA) has also worked that angle in drafting and successfully working to pass the “Zurita Amendement,” a piece of legislation named after a CWA staffer that urges law enforcement to go after the johns, pimps, and traffickers instead of focusing solely on those prostituted. We agree that the demand from U.S. citizens is fueling the abuse of women and children around the world.
Unfortunately, the Moore and Kutcher videos featuring other celebrities border on silly. They don't seem to truly challenge men not to encourage trafficking by buying women for sex. It is never a mistake to call out evil, and perhaps that was their intent, but the message is so lighthearted that it turns the serious issue of sex trafficking into a joke.
According the U.S. State Department , over 800,000 humans are victims of sex trafficking each year, and half of those are children. This modern-day slavery is heart wrenching, disgusting, and evil. Women and children are stolen from their families, tricked into sex slavery, sold every day, smuggled across borders, and forced to work selling themselves for money.
Scenes from the movie “Trade,” a film based on real sex trafficking scenarios, are unforgettable. Girls who were tricked into the sex trade are raped by their pimps in efforts to control them, while others wade through the Rio Grande or trek through the desert to get into the United States illegally and others commit suicide because they no longer have the will to live. These are the stories that should be told. Next to that, Sean Penn ironing a sandwich just seems pointless.
I commend Moore and Kutcher for trying to help those most in need. We in Washington need to be open to new alliances and willing share our knowledge and expertise, regardless of who gets the credit. And frankly, no one tells a story like Hollywood. They have the technical ability to turn dry facts into a compelling argument. Let's welcome them in the heavy lifting of disseminating the right message.
Penny Nance is CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation's largest public policy women's group.
Tea Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Underage Sex Trafficking
by Krystle Kacner
(Video on site)
"I just got life in prison. I'm OK,” said Brandon Thompson.
But life isn't what Brandon Thompson expected he would get for running a teen prostitution ring.
Friday morning the 27-year-old received his sentence for sex trafficking and trying to hire someone to kill a possible witness.
The judge's ruling inside the courthouse was a surprising one. The defense says they did not expect a life sentence for Brandon Thompson.
"The judge made it clear this was the most disturbing case she's had since she's been a federal judge. And that kind of gave you a hint something was coming,” said Mark Meierhenry, the Defense Attorney.
Brandon Thompson's attorney says not often does a judge by-pass the recommendation in a plea agreement, but Judge Karen Schreier did just that. Instead of giving Thompson 30 years or less, she sentenced him to life behind bars, for operating an online prostitution ring out of this home in Tea, with underage girls in 2009.
"Everybody is a loser in cases like this. The young women that agreed to be prostitutes, they're losers, and as the judge pointed out it will be with them for a long time. My client plead guilty to organizing a prostitution ring,” said Meierhenry.
U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson says, "Today marks the transformation of Brandon Thompson from sex trafficker to federal prisoner. His days of exploiting girls and young women are over."
"I just got life in prison. I'm OK,” said Thompson.
While he smiles and talks to only our cameras, Thompson appears to shrug off spending the rest of his life in prison, but he presented a distraught demeanor before the judge, emotionally telling her he took the plea because he never thought he would get a life sentence. Judge Schreier said she "understood" his position and Thompson replied, "No, you don't your honor."
Mom given 10 years for playing on Facebook as baby drowned
by Keith Coffman
DENVER | Fri Apr 15, 2011 6:58pm EDT
DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado woman who admitted her 13 month-old son drowned in the bathtub while she played on Facebook was sentenced on Friday to 10 years in prison, prosecutors said.
A judge also ordered Shannon Johnson, 34, to serve five years of mandatory parole upon her release from prison, Jennifer Finch, spokeswoman for the Weld County District Attorney's Office, said in a written statement.
Johnson pleaded guilty in March to felony child abuse resulting in the death of her son, Joseph.
She called 911 from her home in Fort Lupton, Colorado, last September when she found the toddler slumped over in the bathwater making "gurgling" sounds, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Under questioning by investigators, Johnson admitted she put her son in the bathtub and went into another room to play Facebook game "Cafe World," police said. The boy was alone for 10 minutes, she told them.
Joseph was airlifted to a Denver hospital, where medical personnel could not revive him.
Johnson told police she often left her son unattended in the bath, because as an "independent" child he liked to be left alone, and that she did not want him to be "a mama's boy."
John Steven Burgess to remain jailed, Victory for Donna Jou's family
LOS ANGELES, California -- The man who, after her disappearance, admitted to drugging and killing a San Diego State University freshman and then dumping her body into the Pacific Ocean in 2007 was not released from a Southern California prison Friday as planned and will spend at least another year in jail – a victory for Donna Jou's family and those who support them.
On Thursday Examiner.com published an article detailing reasons why Donna's family and others are outraged over the early release of 38-year-old John Steven Burgess for “good behavior” after spending only two of a five-year prison sentence in the murder of Donna Jou.
Another year in jail
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Burgess will not be released back into society.
Instead, he will be released from state custody and turned immediately over to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.
Burgess will then begin serving his one-year sentence at the Los Angeles County Jail for concealing an accidental death.
It appears the dedication of a mother and father, coupled with the hard work of a group of dedicated individuals, have ensured that Burgess will spend at least another year in jail – another year that Donna's family, supporters, and private investigators can continue working to uncover whether Burgess was involved in other crimes and to continue working to uncover what really happened to Donna.
Violence Expert, Strategist, and published Author Susan Murphy-Milano said, “He [Burgess] was sentenced to five years in prison through a plea deal put together by his attorney. He was scheduled to be released from prison Friday. Donna's family and others planned a demonstration in Los Angeles Friday to show their outrage.”
Donna met Burgess through placing an ad for tutoring services on Craigslist. Donna's parents believe that's how he gained Donna's trust.
Murphy-Milano said that Donna's father, Reza Jou, was a guest on her radio show “Time's Up” along with the founder of Safelist.com, Karim Parini, to discuss the details of the case and the release of John Steven Burgess.
“Safelist was created as an alternative to Craigslist after Donna Jou vanished. ‘Time's Up' addresses real-life unsolved and missing person's cases featuring family members of unsolved crimes, missing persons, and partner intimate homicides,” she said.
“The hour-long March 31 show set the stage for a firestorm of blogs, media, and other shows in outrage over the pending release of John Steven Burgess,” Murphy-Milano said.
Zeus radio network, the home to Murphy-Milano's show, ignited an all out charge to do whatever was necessary to protest the release of the three-time violent sexual predator.
“Imagine Publicity, Crime Wire, Time's Up Show, The Laurie Roth Show, Here Women Talk Radio, Blogger News Network, The Cue Center, Canadian Free Press, News with Views pressed hard to keep this man behind bars,” Murphy-Milano said.
Dad says it's good, but not enough
When News 10 spoke with Donna's father, Reza Jou, this week, Reza said the new sentence wasn't enough.
Reza said, “They have to investigate. They have to find out the truth and they have to punish Burgess for what he has done because they haven't shown us any proof. The thing that he's telling … there's no proof one way or the other.”
According to the California Department of Correction's website Burgess was scheduled to be released from prison March 15, 2011.
Donna's parents, family members, and supporters are protesting in L.A. Friday, requesting the investigation into Donna's disappearance be reopened.
News 10 reports they are calling on Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley to reopen the case with new investigators – something Cooley's office says it can't do unless new evidence is found.
Mom and dad don't buy his story
John Steven Burgess, a registered sex offender, admitted to killing Donna in June 2007. He was convicted and jailed in 2009.
High-tech tool — New alert program brings benefits
The Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Sat Apr 16, 2011
Communications technology keeps getting faster and better. Some people may complain about cell phones, e-mails, social networking and other avenues that seem to absorb more and more time, but the technology also offers faster ways to spread emergency news to the public.
The Mercer County Sheriff's Department and the Princeton Police Department recently took advantage of high-speed technology when it formalized an agreement with the A Child Is Missing Alert Program. It is a high-tech method now available to help search for missing children, missing elderly — often with Alzheimer's Disease — college students, and missing persons who may be mentally or physically challenged or disabled.
This program is a free service to law enforcement.
A Child is Missing utilizes computer mapping systems and technicians to place a thousand phone calls in one minute to residents and businesses in the area where someone is missing. The message contains the missing person's description, last known whereabouts, and other pertinent information.
Mercer County and the surrounding counties, both West Virginia and Virginia, have had cases in which people have suddenly disappeared. Children can wander away and get lost, and they can cover a surprisingly great distance in a short period of time. In other instances, elderly people with Alzheimer's or dementia have left home and walked for miles through the region's heavily forested terrain until they were found.
The challenge of finding a missing person, especially in a rural area like Mercer County, makes getting the word out fast an important asset. When people know that someone is missing, they are more likely to report the man or woman they saw walking along the side of the road or the child walking around unattended. Within a few minutes, thousands of people have joined the search.
The alert message will also include a number for the sheriff's department or Princeton Police Department where people with information about the missing person can call. Time is often critical when a person is missing.
It is good to see agencies like the Mercer County Sheriff's Department and Princeton Police embrace new technology that can serve the public. This system can spread the word of a missing person almost immediately and gain a thousand or more volunteers with one action.
Speed is critical when a child or other loved one goes missing, so any technology that helps bring a lost person home is a welcome addition to the tools of law enforcement.
Sex Trafficking in Chicago Metro Area Not a Victimless Crime
DePaul professor, former prostitute and chief of police weigh in on the way the sex trade exploits of girls and women, and what communities can do about it.
by Carol Pavlik
To hear Brenda Myers-Powell melodic voice or see her contagious smile, you wouldn't know she is a sex abuse survivor and victim of the sex trade. Throughout her 25 years as a prostitute, Myers-Powell has been beaten by johns and pimps alike. She's been shot five times. She's been stabbed 13 times.
On her last day as a prostitute, she was beaten by a john in his car. When she tried to escape, her clothing got caught and she was dragged six blocks alongside the black Mercedes of the man who paid to have sex with her.
In the emergency room of a county hospital, a police officer recognized her.
“Oh, her?” he said to the nurse, behind a flimsy closed curtain. “She's a hooker. She probably tried to rob some john and he beat her up. She probably got what she deserved.”
“I never felt so bad in my life,” Myers-Powell said. “After that, the nurse sniggled and I was pushed out into a waiting room.”
A woman doctor came to her rescue. She admitted her into the hospital, where she stayed for a week.
She never told Myers-Powell to get out of the business. She never gave her the disapproving or pitied look that she was accustomed to.
“She would just talk to me,” Myers-Powell recalled. “Like I was another person.”
Just before Myers-Powell was released from the hospital to return to her pimp, the doctor pulled her aside.
“You're beautiful. And you're smart,” she told her. “And I'm afraid that one day, I'm going to have to identify you in a body bag.”
Soon after, Myers-Powell decided her prostituting days were behind her.
Today, she devotes her life to helping Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart attempt to rescue women who, like her, have been ensnared in the sex trade. Any time, day or night, she is called to come talk with women who have been arrested for prostitution to try to convince them leave the industry. But she says women in the sex trade are not always clamoring to be helped. Often their life, as awful as it can be, seems better than what they've left behind at home.
Not a Victimless Crime
On April 13, Myers-Powell sat alongside Jody Raphael, author and senior research fellow at DePaul University College of Law, to speak to the American Association of University Women at Elmhurst Public Library. Raphael and Myers-Powell, who have extensively researched the sex trade in the Chicago area, offered a frank and sometimes chilling account of the danger and abuse happening to young girls under the control of a pimp.
“My conclusion is that 50 or 60 percent of girls and women who participate in the industry are not doing so voluntarily,” Raphael said. “This means prostitution is not, as many people think, a victimless crime.”
Rafael said people often pat themselves on the back for being sexually liberal, saying, “If someone wants to sell their body, and someone wants to pay, who am I to be involved?”
But growing data, collected through a risky process of interviewing prostitutes willing to speak openly without the knowledge of their pimps, supports the notion that most girls and women in the sex trade are being coerced, recruited, then kept there by means of violence and threats.
In a sampling of 100 prostitutes under the age of 25, Raphael's research showed 71 percent said they were actively recruited to the sex trade. Of those recruited, 10 percent said a family member—brother, sister, uncle, foster parent—had enticed or ordered them into the industry.
For Myers-Powell, her entry into prostitution was a result of a hopeless and abusive home life. Her mother died at age 16, when Myers-Powell was only 6 months old. She was put in the care of her grandmother, who was an alcoholic.
By age 5, she was being left alone while her grandmother was out. The people who would stop by to “check on” her were often predators, and she was molested at an early age.
“They told me it was my fault, and no one would believe me and I needed to keep my mouth shut,” Myers-Powell said. “So I did.”
When her grandmother would pass out after a night of drinking, the strange men she brought home from the bar would come to get her.
“Molestation was real familiar to me,” said Myers-Powell, who often daydreamed of becoming a singer like Diana Ross, wearing makeup and shiny dresses. Looking out her window, she saw other prostitutes on the street, wearing sparkly clothing and looking beautiful.
“I wanted to be shiny,” she recalled. “I remember saying to myself, ‘That's probably what I'll do.' ”
By age 15, she had already given birth to two daughters. Needing to support them financially, she turned to prostitution.
A month after she started, she was hit on the head and dragged to the trunk of a car by two pimps, who took her across state lines and prostituted her out at truck stops for seven months, she said.
“I couldn't get away,” she said. “They would play Russian Roulette with my head at night in the hotel room and threaten me on a regular basis.”
Finally, when the pimps found another girl to focus their attention on, Myers-Powell was able to flee.
But after she returned to Chicago, Myers-Powell returned to her old ways, this time falling in with a pimp who treated her more kindly—at least at first.
Despite the fact that prostitution is not ideal, Powell said coming from an abusive childhood made her grow accustomed to life being less than ideal.
“It gets worse and worse,” she said. “But what happens is, you get comfortable with bad.”
Raphael said the media often portrays sex trafficking as something that happens to women from other countries. While that is often true, Raphael emphasized that women who are born and raised in Chicago make up a large portion of the sex trade in the Chicago area.
“We need to be focusing on our own people,” she said.
While prostitutes are often arrested, Raphael feels the bigger impact is made when the customers are penalized, which is happening since tougher legislation was passed last August. Through education, Raphael hopes that demand for sex workers will decrease, and the word will get out that sex trafficking will not be tolerated in communities.
Most troubling is the high demand for underage girls. When stings are set up and fictitious pictures of underage girls are posted, there is no shortage of responses from potential customers.
Deputies from Cook County recently posted a fake ad on Craigslist clearly advertising an underage girl. Craigslist did not remove the ad. The ad received a response from a registered sex offender, who was subsequently arrested.
“Because this is a clandestine industry, it's very difficult to get at it without these sting operations,” explained Raphael.
Chief Neubauer: 'I Get Criticized'
The last person to speak at Wednesday's presentation was Elmhurst Police Chief Steve Neubauer.
“Our problem [in Elmhurst] is an indoor problem,” he said. “It's Internet based. The deals are usually made on the Internet with the prostitute. The sting portion, which is what we do to get the johns, is Internet based too.”
“We have special officers that do solicitation,” said Neubauer, explaining that they are trained to make sure they avoid entrapment.
“They act as the prostitutes and make the deal,” and the deals are usually for children, he said. “There's a huge market for that. In the past five or 10 years, we've arrested computer programmers, ministers, unemployed people, you name it. Our community has to do this proactively.”
“ Within your boundaries, you can make it clear to the customers,” she said. “They all start chatting with each other and tell them not to come. I feel really optimistic that if a community sits down and puts some of these things into place, you get a reputation and you can keep the customers out.”
“I actually get criticized,” said Neubauer. “[People ask] why am I bringing prostitutes into town?
“I think there's value in arresting people. I think there's value in making a statement. We do our best to work at it down the line, because we don't want these people coming to Elmhurst.”
Raphael and Powell will continue to educate and tell their stories to make a dent in what Raphael describes as a very complex problem.
“I am convinced we need to start with the customer,” she said.
The job of helping the women and girls is best left to survivors like Myers-Powell, and she is committed to staying by the phone in case she gets a call.
“I want them to know that if they continue to do what they're doing, it's not going to end up well," she said. "I want them to have my number, and I want them to know they can call somebody when it's not good.
“When their backs are up against the wall, they can call me."
To learn more about advocacy for women age 12- 25, and prevention of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, visit the Dreamcatcher Foundation, a non-profit organization co-founded by Brenda Myers-Powell.
3 men indicted, 4th arrested in RGC teen sex trafficking case
by JARED TAYLOR, The Monitor
RIO GRANDE CITY — Federal agents arrested a fourth man the day after an indictment against three others in a teen sex trafficking case was unsealed in federal court.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Antonio Martinez Villarreal, 38, on Wednesday in Rio Grande City.
Martinez joins three other men indicted on human trafficking and smuggling charges in U.S. District Court in McAllen.
Juan Antonio Garcia Garay, 31, Juan Ignacio Chavarria, 25, and Jorge Eutacio Martinez Mendoza, 46, all were named in an eight-count federal indictment filed Tuesday.
The federal probe came after Rio Grande City police uncovered the suspected trafficking ring during a March 17 traffic stop.
Police pulled over a green Jeep Cherokee with Garcia, Chavarria and a 13-year-old girl inside. Something seemed strange with the girl, authorities said.
“They noticed the female was holding something under her shirt,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Roger Brinlee testified at a court hearing last month.
The girl was holding a .38-caliber revolver handed to her by Chavarria, the special agent said.
The girl told investigators she'd come to the U.S. with two others to work as a prostitute. But after she arrived at a Rio Grande City apartment, the men allegedly held the girl and two other teenagers against their will and sexually abused them.
Victory! Hilton Worldwide Signs Code of Conduct to Fight Child Sex Trafficking
by Amanda Kloer
April 15, 2011
Hilton Worldwide, a long-time leader in the hospitality industry, has now become a leader in the fight for the protection of children from sexual exploitation and abuse. After more than a year of efforts from anti-trafficking organizations and over 7,000 Change.org members (and during which Hilton created their own Code of Conduct), Hilton Worldwide has announced they have signed the ECPAT Code of Conduct for Travel and Tourism.
Hilton Worldwide's subscription to The Code is a powerful demonstration of their company-wide commitment t0 preventing sex trafficking, protecting children from abuse, and creating a safe and responsible tourism experience. As part of their agreement, Hilton Worldwide will implement policies that condemn child trafficking and exploitation and provide training to help their employees identify and report illicit activities. They have also agreed to look for ways to raise awareness about ECPAT and the Code among customers and other stakeholders.
“Hilton Worldwide believes strongly in ECPAT-USA's important mission to protect children from sexual exploitation and to bring greater attention to the issues surrounding child trafficking,” said Chris Nassetta, President & CEO of Hilton Worldwide. “As part of our commitment, we will work with government, non-governmental organizations and others in our industry to address this issue.”
Hilton's signature is not just a giant step forward for them, but for the whole movement to fight child sex trafficking. As a large and prominent hospitality company, Hilton stands to lead the way for other hotels to make the same commitment to the protection of children. And as Hilton rolls out this training to staff around the world, they will surely play a larger role in identifying and preventing child sex trafficking around the world.
Thank you and congratulations to Hilton Worldwide, ECPAT, and the thousands of Change.org members who have supported this campaign.
Kansas City ICE agent honored for combating child exploitation
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Special Agent James "JD" Kanatzar, with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), was presented the Crystal Kipper & Ali Kemp Memorial Award Thursday for his outstanding service to crime victims. The award was presented by Beth Phillips, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
The award ceremony April 14 was part of an annual event hosted by the U.S. Attorney's Office and VictimNet, a coalition of victim service providers and others committed to meeting the needs of crime victims in Jackson County, Mo. It was presented in conjunction with the observance of National Crime Victims' Rights Week. This year's theme, "Reshaping the Future, Honoring the Past," recognizes that every day, crime victims bravely face the task of reshaping their lives after they're victimized. It also highlights the importance of honoring the victims, victim advocates, and criminal justice professionals who have fought for heightened awareness of victims' issues and have secured increased participation of victims in the criminal justice process.
"We are committed to providing victims of crime with the support they need and the justice they deserve," Phillips said. "It's important that the voices of victims be heard. Agent Kanatzar has dedicated his career to insuring that the voices of victims are not only heard, but that their cases are thoroughly investigated. Time and time again, Agent Kanatzar has gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that justice is done. Agent Kanatzar's work has resulted in countless victims saved, and countless more children who will never become victims."
The event took place at the KC Live Stage in the Power and Light District, and included a showcase of various local victim service providers, a performance by the Operation Breakthrough Children's Choir, the Kansas City Mounted Patrol, and several survivors of crime who shared their stories.
The Crystal Kipper & Ali Kemp Memorial Award is presented by the U.S. Attorney's Office each year to recognize the outstanding work of an individual or organization in protecting children from exploitation. The award was presented to Kanatzar in memory of Crystal Kipper and Ali Kemp, two young women who were both fatal victims of tragic crimes. The parents of Kipper and Kemp participated in the award presentation.
Kanatzar has been involved in more than 100 child pornography/distribution cases, and has assisted in numerous others. Kanatzar most recently has been instrumental in the arrest and successful prosecution of two individuals involved in producing child pornography, in addition to five others throughout his career.
Kanatzar has been an unfailing advocate for the victims of these horrific crimes, and on a daily basis he dedicates his life to ensuring that those responsible are put behind bars. His work is part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.
Kanatzar joined the U.S. Customs Service in 1989 as a special agent in Kansas City, Mo. For the first seven years of his career, Kanatzar worked on the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) task force with other federal, state, and local agencies investigating narcotics-related crimes. Kanatzar then switched to investigating child exploitation crimes, where he has excelled both as a case agent and as a computer forensics examiner. After the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in 2003, Kanatzar continued to develop excellent cases against individuals involved with exploiting children.
The Crime Victims' Rights Act (CVRA), enacted in 2004, grants victims in federal criminal proceedings certain enforceable rights, including the right to be reasonably heard at public court proceedings and to receive full and timely restitution as provided by law. The U.S. Attorney's Office has a dedicated Victim/Witness Unit that serves federal crime victims across the district's 66 counties. Members of this unit notify victims of significant case events through the Department of Justice's Victim Notification System (VNS). Such notice enables victims to participate in court proceedings and make their voices heard. Victim/Witness personnel accompany victims to court hearings and trials to ensure that victim participation in court proceedings is meaningful, and to answer questions and explain the federal judicial process.
In addition, the Victim/Witness Unit provides essential services to victims, such as making referrals for counseling, securing temporary housing, assisting with access to victim compensation funds, and accompanying victims to court to provide support and guidance during the proceedings. These services provide tools victims need to reshape their futures.
Further information about National Crime Victims' Rights Week is available at http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw
Maryland man pleads guilty to sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography
BALTIMORE - A Maryland man pleaded guilty to sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography. He faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison, followed by up to lifetime supervised release. The guilty plea is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
John E. Widdows, 72, of Cumberland, Md., pleaded guilty late yesterday to the charge. U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg has scheduled sentencing for Sept. 8, 2011, at 2:00 p.m.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of ICE HSI in Baltimore; Cumberland Police Chief Charles H. Hinnant; and Allegany County State's Attorney Michael O. Twigg.
According to the plea agreement, law enforcement seized from Widdows' home three videos of the victim, a prepubescent female, engaging in sexually explicit conduct at Widdows' direction and at least 100 additional images of child pornography. The first video was made on Jan. 17, 2005, when the victim was nine-years-old and Widdows was 67-years-old. The other two videos were made later that year and also show the molestation of the victim by Widdows.
As part of his plea agreement, upon his release from prison Widdows must register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE . This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended ICE HSI, the Cumberland Police Department and the Allegany County State's Attorney's Office for their work in the investigation and prosecution.
Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark W. Crooks and Sandra Wilkinson, who prosecuted the case.
Ex-U.N. Inspector Convicted in Sex Sting
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Scott Ritter, the former United Nations chief weapons inspector in Iraq, was convicted Thursday in a sex sting for exchanging explicit online messages with a detective posing as an under-age girl. Jurors in Monroe County convicted Mr. Ritter on six of seven counts.
Survivor bravely begins new life as Hudson mom's 'deadbeat' hell revealed
by FRANK ROSARIO, PERRY CHIARAMONTE and JENNIFER FERMINO
April 15, 2011
She saw no way out.
The overwhelmed mother who drowned herself and three kids in the Hudson River tried her best to provide her family with a happy home life -- but was consistently let down by their deadbeat father, who failed to provide the love or money they desperately needed, her friends said yesterday.
Lashanda Armstrong, 25, kept a steady job and took college classes but was abandoned by Jean Pierre -- the fly-by-night father of the three dead children -- and had nowhere to turn for help.
"He was terrible to her. He was very domineering and controlling over her. He was just so cruel. She just wanted a normal family," said one friend, Christine Santos, 29, who lives nearby.
The dad -- who was arrested in March because of $11,000 in unpaid support -- also threatened to claim custody of the kids.
"That's what pushed her over the edge," said Santos. "He must have broken her spirit and taken away her will to live."
Pierre, 26, consistently ignored the needs of his children -- and was oblivious to Armstrong's postpartum depression after the birth of their third child, Lainaina last year, the friend said.
"She kicked him out a few times, but I don't think he cared," Santos said. "He considered himself the only pretty boy in Newburgh and could get any girl he wanted."
Meanwhile, Armstrong was trying to better her life.
She worked at a Newburgh garment factory, and got good grades at Orange County Community College.
She was known as a good mom -- her kids were neatly dressed and well behaved -- but the stress of doing it alone took its toll.
Pierre reached an all-time low on Super Bowl Sunday, according to court papers, when Armstrong left him with their sleeping 2-year-old son, Lance, and took the others to her aunt's house to watch the game.
He promptly ditched the boy and went off to a nearby store.
"Lance found his way out of the apartment and down to the street" barefoot and shirtless on a bone-chilling, 19-degree night, according to court papers.
He was found shivering in his soaking sweatpants on a dirty, downtown street and taken to a police station.
Pierre's girlfriend, Shannel Baez, showed up to claim the boy, pretending to be his mother.
Armstrong told cops that Pierre shamelessly denied knowing Baez -- and downplayed the incident when she frantically called him.
"He was calm and I was freaking out. I almost crashed the car and I had to pull over," Armstrong said in an affidavit to police.
When she got to the house, cops were already there and "I was yelling that I wanted to see my son," she said in the affidavit.
Baez and Pierre were both arrested, and he was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, authorities said.
A restraining order that barred Pierre from seeing Lance was issued on April 12 -- just hours before Armstrong, in a final fit of frustration, drove the boy and his siblings down a boat ramp and into the fast-moving river.
Lance was killed along with his 5-year-old brother, Landen, and 11-month-old sister, Lainaina.
The only survivor was 10-year-old Lashaun Armstrong, who has a different father than the other kids.
He escaped through a window while the minivan was sinking, and managed to swim 100 feet to shore.
Armstrong made a dying declaration on Facebook just 30 minutes before the fatal plunge, writing, "I'm sorry everyone forgive me please for what I'm gonna do . . . This is it!!!"
Her friends had no doubt that Armstrong was just trying to escape Pierre, who was creating a dead-end life for her and the kids.
"I know it broke her heart, but she kept it all bottled up," Santos said. "She was a quiet girl, didn't bother anyone.
"It was the constant cheating and lying."
Armstrong -- who had Lashaun at 15 -- was also financially abandoned by Pierre, who went by the street name Prime.
He was arrested on March 15 by the Rockland County Sheriff's office for unpaid child support.
But the private Armstrong never burdened her relatives with those problems until it was too late.
On her tragic death ride, she called her mother, grandmother and father.
"She didn't say what she was going to do. She was saying, 'I love you. I'm sorry,' " said her aunt, Angela Edge-Gilliam.
Meave Ryan, 31, a passer-by, found a shivering Lashaun on the side of the road.
She said the child told her, "She was holding on to all of them and said, 'If I'm going to die, you're all going to die with me.' She said that two or three times."
Tenn. woman, 20, missing after being dragged from home
$25,000 Reward for Information
(Video on site)
April 14, 2011
(Parsons TN) At the end of a second day of massive search effort, the family of a missing woman went door to door, asking neighbors and friends for any signs of her whereabouts.
Nearly 500 volunteers showed up Thursday to help authorities scour the area on ATVs.
The community has helped gather more than $25,000 in reward money for information leading to the location of Holly Bobo, or to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for her abduction.
20-year-old Holly Bobo was last seen at her family home on Swan Johnson Road in Darden, Tennessee, about 20 miles east of Lexington.
She is a nursing student at UT Martin in Parsons.
Local, state and federal authorities are now working together on the search.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Wednesday that Holly's 25-year-old brother saw her being dragged across their carport by a man in camouflage clothing.
TBI said that the man is about 5 ft. 8 to 6 feet tall and 200 pounds.
They added that several people had called 911, including Bobo's brother.
The Decatur County Sheriff said that there was blood found outside the house.
"We still don't know a lot more today than we did yesterday. But we're following up on some leads and hopefully they're going to pan out for us," said Roy Wyatt, the Decatur County Sheriff.
Thursday afternoon, Bobo's parents made a plea for help.
Karen Bobo, her mother, could barely stand at the microphone when telling the media she "just wanted her back."
"Holly, I love you," she said through tears.
Her father, Dana Bobo, said, "I want her to call us, please, any way she can get in touch with us, whatsoever."
Dana Bobo said that he felt the person responsible may be someone who knows their family's schedule.
The house is considered a crime scene, but TBI is treating this as an abduction case, not a homicide.
Many search volunteers were from nearby high schools, like Riverside and Scotts Hill. Bobo attended Scotts Hill.
Dylan Raney went to school with Bobo.
"She's a really beautiful girl and this is a really serious thing. And it's a shame that this happened in this environment. Nobody expected it in this little county," he said.
Jenny Gibson, whose husband is Holly's cousin, said many parents gave their children permission to check out of school if they wished to help.
"Even if you don't know the young lady it's what you would want for her, and her family...if this was my daughter, I'd want everybody doing the exact same thing for her," Gibson said.
Anyone with information to help the case is asked to call 1-800-TBI-FIND.
Outrage over man spending only 2 years in prison for killing 19-yr-old Donna Jou
LOS ANGELES, California -- A 38-year-old registered sex offender who admitted to drugging, killing and dumping a 19-year-old woman's body in the Pacific Ocean is scheduled for release from North Kern State Prison in California Friday after serving less than two years, outraging the victim's parents, friends, and community.
Donna's parents Nili and Reza Jou are organizing a demonstration in Los Angeles on Friday, the same day Burgess is scheduled for release from the California Institution for Men in Chino, according to the California Department of Corrections' website.
John Steven Burgess, listed on the meganslaw.ca.gov sex offender registry for “lewd or lascivious acts with a child 14 or 15 years old,” admitted killing 19-year-old Donna Jou in June 2007.
10News.com reported in May 2009 that Burgess met with Donna's parents to answer their questions about how their daughter died nearly two years earlier. The meeting came one day after Burgess pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Donna Jou's death.
Burgess' attorney struck a plea deal and Burgess was charged with involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to five years, but is scheduled to be released on April 15 after serving only two years.
There is no evidence of his crime. All police have to go on is his word - the word of a convicted sex offender, intimate partner violence offender, admitted and convicted murderer.
“In my opinion, there are a lot of holes and red flags in this case. Let's go back to his history,” Violence Expert and Strategist Susan Murphy Milano said on her blog.
“Important details and dangerous patterns of conduct as it relates to Burgess did not seem to hold much importance when he was arrested,” Murphy Milano said.
“In 2002, he had three separate battery convictions; in 2005 he was arrested after beating up his girlfriend; and Burgess was also charged with trying to force a teenage girl into prostitution,” she said.
On April 5 Murphy Milano writes, “This disturbing case is not about time served, but a dangerous sexual predator who, in my opinion, willingly, like a good foot soldier in his organization, falls on the sword for a much larger and dangerous international crime ring, human trafficking, child pornography, and prostitution.”
Murphy Milano questions how Burgess was able to post $250,000 in cash as bond when “this man does not have 2 nickels to his name. No source of documented income. He owns no property. How is he able to post that much cash?”
History of the case
Burgess told Donna's parents that he met her through an ad on Craigslist. He said she was looking for people to party with and admitted to giving her cocaine and heroin at his house.
According to Laurie Roth, Ph.D, Donna was a freshman in college and an honor student aspiring to be a Neurosurgeon. Dr. Roth said Donna made what appears to be the ‘nightmare' mistake of advertising her math tutoring services on Craigslist. Burgess responded with the fake pose of “Mr. Nice Guy,” believed to have been an attempt to illicit basic trust.
He said he panicked the following morning when Donna had no pulse. Burgess said he put her into the trunk of his car and drove toward her Rancho Santa Margarita home. He changed his mind en route and instead drove to a marina where he kept his sailboat. He claims he dumped her body into the ocean and then fled to Florida.
Jim Amormino of the Orange County Sheriff's Department said one of Donna's friends in San Diego said she'd received a text from Donna saying she'd locked herself in the bathroom because “things were out of control and a guy was giving her the creeps.”
The next day her mother received a text from Donna saying she was coming home. She referred to her mother as “mommy,” a term Nili Jou said her daughter did not use.
Nili reported her daughter missing the following day though police did not immediately begin searching for her because she is an adult and could have gone voluntarily. Investigators then discovered Donna had not used her cell phone or credit cards which raised concerns.
At the time Burgess had just finished a three-year prison sentence for failing to register as a sex offender. He was convicted of battery in 2002 and of performing a lewd act against a child the following year. He was sentenced to 146 days in jail and placed on three-years' probation that required him to register as a sex offender.
Donna's family's attorney Gloria Allred said, “He [Burgess] said he was scared and ashamed. After placing the body in the water he said he jumped in and wanted to drown himself. Then, he got back in the boat. He said he wanted to tell the truth for a long time but a lawyer told him not to.”
Donna's body has never been recovered and, her father says, “There's nothing to prove or disprove his statements. But you have to remember this man is a con artist and I believe there's more to the story than what he's telling us. He should be behind bars for the rest of his life to protect society.”
Burgess faced only five years in state prison and has, to date, only served two.
“We are 420-friendly”
Murphy Milano said Burgess was running Craigslist ads that he labeled ‘420 for foreign students.' The ad read “we are 420-friendly.”
An internet search for “we are 420-friendly” resulted in the 420hookups.com website [please be mindful this website could contain a virus and is filled with sexual content and ads].
The websites states in “About 420 Hookups”:
“Welcome to 420 Hookups. You're probably wondering to yourself, what's this site all about? Are they cops that want to bust us for having a good time? Well, in the interest of full disclosure, no we are not cops or affiliated with any law agency on the planet.
“So, why the site? Well, the reason is simple. We like to travel, or move around a lot and when we come to a new city we are always searching for like minded inviduals that like to partake in the same festivities that we do. We created this site keeping that in mind. Make it easy for people to find other people who enjoy 420, whether it be just for fun, sex or other crazy things we can't think of.
We hope you enjoy using the site, and value your comments!”
Murphy Milano asks, “Could he [Burgess] have been capable of running a prostitution ring with the aid of foreign students?”
“Is John Steven Burgess part of something involving criminal activity on a grander scale?” Murphy Milano asked. “Another fact is Burgess has no money to hire an attorney. How does he suddenly have one of the foremost high-profile attorneys defending him in this case? Why didn't the ‘three-strikes-you're-out sentence apply to Burgess?” she asked.
“If John Steven Burgess went undetected before, he can easily do it again,” she says.
Dr. Roth confirmed Burgess had been advertising “we are 420-friendly” and said that according to authorities they believed it had to do with the use of marijuana.
She asked Reza, Donna's father, what he knew from following the investigation. He said witnesses at the party saw Donna go to the bathroom and hide, then saw her sitting on a couch outside in the backyard. She looked spacey, he said. The last text message Donna's parents received from her said: “Battery's dying. I'm in San Diego. Be home soon. I love you Mommy.” Again, Donna did not refer to her mom as “Mommy.”
Dr. Roth reports that Burgess moved on with his criminal career and was arrested in Jacksonville, Florida for possession of crack cocaine and using a fake Social Security card, fake driver's license, and fake name: Logan Anderson. He was sent back to Los Angeles and booked into jail.
“As the details unfolded there were things that just seemed bizarre and most suspicious about this guy and case, Dr. Roth said. “In the first place Reza told me Burgess was poor and lived off others. He was also a thief. How is it that when he was named a suspect regarding the disappearance of Donna, and his bail was set at $250,000, it was paid?”
Dr. Roth said that Murphy Milano, who is a regular guest on her radio show and has performed professional analyses of hundreds of sex predators, abusers, and criminals, connects the dots in a more sinister and complicated way. “She said her gut tells her that Donna could still be alive and she thinks has been sold into a prostitution ring overseas,” she said.
“How many other women have disappeared connected with this guy?” Dr. Roth asks.
Suspect faces child rape charges in Federal Way kidnapping | Target employee is crucial witness
An 8-year-old girl is home safe - and a Tacoma man is in jail awaiting first-degree child rape charges - after allegedly kidnapping the third-grader from a Federal Way elementary school playground Monday evening and sexually assaulting her.
Benjamin H. Trinh, 28, was arrested at his home in South Tacoma on Tuesday and booked into King County Jail in Seattle on investigation of first-degree rape of a child, first-degree kidnapping and child luring, according to Federal Way police.
Trinh had been spotted several times over the past week around a playground next to Olympic View Elementary School , taking pictures and speaking to children, Federal Way police said.
Bail was set at $1 million at a hearing Wednesday in Seattle. The deadline for filing charges against Trinh is April 15, according to Dan Donahoe , spokesman for the King County Prosecutor's Office. According to police, Trinh is not a registered sex offender.
Police originally said there were no indications of a sexual assault after the girl walked home around 10:30 p.m. Monday with a "Scooby Doo" DVD movie. She didn't appear to be physically hurt and showed no signs of being upset, said Federal Way police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock. The girl also denied anything suspicious had occurred.
After further investigation and interviews Tuesday, police gathered enough information that there was probable cause that she was raped by the man in his Tacoma home.
"We now believe that she was sexually assaulted," Schrock said.
According to a statement of probable cause, Trinh admitted to police during an interview Tuesday to sexually assaulting the girl and taking photos while doing so.
Police issued a statewide Amber Alert shortly after 7 p.m. Monday after the girl's mother reported her missing. The alert said the girl was last seen by her mother at 6:30 p.m. at Olympic View Elementary. The alert was canceled when the 8-year-old walked up to the family's home several hours later, around 10:30 p.m.
According to police, the third-grader came to the Olympic View playground, accompanied by other children, earlier in the evening. Other children noticed her talking with an Asian man who appeared to be in his 20s.
Sometime after that, other children realized that both the girl and the man were no longer in the area, according to police.
The girl's mother immediately reported her missing to police, who notified the Federal Way School District. School district officials then initiated a call to all Olympic View parents asking if anyone knew the girl's location or had seen her.
Police credit an employee at the Federal Way Target store for the subsequent arrest of Trinh on Tuesday in Tacoma. Police used surveillance video from the store, along with credit card receipts from items he bought the girl, to locate his Tacoma address.
The Target employee, a mother herself, received the Amber Alert over her cell phone Monday night and recognized the girl in the photo. The employee remembered seeing the 8-year-old with an Asian man earlier in the evening around the fitting rooms inside Target, according to police.
Other employees stated that the man was acting bizarrely while the girl was trying on clothes. By the time police arrived, the man and girl had already left Target.
Cindy Dracobly, principal at Olympic View, sent a letter home to all parents and guardians Tuesday regarding the Amber Alert.
"Children should also know that the way this man has been acting - making conversation with children he does not know and taking their pictures - is not OK," Dracobly wrote. "They should tell an adult when this sort of thing happens."
Counselors have been available to students and have spoken in several classes at Olympic View following the incident. The district said that teachers have been reviewing safety procedures with students, and officials have met with all playground supervisors.
"Our number-one priority is the safety of our students and staff," Dracobly stated. "While we cannot monitor the playground during the evenings or weekends, we want parents to be aware of this situation and to reinforce safety measures with their children."
The school district's letter lists several action items regarding students' interaction with strangers, including tips like always playing with a friend, not getting into a vehicle with a stranger and not allowing a stranger to get close enough to reach you.
Sex trafficking victim says Okla. law officers should focus on men who pay for prostitutes
OKLAHOMA CITY — A Minnesota woman who spent 27 years in the sex industry said police shouldn't punish women who participate in prostitution but focus on the men who pay them.
Joy Friedman was 13 years old when she was first locked in a room and forced to have sex. At 15, Friedman was held captive in a basement and raped by a pimp and three other men. Friedman said Wednesday she survived beatings, stabbings and rapes over the next three decades before getting help in 2000.
Friedman spoke before about 100 law enforcement officials, mental health experts and community members at a conference hosted by Oklahomans Against Trafficking of Humans.
"Prostituted women are not the problem," she said. "The men buying them are."
Now the women's program manager at Breaking Free, a non-profit organization in St. Paul, Friedman works with current and former sex industry workers to escape sex trafficking.
It's a myth that people choose to work in the sex industry, said Friedman, 48.
"This is not a choice to have sexual acts performed on you. No one in their right mind chooses that," she said, adding that people with drug addictions or desperate to provide for their families are not in their right mind. "It's not a choice. It's a lack of choices."
Friedman said low self-esteem also is a factor driving underage girls into the industry. As a multiracial child, she said she often felt like she didn't belong. The sex industry didn't care who she was.
"What I found was that prostitution didn't care," she said. "They didn't care about my race. They did care that I was workable."
The men who paid to have sex with her, who she calls "ticking time bombs," would take out their aggression on her. She was beaten with a baseball bat, hit with a piece of wood and had gasoline poured on her.
"At the time, I felt that my destiny was to be placed on this Earth so that you could get your abuse and your issues out on me, so that you could move forward and want to be a positive person and marry her and show her the true inner you that I was knew was there," she said.
Mark Elam, director of Oklahomans Against Trafficking of Humans, said one-third of trafficked children meet their abusers online.
Oklahoma's two major interstates, I-35 and I-40, are often used to transport victims across state lines, he said.
Senate OKs Child Sex Trafficking Crackdown
Bill Now Goes to House
SALEM, Ore. -- The Oregon Senate took action Thursday on legislation that will eliminate the defense that a person who compels a minor to prostitute is unaware of their age.
SB 425 is a key piece of the Senate Democrats' work to crack down on sex trafficking, according to a news release from the Senate Majority Office.
“SB 425 will result in harsher punishments for an appalling crime,” said Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene), who carried the bill on the floor. “We need to clearly communicate that forcing a young person into prostitution is inexcusable and people that participate in this activity will be held accountable for their actions.”
Currently, in order to convict someone of the crime of compelling a minor to engage in prostitution, the state must prove that a pimp knows that the person they are forcing to prostitute is under 18.
SB 425 removes that requirement and eliminates the defense that the defendant did not know the minor's age or that the defendant reasonably believed the minor was older than eighteen years of age.
“Claiming ignorance of a victim's age in an unacceptable defense for this crime,” said Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland). “Senate Democrats recognize the seriousness and severity of this issue and are taking action to make sure young people are not forced into prostitution and that those who facilitate prostitution are punished for their actions.”
Victims of human trafficking are young children, teenagers, men and women.
Approximately 800,000 to 900,000 victims annually are trafficked across international borders worldwide, and between 14,500 and 17,500 of those victims are trafficked into the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of State.
Human trafficking victims are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor.
SB 425 now goes to the House for consideration.
Video: An Army of Davids takes on sex traffickers
bu Ed Morrissey
CNN offers a story today that is both chilling and inspiring, although it's also almost a year old. When four Russian women traveling to the US for work suddenly saw their promised jobs in Washington vanish and were told to report to New York for jobs as “lounge hostesses,” a friend of theirs posted a note on a popular website to help protect them from exploitation. He set in motion a series of events as “netizens” (CNN's word for them) eventually brought the plight of the women to blogger Katherine Hinds. Hinds rescued the women, putting her own life at risk, but in the end saving the women from a sex-trafficking ring that planned to enslave them — and she wasn't the only one to help:
“I didn't see the police; there was no cell-phone service in the basement. I had no idea what to do,” she recalled. “I was terrified.” The girls finally arrived, and the three women started on their way home. She quickly realized, however, that they were being followed. “I noticed that there were two men following us, which, as you can imagine, was pretty nerve-racking,” Hinds says. “I kept thinking, I hope they're cops.”
Indeed, they were. When the women got to the street, the men identified themselves as plainclothes NYPD and spent the next two hours questioning them. When the interviews ended, they went home to the one-bedroom apartment Hinds shares with her husband. They offered their new guests the bedroom and slept in the living room, but not before Hinds notified Reetz that his friends were OK. Reetz, of course, notified the MetaFilter message board, and Hinds checked in later.
“The police kept asking me, ‘What's the next step?'” recalls Hinds. “I said, ‘I have no idea how we're going to feed them. I have no idea how any of this stuff is going to happen, but at least they're OK.'”
Hinds is unemployed, and the apartment isn't meant for four. In a upbeat MetaFilter post about their sightseeing plans, she made an offhand comment about feeding two extra people. The response was overwhelming.
“Someone asked for my PayPal so I gave it to them,” Hinds says, her voice breaking. “I'm going to cry about it—so people have been sending money. We've gotten $3,500 since last night. Multiple [posters] in New York who speak Russian have been coming to socialize and hang out with them.”
Glenn Reynolds wrote a book about the power of an Army of Davids, and while he cast the book mainly as a recognition of the power of grassroots against big government and big business, it can push back against organized crime as well. I'm not sure why CNN chose to revisit the story today, but I'm happy they did so, and it's well worth highlighting.
Catholic Church fighting human trafficking
LEE COUNTY, FL -
Millions of women and children worldwide have become victims of human trafficking and forced to work in the sex trade. Fighting this type of exploitation is a priority for law enforcement – and for the Catholic Church.
The story of human trafficking is a brutal one.
One woman, who doesn't want to be identified, says she agreed to come to America with hopes and dreams of working and making money for school.
Before she knew it, she was trapped. She was forced into the sex trade.
"It was a horrible nightmare," said the victim. "That person made me do things I didn't want to do."
Most victims who are trafficked for sex are locked up, beaten and threatened with their lives.
After almost a year, she was able to escape.
She's being helped by members of the Catholic Church.
"We provide services to victims of human trafficking throughout Lee and Collier counties," said Alex Olivares of Catholic Charities.
The Catholic Church is getting involved. Their organization called Catholic Charities helps victims of human trafficking.
They provide transportation, food and legal help. Deputies contact them whenever there's a trafficking case.
"We work hand in hand with Lee County Sheriff's Office and the Collier County Sheriff's Office, federal agencies also," said Olivares.
Along with assisting victims, Catholic Charities is out in the community to bring awareness to the issue.
It's part of the bishop's passion to put a stop to human trafficking.
"It's definitely the modern day slavery," said Bishop Frank Dewane of the Diocese of Venice.
The Catholic Church is teaching its parishioners what to look out for and how to identify the signs of a victim.
The diocese began this big push to end human trafficking last fall and so far, they say it's been a big success.
They're even going to hospitals, schools, and shelters to spread the word.
"I wish I could put an end to it," said Bishop Dewane.
Sex trafficking on my block? Slavery Map pinpoints investigated locales
by Holly Craw, Sex Trafficking Examiner
Sex slavery in my neighborhood? No way! This area is too nice.
So goes the mantra of those who have trouble believing that sex crimes such as prostituting of children or gang rapes don't just happen in "those other countries like Cambodia", but also in increasing frequency here in the US. When arrests are made, just down the block, for such crimes, the neighbors are usually shocked that prostitution was happening right under their noses. The problem is harder to spot, for it is invisible in many ways. Arrangements for sexual encounters are often done over the internet, through pre-determined meetings, or in a regular house under the guise of a party.
The perpetrators, both johns and pimps, could be anyone: male/female, young/old, respected community leaders or the not so savory characters. Locations could be anywhere: in a park bathroom, a seedy motel, an upscale conference center, or in the house next door.
The Not for Sale Campaign, headed by David Batstone, wants to create awareness of the prevalence of all forms of human trafficking, including sex trafficking. They have developed a Slavery Map which pinpoints specific locations where action has been taken against trafficking scenarios. Viewers can see satellite maps of any neighborhood and get details about the perpetrators, the victims, and the outcome of the cases. The best part is the map is interactive, and allows ongoing documentation of new cases from the readers.
The Slavery Map was highlighted yesterday on CNN's Freedom Project, which is spending a whole year documenting the extent of domestic and foreign human trafficking.
The campaign has also developed the Free2Work app for Android phones. While shopping, plug in the product manufacturer and get details on the work practices. If the item was made in a sweat shop under labor slavery conditions, consumers have the information needed to boycott such companies.
A note on the Slavery Map gives this message:
Welcome to the movement to end slavery.
Slavery thrives in the shadows. An estimated 27 million live in bondage today – yet we know about the plight of so few of them. The battle to end slavery begins by revealing it.
April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. Take a look at the Slavery Map and get acquainted with your neighborhood. Perhaps there is more going on in the shadows than you had imagined. Once you are aware, you can choose to take a stand to help eradicate sex slavery and human trafficking.
Students form One Voice against sex trafficking
by Lauren Townsend
April 15, 2011
When someone says the words “sex trafficking,” most people think of the movie Taken, in which a teenage girl goes into another country and gets kidnapped, traded and sold as a prostitute. No one instantly thinks of young women living in Atlanta being exploited, but, in fact, this city is a national hub for sex trafficking, and the majority of the young women abused are minors with an average age of around 14. At Tech, a society called “One Voice” is making an effort to stop this abuse.
“Twenty seven thousand men are buying sex, and 7200 of those men are buying sex with women under the age of 18, knowingly or unknowingly.” said Brittany Mays, vice president of One Voice and a second-year BA major.
“The average age of a sex slave is about 14, and 57 percent of the men who are buying sex are deterred by the fact that they might be buying sex with a child. This is really encouraging because it means that we could potentially stop the trafficking of children by 57 percent if we could raise awareness to every man buying sex in the state,” Mays said.
Mays cited unexpected towns, such as Marietta, Alpharetta and Peachtree City in Ga., as main centers of sex trafficking.
Mays went on to say that because of these statistics, raising awareness could make a great impact on the number of men buying sex from children.
In pursuit of raising awareness, One Voice hosted a week of events.
The first event was “Laleo,” which means “speak” in Greek. The event included performances from students and a fundraiser for Wellspring Living.
Tuesday's event was a celebration of the resolution recently passed in the Undergraduate House of Representatives to officially stand against trafficking of humans.
Another event involved wearing white on Wednesday to support exploited children.
Thursday's event included a bake sale to raise money, a showing of a documentary about sex trafficking and an open forum discussion about the issue.
Mays explained how the monetary donations and contributions help the cause.
“We sent the money to Wellspring which is a rehabilitation center for victims of trafficking.” Mays said.
Wellspring Living is a non-profit “healing” center for those who have been emotionally, mentally and physically abused by sex trafficking.
It provides shelter, facilitates counseling for victims and helps victims regain control of their lives and build a foundation for the future.
One Voice has been donating money to Wellspring Living since 2007 when Molly Williams, STaC ‘10, and two others started the program at Tech.
“I hope that many people can come out and participate in this event,” Williams said. “It is a great way to have fun and meet people and support a great cause at the same time.”
One Voice will continue to raise awareness for people in need throughout the coming semesters.
Sex and the Sun: Sex trafficking shatters young women's lives
She lived a comfortable life. She was raised in an upper-middle class neighborhood and was a straight-A student.
Her mother was even her Girl Scout troop leader when she was younger. She met a guy. Her life changed.
This guy was no ordinary person. He is what police call a finesse pimp, a con man who pretends to be his victim's boyfriend. These pimps use mind games and make young girls fall in love with them.
To prove her love for him, he convinces her to do sexual acts because he says it pleases him. But in reality, it makes him money and money is the only thing he cares about.
The stories are not always like the teenager described above. Many girls are foster children or come from troubled homes and were molested or sexually assaulted at a young age.
Many girls are runaways. These girls are at very
vulnerable points in their lives when they are tricked into sex trafficking. And these girls do not always meet a finesse pimp.
These girls usually meet a gorilla pimp, a beast that uses physical and sexual abuse to make the girls comply. If a girl meets the finesse pimp first, he later sheds the façade and becomes a gorilla pimp by making physical threats on the young girl and her family.
For the first time the United States was ranked in the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report in 2010. This report started 10 years ago when national and international legislation was passed to do an annual research and assessment of all types of human trafficking across the world.
Accounts of adults and children in the U.S. becoming a victim of sex trafficking are becoming more and more common.
Most children are forced into the world of sex trafficking between the ages 12-14. Many runaways have a good chance of being "pimped" within 48 hours of their departure.
Sex trafficking is the fastest growing multi-billion dollar business in the world of organized crime, because unlike drugs that disappear after use, these young girls can be used until their death. Many of the victims die within the first four years of enslavement due to AIDS, drug overdose, suicide and beatings.
To degrade and humiliate the girls the pimps often brand them with tattooed sayings like "property of sir-pimp-a-lot," "pimpin is ez slut," and "this whore belongs to pimp moneybagz."
The pimps also make their girls perform sexual acts with black eyes and bruises. To prevent the girls from escaping, the pimps typically keep the girls drugged up and keep them hooked.
Pimps do drive-bys to keep an eye on their girls and when the pimps are too busy they have pimping partners "baby sit."
In San Diego County one of the most notorious places for prostitution is El Cajon Boulevard, but there are many other streets being watched by the police as well.
Many victims are escorted from San Diego to Los Angeles, then Las Vegas and returned to San Diego to keep sex trafficking suspicions low. According to the FBI, San Diego is a high-intensity child prostitution area and is a gateway for international sex trafficking.
When a girl escapes, there is less chance her pimp will exert a great deal of time trying to find her because it is easier for the pimp to find a new girl than to risk getting caught. But once she finds her freedom, often times she doesn't have a place to stay.
Thankfully, GenerateHope offers a sanctuary to these desperate girls. GenerateHope is San Diego's first organization that provides long-term recovery programs that are designed to help the sexually exploited into full rehabilitation.
Its staff provides a safe environment where the victims are offered education and job training. GenerateHope also offers individual and group therapy, as well as healing from the trauma of sexual abuse and ruined self-esteem.
Girls as young as 12 are being victimized by the grim world of child prostitution, but programs like these are offering them a new ray of hope to ensure them a future is still possible. To see how you can be a part of this movement, please visit GenerateHope.org.
Gathering examines child sex abuse
by Linda Bock
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
PAXTON — Educators, social and human service professionals, law enforcement officials and college students tackled some tough subjects yesterday at Anna Maria College's Molly Bish Center for the Protection of Children and the Elderly.
Conference attendees discussed child sex predators, stalking and child sex trafficking.
Allen J. Brown, an associate professor of criminal justice, legal studies and psychology at Anna Maria, filled in for the keynote speaker, who was unable to attend because of illness.
Child predators are often hard to identify, he said.
“What they look like is everyone else,” Mr. Brown said. “Well, mostly everyone else.”
Mr. Brown, who is also a clinical and forensic psychologist and lawyer, said while people often say children are precious, too many children are still treated like objects.
He shared a story from a man whom he interviewed several years ago. He said the man was a Boy Scout leader who told him he would never do anything to harm children. What the man did do, according to Mr. Brown, was save his money all year and then travel to Thailand, “to buy a boy for a month.” The man would pay an impoverished Thai family several thousand dollars for their son.
“He talked about this being a beautiful thing, how good he treated the boy,” Mr. Brown said. He said he bought the boy clothes and gifts, but what he didn't talk about was how he sexually abused the child for a month.
“We still objectify children,” Mr. Brown said. “That objectification makes it much easier to abuse children. It wouldn't be so easy for people to do all the horrible things to children if they didn't objectify them.”
James G. Gardiner, the new director of the Molly Bish Center for the Protection of Children and the Elderly, said professionals play a critical role in the fight against abuse of children.
Anne Marie Mires, assistant professor of criminal justice and forensic anthropologist, challenged the audience to use the workshop to make professional connections.
Speaker sheds light on hidden world of human trafficking
by Caitlin Giddens
Hearing the statistics of 2.5 million people suffering from sex trafficking generates concern, but seeing the faces behind this number generates an unparalleled sense of urgency among students.
Baylor's Center for Jewish Studies welcomed Dr. Victoria Fontan to speak about her experience with international human rights Wednesday.
Fontan is the director of academic development and assistant professor of peace and conflict studies at the United Nations-mandated University for Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica. She presented students with stories she witnessed and showed pictures of victims she met, bringing a sense of reality to human rights issues.
“For the past 10 years, I have tried to understand trafficking and other human rights issues,” Fontan said. “The more I know, the more red flags pop up when I travel abroad. As a scholar, it's very difficult to get funding for these issues. I might get funding six months to one year later, and by then, everyone could be dead.”
Because she focuses on the development of insurgent groups and post-conflict areas, Fontan has witnessed human rights issues in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. She said she was disturbed not only by the reality of human trafficking and female genital abuse, but also by the apathy.
“Trafficking is treated as a total non issue in Iraq,” Fontan said. “It is very shameful there to be abducted or raped. When we look at human right issues in Iraq, we see trafficking as a small issue. But Iraq is not becoming a democracy with this present.”
Working with the United Nations exposed Fontan to more than the abuse found in Middle Eastern nations.
The Council of Europe reports $4.2 billion is spent annually on international human trafficking, and the sources of this income may be surprising, Fontan said.
“I gained some exposure to trafficking because my male colleagues would go to brothels,” Fontan said. “And this was as the U.N. and UNICEF.”
Fontan said she was also disturbed by the lack of sympathy expressed for victims.
“There's a food chain of human rights,” Fontan said. “If you're a black African woman, forget getting help. But pictures can put a face to what I'm talking about.”
Students discussed the complexity of trafficking and other social issues, hoping to gain Fontan's insight.
“What really impressed me about the event was Dr. Fontan's international perspective,” Katy sophomore Kristina Miller, a member of Baylor's International Justice Mission , said. “I have respect for people that are out trying to secure justice for these victims. But it's disheartening to hear how far protocols and programs need to be improved.”
Fontan said in many cases, international issues are not publicized because of the negative image they may create.
“Many are worried about the bad image these issues will give Americans of the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Fontan said. “There were 200 gay men killed in Baghdad just last year, and no one knows.”
Dr. Marc Ellis, professor of Jewish studies and history, also focuses on showcasing social injustices. He said he hopes students will become aware of the human rights issues present worldwide.
“We don't talk about war or Christians going to war much at Baylor,” Ellis said. “Dr. Fontan has been to places and seen things even I never have, so Baylor was lucky to have her here.”
Brooklyn Man Pleads to Guilty to Forcing Underage Girls Into Prostitution in New York
U.S. Attorney's Office April 14, 2011
William Johnson, also known as “Dollar Bill,” pleaded guilty today to sex trafficking of a minor between August 2010 and September 2010. The plea was entered this morning before United States District Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf at the U.S. Courthouse in Brooklyn. When sentenced, the defendant faces a minimum of 10 years' imprisonment and a maximum of life imprisonment, as well as forfeiture of his residence and other property used in the commission of his criminal conduct.
The guilty plea was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office; and Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department.
At today's proceeding, the defendant admitted to harboring a 15-year-old girl in his home in St. Albans, Queens, between August and September 2010, and having the victim work for him as a prostitute.
As alleged in the government's pleadings, the defendant generated customers for his prostitution business by posting advertisements listed under “erotic services” or “escort services” on Internet websites. The advertisements included photographs of scantily clad women or girls in suggestive poses. The defendant also took live videos of the women and girls engaging in pole-dancing in his St. Albans residence, which could then be accessed online for a fee paid by customers. On September 21, 2010, law enforcement executed a search warrant at the defendant's residence and found two women who had engaged in prostitution for the defendant. Agents seized, among other items, two “stripper poles” and over 100 videotapes and DVDs, many of which contained video footage of the defendant engaging in sexual activity with young women and girls.
“Today's guilty plea affirms our commitment to using the full force of federal law and authority to deter and punish the exploitation of children in the sex trade and to eradicate child sex trafficking,” stated United States Attorney Lynch.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Fedarcyk stated, “Mr. Johnson, also known as ‘Dollar Bill,' created a haven that was far from a safe place, but rather a den of sexual exploitation. He intentionally preyed upon the innocence of youth for his own financial gain by creating a prostitution ring and sexually explicit images. The FBI will continue to rigorously investigate and bring to prosecution all those who engage in illicit sexual conduct with children, as well as identify and rescue victims of these crimes.”
NYPD Commissioner Kelly stated, “Few crimes are as reprehensible as the sexual exploitation of children for money. This was one ‘Dollar Bill' that law enforcement was happy to take out of circulation.”
The government's case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Licha M. Nyiendo, Melissa B. Marrus, and Kathleen A. Nandan.
Name: WILLIAM JOHNSON
Angela Gilliam, aunt of Lashanda Armstrong, reacts to the news.
|| Little time between call, fatal NY river plunge
by Chris Carola, Associated Press
NEWBURGH, N.Y. – Angela Gilliam called the police at 7:43 p.m. Tuesday. She was worried about her niece's well-being and said there was a domestic tussle going on at the younger woman's apartment in this hardscrabble city on New York's Hudson River.
Police headed to the apartment but by the time they got there, it was empty.
Seventeen minutes later, Gilliam's grand-nephew La'Shaun Armstrong stood shivering and soaking wet in a firehouse down the street, struggling to get the words out: His mother, 25-year-old Lashanda Armstrong, had driven their minivan off a boat ramp and into the river, taking her three other children with her.
All of them died.
Only 10-year-old La'Shaun survived, managing to open the driver's window and escape the van just before it slipped beneath the surface.
Police were still working Wednesday night to piece together the events that led to Tuesday's tragic plunge that killed Armstrong and three children: Landen Pierre, 5, Lance Pierre, 2, and 11-month-old Laianna Pierre.
Earlier Tuesday, Armstrong appeared stressed when she picked up the children at the Young and Unique Christian Development Child Care, said Shaniesha Strange, supervisor in the infant room.
"The only thing she'd say was that she was so alone," Strange said Wednesday. "She's a single parent. She takes great care of her kids, goes to school and works. She really needed a helping hand."
Police question the man they identified as the father of the three dead children, Jean Pierre, but did not give details. He apparently didn't live with the mother and children and could not immediately be located for comment.
Hetty Minatee, another teacher at the day care center, said Armstrong had enrolled the four children there in September. At first Jean Pierre would come in with Armstrong and sometimes would pick up the kids.
"A couple weeks ago, she came in a little upset," Minatee said. "She said, 'Miss Minatee, I don't want the father to pick the kids up or have any contact with them.' She said she was trying to get a court order so he could never see the kids again."
From Armstrong's apartment, she would have taken a right turn onto Washington Street, site of George Washington's headquarters during the American Revolution, and driven straight toward the river, downhill all the way. She'd be familiar with the boat launch, neighbors said. She watched fireworks over the river from the corner near her house. A half-mile drive would have gotten her there. A hard left then a quick right turn would take the van into the water.
Fire Chief Michael Vatter said the vehicle went under in the 45-degree water within two minutes.
A passer-by found a soaked and cold La'Shaun Armstrong along the shore and took him to a firehouse for help.
"He got out of the car, got up onto the boat ramp, turned around and it was gone," Vatter said.
Divers searched for about an hour before finding the minivan submerged in 10 feet of water about 25 yards from the shore. They used a tow truck to pull it up the ramp.
La'Shaun is staying with Gilliam and "doing fine," she said.
"She was a good mother. She was going through some stuff," Gilliam said of her niece. "Nobody knows what my niece went through." She would not elaborate.
Police said there was no history of domestic violence at the address.
Neighbors in the city of about 30,000 said the children seemed energetic and happy and would play on the block and ride bikes.
"She was a very good mom," said Tina Claybourne. "She took care of her kids. She always was with her kids."
Just last month, she donated money to help the family of a baby killed in a fire across the street from Armstrong's apartment. The loss of four children in such a short time hit the community hard.
Mourners created a memorial of stuffed animals and flowers at the boat ramp.
The deaths were reminiscent of the case of Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who drowned her two young sons in 1994 by sending her car into a pond. She initially claimed she had been carjacked. She is serving a life sentence.
Woman sues online dating site over alleged sexual assault
April 13, 2011
A Los Angeles entertainment executive who says she was sexually assaulted by a man she met on Match.com filed a lawsuit Wednesday asking that the popular dating site start screening its members for sexual predators.
Attorney Mark L. Webb, who represents the woman identified in the lawsuit only as Jane Doe, said he will ask a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge for a temporary injunction barring the site from signing up more members until his client's demands are met.
“They are a very powerful and successful online dating service, and they have the means to do this,” Webb said.
Officials with Match.com could not be reached for comment late Wednesday. But in a statement to KABC-TV Channel 7 last week, officials that they provide safety tips on the website and warn members that they are responsible for screening the people they meet.
"While incidents like this one between individuals who meet on Match.com are extremely rare, it doesn't make them any less horrifying," the statement said.
Webb described his client as an Ivy League graduate who works in film and television. He said she met her alleged assailant last year at Urth Cafe in West Hollywood. He seemed charming and she agreed to see him again. After the second date, however, he allegedly followed her home and forced himself on her, Webb said.
"This horrific ordeal completely blindsided me because I had considered myself savvy about online dating safety," the woman said in a statement released through her attorney last week. "Things quickly turned into a nightmare, beyond my control."
After the man left, the woman went online and learned that he had been convicted of several counts of sexual battery. Charges are pending in the Match.com case, Webb said.
The attorney said his client wants Match.com to check members' names against public sex offender registries. “It's not a guarantee,” he said. “But don't you think something is better than nothing?”
Police: Man Admits To Raping 8-Year-Old In Amber Alert
April 13, 2011
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- A man arrested in connection with the rape and kidnapping of an 8-year-old Federal Way girl confessed to taking the girl to his Tacoma home, where he raped her, according to probable cause documents.
Federal Way police were called to the girl's home on Monday for a report of a missing child.
Her mother said she was last seen at a playground at Olympic View Elementary School. Witnesses said the missing girl was last seen in the presence of a Filipino or Asian man.
After an Amber Alert was issued Monday night, an employee at a Target store recognized the girl and description of the man, believed to be 28-year-old Benjamin Trihn, and called police. The employee remembered seeing the two in the store.
Officers used surveillance video to identify the girl and were able to track Trihn to his Tacoma home from a credit card transaction he made at the store, according to the documents.
Trihn was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of luring, kidnapping and child rape. According to probable cause documents, Trihn waived his Miranda rights and allowed police to record a confession in which he said he watched pornographic movies and engaged in sexual acts with the child. The missing child later returned home carrying a Scooby Doo DVD.
A letter that went home to parents at Olympic View Elementary said children had seen a man matching Trinh's description around for several days, speaking to, and sometimes taking pictures of, children. Police said that was classic "grooming behavior."
||Smartphone text alert helps find attempted kidnapping suspect
by Kacey Montoya
A text message alert helped police in Federal Way, Washington find and arrest a kidnapping suspect who is being investigated for luring and raping an 8-year-old girl.
Text alerts and smartphone applications, like Text No More, which was designed to save lives on the road, are helping police spread the word when children disappear and are in danger.
A local company created a one of a kind app designed to prevent texting while driving, but discovered they could also help find missing kids. Here's how it works: the user downloads the free application to their smartphone, and prior to driving, the user activates the Text No More app, selecting an estimated time they will be driving.
Once the Text No More app is enabled, an image of a missing child is displayed, followed by a reward from a Text No More partner, made up of local retailers.
The reward is a coupon or freebie for stores near you, the reward will stay in your smartphone until you redeem it.
While the Text No More app is enabled. It shuts down all notifications and holds incoming texts from coming through. It also prevents the driver from sending a text message. If the driver has Bluetooth, calls will still come through.
Rodney Stearns created Text No More app after seeing the worst of what can happen when drivers text while driving when he was a paramedic in Los Angeles for nine years. Stearns said he started the application to entice drivers to put the smartphone down when they are driving, but the app is doing more than preventing distracted driving, it's also helping find missing children.
“Originally, Text No More was supposed to be an anti-texting and driving app but with the downloads going in 14 countries, we decided that with millions if eyes, why not put missing kids there.”
Apps like Text No More are helping police in cases of missing children. On Monday, an 8-year-old girl in Federal Way, Washington disappeared from the playground prompting her mother to call police, who in turn issued an Amber Alert.
An alert store clerk at a Target store in Federal Way noticed 28-year-old Benjamin Trinh shopping for clothes with the missing 8-year-old girl, acting strangely, and recognized the girl from an Amber Alert text that was sent to her smartphone earlier that day. Police arrested Trinh within 24 hours thanks to the clerk's help.
Stearns said, “It's free. Download it. You are going to put a Mom at ease, put a family at ease, knowing there is an extra set of eyes.” There are currently 15 children on the Text No More missing children app. One of the first children to appear on the app was Kyron Horman, the Northwest Portland boy who disappeared from Skyline School on June 4, 2010. Horman's picture is still in the Text No More cue.
The app is gaining popularity, but Stearns hopes more smartphone users will download the app, “So it's easier to get the message out there, and harder to hide a kid.”
More than 10,000 people in Portland have downloaded the free app so far this year. Text No More is the only app that rewards users for not texting while driving. The company makes money by charging the local businesses a flat monthly fee to offer a reward to the user.
The Blackberry app will be launched on Monday, April 18th.
Sex Trafficking Survivor Shares Her Story
BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma -- Oklahoma is the crossroads of the nation, making it a prime trade route for sex trafficking.
More than one million American children are involved in the sex industry.
One of them, a survivor of sex trafficking, shared her story at the NSU Campus in Broken Arrow Wednesday night as part of a two day conference sponsored by OATH, or Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans.
"And I knew that this was a terrible, terrible thing that was happening to me, but there comes a point in time when you just leave yourself," Jeannetta Taylor said.
Jeanetta Taylor is a Green country native.
At just 11 years old, she was molested by a family friend with no one to turn to for support, Taylor turned to alcohol.
Her life spiraled out of control. She made some bad friends who held her against her will, selling her for sex to different men, multiple times a night. By the age of 15, she'd been arrested twice for prostitution.
Taylor's now 40 and works with abused kids.
The audience at Wednesday night's conference was packed with social work professionals, who are taking away more than just a continuing education credit.
"I think most people have the attitude that it doesn't happen in my backyard," Alice Hooper said. "That's why I think things like this are important, because it is a real issue in Oklahoma."
Mark Elam, director of Oklahomans Against Trafficking of Humans, said one-third of trafficked children meet their abusers online.
Oklahoma's two major interstates, I-35 and I-40, are often used to transport victims across state lines, he said.
The bulk of the conference is Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at NSU's Broken Arrow campus. The cost to attend is $75.
3/24/2011 -- Related Story: Truckers Aim To Stop Sex Trafficking In Oklahoma
11/18/2010 -- Related Story: Why Oklahoma Is A Prime Trade Route For Child Traffickers
Sex trafficker sentenced to ten years; victim speaks out
by Laura Clarizio, Providence City Buzz Examiner
April 13, 2011
Worthless, ashamed and brainwashed is the way one sex trafficking victim describes how she felt after being forced into prostitution. Today, one of two men accused of sex trafficking pleaded no contest before a Providence Superior Court Judge. Police say the men forced at least three young women to work inside a home, having sex with multiple partners and earning up to fifteen hundred dollars a day over a period of a few years.
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today announced that 23 year old Andrew Fakhoury formerly of Yonkers, New York, plead no contest before Superior Court Magistrate William J. McAtee to three counts of human trafficking, three counts of pandering, and two counts of conspiracy to commit human trafficking. Fakhoury was sentenced to 20 years with 10 years to serve and 10 years suspended with probation.
The case marked the first time the state charged an individual with human trafficking since the statute was enacted in 2008 and amended in 2010.
In court the victims addressed Fakhoury, saying. "You brainwashed me into believing I was nothing. You made me feel worthless."…."I now have serious trust issues because of you. You made me feel ashamed of who I was."
“This case dispels the myth that human trafficking is limited to immigrants being brought to this country and sold into servitude. Human trafficking happens every day in our communities across America to young people, particularly young women, who are lured from their normal lives and made into sex slaves by predators. Human trafficking strips victims of their freedom and dignity,” said Attorney General.
The AG's office says, “The prostitution ring originated in Yonkers, NY, where Fakhoury targeted young, vulnerable women. Fakhoury manipulated and intimidated these young women using psychological and physical abuse to force them into performing sexual acts for money. The women were posted on Craig's List and other websites that are known for adult content and prostitution.
Fakhoury moved his prostitution operation to Rhode Island in October 2008 due to the state's well known legal loopholes allowing indoor prostitution. Fakhoury, the mastermind of the operation, and his co-defendant Joseph Defeis rented an apartment in North Providence with two of the victims. They later moved to an apartment in the Elmhurst section of Providence with one of women.
The investigation began when the Providence Police Department received information from the Yonkers Police Department about a young woman who was being forced to prostitute herself on the internet. The Providence Police, working with Yonkers Police, set up a sting operation by contacting the young woman to solicit her services. Providence Police were able to identify the young woman and facilitated her safe return to her family. “
Defies is scheduled to have a pre-trial hearing April 20th.
If I Only Knew - event logo
A problem right here at home
‘If I Only Knew' to promote activism against sex trafficking locally
by Cliff Newell, The Lake Oswego Review
April 14, 2011
This is the logo for the "If I Only Knew” event this Sunday at noon at Lake Grove Presbyterian Church. Purpose of the workshop is to try to put a dent in sex trafficking of children.
Portland Metro area citizens don't have to travel to Cambodia, Thailand or the Philippines to discover the problem of sex trafficking of children.
In fact, it can be too close for comfort.
“The problem is here,” said Jill Sherman. “Not just on 82nd Street in Portland. The impact is everywhere, including Lake Oswego and West Linn. It's a significant problem right here.”
That is why Sherman and other women at Lake Grove Presbyterian Church will be hosting “If I Only Knew” this Sunday at noon.
“This is the first specific event about local trafficking,” Sherman said.
Sherman, a West Linn resident, found out for herself not long after returning from a trip to Cambodia with Women of Vision. This sparked a desired to do something about child sex trafficking herself, and she went for training at a meeting of Door to Grace, an organization that is building a shelter for girls involved in trafficking. Something unusual happened.
“A friend and I looked at each other,” Sherman said. “We realized we needed to raise awareness at our own church.”
Sherman and co-chairs Judi Mittelstaedt and Alice Greene have lined up a powerful program for “If I Only Knew.” Speakers include Jessica Richardson, a survivor of underage sex trafficking, and Portland police officer Mike Geiger, who has worked many cases of child sex trafficking.
“Jessica has a marvelous story. Mike is terrific,” Sherman said.
There will also be a segment for youth, in which Gerry Breshears, a professor at Western Seminary, will make a presentation.
Once the program is finished, Sherman is hoping everyone who attends will be inspired to join one of the organizations devoted to fighting child sex trafficking, including Compassion 2 One, OATH (Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans), World Vision or Not For Sale.
“There's a sexualization of our whole culture, with strip clubs and pornography,” Sherman said. “That is why we have sex trafficking of children.”
As problems go, this is absolutely huge. But Sherman believes people's awareness and desire to do something has already been sharpened.
“We took a special offering about this last Christmas Eve,” Sherman said. “It was the largest offering we ever raised. It was really exciting.”
Providing guidance for Sherman and her friends will be the Bible verse Micah 6:8.
“It says, ‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.'
“We want to act that out.”
Attendance of this event is free but registration is required because a lunch will be served. To register go to www.lgpcdojustice.com.
Lake Grove Presbyterian Church is located at 4040 Sunset Drive in Lake Oswego.
France May Crack Down on Johns to Stop Sex Trafficking
Clients, not hookers target of bill aimed at freeing trapped women
(Newser) – France is considering making prostitution illegal—but by cracking down on clients, not hookers. Cops may fine or jail Johns in a bid to combat human trafficking. Experts believe 80 percent of some 20,000 sex workers in France are foreigners forced into the work by traffickers.
"There is no such thing as freely chosen and consenting prostitution," said France's social minister. "The sale of sexual acts means women's bodies are made available for men, independently of their wishes." Penalizing clients "is to make them understand that they are participating in a form of exploitation of the vulnerability of others," said a government report.
Only Sweden, Iceland and Norway have similar laws in Europe, according to the Telegraph. Prostitution is not illegal in France, but brothels, pimping and paying for sex with a minor are illegal. Under the new measure, expected to come before parliament next year, Johns could face fines as high as $3800.
A French group campaigning to end prostitution hailed the plan.
"For once we're talking about clients," said a spokeswoman. But a French actor who boasts of frequenting prositutues complained: "First it was immigrants, now it's prostitutes. This is disdainful of individual liberties. Client or customer, everyone does what they like with their body."
Vatican Gets Notice of Suit
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Vatican has been served with court papers stemming from decades-old accusations of sexual abuse against a now-dead priest at a Milwaukee-area school for the deaf, the State Department says.
In a news release Tuesday, the plaintiff's lawyer, Jeff Anderson, said the lawsuit was filed through official channels.
An adviser with the State Department confirmed that the Vatican received the documents last week. The suit was filed nearly a year ago in federal court.
It claims Pope Benedict XVI and two other top Vatican officials knew about accusations of sexual abuse at the school and called off internal punishment of the accused priest.
A former counselor accused of molesting campers
committed suicide last week outside Camp Good News
in Sandwich, Mass.
||13 Former Campers Echo Senator Scott Brown's Claim of Abuse
by ABBY GOODNOUGH
BOSTON — Thirteen alumni of a Cape Cod summer camp have reported being sexually abused there decades ago since Senator Scott P. Brown revealed that he was groped by a counselor there as a child, a lawyer said Tuesday.
The lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, said most of those alleging abuse had attended Camp Good News , a Christian camp in Sandwich, in the 1970s and '80s.
The former counselors who have been accused of abuse include a 43-year-old man who committed suicide outside the camp last week, Mr. Garabedian said.
The camp lost its accreditation on Friday and announced that it would not operate this summer while the authorities investigate abuse claims.
Senator Brown, a popular Republican up for re-election next year, has repeatedly said that he does not wish to identify his abuser publicly or to the authorities.
Mr. Brown, 52, described the abuse in his autobiography, “Against All Odds: My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks and Second Chances.” He did not specifically identify Camp Good News, but its operators confirmed that he had attended and apologized to him after his book came out in February. He did say last week that he had never met the employee who shot himself to death, who was younger than him.
When a normally supportive radio host pressed Mr. Brown last week on why he had not identified his abuser, suggesting that the man could still be molesting, Mr. Brown stayed resolute.
“I have no evidence at all that the person who did it to me 42 years ago is, No. 1, even alive, and No. 2, is doing it again,” he told the host, Howie Carr, on WRKO-AM. Mr. Brown has said that his abuser would now be about 70.
Advocates for victims of sexual abuse generally support Mr. Brown's decision not to speak out further.
“Do we wish Senator Brown would find the courage to call law enforcement?” said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group. “Yes. But he is the one who gets to make that call. The rest of us should gently and compassionately support him and nudge him in that direction.”
In a statement Tuesday, Mr. Brown said, “If my book has encouraged people to come forward with their own stories of abuse, or if it's given comfort to a victim who thought they were all alone and that no one would believe them, then that is a good thing.”
A spokeswoman for Camp Good News said officials there “will tell their side of the story in an appropriate forum, rather than addressing these types of allegations in the media.”
Six women accused Dr. Arie Oren of touching
them inappropriately at a Pennsylvania clinic.
|Weight-loss doctor charged with sexually assaulting patients
April 12, 2011
(CNN) -- A doctor at a Pennsylvania weight-loss clinic is scheduled for a preliminary hearing next week on charges that he sexually assaulted at least six female patients, according to the criminal complaint from the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, district attorney's office.
Dr. Arie Oren, 64, is charged with multiple counts of aggravated indecent assault and indecent assault that allegedly occurred during patient visits at the Conshohocken Weight Control clinic between the spring of 2008 through November 2010, the complaint said. Conshohocken is a suburb of Philadelphia.
Oren was formally charged earlier this week, with allegations in the district attorney's criminal complaint including that he told several patients that an orgasm would help them burn calories.
The six female victims listed in the affidavit, who range in age from 24 to 59, described similar experiences with Oren at the clinic. The victims told prosecutors they were all touched inappropriately or groped and he allegedly penetrated most of the victims' genitals with an electronic massager as an excuse to "break up the fat."
One victim recounted that after Oren used the massager and touched her below the waist, he said, "You know, if you have an orgasm you will burn 200 calories," according to the document.
Another victim claimed that Oren tried to kiss her after assaulting her and said that the visit was free because she was "so hot," the complaint said.
Oren has a valid medical license that expires in December 2012, according to Pennsylvania's Department of State website.
Efforts by CNN to reach Oren on Tuesday evening were not successful and a person who answered the phone at the Conshohocken Weight Control clinic said personnel there were not commenting on the case. Efforts to reach an attorney reported to be representing Oren also were unsuccessful.
Oren is free on bail pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for April 21, according to Assistant District Attorney Kate McGill.
Sand Springs native to discuss her life in sex-trafficking ring
by SARA PLUMMER World Staff Writer
April 13, 2011
It took Jeannetta Taylor nearly 25 years to pull herself out of a cycle of prostitution and drug abuse after being forced into prostitution at age 12 just miles from her home and family in Sand Springs.
Taylor, now 40, is sharing her story of survival and escape after the screening of the film "Very Young Girls," about the sexual exploitation of children in the United States, at Northeastern State University-Broken Arrow on Wednesday.
The screening is part of the OATH Human Trafficking Conference, which continues Thursday with programs for service providers, behavioral health professionals, law enforcement officials, attorneys, prosecutors and the public.
Taylor said she was sexually abused when she was 11 and began failing in school, withdrawing from her family and hanging around older kids who brought her to Tulsa and forced her into prostitution. When she was arrested, her mother came to get her from jail.
"No one wanted to talk about what caused it," Taylor said, and she soon found herself back in the same situation.
Taylor said that for years she was held in Tulsa, then taken to Oklahoma City and finally Texas as part of a sex-trafficking ring.
"I was at the bottom. No one would listen; no one understood," she said. "I was in and out of prison, in and out of jail" before joining substance-abuse support groups and finding a sponsor who helped her stay clean.
Now Taylor is on the verge of graduating from college and plans to go on to graduate school. She wants to be a counselor specializing in women's counseling.
"It's going to be a long, hard road for a lot of trafficking victims," she said. "I want to help other women. I know it's not easy. I know we don't make it the first time around."
Mark Elam, director of the OATH Coalition - or Oklahomans Against Trafficking of Humans - said the conference is about awareness and education.
Taylor said parents and law enforcement officials need to know what to look for to keep children safe.
"My mom and dad were good upstanding citizens," she said. "Start recognizing where our children are and who they are hanging around with. It can be right down the street."
Omaha Man Sentenced In Sex-Trafficking Case
Last Of Four Defendants Sentenced
April 12, 2011
OMAHA, Neb. -- An Omaha man has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for his role in a conspiracy to commit sex trafficking.
U.S. Attorney Nicholas Klinefeldt said 21-year-old Ramon Heredia was one of four people who admitted to selling young women for sex. Investigators said they ran a prostitution ring for nearly three years out of a home near 30th and Poppleton avenues and held young girls against their will at an apartment a few blocks away.
The other defendants include Heredia's wife, Katherine, Merrideth June Crane-Horton and Edwin Nathan Horton.
Authorities said the defendants admitted that they sometimes used physical force to get the women to take part in the prostitution. They said one woman was threatened with a knife to continue to serve as a prostitute, despite being seven months pregnant. Another woman had water poured on her as she stood outside naked in the winter because she refused to follow instructions, according to authorities.
Katherine Heredia was sentenced to three years. Crane-Horton and Horton were sentenced to 17 1/2 years and 14 1/2 years, respectively, but they appealed their sentences. Those appeals are pending.
Oakland Police Officer takes a suspect into custody
during a prostitution sting
Oakland must show zero tolerance for sex trafficking
by Jean Quan and Anthony Batts
NGOAN NGUYEN'S 8th grade daughter no longer walks the few blocks from their home to Roosevelt Middle School without her mother each day.
She was being harassed on her way to school by a predator asking if she wanted to make some money by going "overnight" with strangers.
Dung Tran lives on International Boulevard and sees women and girls selling their bodies just outside her front door. She has told her children to focus on their school studies and not pay attention, but don't Oakland's children deserve better?
Four of the five public schools in Oakland's San Antonio neighborhood (southeast of Lake Merritt) are only blocks from International Boulevard, one of the city's most dangerous and busiest locations for illegal sex trade activities.
Thousands of Oakland students enrolled in our public schools walk to school in an environment in which children are coerced daily into sex trafficking.
As a community, how can we possibly tolerate this reality?
No child should have to walk by sexual predators -- pimps and johns -- and young women and girls being bought and sold every day on the street.
We must also do more to protect Oakland's girls from being raped, beaten and forced into prostitution.
The average age of entry into the commercial sex industry in the U.S. is 12 years old. Oakland children are seeing their peers and classmates lured into prostitution, and most women caught in systems of prostitution entered as girls.
By intervening earlier and identifying children who may be at risk, we can break the cycle for these victims.
We must focus on prevention, prioritize community policing and enforce zero tolerance for those who aid and abet prostitution and child sex trafficking.
Oakland's teachers and school staff must be trained to recognize when children may be at risk for sexual exploitation and what actions to take to prevent it.
We must continue to have a police presence on International Boulevard between 2nd and 23rd Avenues, and ensure that local businesses and community organizations work closely with police officers to continue the fight against sexual predators and child exploitation.
And we must hold accountable the International Boulevard motels that illegally allow prostitution and child sex trafficking to continue unabated at their sites.
To help identify motels and other businesses that profit from child slavery, please call the police department's prostitution/human trafficking anonymous tip line at 510-238-2373 . We will aggressively pursue and prosecute those who are heartless enough to be complicit in these crimes.
Working together, we can make a difference here in Oakland. In Alameda County, we've already seen positive outcomes when sexually exploited youth are stabilized and engaged in services: 90 percent have re-enrolled in school and 65 percent have reduced drug and alcohol consumption. Most importantly, 60 percent of these youth were not re-victimized.
On March 31, we stood with hundreds of Oakland families and merchants who rallied to make their neighborhood safer and against the heinous exploitation of children in their community.
To join the fight and learn more about this issue of concern to us all, please call 510-533-1092 .
ImpactU fights sex trafficking
The campus ministry group ImpactU held a fundraiser Tuesday to raise money to bring girls and women out of the cycle of sex trafficking. The group sold hand-crafted hats, purses and other goods—some made by girls who had already been rescued—to raise money. During the past two weeks $250 has been raised.
The proceeds go directly to Rapha House, an organization dedicated to rescuing children who have been sold into slavery and sexual exploitation. Jennifer White, an associate minister of ImpactU, stressed that their goal isn't just to rescue the girls, but also to assist in the healing process after they're freed.
"?‘Rapha' means ‘healing' in Hebrew," White said. "(Rapha House workers) help them across the board—teach them a trade, give them counseling, provide a safe home with love and three square meals a day and clothing."
White also said that although a lot of the girls are tricked into trafficking, sometimes the parents of the girls are the ones who sold them in the first place. Having a trade brings financial help to the families and prevents that from happening a second time.
Although Tuesday's fundraiser was for a specific group in Cambodia, sex trafficking is more prominent in the United States than people realize, said John Curry, student minister at Southeast Christian Church and fundraiser volunteer.
"There was an article on MSNBC about human trafficking
among Hispanics in the states, and it's actually growing," Curry said. "They're careful about what clients they have, and they make business cards and use code words that only certain people would know, and some of these girls will be with 50 men a day. It's horrible."
White said she also works for http://love146.org, where she says she is a sex-slavery abolitionist.
"It's sounds funny to think that here in the 21st century we still need abolitionists, but it's true," White said. "Sex trafficking is the second largest money-producing syndicate in the U.S. after drugs. But I think people are becoming increasingly more aware, slowly."
White said that even little things like the fundraiser can help a lot, and that's what ImpactU is trying to do.
"Every little thing, I think, makes a difference," White said. "Every little thing. Every pebble in the pond sends out ripples, so we're just hoping we can make a difference."
Child sex trafficking is growing, even in U.S.
Apr 12, 2011
by Amanda Kate Winkelman
WASHINGTON (BP)--Commercial sexual exploitation remains a major problem among the young in the United States, with an estimated 100,000 U.S. children trafficked annually, experts say.
"The majority of the victims that we're finding who are child sex-trafficking victims are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents," said Sarah Vardaman, senior director of Shared Hope International.
Vardaman's comment came at a live webcast hosted by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. The event focused on the reasons minors and young adults are sexually exploited in the U.S. in such great numbers.
"The sexual entertainment and the sexualization of our culture is encouraging a growing number of people who are demanding these services. And so, if we want to look at the factors of supply and demand, then we would say [the sex trafficking industry] is growing," said Vardaman, whose organization seeks to rescue and restore women and children victimized by trafficking.
The sexual entertainment industry is booming because of greater access to pornography through technology. People are becoming desensitized to what the sex industry offers, Perkins said.
Pat Trueman, chief executive officer of Morality in Media, said the porn industry is a $12-$13 billion industry.
Morality in Media, which published a report in February, "Links Between Pornography and Sex Trafficking," created a letter to Congress explaining the harm of pornography and asking Attorney General Eric Holder to enforce obscenity laws.
"There is as much money going under the table as there is above the table," Trueman said. "So this is an industry that some of it's organized crime, some of it's involved in money laundering [and] trafficking."
The March webcast -- titled "Sex Trafficking in America: From the Boulevard to Planned Parenthood" -- featured two video clips that gave viewers a look into the sex trafficking industry. One of the clips was Live Action's recent undercover video of a New Jersey Planned Parenthood manager giving advice to actors pretending to exploit young girls from foreign countries. The clinic manager tells the "pimp" to lie to get discounts and instructs him on ways he can continue to exploit the girls for money after they have abortions.
Another video, filmed in a major East Coast city, showed a man on the street letting another man name the price of the youngest girl he had -- a 14 year old. Such exploitation of young teens can be found frequently in any city, Vardaman said. People are selling children for sex, and people are buying, she said.
Organizations are helping children and women get out of the industry and informing the Justice Department of the slavery occurring in America. The key is partnerships, said Lisa Thompson, the Salvation Army's liaison for the abolition of sexual trafficking. Thompson works with more than 30 different religious groups to create organized partnerships to stop sex exploitation.
"A lot of our effort is aimed at services at the grassroots level to actual victims, to outreach in the community, to advocacy and awareness, and education efforts," Thompson said.
Thompson cited the efforts of the Salvation Army in Chicago with the group Partnership to Rescue our Minors from Sexual Exploitation (PROMISE), alongside Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking (FAAST), a Christian alliance working to eliminate human trafficking and help survivors. Other organizations -- including SAGE, Veronica's Voice and Breaking Free -- help adult women trapped in the industry.
"Unfortunately, I think there is a real disconnect for people to understand that children who are trafficked into prostitution grow up to be adult women in prostitution," Thompson said. "And so many of our services that have developed have focused on providing care and services to the minors, which that's very good and well needed. We need to do that. But for those that we miss, they will continue in that [trajectory] of continuing in prostitution."
Thompson believes the problem will continue, because people have desensitized themselves to sexual explicitness.
"We have accepted pornography; we have accepted the sexual objectification of women. And this is conditioning girls to look at themselves as sex objects and to think the sex industry doesn't pose any threat or harm to them," Thompson said.
The March 15 webcast guests also included Robert Flores, former administrator of the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; Lila Rose, president of the pro-life activist organization Live Action, and Tina Frundt, director of a help home for trafficking victims.
The webcast and downloadable audio can be found online at www.frc.org/traffic. More information on battling the exploitation of children in the U.S. can be found at www.missingkids.com.
Amanda Kate Winkelman is an intern with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press.
Protecting your kids from web predators
by Amanda Kate Winkelman
April 12, 2011
WASHINGTON (BP)--Parents, teachers and youth leaders can take steps to protect children and young people from becoming victims of online predators and sex traffickers, specialists say.
Experts warn that the threat of children being exploited and trafficked is widespread. Even a decade ago, an estimated 293,000 American youth were at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation, according to a 2001 report by the University of Pennsylvania. An estimated 100,000 U.S. children are trafficked annually.
Cris Clapp Logan of "Enough Is Enough" -- an organization that works to protect children on the Internet -- said the sex industry's growing demand has created more online predators and more sexual trafficking perpetrators. Logan is the director of communications and congressional relations for the organization and suggested the following ways to keep children safe while they are on the Internet:
|-- Parents need to be educated about the potential dangers.
-- Parents need to lay down clear Internet safety rules.
-- Children should only communicate online with people they know and trust, and with whom they have face-to-face relationships.
-- Parents should avoid feeling intimidated by the Internet and giving their children full rein in the computer world.
Logan also mentioned signs that parents, teachers and youth leaders can spot if a child is contacting a predator or is being exploited. Among the signs in a child are:
|-- being secretive about online use.
-- being obsessive about time on the Internet.
-- expressing anger when restricted from the Internet.
-- downloading pornographic or sexual materials.
-- receiving emails, phone calls or mail from unfamiliar contacts.
Trafficking victims may be detected by the following signs, Logan said:
|1) close monitoring by someone who is not a parent;
2) a shift in mental health;
3) poor physical health;
4) long work hours;
5) extended absences from school;
6) decline in grades;
7) changes in overall appearance, and
8) struggles interacting with peers.
On a March 15 webcast sponsored by the Family Research Council, two experts on sex trafficking recommended ways parents and others can keep children safe.
This list is a combination of tips from Sarah Vardaman, senior director of Shared Hope International, and Robert Flores, former administrator of the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention:
|-- An open dialogue with children is important.
-- Parents, churches and organizations need to be proactive in technology, and families need to consult different organizations to find software that can help protect their children from online exposure to pornography.
-- Make sure local, sexually oriented businesses -- such as strip clubs and massage parlors -- have been proactively investigated by law enforcement and possess proper licenses.
-- Parents need to be knowledgeable about their children's friends and what they are doing.
A checklist from "Enough Is Enough" of ways to help monitor children's online safety can be accessed at: http://www.internetsafety101.org/safety101.htm
||Woman forced into prostitution as a teen talks about life on the street
by Don Germaise
TAMPA - A woman who was forced to work as a prostitute says she was a sex slave for five years before escaping.
The woman, who doesn't want her name revealed, used the name "Marie" to talk about her life as a hooker. "I was a slave," the woman said. "I am a victim of human trafficking."
Marie was a teenager working at a strip club in Miami when she was recruited by a man she thought of as an admirer. He turned out to be a pimp.
He drove the girl to Cleveland, made her change clothes and forced her on to a street corner minutes after arriving in Ohio. Marie says she turned her first trick before she really understood what was happening to her.
"I worked seven days a week. The only day he gave me off was Christmas," the woman said. "He would beat me. He would mentally abuse me. If I did what he wanted he complimented me. I thought that was love."
Marie claimed she was frequently shuttled across the country. She mentioned several cities she was forced to work, including Boston, Miami, Las Vegas, and Cleveland. It was not uncommon for the pimp to force her to turn 20 to 40 tricks a night.
Teenagers are frequently a target in the sex slavery trade. "We have rescued 43 children from the ages of 13 to 17 in Tampa Bay since 2009," said FBI Agent Dave Couvertier. "They were being utilized for the purpose of prostitution. In essence they were slaves. Modern day slaves," said Couvertier.
Marie managed to escape and is now living in Tampa. She decided to speak out because she's worried about other young girls. "It's an atrocity against our children that are being abducted and they are being sold into slavery daily," said Marie. "Right now, a child is probably being raped by a man for money somewhere in Florida. Slavery doesn't care about age, color, sex. It only cares about money. It's all about money."
||SecuraChild helps find missing people with social media
by Kimberly Cheng
PHOENIX - SecuraChild.com is a new, free website that helps find missing people through the use of social media.
Sandra Traylor's 13-year-old nephew, Myron Traylor, went missing 23 years ago.
He was walking to his grandma's house from a store, near 16th and Southern avenues, in Phoenix.
Traylor thinks he was kidnapped. Although there's been no sign of him since, she hasn't given up hope.
"Keep going, keep praying," she said.
Traylor's family is still searching.
Every two years, she hangs a painted mural of Myron in front of her home in Phoenix. Her kids post a photo of what Myron would look like in his 30s on Facebook.
"You never know, you never know," she said.
SecuraChild.com is a new, free website that helps search for missing people through the use of social media.
It was built on the hope of bringing families back together with lost loved ones, according to Chris Holbert, CEO of SecuraTrac, a for-profit organization that launched SecuraChild.
"People refer to it as Amber Alert on steroids," Holbert said.
SecuraChild allows users to keep track of a family member's information. You can include a person's height, weight, eye color and recent photos on file. If that person were lost, one click would disseminate this information to SecuraChild's Twitter, Facebook, phone, and email contacts.
SecuraChild doesn't contact the police, but keeps important information in one place.
Holbert says filing a police report is encouraged and SecuraChild makes it easier for the user to file a report.
"There's a lot of info you have to give police to file a police report," Holbert said.
Traylor says parents should keep their child's information handy. She has her children's fingerprints and footprints in her records.
"Just in case," she said. "You never know."
||Girl, 17, kidnapped in South L.A., authorities say
April 11, 2011
Authorities issued an Amber Alert on Monday night after a 17-year-old girl was kidnapped in South Los Angeles.
Mayra Martinez was forced into a 1999 Green Ford Expedition about 3:30 p.m. near Alameda Avenue and Firestone Boulevard, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department said.
The license plate on the vehicle is 5GBJ226.
The department identified the suspected kidnapper as Rafael Ibarra, 28, who had previously threatened to kill Martinez and himself, according to authorities.
Ibarra was described as Latino, about 5 feet 6 and 160 pounds. He was wearing a red long-sleeved shirt and red hat.
Authorities said Martinez is Latina, about 5 feet 2 and 113 pounds. She was wearing a brown, yellow and blue dress and hoop earrings.
Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at (323) 568-4800.
||Kutcher, Timberlake, Cooper, Penn Join Hands To Tackle Trafficking
Hollywood heartthrobs Ashton Kutcher, Justin Timberlake, Bradley Cooper and Sean Penn have joined hands to fight sex trafficking with a new campaign aimed at 'Real Men'.
Kutcher and wife Demi Moore's charity 'Demi and Ashton Foundation' has launched the campaign 'Real Men Don't Buy Girls', which they hope will educate people about the shocking trade, reported People magazine online.
In Penn's video, he is shown ironing a sandwich with the words, 'Real Men Know How To Use An Iron', while Timberlake is shown about to shave with a chainsaw with the tagline 'Real Men Prefer A Close Shave'.
Kutcher also recorded a video, showing him sniffing his dirty socks, throwing them in the bin and getting a brand new pair out of a packet with the line 'Real Men Do Their Own Laundry'.
Another shows Bradley Cooper in his back garden pouring milk into a box of cereal with the tagline 'Real Men Know How To Make A Meal'.
'Desperate Housewives' star Eva Longoria also appears in the video.
Kutcher, 33, and Demi, 48, set up DNA to "work toward the elimination of sex slavery worldwide as the right to be free is a building block of our DNA".
Moore was recently on a trip to Nepal in support of the NGO 'Maiti Nepal' which works against sex slavery.
Victim of sex trade awarded damages
Substantial damages have been paid to a former detainee at Oakington immigration reception centre who had been a victim of sex trafficking.
The woman secured the settlement from the Home Office as a High Court hearing was about to start. She claimed the department violated her human rights by returning her to her home country, Moldova, when they should have recognised the grave danger facing her there.
Approving the confidential agreement, Mrs Justice Cox said the woman had been a victim of repeated sex trafficking over a long period of time and had suffered severe sexual degradation and resulting psychiatric injury.
The woman's solicitor, Harriet Wistrich, said she was kidnapped at 14 and continuously trafficked for forced prostitution in Italy, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Israel and the UK until she was 21.
She was repeatedly beaten, raped and threatened with death, and treated as a slave.
In 2003, she was arrested in a London brothel by police and Home Office immigration officers, and charged with possessing the false documents provided to her by her traffickers, imprisoned for three months and sent back to Moldova.
The lawyer said the woman's ‘trafficker' was permitted to visit her in Holloway prison and Oakington detention centre, where he posed as her boyfriend, to intimidate her.
In Moldova, she was found by her traffickers and savagely ill-treated before being re-trafficked for another two years.
Home Office Minister Damian Green said: “This disturbing case shows why our approach to human trafficking has changed significantly since 2003.”
||Escaping the Sex Trafficking Industry
A Q+A with a former sex worker, who weaves her own painful story of being lured into "the life," with the stories of the girls and women that she now helps.
April 12, 2011
The trafficking of girls and women has become a hot topic in the last year. In December, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff and his wife Sheryl WuDunn, co-authors of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, teamed up with Oprah Winfrey to launch the topic into public consciousness.
Actress Demi Moore testified on the topic in front of Congress last year, after being shocked into action while watching an MSNBC special on the sex trade in Cambodia. The Clinton Global Initiative has marked the trafficking of girls and women as a special focus.
It's critical that so many privileged Americans and power brokers are becoming aware of this issue, but it's unfortunate that the public conversation about this issue is still largely missing the voices of the girls and women who have experienced sex trafficking and exploiting, themselves, speaking on their own terms, about their own experiences.
A new memoir, Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls are Not For Sale, an Activist Finds her Calling and Heals Herself , will be published this week by Harper Collins. In it, survivor Rachel Lloyd tells her own painful story of being lured into “the life,” as she calls it, from an early start modeling to prostitution and surviving violence and pain at the hands of those who bought and sold her. Lloyd interweaves this story with the stories of the girls and women that she now helps through her acclaimed New York-based nonprofit Girls Education and Mentoring Service (GEMS). It is a groundbreaking memoir, not only because it paints a vivid picture of domestic trafficking, but because it is beautifully-written—sure to be shelved alongside the other great social issue autobiographies of our time, like First They Killed My Father and A Long Way Gone.
Here's Rachel on Girls Like Us , “the life,” and liberation, in her own words:
Why did you write Girls Like Us ?
I wrote this book to try to change public perception of this issue, and of girls and women in the commercial sex industry. I've also wanted to write a book since I was about three years old!
In Girls Like Us , you write, “Girls weren't drug addicted, they were love addicted, and that, I'll learn, is far harder to treat.” Why do you think so many girls and women are so, as you put it, “love addicted?” Are boys and men “love-addicted” too?
I think I'll get fried for saying this, but I think that we're biologically wired to be nurturers and that can get distorted. Girls and women are so relationally-oriented. I also think a huge part is how we're socialized growing up to see our value and worth as being tied into a relationship and how our culture teaches us a distorted sense of romantic love— can't live without you, can't breathe without you, I'll die without you . As teenage girls we believe that level of emotional intensity and dramatics equates with real love. We're also taught that if we date lots of people, then we're sluts, so at an early age we put all our eggs into one basket, so to speak, and concentrate on 'the one'.
I think boys and men are socialized very differently and are trained not to show their emotions in the same way, to date lots of people, not just one exclusively, and are rewarded for many other things in our culture outside of maintaining a relationship.
You write about the huge correlation between girls who have been in the foster care system and sexual exploitation and trafficking. With the wisdom of all of your experience, do you see some kind of alternative to or possibility for redemption of the foster care system? Why is it so hazardous for girls?
I think there's always the possibility of redemption. Even in New York City, we've seen some major improvements from the way the system was 20 years ago. There's still a lot to do—we know that training workers and parents, reducing caseload size, developing therapeutic foster care, strengthening kinship care, and putting more emphasis into preventive care are all solutions.
Unfortunately, if a child is in a situation where removal from the home becomes neccessary, there's already been trauma. Putting a traumatized child into a 'system,' not a home, with strangers is creating a perfect storm for further trauma.
As a teenage girl, you jumped at the chance to model because, as you write, you would do “anything that will make me feel less invisible.” It occurred to me that so much of your current work is about really and truly seeing the girls that you help. When was the first time, in your journey, that you felt really and truly seen?
That's a really hard question. Probably the time I write about in the book at the conference in Canada [at which Lloyd spoke publicly to other survivors]. I was honest and open with people about my experiences, and because they were survivors, they heard me and saw me and, best of all, accepted me.
While your story is similar to other victims of exploitation and trafficking in some regards, you were an anomaly in that you had a loving mother for the early years of your life. You write, “those formative years helped lay a foundation and a memory of nurturing that would be instrumental in my own recovery process.” It seems like you're suggesting that learning to be nurtured is a bit like riding a bike, where you can “jump back on” later if you've had the experience in the past, even if it was long ago. Is this right?
I don't know that you always can get back to that, but it's incredibly hard to develop it later in life if you missed out totally. The studies of feral children show us that without even a little nurturing and love very early in life, there are certain developmental milestones that are totally missed. I'm very lucky to have had the early experiences that I had.
You write about the infuriating glorification of “the pimp” in our culture, adding that, though the typical image that Americans have in their minds is that of an African American man, it is actually far afield of the reality of who profits off of sex exploitation. Can you set us straight? Who is buying and selling girls and women in America?
Men are buying them. Every age, race, socio-economic background of men are 'johns.' It's a little more complicated who's doing the selling. The truth is that the average street pimp selling American girls is often a man of color, however, Mexican pimps are selling Mexican girls, Russian men are selling Russian girls etc. Those who profit off the sex industry overall are not the ones who are standing out on the street. They're the owners of massage parlors, escort agencies, strip clubs, and brothels.
What internal and external factors allowed you to finally leave your exploiter/abuser?
Its a long, involved story but the short version is that it happened in stages and that there was definitely a higher power at work in orchestrating events. He had to leave the country at one point and that gave me a window of freedom that I wouldn't have otherwise had. At the same time, I started going to church and something happened inside me, a conversion experience, that made me want something better for my life and believe that it was actually possible.
There are some people who work in feminist activism who believe that the conversation about protecting trafficked girls and women sometimes erases female agency. What are your thoughts about that? Do you feel supported by feminists that you encounter?
There are so many different types of feminists that I can say that I feel incredibly supported by some and totally marginalized and scorned by others. The question about agency is really one I try to address in the book and one that deserves more discussion. For me it comes down to whether involvement in the sex industry is about choice or lack of choices. For millions of women and girls globally, it's about lack of choices. Just because you make a 'choice' to work in a brothel rather than let your kids starve, or dance in a club rather than stay in an abusive home, doesn't make it an empowered choice.
You also write about the euphoria that follows finally leaving, and the difficult period that often follows that euphoria. What does Girls Empowerment Mentoring Services (GEMS), your organization, do to help girls weather the period after the euphoria?
Relationships are the key. Girls connect to the relationships that they build at GEMS, with staff and with each other more than any of the programming we offer. We also prepare girls that that period is coming, that's its totally normal. That's why its so critical to have survivors on staff, because you need to know it's going to be okay from someone who has made it through already.
You write, “I realized that it was owning what I'd been through, not hiding it, that had opened the door to real healing for me.” It has also opened the door for real learning for those lucky enough to read Girls Like Us . What is one thing that you hope readers take away from your story, and one action you hope they take after turning the last page?
I hope they can take away just a tiny bit of the love that I have for the girls and women we serve. If people begin to see 'girls like us' as girls like them, we could truly make changes on this issue. I hope, too, that people are encouraged that even if you've been through a lot of pain, you can overcome and heal. It doesn't have to define you.
The one action I hope people take, in addition to logging on to the GEMS site and making a donation, is to commit to spending time with a young person in their lives and become a mentor, a supporter, a person of safety. If every girl in the U.S. had one positive, supportive, consistent adult, her life could look very different.
||Sex Trafficking Survivor Shares Story To Help Others
Local Woman Wants To Warn Teens And Parents
April 11, 2011
PORTLAND, Ore. -- It's a problem that's not going away. Portland has been named a national hub for child sex trafficking. This month state lawmakers are reviewing new bills to crack down on “johns,” or men who buy sex from minors.
Meanwhile, local groups working to fight the problem say more needs to be done to raise awareness in local high schools and junior high schools.
“It's everywhere, happening all the time,” said Dr. Cyndi Romine, Director of the nonprofit Called to Rescue, which works to rescue victims of trafficking. “We really have to train and train and train our kids that they could be at risk,” said Dr. Romine.
A woman Fox 12 is identifying only as Melissa says she never thought it would happen to her. At age 18, she accepted a ride from a strange man in Portland, and she soon found herself living a nightmare.
“If I would have just followed my gut instinct,” said Melissa. “I could tell something didn't seem right about him just because of how quickly he was telling me how much he liked me.” A few days later, Melissa agreed to go to Seattle with him where she was taken to a hotel room.
“He tied me to a chair, told me not to scream or make any noise,” Melissa described. “He went through my purse, took my ID, Social Security card, all of my debit cards, my phone, everything.”
Melissa says she felt brainwashed, threatened and quickly found herself trapped in a dangerous lifestyle of sex trafficking and abuse. “Tased, robbed, raped; it was a daily thing,” said Melissa. “Your self-worth--you lose it completely.”
Melissa says she was eventually arrested for prostitution and says it probably saved her life. Now 25 years old and working to get her life back in order, Melissa says she's sharing her story to help other teens and parents.
The average age of a victim is just 13-years-old, according to Dr. Romine. She says the issue affects children from all backgrounds and walks of life.
“The call that I get that I never want to get is, ‘My child is gone; now what do I do?'” said Dr. Romine, who says parents need to increase their awareness as well and keep track of their children after school and online.
“Probably the most important piece is awareness in the schools,” said Dr. Romine, who hopes to begin making presentations before local students.
Meanwhile, Melissa says she's an example that it's possible to overcome the lifestyle. “If you want help, it's there if you ask for it,” she said.
However, she acknowledges victims are terrified about coming forward out of fear for what might happen.
“There needs to be more comfort for these girls to know that they have somewhere to go, and that the people they're going to, are going to keep them safe.”
CPI Employees Help Bring Happy Ending to Amber Alert
Apr 11, 2011
The following is a press release from CPI:
Saturday, April 9th, began as just another day at CPI Ampride South in Hastings, NE. Two CPI
employees, Paige Bruntz and Brandy Archer, were beginning their day when an Amber Alert was posted on the lottery machine in the store. The alert was printed off and placed by the registers.
Mid-morning Brandy went outside to take care of the outside trash, Paige, cooking food, came up to over the register while Brandy was outside. At the register, Paige looked outside and noticed a van parked there.
She looked at the license plate, compared the license number to that on the Amber Alert and recognized that was the van being identified in the alert. She immediately told Brandy about the van.
Brandy ran out and told the lady she needed to come back in, that she was over charged, and we needed to correct the sale and charge her correctly.
The lady, identified as Jennifer Mundahl, came back in to correct her charges and that is when the rescue actually started. Jennifer allegedly had abducted her 4 year old nephew from Genoa, NE, heading to North Platte.
Brandy went outside and stayed with the little boy and the van so Jennifer could not leave, while Paige, with the help of some of our customers, would not let Jennifer leave the store and kept her inside. The authorities were called and Jennifer Mundahl was arrested.
The little boy was rescued and returned to his parents.
The entire CPI family says thank you to Paige and Brandy for being very alert and aiding in the
rescue of the little boy.
"Domestic trafficking is an epidemic in Minnesota, and these are girls from this state. They're from every community. It's not just girls of color; it's not just Native American girls; it's not just inner-city girls or girls living in poverty."
JEFF BAUER, director of public policy and civic engagement, the Family Partnership
• • •
"It's not new for Minnesota to be in the top 10, if not the first or second, to pass legislation that effectively addresses violence against women.''
ROBIN PHILLIPS, executive director, the Advocates for Human Rights
Protect teen victims in sex trafficking
Change in state law would create funds for support services.
April 10, 2011
The 28-year-old Minnesota pimp met the teenager in 2008 and recruited her to perform sex with his paying customers. The teen lived with the pimp and others for two months, working in the sex trade here and in Chicago.
The pimp, Byronte Juwann Reed, who was later sentenced to 15 years in prison, admitted he used force to make the girl do what he wanted.
Clearly the teen was the helpless victim of a terrible crime, but because of an inconsistency in state law she could have been prosecuted as a prostitute and placed in the juvenile-justice system rather than in a support program.
Under current laws, a child involved in prostitution can be protected by the state's child protection statutes or treated as criminal and charged with a crime.
The 2011 Legislature has the opportunity to fix that glaring contradiction and join four other progressive states that are working to strengthen support and treatment programs that respond to increased teen sex-trafficking.
Minnesota has long been a leader in working to prevent crimes against women. A law passed in 2009 strengthened the state's sex-trafficking laws by increasing penalties and categorizing trafficking as a "crime of violence.''
Ideally the reforms would have included the "Safe Harbor'' approach outlined in a bill approved by the Minnesota House and now headed to conference committee.
In an important show of unity, county prosecutors from across the Twin Cities held a news conference in February to say they were changing their policies to treat juvenile prostitutes as victims instead of criminals.
For example, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said his office would refer such cases to the county's Runaway Intervention Project or to child protection. The goal, Choi and other prosecutors said, should be to protect and treat juvenile prostitutes -- not put them behind bars.
Often the testimony of exploited teens is key to successful prosecution of sex traffickers, and victimized teens who feel protected are more likely to cooperate.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that 100,000 children are exploited each year for prostitution in the United States -- at an average age of 12 to 14.
"In many ways, it's reached epidemic levels,'' in part because of the impact of the Internet and social media, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said at the news conference.
Human-rights advocates in Minnesota say sex trafficking is a statewide problem. In some cases, teen prostitutes are brought here from other states or countries, but Minnesota teens are often recruited and exploited here and taken to other states.
There are myriad reasons why teens fall into prostitution, although a common thread is dysfunction at home. When teens communicate their vulnerability or availability online, they are often quickly recruited by traffickers who build trust before putting them to work and beginning a cycle of abuse that often includes violence.
In addition to removing the conflict in state law, the "Safe Harbor" legislation would increase the fines on "johns" to create a funding stream for more support and treatment services for victims, and it would retain the tools prosecutors must have to convict sex traffickers and pimps.
Minnesota would follow the lead of New York, Illinois, Washington and Connecticut.
Prostitution is too often characterized as a victimless crime. When the prostitute is a teen, there should be no debate.
The proposed "Safe Harbor" legislation responds to a tragic fact of life in Minnesota: More and more teens are being sold for sex, and they need protection -- not prosecution.
Students fight sex trafficking
by Sarah Zakrajsek At this very moment there are at least 30 million humans being trafficked around in the world — more than during the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, according to the Not For Sale Campaign.
An average slave in the American South in 1850 cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today's money; today a sex slave costs an average of $90, according to the Free the Slaves project.
While most human sex slaves are sold in South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal, the impact of modern slavery is not felt only overseas.
According to a conservative estimate by the U.S. government, between 14,500 and 17,500 human slaves are trafficked into the United States per year; the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimates that at least 100,000 American minors are the victims of commercial sexual trafficking and prostitution each year.
This semester a group of Carnegie Mellon students has gathered evidence that suggests sex slaves are being exploited in Pittsburgh. The students have approached Pittsburgh City Council asking for a new city ordinance that could regulate one major form of human trafficking in Pittsburgh out of business. The Polaris Project defines those who seek out massage parlors selling sex as ‘Johns.' According to their website, “‘Johns' who frequent brothels disguised as massage parlors make it a ‘hobby' to buy sex and to track all massage parlors nationwide. There are more than 5,000 brothels disguised as massage parlors nationwide.”
“John's boards” are websites where people rate and explicitly describe commercial sex. Using these sites, Jessica Dickinson Goodman, a senior ethics, history, and public policy major, and Ismail Smith-Wade-El, a senior humanities and arts major, found at least 15 Asian massage parlor establishments (AMPs) in Allegheny County that appear to sell sex. One of these establishments, which is advertised on the Adult section of backpage.com, is directly across the street from the Giant Eagle on Murray Avenue where many Carnegie Mellon students buy their groceries.
Goodman, a former member of the Polaris Project, stressed that not all AMPs sell sex. “[We are targeting] massage parlors which are brothels that have trafficking and are pretending to be massage parlors.... I think this ordinance is good for legitimate masseuses because it means they will no longer have to compete with fake masseuses and no longer have people coming in expecting sex.” Goodman also explained that an establishment soliciting commercial sex does not necessarily practice human trafficking, but that it is at a high risk of trafficking, which is characterized by force, fraud, and coercion.
Goodman submitted a model ordinance to Councilman Doug Shields that would require Pittsburgh massage parlors to be licensed to operate. This model ordinance, drafted in part by the Polaris Project, would place operational requirements on the massage parlors such as restricted hours of operation, prohibition of indecent conduct, required registration of massage practitioners, and non-obstruction of windows with things such as paint, paper, or plywood.
Goodman and Smith-Wade-El have teamed up with representatives from Carnegie Mellon International Justice Mission (IJM), Amnesty International, Life Matters, and Heinz International Development Group, as well as Pittsburgh's Project to End Human Trafficking to advocate for those whom they believe to be trapped in sex slavery. They have organized a letter-writing campaign to the nine City Council members, with a goal of 500 letters urging the passage of a massage parlor regulatory ordinance. Councilman Shields is expected to introduce this model ordinance to City Council this Tuesday.
Smith-Wade-El has helped to gather evidence and has done footwork for the letter writing campaign. He first learned about modern slavery, or human trafficking, through involvement in his high school theater group and involvement with Free the Slaves. “We had the opportunity to meet with trafficked persons, and their stories really touched my life.... It made me think of all the things I'm lucky to have and all the things I take for granted — even if it's just as simple as being able to walk out my door in the morning when I want to.”
“Knowing is half the battle ... once people become more aware [of human trafficking] they will start to fight and stand up to eradicate this issue,” said Jaime Turek, assistant director of the Project to End Human Trafficking in Pittsburgh. Turek has been actively supporting the Carnegie Mellon student activists' initiative. “It is my hope that we can see this through together to the very end,” said Turek.
Amy Badiani, a senior international relations and politics major, is associated with both Amnesty International and the International Development Group. Badiani said that she is involved with the letter-writing campaign to “make a change locally in Pittsburgh that has a global impact.”
Emily Kennedy, a junior ethics, history, and public policy major, helped start a chapter of International Justice Mission at Carnegie Mellon. Kennedy said that her faith plays a big role in her involvement in the campaign. “I think that the God of the Bible does care about seeking justice for the oppressed.... He commands us not to sit around and be complacent but to act.” Both Kennedy and Badiani said that a serious injustice is committed against men and women who agree to come to the U.S. seeking opportunity, but instead find themselves trapped in networks of human trafficking.
“The goal is to eliminate this particular form of sex trafficking from Pittsburgh and Allegheny County by regulating it out of existence,” said Goodman. “Hopefully this will make it easier for Harrisburg to pass a comprehensive criminal approach to sex trafficking.... In addition to a fine and being shut down, people who are selling other people for sex who don't want to be sold — human traffickers — will be thrown in jail.”
Actress Demi Moore (R) at Maiti Nepal, an organization which aims to protect Nepali girls and women from domestic violence, trafficking for flesh trade, child prostitution, child labor and various forms of exploitation and torture.
"Punish the men who buy sex," say trafficked survivors
by Nita Bhalla
NEW DELHI (TrustLaw) - Asia and Pacific nations must enact and enforce laws to punish the buyers of prostituted sex who are promoting a trade which is forcing thousands of young girls into the industry every year, trafficked survivors say.
The region is the largest venue for human trafficking in the world, according to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), with most girls and women used for sexual exploitation.
While anti-trafficking laws exist in most countries, a group of women -- many of whom have spent years working under duress as prostitutes -- have met for the first time to collectively call on governments to not only enforce penalties on the profiteers of the trade, but also those demanding it.
"This is the first time survivors are coming together internationally," said Ruchira Gupta, president of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, an Indian charity working against human trafficking, which co-hosted a recent meeting with the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW).
"The fact that they have broken their silence in spite of the re-trauma and possible stigma shows that they desperately want the law to be amended on their behalf. They want those who rape them repeatedly to be punished not as revenge but as a deterrent to the perpetuation of the sex industry."
Around 70 women from countries across the region met in New Delhi last week to share their experiences and reject demands by some civil society groups to legalise prostitution, saying it served the demand side of sex trafficking.
Millions of adults and children are in forced and bonded labour and commercial sexual servitude globally, with activists estimating that 80 percent of these trans-national victims are women and girls.
Traffickers often abduct from or take advantage of impoverished communities, luring girls and women with promises of jobs as maids or nannies in wealthy households. But, activists say, the reality is very different.
Girls sent to foreign towns and cities often end up as involuntary sex workers, sometimes detained in a room by their employers and forced into unprotected sex with multiple partners.
But gender rights campaigners and women who have survived and escaped this cycle of sexual violence say it is the victims who are criminalised, while the customers, pimps and brothel owners go free.
"As long as there is a buyer, the prostitution system can never be dismantled," said Fatima Nat Dhuniya from the impoverished eastern Indian state of Bihar, who was forced into prostitution by her husband and his family.
"Nobody is our owner -- not the husband, not the father, not the pimp, not the buyer, not the sex industry."