Red Flags and Reporting

They’re all around us begging to be rescued. Living a trauma, day-in and day-out, that there is no escape from. They are concealed silently in big cities, in rural communities, and possibly down the street from where you are currently reading this post. It’s important to remain aware, and to recognize the signs that could help you save humans. Keep in mind that most survivors in the U.S. are rescued because of a citizen noticing abnormal activity or simply expressing concern to the authorities.

Here are some key things to consider if you find yourself in a situation of concern:

Common Work and Living Conditions/The Individual(s) in Question:

  • -Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • -Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • -Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • -Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • -Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • -Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • -Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • -Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • -High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior

  • -Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous / paranoid behavior
  • -Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up “law enforcement”
  • -Avoids eye contact

Poor Physical Health

  • -Lacks health care
  • -Appears malnourished
  • -Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control

  • -Has few or no personal possessions
  • -Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • -Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • -Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)

Other

  • -Claims of “just visiting” and inability to clarify where he/she is staying / address
  • -Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • -Loss of sense of time
  • -Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
If you are a victim of human trafficking and need immediate help or if you suspect a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline now:

1-888-373-7888

Toll-free | 24-hours, 7 days a week | Confidential

Call Specialists will help to connect victims to local services and resources.  By taking action and calling, you may be the only one that can provide crucial information about a trafficking case.  Most victims do not self-identify as victims or are not aware that help is available.


Professional Basketball Player Tied to Trafficking Ring in February 2010

“Former San Antonio Spurs guard Alvin Robertson was arrested in Arkansas by law enforcement authorities Friday, February 26, 2010, in connection with a human trafficking case, according to San Antonio Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ino Badillo.   Robertson is one of six people involved in a human trafficking case that led to the charges. Police said Robertson joins the others that are already in custody.”

“Robertson faces charges of sexual performance by a child, trafficking of persons under 18 for prostitution and sexual assault of a child.  The latest charges are the result of an investigation launched three months ago. It began with a report of a missing 14-year-old girl from San Antonio. Investigators said she was kidnapped, held against her will for two weeks and forced to work as a dancer and prostitute throughout Bexar County and Corpus Christi.

“I think they took the girl to his home,” Ortiz said. “That’s how he got involved.”  “This is one of the most horrible crimes I can think of, when you take a 14-year-old child (and) hold her against her will,” Ortiz said.  Ortiz said the investigation will continue to determine if there are other victims.  The girl who was kidnapped is home, attending school and receiving counseling.”

(This information was excerpted from ksat.com’s Eileen Gonzales, a KSAT 12 News Reporter. http://www.ksat.com/news/22682025/detail.html#story)

Dear Alan,

This issue should no longer be so deeply intertwined within the fabric of our society. When I suggest that you, as a member of the U.S. Government, should keep your promises I’m not necessarily referring to the money that’s been allotted to take care of this. When I say “keep your promise” I’m talking about the promise that the U.S. Government has made to be a free nation. To be absent of any and all forms of slavery. Slavery was abolished in 1862, so why is it still such a big issue? The reality is that we will probably never be able to stop every perpetrator in every country world. But here, in the U.S., we have the resources, education, and awareness to be able to keep it out of our borders. The first step in this process is to pass crucial legislation that will help fund investigations that will free and protect victims, much like the one that currently rests in your hands. You are SO LUCKY, Representative Mollohan, that you have the power to help victims like Siri and Chantha here in the U.S., and help punish traffickers like the Paolettis.  Please pass the funding to help eradicate all traces of slavery in the U.S.



Join the Abolitionists

The man featured in a few of the videos below is Kevin Bales. A college professor of human rights, Bales was shocked when he originally discovered that modern day slavery is a dark, but very serious reality. He has dedicated his life to abolishing slavery around the world and has authored many books on the subject.  He did years of research on the subject and traveled around the world to learn and gather information about modern day slavery and its implications. Bales has also founded freetheslaves.net which helps spread awareness and raise funds to free and rehabilitate people all over the world.

Organizations like Free the Slaves are so crucial to the resolve of this issue because they help advocate for legislation and spreading an awareness that can change the world.  If you’ve never really given a thought to modern slavery before, I highly recommend his book The Slave Next Door, which discusses slavery that occurs in the United States. It will open your eyes to the injustice around you, and the case studies alone will shock you out of your pants.

The Polaris Project is another organization that I follow closely.  They focus on strengthening state and federal laws to help protect victims and combat trafficking.  The Polaris Project is one of the largest anti-trafficking organizations in the United States and Japan, with programs operating at international, national and local levels throughout their offices in Washington, DC; Newark, NJ; and Tokyo, Japan.  They are one of the few organizations working on all forms of trafficking and serving both citizen and foreign national victims of human trafficking.

Something that I really appreciate about the Polaris Project, as well as organizations like International Justice Missions, is that they recognize how important strong legislation is to this issue, and they help track what bills and laws are on the table and are currently under discussion.

If you are moved by anything that I’ve posted so far, and feel like Alan B. Mollohan should know what’s on your mind then PLEASE click on this link below to send him an e-mail that will ask him to appropriate the specific funding that this blog is advocating for. Join me in letting him know that as fellow human beings it isn’t possible for us to sit by knowing that 8-year-old girls are being raped daily. That people in our restaurants are forced to perform hard labor without pay or freedom. That people are kidnapped and brought here to live a life of trauma and torture.

CLICK BELOW to send Rep. Alan B. Mollohan and the other members of the DOJ committee an e-mail stating that you support the appropriation of the funding to help stop human trafficking in the U.S.:

http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5417/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2524


The DOJ and What They Say

I spent some time perusing the labyrinth that is the Department of Justice’s website, specifically under human trafficking and this is what I discovered:

“Human trafficking is a violation of the human body, mind and spirit. For this vile practice to be taking place in a country that the world looks to as a beacon of freedom… is a terrible irony and an utter tragedy.”  -Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at the 2006 National Conference on Human Trafficking

“As unimaginable as it seems, slavery and bondage still persist in the early 21st century. Millions of people around the world still suffer in silence in slave-like situations of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation from which they cannot free themselves. Trafficking in persons is one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time.” – U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2003

“Each year an estimated 800,000 to 900,000 human beings are bought, sold, or forced across the world’s borders [2003 U.S. State Department estimate]. Among them are hundreds of thousands of teenage girls, and others as young as 5, who fall victim to the sex trade. There’s a special evil in the abuse and exploitation of the most innocent and vulnerable. The victims of [the] sex trade see little of life before they see the very worst of life, an underground of brutality and lonely fear. Those who create these victims and profit from their suffering must be severely punished. Those who patronize this industry debase themselves and deepen the misery of others.”

– Former President Bush, addressing the U.N. General Assembly, September 23, 2003

This was taken directly from the U.S. department of Justice’s website. If this is how the DOJ feels then let’s keep some promises, Representative Mollohan! The funds have already been approved and they just need to be passed from your committee to be officially appropriated… Think about how many lives you could save…


It happens here

If you find the time to watch at least one video throughout the course of this blog, let it be this.

A key point is made in this video at 1 minute and 10 seconds in about WHY slaves can’t just “run.” They’ve been told over and over again that the police will arrest, attack, and even torture them. They don’t know where they are, they’re usually in shock, locked in, and don’t speak English.  The best example or case study of this type of control that a trafficker has asserted that I can recall is a case in New York in 1997:

Each time would begin the same way… A woman (Adriani Paoletti) from the wealthy Paoletti family in New York would come to Mexico to recruit workers.  She would dress in very expensive clothing, and would bring glamorous pictures of her new life in America, and of her lavish home. She would say things like “Why do you live here? Why do you live in such gross poverty? I came to America, got a simple job, and now I live like this.” She would insult their housing, the conditions in which they lived their lives, and would encourage them to stay with her in America and send money back to their families.

The inhabitants of every house that she visited in Mexico had two things in common: 1. They were deaf and 2. They spoke no English.  These people would turn over their life savings to the Paolettis to allow them passage to New York to come work for the family. Upon arrival, they were shoved in large numbers into abnormally small living spaces and were forced on a daily basis to sell cheap trinkets in different areas around the city. They were ordered to sell these trinkets for $1 each (high above the product’s actual value) and if they returned without having sold each item they were beaten profusely.

Can you imagine life in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, but even if you could find someone who spoke yours, you STILL couldn’t communicate because you ONLY spoke foreign sign language? These people were forced to live in horrible conditions while be beaten constantly and unable to make an escape.

Finally, a few of the slaves spent weeks working with a translator at the police station trying to write a letter that they could give to authorities to explain their plight. They were beaten for not returning with the money from selling trinkets, but it was a small trade for the hope of freedom. When it was eventually received by authorities, they performed a raid at 5:00 a.m. and discovered 62 mexicans shoved into two tiny apartments in Queens.

This is an excerpt from the July 1997 article from CNN:

“City police charged Adelja Paoletti, 67; with coercion and harassment, Adriani Paoletti, 29; coercion and grand larceny, and Raul Alanis, 24, with coercion and assault.  Police Saturday found 62 Mexicans, many of them mute and 10 of them children, crammed into two Queens apartments divided into cubicles, Giuliani said Saturday. The children ranged in age from 4 months to 7 years. The situation surfaced after four deaf-mute Mexicans walked into a Queens police precinct and — communicating through sign language and written notes — told a story of abuse and apparent slave-like work conditions.”


Siri’s story belongs to millions

Although this specific case involves a young girl in Thailand, where parents readily sell their children or often give them away to traffickers, this story is reflective of the day-to-day process that slaves in the sex trade endure. Whether the source country is Thailand, Eastern Europe, Bangladesh, Mexico, etc., so many of these girls are trafficked into the United States as a destination country (according to the U.S. State Department they are brought in from 35 different countries every year), and what they experience in these foreign countries, they also experience here. Being malnourished, beaten, and held against your will to be used as a sex slave is an equally traumatizing experience regardless of its final location.

“Thailand has always had slavery but never before on this scale and never before as the new slavery,” says Dr. Kevin Bales. Dr. Bales describes one young sex slave, Siri, whom he met and interviewed at a brothel in Ubon Ratchitani, northeastern Thailand:

“When Siri wakes, it is about noon. In the instant of waking, she knows exactly who and what she has become. The soreness in her genitals reminds her of the fifteen men she had sex with the night before. Siri is fifteen years old. Sold by her parents a year ago to a woman broker from a Northern village, the broker assured her parents they would be well paid for their daughter. After some negotiation, they received 50,000 baht [$1,318] for Siri. This exchange began the process of debt bondage that is used to enslave the girl. The daughter’s labor must pay back the loaned money before she is free to leave the brothel. However, her debt has escalated in a short time to 200,000 baht for her rent, food, drinks, medicine, and fines if she did not work hard enough.”

“The pimp uses culture and religion to reinforce his control over Siri. He tells her she must have committed terrible sins in a past life to have been born a female; she must have accumulated a karmic debt to deserve the enslavement and abuse to which she must reconcile herself. Gradually Siri begins to see herself from the point of view of the slaveholder–as someone unworthy and deserving of punishment.  Siri’s resistance and desire to escape the brothel are breaking down, and acceptance and resignation are taking their place. After she was sold and taken to the brothel, she discovered that the work was not what she thought it would be. Siri had a sheltered childhood and was ignorant of what it meant to work in a brothel. Her first client hurt her and at the earliest opportunity, she ran away. On the street with no money, she was quickly caught, dragged back, beaten, and raped. That night she was forced to take on a chain of clients until the early morning. The beatings and work continued night after night until her will was broken. Now she is sure that she is a bad person. Girls in Thailand, like Siri, are sold into sex slavery by the thousands. Money, culture, and society blend in new and powerful ways to enslave girls like Siri.”

This is one of the many case studies from Disposable People-New Slavery in the Global Economy by Dr. Bales.  There are so many signs that concerned citizens can watch out for and report when cases like this are happening around them.  We need to recognize the warning signs, know what to do with our discoveries and suspicious feelings, and contribute to helping survivors who have been rescued.

Alan Mollohan,

We can do this by passing legislation that will allow us to form investigative squads that can hunt and prosecute traffickers and rescue victims.  The DOJ (U.S. Department of Justice) needs to hone in on its responsibility to protect humans, and assert…I don’t know.. JUSTICE?!?

This is a video about a girl, Chantha, from Cambodia with another heartwrenching story. I know it’s long, but it gives great insight into how easily these girls are taken in many southeast asian countries. Chantha did run away from home, but most girls are sold or given away by their parents who cannot afford them.


What You Probably Don’t Know…

91: The number of cities in the United States with reported cases of trafficking.

50: Percent of all victims are children.

244,000 – 325,000: Number of American children and youth who are at risk for sexual exploitation and sex trafficking every year (according to the University of Pennsylvania.)

It was about four years ago when my eyes were opened to the dangerous underbelly of our nation’s loose borders. The police had uncovered a sex trafficking ring right off  the San Diego freeway, two hours away from where I live out my daily life and seemingly slave-free existence. The tall grass along the side of the freeway was bent over and tied down to make small four-foot-high stalls in which the girls, trafficked in from other countries, were forced to lay down all day in the grass and were raped repeatedly by customers.  Some were as young as 11.

A similar raid was done the same year in Washington D.C. and police discovered thirteen sex trafficking rings within one mile of the white house.

The disgust that wells up within me at the thought of American men giving these rings business is directly proportional to my passion for finding and destroying these webs of despair and rescuing these poor humans beings from experiencing hell day-in and day-out.

To the right is a map of reported cases of human trafficking in the U.S., courtesy of slaverymap.com. This campaign site began when the death of Seetha Vemireddy, a 17 year-old bonded slave at a restaurant in Berkeley, CA, came to the attention of professor David Batstone.

The idea of learning how to recognize forced labor or sex trafficking and report it is what slaverymap.com tries to promote by letting its users track, report, and learn about incidents of trafficking in the U.S.  Slavery Map has reported 1,098 incidents since June 1, 2008.

I seriously support the mentality of sites like this one because it basically says “There are thousands of slaves in the U.S., we know you’re out there suffering, and we are going to come find you.”  I think the landscape of human slavery in the U.S. would change dramatically if Americans were looking for slaves and knew exactly how to look for them.

Now when I drive to San Diego…I wonder if a 11 year old is being raped over the hill. A thought that should never cross a human mind.

Alan Mollohan,

This legislation is so important because these victims are released and have no protection or understanding of what is happening to them. The authorized programs related to human trafficking in the FY 2011 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriation bill and ATEST budget requests authorized by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 would help victims get the help they need. Border control and investigative squads to break up these rings would prevent this from happening, and would also be funded with the money from this bill.

It’s a reasonable problem to solve, and I doubt we could bestow our efforts on a more deserving or worthy subject, as a country. Come on, Alan! Let’s do work!