Victims of human trafficking face terrible obstacles in breaking free.
They often feel a strong psychological dependence on traffickers who use them, they may end up charged with crimes themselves and it’s often difficult to prosecute traffickers.
The victims often don’t realize they are being exploited, said Lynsie Clott, director of programs at the Project to End Human Trafficking, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that works with the FBI’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force. Ms. Clott interviews young people who are possible victims of trafficking, and knows that they often see the trafficker as a companion or protective figure.
“The pimp may be a family member or a person’s intimate partner, whom she sees as a boyfriend,” she said. Victims often come from troubled homes — Ms. Clott recalled the case of a girl who called the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline. The girl said her first childhood memories were of participating in homemade child porn filmed by her parents.
“The streets sometimes were kinder to these kids than what they had at home,” Ms. Clott said.
The legal requirements for a trafficking conviction are high, so some victims who report the abuses they suffer find there is not enough evidence to bring a case against the offender.
Ms. Clott recalled the first time she interviewed a trafficking victim. He was a young man from Asia who a victim of both sexual and labor exploitation. He worked in a domestic servitude to his “boyfriend”-trafficker for several years. Eventually he ran away and called the trafficking hotline. He tried to bring his trafficker to justice but law enforcement authorities didn’t find enough evidence to charge the man. Without evidence such as published advertisements, letters, photos or videos, prosecutors sometimes can’t move forward on cases, she said.
In Pittsburgh, a federal-local task force in late July moved for the first time here to charge a client or “John” federally in an effort to strengthen efforts to crack down on trafficking.
Joseph Clemenic Jr., 44, of Wilmerding pleaded guilty to requesting sex with girls aged 15 and 16, allegedly ordering them through the website Backpage.com. He is scheduled to be sentenced in November.
The police and FBI managed to find Clemenic after they arrested Mario Grisom of Homestead in Mississippi on July 7. Grisom, 34, is charged with supplying at least two minors to clients. Now the FBI is working with Grisom’s victims.
Darrin Turpin, FBI supervisory special agent and a leader of the of investigative team, said the new arrests on trafficking charges are possible because of this work.
To read the full story by Oksana Grytsenko, of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Click Here