Kentucky Derby Season Draws Warnings Of Human Trafficking

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s attorney general is urging people to pay attention to more than horses and parties during the springtime celebrations leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

Warning of the unsavory side of Derby season, authorities are asking for the public’s help in cracking down on sex traffickers trying to cash in on the crowds expected for the world’s most famous horse race.

“This is our Derby, which is supposed to be a celebration,” Attorney General Andy Beshear said Thursday. “And we should not allow criminals to mar it, especially through a crime that so victimizes our children and other vulnerable individuals. So be our eyes and ears.”

More than 160,000 fans are expected to pack into Churchill Downs for the May 6 race, capping two weeks of festivities across Louisville that kick off Saturday night with a huge fireworks show.

Last Derby season, Beshear’s office worked with local law enforcement in trying to root out trafficking operations. He said that effort led to multiple arrests and the rescue of a 14-year-old girl.

Authorities can point to other successes in their efforts.

A Kalamazoo, Michigan, man ensnared in a prostitution sting operation during a prior Derby season was sentenced recently to nearly 20 years in prison. David Q. Givhan was convicted of one count of sex trafficking and three counts of interstate transportation for prostitution.

To read the full story from the Associated Press: Click Here

Victims, Advocates Help Pull Human Trafficking Out Of The Darkness

When she was 12, Brianna Williams was a driven, young entrepreneur who wrote a 30-page business plan for her future party-planning endeavor. But by the time she was 15, she was being trafficked by a man more than twice her age and had forgotten all the dreams she once had of owning her own business.

“I know people have this stigma that human-trafficking victims come from a bad background, but I came from a pretty good background,” Williams said. She never imagined she would be sold for sex or that human trafficking was even something that existed in the United States.

“I knew nothing about it until it was too late,” she said.

Human trafficking has been a problem for decades in the United States, with California leading the nation in reported incidents. But only recently has the issue come to the forefront.

“I think it is like any of the crimes against people, like domestic and child abuse, it takes a little bit of time for people to recognize it,” said Carol Shipley, executive director of the Stanislaus Family Justice Center.

Experts say changes in state and federal law and people like Williams coming forward to tell their stories have spotlighted the issue, resulting in more government funding and the creation of nonprofit organizations to combat the problem.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 was the first comprehensive federal law to address the trafficking of people, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. It was five more years before California enacted its first human-trafficking law, which since has been expanded and beefed up with tougher penalties under voter-approved Proposition 35.

In 2011, Debbie Johnson, who founded the anti-trafficking nonprofit group Without Permission, held the first training in Stanislaus County on identifying the victims and the perpetrators of human trafficking. It was attended by more than 50 officials from local and federal law enforcement agencies.

“Thirty days from that training, we opened the first human-trafficking case in Stanislaus County,” Johnson said.

She said the issue gained momentum from there as she continued to train law enforcement in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. She said law enforcement would identify or rescue a human-trafficking victim within a week of the trainings during the first four years they were held.

To read the full story by Erin Tracey on the Modesto Bee: Click Here

3 Nonprofit Leaders Speak On Their Top Priorities To Eradicate Human Trafficking

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January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a time when national leaders, nonprofits and public advocates continue to speak up and speak out against the injustice of human trafficking nationally and internationally. Human trafficking comes in many forms – commercial sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, labor trafficking and more – all experienced across the globe, with experts estimating that at least 21 million are victimized worldwide, with some estimates as high as 45 million.

Although the fight to end trafficking continues with much work to do, nonprofits and advocacy organizations have been growing, reaching more people in education, prevention and direct service work. A widespread shift in cultural understanding of trafficking has helped the movement continue to grow into a national outcry of advocacy for new laws, better prosecution of perpetrators, ending demand and caring for survivors.

Progress Made in 2016

According to national leaders from organizations like Polaris, Shared Hope International and Love146, 2016 was a year of growth in the movement, leading to momentum the organizations hope will continue bringing justice to survivors everywhere in 2017 and beyond.

Linda Smith, former congresswoman and founder and president of Shared Hope International states the top achievement for the organization in 2016 was the number of states that improved their laws relating to child sex trafficking. The organization launched The Protected Innocence Challenge in 2011 where states were graded A-F on their laws related to domestic minor sex trafficking. According to Smith, when the challenge started over six years ago, 26 states received F grades. In 2016, no states received F’s, signaling a nationwide improvement in how states are addressing the issue.

According to Bradley Myles, the CEO of Polaris, 2016 was the most successful year for the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which the organization operates. In 2016 alone, more than 53,000 calls were reported, which helped uncover over 7,500 cases of human trafficking, identifying more than 8,500 victims. Additionally, Myles reported that more than 4,600 calls came directly from survivors – an all-time high for the organization – which signals more survivors are calling directly and are successfully receiving the appropriate resources on both a local and national level.

Rob Morris, the president and cofounder of Love146, reports 2016 was a year where collaboration among organizations in the anti-trafficking movement was widely experienced. “We see it in the collaborative efforts between government, nongovernmental organizations, law enforcement, service providers and the everyday citizen,” Morris states, referencing the most recent Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. Morris shares the organization has recently partnered with hotel chains, educating staff on trafficking and how they can make strides towards prevention. “It goes back to the idea of encouraging people to do what they love — companies have expertise and connections and audiences that can help support us and the movement. We enjoy being creative about what that collaboration can look like,” Morris shares.


To read the full article by Tori Utley on Forbes: Click Here

Ahead Of The Super Bowl, A Push To Take On Human Trafficking Year-Round

Photo: Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle

Human trafficking for years had been thought to increase significantly more around the Super Bowl than any other event of the year.

Many experts now say that assertion is not necessarily true. But, ahead of Super Bowl 51 next month in Houston, advocates are using the occasion to tell the public that the crime happens here year-round.

“We view this as an opportunity to tell our city… that this crime happens,” said Misa Nguyen, director of programs for United Against Human Trafficking, a Houston-based organization.

This thinking, at least in part, has been influenced by a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University, which analyzed “new-to-town” online escort ads. The study found that, while the crime may increase around major sporting events like the Super Bowl, it did not happen as dramatically as had been professed.

To read the full story by Emily Foxhall at The Houston Chronicle: Click Here

Student Hackers To Help Manhattan DA Fight Human Trafficking; They’ll Focus On Workers With Little To No Wages

It’s the coding answer to community service.

Students from Cornell and Columbia universities will be hacking for a good cause over the weekend through a program with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Human Trafficking Response Unit.

Specialized prosecutors and staff assigned to the unit will guide technology students in a hackathon as they experiment with ways to bring human trafficking to light, with the goal of identifying criminal activity in the dark corners of the web. Hackathons bring programmers together to work on all kinds of projects.

In recent memory, prosecutors have brought cases against pimps with the aid of massive troves of electronic evidence.

They are often able to connect the dots between a pimp and victims — or to a larger network of trafficked people.

District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. spoke to students at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Friday morning, putting their challenge in a courtroom context.

In recent years, Vance’s office and other law enforcement agencies have begun treating prostitutes as victims as they are often essentially brainwashed and dependent on psychologically and physically abusive pimps.

“We understand now how difficult it is for trafficking victims to separate from the person who is trafficking them,” Vance said.

To read the full story by Shayna Jacobs at The NY Daily News: Click Here

Fashion Show To Raise Awareness Of Human Trafficking

MANSFIELD — A narrative fashion show called “Unchained” will take center stage at Berean Baptist Church on Friday, Nov. 4.

“This isn’t your typical fashion show,” said Susi Maiyer of Shared Hope International. “It’s not about beauty or makeup. This is about telling a story of a travesty that’s happening in the United States.”

The Unchained Fashion Show was created to raise awareness of human trafficking using symbolic garments designed by Project Runway designer Korto Momolu, music and narration.

Each outfit (30 total) represents a different stage in the life of a human trafficking survivor.

Stephanie Myers Catani, Unchained co-founder and Mansfield Christian School graduate, hopes to help inform Mansfielders about a growing epidemic that isn’t limited to one region or culture.

“Growing up in Mansfield, I had no idea that something like this was happening in my country, let alone my state,” Catani said. “I always knew it was happening ‘over there,’ meaning internationally. But when I learned about the issue in my own state and city, I was shocked.”

According to Catani, there are 1,072 potential youth recruited in Ohio every year.

“Unchained looks at why someone is vulnerable, specifically targeted, then forced, blackmailed, or manipulated into being sold for sex, sometimes up to 20 times a night to different johns,” she said. “These are our daughters, sisters, our neighbors.”

To read the full story by Emily Dech on the Richland Source: Click Here

How Prosecutors Get Creative to Bring Traffickers to Justice

Prior to the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000, the U.S. used old slavery and involuntary servitude laws to target traffickers. There was a major problem with these laws, however—they required proving bodily harm. Today, we know that not all traffickers rely on physical violence to control their victims. Oftentimes, traffickers use coercion and fraud to compel their victims to engage in commercial sex or forced labor. While these methods don’t leave any bruises, they can be just as manipulative and exploitative.

Luckily, many changes have occurred over the last two decades that make it easier to prosecute traffickers and hold them accountable for their crimes.

A document recently released by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), Ten Years of Sex Trafficking Cases in the United States, offers a list of examples of cases from the last 10 years that show how many tools prosecutors have at their disposal to incriminate traffickers. The TVPA outlines all of the federal laws on human trafficking that can be used to prosecute traffickers, but prosecutors may seek additional charges for related crimes.

To read the full story by Rory O’Brien of Polaris: Click Here

State Leaders Unveil Poster Aimed At Raising Awareness About Human Trafficking

State leaders Thursday unveiled a new poster created as part of a statewide campaign that organizers hope will raise public awareness about human trafficking, generate tips to break up networks and get resources to victims.

“This is a crisis hiding in plain sight,” Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said during a news conference at the Capitol also attended by state lawmakers, law enforcement and other partner agencies and nonprofits.

“This is servitude. This is modern-day slavery, and we can’t tolerate it,” Schimel added.

Creation of the poster, promoting a national human trafficking resource center hotline number, was required by the passage last year of Wisconsin Act 5, legislation aimed at strengthening the state’s response to the buying and selling of men, women and children for sex or labor.

To read the full story by Karen Rivedal at the Wisconsin State Journal: Click Here

Human Trafficking Survivor Who Smashed Triathlon World Record

(CNN) What does it sound like inside Norma Bastidas’ head?

Norma Bastidas

The 49-year-old mother-of-two is a celebrated ultra-marathoner, known to have trekked 150 miles across the scorched deserts of Namibia or run double-marathons over an icy tundra in Antarctica.

On these extreme endurance competitions, often the only sound accompanying the silent lyrics of her thoughts is the percussive beat of rubber soles on dirt trails or ancient ice.

“I try to be as kind to myself as possible,” says Bastidas, of what she thinks about on these unyielding journeys. “Because the world hasn’t always been that kind.”

Any running enthusiast can rattle off the sport’s many benefits — cardiovascular health, stress relief, weight control.
But for Bastidas, running is mainly a release, the opportunity to clear her mind of past judgments and negative emotions.

“It will drain me if I evoke those feelings all the time,” says Bastidas. “Being able to master the emotions comes from the knowledge of Taoism.”

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu developed Taoism, which encourages followers to flow with the natural ups and downs of life, roughly around the 5th century BCE.

A fitting philosophy, given that Bastidas has experienced higher altitudes and lower depths than just about anyone can imagine.

To read the full story, and to watch the video report on CNN: Click Here

Group Gathers For Prayer And Witness In Louisville

Concerned citizens in Louisville gather to pray and raise awareness of human trafficking.
Concerned citizens in Louisville gather to pray and raise awareness of human trafficking.

by Joetta Venneman, PBVM

The PATH (People Against Trafficking Humans) Coalition of Kentucky hosted a prayer service for victims of human trafficking on May 3, 2016 in downtown Louisville.  In anticipation of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7, those gathered prayed for those who are forced to live in slavery. They felt it was important to continue raising awareness of the crime of human trafficking through their presence and the signs they carried.

Among those gathered were students from Presentation Academy. The students spent time after the prayer filling in some of the sidewalk cracks with red sand. This is a reminder of the many women, men, girls and boys who fall through the cracks in our communities and spend their lives being exploited for the profit of others. (#RedSandProject)

Derby goers: keep an eye out for human trafficking

For additional information, read the related story from ABC 36: Click Here