New Pinellas Signs Aim to Stop Human Trafficking

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Beginning Tuesday adult businesses in Pinellas County are required to post signs, in prominent locations, that warn about human trafficking.

The signs are also required at nail salons, in addition to other businesses. The idea is to inform potential victims that they have a way to escape the cycle of forced prostitution or work without payment.

The signs are available on the Pinellas County website. A business must first be registered with an address. The posters are free and are printed in English and Spanish. Learn more about the program.

The posters feature a phone number to a National Human Trafficking Resource Center, which is (888) 373-7888.

Florida is third in the nation when it comes to the number of human trafficking cases based on the number of calls the resource center’s hotline receives.

To read the full story by Peter Bernard of News Channel 8: Click Here

Six Years of Illinois Laws to Hold Sex Traffickers Accountable and Create Resources for Survivors

End Demand Illinois is a campaign to shift law enforcement’s attention to sex traffickers and people who buy sex, while proposing a network of support for survivors of the sex trade. Rose Mary Meyer, BVM, the director of Project IRENE, was a part of the legislative team for these actions.

Illinois Safe Children Act  2010

This law is the first in the United States to make minors immune from prosecution for prostitution.  This law gives police and prosecutors new tools to go after pimps, traffickers and people who buy sex; therefore, the law is quoted in handbooks of procedure for law enforcement personnel.

Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act  2011

This law offers survivors of sex trafficking the opportunity to have prostitution convictions removed from their records.  Illinois was the third state in the nation to pass a law like this.

Reforming the Illinois Human Trafficking Code  2012

This law expands the scope of the state involuntary servitude law by including additional means by which a trafficker can obtain or maintain a victim.  The bill removes confusing language from the statute and lessens the emphasis placed on force, which will help prosecutors more effectively use the statute.  The bill also extends the time limit for prosecutors to bring charges against traffickers in cases involving minors.

Eliminating Felony Prostitution in Illinois  2013

Upgrading prostitution to a felony is no longer allowed in Illinois.

Creating Funding Streams for Specialized Services  2014

New funding streams for specialized services for survivors of prostitution and trafficking are created by this law.   Note:  No funds from the state are requested in this law because of the fiscal situation in Illinois.

Affirmative Defense for Survivors of Human Trafficking  2015

This law creates an affirmative defense for people charged with prostitution.  This allows them to prove that they engaged in prostitution as a result of human trafficking.  In camera defense is also provided in this bill; Illinois is the first state in the nation to provide this safety procedure.

I would like to give credit to countless hours of pro bono work by lawyers engaging in support of those taking advantage of these new laws as well as educating law enforcement regarding these new laws.

—Rose Mary Meyer, BVM

Human Trafficking Expose in Canada

hotelThe Toronto Star recently investigated human trafficking in the country.  The reporters  found that young Canadian girls are beaten and branded, bought and sold in hotels and motels as well as on the streets of Metro Toronto.  The numbers are constantly increasing say police because a single girl can bring as much as $280,000 per year.   “Over the past month, the Star has interviewed six victims who were lured into The Game and trafficked throughout the GTA, moved every few days between four-star downtown hotels to cheap motels and strip clubs along Highway 401 and the QEW.” 

For details from The Toronto Star: Click Here

EFFORTS SURROUNDING THE SUPER BOWL: Volunteers Visit Hotels in Bay Area

In addition to their work in San Joaquin County, Judy Lu and Lyn have worked on a hotel project in collaboration with members of nine other Religious Congregations who together form STOP SLAVERY COALITION: Northern California Catholic Sisters against Human Trafficking. Lyn was coordinator of the Coalition for two years until this past October. For the past two years the focus has been on Super Bowl 50, scheduled for Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on February 7, 2016. This is because of the anticipated rise in human trafficking connected with that event.

Sister John Paul Chao, SMSM, addresses volunteers as they prepare to visit hotels in their area.

The Coalition developed a plan for visiting hotels throughout the Bay Area in order to educate hotel personnel on the reality of human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, especially involving children, and labor exploitation. The goal is to encourage hotel managers to have personnel trained to recognize and report any suspected trafficking activity around the dates of the Super Bowl. To accomplish this goal, coalition members invited parish groups, colleges, high schools, and civic groups to participate in workshops to learn about human trafficking and to be trained to canvass hotels. One of the tools that volunteers encouraged hotel management to use to train their employees is an online course to increase awareness of human trafficking at hotels. There has been a wonderful response to the invitation and so far 25 workshops have been offered and 95 volunteers have canvassed over 300 hotels in Oakland, San Leandro, Hayward, Union City, Fremont, Castro Valley, San Francisco, Burlingame, Menlo Park, Redwood City, Los Gatos, Campbell, and Saratoga. Among the volunteers were San Rafael Dominican Sisters Cyndie Cammack and Christina Atienza.

#2 Quail Lakes Baptist
Members of Quail Lakes Baptist Church in Stockton prepare to leave for hotel visits in San Francisco.


In the past several months, Lyn and Judy Lu have given trainings to groups from St. Dominic’s Parish in San Francisco, to students from both Dominican University in San Rafael, and Drake High School in San Anselmo, to members of Quail Lakes Baptist Church in Stockton, as well as to volunteers from a Gather at Grand presentation given on Human Trafficking in September at the Dominican Sisters Center in San Rafael. These workshops resulted in 44 of the volunteers who visited hotels in San Francisco!

As part of their own on-going formation, Judy, Lyn, several other members of the Coalition, and others met in San Francisco in September with Carol Smolenski, executive director of ECPAT-USA. They were able to incorporate the information shared at this meeting into their trainings for volunteers.

#3 with ECPAT's Carol Smolensky
Coalition members Sister Fran Tobin, RSCJ (pink), and Marie Gaillac, CSJO (tan), and Sr. Judy Lu McDonnell, OP (blue), Carol Smolenski (blue), and  Lyn Kirkconnell (peach).

Once the Coalition had its plan of action firmed up, members contacted other groups in San Francisco and the South Bay for further collaboration in the effort to combat human trafficking at Super Bowl 50 time. These other coalitions are canvassing even more hotels in the area as well as restaurants and transportation hubs. We sincerely hope that these efforts will result in preventing human trafficking and providing assistance to victims.

Bay Area Nuns Fight Human Trafficking Before Super Bowl, All Year Long


A group of nuns from across the Bay Area uses its platform to campaign against human trafficking. In recent months, they have increased their education and advocacy efforts ahead of the Super Bowl.

San Francisco is one of the country’s major hubs for human trafficking, according to a recent government report, with 291 surviving victims in just the second half of 2014.

The link between human trafficking and the Super Bowl remains unclear. The Attorney General called it the single largest day for trafficking in 2013, but since then, it has been suggested that the hyping the cause on just one day a year does more harm than good because it is a year-round problem.

The nuns, who call themselves the Northern California Coalition of Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, come from nine different Bay Area congregations. They focus their awareness campaign in hotels, which are a common site used by traffickers to exploit their victims, according to the Polaris Project. Hotels are perceived as anonymous, private, temporary places with a low risk of legal oversight.

To read the full story from Krithika Varagur of The Huffington Post: Click Here

Columbus Joins Airports Boosting Human Trafficking Awareness

The Columbus airport is joining its counterparts nationwide in training employees to recognize signs of human trafficking in an effort to curb exploitation.

Beginning this month, all 400 employees at Port Columbus International Airport will view a 30-minute video on spotting signs of trafficking. Workers include police officers, maintenance workers and people staffing information booths.

The awareness campaign in Columbus joins those at 13 airports across the country including JFK and LaGuardia in New York, Chicago-O’Hare and Los Angeles International Airport where the Department of Homeland Security has posted messages on video monitors and airport shopping bags. Other industries, including hotels and trucking, also are increasing efforts to detect trafficking.

In Ohio, airport workers will see a film that defines human trafficking, gives examples of cases in the state and lists tips for recognizing trafficking. Signs of trafficked individuals include people who:

—Have few or no personal possessions and aren’t in control of their own money, financial records or bank account.

—Aren’t in control of their identification documents and aren’t allowed to speak for themselves.

—Can’t move freely in an airport or on a plane or are being controlled, closely watched or followed.

Other clues include people who can’t give details of their location or flight information, and have lost track of time.

To read the full story by Andrew Welsh-Huggins of the Associated Press: Click Here

International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is the modern-day term for slavery. Women, children and men are bought and sold, beaten, abused and sometimes killed as they are traded like commodities on the invisible trafficking markets across the world.

On 8th February, Caritas invites you to participate in the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking which is promoted by the Union of Superiors General. The day marks the feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese woman who was sold into slavery, abused but later freed.

Caritas in Nepal gives women small loans so they have income-generation options at home and don't have to leave their families. Photo by Sheahen/Caritas

Caritas in Nepal gives women small loans so they have income-generation options at home and don’t have to leave their families. Photo by Sheahen/Caritas

The prayer day is an invitation to us all to explore the world of trafficking and the suffering it inflicts on millions of people. It is an opportunity to learn about what trafficking means and to also explore the material, mental and spiritual impact it has on individuals and societies.

Caritas coordinates the work of COATNET (Christian Organisations Against Trafficking in Human Beings) which is a network of 42 Christian groups around the world who fight human trafficking. It believes that the first step towards beating trafficking is to raise global awareness on how it dehumanises people and to take this knowledge to the level of action.

To read the full story from Caritas: Click Here

Sex Trafficking and the Super Bowl 

With just days to go before Sunday’s big game, there is also a much bigger issue at play… children are currently being forced to sell sex, including during major sport events like this one. Sex trafficking is as American as football… and homeless kids, alone and desperate, are the primary targets for this insidious industry.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has already made children’s safety a priority, as her state prepares to host the February 7th game.   Please sign the petition sponsored by Covenant House to urge all the U.S. Attorneys General to protect children from the commercial sex trade. To sign: Click Here

Does Egypt’s Law Protect ‘Short-Term Brides’ Or Formalize Trafficking?

Egypt has an unusual law known as the “seasonal marriage” law, and the government says it’s aimed at helping the many poor families who resort to selling their daughters into temporary or long-term marriages with wealthy, older foreign men to support themselves.

Egypt’s Justice Ministry says it will begin strictly enforcing that law, which requires foreign men — usually from Gulf countries — to pay to marry women 25 years or more their junior. And it’s increasing the amount the men must pay. All this, it says, is to protect Egyptian women.

Human rights groups say the law formalizes sex trafficking and bolsters a business that preys on the poor and the vulnerable.

People like Hind.

Hind is 27 years old. She is ashamed. And because of that, she asks me to use only her first name when she recounts her story.

Two years ago, a marriage broker came to the one-room apartment that she, her four sisters, her invalid father and her ailing mother shared.

Hind worked different jobs, mostly in retail, to support them all on less than $100 a month.

Hind says the broker spoke to her father. After he left, her father explained that there was a 59-year-old Saudi man who wanted to marry a young Egyptian woman. He’d pay about $2,000 to marry Hind for two months while he was visiting Egypt.

Her father said, “Hind, you see the life that we’re living and what this money will do for us,” she recalls. “I said, ‘OK, I will do it.’ ”

Her mother pleaded with her not to. Hind’s mother said she’d rather beg than sell her daughter. But Hind thought the money could go to medicine for her sick mom and to help her sisters.

She quickly realized she’d made a mistake.

“I was disgusted by him. I was with a man older than my father,” she says. “But it didn’t matter. I’d already sold myself, sacrificed myself to rescue my family.”

She cries often during our conversation. A few weeks after the marriage, her mother died — of sadness, Hind believes. When the agreed-on two months were over, she moved back in with her family. Now they’re in a slightly bigger apartment in a new neighborhood, where people won’t know her story.

“I was an innocent girl who believed in love and marriage,” Hind says. “Now I hate the word ‘marriage.’ ”

Read the full story from Leila Fadel at NPR: Click Here