Posted: Monday, November 30, 2015 12:00 am
STUARTS DRAFT-The numbers don’t look good. From Oct. 2013 to 2015, a total of 290 victims of human trafficking were identified in Virginia, according to the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force. Out of those, 115 victims were rescued from their respective situations. The issue is mainly in Northern Virginia, which has become one of the Top 10 areas for teenage sex trafficking in the nation, with the average age of victims between 12 to 14 years of age.
It isn’t as big a problem in the Shenandoah Valley, as Waynesboro police and the other agencies surrounding have yet to deal with a case involving sex trafficking this year. That’s why one Stuarts Draft man hopes to build a sanctuary in the area for victims, to help them recover from the situations they’ve had to endure.
“I just felt it was something the Lord wanted me to do, to go out and get a home started in this area,” Jimmy Thompson said. “There are very few places in the nation where minors can get help. There are more places for those 18 and up, because there are a lot less regulations.”
It’s a project the 55-year-old got involved with after hearing representatives from the group True Mission speak at a local church. True Mission is an operation based out of Bryan, Texas that provides a long-term home for victims of sexual trafficking, to give them a place to recover and rebuild their lives. After listening to the presentation and doing some research, Thompson felt called to get involved. He and his wife Cindy reached out to the organization, taking over as directors of the planned Virginia expansion of the operation. The group wanted to establish a home to help victims here, since so many come out of Virginia.
“Northern Virginia is a really bad hotspot,” Thompson said. “Last year, Virginia was fifth in the nation in sex trafficking of minor girls. Some people want to help, but it’s hard to talk about it. It’s not a good subject for some people to talk about.”
The problem in Virginia comes as part of the gang culture. Several gangs, such as MS-13 and the Crips, have already been busted for using underage prostitutes in Virginia. This is a money-making business. The International Labor Organization estimates that human trafficking brings in $150 billion worldwide. Would-be pimps and gang members recruit girls from social media sites like Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook, also setting up private pages that serve almost as virtual brothels. It’s also a problem having an effect right now. In October, an FBI sting operation saw five people in Virginia arrested, along with 148 others across the nation. In that sting, 149 teenagers were rescued, with the youngest victim 12 years old. Programs like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign are designed to help crack down on human trafficking, but they focus mainly on arresting those running the girls. The Richmond Justice Initiative has lobbied for multiple bills to crack down on the problem, with the Virginia General Assembly adopting 16 of them since 2011. The Prevention Project is also in place in Virginia, working to educate teenagers about the promises these would-be pimps make and how to avoid them.
The problem is, when the gang members are caught, they go to jail, but the victims can find it hard to adjust.
That’s where Thompson and his wife want to step in. Their plan is to raise money and purchase property somewhere in the Valley. Then they would offer victims a place to stay, with no more than 10 total at the property at one time, using a setup similar to local missions like the Waynesboro Area Refugee Ministry. The girls would stay as long as needed, until they’re ready to go out on their own.
“We would bring them in one at a time, unless it’s an extreme case where you have family, like sisters, involved,” Thompson said. “We would have house parents living there in the home full time and help them get back to being teenagers. Places like Liberty University offer some high school courses online. We can work to help them get their high school diploma.”
The Thompsons are hoping to acquire a site between 12 to 15 acres, enough to build a house and also set up some pasture for horses, to give the girls some animals to work with and care for. As of now, they have about $18,000. Both Jimmy and Cindy are volunteering their time, so all of the funds go towards saving up to buy land. They’ve been working on fundraising for about a year now, with the latest donation coming in the form of a $3,500 check from Steve McDonough at McDonough Toyota.
“The biggest need right now is land,” Jimmy Thompson said. “We’ve had people offer to volunteer their time to help build a house, but first we have to find land to put it on. In Augusta County right now, you’re not gonna buy much land for $18,000. So right now, we’re just talking to people and praying someone’s got land out there to give.”
For more information about True Mission’s Virginia operation, you can email Jimmy firstname.lastname@example.org, call (540)-460-4099 or visit the group’s website atTruemission.org/Virginia
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Young Woman Rests After Escaping a Human Trafficking Boat – by Kari Johnstone
Today, Secretary of State John Kerry released the 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. As required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), the TIP Report assesses government efforts around the world to combat modern slavery. This year’s Report, the 15th installment, includes narratives for 188 countries and territories, including the United States. This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the TVPA.
1. Human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons or modern slavery, exists in the 21st century, even in the United States.
Although the legal institution of slavery was outlawed in the United States nearly a century and a half ago, it is estimated that more than 20 million adults and children around the world, including in the United States, are victims of modern slavery. “Modern slavery,” “human trafficking,” and “trafficking in persons” are used interchangeably as umbrella terms for this crime, which involves the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Where a person younger than 18 years old is induced to perform a commercial sex act, it is a crime regardless of whether there is any force, fraud, or coercion.
2. Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking.
At the heart of the phenomenon of human trafficking — whether forced labor or sex trafficking — are the many forms of enslavement: domestic servitude, debt bondage, forced child labor, child sex trafficking, and the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers. Human trafficking affects women, men, and transgender individuals, adults as well as children, and citizens and non-citizens from all socioeconomic groups. Women have been identified as victims of labor trafficking in many industries, including the agricultural and hospitality sectors, as well as domestic workplaces. At the same time, boys and men also have been among those identified as victims of sex trafficking.
3. Victims may be willing participants at first, but can later become trafficking victims.
Whether a person originally consents to a certain type of employment, to migrate for a better job, or to work off a debt is irrelevant once that person’s free will has been compromised. Often, traffickers use the initial consent of victims against them to stigmatize them for their choice and compel them to continue working. A person who faces force, fraud, or coercion in such cases is a victim of human trafficking.
4. Migrant smuggling and human trafficking are distinct crimes.
The terms “human trafficking” and “migrant smuggling” are often conflated or referred to interchangeably, but these two crimes are distinct. A person being smuggled must be moved across an international border and is not considered a victim, absent another crime. In smuggling cases, an individual consents to being moved and the transaction between the migrant and the smuggler typically ends once the migrant has paid the smuggler and crossed the border. In contrast, a person who falls prey to human trafficking is a victim of a crime under international law, a crime that contains an element of force, fraud, or coercion. And, notably, no movement is required. Individuals may be considered trafficking victims regardless of whether they were born into a state of servitude, were transported to the exploitative situation, previously consented to work for a trafficker, or participated in a crime as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.
5. Natural disasters place vulnerable people at heightened risk of human trafficking.
Natural disasters, such as this year’s earthquakes in Nepal or Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, displace large numbers of people and leave them vulnerable to trafficking. Quick and strategic actions must be taken by governments to ensure that citizens are not exploited in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. For example, the Philippine government’s previous investments in addressing human trafficking enabled it to react swiftly after Haiyan by working with international and local NGOs to provide security and screening checkpoints at evacuation centers, in tent cities, and at major transportation hubs. These preventative measures helped to protect vulnerable populations as they migrated en masse to other parts of the country and resettled in temporary shelters or private residences.
6. There can be intersections between environmental degradation and human trafficking, as well as between forced labor and sex trafficking.
Industries that face particularly high environmental risks, such as agriculture, fishing, logging, and mining, are also industries in which forced labor has been documented. Exploitation of both people and natural resources appears even more likely when the yield is obtained or produced in illegal, unregulated, or environmentally harmful ways and in areas where monitoring and legal enforcement are weak. Moreover, the link between some industries, such as mining, and sex trafficking is increasingly an issue of concern among governments and advocates. Bolivian and Peruvian girls are subjected to sex trafficking in mining areas in Peru, and women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking near gold mines in Suriname and Guyana. NGOs have reported continued commercial sexual exploitation of children related to mining sectors in Madagascar. In some areas, for example in Colombia, this exploitation involves organized crime in which criminal groups control sex trafficking in certain mining areas.
7. The International Labour Organization estimates that the illegal profits made from forced labor in the private global economy amount to $150.2 billion per year.
Of the $150 billion, two thirds of the profits, amounting to an estimated $99 billion per year, are generated by commercial sexual exploitation exacted by fraud or force. More than one third of the profits – $51.2 billion – are generated by forced labor exploitation. It should also be noted that, of the estimated 21 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, 68 percent are victims of forced labor and 22 percent are victims of forced sexual exploitation. The remaining 10 percent are in state-imposed forms of forced labor.
– See more at: http://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/07/27/seven-things-you-should-know-about-human-trafficking#sthash.gws7NVSm.dpuf
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Hilton Hotels bans all on-demand in-room porn videos
Travelers with a penchant for porn videos will have to look elsewhere than their Hilton Hotel room television. The hotel chain recently announced that it is removing all on-demand porn videos from every one of its worldwide properties. The news of the move, which arrived by email today from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE
) said that the organization was grateful to Hilton for this decision and to no longer profit from hardcore porn. Of course this is also a positive move for families who want to protect children from hitting the wrong button on the TV. “We want to publicly thank Hilton for its decision to create a safe and positive environment for all of its customers,” said Dawn Hawkins, executive director of NCOSE. “Hilton has taken a stand against sexual exploitation. Pornography not only contributes to the demand for sex trafficking, which is a serious concern in hotels, but it also contributes to child exploitation, sexual violence, and lifelong porn addictions. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation applauds Hilton Hotels for recognizing these harms, and is glad to announce that Hilton Hotels will be removed from the Dirty Dozen List.”
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Recently, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report regarding the care of unaccompanied migrant children by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The GAO report entitled Unaccompanied Alien Children: Actions Needed to Ensure Children Receive Required Care in DHS Custody, found that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have not consistently screened unaccompanied Mexican children in their custody for trafficking. Mexican unaccompanied migrant children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation as they are often recruited to be drugmules or are fleeing gang recruitment or intimidation. As such, the screening at the U.S./Mexico border is extremely important. The lack of consistent trafficking screening of Mexican unaccompanied migrant children raises concern about the prevalence of trafficking in this population and signals a need for reform.
(Photo Credit: John Moore/Getty Images)
As reported last year on HTS, unaccompanied migrant children face one of two processes when they arrive in the custody of the US government. Which process an unaccompanied migrant child receives depends on the child’s country of origin. Unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico or Canada who are apprehended at the border are turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement to be either reunited with family members in the United States or placed in foster care while waiting to appear at an immigration hearing and consult with an advocate. These protections increase the likelihood that authorities would discover a child’s viable claim to asylum, as a trafficking victim, or other form of immigration relief.
In contrast, unaccompanied migrant children from countries contiguous to the United States, Mexico or Canada, are only entitled to minimal protections. Per the requirements of theTrafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), immediately after being apprehended, a child from Mexico or Canada is given a simple screening by a Border Patrol agent to determine whether they are at risk of severe form of human trafficking or have a fear of return, and that they are capable of making decisions. The child may be sent back to their home country on the same day he or she was apprehended and must be returned within 48 hours if no evidence of trafficking or fear of return or incapacity has been found. This short and immediate screening conducted by CBP is not enough and endangers unaccompanied Mexican migrant children who are vulnerable to human trafficking.
The GAO report highlights that CBP officers are not child protection and human trafficking experts but law enforcement officers. Border Patrol officers do not have the expertise to fully and appropriately screen children for human trafficking and need assistance in doing so. Inconsistent screening results in misidentification of child trafficking victims as was recently experienced by a group of girls from Mexico who were caught and repatriated by U.S. immigration forces multiple times before they were later discovered by U.S. police as victims of a sex trafficking ring. CBP had repeatedly failed to identify these girls as victims being transported by their traffickers. In short, they were ill-equipped to prevent and respond to child trafficking.
In a positive first step, the new GAO report recommends improved human trafficking screening for Mexican unaccompanied migrant children. The report instructs DHS to revise the form that is used to screen Mexican unaccompanied children, to implement better training for officers, and to make the officers better document their findings. With intergovernmental investigative efforts like the GAO Report calling for reform, there is hope that CBP will reform its trafficking screening practices and will work to better ensure the prevention of future incidents of child trafficking at the U.S./Mexico border and will better identify and protect Mexican migrant child trafficking victims.
Ashley Feasley is a Migration Policy Advisor at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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