HEADLINES: Trafficking

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This past Friday, the U.S Justice Department announced that $700,000 of grant money would go to the Ohio attorney general’s office and the Salvation Army in an effort to strengthen their anti-trafficking work.  “This is something that has remained hidden for so long”, said Michelle Hannan, director of professional and community services for the Salvation Army in central Ohio, “and people have just had to endure the most unspeakable situations.”  The money will be used in several different programs, including for emergency housing, medical services, and outreach.  More than 1,000 children in Ohio are trafficked every year, and this grant will provide services and personnel that are critical in the fight against these heinous practices. [SanFranChronicle]

Dallas, a city known for a high prevalence of prostitution, has stepped up its efforts to identify and stop underage girls trafficked into prostitution through a new program.  In Dallas, “officers have adopted what they call a ‘victim-centered approach,’ making a list of every known juvenile prostitute and probing their pasts and ways to keep them out of trouble.”  The new police unit focuses on girls when they are young, collecting information that could then be usable in future trafficking cases.  Identifying trafficking cases, especially in this online age, can be a huge struggle.  One policewoman in the unit said she recently “scrolled through an online classified site with sex ads.  The ads pop up four at a time – dozens of women, some of them posing naked, with a phone number and a price listed.  Deciding which were underage proved a guessing game.”  The Dallas police force hopes that its new methods will be make inroads into fighting against this heinous practice. [Statesman]

Last week marked the national call-in day to the U.S Senate to advocate for the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  Several different organizations from all over the country organized the day, and thousands of activists from 48 states called their senators to urge them to take action. The TVPRA is the “single most important anti-trafficking law in the U.S.  It authorizes rescues, support for slavery survivors and prosecution of traffickers.”  Though it generally has received bipartisan support, it has been gridlocked in the senate this year, and funding is set to expire soon. [FreetheSlaves]

One of the greatest tragedies of sex trafficking and greatest failings of our legislation is that often times victim’s who were trafficked into the sex industry are legally treated as criminals.  Children who have been forced into the sex trade through coercion and violence will often times be arrested repeatedly.  Thus, when they eventually escape and resettle into society, their criminal records still follow them everywhere they go, serving as a cruel reminder of their past.  One former trafficking victim said, “that hopelessness, the fear . . . it’s still always there.  And then having these convictions, it’s just a constant reminder.”  New York became the first state to allow victims of sex trafficking to expunge their records two years ago, but most other states have yet to follow.  The option has been little used as of now, but more and more victims are stepping up to take control of their lives and their pasts.  One of the most common ways this law has been effective is when immigration is involved.  Women and men who are trafficked into the US should be eligible for a T-Visa, but the requirements for this visa are very strict and non-inclusive, so several women in NY have had to invoke this law in order to clear their records and avoid deportation.   Trafficking victims should not have to suffer because of their pasts, but for many women, the memory of their trafficking history continues to tangibly haunt them. [Nydailynews]

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