HEADLINES: Trafficking

Published On: Donate

A new lawsuit was filed last Friday against Backpage.com by three young girls in Washington state, aged 13 to 15, who were trafficked on the website.  Backpage.com specializes in the selling and hiring of “escorts,” but they are not held accountable for the transactions done on their website by federal law, as written in the 1996 Federal Communications Decency Act.  Pimps are required to press a button verifying the girl’s ages, but as evidenced by this case, it is hardly effective.  Washington passed legislature that included stricter enforcement of the age check, but a federal judge ruled that it violated the federal laws in effect during the websites establishment, and therefore is void in this case.  Backpage.com is expected to win this lawsuit, but hopefully, with the passage of more state legislature like Washington’s, this will change in the future.  In order for this practice to truly be held accountable, however, we need to change the federal legislature that is effectively giving a free pass to websites that are complicit with the multiple rapes of children. [Newstribune]

Even though the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 has been invaluable towards to continued fight against human trafficking, the reauthorization of this act is in danger of failing to pass through the house by the end of the year.  In “2003, 2005, and 2008 congress unanimously passed the reauthorization,” but if “the bill isn’t reauthorized in September, we risk losing funding for 2013.”  This would be devastating to the fight against human trafficking both at home and abroad.  We need to work together to urge congress “to send a clear message, that no matter the outcome of the election, ending modern-day slavery is still a priority for the United States.”  [CNN]

The shocking killing of trafficking victim Carina Saunders this past fall in Oklahoma City has raised awareness of and advocacy on the issue of human trafficking.  It can be very easy to be lulled into a false sense of security, and denote trafficking as something that happens only in “other” countries, but trafficking is a very serious issue within the United States.  The Saunders case “’really woke everybody up,’ said mark Elam, director of Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans (OATH), a victims advocacy group. ‘Unfortunately, her murder has forced everyone to recognize how severe this can be.’”  Oklahoma has very high percentages of women incarcerated, domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, children in poverty, and youth homelessness, making it at high risk for trafficking of both children and adults, but until now there has not been an intense focus on the issue.  In the wake of the Saunders case, however, Oklahoma has passed legislation giving broader authority and urgency to anti-trafficking efforts by law enforcement.   Narcotics bureau director Darrel Weaver exclaimed, “We’ve got to look at this closely.  How did this happen?  What can we do to prevent the next case?  If we can save one young lady like that, it’s worth it.” [NewsOK]

Sex-trafficking of children has become a constant issue in Central Florida, where girls as young as 8 have been trafficked.  The average age of a child in prostitution in Florida is 10 to 11 year old, nearly 2 years younger than the national average, and, “they often end up in Central Florida because of the area’s conventions and special events, which make it a lucrative region.”  Many of these children are runaways, who as a group are at a very high risk of trafficking and exploitation.  Sue Aboul-Hosn, a missing-child and human-trafficking specialist with the Department of Children and Families described the deceit and manipulation that traffickers use, saying “they lure these girls in.  They will shower them with gifts.  They will dine them. They will build up a relationship.  Then, it’s payback time.”  The Orange County Children’s Advocacy Center works with the DCF to identify victims of sex trafficking and prevent re-victimization. [Orlando Sentinel]

Despite the fact that victims of trafficking are part of the slave trade, only seven states have legislature that allows for the expunction of criminal charges from the records of trafficking victims. For victims in the other 43 states, their past is allowed to follow them legally in addition to the psychological trauma.  In fact, even if “a victim somehow manages to escape the hands of their trafficker, the criminal record can follow them and negatively impact their lives.  Employment, housing, loans, banking, credit, insurance, passports, voting privileges, and more are all effected by the stigma of a criminal record.”  We need to make sure that victims are protected and offered support, not thrown into jail because of their past abuse. [WashingtonTimes]

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