Human Trafficking Part 1, By Amber Brooke


Human TraffickingWhen you think of human trafficking, many people think of 3rd world countries on the other side of the earth.  However, the heartbreaking truth is this abomination is taking place in our very neighborhoods.  The people that we come into contact with on a daily basis could be either past survivors, current victims, or sadly potentially future victims of human trafficking.  It is an incredibly prosperous business for the traffickers, and they are unbelievably proficient at trapping someone unwillingly into the prison of human slavery. One reason this business has been so profitable is due to legislation which has penalized the trafficking victims more than the traffickers.  With the availability of unsuspecting victims and outdated legislation which inadequately punishes the predators, human trafficking as a business is very appealing to the criminal establishment.  To abolish human trafficking, there needs to be a combination of educational awareness and prevention for potential victims and their parents and tougher legislation with no Statute of Limitations against the perpetrators of human trafficking.  The purpose of this paper is to argue that human trafficking and sex slavery is not just a 3rd world problem but also very much a local problem and to establish the need for tougher legislation against the captors.

According to www.merriam-webster.com, the definition of Human Trafficking is: “organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited (as by being forced into prostitution or involuntary labor)”.  Worldwide, the estimation for the number of victims of human trafficking is 20,000,000 – 30,000,000 slaves in the world today (dosomething.org).  According to dosomething.org, the average cost of the purchase of a slave is $90 and 80% of trafficking involves sexual exploitation and 19% is related to labor exploitation.  In the United States, the State Department recorded 600,000 – 800,000 victims that are trafficked across international borders each year.  Of these victims, 80% are females and 40% are children (dosomething.org).  According to Governor Rick Snyder, Michigan is ranked number 2, behind Nevada only, in reported cases of human sex trafficking (Fox News Detroit). “In a 2013 sweep called Operation Cross Country, the FBI arrested 150 pimps and recovered 105 children in cities nationwide. 18 pimps in Detroit were arrested, the most in any city. 10 children were found, second only to San Francisco where 12 children were found. The state department estimates that 2,400 children are being sold at any given time just in Michigan (Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking)” (Julien).

While these statics are alarming and extremely disturbing, the problem with just using statistics is it is too easy to not put a face to the numbers.  To make the horrendousness of human trafficking more personal, I want to introduce you to someone that has an incredible story fighting human trafficking. Theresa Flores was raised in Birmingham, MI and became a victim her sophomore year of high school.  At 15 years old, she did not think that going over to a boy’s home whom she had a crush on would turn her world upside down. Theresa was drugged, raped, and tortured all while being recorded. They later blackmailed her and told her that if she didn’t listen and do what they say, they were going to kill her family.  For two long years, she was used, raped, beaten, and repeatedly sold for profit.   Her unbelievable story is a perfect example of how these predators force adolescents into slavery.  Theresa Flores is a survivor of the sex slavery industry and she wrote of her experience in The Slave Across the Street.  Due to her experience, Theresa is also a major force behind the passage of Senate Bill 584, which is also called the Theresa Flores Bill. The purpose of the bill is to “eliminate the statute of limitations for any human trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation of children offenses.” (www.senatorjudyemmons.com).

One of the most vital components in fighting and hopefully ending sex trafficking is legislation.  There are many organizations petitioning legislators to toughen the laws.  One such organization is Shared Hope International.  Shared Hope International was established in 1998 by U.S. Congresswoman Linda Smith.  Congresswoman Smith had witnessed first-hand the brutality and horror of the sex trafficking trade of woman and children when she visited a brothel in Mumbai, India.  Shortly thereafter she established Shared Hope International.  The vision of Shared Hope International is as follows: “Our vision is to coordinate a national U.S. network of protection to improve the response to victims of trafficking.  We believe we can create a world where every survivor is surrounded by trained professionals, an alert community, just law and policy, knowledgeable service providers and appropriate shelter options.” (Sharedhope.org)

One critically important aspect of Shared Hope International is their focus on legislation and policy addressing the Human Trafficking problem.  To assist in understanding the current state policies they developed the Protected Innocence Challenge Report Card.  Each state is graded on 6 different criteria and then issued a grade based on the culmination of the 6 criteria.  There are 102.5 possible points available.   The criteria used is a follows:

  1. The criminalization of domestic minor sex trafficking – 10 points possible:
  2. ““The state human trafficking law addresses sex trafficking and clearly defines a human trafficking victim as any minor under the age of 18 used in a commercial sex act without regard the use of force, fraud, or coercion, aligning to the federal trafficking law.”
  3. “Commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is identified as a separate and distinct offense from general sexual offenses, which may also be used to prosecute those who commit commercial sex offenses against minors.”
  4. “Prostitution statutes refer to the sex trafficking statute to identify\[‘the commercially sexually exploited minor as a trafficking victim.”
  5. “The state racketeering or gang crimes statute includes sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) offenses as predicate acts allowing the statute to be used to prosecute trafficking crimes.”
  6. Criminal Provisions addressing demand – 25 points possible.
  7. “The state sex trafficking law can be applied to buyers of commercial sex acts with a victim of domestic minor sex trafficking.”
  8. “Buyers of commercial sex acts with a minor can be prosecuted under commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) laws.”
  9. “Solicitation of prostitution laws differentiate between buying sex acts with an adult and buying sex acts with a minor under 18.”
  10. “Penalties for buyers of commercial sex acts with minors are as high as federal penalties.”
  11. “Using the Internet or electronic communications to lure, entice, or purchase, or attempt to lure, entice, or purchase commercial sex acts with a minor is a separate crime or results in an enhanced penalty for buyers.”
  12. “No age mistake defense is permitted for a buyer of commercial sex acts with any minor under 18.”
  13. “Base penalties for buying sex acts with a minor under 18 are sufficiently high and not reduced for older minors.”
  14. “Financial penalties for buyers of commercial sex acts with minors are sufficiently high to make it difficult for buyers to hide the crime.”
  15. “Buying and possessing child pornography carry penalties as high as similar federal offenses.’
  16. “Convicted buyers of commercial sex acts with minors and child pornography are required to register as sex offenders.”
  17. Criminal Provisions for Traffickers – 15 points possible
  18. “Penalties for trafficking a child for sexual exploitation are as high as federal penalties.”
  19. “Creating and distributing child pornography carries penalties as high as similar federal offenses.”
  20. “Using the Internet or electronic communications to lure, entice, recruit, or sell commercial sex acts with a minor is a separate crime or results in an enhanced penalty for traffickers.”
  21. “Financial penalties for traffickers, including asset forfeiture, are sufficiently high.”
  22. “Convicted traffickers are required to register as sex offenders.”
  23. “Laws relating to termination of parental rights for certain offenses include sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) offenses in order to remove the children of traffickers from their control and potential exploitation.”
  24. Criminal Provisions for Facilitators – 10 points possible.
  25. “The acts of assisting, enabling, or financially benefitting from child sex trafficking are included as criminal offenses in the state sex trafficking statute.”
  26. “Financial penalties, including asset forfeiture laws, are in place for those who benefit financially from or aid and assist in committing domestic minor sex trafficking.”
  27. “Promoting and selling child sex tourism is illegal.”
  28. “Promoting and selling child pornography is illegal.”
  29. Protective provisions for the child victims – 27.5 points possible.
  30. “Statutorily-mandated victim services define “victim” to specifically include victims of domestic minor sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) to ensure prompt identification and access to victims’ rights and services.”
  31. “The state sex trafficking statute expressly prohibits a defendant from raising consent of the minor to the commercial sex acts as a defense.”
  32. “Prostitution laws apply only to adults, preventing criminalization of minors under 18 for prostitution offenses.”
  33. “State law provides a non-punitive avenue to specialized services through one or more points of entry.”
  34. “Commercial sexual exploitation or sex trafficking is identified as a type of abuse and neglect within child protection statutes.”
  35. “The definition of “caregiver” or another related term in the child welfare statutes is not a barrier to a sex trafficked child accessing the protection of child welfare.”
  36. “Crime victims’ compensation is specifically available to a child victim of sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) without regard to ineligibility factors.”
  37. “Victim-friendly procedures and protections are provided in the trial process for minors under 18.”
  38. “Expungement or sealing of juvenile delinquency records resulting from arrests or adjudications for prostitution-related offenses committed as a result of, or in the course of, the commercial sexual exploitation of a minor is available within a reasonable time after turning 18.”
  39. “Victim restitution and civil remedies for victims of domestic minor sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) are authorized by law.”
  40. “Statutes of limitations for civil and criminal actions for child sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) offenses are eliminated or lengthened sufficiently to allow prosecutors and victims a realistic opportunity to pursue criminal action and legal remedies”.
  41. Tools for Investigation and prosecution – 15 points possible.
  42. “Training on human trafficking and domestic minor sex trafficking for law enforcement is statutorily mandated or authorized.”
  43. “Single party consent to audio taping is permitted in law enforcement investigations.”
  44. “Wiretapping is an available tool to investigate domestic minor sex trafficking.”
  45. “Using a law enforcement decoy posing as a minor to investigate buying or selling of commercial sex acts is not a defense to soliciting, purchasing, or selling sex with a minor.”
  46. “Using the Internet or electronic communications to investigate buyers and traffickers is a permissible investigative technique.”
  47. “Law enforcement and child welfare agencies are mandated to promptly report missing and recovered children.”” (Sharedhopeinternational.org)

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