News

When Emily Was Sold for Sex

Emily, a 15-year-old ninth-grader, ran away from home in early November, and her parents are sitting at their dining table, frightened and inconsolable.

The parents, Maria and Benjamin, both school-bus drivers, have been searching for their daughter all along and pushing the police to investigate. They gingerly confess their fears that Emily, a Latina, is being controlled by a pimp.

Read the full story at this link (NY Times)

NYPD Arrests Nearly 200 for Trafficking Crimes Before Super Bowl

(CNN) — Nearly 200 arrests for sex trafficking and related crimes have been made in New York in operations leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl, law enforcement officials say.

New York Police Department vice units trained in dealing with sex trafficking and prostitution have converged on certain parts of the city in the last two weeks, conducting both street busts and high-end, undercover call girl stings to try and curtail some of the sex trafficking business in anticipation of the Super Bowl.

The 200 arrests are in line with the number of arrests made in previous sweeps in New York, according to police Det. James Duffy.

For years, federal and local authorities have been concerned about increased prostitution around major sporting events such as the Super Bowl.

The NYPD and the Federal Bureau of Investigation say they’re dedicating more resources to the issue and have been working cases to target traffickers who victimize young women and men in the sex trade.

Most of the operation has focused on johns and sex traffickers. The police department has stressed that in most cases, they treat sex workers as victims.

Source: CNN

The Arts Effect Reveals Truth about Youth Domestic Trafficking

The Arts Effect All-Girl Theater Company was founded in 2007 by Katie Cappiello & Meg McInerney as a nurturing, empowering space for girls ages 8-18 to come together  and artistically explore their world.  Through a unique combination of intensive acting training, creative writing, debate and discussion, mentorship, and public service, members of The Arts Effect All-Girl Theater Company become change agents – utilizing the power of the theater arts to share their voices, challenge communities, and inspire their peers. The Arts Effect is dedicated to the development of original plays (including the critically-acclaimed KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN, FACEBOOK ME, and SLUT), community events, and  in-school workshops throughout the United Sates and across the globe.  The Arts Effect has reached thousands of young people worldwide in its mission to raise awareness and spark open and honest communication about the challenges girls face – from the over-sexualization of girls in culture to sex trafficking; from the intense presence of social media in girls’ lives to reproductive rights/girls’ health.  Katie Cappiello and Meg McInerney recently developed Project Impact, a leadership-through-storytelling theater arts program for youth sex trafficking survivors, and Generation FREE (devised in collaboration with The Somaly Mam Foundation, Equality Now, and NOW-NYC), an anti-trafficking activism and community-building workshop for NYC teens. The Arts Effect’s latest play A Day in the Life provided inspiration for the Not So Super campaign and is currently being performed throughout the tri-state area.  Katie and Meg were recently honored by The National Women’s Hall of Fame and Congress for their dedication and innovation, and are proud contributors to Not So Super.

Written by Katie Cappiello and featuring the activists of The Arts Effect, A Day in the Life, reveals the truth about youth domestic trafficking and the impact of “pimp and ho” culture on lives of girls. Journey into lives of four teens whose paths have been forever changed by commercial sexual exploitation: Nadia attends her school’s annual Pimps and Hoes party, Eve’s father is arrested for solicitation, Kaitlyn’s cousin has been on the streets for 4 years with no support from family, and Desiree prepares to celebrate her Sweet 16 after finally escaping the life. These powerful stories, inspired by real events, will give audiences an authentic look at the complex, often misunderstood reality of domestic sex trafficking and the ways it touches us all.

The talented 14-17 year old actors/activists of The Arts Effect All-Girl Theater Company are proud to be featured in the Not So Super campaign.  Thank you to Brittany Adebumola, Vikki Eugenis, Clare Frucht, Odley Jean, Darci Siegel, Danielle Stefania, and Alice Stewart.

www.TheArtsEffectNYC.com

@TheArtsEffect

Cuomo signs law to help more sex-trafficking victims

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law January 10, 2014 that will afford 16- and 17-year-old victims of sex-trafficking the same protection as those currently given to younger victims.

The law is designed to prevent the re-victimization of children by providing them with services instead of jail time.

Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island, said she was “ecstatic” over the new law.

“It’s a landmark legislation that will help young women who are confronting sexual exploitation. They will be treated as victims as they should be and get the help they need to go on with their lives,” Paulin said. “It is unacceptable that they should be arrested for prostitution and tried in criminal court.”

Read more on LoHud.com

[From WMC] Abolishing Prostitution: A Feminist Human Rights Treaty

From a 2002 series of posters in a campaign coordinated by the Swedish government. Photo: The Swedish Government

Recently, catching up on email after a few days of hiking in the wilderness, my heart leapt at a headline “French minister seeks abolition of prostitution in France and Europe.”  She is Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France’s minister of women’s rights. The new French campaign to abolish prostitution will have its naysayers:  “Impossible!”  “too idealistic,” “so utopian it will never happen!”  And, of course, those who promote the sex industries will insist that “sex is work and women’s choice.”  I heard those refrains in 1991 when, as executive director and co-founder of the UN Human Rights NGO, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, I began to launch a global campaign to criminalize prostitution customers, otherwise known as johns or punters.

Read the full story: http://bit.ly/ToMxvA

Victim’s Father Joins Advocates to Decry the Dismissal of Crown Heights Sex Trafficking Case

New York, NY – On June 26th the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and other trafficking victims’ advocacy organizations will hold a press conference to express their dismay at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office’s dismissal of sex trafficking charges against four defendants charged with sex trafficking a young woman in Crown Heights for almost ten years, from the time she was 13-years-old. During the press conference, experts will discuss a misunderstood feature of this case resulting in dismissal of the charges: the victim’s psychological bond with her abusers. Like most girls and young women under pimp control, and like many victims of domestic violence, the victim expressed feelings of love for her tormentors, at times wished to protect them from punishment, blamed herself for her victimization, and repeatedly returned to them. This psychological condition, sometimes called “Stockholm Syndrome” and designated “traumatic bonding” by mental health professionals, is widespread among victims of severe and prolonged sexual and physical violence.

Advocates will also discuss the media’s misplaced emphasis on the role of race and religion in this case. In New York City, most sex trafficking victims are girls and young women from minority groups who grew up in conditions of poverty. Their poverty and minority status render them vulnerable and are exploited in the sexual stereotypes projected onto them by traffickers, who evoke them in marketing their victims to johns. This case is no different.

Update:City Council passes Taxi Sex-Trafficking Law

Excerpt by Michael Howard Saul via Metropolis at The Wall Street Journal

The bill, which the City Council passed unanimously this month, imposes a $10,000 fine and automatic license revocation for any TLC-licensed driver or owner who is convicted of a felony related to sex trafficking, provided the perpetrator used a TLC-licensed vehicle to commit the crime.

The mayor’s decision not to sign the bill on Wednesday elicited fierce criticism. Council Speaker Christine Quinn said the decision reflected  the mayor’s “fundamental misunderstanding” of the legislation. If he failed to sign it, she said, it would be an “unconscionable misstep.”

On Friday, he signed the bill live on his radio show.

“I am very happy that this is finally happening today,” said Julissa Ferreras, a Queens Democrat and the bill’s chief sponsor, who briefly joined Bloomberg on the radio show.

“Well, the more I read it and the more I talked about it, the better I think your idea is,” Bloomberg replied.

City Plans to Target Cabdrivers Who Join in Sex Trafficking

By VIVIAN YEE via New York Times

June 12, 2012– They arrange prostitutes’ schedules and ferry them to hotels for appointments, drum up clients for pimps and pocket half the proceeds.

Cabdrivers who transport prostitutes between clients are coming under scrutiny as the sex trafficking industry has grown. After a series of hearings over the past six months in which victims have spoken of the drivers’ role, the City Council plans to pass legislation on Wednesday that would raise fines on drivers who knowingly shuttle trafficking victims, and would direct the Taxi and Limousine Commission to educate drivers about the issue.

In the months since Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, a Democrat of Queens, introduced the legislation in December, advocates for sex trafficking victims have raised concerns that cabdrivers might discriminate against some customers in an effort to avoid picking up fares who appear to be engaged in sex work. “It was almost discriminating against some women from getting picked up by livery-cab drivers because of this fear that this woman could be involved in trafficking,” said Jimmy Lee, the executive director of Restore NYC, a victims’ advocacy group.

That concern prompted the bill’s sponsors to add language emphasizing that drivers would not be penalized for responding to regular passenger hails. Drivers “may not refuse fares solely based on the appearance of an individual,” the revised bill reads, adding that “it is unlawful to refuse a fare based upon an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender.”

The bill, along with a second piece of legislation that aims to punish drivers who operate unregistered cars as livery cabs, is part of what Christine C. Quinn, the Council speaker, said was a broader effort to curb sex trafficking in New York City.

“It’s unimaginable that the cars have become such a linchpin in this operation, but they have,” Ms. Quinn said.

On Wednesday, the Council will also announce a partnership with Delta Air Lines and American Airlines aimed at tracking sex trafficking on airplanes and in airports.

About 4,000 minors are trafficked through New York City each year, largely through airports, Ms. Quinn said.

“It’s not a fact we’re proud of, which is why we as a municipal government are going to break any infrastructure that’s out there for sex trafficking,” she said.

Advocates for sex trafficking victims say that they have seen the number of reported trafficking cases rise over the past several years, and that drivers have increasingly figured in the victims’ stories. One sex trafficking victim who testified before a joint hearing of the City Council’s Transportation and Women’s Issues Committees in December estimated that she had worked with 70 drivers who had brought her to 5,000 clients, who often found the drivers’ numbers in newspaper advertisements or cards passed out on the street.

And in April, prosecutors broke up what they said was one of the first sex trafficking rings run largely by livery drivers, six of whom were indicted on charges of helping a father-son team traffic prostitutes between Pennsylvania and Manhattan. The drivers were accused of ferrying the women to upscale hotels and clubs to solicit clients, telling the women about clients’ sexual preferences, and taking a cut of the profits. The women, whom the operation’s leaders tattooed with their street names and a bar code, were allowed to keep a few dollars each night to buy food and other necessities, according to prosecutors.

The proposed legislation was praised by Laurel W. Eisner, executive director of Sanctuary for Families, an organization that works with sex trafficking victims. Ms. Eisner said some drivers were “effectively operating brothels on wheels,” and said many victims “have been brutalized by drivers who play an active and vicious role in this forced prostitution.”

Under the terms of the City Council legislation, a driver would face a $10,000 fine and the loss of his or her license if convicted of a felony related to sex trafficking.

The city’s taxi commission is taking on what David S. Yassky, the taxi commissioner, has said could be a costly responsibility: educating drivers about the penalties for trafficking and training them to spot trafficking victims. The training would be required for drivers applying for or renewing a taxi or livery license.

In an effort to address critics, including Councilman Daniel J. Halloran, Republican of Queens, who had attacked the training program as a financial burden, the bill’s sponsors said the revised measure would allow the commission to cut costs by producing a video for first-time licensees and pamphlets for drivers renewing their licenses. The program is expected to cost about $75,000.