Category Archives: Homeless Children

Rescued Child Sex Slaves Have No Options

.jpg photo of Reno Nevada
Nevada is the #1 worst state for Child Sex Slavery.

‘Kids Are Renewable Resources’

Authorities in Reno are finding it ​increasingly difficult to identify victims and perpetrators ​of sex trafficking.

RENO, Nevada  –  The number of women selling sex along Fourth Street’s string of dilapidated motels here used to be so high that fights broke out among pimps over who controlled each block.

As the city tries to fix its image as a poor-man’s Vegas and technology makes it easier to buy and sell sex online, much of the local sex market has gone underground.  The shift hasn’t diminished prostitution, but it has made it harder for law enforcement and victim advocates to address.  “Online social media has formed a beautiful platform for trafficking,” says Kelly Ranasinghe, a senior program attorney with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and one of the leaders of its child sex-trafficking arm. “It’s getting much more clever and harder to prosecute.”

Melissa Holland, the founder and director of Awaken, a Reno group working to end sex trafficking, says the organization is encountering more girls looking to get out of the life.  Whether that’s the result of an increase in trafficking or awareness is unclear, but Awaken helped 65 girls in 2014 get therapy, secure housing, find work, and enroll in school.  In 2015, that number was 85.  Nationally, the advocacy group Polaris says it saw a 24 percent increase in trafficking victims reaching out between 2014 and 2015.  “We’ve not seen a decrease,” Holland says during an interview in a cozy sitting room above her office dotted with bright pillows, designed as a welcoming space for women seeking help.

While the women Holland works with are generally between the ages of 18 and 24, studies suggest that sex-trafficking victims are getting younger.  Hard statistics are hard to come by on an industry whose main players are experts at evading authorities, but the general consensus among experts is that children, overwhelmingly girls, now enter the world of sex trafficking between 12 and 14, younger by several years in just the last decade.  Most come from poor, dysfunctional families, and many are recruited out of the foster system or shelters by men who promise love and stability.  “A lot of young girls respond to that,” Ranasinghe says.  “It’s quasi-romantic, quasi-parental.”

Sarah (not her real name) knows exactly how men lure in young girls and women.  The now-29-year-old grew up as part of a happy, middle-class family in Reno, but her parents divorced when she was 18, and the former swimmer turned to heroin and meth to dull the pain.  She bounced from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego, working part-time jobs to pay for the habit, before eventually landing back in Reno.  “Things are just different here,” she says during a conversation in the Awaken sitting room.  She occasionally gazes out the window toward a pair of strip clubs in the distance where she still spots girls who are trapped.  “You don’t have to put up a face,” she adds, referring to the fact that there was no need to hide her drug usage.

She was living in motels week to week and working a little, but none of her friends had jobs, and soon it seemed like the only options were selling drugs or sex.  “You paid for your life on a daily basis,” she says.  So when a friendly, well-dressed man from Stockton, California, met her at a casino downtown and said, “Let me take you away,” she agreed.

Her handler would drive Sarah to convenience stores in town, where her clients were mostly Indian men who liked that she is also Indian. Her pimp, who was Mexican, never slept with her or beat her but gave her away to his brother who “fell in love with me,” she said. “When it comes to matters of the heart, that’s my brother,” he told her by way of explanation.  Sarah would ultimately work for several more pimps, each more violent than the last, and occasionally on her own—using the now-shuttered RedBook to find clients—before she was arrested for selling meth. After a year in prison that was “worse than the streets,” Sarah reconnected with her mother, stopped using drugs, and enrolled in college, where she is still a student.

But advocates say such positive outcomes are rare.  Judge Egan Walker, a district judge in Reno who handles child sex-trafficking cases says he fears the number of children who return to the sex industry is high.  Their pimps, however twisted, are often their only source of emotional support, and victims, especially young girls, can be reluctant to say anything negative.  They also don’t have the ability to process the trauma they’ve experienced, and behave aggressively toward judges who sometimes have very little training in how to handle such cases.

Most, like Sarah, are picked up for other offenses, and identified later as trafficking victims.  The children in Walker’s courtroom are disproportionately children of color.  Holland says slightly less than half of the women she works with are white, a few are Latino, and most are black.  Most are not on-track to graduate from high school and have few job skills, which allows pimps to stay in control.  “It’s awful to say and awful to talk about,” the judge says, “but these kids are renewable resources.”  Pimps move victims from city to city to create a sense of delirium and dependence, and threaten to hurt friends and family members if victims try to leave.

“You paid for your life on a daily basis.”

So curbing trafficking is a difficult prospect, complicated by the fact that local casinos and hotels gain customers from the practice.  “The casinos rely on it,” Sarah says. “You don’t get in trouble on the casino floor if you’re looking good doing it.”  When it comes to child victims, Nevada stands out as one of the worst states.  In 2014, 87 children were arrested for prostitution, according to federal data. Nearby Arizona, with a population more than twice as large as Nevada’s, arrested just six children for similar activities.

Yet a shift in public opinion on the issue appears to be taking place. Since 2000, the United States, which has historically criminalized prostitution, including when it involves children, has passed several laws aimed at helping victims and punishing traffickers. Nearly 40 states, including Nevada, passed anti-trafficking laws between 2013 and 2014, and more than 10 states, at the Department of Justice’s urging, have passed laws preventing minors from being prosecuted for selling sex.  Yet more than half of states in America continue to allow child sex-trafficking victims to be charged for selling sex, and 300,000 American children are considered at risk of sexual exploitation.  Even when victims are identified, getting them the help they need involves piecing together a patchwork of agencies that can involve the foster system, schools, and nonprofits.  “Unless everyone works together, there are vulnerabilities the traffickers can exploit,” Ranasinghe says.

Some states have created specialized dockets, particularly for sex-trafficking cases involving children. Nevada approved a measure last year that allows district courts to toss out prostitution convictions where the defendants are also victims of trafficking. A judge in Kansas has started wearing casual clothes instead of robes to reduce fear among victims, while another in Florida relies on therapy dogs. But penalties for purchasing sex remain relatively small in many states, and pimps are retreating from public view behind apps and websites.  Seriously reducing sex trafficking would require an unprecedented coordinated effort by dozens, perhaps hundreds, of entities that, right now, are often at odds with each other.  Perhaps the most significant obstacle is the fact that there are no good numbers on where the problem exists in the first place. 

U.S. Jails Sex-Trafficked Kids

I want you all to know that THIS makes me sick to my stomach.  There’s no wonder Our Children have never been protected, these poor kids have no chance to get away from the pimps and traffickers.

U.S. Jails Sex-Trafficked Kids in Human Rights Abuse, Groups Say

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2015/03/16/us/16reuters-trafficking-us-children.html?_r=0

WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The United States violates human rights by treating sex-trafficked children as criminals and throwing them into jail, rights groups told an international commission on Monday.

Federal and international law requires that children in the commercial sex trade are treated as victims of trafficking, not as prostitutes.

But most U.S. states and localities fail to apply the law, the groups said at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which reviews human rights abuses in the region.

Criminalizing child victims of the sex trade traumatizes youngsters, Yasmin Vafa, legal director at the Human Rights Project for Girls, and Santiago Canton, executive director at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, told the commission.

“When girls are incarcerated for the experience of being propertied and serially raped, their ability to return to family, community and school is less likely, which only serves to tighten the traffickers’ control,” they said in prepared remarks.

Approximately 300,000 American children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking each year, with 13 to 14 being the average age a child is first forced into sexual acts, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Each year, more than 1,000 children are arrested in the United States for prostitution, most of them not of a legal age to consent to sex, the U.S. Justice Department says.

One study found that the city of Dallas, Texas, detained 165 juveniles on prostitution and related charges in 2007, and that in Las Vegas over 20 months, 226 children were brought before the juvenile court.

Despite U.S. federal law and international protocols, many state and local law enforcement officers continue to arrest and incarcerate children as prostitutes, even in the 15 states that have adopted “safe harbor” laws designed to shield children from prison where they can be raped again.

By bringing the issue before the IACHR – an agency of the Organization of American States (OAS) – the rights groups are seeking to apply international pressure on the U.S. government to strengthen its anti-trafficking laws and set national standards of care for child victims of sex trafficking.

“I am quite alarmed and deeply disturbed,” said Rose Marie Belle Antoine, an OAS member who presided over the hearing.

The IACHR offers a human rights forum for the 35 OAS member countries in the Americas, but because the United States has not recognized its judicial authority, no court case can be brought.

Ambassador Patricia Butenis, acting director of the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, told the commission the United States agrees children should not be criminalized as prostitutes, as federal law specifies, and recognizes that “tragically it still occurs”.

Asked what more the United States can do to implement federal law, she said, “Politics in the United States are complicated.”
Government officials spelled out a series of programs they run to support state and local law enforcement, families and welfare agencies in tackling child sex trafficking.

A number of bills are before the U.S. Congress to improve services for sex-trafficking victims, but both federal and state budgets are extremely tight to fund victim support programs.

South Carolina doesn’t have enough foster homes

GREENVILLE, S.C. —WYFF News 4 Investigates learned that South Carolina doesn’t have enough foster parents to care for the more than 3,700 children currently in foster care.

Finding people to care for foster children is a challenge in South Carolina. According to numbers WYFF News 4 Investigates obtained, there are 1,227 children in foster care in the Upstate, but only 682 foster homes and shelters.

Some foster homes care for more than one child, but foster parents said there is still a need for more homes.

“Unfortunately, if there’s a child from Greenville County but there’s not a home in Greenville available to take them, they’ll reach out to find a home wherever they can. So it may very well be in Oconee County,” foster parent Chris Koppenger said.

WYFF News 4 Investigates learned that more than half of foster children in the Upstate are placed in foster homes outside of their home counties.

“It’s difficult enough that they’re being taken from their parents, but now you’re taking away their friends, their school, the doctor they’re used to, the church they’ve gone to,” Koppenger said.

Koppenger is a member of Heartfelt Calling, an organization that recruits foster parents. http://www.heartfeltcalling.org/

Koppenger said more foster parents would help increase the odds that children could stay in their communities and have a better chance to thrive. The need is great statewide. According to numbers WYFF News 4 Investigates obtained from the Department of Social Services, there are about 400 more children in South Carolina’s foster system now than there were two years ago.

We checked with Georgia and North Carolina as well. Officials in both states provided WYFF News 4 Investigates with numbers showing that there are hundreds more foster children in those states right now compared to a year ago. However, neither state was able to say if there are enough foster homes for the children.

Koppenger said people can be hesitant to become foster parents because they may only have the child for a little while. Koppenger said the more than 40 children he and his wife have fostered will always be in his heart, even if they are no longer in his home.

“These are my children, they will always be my children,” Koppenger said.

FBI calls it the 2nd fastest-growing type of organized crime

Child Sex Slavery
Child Sex Slavery, 2nd fastest growing organized crime

Washtenaw County child abuse prevention agency prompts discussion on human trafficking

WASHTENAW COUNTY, MICHIGAN – Washtenaw Area Council for Children, the county’s child abuse prevention agency, will be holding a discussion about human trafficking and how it might be affecting local children.

Between 100,000 to 300,000 children are at risk each year for commercial sexual exploitation in the U.S., according to an Estes and Weiner study.

“Please join us March 3 for an important discussion about this insidious and growing concern,” according to a statement from the Washtenaw Area Council for Children. “Awareness of the commercial sexual exploitation of children and its potential reach within our community will help us all in our work to keep the children of Washtenaw safe and sound.”

The “Removing the Blinders” discussion will be from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 3, at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s Teaching and Learning Center at 1819 Wagner Road in Scio Township.

It is free to attend and a continental breakfast is provided, but those who wish to come are asked to RSVP on Eventbrite at eventbrite.com/event/15632487190.

“Whether you call it human trafficking, sex slavery or prostitution; the commercial sexual exploitation of minors is something we all need to be aware of as potentially happening right under our noses, within our own community,” according to the Washtenaw Area Council for Children.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the county agency says human trafficking has become the second fastest growing criminal industry – just behind drug trafficking – with children accounting for roughly half of all victims.

The FBI calls it the fastest-growing type of organized crime.

The Washtenaw Area Council for Children has identified some indicators a child is vulnerable and easy prey for traffickers and exploiters:

  • Being a female between the ages of 12 and 14
  • A history of sexual and physical abuse
  • Child welfare involvement, especially out-of-home foster care placement
  • Being a runaway or homeless youth
  • Living in an impoverished community
  • Disconnection from education system and off-track for achievement
  • Substance dependency

Panelists expected at the March 3 discussion includes: Lisa Markman, M.D., University of Michigan Health Systems child protection team; Det. Thomas Boivin, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office; Emily Schuster-Wachsberger, local council coordinator for the Children’s Trust Fund of MI and co-author of Michigan child sex trafficking protocol; Peg Talburtt, chief executive of the Lovelight Foundation and a member of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force.

For more information, call the Washtenaw Area Council for Children office at 734-434-4215 or email marcia@washtenawchildren.org.

ACLU Seeks Facts on Abuse of Immigrant Kids

Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, February 11, 2015

PHOENIX (CN) – The Department of Homeland Security blew off FOIA requests for information on the abuse of immigrant children in immigration custody, the ACLU claims in court.

The ACLU sued the DHS and its creatures, Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, on Wednesday in Federal Court.

In its December 2014 FOIA request, the ACLU says, it sought “to shed light on longstanding allegations of abusive treatment of children by Border Patrol, including prolonged detention in degrading and inhumane conditions, as well as DHS oversight agencies’ handling of those allegations.”

None of the agencies have responded, the ACLU says.

“This case is about the systemic failure of multiple institutions to protect some of the most vulnerable among us,” ACLU of Arizona staff attorney James Lyall said in a statement. “Under any reasonable definition, the neglect and mistreatment that these children experience in Border Patrol custody qualifies as child abuse, and federal officials and contractors are required to report that abuse under applicable child protection laws.”
The ACLU and other civil rights organizations sent an administrative complaint to DHS in *June 2014, claiming 116 immigrant children had been abused by the Border Patrol.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2014/06/11/68651.htm

“One quarter of these children reported physical abuse, including sexual assault, beatings, and the use of stress positions by Border Patrol agents, and more than half reported various forms of verbal abuse, including death threats,” the June complaint stated. “Many reported being denied blankets and bedding and attempting to sleep on the floors of unsanitary, overcrowded, and frigid cells.”

Eighty percent of the children said they were not properly provided with food and water, and nearly as many said they were detained for more than the 72-hour maximum. About half of the children said they were denied medical care, including a number who required hospitalization.

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske acknowledged after the ACLU’s June complaint that the allegations regarding holding room conditions were “absolutely spot-on,” and said his agency and DHS would investigate.

In October, however, the Office of the Inspector General “reported it would be ‘curtailing routine inspections,’ and has issued no subsequent findings or taken any other public action in response to the complaint,” the ACLU says in the new lawsuit.

In fact, “Border Patrol restricts access to detention facilities such that attorneys, advocates, and family members are generally prohibited from meeting with detainees, many of whom are held incommunicado for days. Immigrant children – like all immigrants – have no guarantee of legal counsel in removal proceedings; without legal representation, children are far less likely to report abuse or pursue civil rights complaints involving government officials,” the complaint states.

The ACLU says that the volume of these complaints “point to systemic deficiencies in Border Patrol’s detention policies and practices, and yet the full extent of these problems is still unknown.”