Gov. Rick Snyder signs bills expanding protections for survivors of human trafficking
Our readers will find a short description of each of the three (3) House Bills addressed in this post.
~ Robert StrongBow ~
LANSING, MI – Survivors of human trafficking will have heightened protections under legislation signed Wednesday by Gov. Rick Snyder.
“These bills help strengthen and increase protections for survivors of human trafficking,” Snyder said. “By holding criminals accountable for their actions, we move one step closer toward stopping this dangerous threat.”
House Bills 5542-5544, sponsored by state Reps. Laura Cox, Gary Howell and Nancy Jenkins, respectively, provide assistance to survivors of human trafficking by giving them resources to help support their recovery. The bills also increase penalties for those who commit crimes by coercing victims to engage in commercial sexual activity. The measures are now Public Acts 336-338 of 2016.
Snyder also signed two additional bills:
House Bill 4874, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Leonard, names a portion of Business Route 127 in Clinton County as the “PFC Andrew H. Nelson Memorial Highway”. The stretch begins at the intersection of Business Route 127 and West Walker Road and continues south to East Townsend Road. PFC Andrew Nelson was killed in action on December 25, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq after an explosive device detonated near his vehicle. It is now Public Act 339 of 2016.
Senate Bill 800, sponsored by state Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, contains Fiscal Year 2016 and 2017 supplemental appropriations for multiple state departments and agencies. It is now Public Act 340 of 2016.
(PA 336 of 2016) House Bill Criminal procedure; expunction; setting aside certain convictions for victims of human trafficking violations; provide for. Amends sec. 1 of 1965 PA 213 (MCL 780.621).
Last Action: 12/14/2016 – assigned PA 336’16 with immediate effect
HB 5543 of 2016
(PA 337 of 2016) House Bill Juveniles; crimes; set-aside juvenile adjudication for certain prostitution-related offenses; provide for. Amends sec. 18e, ch. XIIA of 1939 PA 288 (MCL 712A.18e).
Last Action: 12/14/2016 – assigned PA 337’16 with immediate effect
HB 5544 of 2016
(PA 338 of 2016) House Bill Crimes; penalties; penalties for bodily injury to or commercial sexual activity involving a minor; provide for. Amends secs. 451 & 462f of 1931 PA 328 (MCL 750.451 & 750.462f).
Last Action: 12/14/2016 – assigned PA 338’16 with immediate effect
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.
7TH ANNUAL NO STONE UNTURNED CONCERT:
For the Families of Manitoba’s Missing & Murdered Women, Men, Two-Spirit & Children.
SATURDAY, JULY 25, 2015 THE FORKS OODENA CELEBRATION CIRCLE 1:00PM – 10:00PM CANDLELIGHT VIGIL: 10:00PM Oodena Circle, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3C
Next Week · 78°F / 60°F Partly Cloudy
The family and friends of Claudette Osborne-Tyo (missing since July 25, 2008) hosts its 7th ANNUAL “NO STONE UNTURNED” FREE CONCERT & FEAST in honour of Manitoba’s Missing and Murdered Women, Men, Two-Spirit, Children and their Families.
Live performances are scheduled throughout the day and evening, with 50/50 and silent auction, followed by a candlelight vigil.
Please come-out to show your support to the families and friends of Manitoba’s Missing and Murdered Women, Men, Two-Spirit and Children, and help raise awareness of this ever-growing crisis.
You can also help by spreading word of this event by inviting others and sharing this page on your walls and networks If anyone is wanting to volunteer a performance or anything for the silent auction please contact one of the Admins; Bernadette Smith or myself. Also looking for volunteers to help with set-up, takedown, clean up, etc.
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.
Palmdale Woman Sentenced to Prison for Torturing Two Adopted Children
Posted 7:57 PM, March 11, 2015, by Kennedy Ryan, Updated at 01:59am, March 12, 2015
A nurse’s assistant from Palmdale was sentenced Wednesday to seven years to life in prison for torturing her two young adopted children.
Ingrid Ivenia Brewer pleaded no contest on Dec. 15, 2014 to two counts of torture in connection with the abuse, a news release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office stated.
The case came to light in January 2013 when Brewer called 911 to report the 8-year-old boy and his 7-year-old sister missing from their Palmdale home, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Deputies responded and during a search of the neighborhood found the children huddled under a blanket beneath a parked vehicle near their house, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Both children were scantily clad, despite the sub-freezing temperatures, the release stated.
The children told deputies they had run away from home because they were tired of being tied up and beaten by Brewer, prosecutors said.
According to the children, Brewer hit them with electrical cords, ropes, pipes and a hammer.
Investigators said injuries to the children’s bodies were consistent with the alleged abuse, including marks that indicated that their wrists had been bound with zip-tie type restraints, according to the release.
Brewer worked as a nurse’s assistant at UCLA Medical Center.