| Today's NAASCA news:
September 2, 2014
Prevention begins with a willingness to talk
by Leanne McGrath
More than 1,800 people have taken training classes that focus on protecting children from sexual abuse.
The free course is run by SCARS (Saving Children and Revealing Secrets), a charity that aims to reduce the risk of youngsters being molested and tries to be a voice for victims and their families.
“People don't want to think about sexual abuse or think it can't happen to their child but we can't stop something we don't talk about,” said SCARS founder Debi Ray-Rivers. “Doing nothing is a choice.”
Mrs Ray-Rivers, a survivor of sexual abuse, is extremely passionate about protecting children.
Also the executive director of the charity, which launched in 2011, she said SCARS' mission was to shed light on this “dark subject through awareness, one adult at a time”.
“Prevention is key and SCARS champions the message of prevention in the community,” she added.
“We are the voice for sexually abused children.
“Keeping children safe is an adult's responsibility and adults need to understand that perpetrators groom victims and look for vulnerable children. If they think a child will tell, they won't touch them.”
SCARS is determined to end the silence, secrets and shame that surround sexual abuse.
“Parents need to know how to have conversations with children about their bodies and boundaries,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said.
“Tell children that no one has the right to touch or view their private parts, or be asked to touch or view others. And have conversations with siblings about appropriate viewing and touching.
“Children need to know they can tell a trusted adult if it happens.”
Mrs Ray-Rivers said most abusers were someone the child knew, and that only about 10 percent of predators were strangers.
“It's usually someone they know, love and trust,” she added. “Between 30 and 40 percent are family members. An abuser knows that once they have a child's trust, a child can be manipulated into abuse and silence.”
Research in the US has found that about 88 percent of abuse is never reported. But SCARS hopes its efforts will contribute to more victims coming forward in Bermuda.
“We live in a small community and people don't want their personal business exposed,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said. “But families and adults need to recognise that the shame rests with the perpetrator, not the victim or their family.”
Among SCARS' resources is the award-winning Darkness to Light Stewards of Children training programme. The charity started running free classes in May 2012 and since then 1,800 people have taken the course — with another batch attending last Saturday.
Teachers have taken part, as have police officers, charities, church groups, sports organisations, support agencies, Government staff and prosecutors.
The US prevention programme teaches adults how to prevent, recognise and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
“Parents and members of the community who are concerned about youngsters' safety would richly benefit from this thought-provoking course,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said.
“SCARS can't force organisations to do the training, but we'd like it to be a mandatory programme for an organisation working with children.”
SCARS other resources include the SAFE — SCARS Arms Families through Education — programme, which offers information such as sex-abuse statistics, warning signs, information about protecting children on the internet, and questions to ask when enrolling a child in a camp or programme.
“These include asking if the organisation has a policy on staff's one-on-one interaction with children,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said.
SCARS also has a library of books that can be loaned free of charge for parents to read with their children, while their website has information about awareness, prevention and healing.
There are also details of who to contact should you discover or suspect abuse — the police and Child and Family Services should be notified immediately.
SCARS is full of praise for their staff and the team at the Department of Public Prosecutions, and emphasises that victims should not be afraid to come forward.
The charity supports the creation of a public sex offender's register, so that members of the community will know if a child abuser is living among them.
“If your organisation is entrusted with the care of children, SCARS strongly recommends that you find out if a volunteer or potential employee has a conviction for a sex offence by contacting the police,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said.
The charity also advocates more help for offenders while they are in prison.
“Psychologists specifically trained in working with sex offenders should be sent into prisons before offenders are released,” Mrs Ray-Rivers said. “Offenders are manipulative by nature and can possibly manipulate the system.”
SCARS would like the courts to allow victims to give evidence via video-link or from behind a screen rather than in open court facing their alleged attacker.
“SCARS' long-term goal is a child advocacy centre but it will take a lot of money,” Ms Ray-Rivers said. “This could provide a nurturing, safe environment for victims and families.”
Mrs Ray-Rivers is hopeful the charity can now reach even more people in the community.
“Victims need to know that what's happened to them was not their fault, they did nothing wrong,” she said. “Tell children you are proud of them for telling, reinforce that they did not cause this. Start early and talk often about body safety to children.”
Bermuda Police Inspector Mark Clarke encouraged victims and their families to come forward.
“Sexual assaults are traumatic experiences that affect all genres within the community,” he said. “Historically, two-thirds of all sexual assaults involve victims under the age of 16. Bermuda as a jurisdiction experiences a similar ratio.
“Treating victims with dignity, without prejudice, fear of ridicule, and increased public awareness via education has assisted with the ease of reporting.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Child and Family Services said it was seeing more young people coming forward to report being molested.
“Some of this speaking up can be credited to SCARS because of their educational outreach and training,” she said.
The department, whose staff have had SCARS training, said there were 136 reported cases of sexual abuse in 2011, 106 in 2012 and 126 last year, and that it liaised with the police to conduct joint forensic interviews, support the family and refer the child for trauma counselling.
“We liaise with any services that are required to support the families, such as financial, medical or the Witness Care Unit,” the spokeswoman said.
“The social worker will attend court to ensure that the child is supported when they testify.
“The department also supports parents and children should the children experience behavioural challenges as a result of the trauma of the victimisation.
“It is important for every organisation to have a sexual/child abuse component included in their employee orientation manual.
“This is a training the we encourage.”
The department said compulsory background checks were necessary for those who work with children, but that a public sex offender register was “a complex issue for Bermuda for a number of reasons”.
“In some instances members of the public have demonstrated that they are not supportive of the victims,” the spokeswoman said.
“Often the information that is disclosed would identify the victim and we have seen children ostracised and harassed by members of the community in various forms, such as through cyber bullying and Facebook.”
SCARS' training programmes and resources are free to the public thanks to generous sponsorship from corporate donors including Argus, Bank of Bermuda Foundation, Catlin, Hiscox, RenRe, Oil Insurance and Oil Casualty Insurance, Arch Re and kind-hearted community donors.
'My father molested my sister and hung me by the neck with a rope for fun'
Inspiring abuse survivor is running a marathon every day before work for 365 days to stop this happening to others
by Caroline Mcguire
Running a marathon is a momentous effort for most people - a once-in-a-lifetime event to tick off the bucket list.
But for Rob Young, 31, from Richmond, south London, it's a daily occurrence. He gets up at 2.45am every morning to run a whole marathon course around Richmond Park before he starts his working day as the manager of a specialist car parts company.
What makes this all the more impressive is that Rob has had to overcome an incredibly abusive childhood with a father who beat him regularly, followed by a period in care homes, in order to get to this place.
Until the age of six, Rob lived in Yorkshire with his mother and sister under his father's reign of terror - not even the family dog was safe from the daily violent outbursts, which saw his sister sexually abused and him thrown down stairs in a suitcase.
He said: 'As a young child I was witness to some terrible things, which most people would find hard to imagine or understand.
'I was beaten pretty much every day, with anything that easily came to my father's hand.
'It could be a slipper, a stick or a plank of wood, today I still have quite a number of scars on my body from these beatings.
'Sometimes my father would zip me into a suitcase and push me down the stairs, this was one of the milder things I had to endure, though.
'The worst thing was being dangled over the banister at the top of the stairs by one leg - he used to tell me that if I made any noise at all or if I cried he would drop me.'
The breaking point came one evening when Rob was six years old - his father returned home and started a bout of violence that ended with Rob being hung with a rope.
He said: 'He tied a rope around my neck from which he hung me on an old-fashioned coat hanger near the front door.
'I remember the feeling of having no air to breathe and I struggled as my father held my legs, it became very scary until he decided to let me down.'
Rob's mother decided that enough was enough and fled the family home with her two children in tow.
Sadly, she was unable to care for them and while Rob's sister was sent to live with an aunt, he was put in a care home.
What followed was an incredibly tough few years, as he struggled to make his voice heard among hundreds of other lost children while being passed from care home to care home.
Rob said: 'That was very difficult, because I was lumped in there with a lot of other children, very troubled children who were often a lot older than me, who bullied each other and who are from very disruptive backgrounds.
'The people who work in these places often don't know how to cope and many also just see it as a job.
'The reason that a lot of these children behave the way they do is because the only way to get attention is by acting up - by getting into trouble - that's the only way anyone will ever notice you.
'I was like that too for a while, but then I remember the moment that I switched – I must have been about eight or nine years old and someone said to me: "You're going to turn out just like your dad."
'It was like a switch flipped in my head, I thought: "I'm not going to be like him, I'm never going to end up like that."
'From then on I just decided to throw myself into school and sport.
'Around that time I had just started going to school properly, I hadn't been sent that often until then, and I really enjoyed all of the sports lessons.'
The real moment of change in Rob's life came when he was around 11 years old and he was fostered by the deputy headmaster of a top private school.
From that day, he was given a second chance at life - learning behavioural and academic skills that would help him to pave his way through life.
He said: 'When I was in year seven, this wonderful man – a head teacher of a private school - came and took me in.
'He totally changed my life.
'He taught me everything; from how to set a table, to how to eat a six-course meal, to holding an adult conversation and helped me to get all of my exams, which include good GCSEs and A-Levels.
'I think of him as my real father.'
'To this day I believe he enabled me to be the person I am today - all my best aspects derived from his tutorage.'
Fast-forward more than a decade and Rob lives in Richmond with his fiancée Joanna Hanasz, 26, and his son Alexander-Lui Julian Young, 21 months.
He also has a five-year-old daughter called Olivia from a previous relationship.
After landing on his feet, the 31-year-old made a decision earlier this year to give something back to children who find themselves in the situation he was once in.
While watching television with Joanna one evening, Rob decided to take on the humongous challenge of completing 267 marathons in 265 days.
So every morning he gets out of bed at 2.45am and heads down to the marathon track at Richmond park to run 26.2 miles before heading back home to shower and change before work.
He said: 'People tell me that I should probably start eating a certain diet - really healthy food, but to be honest, eating what I fancy has worked for me so far.
'I just eat anything I can get my hands on really - I really like chocolate eclairs, I love Doritos, cakes, biscuits, lots of pasta, I'll have anything really.
'I eat my recommended 2,500 calories a day and then I also have the 4,000 calories that you should eat when doing a marathon.'
And the most galling part for anybody who as ever limped through a marathon, wondering if they'll ever manage to make the finishing line, is that Rob quite literally takes them in his stride these days.
He said: 'They say that you have to slow down your time drastically if you are doing back-to-back marathons, so I have slowed my time to four hours.
'But four hours means that I am pretty much walking over the finish line and can go and play a game of football straight afterwards.
'I take part in official marathons regularly as well as doing the Richmond course and I like to sing and dance to encourage other marathon runners when I'm doing those, because that keeps spirits up when people are flagging.
'I also pick up a few bottles of water at the water stations and then carry them round to other runners.'
And while Rob is planning on slowing down the number of marathons he takes part in once he reaches his 367 mark, he has also jokingly tried to convince his fiancée that they should get married during one.
He said: 'I did suggest to my partner that we should get married and then run a marathon, then everyone from the wedding party could run with us and we could stop for a drink and photos at the different drinks stations and have a party afterwards.'
But saving that, his main aim is just to raise as much money as possible for charity.
He said: 'If I can help young people in similar situations and encourage them to make peace with their pasts, then I feel something good has come out of all I have had to endure.'
MarathonManUK Rob Young is running a marathon a day for a year to raise money for the NSPCC and Dreams Come True.
To donate please visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/runfordreamscometrueandnspcc
South Bend mom charged after baby dies — has history of abuse
Micahyah Crockett, an 11-month-old boy severely injured in what police suspect was a horrific act of abuse this weekend, has died in the hospital. His mother, Nyesha Crockett, has been charged in the death.
Nyesha told police she used a shirt to smother the baby — that she threw him on the ground and kicked and struck him.
Metro Homicide says Nyesha sent text messages to the father: "Come get him before I hurt him,” “Good luck with everything,” “I hope you find your son,” and “OK, think I won't?”
Police say Alaiyah Crockett is another baby Nyesha abused on Feb 1, 2014 — the girl was 14 months old at the time. That baby is now in a "vegetative state."
Alaiyah's injury was originally considered an accident. Micahyah's death puts the incident in a new light.
For the death of Micahyah and the abuse of Alaiyah, Nyesha Crockett has been charged with Battery, Murder, Aggravated Battery and Neglect of a Dependent.
Tim Corbett with St. Joseph County Metro Homicide says, "If this ever comes about again where somebody can't handle their child, call us. We'll come get the child. We'll take that child away from you and do whatever we can. This is not the answer, killing a baby."
SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE: We now know the name of a South Bend woman accused of abusing her child — injuring him to the point where he is now in extremely critical condition.
Nyesha Crockett is being held on multiple felony battery charges. The mother was arrested Sunday, and her son remains in the hospital.
The boy at the heart of the child abuse investigation is 11-month-old Micahyah.
This tragic case played out last night at a house in the 100 block of North Sadie Street.
Neighbors and relatives tell us that baby Micahyah even stopped breathing.
“I was terrified,” said neighbor Shanning Bell. “I went over there. I saw everybody crying. I went in the house and the baby was pale and blue and breathless.”
Tequilla Woodard is a cousin of the baby's father.
"To do that to a child, like a baby, a 1-year-old at that…I don't understand," she says.
Lashanda Bell reflected on the situation in her neighborhood as well.
“I am not sure what went on inside there,” said Bell. “It's sad. It was a happy and joyful baby.”
We are still trying to learn more about Nyesha Crockett, the mother charged in the case. Metro Homicide Commander Tim Corbett says more details on her past may be coming out later this week .
Even though Metro Homicide is involved, at last report Corbett says the baby is still alive. But once again, he describes the child's condition as "extremely critical. "
In the meantime Nyesha Crockett sits in jail. No bond for her has been set.
Death on Tarpon Street: Family's cycle of violence, child abuse, drugs
KISSIMMEE — Sixteen-month-old Avahya Martin spent her last hours alive in a Tarpon Street home where police say her father swung the 23-pound toddler like a baseball bat and slammed her against a hard surface.
The 23-year-old father, Anthony Martin, then waited 16 hours to seek medical care for Avahya at Florida Hospital Kissimmee less than a mile away, according to court documents.
She was pronounced dead shortly after being carried into the emergency room around dawn on May 23.
Martin was arrested three weeks later. He remains jailed without bail on murder and aggravated-child-abuse charges, adding to an already lengthy rap sheet.
And the 16-month-old's death on Tarpon Street continues her family's cycle of violence and child abuse in this Kissimmee neighborhood that extends more than two decades.
Child-welfare experts agree that children exposed to repeated violence often develop emotional problems and grow up to abuse their own children. Or, in Avahya's case, never get a chance to grow up at all.
"Actually, sadly enough, this is something we see every day," said Carol Wick, director of Harbor House of Central Florida, an independent shelter for domestic-violence victims. "Here in Orlando we have one of the highest removal rates in the state because they can't get the battering to stop. … We've seen generations of families come through Harbor House."
Harbor House and DCF are working on a new program, Family Violence Threatens the Child, to target at-risk families and communities.
In Orange County, there were 5,108 reports of family violence investigated from January 2013 through July 2014, resulting in 257 cases where children were removed from the home, according to the state Department of Children and Families.
"It's learned behavior, even if you don't grow up watching it in your family," Wick said.
In the past four years, an average of 450 children have died from reported abuse or neglect in Florida, according to DCF.
Avahya, who officials say was not under DCF supervision, could now become another child-abuse statistic.
'I raised them the best I could'
Martin grew up in his great-grandmother's home at 310 Tarpon St., three houses away from where cops say Avahya suffered the injuries that led to her death.
The 922-square-foot Tarpon Street house with one bathroom was purchased 40 years ago by Martin's great-grandmother, Margaret Bowens, the family's 76-year-old matriarch.
Since 1990, records show police have responded to 310 Tarpon St. more than 350 times for fights, shooting deaths, fires, stabbings, child neglect and domestic violence.
On a recent Wednesday morning, Bowens sat in front of her home reflecting on the decades of hardship.
"I've had a lot of pain over the years. I really have. I've had pain I couldn't handle and I turn it over to the Lord. That's all I've got is God," Bowens said. "It's not the neighborhood. I've lived here 40 years and it's not the neighborhood."
Through the years, 310 Tarpon St. has been called home by Bowens' children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
"I raised them the best I could. What happened just happened," Bowens said. "The mamas were young and didn't know nothing about raising babies so I raised them."
Back in the 1960s before she devoted her life to God, Bowens said she was stopped once for drinking and driving but never broke the law again. The same is not true for family.
Of all her great-grandchildren, she said, Martin showed great promise despite not graduating from Osceola High School.
"I don't believe he killed that baby," said Bowens, who describes Martin as quiet and respectful. "And nobody can convince me he did."
Police said Avahya had arrived for a two-day visit with Martin, who shared a house three doors away with three women and their children. Avahya's 18-year-old mother, Takita Tillman, had dropped the toddler off so she could study for a high school test, according to police. Tillman declined to comment.
Mother of seven, arrested more than 30 times
Bowens' granddaughter, Nakiysha "Goldie" Hazley, gave birth to the first of her seven children at age 15.
Martin was the second of her first three boys she had with a man deported to Jamaica in the early 1990s, Hazley said.
Since her son's arrest, Hazley has spoken to Martin by phone at the Osceola County Jail. He won't say anything about Avahya's death during the tape-recorded calls, she said.
But Hazley said it doesn't seem possible that Martin could hurt the "sweet little girl" who never cried.
"He was the only one I breast fed," Hazley said. "He was the most promising one to me. He made it all the way to the 12th grade."
Court records show Hazley introduced Martin to an early life of crime.
When Martin was 11 years old, she took him shoplifting in 2002 at the Premium Outlet Mall in Orlando. Her son stood by and watched Hazley stuff clothing under her skirt. She was eventually convicted of petty theft and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, records show.
It was just one of Hazley's 30-plus arrests, which include charges of stabbing, drug-related crimes and cruelty to a child, records show. During DCF's visits to Tarpon Street, signs of neglect and abuse were found, records show.
Court and prison records also show Hazley lost custody more than once of six of her seven children, including one born in prison, while she served three sentences between 2004 and 2010.
Records also show DCF stepped in when a newborn son in 2003 tested positive for cocaine.
By 2009, Hazley lost custody of her four minor children, who were placed in the care of Bowens.
In December 2012, Hazley stabbed her then-18-year-old daughter Angelique during an argument about a cellphone. Rushed to nearby Florida Hospital Kissimmee, the teen was admitted after a doctor told police "the stab caused one of Angelique's lungs to collapse."
When police searched the Tarpon Street house, they found crack cocaine, glass pipes with burned ends and plastic bags filled with an unidentified white powder. DCF stepped in again and removed all of the minor children who had been returned to Hazley's custody.
"I didn't mean to do that," she said of stabbing her daughter. "I went and got help and they put me on medicine. I still take it every day."
Family tradition on Tarpon Street
Sent to prison the year he turned 18 for dealing cocaine, Martin followed a family tradition.
At least seven relatives, including his mother and an older brother, served time in prison for selling the drug, according to records.
His younger brother, Antwan Martin, might have been the eighth but died shortly before being sentenced. Arrested more than 20 times, the 18-year-old was gunned down outside the family's Tarpon Street home in 2010.
"We never found out who did it," said Hazley.
That same year, a cousin was sentenced to 25 years for fatally shooting a drug dealer steps from the front door. An uncle stabbed three times and beaten with a club in the front yard only told police that the attackers "would have to answer to the Lord."
Arrest reports show the residents of 310 Tarpon St. never said much to police who responded there 359 times since July 1990.
"Cops get frustrated by calls for service requiring an emergency response, and when you arrive the victim or people in need don't want to cooperate," said Kissimmee police Chief Lee Massie. "That's what we get paid to do, but every time we respond, we're not able to respond somewhere else."
Sex-Trafficking Lures Increasing In Denver, Officials Say
Denver has evolved into a breeding ground, officials say, for sex-traffickers who lure young runaways, often in exchange for drugs, into the underground business.
“We see more and more minors that are being trafficked into the commercial sex industry,” said Sgt. Dan Steele of the Denver police and the Rocky Mountain Innocence Lost Task Force.
In June, the FBI announced it had recovered 18 child victims of sex-trafficking in Colorado during an annual operation called “Cross Country.” Nationwide, 168 victims were rescued and 281 alleged pimps were arrested.
Tom Ravenelle with the FBI said he's seeing more print and online advertisements — chock-full of keywords like “4-20 friendly” — that attract young girls.
“We're dealing with people who are pimping these girls who are sometimes gang-related. These are people with low morals,” he said.
Steele watches for what he calls “markers” along the 16th Street Mall or truck stops that indicate a girl may be in danger of being lured.
“If you're running away from home, you're thereby homeless and you're putting yourself in a situation where, if you're homeless, you have to survive. And you're going to do what you need to do to survive,” he said.
A former prostitute who said she traded sex for marijuana talked to CBS4 anonymously about her experience.
“It is so sad,” she said. “I know there are so many young runaways down there and they don't have anything and these men come along.”
Others, she said, have traded for harder drugs, including heroine, meth and crack.
“I traded for marijuana because that was my vice,” she said. “I needed to escape.”
She ran away when she was 17, fell into prostitution, bartered sex for drugs and didn't escape the industry for more than two decades.
“I was very young and naive,” she said. The pimps are very dangerous, too: “They'll hurt you. They'll beat you. You don't have any choice.”
Several nonprofit organizations in the Denver area help teens flee and survive sex-trafficking. One of those organizations is Streets Hope.
She said she's gained strength, wisdom and a compassionate heart to help others.
Only after she was nearly murdered in front of her children did she seek charges against her abuser. She's now helping other girls survive and avoid sex-trafficking.
“I just really recommend people, parents especially, really keep a better eye on their children,” she said, and especially advocates addressing children: “Kids, it's not as bad at home. Really it's not. It's so easy-peasy at home. It's so hard on the streets.”
Bills fight sex trafficking one small step at a time
by Matthew Fleming
In the war against sex trafficking, every little bit helps.
More help is about to come to California from a few bills moving through the state legislature, backed by Los Angeles County, which will make modest, yet noticeable changes in sex-trafficking enforcement.
One bill adds human-trafficking to the list of wiretappable crimes. Another increases penalties for johns – customers buying girls who are often forced into the sex trade at age 13, or younger. The third allows the district attorney to consolidate cases from several areas into one location, as pimps move the girls around, chasing the money.
These bills provide small but powerful weapons in a complex battle.
“There's so many areas that you have to go after that you have to take it one piece at a time,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe.
SB 1388, sponsored by congressional candidate and state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Redondo Beach, on behalf of the county, goes after johns – applying simple economic theory.
“Supply and demand,” said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jane Creighton. “There's probably always going to be supply, so we have to start attacking demand.”
Existing law essentially gives a slap on the wrist to the johns. This bill increases the fine, and could impose a mandatory two days in jail in cases involving a minor. While two days may seem relatively negligible, there's a catch.
“If someone has to do mandatory time, now you have to explain to your wife, you have to explain it to your employer, where you were for two days,” said Creighton.
Going after the johns marks a shift in enforcement, which has historically focused on prostitution as a crime. But as the girls have gotten younger, it has forced everyone to take another look at what's really happening.
Now, the girls are seen as victims.
“I've been police chief in Long Beach for nearly five years,” said Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, who is also a candidate for Los Angeles County sheriff. “And like all police departments, we would go after the girls. But a lot of these girls start around 12 years old, so we started looking at it differently.”
A recent decrease in violent crime coincides with an increase in lower-risk, higher-reward criminal activity like pimping, said McDonnell. Many individual gang members aspire to running a stable of four or five girls, which could bring in $600,000 to $800,000 a year.
“And they'll go out every day for their pimps,” said McDonnell, “because they know if they fight back, they'll get beat, or worse, tortured.”
Like any entrepreneur, pimps will go where the money is, so the girls are often on a never-ending roadshow – from city to city and county to county, depending on the market, and depending on if the pimp is chasing a large event, where lots of johns would be looking to buy sex.
For the girls, constant traveling only intensifies their trauma. If they do come forward, the last thing they need is to go to testify in every jurisdiction.
SB 939, sponsored by state Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego) also received support from Los Angeles County. This bill makes it so that these cases can be prosecuted in one court, an attempt at giving a little peace to the girls and encouraging others to step forward.
“It really does help reduce stress on the victims,” said Creighton. “People are more likely to cooperate with law enforcement. The criminal proceedings can be somewhat arduous, so you try to help ease the stress to the victims and also centralize the prosecution. Isn't it best to keep all the cases together in one county?”
SB 955, sponsored on the county's behalf by state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), adds human trafficking to the list of offenses that allow for wiretaps. Getting enough support has proven difficult, but it affords tremendous benefits to police.
“Every time you talk about wiretapping, people go nuts about personal freedoms,” said Knabe. “To allow (wiretapping) for sex trafficking is absolutely huge. Because of social media, because of cellphones and the way they operate, it's a huge advancement to really get to the pimps and bosses, and how they run the girls through different houses (and places).”
Gov. Jerry Brown has already signed SB 939, but the bills for increased penalties and wiretapping have not yet been signed. The governor's office won't comment on pending legislation, but neither received a single “no” vote in either chamber of the legislature.
After that, increased public awareness is the most important step, according to McDonnell. Residents are encouraged to call and report tips. Although police would prefer as much information as possible, citizens can make anonymous tips.
For Creighton, the focus has to be on the girls. Giving the girls counseling and other services can help them stay off the streets, she said. The pimps are preying on the vulnerable.
“A girl came to me the other day who was 13,” said Creighton. “She got raped by a family member who then turned her out on the street. She's been on the street for years. So you have to help them out. You can't just put them back into the system and figure that everything is going to be OK – because it's not.”
Keeping the focus on the johns will help, said Knabe. Although he wished the Lieu bill went further, this is a good start.
“The pimps are the scumbags who put these girls through absolute hell,” said Knabe. “But if they didn't have johns willing to buy young girls, they wouldn't have a market.”
Human trafficking talk informs locals
by Minza Khan
Isolated, young and vulnerable, moneyless, no form of communication, and bound to their abuser.
This is a glimpse of the life human trafficking victims have to endure. The youngest human trafficking victim filed in the Houston area is only 8 years old while the average age is 12.
Locals gathered Aug. 20 at the EMS Facility to learn about issues ranging from human trafficking to smuggling. Human trafficking investigator Tonya Ward shared statistics along with her thoughts on information about the issue.
“I don't like to go off of what I've been told because a lot of the stuff we hear and read today aren't necessarily correct,” Ward said. “What I'm giving you is first-hand knowledge of what we have been experiencing.”
According to the statistics provided at the session, human trafficking is a $32 billion industry. Some indications to identify a trafficked victim include: not communicating freely, having physical or non-physical restraints, branded or tattooed with a logo indicating who her “owner” or “pimp” is, and will likely be from a low-income family background.
The list, however, is not limited to these few indicators. Ward then spoke of a rescued lady found on FM 1960.
“She was being pimped out by six juvenile males. He brother is chemical engineer for NASA, her father is doctor, and she herself has a doctorates.”
Ward went on to explain the link between smuggling and human trafficking.
“Smuggling is something someone chooses to bring into the United States. Once they get them here they call their family asking for a certain amount of money,” Ward said. “While the family is trying to come up with the amount of money they are asking for, they are forcing them to work for them in their choice. At that point it becomes trafficking.”
The hour-long information session was open to comments and questions. In response to a question regarding what action locals can take when they see signs of suspicious activity, Ward said her best advice is to call 911 for emergencies.
Love146, Home of Hope-Texas, and Redeemed Ministries, which are all organizations involved in stopping human trafficking were also present to share information on how locals can get involved in resolving the issue locally.
Lauri Nevius, director of operations and advocacy for Redeemed Ministries became a part of the Love146 task force to combat the issue locally.
“They help you gather people in your community to really understand the issues and what you as a group can do about it,” Nevius said. “There's one here in Spring and Cypress. They gather monthly to learn about the issue.”
Love146's main purpose is to get into schools to raise awareness with students. They meet with students who at risk of being trafficked or have already been trafficked. Then then allow those students to identify the abuser through human resources and help them out of the dire situation.
Redeemed Ministries provides aftercare for local women who have been trafficked to women 18 years or older. They offer care need to help victims transition from being trafficked into independent living.
“When you're about 20 and have been trafficked, you haven't finished your college degree. Your options don't just become limited, there are almost none,” Nevius said. “We provide a one year program through our safe house where we take them in and begin the appealing process to have them transition from a traumatized to independent women. She has been sexually victimized as a child. That trauma hits deep. Her concept of love and trust has been affected greatly.”
The organization provides a seven-week program through the Harris County jail. According to Evans, a majority of trafficked women are brainwashed into thinking this is the life they want to live. The program helps them prepare for the real world from writing a resume to breaking the sex trafficking cycle. Another speaker asked locals to raise private funding to create a boys home as well since 20 percent of victims are boys.
Redeemed Ministries expects to expand its facility to help more women in the area. To make a donation visit redeemedministries.com or love146.org
Redeemed Ministries is set to host an orientation Sept. 13 for a two-hour session on sex trafficking to provide information and training. Expect more human trafficking prevention events this month posted on justcausehouston.org
Cops Arrest 500 Johns in Sex Trade Crackdown
111 prostitution victims recovered
by Charlotte Alter
Law enforcement agencies across the country collaborated in a recent series of sex stings that netted the arrests of almost 500 men seeking to buy sex and 14 pimps and traffickers, officials will announce Wednesday.
The police crackdown, part of an annual “National Day of Johns Arrests,” led to more arrests than any previous sex sting of its kind, officials said. Law enforcement agencies in 14 different states collaborated on the sting, which is part of an ongoing national pivot toward fighting the sex trade by punishing johns instead of prostitutes.
“If there was no demand, there would be no prostitution,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, whose Chicago office has taken a lead role in organizing the crackdown, told TIME Tuesday ahead of its announcement. “It makes them understand that there are some consequences here. The public still perceives prostitution as a victimless crime, so we're going about it this way to address the problem and raise awareness.”
Officials said 111 prostitutes were recovered during the operation, including 13 juveniles. The crackdown, which ran from July 17 to Aug. 3, led police to multiple cases of abuse. Seattle police recovered a 15-year old girl whose mother was attempting to sell her for sex. Texas law enforcement officials arrested a federal border patrol agent who was trying to buy sex while in full uniform, as well as a man who tried to pick up a prostitute with his infant child in the backseat. Of the 150 johns arrested in the greater Phoenix area, 91 were trying to buy sex off the website Backpage.com
Dart said the “National Day of Johns Arrests” only lasts for 18 days in order to show the scope of the problem, but also because there are practical constraints on resource allocation in different jurisdictions. “Law enforcement agencies have issues that are pulling them in a million different directions,” he said. “This shows what we can do in a narrow window of time, and speaks to the bigger issue of what's happening the rest of the year.”
Dart said 53% of the arrested johns were married and 47% were college graduates. “The idea that these are a bunch of ne'er-do-wells could not be further from the truth,” he said.
The National Day of Johns is part of a national trend toward punishing men who buy sex instead of prostitutes who are sometimes forced to sell it. New York has already announced some measures to punish pimps more than trafficking victims, and to rehabilitate women who have been in the sex trade rather than imprison them. The shift has also gained traction internationally, with Sweden's ban on purchasing sex instead of on selling it has becoming a model across Europe.