Sexual slavery, or sex slavery, is a form of slavery that includes forced sexual activity. Some sex slaves are kept in bondage specifically for sexual use, while in other cases sexual slavery accompanies other forms of slavery. Sex slaves are subjected to both sexual assault and rape by their captors, as well as other people. Like other forms of slavery, sexual slavery is illegal and it is considered a significant human rights violation.
This type of slavery can take many forms. Members of the public are increasingly aware of forced prostitution, a form of sexual slavery that is often combined with human trafficking, in which people are moved across international borders illegally. Forced prostitution is a problem in many nations, including those with legalized prostitution and includes people trafficked from many different areas of the world.
People held in domestic servitude and forced labor can also be used as sexual slaves. Attitudes about slaves from the ancient world to the modern era have included the assumption that slaves are available for sex at any time. In some cases, rape and sexual assault are even used as methods of disciplining slaves.
There is also a history of enslaving people to provide sexual services to one person. Historically, sex slaves were sometimes kept in large numbers for the benefit of powerful members of society. Today, sexual slavery can occur when people are trafficked from their home nations and sold, sometimes as “brides,” to private individuals. These individuals may later sell their sex slaves to other parties or to brothels that use sex slaves in forced prostitution.
People subjected to sexual slavery include men, women, and children. Sex slaves may have difficulty escaping, both because they are physically restrained, as seen in facilities that lock sex slaves inside, and because they face psychological and language barriers. A common problem for victims of sexual slavery is that they are often arrested for prostitution or other crimes by the authorities, when really law enforcement should be arresting the people who held them in slavery.
Addressing all forms of slavery has been an ongoing concern among many members of the global community. Ending enslavement requires a multi-pronged approach that incorporates the skills of social workers, law enforcement, legislators, and human rights organizations. A number of nations have enacted measures that are designed to help slaves report their enslavement without risking legal penalties for being in a country without papers, being forced into prostitution, or violating other laws. This is designed to make slaves feel more comfortable about asking for help, thereby increasing the chances of identifying and addressing slavery.
Sex slavery needs consideration in law reform Canada’s recent law reform has people debating over which legislative objective to adopt concerning the sex trade. But is sex slavery being adequately considered in these debates? The applicants challenging the prostitution laws have, understandably, made recommendations based on their experiences as autonomous sex workers. But any change to the law ought to be considered with sensitivity toward those who are being exploited within the industry: typically 12-to-14-year-old girls who are coerced to engage in sexual acts to which they are otherwise legally incapable of consenting towards. In the past, many of these young girls have been incarcerated while their clients and pimps have walked away. The model in Nordic countries such as Sweden and Finland attempts to reverse this process and “target the market” by criminalizing the purchase of sex. Adapting this model in Canada would decrease the demand for sex and facilitate the prosecution of those who exploit young women. Few prosecutions, coupled with brief sentences, do little to deter traffickers from forcibly pressuring women to service upwards of 20 clients a day. Existing trafficking laws in Canada have only seen 26 convicted cases as of 2013, possibly due to the onus placed on victims to testify and their reluctance to appear before court. It’s clear that trafficking laws alone cannot prevent sex trafficking in Canada. These laws would be greatly complemented by better support services for women in need as well as legislation which discourages the purchasing of sex. Granted, the Nordic model isn’t without consequence to the consenting sex worker. Basic economics dictate that a decrease in demand would drive down prices. This, in turn, could decrease workers’ bargaining power, possibly cornering them into accepting riskier clients. While these concerns are valid, proper implementation of the Nordic model could prevent the unintended negative effects towards sex workers. Many women working in the sex trade say they would leave if offered a similar-paying job. Offering services to help these women exit the trade may help to offset the decrease in demand. Also, street outreach services that encourage workers to report bad dates can support affected women and aid law enforcement in convicting abusive clients. The proper adaptation and implementation of the Nordic model in Canada has the potential to aid victims of trafficking while safeguarding the rights of sex workers. It’s imperative that our nation enters into discussion about the consequences of changes to our laws on sex workers and trafficked women alike. Changes to the law alone will not prevent trafficking, but they are a vital component in the fight against sex trafficking.
In 2001 the United States State Department estimated that 50,000 to 100,000 women and girls are trafficked each year into the United States. In 2003, the State Department report estimated that a total of 18,000 to 20,000 individuals were trafficked into the United States for either forced labor or sexual exploitation. The June 2004 report estimated the total trafficked annually at between 14,500 and 17,500. The Bush administration set up 42 Justice Department task forces and spent more than $150 million on attempts to reduce human trafficking. However, in the seven years since the law was passed, the administration has identified only 1,362 victims of human trafficking brought into the United States since 2000, nowhere near the 50,000 or more per year the government had estimated.
The Girl’s Education & Mentoring Services (GEMS), an organization based in New York, claims that the majority of girls in the sex trade were abused as children. Poverty and a lack of education play major roles in the lives of many women in the sex industry.
According to a report conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, anywhere from 100,000 up to 300,000 American children at any given time may be at risk of exploitation due to factors such as drug use, homelessness, or other factors connected with increased risk for commercial sexual exploitation. However, the report emphasized, “The numbers presented in these exhibits do not, therefore, reflect the actual number of cases of CSEC in the United States but, rather, what we estimate to be the number of children ‘at risk’ of commercial sexual exploitation.”
The 2010 Trafficking in Persons report described the United States as, "a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor, debt bondage, and forced prostitution." Sexual slavery in the United States may occur in multiple forms and in multiple venues. Sex trafficking in the United States may be present in Asian massage parlors, Mexican cantina bars, residential brothels, or street-based pimp-controlled prostitution. Theanti-trafficking community in the United States is debating the extent of sexual slavery. Some groups argue that exploitation is inherent in the act of commercial sex, while other groups take a stricter approach to defining sexual slavery, considering an element of force, fraud or coercion to be necessary for sex slavery to exist.
The prostitutes in illegal massage parlors may be forced to work out of apartment complexes for many hours a day. Many clients may not realize that some of the women who work in these massage sex parlors are actually forced in prostitution. The women may initially be lured into the US under false pretenses. In huge debt to their 'owners', they are forced to earn enough to eventually "buy" their freedom. In some cases women who have been sex trafficked may be forced to undergo plastic surgery or abortions. A chapter in The Slave Next Door (2009) reports that human trafficking and sexual enslavement are not limited to any specific location or social class. It concludes that individuals in society need to be alert to report suspicious behavior, because the psychological and physical abuse occurs which can often leave a victim unable to escape on their own.
In 2000 Congress created the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act with tougher punishments for sex traffickers. It provides for the possibility for former sex slaves to obtain a T-1 visa. To obtain the visa women must, "prove they were enslaved by 'force, fraud or coercion'." The visa allows former victims of sex trafficking to stay in the United States for 3 years and then apply for a green card.
Human sex trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery. Estimates place the number of its domestic and international victims in the millions, mostly females and children enslaved in the commercial sex industry for little or no money.1 The terms human trafficking and sex slavery usually conjure up images of young girls beaten and abused in faraway places, like Eastern Europe, Asia, or Africa. Actually, human sex trafficking and sex slavery happen locally in cities and towns, both large and small, throughout the United States, right in citizens’ backyards.
Appreciating the magnitude of the problem requires first understanding what the issue is and what it is not. Additionally, people must be able to identify the victim in common trafficking situations.
HUMAN SEX TRAFFICKING
Many people probably remember popular movies and television shows depicting pimps as dressing flashy and driving large fancy cars. More important, the women—adults—consensually and voluntarily engaged in the business of prostitution without complaint. This characterization is extremely inaccurate, nothing more than fiction. In reality, the pimp traffics young women (and sometimes men) completely against their will by force or threat of force; this is human sex trafficking.
Not only is human sex trafficking slavery but it is big business. It is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world.2 The majority of sex trafficking is international, with victims taken from such places as South and Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union, Central and South America, and other less developed areas and moved to more developed ones, including Asia, the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America.3
Unfortunately, however, sex trafficking also occurs domestically.4 The United States not only faces an influx of international victims but also has its own homegrown problem of interstate sex trafficking of minors.5
Although comprehensive research to document the number of children engaged in prostitution in the United States is lacking, an estimated 293,000 American youths currently are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.6 The majority of these victims are runaway or thrown-away youths who live on the streets and become victims of prostitution.7 These children generally come from homes where they have been abused or from families who have abandoned them. Often, they become involved in prostitution to support themselves financially or to get the things they feel they need or want (like drugs).
Other young people are recruited into prostitution through forced abduction, pressure from parents, or through deceptive agreements between parents and traffickers. Once these children become involved in prostitution, they often are forced to travel far from their homes and, as a result, are isolated from their friends and family. Few children in this situation can develop new relationships with peers or adults other than the person victimizing them. The lifestyle of such youths revolves around violence, forced drug use, and constant threats.8
Among children and teens living on the streets in the United States, involvement in commercial sex activity is a problem of epidemic proportion. Many girls living on the street engage in formal prostitution, and some become entangled in nationwide organized crime networks where they are trafficked nationally. Criminal networks transport these children around the United States by a variety of means—cars, buses, vans, trucks, or planes—and often provide them counterfeit identification to use in the event of arrest. The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12 to 14. It is not only the girls on the streets who are affected; boys and transgender youth enter into prostitution between the ages of 11 and 13 on average.9
Today, the business of human sex trafficking is much more organized and violent. These women and young girls are sold to traffickers, locked up in rooms or brothels for weeks or months, drugged, terrorized, and raped repeatedly.10 These continual abuses make it easier for the traffickers to control their victims. The captives are so afraid and intimidated that they rarely speak out against their traffickers, even when faced with an opportunity to escape.
Generally, the traffickers are very organized. Many have a hierarchy system similar to that of other criminal organizations. Traffickers who have more than one victim often have a “bottom,” who sits atop the hierarchy of prostitutes. The bottom, a victim herself, has been with the trafficker the longest and has earned his trust. Bottoms collect the money from the other girls, discipline them, seduce unwitting youths into trafficking, and handle the day-to-day business for the trafficker.
Traffickers represent every social, ethnic, and racial group. Various organizational types exist in trafficking. Some perpetrators are involved with local street and motorcycle gangs, others are members of larger nationwide gangs and criminal organizations, and some have no affiliation with any one group or organization. Traffickers are not only men—women run many established rings.
Traffickers use force, drugs, emotional tactics, and financial methods to control their victims. They have an especially easy time establishing a strong bond with young girls. These perpetrators may promise marriage and a lifestyle the youths often did not have in their previous familial relationships. They claim they “love” and “need” the victim and that any sex acts are for their future together. In cases where the children have few or no positive male role models in their lives, the traffickers take advantage of this fact and, in many cases, demand that the victims refer to them as “daddy,” making it tougher for the youths to break the hold the perpetrator has on them.Sometimes, the traffickers use violence, such as gang rape and other forms of abuse, to force the youths to work for them and remain under their control. One victim, a runaway from Baltimore County, Maryland, was gang raped by a group of men associated with the trafficker, who subsequently staged a “rescue.” He then demanded that she repay him by working for him as one of his prostitutes. In many cases, however, the victims simply are beaten until they submit to the trafficker’s demands.
In some situations, the youths have become addicted to drugs. The traffickers simply can use their ability to supply them with drugs as a means of control.
Traffickers often take their victims’ identity forms, including birth certificates, passports, and drivers’ licenses. In these cases, even if youths do leave they would have no ability to support themselves and often will return to the trafficker.
These abusive methods of control impact the victims both physically and mentally. Similar to cases involving Stockholm Syndrome, these victims, who have been abused over an extended period of time, begin to feel an attachment to the perpetrator.11 This paradoxical psychological phenomenon makes it difficult for law enforcement to breach the bond of control, albeit abusive, the trafficker holds over the victim.
NATIONAL PROBLEM WITH LOCAL TIES
The Federal Level
In 2000, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which created the first comprehensive federal law to address trafficking, with a significant focus on the international dimension of the problem. The law provides a three-pronged approach: prevention through public awareness programs overseas and a State Department-led monitoring and sanctions program; protection through a new T Visa and services for foreign national victims; and prosecution through new federal crimes and severe penalties.12
As a result of the passing of the TVPA, the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons was established in October 2001. This enabling legislation led to the creation of a bureau within the State Department to specifically address human trafficking and exploitation on all levels and to take legal action against perpetrators.13 Additionally, this act was designed to enforce all laws within the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that apply.14
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is one of the lead federal agencies charged with enforcing the TVPA. Human trafficking represents significant risks to homeland security. Would-be terrorists and criminals often can access the same routes and use the same methods as human traffickers. ICE’s Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit works to identify criminals and organizations involved in these illicit activities.The FBI also enforces the TVPA. In June 2003, the FBI, in conjunction with the Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, launched the Innocence Lost National Initiative. The agencies’ combined efforts address the growing problem of domestic sex trafficking of children in the United States. To date, these groups have worked successfully to rescue nearly 900 children. Investigations successfully have led to the conviction of more than 500 pimps, madams, and their associates who exploit children through prostitution. These convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including multiple 25-year-to-life sentences and the seizure of real property, vehicles, and monetary assets.15
Both ICE and the FBI, along with other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and national victim-based advocacy groups in joint task forces, have combined resources and expertise on the issue. Today, the FBI participates in approximately 30 law enforcement task forces and about 42 Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)-sponsored task forces around the nation.16
In July 2004, the Human Smuggling Trafficking Center (HSTC) was created. The HSTC serves as a fusion center for information on human smuggling and trafficking, bringing together analysts, officers, and investigators from such agencies as the CIA, FBI, ICE, Department of State, and Department of Homeland Security.
The Local Level + With DOJ funding assistance, many jurisdictions have created human trafficking task forces to combat the problem. BJA’s 42 such task forces can be demonstrated by several examples.
In 2004, the FBI’s Washington field office and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department joined with a variety of nongovernment organizations and service providers to combat the growing problem of human trafficking within Washington, D.C.
In January 2005, the Massachusetts Human Trafficking Task Force was formed, with the Boston Police Department serving as the lead law enforcement entity. It uses a two-pronged approach, addressing investigations focusing on international victims and those focusing on the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
The New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force attacks the problem by training law enforcement in the methods of identifying victims and signs of trafficking, coordinating statewide efforts in the identification and provision of services to victims of human trafficking, and increasing the successful interdiction and prosecution of trafficking of human persons.
Since 2006, the Louisiana Human Trafficking Task Force, which has law enforcement, training, and victim services components, has focused its law enforcement and victim rescue efforts on the Interstate 10 corridor from the Texas border on the west to the Mississippi border on the east. This corridor, the basic northern border of the hurricane-ravaged areas of Louisiana, long has served as a major avenue of illegal immigration efforts. The I-10 corridor also is the main avenue for individuals participating in human trafficking to supply the labor needs in the hurricane-damaged areas of the state.
In 2007, the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force was formed. It aims to create a heightened law enforcement and victim service presence in the community. Its law enforcement efforts include establishing roving operations to identify victims and traffickers, deputizing local law enforcement to assist in federal human trafficking investigations, and providing training for law enforcement officers.
In December 2008, Corey Davis, the ringleader of a sex-trafficking ring that spanned at least three states, was sentenced in federal court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on federal civil rights charges for organizing and leading the sex-trafficking operation that exploited as many as 20 females, including minors. Davis received a sentence of 293 months in prison followed by a lifetime term of supervised release. He pleaded guilty to multiple sex-trafficking charges, including recruiting a girl under the age of 18 to engage in prostitution. Davis admitted that he recruited a minor to engage in prostitution; that he was the organizer of a sex-trafficking venture; and that he used force, fraud, and coercion to compel the victim to commit commercial sex acts from which he obtained the proceeds.
According to the indictment, Davis lured victims to his operation with promises of modeling contracts and a glamorous lifestyle. He then forced them into a grueling schedule of dancing and performing at strip clubs in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. When the clubs closed, Davis forced the victims to walk the streets until 4 or 5 a.m. propositioning customers. The indictment also alleged that he beat many of the victims to force them to work for him and that he also used physical abuse as punishment for disobeying the stringent rules he imposed to isolate and control them.18
As this and other examples show, human trafficking cases happen all over the United States. A few instances would represent just the “tip of the iceberg” in a growing criminal enterprise. Local and state criminal justice officials must understand that these cases are not isolated incidents that occur infrequently. They must remain alert for signs of trafficking in their jurisdictions and aggressively follow through on the smallest clue. Numerous Web sites openly (though they try to mask their actions) advertise for prostitution. Many of these sites involve young girls victimized by sex trafficking. Many of the pictures are altered to give the impression of older girls engaged in this activity freely and voluntarily. However, as prosecutors, the authors both have encountered numerous cases of suspected human trafficking involving underage girls.
The article “The Girls Next Door” describes a conventional midcentury home in Plainfield, New Jersey, that sat in a nice middle-class neighborhood. Unbeknownst to the neighbors, the house was part of a network of stash houses in the New York area where underage girls and young women from dozens of countries were trafficked and held captive. Acting on a tip, police raided the house in February 2002, expecting to find an underground brothel. Instead, they found four girls between the ages of 14 and 17, all Mexican nationals without documentation.However, they were not prostitutes; they were sex slaves. These girls did not work for profit or a paycheck. They were captives to the traffickers and keepers who controlled their every move. The police found a squalid, land-based equivalent of a 19th-century slave ship. They encountered rancid, doorless bathrooms; bare, putrid mattresses; and a stash of penicillin, “morning after’’ pills, and an antiulcer medication that can induce abortion. The girls were pale, exhausted, and malnourished.19
Human sex trafficking warning signs include, among other indicators, streetwalkers and strip clubs. However, a jurisdiction’s lack of streetwalkers or strip clubs does not mean that it is immune to the problem of trafficking. Because human trafficking involves big money, if money can be made, sex slaves can be sold. Sex trafficking can happen anywhere, however unlikely a place. Investigators should be attuned to reading the signs of trafficking and looking closely for them.
INVESTIGATION OF HUMAN SEX TRAFFICKING
ICE aggressively targets the global criminal infrastructure, including the people, money, and materials that support human trafficking networks. The agency strives to prevent human trafficking in the United States by prosecuting the traffickers and rescuing and protecting the victims. However, most human trafficking cases start at the local level.
Local and state law enforcement officers may unknowingly encounter sex trafficking when they deal with homeless and runaway juveniles; criminal gang activity; crimes involving immigrant children who have no guardians; domestic violence calls; and investigations at truck stops, motels, massage parlors, spas, and strip clubs. To this end, the authors offer various suggestions and indicators to help patrol officers identify victims of sex trafficking, as well as tips for detectives who investigate these crimes.
Document suspicious calls and complaints on a police information report, even if the details seem trivial.
Be aware of trafficking when responding to certain call types, such as reports of foot traffic in and out of a house. Consider situations that seem similar to drug complaints
Look closely at calls for assaults, domestic situations, verbal disputes, or thefts. These could involve a trafficking victim being abused and disciplined by a trafficker, a customer having a dispute with a victim, or a client who had money taken during a sex act.
Locations, such as truck stops, strip clubs, massage parlors, and cheap motels, are havens for prostitutes forced into sex trafficking. Many massage parlors and strip clubs that engage in sex trafficking will have cramped living quarters where the victims are forced to stay.
When encountering prostitutes and other victims of trafficking, do not display judgment or talk down to them. Understand the violent nature in how they are forced into trafficking, which explains their lack of cooperation. Speak with them in a location completely safe and away from other people, including potential victims.
Check for identification. Traffickers take the victims’ identification and, in cases of foreign nationals, their travel information. The lack of either item should raise concern.
Monitor Web sites that advertise for dating and hooking up. Most vice units are familiar with the common sites used by sex traffickers as a means of advertisement.
Conduct surveillance at motels, truck stops, strip clubs, and massage parlors. Look to see if the girls arrive alone or with someone else. Girls being transported to these locations should raise concerns of trafficking.
Upon an arrest, check cell phone records, motel receipts, computer printouts of advertisements, and tollbooth receipts. Look for phone calls from the jailed prostitute to the pimp. Check surveillance cameras at motels and toll facilities as evidence to indicate the trafficking of the victim.
Obtain written statements from the customers; get them to work for you.
Seek assistance from nongovernmental organizations involved in fighting sex trafficking. Many of these entities have workers who will interview these victims on behalf of the police.
Patrol officers and investigators can look for many other human trafficking indicators as well.20 These certainly warrant closer attention.
General IndicatorsPeople who live on or near work premises Individuals with restricted or controlled communication and transportation Persons frequently moved by traffickers A living space with a large number of occupants People lacking private space, personal possessions, or financial records Someone with limited knowledge about how to get around in a community
Physical IndicatorsInjuries from beatings or weapons Signs of torture (e.g., cigarette burns) Brands or scarring, indicating ownership Signs of malnourishment
Financial/Legal IndicatorsSomeone else has possession of an individual’s legal/travel documents Existing debt issues One attorney claiming to represent multiple illegal aliens detained at different locations Third party who insists on interpreting. Did the victim sign a contract?
Brothel IndicatorsLarge amounts of cash and condoms Customer logbook or receipt book (“trick book”) Sparse rooms Men come and go frequently
This form of cruel modern-day slavery occurs more often than many people might think. And, it is not just an international or a national problem—it also is a local one. It is big business, and it involves a lot of perpetrators and victims.
Agencies at all levels must remain alert to this issue and address it vigilantly. Even local officers must understand the problem and know how to recognize it in their jurisdictions. Coordinated and aggressive efforts from all law enforcement organizations can put an end to these perpetrators’ operations and free the victims.
After executing a search warrant, photograph everything. Remember that in court, a picture may be worth a thousand words: nothing else can more effectively describe a cramped living quarter a victim is forced to reside in.
Look for advertisements in local newspapers, specifically the sports sections, that advertise massage parlors. These businesses should be checked out to ensure they are legitimate and not fronts for trafficking.
Contact your local U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI field office, or ICE for assistance. Explore what federal resources exist to help address this problem.
Pope Francis denounced human trafficking as a crime against humanity Thursday after meeting with four women who were trafficked and forced into prostitution.Francis attended a Vatican conference of church workers, charity representatives and police chiefs from 20 nations, Interpol and Europol who pledged greater cooperation to prevent trafficking and encourage its victims to come forward to police.
"Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ," Francis said. "It is a crime against humanity."
The pope met privately with freed sex slaves from his native Argentina, Chile, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Three of them addressed the conference, which issued a final statement pledging to develop strategies to do more to prevent trafficking, care for victims and help them reintegrate into society once freed.
"Our strategy must work across all borders, languages cultures and religious beliefs," Interpol's secretary general, Ronald Noble, told the group. "The 'merchants' do not care about these differences, indeed they thrive on them, as they have done for years."
Attending were police chiefs from countries where women are routinely trafficked for sex, including Nigeria, Romania, Poland and Albania.
Francis has made combating human trafficking and slavery a priority of his papacy. The Vatican recently joined forces with the Anglican Church and Al-Azhar university, the world's foremost seat of Sunni learning, in an anti-slavery initiative.
Yet only about 1 percent of all trafficking victims denounce their smugglers to police and seek assistance, said Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the metropolitan police commissioner in London which has formed a partnership with the Westminster archdiocese to care for victims. Many victims fear coming forward, thinking they will be judged, deported or prosecuted when in fact law enforcement and the church want to offer them a "sanctuary," he said.
The conference, dubbed the "Santa Marta Group" after Francis' Vatican hotel where participants stayed, meets again in London in November.
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