04 October 2010

California gets an 'A' for accountablity

Earlier this week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed two bills that may change the way California approaches human trafficking all together. Included are not only penalties and seizes, but accountability.

The first bill, SB677, allows courts to seize any property used to facilitate human trafficking. And also imposes civil penalties up to $25,000 to traffickers.

But the second bill, SB657, requires that all major retailers and manufacturers that do business in California show on their websites any steps they have or are currently taking to make sure their product supply chains is free from slavery and trafficking.

The governor thinks these new laws will keep California at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking. I think he's right. And based on the 2010 Polaris Project State Rating Map, California appears to 'do their part' to say the least.

But how does your state rank? Based on your states manufacturing or agricultural demand, what changes could be made to ensure accountability and a slave free environment?

27 September 2010

An organization that gets it... [UPDATE]

...and wants the rest of us to follow suit.


This post is an email interview with Jessica Gordon - a member of Women at Risk (WAR) International. WAR is an organization striving to put stability - through sustainable business and job opportunities - back into the lives of women around the world that have been abused and/or discriminated against.

In my conversation with Jessica my goal was to not only share a beautiful organization with the rest of the world, but to also show everyone how easy it is to participate and sow great seeds back into the lives of those who would otherwise be left in their desperate state.

Follow carefully, because Jessica not only shares her background and current role in the organization, but she also allows us to see her heart. And that has clearly made this interview special.

First Jessica, what is your role with WAR International?
I am the Retail Manager for WAR. I get the joy of running the two boutiques that we now operate to sell the womens' hand-made pieces. Both boutiques are in the greater Grand Rapids area, as our headquarters are located in the area as well. We have sought to create an environment where individuals, especially women, can come in and feel that they are in a safe-haven. We have also created an elegant and upscale atmosphere to represent the beauty and great value of the women and their products.
What inspired you to become an active member of the organization?
Since I was young God has given me a heart of compassion and justice. My mother used to call me her "little justice Jessica". I remember always feeling a desire to stick-up for those who were defenseless or treated unfairly. As I got older this passion grew as I had the opportunity to help at-risk young ladies on a Native Reserve in Canada for 10 summers and then my ultimate dream to travel to India to love on women and children there. When I left college I was approached by WAR, International because of a mutual friend that Rebecca, the Director of WAR, and I shared. I learned about the organization and all that they were doing to help women worldwide and could not wait to get involved! I was then taken on full-time to manage their first retail store.
Why is sustainable business or job opportunities important for women in desperate situations?
Women in these desperate situations need to be empowered, sustainable business/job opportunities facilitate this. We often say that if you "rescue" a woman from slavery and do not provide her with aftercare and job skills training/education you haven't actually rescued her. The circumstances that made her a target before have not been changed. We want to provide women with the opportunity to grow and have hope. Not only do job opportunities provide economic stability for these women, making them less of a target for traffickers' scams, but it also encourages these women that they CAN do something different, that they ARE valuable. Also sustainable business models allow for these women to accomplish something for themselves without becoming dependent on someone else. They have learned a skill and received an education that protects and provides independence and a better chance for their children. They have a truly marketable skill that is valued both in their culture and here in the U.S.
What results have you seen in these programs?
I think the most amazing results that we have seen is women who no longer think of themselves as "bar girls" or prostitutes. There is a lot of healing that needs to happen and a lot of shame that these women experience even though they have often been the victim. To hear a woman be able to say, I hardly think of those days anymore and no longer think of myself in that light but as a beautiful daughter of the King! Wow! What a beautiful thing. God is the great healer and I think this is the most amazing result we have seen from men and women investing their time and hearts into these women.

We see women rescued, we see them going from believing that they could never make anything beautiful out of their life to making beautiful jewelry, we see women repatriated to the countries they have been trafficked from, we see women who formerly worked in the red-light districts going back to reach out to their friends, we have couples returning to villages who send a majority of their women to work in the "bars" and starting training programs. The list could go on and on.
In the long run, would you say you're empowering these women by giving them a fish, teaching them how to fish, how to fish and make money by selling it, or how to live with dignity, support their family, and be a positive producer in their community till they retire?
All of the above. We start by giving them a fish: a chance to hope, love and acceptance and a safe-haven to heal. Then when they are ready we teach them how to fish through education (varies dependent on what education they have received), job skills training and employment. Some of the women stay and are employed by our programs while others may choose, with their education, to move on and pursue other passions. These are all individual women with individual dreams that we want to help them accomplish. Many of the women come with children whose education is also provided for. By the time they leave a program they have learned how to live with dignity, support their families, and positively impact their community.
With WAR being a Christian organization, whats a unique challenge you had to overcome while working in countries of a different religion?
Our worldview often clashes with those of some of the countries we work with. Our faith informs our views on the value of human life and on how we are to respond to injustice. What we have found, however, is that there are culturally sensitive ways to address the issues. For example: when working in a Middle Eastern country with a domestic violence case, instead of helping a women to legally obtain a divorce or go against her husband (how some American agencies have gone about addressing the problem) we helped the woman by providing a scholarship to attend a training program to learn the skill of embroidery (a skill that could be used out of the home). This removed the woman from immediate danger for a couple of weeks and also gave her a skill which raised her value in the eyes of her husband. Eventually she was making more money than he was and his view of his wife was changing. The abuse stopped. If we had encouraged this woman to get a divorce she would have lost custody to her children, been shunned by her community, and put at great risk as a "fallen woman" in the eyes of the men of the community. We were able to work with the abuser to change his mindset without ever suggesting that was what we were going to do. Often we do not bring our faith into it unto later when they inevitably ask..."why do you care?" and "why do you help?" which is when we can share appropriately that the God of the Bible sees and cares for the hurts of women and that he has asked us to help. We never force our beliefs but offer the hope we have and trust God with the rest all while respecting the cultures we work in.
Is it possible for Americans to help your cause without making plans to leave the country in the next 6 months?
Absolutely! We have so many opportunities for individuals to make a huge impact in the lives of women and children worldwide right where they live. Not everyone has the means to travel abroad or the skills to rescue and counsel women but everyone purchases little gifts for others throughout the year. We invite people to "SHOP with a Purpose" and literally support not only the livelihood of the women who make each piece but the future rescue and empowerment of women who are still enslaved. We also invite people to be advocates by hosting jewelry parties/educational events in their homes, place of business, church, etc. Not to mention that our organization is blessed with over 200 volunteers a year who help us get the womens' pieces ready to sell and keep our overhead costs low ensuring that the money you spend goes back to help the women. 90% of the sale of any of our hand-made pieces goes back to the women and their programs!
With the efforts of organizations like WAR, do you really believe crimes like human trafficking and the lack of women's equality that exist can truly be rectified in the coming years? What signs have you seen to support your answer?
This is tough one to answer. I don't know that I believe that the problem can be entirely eradicated in our day....but does that mean we don't try? Does that mean we don't help every single person that we can? NO. This problem is widespread and growing. Greed, corruption and injustice fuel its growth. Yet, we have been CALLED to do all that we can, to make a difference. What will you do? How will you respond? Through the efforts of WAR and organizations like WAR we have seen thousands of women rescued from slavery, not only through our partners who are actively rescuing women but through all of our partners who are proactively addressing the issue through preventative training programs! Even if the crimes and inequality cannot fully be eradicated in the coming years we will continue to do what we do. To help even one woman is a victory. I do believe that the more and more we can educate and involve the American public in the fight against trafficking the better.
Lastly, if a male believes in your cause and wants to support, what could he do to get involved?
We are SO grateful for the men who support our cause. What a wonderful thing to hear men who feel passionate about protecting not only the women in their lives but those around the world. Men who value and treat women with respect! We do have some wonderful male supporters and they are involved in a variety of ways: some our advocates for our cause and invite us to their churches or places of business to spread the word about what we do, some buy gifts for all of the women in their life, some offer their muscle at our warehouse (since us women need some help in this department sometimes), they offer their skills at carpentry and handy work, they write stories. One gentleman is actually planning a bike-ride across the US and will have a banner for us on his trailer along with literature to hand-out wherever he goes. The possibilities are endless!


Learn more about Women at Risk International by vistiting their site at http://www.warinternational.org/.

Contact the organization directly, see their varies programs or donate to the cause.

13 September 2010

The alternative isn't worth the pain, or is it...

For men, if we ever hit on hard times and needed to use our last resource to make something happen we would.

To eat. To find shelter. To protect our family. It doesn't matter really. It's all the same to us. What matters is the alternative.

For women that alternative is sometimes a choice that's made early on. And for a number of reasons.

For women, sometimes to provide shelter. To provide reasonable protection for your single parent family. To watch your kids eat before they go to bed. These are all the same to her too. But the alternative is unfortunately what makes these things come to pass.

The alternative is selling her body to provide for your family. The alternative is dangerous and something no one ever gets used to. The alternative is a result of a let down. [Whether it be the system, a broken family unit or a dumb choice from a lack of guidance.] Just know that it's the sort of let down that men will hardly ever choose to face. Simply because it's not our wiring. Before we choose to give our body for food, we'll think of something else, or go hungry.

The next time you notice a single mother in a peculiar situation - she may be in her teens, in your school, your office or on the street corner - imagine the moment she faced the alternative. The moment she chose it to stay alive and keep her family on the roller coaster one more day. The alternative is something... is something I pray I never have to face.

To learn more about ways to educate your community against sexual exploitation visit caase.org.

10 September 2010

Craigslist, censorship or window dressing?

To start the Labor Day weekend off right, Craigslist dismissed the adult services section of their site, replacing it with links that are guaranteed to be censored.

Even though this was something that had to be done, it's still a major step in the right direction as far as the fight against trafficking is concerned. After months of doing little to correct the site's problem centered around women, teens and children being pimped and/or trafficked in it's adult services section, Craig Newmark may deserve more credit than he will ever receive. It obviously wasn't an easy decision for him (or it would have been made last year).

One concern. Craigslist says it will inspect every ad posted on the new setup of their adult services section. Interesting, because I thought they said that last year.

In late August 2010, 17 attorneys general signed a letter sent to Craigslist demanding the section be taken down. The attorneys general believed Craigslist was in an indirect way either supporting the trafficking of teens and children on it's site or just making it too easy for it to occur.

With that said, how effective will changing the name really become over time? After receiving the negative media, the complaints, the letters... the name of the adult services section of Craigslist, now labeled censored, appears to only be window dressing. Like when the coach says to be different compared to other guys in your position, then you change the color of your shoe laces. It doesn't cut it. And no one buys that you're different. Most people don't even notice.

Sweden tackles prostitution and trafficking with the Sex Purchase Law. The law keeps most of the country's prostitution and trafficking at bay. But even it's not safe from the effects of the Internet connecting victims to prospective buyers. As a matter of fact, it's not even close to the answer needed.

For suggestions on how Craigslist can help eliminate the use of pimps and traffickers on its site, use twitter to expose @craignewmark to some of your solutions.

09 September 2010

Mordecai, from biblical character to body trafficker

The Los Angeles based Global Horizans Manpower Inc. CEO, Mordechai Orian, surrendered Friday in Honolulu after being charged with labor trafficking.

Mordechai has plead not guilty to exploiting 400 Thai workers - forcing them to work in US farms in Hawaii, Washington, California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

Thailand recruiters made promises of high wages and three years of employement. Workers making roughly $1,000/year were charged fees of $9,500 to $21,000 to gain employement. Recruiters also confiscated their passports, and threatened them with deportation.

Mordechai, three of his employees and two Thailand recruiters were charged last Thursday facing anywhere from five years to 70 years in prison.

Finally. An investigation, indictment and arrests of the individuals these trafficking laws were made for. So it seems.

24 August 2010

One Boy’s Journey to Hope

Below, the story of this young man and who he becomes, is living proof that fate has little to do with where you're from or what's happened to you. It's the story of a Haitian restavek who was given a chance at life.


Today, Baby Auguste is 15 years old and only in the second grade. Until a few years ago, his days consisted of trying to find food for him and his family to eat, rather than learning how to spell and write his name.

When Baby Auguste was much younger, his father occasionally crossed the border to the neighboring Dominican Republic to buy fighting roosters. Usually he left for just a few days and would return to sell the fighting roosters in Haiti. One day, his father left and never came back.

At that time, Baby had only been in school for a year – but his father’s disappearance meant an end to his formal education. Not only could his family not afford the tuition, they would go on for days without any food in the house. Young Baby Auguste had to do what he could to find something to put in his aching belly.

For years, he spent his days roaming the streets of the mountainside slum where they lived or the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince. Baby Auguste would wash car windows on the city’s main throughways, begging for a mere few Haitian Gourds. For 10 Gourds, he could buy a cup of coffee or some crackers.

"I liked to walk,” he recalls. "I couldn’t bear to stay idle in the one-room shack with nothing to eat. So I would walk all day in the streets.”

One day, in a street market, a social worker came to him and told him about Timkatec, a PADF-supported center for at-risk youth. At Timkatec, street kids could find shelter, eat three meals a day and go to school. Shy at first, Baby reluctantly came to visit the center. He has now been living there for three years.

The center encourages the children to see their families, and Baby Auguste occasionally sees his mother and often visits with his older sister.

"If I never had found this place, I really don’t know what I would have become,” he says. "My life was without any direction and meaning. I might have really turned bad.”

Baby Auguste now has aspirations, thanks to living in the PADF-supported shelter. He wants to become a clothing designer. His true dream is to become a "great artist” and have a career as a singer.

Read and share more stories of Haiti's restaveks.

16 August 2010

Operation Abandoned Hope

In the Spring of 2010 a 15-year runaway fled her traffickers to phone her mother for help. Police say she was held captive, supplied drugs and sexually exploited by an unknown number of men.

A unique thing about this case starts with the men charged. Six men are in police custody in Jacksonville, Florida for their direct or indirect involvement in the girl's abuse. But these six men weren't just the girl's sellers. Surprisingly (and just as important), the girl's buyers are also being charged for crimes carrying 10 years to life in prison.

Since the girl's rescue, she has started some well needed therapy. What also started in response to her rescue was Operation Abandoned Hope - a joint effort from the FBI and the Jacksonville Sheriff's office targeting child prostitution.

The result: six indictments were issued against six individuals.

This video clip is a news conference giving names and photos of the accused, ending with a question and answer session.


12 August 2010

COP Caught Trying to Meet 13 Year Old for Sex!


What happens to men like this? Not after they're arrested, but before they decide to enter a chat room. What makes a man want to "hook up" with a 13-year old girl? And what's it going to take to keep America's daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and cousins safe?

11 August 2010

"You seem really mature for your age"

42-year old, Christine Hubbs is known as the attractive wife of a successful dentist. She is a California wife and mother of three who was once the center of a picture perfect family. After 20 years of marriage Christine Hubbs is accused of having sex with two boys in 2008, when they were both 13 years old. She is now arraigned on 67 counts of felony sexual assault.

The interesting topic of sex and how today's teens and tweens plan to approach it, isn't nearly as important as the decisions 30, 40 and 50 somethings are obligated to make when dealing with their unresolved sexual secrets and the baggage that comes with them. It's impossible for our society to confront one issue without confronting the other.

10 August 2010

Craig Newmark silent, but popular opinion loud and clear

In a surprise visit from CNN's Special Investigations Unit, Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark was at a loss for words when questioned about exactly what his company was doing to prevent the advertisement of child prostitution on his site. But after this CNN video (below), on Craigslist sex ads, the popular opinion of the watchers and readers were loud and clear.

The reporter's plea for accountability from Craig Newmark's website went unanswered. But with almost 600 written responses to the article, readers made their feelings loud and clear about the fight to end prostitution and also, child prostitution.

Popular opinion says two things:

09 August 2010

New York writer allegedly labor trafficks women from Europe

New York writer, Joseph Yannai, has plead not guilty in allegedly scheming to lure young women to the country into forced labor.

66-year-old Joseph Yannai (YAH'-nay) of Pound Ridge entered his plea in Brooklyn in federal court on Thursday. He'll remain in jail pending an Aug. 9 bail hearing.

Yannai is known for writting a reference guide to the world's top chefs called "The International Who's Who of Chefs 2004-2005."

Federal prosecutors allege he used au pair websites to try convince his victims that he was in the publishing business and looking for a woman to prepare meals and accompany him and his wife on trips as a personal assistant.

He is also facing similar state charges, including labor trafficking and sexual abuse of women from Hungary, France and Brazil. Yannai faces life in prison and the lose of his home.

06 August 2010

Kutcher says, "tweet @craignewmark with solutions"

WENN.Com-The Killers star set up The Demi and Ashton (DNA) Foundation with his wife Demi Moore to raise awareness about the harrowing subject and to provide support to survivors of abuse.

Kutcher is concerned about how some sex traffickers have been using Craigslist.com to solicit business online - and he's helping the website's founder, Craig Newmark, come up with ways to weed out the offenders and ban them from using the listings service for good.

In a post on his Twitter page on Wednesday (04Aug10), he writes to fans, "Do U have ideas how 2 help Craigslist fight human trafficking? pls (please) send all responses to @craignewmark."

05 August 2010

Xclaim, Xpresses human trafficking

Xclaim, a "Contemporary Jazz Dance Ensamble", started out as Mariah Layne's vision to use the art of dance to change the world. From August 6-8, ten dancers will perform choreographed pieces to raise awareness for human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

"We don’t want to be restaveks"

The New York Times did a story in 2008 on the poorest of the poor in Haiti. They are called restaveks. Restaffs are Haitian children forced into domestic labor without pay or, sometimes, decent living conditions. I chose to share this story, and (in the future) others like it because I think it's a timeless photograph into a person's life.

After a natural disaster, it's easily for me to forget about the destitute situation that dirt poor Haitians, and others, have to live out everyday. I hope this serves as a reminder to us all that people from all walks of life are the same. And if our circumstances afford us the opportunity to give some of what we have to those less fortunate, then we should do just that.

04 August 2010

"I thought fair trade meant cheaper?"

In 2007, this ethical designer carrying bag was priced at £5 ($7) in Sainsbury's supermarkets. Advertised as a replacement for plastic grocery bags, it's also fair trade and organically made with unbleached cotton, with profits going to an environmental group.

03 August 2010

Fair, Honest, Positive, Creative, PUMA

PUMA. The brand that attracts the world's most talented and unique, isn't a brand at all. What PUMA decided to create has little do with shoes or footballs. Its initiatives in Sportlifestyle all stem from one essential, positive outcomes for all parties includes. As a byproduct, PUMA's culture has established itself as more than a brand. It's a lifestyle. It's a movement.

02 August 2010

Working hard is one thing, slavery is another

NPR--What seemed like a promising deal lured the East African woman to Seattle-into a bad situation. But for this woman, her story ends well. Which unfortunately is rare.

30 July 2010

One pair at a time

Soles4Souls - a charity that distributes shoe donations to the world's most desperate - has launched a new division. But this time, instead of collecting and giving away shoes, it's clothes. Clothes4Souls.

29 July 2010

The US$434,000 solution

Someone at the University of Central Florida might have the right idea. Teaching middle schoolers about abstinence with a video game sounds ingenious. If it works. With the average age around 13 for girls and boys entering the sex trade, there's room for change. But is this even close?

28 July 2010

100X worse than terrorism

Whats worse than 911? Since 2001 America's Homeland Security has been a hot topic. And calling the world's response paranoia is probably an understatement. But even with the extra security, there was still something we missed.

27 July 2010

Rapist held accountable, 200 yrs

This weekend I came across two articles. One was about an investigative reporter criticizing Virginia's laws on human trafficking. The reporter, and others, say they need newer, tougher laws.

26 July 2010

Operation FLICKer

Using the office computer for personal use is old news. Atleast as old as 2002. Thats when an investigation, code name Operation Flicker, started exposing government workers that were buying and/or subscribing to child porn sites.

22 July 2010

Positive identification

Taryn Simon says that positive identification doesn't always work. With photos she points out how positive identification has incarcerated many innocent people. After being chosen in a line up or photo comparison, the accused would spend the next decade in prison.

21 July 2010

Questioning photographs

Questioning the status quo is something thats necessary. Questioning sexual exploitation and human trafficking (or parts of it) drive me to publish week after week. Taryn Simon's photographs do the same.

Taryn Simon photographs secret sites | Video on TED.com

20 July 2010

Justice in Guatemala

For two years Cristofer was sexually abused by his father. Now he's four and his father won't be out of prison until Christofer is an adult.

To know about human trafficking...

Isn't enough anymore.

19 July 2010

The power of journalism

Last week Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, head of the U.S. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons was one of two officials on a first-ever United Nations panel discussion about how the news media is exposing and explaining modern slavery and human trafficking -- and how to do it better.

Redeemable

Something happened when outreach pastor Brad Pellish of Phoenix heard International Justice Mission (IJM) founder Gary Haugen speak. While getting an email about child rape and watching a documentary called Branded (not about tattoos), all within ten days, he was forced to rethink his entire ministry. The church couldn't make a huge financial impact then. So Pellish started with his local vice squad officers.

15 July 2010

Reporting on the report

Earlier this month an evaluation of the Swedish Sex Purchase Law, a law making the purchase of sex illegal, was distributed. For the last decade Sweden has earned the reputation as a model country in the fight against prostitution and sex trafficking, which I believe could be true, but how well is the law actually working?

14 July 2010

Corrupted young minds

Children starting or becoming involved in prostitution at such an early age, leave themselves little hope of having a normal life. The easily corrupted young minds of Thailand children usually result in most becoming career prostitutes. Western cultures expect this from Thailand, but how much different is it in America?

13 July 2010

Rape suspect released by mistake [update]

Ernest Clark, charged
with first-degree rape,
but released by
mistake
34 year old, Ernest Clark was serving a four year prison sentence earlier this year when evidence from a cold case investigation linked him to a first degree rape charge, and 10 other related assaults. Instead of holding him in custody once his prison term was up, Baltimore County Sheriff's dupties released him. Why - they lost his paperwork.

12 July 2010

Ateba Crocker - email interview

By now most of us realize how common sexual exploitation is in America. But what most of us don't realize is how hard it is to cope once its over.

This weekend I had a chance to correspond with Ateba Crocker, founder of Shoe Revolt. In an email interview she shared parts of her life that make it clear why she's in the position she is today. She's educated and well connected. But the important part of Ateba's story, she thinks, is what almost stopped her from telling it. Below is Ateba Crocker's interview with The Un-Protection blog.

***
I heard somewhere you said, as a young mother, to support your family you signed up for a job in an escort service. Later you found out it was a prostitution ring, but what made you stick around?
Yes - I was desperate. I didn't think I was a prostitute, prostitutes stood out on street corners I was a high class somebody (how silly, I know). But it made me feel important until I realized what it was really about and what was expected of me. Everything changed — I felt dirty and worth nothing but just a piece of meat. I didn't care about myself enough to stop- I stuck around because I was numb and didn't really know how to do anything different.

09 July 2010

Abuse doesn't have to leave stains

August 1st, the highly anticipated Shoe Revolt will launch it's fund raising enterprise to fight against domestic child trafficking.

The Shoe Revolt collects women's new and used shoes to be sold for a profit. The funds raised will go to benefit girls in need of rehabilitation from the sex trade.

The founder, Ateba Crocker, has a tender spot in her heart for these girls. She knows about the stains of abuse all too well. Her own story starts with abuse from her father starting at the age of 10. She later became a prostitute herself to support a young family.

But after growing up in an abusive environment, Ateba still has a light in her eye. She has her sights set on making sure as many girls get rehabilitated as possible. And she understands exactly what that means.

Ateba says, "this care is expensive, and often girls need to stay in programs for years until they are able to support themselves," ... "Our goal is to help provide safe places for victims to recover from their horrifying experiences. The fight doesn't stop when a victim is rescued – it stops when she is healing and living a life free of sexual exploitation."

ShoeRevolt.com is an online shoe boutique that raises awareness, inspires, and empowers women to donate high-end shoes to eradicate human trafficking in the United States with every donated shoe sold. Celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker, Emily West and Zöe Bell have donated shoes from their collections, as have executives, lawyers, politicians and stay-at-home moms.

Watch Ateba or visit ShoeRevolt.com.

08 July 2010

Loose the labels

The next time you run across someone with a title or label, ask yourself a question. How do I feel about this person's label? Does their label, somehow, bring us together, or create a gap?

Jacqueline Novogratz said, "what you call people distances us from them, and makes them little". That came after meeting a hard working African mother. The young mother was single, had three kids, and ran a sowing business. She saved up enough money to meet a match loan, making her a first time home owner.

The label Jacqueline was talking about was prostitute, because after her husband left, thats how the young African mother provided for her family. Thats how she survived.

What popular labels are keeping from making the greatest impact on the greatest need? How are you going to confront these labels?

Because the real truth is, for some people, all they need is for you to offer a choice... and that makes all the difference.

07 July 2010

Time isn't your only resource

So, you like the cause. You want to help victims of the sex trade, and as a matter a fact, you have this urge to run out and rescue a child every time it comes up. And then you start to think... "man, my life's got problems. Plus, I'm just too busy for this sort of thing". Let me add a suggestion - sponsor.

Emily Fitchpatrick says, "sponsorship is a GREAT idea!! For us, it takes $125 a week to provide shelter, clothing, hygiene products and feed a resident. We also have a 17-year old resident in the process of raising $5,000 for Esthetic School in September. This would be a great opportunity for her."

So, is it possible for a church, organization, or person to know a set amount needed to sponsor a child, or would it be better to set up sponsorship arrangements once they leave a program, such as supply tuition for classes and/or job training?

It would've taken you longer to ask that question and wait for a response than to support them both. Not that asking questions isn't what you should do.

I know I made this sound really simple and quick. But thats how we see it when our emotions kick in.

The next time someone mentions volunteering, you can give a confident, "no, I don't have time". But keep asking questions to see how your situation can work with theres. Maybe you only help out during a project or an event. But a one time gift of such and such is what everyone else does. Lets try to change it up this time around.

06 July 2010

When churches fight

In a recent phone interview with actor/writer/film maker Michael Cory Davis, I got a chance to hear him express an interesting equation. Churches plus unity equales zero domestic child trafficking.

In other words, the local churches in America commit to take action, partner with other churches, hold each other accountable, and fight - all at the same time. Michael says the numbers are real. Theres 100,000 kids, mostly American, on the streets right now - and thats a low estimate. But in a country with unlimited resources, how is this possible?

So, instead of relying on the government for programs and policies, I want to go with the idea of the church being a solution. Here are some things a church can do in the fight against domestic child trafficking:

1. Sponsor - how much $$ to shelter and feed a victim for a week? Ask someone whose doing it and give.
2. Outreach/Missionary events (motel outreach, truck stop outreach, a street corner or even a whole community)
3. Awareness events (a 50 church spirit walk, poster exhibits, host a film, bring in experts to speak)
4. Special Offerings to give where you see fit
5. Tuition Assistance - also apart of sponsorship (this could also be for girls over 18) and don't forget...
6. Pray

Feel free to add to the list. Get specific. Get a niche. Its only when a large number of churches commit to fight, that people will start to see this crime in a different light.

The list above in no way says [some] churches aren't already doing their part. The purpose of the information given is to point out that maybe we could do something different this fiscal year. Because overall, last year's action plan didn't come close.


Michael Cory Davis | Tuition Assistance | 100,000 minors

05 July 2010

Decoding your teen's digital courage

Recently, Mark Gregston pointed out that one third of teens are known to be sending each other inappropriate photos or comments. Nothing new because we've all heard sext or sexting. But how much do we know about it? What does it look like? Would we know a sext if we saw one?

Now, since just about every kid has a cell phone, its EASY for parents to be oblivious to their kid's secret social life. It used to be, if a girl or boy called the home, parents could at least be filters. Now its more like taxis and ATMs. But what is happening is kids are connecting to the rest of the world with high tech smart.phones. A tool that allows teens and tweens a chance to communicate with strangers like never before, and in ways that were never intended.

Anyone know code?
Whether its text, twitter, flickr or chat, theres a code that makes everything easier to get across. By using numbers or just the first letter of each word, you now have a code. Add a kid to this equation and... yeah, its madness.

Think back for a second... have you noticed the word POS on your kid's phone lately? What about the number 8? POS means Parent Over Shoulder, and the number 8 means oral sex. 1174 means nude club, as in joining one. DUM means, Do You Masturbate? IMEZRU means, I Am Easy, Are You? And LMIRL means, Let's Meet In Real Life.

Theres plenty more, but the good news is you can crack the code. Theres sites you can visit that give a clear understanding of the short hand and slang your kids might use.

Mark, whose the founder and director of Heartlight Ministries, doesn't recommend taking a teen's cell phone away - its just too big a part of a teen's social life, plus it helps you keep track of your kids. Mark says give your kids another tool... one that overrides the others.
"you’d do well to teach your teen discernment, since they can access all the good and the bad in the world from just about anywhere by their cell phone."

Sexting | Mark Gregston | Decoding sext

02 July 2010

Beat the market - [updated link]

Swanee Hunt said this: Yes, it's crucial to help rescue victims of trafficking. However, unless we deal with the market, trafficking will continue to grow. It's more likely that we can curb the demand for commercial sex and labor before we solve the social inequities that contribute to the supply.

In America alone its been almost impossible to arrest johns, forget about prosecution. Almost impossible to expose it for what it really is. Its not like theres been a formula, or some sort of checklist to follow. And with nothing solid to stand on, it seems impossible to stand, atleast until now.

When I think of the market I think of the john. The supply is represented by some sort of teen prostitute - atleast in my mind. Thats just the way I envision it. And you have your image, the general public have their image, and the police have their's. But the result is this:

Theres only one that gets arrested, the other one goes home. One gets a criminal record, while the other appears to have never existed. And if the 'other' does get arrested... they STILL go home.

Not because its right, not because its fair. Not because it works... but because its allowed. You didn't know that? Yeah, theres an unwritten rule in this world that says a thing is allowed the moment you ignore it. Kinda hard to beat something you're busy pretending hasn't happened.

So, here's a quick list on a few ways to beat the market:
  • Understand it
  • Challenge people's words (jokes, conversations, casual comments, etc...)
  • Stop patronizing it
  • Write a letter when Editors victim blame
  • Raise awareness with posters
  • Host a film screening
  • Volunteer your time
  • Encourage males to think different
  • Encourage schools to educate different
  • Point out businesses that profit from trafficking
  • Use the Community Response Toolkit by CAASE
  • Talk to your Chief of Police about arresting johns
  • Keep learning
  • Stay up to date
  • Become an expert
  • Share your ideas
For those that are curious, the market isn't the only flaw. Theres problems with all sorts of issues around trafficking someone into a sex trade. You've got a wide range to learn about and confront. Like for instance, if you only want to learn about demand and take action against another end of the process, thats cool. Theres only one question you have to answer really... when are you going to start?

01 July 2010

Adults overcoming childhood sex baggage

For a lot of adults the past of childhood sexual abuse is a well kept secret, and part of life. But today I want to share how to completely let it go, and move on. The first step ... talking about it.

In the fight to end sexual exploitation, I've always believed that the root of the problem will always lead you to some form of a solution. For adults with baggage this could mean looking to the past for problems in a specific area, or realizing a negative reaction to intimacy. Once you take that look the side effects of childhood sexual abuse (or having sex too early) are probably obvious.

If you've been following this blog for a bit then this next thing is a known fact. Theres a good chance that abused kids will runaway to what they think is a safer environment, the streets. But there are others who are abused who might tough it out; the adults I'm referring to.

They might make it to graduation; go to college; get a good job and attempt to live a normal life despite the odds. They become successful in their career and have great friendships, but never let anyone get too close romantically. So they miss out on everything a long term relationship has to offer.

In the movie Precious, based on the novel Push, by Sapphire, comedian/actress Mo'Nique played a mentally ill mother who allowed her daughter to be molested. Around the time the movie was made, Mo'Nique spoke out about being molested by her brother at the age of seven. Lasting four years while her parents stood by in disbelief.

You then theres Queen Latifah's confession about childhood abuse. In an interview with Essence Magazine the Queen revealed being abused as a child by a teenage baby sitter that was trusted by the family. She said this:
"He violated me," ... "I never told anybody; I just buried it as deeply as I could and kept people at an arm's distance. I never really let a person get too close to me. I could have been married years ago, but I had a commitment issue." ... "When I was 22, my brother died, and I knew that I couldn't carry his death and THAT SECRET," ... "I had to get it off my chest."
Queen Latifah on the cover of Essence
Now Queen Latifah's over that hump. She's in a healthy, committed relationship with her boyfriend and his young son. Shes also looking to make a family of her own one day.

The trauma attached to sexual abuse - childhood sex abuse, just plain abuse or having sex too early - can be one of the most shameful, but how does dealing with it work? How does it affect everyone around you? How does it affect your expectations of new relationships? Who can you talk to?
"I celebrate this award with all the Precious, with all the Marys. I celebrate this award with every person thats ever been touched. Its now time to TELL, and its okay." - Mo'Nique, Golden Globe Awards, 2010

29 June 2010

Traffick 120 - Powerlessness [UPDATE]

Question: What if a trafficked person consents, do you still call it human trafficking?

Powerlessness
Yes. Its still trafficking because the [consent] of trafficked victims becomes irrelevant. When the means of trafficking (example: coercion, luring, debt bondage etc) are used on most of these victims, they feel powerless.

But the important thing to remember is we have the power to stop this crime, or ignore it and allow it to grow.

Modern day slavery can be stopped, its just a matter of time. Victims are going to get rescued. They will be freed, they will be rehabilitated and they will heal. This will happen with or without you.

But wouldn't it feel good to help?

"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral." - Paulo Freire


SOURCE:

26 June 2010

The World Cup in South Africa is not a target for human trafficking ...?

 Loren Landau, Dir
of FMSP, Wits Univ,
South Africa
The article titled SA Report: World Cup Human Trafficking Warnings Exaggerated speaks for itself. But if the estimated 40,000 is too high, just how many people are being trafficked?

Loren Landau (Prof.) is the Director of the Forced Migration Studies Programme (FMSP) at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mr. Landau seems to think exaggerating the issue leads to criminalizing people who should be protected. I always thought it was the other way around, but to get a clearer perspective on the topic at hand I've emailed Mr. Landau about one of his comments in the article.

The comment had to do with conclusions about human trafficking during the 2006 World Cup in Germany - a country whose human trafficking laws are more established and concrete than South Africa's, but where prostitution is legal.

South African doctor invents female condoms with 'teeth' to fight rape

(CNN) -- South African Dr. Sonnet Ehlers was on call one night four decades ago when a devastated rape victim walked in. Her eyes were lifeless; she was like a breathing corpse.

"She looked at me and said, 'If only I had teeth down there,'" recalled Ehlers, who was a 20-year-old medical researcher at the time. "I promised her I'd do something to help people like her one day."

Forty years later, Rape-aXe was born.

Ehlers is distributing the female condoms in the various South African cities where the World Cup soccer games are taking place.

female condom with teeth Pictures, Images and Photos"... To
distribute 30,000 free
devices under supervision
during the World Cup."
- Dr Sonnet Ehlers

The woman inserts the latex condom like a tampon. Jagged rows of teeth-like hooks line its inside and attach on a man's penis during penetration, Ehlers said.

Once it lodges, only a doctor can remove it -- a procedure Ehlers hopes will be done with authorities on standby to make an arrest.

25 June 2010

Chilly Powder, 32 Stitches, Work and Dignity

Sunitha Krishnan, is a super hero to the lost. Recently she has become one of my favorite communicators, and not because of her oracle ability but because of her relatability.

Sunitha is co-founder of Prajwala, an organization focused on helping victims of sex trafficking find shelter and rehabilitation. She has helped more than 3,000 women and children, from ages 3 - 40, all being victims of sexual assault. In September of 2009 after being asked to speak, Sunitha decided to speak of 3 children who were sexually assaulted. Armed with nothing but cute photographs, she was able to touch the hearts of millions. During last years talk Sunitha took time to tell her own story and talk about why she is so passionate about helping the unfortunate, leaving us all to analyze our own actions, thoughts and intentions. While infront of business, government and NGO officials Sunitha used her platform to plead for help and to offer a new way of thinking, so that others can have a new way of life.
"Don't tell me one hundred ways how you can not respond to this problem. Can you apply your mind for that one way you can respond to the problem?"
"I'm asking you, in your limited world, can you open your mind, can you open your hearts ... not as charity but as human beings that deserve all of our support." - Sunitha Krishnan

24 June 2010

How do you know if you're addicted to porn?

If you answer yes to more than 3 of these questions, then theres a strong possibility that you're addicted to porn.
  • Does your porn use feel out of your control?
  • Do you have trouble controlling when you will look at porn and limiting the time you spend? Have you made unsuccessful attempts to quit?
  • Do you feel anger or irritability if you are confronted about your porn use or asked to stop?
  • Do you feel like there is another person or force inside of you driving you to pornography?
  • Do you keep using porn despite negative consequences?
  • Do you “get lost” in porn use—lose track of time; spend more time than intended; neglect work, school, relationships and other responsibilities?
  • Does pornography consume your thinking? When you’re not viewing it, do you think about it and anticipate when you will indulge again?
  • Is your porn use in conflict with your values and beliefs? Do you feel guilt, shame, remorse, empty and/or depressed after viewing porn?
  • Do you keep your porn use a secret and fear that others might find out?
  • Have you ever promised yourself that you would never use pornography again?

23 June 2010

An Eternal Perspective

“You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” - Isaiah 62:6-7

"We're talking about being intercessors and standing in the gap." - Bret Mavrich, Director of Abolition

Exodus Cry, an international anti-trafficking organization, sent a group of 14 to South Africa this month to help with the World Cup. Led by Blaire Pilkington, their mission is simple: outreach, initiate awareness and prayer.

In Need of Comprehensive Human Trafficking Law in South Africa

Earlier this month John Barr, of Outside the Lines, spoke with E. Benjamin Skinner and Melanie Hamman on South Africa's issues with human trafficking leading up to the World Cup.

With a number of claims that 40,000 victims would be trafficked to South Africa because of the World Cup and the government's misleading actions in handling new laws to protect the victims of sex trafficking, was South Africa's government ready to stop and prevent human trafficking?

22 June 2010

Trafficked Girls Rescued at the World Cup

Here Tom Davis shares a moment in time. When people from around the world are getting ready to get their fill of the 2010 World Cup, South Africa's sex trade is as well.

On Monday I’m leaving with Hayden and Gideon to do ministry in South Africa and attend a few World Cup games. Children’s HopeChest is supporting several orphanage carepoints there and we’re looking at helping victims of human trafficking. Girls are being trafficked to South Africa right now at alarming rates. One of the interviews I’m doing is with the woman in this video who rescues these girls. Watch this, it’s quite disturbing. - Tom Davis, Beyond the Game

Jackie, Jasmine and a Japanese Soldier all Support Prostitution

2006 World Cup, Germany
With the World Cup being the hottest event on the planet, its no secret that South Africa's government is looking to profit from an expected 500,000 foreigners, but so is their sex trade.

More than a year ago activists informed the South African government of the concern of a growing illegal sex trade during the World Cup. Laws to protect victims and prosecute their traffickers were some recommended action steps to take in their preparation. Well a new law was never passed and with no comprehensive law in place the big question now is, "what exactly is being done about sex trafficking during the 2010 World Cup?"

After the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Jackie Selebi, South Africa's National Police Commissioner had a great idea to prepare for the influx of soccer fans and party goers. While speaking to the Parliamentary Safety and Security Committee he was quoted as saying:

21 June 2010

From Wall Street to Back Streets

This weekend a Wall Street Journal article decided to used 3,000 words in an attempt to confuse readers about human trafficking during the 2010 World Cup.

I had the pleasure of reading an artilce this morning titled, Suspect Estimates of Sex Trafficking at the World Cup. It was filled with research and quotes about human trafficking during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but Carl Bialik also managed to misinform readers that the 40,000 persons trafficked, during the two most recent World Cup events, are bogus claims. He seems to think its a lot less. Well Numbers Guy, as you call yourself, here are some more numbers!

Could you not buy sex when I'm getting trafficked

There has been word spread about men who buy sex since for as long as anyone can remember. The comment I heard most recently, and thought myself is, "if men knew the women they were paying to have sex with were trafficked, tricked, enslaved, and/or in danger by a pimp or trafficker, they wouldn't buy sex from these prostitutes". Well we were all wrong. A portion of an article states:
"The UK-based Poppy Project and U.S.-based Prostitution and Research Education Center teamed up to interview 103 men in London who had bought commercial sex. Of those men, 55% believed that the majority of women were lured, tricked, or trafficked into the sex industry unwillingly ..."


... and they still bought sex
"Additionally disturbing was the belief of many men that once a transaction of prostitution began, the woman no longer had a right to refuse sex."
The image to the right, while showing statistics on prostitution, link pornography to grooming tactics used by pimps. A link between the way pornography is viewed, and the viewer's image of sexual relations is expressed when someone purchases sexual services, a type of behavior that high-end escorts and call girls are not excluded from. While being abused by their pimps to stay loyal, prostitutes are also victims of the same abuse the 'porn star' is subjected to in free internet porn. What will it take to end this cycle?

HOW 2 Fight Demand step 3


real MEN don't buy GIRLS!!
Raise Awareness

The third step in combating the DEMAND of sex trafficking requires only one name: Ashton Kutcher. Earlier this month at the release of his new film, Killers, Ashton decided to make a small poster highlighting the words, "REAL MEN DON'T BUY GIRLS!!". It surprised me to see someone from Hollywood leading the fight against sex trafficking, but leave it to Ashton to be the first person to stand up and stand out! Not only is it real awareness, but its simple, easy and all of us can do it.

3.This third step allows you to be a little creative. Work with a local graphic design program at a university or college to create posters aimed at deterring individuals from purchasing sex, like the above. And even if you won't be appearing on any red carpets anytime soon, volunteer to help raise funds to print and exhibit the posters in your community. Or use some of the resources at caase.org/ to download poster designs there.

Ashton's statement is bold and entertaining (in a good way). But its also precise and direct. A perfect example to follow in raising awareness for trafficked victims everywhere.

19 June 2010

Traffick 110

The important thing to realize is this doesn't just happen. Traffickers are organized beasts.
Provided by the UNODC

Traffik Alert


STOP THE TRAFFIK


The message is clear - PEOPLE SHOULD NEVER BE BROUGHT OR SOLD

STOP THE TRAFFIK is a growing global movement of individuals, communities and organisations fighting to PREVENT the sale of people, PROTECT the trafficked and PROSECUTE the traffickers.


Ignorance is Blind is Un-Protection


"It is those who doubt and are blind that keep the world in blind ignorance and prevent civilization from protecting its motherhood." - Dr. Carle C. Quale

I'll tell you something crazy ... I believe we can stop the immoral sex trade. It won't be easy or even simple, but I believe we can do it. Because if you think about it, a lot of these problems start when someone is just a child. The trafficker joins a gang and the stronger the gang becomes, well trafficking young women to clientèle is just the next step. And then there's the victim. Very few choose their plight, but the majority want out, but don't know where to go for help, or they can't seem to stay clean, so the resources available do little.

So how do we do it? We use resources to help those that are hurting, yes. But we also use resources for the children. Make new resources, or more of the old ones, doesn't matter when you live in a country with unlimited supply. We make each other aware of problems, then do something significant towards a solution. The fact is, we can't wait another hundred years for someone to do it for us. Our girls can't wait ... our boys can't wait. Learn how to take action today ... and do something.

18 June 2010

Human trafficking is not someone else's problem

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered remarks on the release of the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC.

The 10th annual Trafficking in Persons Report outlines the continuing challenges across the globe in the fight against modern day slavery. And for the first time the Report includes the United States. Clinton says the US is ranked based on the same standards as every other country. Clinton also says the Report is specific, and hopes that it will galvanize more action.

17 June 2010

New York Prostitution Bill

New York State Legislature has passed a bill that would let victims of human trafficking clear prostitution charges off their record.

Young women are often times lured or convinced to come to the New York area with promises of summer jobs or permanent work, but they find themselves coerced into prostitution. Many of these young women get arrested, charged with a crime even though they were forced to do the work against their will and released back to the hands of the traffickers.

16 June 2010

Freedom from Porn


Steve Jobs is clear on where Apple stands when it comes to porn. Apple will not sell porn. Apple will not be responsible for the distribution of porn to kids.

On one Friday night in May, a tech blogger decided to comment on one of Apples newest commercials used to describe the iPad - thin, beautiful packing, 200,000 aps and already a "revolution". The revolution also includes saying no to porn apps. This has of course upset a lot of free speech / adult industry / liberal advocates who, not to mention, are also customers of Apple products.

In April at a question-and-answer session at Apple’s iPhone OS 4 event, a journalist asked the CEO whether Apple would consider allowing customers to load apps through means other than the App Store, and Steve noted Android as an option for porn fans.
"You know, there's a porn store for Android." ... "You can download nothing but porn. You can download porn, your kids can download porn. That's a place we don't want to go, so we're not going to go there."

15 June 2010

XXX Chruch Knows No Bounderies

"Its that little guy on your shoulder that says you don't want to go there." - User



X3watch is brought to you by XXX Church.

14 June 2010

HOW 2 Fight Demand step 2

Everyday Actions

In the fight against human trafficking, the first question that you might ask is, "How does one "go after" the customer? ...", myself included.

Today is the second step in the HOW 2 Fight Demand series. This series includes ten steps; an arm full of actions that individuals or groups can do to fight the demand of sex trafficking. Visit the CAASE website to find the entire list and other related resources.

2.After you've got a good understanding of the role that the demand for commercial sex plays in prostitution, write "Letters to the Editor" and "Op-Eds" to newspapers that participate in victim blaming and hold them accountable for how they cover the issue. When you write, encourage them to highlight the role the demand pays in the harms experienced by individuals in the sex trade.

Do it better than Lady Gaga VII (the finale)

Today I wrap up my series on how to become celibate. This all started back in April when  Lady Gaga said that it was better to be celibate than to risk getting the Aids virus. While on Mac's Viva Glam campaign, Lady Gaga came clean with the world about how she feels about sex and how her fans should follow in her foot steps.
"... I can’t believe I’m saying this – don’t have sex. I’m single right now and I’ve chosen to be single because I don’t have the time to get to know anybody. So it’s OK not to have sex ..."
The only thing is, she didn't teach us how to do; and thats where I come in. Over the past month or so I've filled readers in on how to become celibate. I say "become" because theres more to it than what you do; making the decision to practice celibacy sets your standard at a higher level automatically. Regardless of your past, you can instantly become a new person.

12 June 2010

Its My Life, LIVE WITH IT Presents: Michael Cory Davis, Artists United for Social Justice

ACTOR / WRITER / FILM MAKER -After a phone conversation with Michael Cory Davis, one word I want to use to describe him is "passionate". Michael's first inspiration to join the crusade for traffick victims was because of a girl named Svetlana. Now with a new movie coming out this fall, find out what else has him excited. The end of this post includes bits of our conversation.

Michael is a native New Yorker, born in Brooklyn to two Jamaican parents. As the middle of three children, Michael was raised in a very creative household with high academic standards. His journey into the world of the arts started from the young age of 9 where, at any given time, he was performing in school plays or writing and animating books. Michael received his first true thespian training in junior high school at Satellite West in Brooklyn, which led to his acceptance to the prestigious Fiorello H. Laguardia H.S For The Performing Arts.

11 June 2010

Movie Review

Title: Trafficked - 2010

Genre: Crime | Drama

Status: Released 21 May 2010

Director: Ciarán O' Connor

Starring: Ruth Negga, Karl Shiels, Martin Dunne, Jasmine Russell and Niall O'Brien

This is the REAL sex and the city ...
"We highly recommend this film, not just in terms of acting and drama but because it also gives a very good representation of the issue of sex trafficking" Ruhama - an Irish NGO which works with women affected by prostitution.
"This unflinching, bleak drama has been achieved with a strong cast (in which Russell is oustanding), visual imagination and narrative flair on a very small budget." The Irish Times


-------------------------------------------------------------------
Plot: The story is based around the central relationship between a newly arrived African migrant in Taiwo (Ruth Negga) and a Dublin-bred man-about-town in Keely (Karl Shiels). Theirs is a knotty association that is born of callous economic symbiosis, but which eventually grows to include a degree of mutual affection. However, Taiwo is a wanted woman, having escaped from the gangsters that brought her into the country, and it does not take the latter terribly long to track down their missing asset, with – you guessed it – predictably gritty results!

No Volunteers For This Job II: Shaddy Business Establishments

Eldorado's Adult Book Store
In response to a comment I saw online about teen prostitution, today I'm taking some time to describe where this type of behavior actually takes place.

Victims of sex trafficking are often found in the streets or working in establishments that offer commercial sex acts including, but not limited to brothels, strip clubs and pornography production houses. Such establishments may operate under the disguise of:

10 June 2010

Living with "Daddy" and "Uncle C"

37-year-old Colin Anthony Dyer goes on trial this morning on charges of sexual battery on one woman, and human trafficking of her and another. He was one of four arrested last year in what the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office described as a sex trafficking ring.

Authorities at the time said Dyer's co-defendant, Kenyatta Cornelous, was the ringleader of a group that lured in young women, impressed them with a $600,000 house the men were renting in Treasure Island, and forced them into prostitution. Dyer is the first to come to trial. Cornelous' trial date has not been set.

The alleged victim of the rape is a woman who was older than 18 but under 21. Her name and exact age are not listed in court records.

She told attorneys in April that she was working as an exotic dancer in February 2009 and needed to move out of her apartment. She heard that a man named Kenyatta Cornelous "helped out girls that were down on their luck."

After several conversations with Cornelous, she also met Dyer, whom she called his "wing man." The men helped her sublet an apartment near 49th Street in St. Petersburg. She also visited Cornelous' house in Treasure Island, where there were several other women who appeared to be living with him.

Later, she said, Cornelous told her he could get her a job at Vegas Showgirls, 10570 Gandy Blvd. N, near St. Petersburg. It had more customers than the club where she was working at the time, "So I figured I'd give it a try."

Then, according to records, Cornelous explained the deal to her: "He was my, quote-unquote, 'Daddy.' I worked for him now. I would be working at the club six nights a week for 12- to 14-hour shifts. He explained to me the way that the VIP room works, like $275 for half an hour. You have to do whatever the gentleman requests, whether it's having sexual intercourse or just oral intercourse, whatever they want, they pay for it. The club supplies, you know, condoms and things like that, towels and stuff."

Chip Jones, manager of Vegas Showgirls, denied last week that there had been any prostitution in the club, and said the charges against Dyer, Cornelous and the others, "had nothing to do with us."

Colin Anthony Dyer
"There was never nothing done inside here," he said.

The woman said she also would have to give sex to Cornelous and his cohorts. "Pretty much they owned me."

Cornelous also told her Dyer "was my Uncle C and he would be taking care of me … until I was broken in or whatever," she said.

Kenyatta Cornelous
She was "incredulous," but she says they gave her a drink and she blacked out. When she awoke, she said she found tears and bleeding on parts of her body that indicated to her she had been raped. There was no way to get to a doctor. Ultimately, she says she lost her baby — she was in the first trimester.

The men, including Dyer, also gave her little blue pills — oxycodone — for the pain, she said. She ended up getting addicted.

She also said some of the men got angry one night and, "Kenyatta took me back in the bedroom of the Treasure Island house in the master bedroom and raped (another woman) and I." Another night, she said, Cornelous ordered her to give oral sex to Dyer. Another time, she said, Dyer raped her.

One night, she says, she and another woman started screaming "we're being kidnapped" and "help us." She says Dyer stopped them, at one point shutting the door on the other woman's finger.

Her break came when Cornelous needed her to get some new identification, which meant she had to call her father. She says Cornelous gave her a script of what to say, and watched closely as she made the call.

But another woman started "throwing a fit" about something, which distracted Cornelous, and gave her the chance to tell her father to "come save me."

She told him, "bring some money so you can pretend you're a customer."

So that night, she said, her father arrived at Vegas Showgirls as planned, acting like a customer, and said he was going to get her away from the club.

But she was worried about Cornelous. She told her father, "I'm scared that he's going to kill me."

They left anyway. "I didn't even get dressed, I didn't even put my street clothes on, I walked out of there with the bikini on and my 8-inch clear heels … and my dad was holding my hand, pulling me out the whole time."

When bouncers rushed out of the club and tried to stop them, she says her father told them: "This is my daughter. … If you try to stop us, I'll kill you."

And she escaped.