06 May 2010

Small Victories Show We're Advancing

It hasn't been easy to believe human trafficking happens right here in our big cities and small towns. After researching the crime, its even harder to believe that someone escaped an organized criminal operation.

Austin, TX.▬On January 2, 2010, a man escaped from a window of a first floor apartment where he and a group of smuggled immigrant men where being held without food and water. The man, whose name is being concealed, made it to a store a couple blocks away from the apartment nearly naked, bleeding and wearing only one shoe. Two men were arrested with one pretending to be one of the men smuggled.

Vancouver, Wash.▬Back in December 2009, Brianna agreed to dance in a Seattle strip club for two nights. She gave two men most of the money, but not before they convinced her to clean out her bank account and give them that too. Three days later, the 18 yr old still hadn't returned her dad's car and had a cell phone that was dying so she headed home.

Her plan was to drop off the car, get an ex-boyfriend to pick her up and drop her off in Kelso. Then link up with her new friends and start making all this money. This could even take them to Phoenix, except the ex-boyfriend got suspicious.

He called his parents. His dad happened to hear Linda Smith speak recently so he decided to call police Lt. John Chapmen who was working with Linda on some sex trafficking cases in Clark County. Not long after, Brianna's mother was called and told to be at the ex-boyfriend's house before Brianna showed up.

By the time Brianna got to her boyfriends house everyone was there. Before she knew it she was sitting beside Linda Smith on a bed talking about what was about to happen if someone hadn't intervened before she got to Kelso.

She was fingerprinted before going into the strip club so police would have considered her just another stripper turned prostitute.

Later Brianna said she remembered some weird moments and admits she "was walking blindly into this trap".

Linda says shes learned some things too. Up until recently her focus was rescuing sex traffick victims who were very young teens. Now she sees young women, 18 or 19 that are smart, successful, on the brink of adulthood and independence being vulnerable and deserving the same protection from society.

"I used to say the vulnerability was highest among those 11 to 14 ..."-Linda Smith
This comes just in time. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 6476, which increases penalties for sex traffickers and makes their victims under 18 eligible for crime-victims' compensation, safe shelter and counseling.(click here for entire story)