After Ohio Kidnapping Victims’ Escape, Spotlight Grows on Human Trafficking

http://www.dreamcenter.org/dream-center/human-trafficking/

The escape of Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry – the three women allegedly held captive by Ariel Castro for over ten years in Cleveland, Ohio – has rekindled national interest in the scope and pervasiveness of both kidnapping and human trafficking. The women, who were in their mid-teens and early twenties when kidnapped, were reportedly raped and subject to multiple miscarriages.

Castro allegedly forced Knight, DeJesus, and Berry into a decade of sexual horrors before Berry escaped on Monday, May 6, 2013. According to CNN, Knight became pregnant at least five times while forcefully confined in Castro’s home. While pregnant, Knight was reportedly starved for weeks at a time and repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried. Berry bore Castro’s child in 2007.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, approximately 800,000 children are reported missing each year, with approximately 58,000 children being kidnapped for primarily sexual motives. Forcing kidnapped children into sexual relationships draws a dangerous parallel to and serves as a scarring iteration of the broader issue of human trafficking. This close relationship has many individuals and world leaders crying out for stricter governmental reforms in order to curtail the rapid growth of human trafficking.

Between 2008 and 2010, federally funded task forces opened 2,515 incidents of suspected human trafficking. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “a form of modern-day slavery . . . [involving] the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit human beings for some type of labor or commercial sex purpose.” The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that sex trafficking accounts for approximately 8 in 10 incidents of human trafficking, while labor trafficking represents 1 in 10 incidents.

In 2000, an estimated 244,000 American children and youth were at risk of sexual exploitation. The number has since grown with 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys becoming sexually victimized before they reach the age of 18.

At the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2012, President Obama announced a number of new national commitments to combat human trafficking. These strategies include:

  1. Preventing human trafficking by raising awareness among vulnerable populations, leading by example, and educating the public and first responders;
  2. Prosecuting human traffickers through strengthened investigations and enforcement tools;
  3. Protecting survivors through comprehensive social services, family reintegration, and immigration services; and
  4. Partnering with civil society, state and local governments, the private sector, and faith-based organizations to maximize resources and outcomes.

Since the Clinton Global Initiative, the Obama Administration has implemented a number of programs to help combat the growing number of human trafficking victims. In February 2013, President Obama signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013, which was passed by Congress as part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2013 aims at strengthening protections for vulnerable children and domestic workers and helps foster effective partnerships to bring services to human trafficking survivors and to prosecute traffickers.

Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security plans to amend the “T” nonimmigrant visa regulations that allow human trafficking victims to remain in the United States and aid in the prosecution of their traffickers.

Moreover, the Obama Administration has also partnered with leading technology companies to develop applications for trafficking victims, online and on their phones, to help link them with services in their communities. Similarly, the Department of State has partnered with a non-profit organization to increase the availability of pro bono legal services for human trafficking victims.

In light of these national efforts and international endeavors, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority voted on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, to support the transportation sector’s role in dismantling human trafficking by signing a pledge supported by “Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking.” The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s decision comes just days after Knight, DeJesus, and Berry regained their freedom.

Through the pledge, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority will raise awareness of human trafficking, train workers on how to spot potential traffickers and human trafficking victims, and share data that can be used to investigate and uncover human trafficking schemes.

While the steps that have been taken by the Obama Administration and by both national and state governmental agencies hint at the type of governmental and legal reform needed to battle the incidence of human trafficking, the rising frequency of human trafficking calls for further action to combat the evils of this form of modern-day slavery.

Thursday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

photo courtesy of: http://a.abcnews.com/images/US/abc_ariel_castro_court_lpl_130611_wg.jpg

Children’s Act to Transform Services for At-Risk Kids: Bill 25 Touches All Aspects of Government Services for Alberta Youth, Edmonton Journal

Human Services Minister Dave Hancock introduced the Children First Act on Tuesday, a new law that will touch every program or service the Alberta government provides to children and families at risk.  Bill 25 initiates a review of all policies, programs and services that affect children and requires the government to establish a “children’s charter” to guide future decision making . . .

The proposed new law also changes several related pieces of legislation.  The Protection Against Family Violence Act will be reopened and the government will establish a Family Violence Death Review Committee. Hancock said 121 Albertans have died in family violence incidents over the past 10 years, and the committee will look to learn from such deaths to avoid similar incidents in the future.

The government will also redefine offences under three separate laws, including the Drug Endangered Children Act, the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act and the Child Youth and Family Act.

For example, the province will take the word “wilfully” out of these laws, so adults who put children at risk will be held accountable even if they didn’t intend to do so.  “If you’re cooking up meth in your kitchen, you’re endangering your children,” Hancock said . . .

Finally, the province will change the nature of the legal relationship between front-line workers and the children they serve . . . The changes also give kinship and foster parents more authority over the children in their care, he said . . .

NDP critic Rachel Notley expressed “grave concerns” about changing the legal relationship between workers and young people . . .  Liberal critic David Swann said “what is disappointing is that this follows so closely on a budget that is cutting services to children.  “Actions speak louder than words. This is more talk, more philosophizing,” Swann said . . .

Ariel Castro Charged With Kidnapping And Rape In Ohio Missing Girls Case, The Huffington Post

Authorities in Ohio filed charges Wednesday against one of the men arrested in connection to the disappearance of three women held for a decade in a dilapidated home in Cleveland.

Ariel Castro, 52, faces four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, Cleveland’s chief assistant prosecutor said today at a press conference.  Castro’s brothers — Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50 — were not charged, though they had been taken into custody Monday after the women were found . . .

Police believe that Amanda Berry, 27, Michelle Knight, 32, and Gina DeJesus, about 23, were held against their will in Castro’s house since their teens or early 20s. The kidnapped women and a six-year-old girl were rescued Monday after Berry kicked through a locked screen door and called 911 on a neighbor’s phone.  It was the first time the woman tried to escape, according to an official speaking at the press conference.

National Attention Rarely Highlights Missing Minority Children, CBS Atlanta

The discovery of three missing Ohio women held hostage for almost 10 years has brought national attention to those who are abducted and go missing daily. [Note: Gina DeJesus of that tragedy is Hispanic]

What does not become national news as often are the numbers of minority children and adults who go missing. The blame for this is the phenomenon called the “missing white girl syndrome” and many blame local and national media for its lack of coverage.

According to the Chicago Citizen, “missing white girl syndrome” refers to “the disproportionate degree of coverage in television, radio, newspaper and magazine reporting on an adversity, most often missing person case, involving young, white, upper-middle class frequently blonde woman or girl.”

The contrast is played against missing boys or men, minorities and people of different classes.

According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center’s Missing Person and Unidentified Person Statistics for 2012, a total of 265,683 minorities were reported missing in the U.S., out of 661,593 children.

According to the NCIC, 42 percent of those minority child abductions are African Americans.  Since their inception in 1975, the NCIC has not given specific statistical data for missing Hispanic persons. According to the FBI’s Investigative and Operational Assistance Unit, “the race breakdown was decided at that time [1975] based on visual looks rather than blood lines.”

Studies have been published since the early 1970s about missing minority children represented in the media. According to the 2010 study Missing Children in National News Coverage: Racial and Gender Representations of Missing Children Cases, “although a relatively large number of African American children are actually missing, they are significantly underrepresented in television news.”

Derrica Wilson, the president and co-founder of the Maryland-based nonprofit Black and Missing Foundation, Inc.and a veteran law enforcement official says, “The nature of missing person cases is not just a black or white issue, it’s an American issue.”