The Smith family aren't just artists—they're activists, too!
On Tuesday, Jada Pinkett Smith testified before Congress to bring attention to human trafficking in the United States and around the world.
Jada took the stand, but hubby Will and daughter Willow sat proudly behind her as she spoke her mind.
"We need more adequate funding for programs that can actually, first, protect young women and men who are victims of trafficking and then also the programs that help transition our young people from those traumas into being able to create and develop lives so that they're not only survivors but they are thriving," the actress said. She also brought along three American survivors of human trafficking, telling Congress the young women "are not just surviving, but they're thriving."
It's nice to see this Hollywood fam supporting each other in supporting a cause.
SAN ANTONIO -With graphic allegations, prosecutors outlined their human trafficking case against Bobby “Spider” Moreno in 379th District Court on Wednesday.
“Not only did he rape the child, beat the child and threaten the child and her family,” prosecutor David Henderson told the jury during opening arguments, “he kidnapped her and tied her down and he let other people rape her for money.”
The victim, a 13-year-old girl, was abducted by Moreno and his brother when she visited the men’s East side crack house in Decmber 2007, trying to buy drugs, Henderson said.
“She was not a perfect 13-year-old. She was a chronic runaway and she had drug problems,” Henderson said.
But he said her testimony is credible.
The teen’s credibility was called into question by Moreno’s attorney.
“The key question throughout this trial is going to be, ‘Is this little girl telling you the truth?’” Defense Attorney Robert Shaffer told the jury. “Or did she make this up? Is it a lie?”
In December 2010, Moreno’s brother, Juan Moreno, 47, was convicted in the case. It was the first human trafficking case ever tried by the Bexar County District Attorney’s office.
He was sentenced to four life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Like his brother, Bobby Moreno is facing life in prison if he is convicted.
Testimony will resume on Thursday in Judge Ron Rangel’s 379th District Court.
SALT LAKE CITY — For years, child sex traffickers have targeted teens at malls and schools. Now they're doing it on social media. It's so disturbing to a group of Utah kids that they've volunteered to become the next-generation's weapon against human traffickers.
This week, the teens are learning the warning signs and skills to alert the community to the underdog child sex trafficking industry.
Predators now use the internet to lure or force children into prostitution. In 2011, Salt Lake Police reported rescuing 150 kids in Utah from the sex trade since 2006. Nationally, the Polaris Project, a non-profit which tracks human trafficking, has reported that 100,000 to 300,000 American kids become slaves each year. The Department of State also reports that approximately 80 percent of trafficking victims are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. Ages 13 to 17 are the most vulnerable.
High school students from California, Idaho, Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, Arizona, Iowa, and Utah converge at the University of Utah for the Backyard Broadcast Summit. This week-long summit hosted by Child Rescue aims to train students to be "station chiefs" within their communities. In essence, these teens will learn the realities of modern-day slavery and the tools to keep themselves and their peers safe.
"It's mind blowing," said Jacob Ferrell as he sighed and pounded his chest. "It got me you know."
So far, this youth summit has been a life altering experience for the Davis High student.
"The biggest misconception with this is that it's not happening," Ferrell said. He's making it his mission to tell his classmates what he's learning about the child sex trade happening here in Utah and across the country. "I start on the subject and they're like ‘Yeah, but maybe in New York, maybe in LA', but I'm like 'no,'" he said.
Ferrell heard from an undercover Los Angeles police agent who sees first-hand the transactions between perpetrators and victims — one recently here in the Salt Lake area.
"He was sitting in a restaurant and he saw a deal happen right outside the restaurant," said Ferrell. "He couldn't do anything because, one, this isn't his area and he didn't want to blow his cover."
Backyard Broadcast reports that the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world is the trafficking of human beings. According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking is second only to drugs in revenues. The UN estimates that $31.6 billion is made from buying and selling people around the globe.
"When they catch the traffickers, they're really saving so many more people than if they're putting the prostitutes in jail," said Alta High student Ciana Bataineh. "It's hard to convince kids that they can make a difference and that they can do something and they should do something. It's kind of all up to us kids, at this point."
Bataineh is one of 25 youth attending the summit. Today, it seems like she's just playing games on the University of Utah rope challenge course, but experts say fighting child sex trafficking is quite a challenge. These teens feel if they can rise to the challenge of these difficult tasks, it'll only prepare them for the bigger battle ahead.
"Instead of scaring people, motivate them," Bataineh said.
Motivation is exactly why Amira Birger travels around the country to share her stories of abuse as a child that prompted her to run away from home and eventually be lured into child prostitution at age 15. She said it's up to the community to help rescue kids.
"When kids are acting out, it's really easy to blame the children for quote-unquote 'being bad.' But these kids are acting out of pain," Birger said.
Each of the teens who participated in the summit this week will be responsible for starting a chapter at their school.
"As a society, it's a hard topic to think about and it's hard to discuss and really the change has to come from the people first before it's going to make it all the way up to law enforcement," said Backyard Broadcast Director Danielle Palmer.
The Child Rescue organization is shifting its awareness campaigns to target teenagers. It seems to be working. West Valley high students raised $20,000 last year, which helped pay for law enforcement training.
Sexually exploited girls commit crime as a cry for help and should not be prosecuted, according to a report released on Tuesday.
Out of place: The policing and criminalisation of sexually exploited girls and young women, released by campaign group the Howard League for penal reform, points to cases like the recent child-sex ring in Rochdale in which girls were exploited after being targeted by gangs.
Jo Phoenix, a professor of Criminology at Durham University, who carried out the research, told The Huffington Post UK: "Because we have a framework that allows us to punish them for their misdeeds we are likely to punish them. We will send them to court.
"I think where we're dealing with children we need the government to send a very clear, very strong message that there should be no criminalisation of sexually exploited girls and women. We should not need them to tell us they are being victimised."
Frances Crook, the Howard League's chief executive, said in a statement that sexually exploited girls "can commit crime as a cry for help."
"They will, for example, shoplift in front of security guards in order to be arrested and removed from their abuser. "
Professor Phoenix said the current system "relies on the young girl herself disclosing this information.
"Say a young girl takes a cricket bat to her boyfriend's car because the night before he allowed six men to rape her. The police are called and they will arrest her.
"All the police are concerned with are the signs of criminal damage. She pleads guilty if it's tried in the youth court. Nobody has stopped to ask broader questions because they may not even know about it."
She added: "One of the complexities in the whole of this is often girls will come to police attention because of the crimes they are committing but police and youth services that are dealing with those girls may not necessarily know anything about the sexual exploitation that this girls are experiencing because the girls themselves may not have told the police, the youth court, or the youth justice board."
The group point to women like "Kim", who had several convictions for being drunk and disorderly and criminal damage. Kim was having sex in exchange for money and drugs by the time she was 18 years old. The group argue her convictions were related to her sexual abuse, which was not picked up by the authorities.
"These young women have had a lifetime, normally, a lifetime of abuse. The one group of police that are quite different in this are the ones who are trained specifically to help people who have been sexually exploited," Professor Phoenix said.
The report calls for girls be treated as child victims so they can get the help they need, rather than being classed as petty criminals.
The report called for more support for girls and better links between youth justice and sexual exploitation agencies.
It argues criminal justice agencies should also be "more sophisticated and child-centred in their approach to girls who come to their attention and should introduce more training to enable girls to be referred to more appropriate services."
A man accused of forcing a 15-year-old Riverside girl into prostitution has been arrested and is facing a litany of charges.
James Grady III, 27, was arrested at the end of last month and has been charged with four counts of lewd act on a child and one count each of pimping a minor under 16, pandering by procuring a minor under 16, assault with a firearm and receiving stolen property, according to City News Service.
Grady is accused of forcing the girl to perform sex acts on him and meet daily quotas. He once allegedly Tasered her for not meeting her quota. In other instance, he allegedly put the barrel of a rifle under her chin and threatened to kill her and her family if she missed her quota.
All of this happened between January and May of this year, when she was finally able to make a run for it and escape, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise. It's believed that this teen was part of a bigger trafficking ring, and police are looking for more victims.
Grady was locked up in lieu of $375,000 bail and is due in court at the end of this week.
Backpage.com is making approximately $2 million each month off their adult services online ads. Children’s right advocates claim that this easy-to-use source has become the root of the child sex trafficking industry. Despite Backpage’s claims by attorney, Liz McDougall, that they have 80-100 staff scouring the ads every single day, solicitations for child sexual encounters still slip by. McDougall claims that 400 such ads are caught each month and sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Presumably, these ads are not allowed to run. Nevertheless, in the past two months, Phoenix Vice department has recovered at least half a dozen teen girls who were posted on the site, thanks in part to citizen awareness and reporting, and made several arrests of pimps. According to statements made by Sergeant Jim Gallagher, 90% of the officer time in his unit is spent watching ads on sites like Backpage to find the children who are being exploited.
Nearly all of the US Attorneys General have called for the shutting down of Backpage as a means of stopping one part of the rampant buying and selling of children as sex objects. Numerous anti-trafficking groups around the country and thousands of citizens are standing with this goal, and the issue is discussed across the media networks.
The answer for many seems simple. Do away with the major sources for the sex transactions, and you will stop the massive hemorrhaging in the sexual safety of our children.
Is the matter that easy to fix? In 2010, Craig’s List complied with similar pressure and closed all of the adult services ads. The result was a massive move to Backpage.com. In addition, there are now over 1400 smaller sites around the country that together comprise a much bigger market for the forced prostitution of children.
As long as some people in this country believe that they have the right to indulge in their sexual desires with children, we will continue to be a nation whose minors are at grave risk for being abused. We could shut down Backpage and all the other sources, and the perpetrators would find other ways to engage in their devastating rapes of innocent children.
It is time for a massive cultural shift in the attitudes toward women and children.
GEORGETOWN—The Guyana government has denounced the latest US State Department report on human trafficking which contended that Georgetown has made no discernible progress in holding human trafficking offenders in Guyana accountable. It added that limited progress was made in preventing human trafficking during the reporting period.
Echoing previous editions of its annual report, the US State Department said: “Guyana is a source and destination country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. “Guyanese nationals have been subjected to human trafficking in other countries in the Caribbean region.
“Cases of human trafficking reported in the media generally involved women and girls in forced prostitution.” As in 2011, Guyana remains on Tier 2 in the latest report, which says that the government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.
Georgetown reacted on Wednesday via the Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking with a detailed, strongly worded statement in which it claimed that the US report “fails to establish not one single fact.” It went on to state that the architects of the report “have not made significant progress in improving the veracity, coherence and validity of their annual assessments,” adding that the Task Force “considers the report an affront to its members…”
It condemned one aspect of the report as “a total falsehood.”
What’s this debate over Canada’s move to ban foreign strippers, escorts and massage-parlor workers really about? On one side, you have the Adult Entertainment Association, which is upset that the government is stripping away a pool of potential moneymaking workers, whereas on the other side, you have the government, which is saying that cutting back on human trafficking and exploitation is at the heart of the decision.
The Conservative Party government’s Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, announced that starting next month, Canada will no longer renew visas for foreigners working as strippers. Already the government has cut back on how many new visas it grants, down to just 12 in 2011. But it had been continuing to renew previous visas. Not anymore.
Kenney says the decision is part of a larger government effort to crack down on human trafficking, as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has expressed repeated concerns over the link between escort agencies, brothels and massage parlors and human-trafficking and sexual-exploitation cases.
The move will put hundreds of foreign strippers out of work in Canada and with no valid workers’ permit when their yearlong visas come up for renewal. The Globe and Mail reports that Kenney, in a speech given in Calgary, said, “The government cannot in good conscience continue to admit temporary foreign workers to work in businesses in sectors where there are reasonable grounds to suspect a risk of sexual exploitation.”
There could be anywhere from 500 to 700 women working in Canada on one-year visas. The Adult Entertainment Association says limiting access to the legal trade hurts the industry and creates a labor shortage. Other opponents of the move say it could have an adverse effect by pushing the industry underground and have threatened to hold workshops at universities to recruit foreign students to the industry, a loophole they plan to exploit.
But stories of repeated exploitation and abuse of exotic dancers in the legal industry have become widespread, according to the Globe and Mail. Women in Canada on a temporary visa are tied to a single employer, giving that employer quasi-power over the individual.
CLEVELAND—Anthony C. Willoughby was sentenced today to 30 years in prison after a jury previously found him guilty of forcing a 16-year-old girl to engage in commercial sex acts, announced Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Cleveland Office.
“The details of this case underscore why it is so important that we continue to work collaboratively and try to eradicate this modern-day slavery,” said U.S. Attorney Dettelbach. “This defendant preyed upon a weak, vulnerable victim and used her suffering as an opportunity for profit.”
Special Agent in Charge Anthony said, “This case is one of the first human trafficking cases to go to trial in Northern Ohio. Investigating and prosecuting those involved in the sexual exploitation of the most vulnerable of victims is a priority of the FBI. The 30-year sentence imposed today represents the seriousness of the offense and should serve as a deterrent to child predators.”
Willoughby, 39, also known as “P.T.” and “Party Time,” last lived in Toledo, Ohio, according to court records.
A jury on December 16, 2011, found Willoughby guilty on one count of sex trafficking of a minor. Willoughby recruited, enticed, harbored, and transported a juvenile, identified in the indictment as “S.W.,” knowing that by means of force, fraud, and coercion the juvenile was caused to engage in a commercial sex act between February 15, 2009, and March 19, 2009, according to court records.
The victim in this case was 16 at the time of the crime. She had run away from foster care in the winter of 2009 when Willoughby, then 36, agreed to take her in, according to court documents. Willoughby convinced the victim they were in a relationship but then began arranging for “dates” for her from his client list, according to court records.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys James V. Moroney and Ava Rotell Dustin, following an investigation by the Toledo Resident Agency of the Cleveland FBI and the Northwest Ohio Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force (NWOVCACTF).
The NWOVCACTF, directed by the FBI Toledo Resident Agency, includes special agents of the FBI and agents and officers from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation; Ohio Highway Patrol; Toledo Police Department; Lima, Ohio Police Department; Perrysburg Township, Ohio Police Department; Fulton County, Ohio Sheriff’s Office; and the Ottawa County, Ohio Sheriff’s Office.