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Trafficking Minors
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by TakePart.com

Demi Moore: “Why I Joined the Fight Against Child Trafficking”
In 2010 Demi Moore and then-husband Ashton Kutcher launched a foundation to fight child sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. Today the organization continues under the name Thorn, with a refined focus on the role technology plays in crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children and the potential of technology to help stop the trade of children on the Internet. Here TakePart on MSN Causes asks Moore how she came to choose this issue, what her most memorable experiences working in the field have been, and who inspires her.
Q:
How did you first become aware of human trafficking and what inspired you to create your organization Thorn?
A:

Three years ago I was watching a documentary on MSNBC about children who were forced into sex slavery in Cambodia. I was horrified, and as I did further research on the topic, I learned that it was happening in the United States, in our own backyards. I knew I couldn’t live in a world in which this was taking place without doing something about it.


Many people don’t realize slavery is still a problem. But there are more people enslaved than ever before in human history. It is estimated that two to three million of these slaves are victims of child sex trafficking. Think about that: two to three million young girls and boys, many of them right here in the United States, being held against their will and forced to do terrible things. This is unacceptable in our modern world. We launched Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children (formerly DNA Foundation) with the goal of ending child sex slavery in the United States and around the world. We felt there was more to be done to raise awareness of this issue and explore new, innovative approaches to combat these crimes.


MORE: Life After Slave Labor: “No One Goes Back to the Way It Was Before”

Q:
Do you have an activist role model?
A:

In the spring of 2011 I was fortunate enough to visit Nepal and meet a woman named Anuradha Koirala, who founded Maiti Nepal, an organization entirely focused on rescuing and rehabilitating survivors of sex slavery. Since 1993 she has rescued more than 12,000 girls from slavery. My visit with Anuradha showed me how powerful even one woman can be. She created this organization because she saw a problem happening in her country. Even still, thousands of girls are trafficked to Indian brothels from Nepal each year, but she is standing up and doing something about this problem. She provides shelter and vocational training for hundreds of girls each year. And this is just one example of one woman trying to make the world a better place, and the tremendous ripple effect this can have on thousands of women and girls. She is an inspiration to me.

Q:
What individual trafficking story has really stayed with you or affected you the most as you’ve gone about your work with Thorn?
A:

I met a young girl from the Los Angeles area who was taken in by her trafficker at 11 years old. He promised her McDonald’s and trips to the mall. Her trafficker was called “Daddy Day Care” because he was known for keeping such young girls. Her trust was quickly betrayed and she was given a nightly quota of making $1,500. If she did not deliver her quota, she was put into a tub of ice or physically beaten with whatever large object was close by. Often he would take a group of little girls to another location, and on one particular trip he loaded all of them into the car to drive to Las Vegas. Since there wasn’t enough room in the car, he put the two smallest girls in the trunk. When they arrived in Las Vegas, he posted ads on Craigslist and other escort pages to activate business. None of the customers questioned her age and the general anonymity of using the Internet to buy and sell sex provided the clients with a reassurance of safety. This girl was defenseless and left to be raped and sexually abused repeatedly for three days until she was loaded back into the trunk and taken back to Los Angeles to start the cycle all over again.

Q:
Why is technology such an important aspect to solving the human trafficking issue?
A:

Increasingly, technology is being used to facilitate the crime of human trafficking. Children are advertised on the very online classified sites that people use to sell a bike or a couch, and pimps and exploiters use this technology to help market the individuals they are trafficking. In fact, a nationwide child sex trafficking survivor survey we are currently conducting indicates that 75 percent of the children we’ve spoken with were sold online and 70 percent of the victims we surveyed had access to a cellular phone while they were in a trafficking situation—and many of them used these phones to communicate with johns who wanted to buy sex. We believe that we should turn the tables and use technology innovation to fight back, rescue these children, keep them safe, and educate the public about the realities of sex trafficking.

Q:
What can readers do to take part?
A:

Learn more about the new ways Thorn is using technology to fight child sex trafficking and exploitation at www.wearethorn.org and sign up to be on our mailing list. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the issue. Check out some of our partner organizations, like Polaris Project, Somaly Mam Foundation, and SAGE. Read Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd, cofounder of GEMS, or The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam—both extraordinary books that show the reality of trafficking and exploitation. And if you’re in the technology industry, reach out to us directly and we’ll send you our Sound Practices Guide, which helps companies identify new ways to prevent their platforms from being used to exploit children.


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1/1210 Worst States
#8 Idaho


Idaho ranks eighth-worst in the Union, according to Shared Hope’s Protected Innocence Challenge. The report reads, “Idaho’s human trafficking law includes the sex trafficking of minors without regard to force, fraud, or coercion; however, human trafficking is not punished as an independent crime but rather may be punished only where the offender engages in human trafficking while committing another specified crime.” With the Department of Justice calling human trafficking the fastest-growing crime after drug dealing, some say incomplete laws like Idaho’s are to blame. [Gallery by Jessica Ashley]

2/1210 Worst States
#8 South Dakota


South Dakota ties for eighth-worst. Online markets for sex with minors are rampant in every state, says Linda Smith, the president and founder of Shared Hope International and former Washington State senator and representative. When Smith listened to tapes of an investigative sting operation in South Dakota and heard children giggling in the backseat of a trafficker’s car, it was a turning point for her. She says young girls in these situations are often referred to as prostitutes, even by law enforcement. “Once we label those kids, they become criminal for what happens to them.” But she reminds everyone who will listen: They are victims.

3/1210 Worst States
#7 New Hampshire


New Hampshire landed the position of seventh-worst state. Like all the states in this story, it was given a failing grade by Shared Hope. But that doesn’t stop the organization from fighting for them to earn higher marks. Eight states that earned a failing grade in 2011 improved over the course of a year. Colorado, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina, and Utah each moved their ranking from F to D. Alaska and Massachusetts made a big leap from F- to C-status. Massachusetts saw the most improvement in 2012, rising 29.5 points in one year.

4/1210 Worst States
#6 Kansas


States can change their ranking year by year as they introduce domestic minor sex trafficking bills and pass laws to protect victims. When a state cracks down, particularly by prosecuting the buyers, Smith believes the demand for children in that area is quelled. But Kansas saw minimal improvement from the 2011 report card to the most recent rankings. The state rose only 1.5 points in the past year.

5/1210 Worst States
#5 Michigan


Michigan’s score went up slightly but stayed in the failing range with an overall score of 47 points out of 102.5. The state showed no real improvements in any categories, not in how it investigates and prosecutes johns, nor in measures taken to protect minors in any other way. When the states and laws don’t come through, Smith focuses on the girls she personally helps to extract, treat, and find safety once they’ve been trafficked. “I had 44 survivors with me this week” she says, referring to the annual Sharing the Hope three-day event which was held in Washington, D.C. this November. “They are the hope.”

6/1210 Worst States
#4 Virginia


Virginia earned only 46.5 points, making it the fourth-worst state in the nation when it comes to minor sex trafficking. Smith says Virginia and its neighbor, Washington, D.C. (which ranks in the bottom 18), have the same problem. “They are struggling with believing they need to change.” She calls out to policymakers in the region: “Show us! Show us how you’re prosecuting buyers and passing stiff laws.”

7/1210 Worst States
#3 Maine


Maine’s score actually dropped between 2011 and 2012. It now has a paltry 45.5 points. States that falter do not distract Smith from her victories. Smith notes the success of Louisiana, the state with this year’s highest score—almost 85 points—which earns it a B. Last year Louisiana was a C-level state and drove up its status 17 points from one report card to the next. However, no states in the Protected Innocence Challenge earned an A this year.

8/1210 Worst States
#2 California


The most promise for improvement among the failing states is in California, Smith says. In November, 81 percent of California voters approved Prop 35 to increase penalties and prison time for human trafficking. Prison sentences could double to 12 years for those convicted. If the crime includes children, first-time offenders will face fines up to $1.5 million dollars, an increase from $100,000, and a possible life sentence. The proposition was supported by a $2 million donation by Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, Chris Kelly. Much of this trafficking occurs online.

9/1210 Worst States
#2 Hawaii


Hawaii is tied with California for second-worst. “Hawaii has not enacted a human trafficking law that includes the crime of sex trafficking,” states the report. It goes on to say, “Limited options exist to prosecute demand.” Whenever failure strikes, Smith tells a story of success, like the one about Brianna, a cheerleader and star student ensnared by a trafficking ring that used a 20-year-old football player as bait. Within a week, she was lured away from home and set up for violence and prostitution. It took an intervention to get Brianna away from the manipulative grasp of traffickers. Brianna now uses her experience to help other vulnerable girls. “Helping one of [these girls] is enough,” Smith says. "If it was you, it would be enough."

10/1210 Worst States
#1 Wyoming


With the most dire of the failing scores—a tragic 32.5 points—what will it take for Wyoming to improve in 2013? “The people,” Smith says definitively. “Advocates are the people who change laws. Advocates will have to pound the pavement and rally to un-elect policy-makers who are allowing this to happen.”

11/1210 Worst States
Take Part


Since Shared Hope’s first Protected Innocence Challenge in 2011, 91 laws were passed that relate to domestic minor sex trafficking. Make sure your state is on track. Send a message to your legislators to eradicate human trafficking in our country. Many states that aren’t on this list still need to be doing more. “We want hundreds of thousands of people to speak up,” Smith encourages. “And it only takes two minutes.” Find other actions to take here.

12/1210 Worst States
More Great Reading


Despite being outlawed, modern slavery persists. The International Labour Organisation recently estimated that 20.9 million people are modern slaves worldwide. The search for the cheapest labor and lowest production costs creates a market that human traffickers supply. Children are not alone, as adults are also shackled into performing forced labor in parts of the world where enforcement is lax and corruption unbounded. Learn more in our Photo Gallery of Slavery Around the World.

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    Rape for Profit

    Rape for Profit is a documentary in theaters now about the underage sex slavery problem in Seattle made vivid through interviews with law enforcement and non-profit organizations on the front lines.
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    Rape for Profit

    Rape for Profit is a documentary in theaters now about the underage sex slavery problem in Seattle made vivid through interviews with law enforcement and non-profit organizations on the front lines.
    Celebrity Goes Good
    by Sarah Fuss, TakePart.com

    Jada Pinkett Smith: Parents Can Help Fight Sex Trafficking
    We first became aware of Jada Pinkett Smith when she started appearing regularly on TV shows and films in the ’90s. Now the actress, businesswoman, mother, and wife of Will Smith is becoming known as an advocate for victims of sex trafficking. In a recent phone interview, Pinkett Smith, who cites Angelina Jolie as a mentor and inspiration, told TakePart on MSN Causes about her new work and how her growing knowledge of trafficking has made her reexamine parenting.
    Q:
    What first made you aware of human trafficking and sex trafficking?
    A:

    It was first brought to my attention by my daughter, Willow. She came to me and said, “Mommy, you know there are girls here in this country who are being sold for sex that are my age, and I really want to lend my voice to these young girls.” At first I said, “Willow, honey, that doesn’t happen here in the United States—let me just check these facts. Let me see what you're reading.” I immediately got on the Internet and my world just changed from there. I had absolutely no idea that this was so prevalent in our country, and we just started a crusade.

    Q:
    Is there something about this issue that speaks to you more than others?
    A:

    For me as a mother, for me as a woman, for me as a person, I feel as though people always need to feel empowered in order for these injustices not to exist. I find that we all, no matter who we are, no matter what our economic backgrounds are, our nationalities, we all are faced with some aspect [of our lives] that makes us feel disempowered in some way. That makes every single person on the planet susceptible to an injustice like this. I just think that freedom is a universal truth. There’s not one person on the planet that doesn’t deserve to be free, that doesn’t have the right to be free, and doesn’t want to be free. This is why this particular issue is very strong for me.

    Q:
    Most people think there is no way that this can touch their lives. People would be surprised to know how women are lured into these rings. Can you speak to the specific ways things like this happen?
    A:

    A lot of predators are online. Unfortunately, you’ll get a lot of adults who are pretending to be young adults. So one of those things that I can say is parents also have to talk to our kids because you don’t know who is on the other side of that computer. As parents we have to slow down with our busy schedules, we need face time with our kids, we need to sit down have dinner and really be engaged with what’s happening in their lives.

    Q:
    This year you testified during a Senate hearing about the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. What was it like to be at that hearing, and how did the senators respond?
    A:

    It was a very powerful day. And I’ll tell you what made it most powerful: sitting with three young women who had been trafficked in our country. That was the most impactful part for our senators. Even for them, it was a little eye opening. Three beautiful young girls who are American: One who had been sold by her mother and her father; one who had been kidnapped by six men off the street; and another woman who had come from a Latin country, and is now an American citizen, who was trafficked. These women, who have actually survived these atrocities, and these men and young boys, are some of the most courageous people I’ve ever met. And so for them as well to be able to have had a voice and stand in front of Congress and speak about what has happened to them and what they see, and what they believe and why this particular Act needs to exist, and why we need more laws to protect people like them. It made it more real for everyone in the room. It was a powerful day. It made it one of my most proud moments.

    Q:
    What would you encourage readers to do to take part in this fight?
    A:

    There are a couple things I would suggest. First, if you are a parent I would study what techniques and tactics traffickers use to lure young women and boys. I would also say that people need to check the laws in their own states in regards to trafficking and see how strong or weak they are. My activism is really based around systemic change. To get really knowledgeable and continue, and tell 10 people a day about trafficking. That alone will make a big difference because lot of people are still unaware that this is something that is happening on our soil, that exists on our soil, not just in Latin America, not just in Africa, but right here in the United States. If you educate 10 people a day, you’re really doing something.


    Interview has been edited and condensed.
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