February News on the Fight Against Human Trafficking

  • A bill has been introduced in Tennessee in response to the Cyntoia Brown case. The proposal would change state law so that an underage person who is the victim of a sex offense or found to be in prostitution is presumed to be acting in self-defense if he or she uses force intended to cause serious injury or death.
  • Six people, including three in Oregon, have been charged with federal racketeering, accused of running Asian sex trafficking organizations in the United States, Canada and Australia. The FBI also seized and shut down a website used by one of the alleged criminal enterprises, www.supermatchescort. com, and about 500 other related websites, including portlandasianescort.com, according to federal prosecutors.  https://www.oregonlive.com/crime/2019/01/six-indicted-on-racketeering-charges-accused-of-running-asian-brothels-in-us-canada-and-australia.html
  • Human trafficking has taken on “horrific” dimensions, according to the 2018 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons released this month by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/01/14/684414187/human-trafficking-reaches-horrific-new-heights-declares-u-n-report
  • Authorities involved in a 3-day human trafficking sting operation rescued almost 50 victims across California, including 14 minors, some as young as 13. Law enforcement officials with “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” announced Tuesday they made 339 arrests in the 3-day operation, which involved 93 human trafficking task forces throughout the state. http://www.wafb.com/2019/01/30/human-trafficking-victims-rescued-more-than-suspects-arrested-ca-sting/?fbclid=IwAR2GvQxtWW9uWEMfZUSz-2jVgeIdeaz3lXFM_3OxRiVOW8U6Uut2zswz5dg
  • A law firm is developing a civil lawsuit against motels, hotels, and casinos that turn a blind eye to the harrowing human trafficking crisis happening at their properties. They believe victims should be compensated by these properties for their suffering. The attorneys work on contingency, so they’re only paid if victims win. Erin Brockovich and Bobby Kennedy Jr. are two key people who are helping spearhead this mission. If you know of any victims who want to learn how they can potentially join the civil suit, they can call this confidential phone line at 800-300-2100. The firm is Morgan & Morgan, https://www.forthepeople.com/
  • President Trump has signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017 (that’s when it started its way through Congress) whose main sponsors were Senators. Grassley and Feinstein. A one page summary of its highlights can be found at: https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Trafficking,%2012-06-18,%20TVPA%20Revised%20One%20Pager.pdf. Also, in legislation, both Cedar Rapids and Des Moines have passed Massage Business Ordinances.
  • The Siouxland Coalition Against Human Trafficking now have Break the Silence Billboards up, and they have a human trafficking display in the South Sioux City library that they encourage you to check out.
    Siouxland Break the Silence
  • Melanie Shellenberger is the program administrator for Iowa’s Safe at Home program, which is an address confidentiality program for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking and stalking. The program has been in existence for three years, and they are still working on spreading the word about its availability. While some participants in Safe at Home are human trafficking survivors, the program feels like there still may be a lack of awareness regarding this resource among trafficking advocates. For more information, go to https://safeathome.iowa.gov/.