Tuesday, July 29, 2014

GRISSOM: Focus on victims key in human trafficking fight

By BARRY GRISSOM, U.S. Attorney Office | 1/24/2014

The fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time.

Traffickers target individuals who are poor, vulnerable, living in unsafe situations or looking for a better life. Prosecutors have shown that someone can be enslaved without chains and that traffickers often go beyond physical abuse to use forms of psychological abuse that exploit human vulnerabilities to maintain control over victims and prevent them from escaping. This modern day form of slavery can occur in plain sight, often involving subtle methods of coercion in the form of false promises, isolation, surveillance, threats of deportation or arrest or economic dependence.

The fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time.

Traffickers target individuals who are poor, vulnerable, living in unsafe situations or looking for a better life. Prosecutors have shown that someone can be enslaved without chains and that traffickers often go beyond physical abuse to use forms of psychological abuse that exploit human vulnerabilities to maintain control over victims and prevent them from escaping. This modern day form of slavery can occur in plain sight, often involving subtle methods of coercion in the form of false promises, isolation, surveillance, threats of deportation or arrest or economic dependence.

That’s why the U.S. Attorney’s Human Trafficking Working Group in Kansas is striving to promote collaboration among state and local law enforcement, trafficking victim service providers and federal law enforcement. Our goals are to bring human trafficking crimes to light and to justice — and to stand up for the rights and interests of victims.

Contrary to some misconceptions, human trafficking crimes do not require any smuggling or movement of the victim. Federal law defines human trafficking as the act of compelling or coercing a person’s labor, services or commercial sex acts. The federal law is rooted in the prohibition against slavery and involuntary servitude guaranteed by the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Sex-trafficked women and girls are the victims of human trafficking we most often see in Kansas. In one case we successfully prosecuted in the Kansas City metropolitan area, a defendant was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to sex trafficking. In his plea, he admitted that, when a woman who worked for him as a prostitute attempted to run away, he beat her into unconsciousness. He admitted he forced one woman to have sex with as many as 11 men in one day. He boasted on his Facebook page that it would take him only 10 minutes to turn a woman into a prostitute. His goal, he declared, was to have so many women working for him as prostitutes that he could fill the entire front page of the escort section of an adult Web site.

Our Human Trafficking working group is dedicated to prosecuting human trafficking cases, providing victim services and helping to train law enforcement and community members to identify and rescue trafficked persons. Working with the U.S. Justice Department, our goals are to help victims of trafficking recover and rebuild their lives and to move from being victims to becoming survivors. The Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime and Bureau of Justice Assistance are leading efforts nationally to train law enforcement communities to identify, rescue and provide comprehensive services of victims.

As U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas, I view the fight against human trafficking as part of our nation’s long struggle for fairness and freedom. I want to commend the many dedicated public servants — and their partners at schools and non-profit agencies — for the work they are doing to stand up for the rights and interests of the victims.

 

Barry Grissom is the United States attorney for the District of Kansas.

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