Sex Trafficking in Acadiana

We know it is hard to believe, but sex trafficking is happening in Acadiana.  Sex trafficking questions are not easy ones to answer, as we've learned through our Department of Justice. Unfortunately, many adults who are actually being trafficked do not identify themselves as victims. Like many survivors of sexual assault and abuse, they have formed a relationship with their abusers.

Perhaps the perpetrator is nice to her or buys her things she has never had before. Maybe he promises her a better life; maybe she has very few other options or has a drug habit that he supports. Many who want out of the situation have no idea where to go or that there are resources to help them. It is so important to bring awareness to the issue of sex trafficking, to make stricter penalties for those who traffic, to publicize hotline numbers and to provide funding to centers (such as Hearts of Hope) to support programs that help put survivors of sex trafficking on a path to help and healing.  

Here are the recent sex trafficking cases in Louisiana:

A 2018 report on human trafficking released by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services showed a 77% increase in juvenile victims identified over the past year, including more than three times as many victims age 12 and younger, compared to 2016.

The number of reported adult trafficking victims also increased, rising more than 25% from 2016-2017. Another 56 confirmed or prospective victims were of unknown or unreported age.

Websites are often utilized by sex traffickers. In effort to eradicate human trafficking the federal government has seized the website "Backpage", the leading site for prostitution ads. President Trump signed the FOSTA bill that will allow victims of sex trafficking to file suit against online companies that knowingly facilitate the unlawful act. The personal section on Craigslist has been shutdown in efforts to stop human trafficking. For more on this story, click HERE

This information has been provided by Val Senegal, Education Director of Hearts of Hope. 

School's Started: The time for the talk every parent MUST have with their children

It’s completely normal for parents to feel uncomfortable talking about sexual abuse. To start the conversation, it is best to weave the messages into day-to-day interactions- dinnertime, bath time, driving to an outing or bedtime. Putting down the phone, getting off of social media and getting some one-on-one time is always the BEST approach to having these kind of difficult conversations. 

For children 5 and under, keep the rules simple and easy to remember- 1) Say No, 2) Get Away, and 3) Tell an Adult Frequently remind them so that they memorized it like the fire safety method of 1) Stop, 2) Drop, and 3) Roll. This isn’t a one-time conversation. The more you talk about it, the more your child will remember and become comfortable talking about this kind of issue. Example talking points: “No one should EVER touch your private parts except the doctor help keep you healthy.” “Never keep secrets about touching.”

For children between the ages of 6-9, you can add more specifics. Example talking points:
“No one should EVER see or touch your private body parts.” “You shouldn’t see or touch other people’s private body parts, either.”

Children 10 and over can handle detailed rules. Since they can read, consider posting them in your home along with other, more general safety rules like “No downloading apps or games without permission.” Example talking points: “Another person should NEVER ask to see or photograph your private body parts.” “You should NEVER be asked to touch or look at another person’s private body parts.”

This information has been provided by Val Senegal, Education Director of Hearts of Hope. 


The Internet & Cell Phone relationship with Human Trafficking

Still in denial that human trafficking occurs on American soil? Well, it's time to put away that notion and face this very harsh and cruel reality. During 2017, 361 defendants in criminal human trafficking cases saw their charges resolved. Some were convicted of a federal crime, while others were acquitted by a jury or saw the court dismiss the charges against them. Federal courts convicted 95.3% of the resolved defendants, acquitted 1.1% of the resolved defendants, and dismissed charges against 3.6%.

Sex trafficking of minors has the highest conviction rating of 98.2%. The courts sentenced 94.7% of the defendants to some term of imprisonment in 2017, while the remaining 5.3% of sentenced defendants received no term of imprisonment. Seven life sentences were handed down by the court system in 2017, six of which were in sex trafficking cases involving only child victims and one in a sex trafficking case involving both adult and child victims. 

Federal courts ordered 19.9% of the defendants in 54 human trafficking cases to pay restitution to their victims. This represents a slight increase from 2016, where courts ordered 18.2% to pay restitution.The number of victims involved in a criminal human trafficking case is difficult to identify for several reasons- public court documents often identify victims of substantive human trafficking charges using initials, pseudonyms, or "Jane/John Doe" to protect the victim’s privacy. In other charges, such as conspiracy, victims may be grouped together without identifying a specific number. Therefore, the number of victims that public court documents identified are often only a subset of the actual number of victims exploited. 

Commercial sex that is internet based occurs when a defendant’s primary method of soliciting customers for sexual services was through an online website or social media platform. The websites disclosed by the public court documents in 2017 criminal cases included:

A Plus Bunnies, Adult Friend Finder, Adult Hookups, All the Lovers, Backpage, Body Rub Lists, Call Escort, CityVibe, Craigslist, Date Hookup, Eccie, Eros, Erotic Mugshots, Erotic Review, Escorts Click 2 Call, Escorts Forever, Escorts Jiji, Escorts Meet, Escort Profile, Escorts Xport, Evil Empire, Executive Companion, Explicit Chicago, Facebook, Friends 4 Rent, Grindr, Independent Girls, Instagram, Kendra of Atlanta, KiK Messenger, MeetMe, Miss Scarlet White, MocoSpace, MyRedBook, MyProvider, Pinger, Platinum Companions, Plenty of Fish, Seeking Arrangement, A Sexy Service, Skip the Games, Tagged, TNA Board, Whats AppWhisper & Yahoo.

Are any of these apps downloaded on your child's devices? Do you know if your child visited any of these websites? Given all of these facts, isn't it best to start applying more protective measures towards our children and their cell phone usage? To read more of the detailed Federal 2017 report, please click HERE. This information has been provided by Val Senegal, Education Director of Hearts of Hope. 

SnapChat’s “Cosmo After Dark” Is Porn

Cosmo After Dark is a new channel on SnapChat’s “discover” section that goes live every Friday at 6pm. Cosmo describes their new SnapChat feature as “an X-rated weekly edition that is exclusively dedicated to all things hot and horny.” If you look below this article, you'll see some screen shots straight from SnapChat that your kids can easily access on Cosmo After Dark. Be mindful that there's never been any parental controls on SnapChat but if you are reading this with your child, VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED!

Snapchat is a publicly traded company with a strict focus on making money. Social media is a competitive industry and they are doing everything to stay on top. With pornography being a billion dollar industry, what a win-win for the two to join forces," Val Senegal, Hearts of Hope's Education Director.

Now is the time to become the vigilant parent. We have been saying this for two years now, monitor your children's electronics and social media accounts. Use two-party authentication to control their logins and activity. Have access to their accounts on your own devices as well as the passwords. Set strict consequences when they violate any of the ground rules you've laid regarding social media. Have a conversation with them OFTEN about the dangerous effects of pornography. What you do today, matters later when your child becomes an adult.

For further reading, please CLICK. Learn more about Hearts of Hope's #NowMattersL8R program. This information has been provided by Val Senegal, Education Director of Hearts of Hope. 

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Legislative Bills Alert

Public awareness of what our legislators are doing and how they are voting is extremely important. After all, you vote them in and you have the power to vote them out if you don't think they are doing a good job. If social justice issues regarding sexual & domestic violence are important to you, we want to help get your voice elevated in the community and amplified in the legislator. Learn your legislators by visiting the Louisiana state legislature website. From this website, you can also track bills and track sessions and committees. Start a dialogue with your legislators by sending an email or visiting their social media pages. 

If you are going to a doctor’s appointment, you can actually stream audio of a hearing session to get first hand information. The fact of the matter is TECHNOLOGY FUELS CONSTITUENT COMMUNICATION. Almost every legislator I know relies heavily on their computers to communicate with their constituent.

Click HERE to view the 2018 Legislative results regarding impact for sexual abuse survivors.This information has been provided by Val Senegal, Education Director of Hearts of Hope. 



This information has been provided by Val Senegal, Education Director of Hearts of Hope. 

Myths about Sexual Abuse


MYTH: Child sexual abuse is a cultural or socio-economic problem.
FACT: Sexual abuse crosses all barriers. It happens in large and small families, in cities and rural areas, and in homes, schools and churches.

MYTH: All child victims tell of their abuse.
FACT: Most sexually abused children do not disclose their abuse, even when directly asked by parents or other authority figures. Children may take time to process what has occurred and realize that they should tell, but even then, they may be too afraid that the news will hurt or trouble their family, or that they won’t be believed. Sometimes they are threatened in some way by the offender.

MYTH: Children who are sexually abused will grow up to abuse others.
FACT: Child sexual victimization does not automatically lead to sexually aggressive behaviors. If a child discloses an incident of abuse early and is believed and supported by family and friends, they have a much higher likelihood of coping with the trauma and moving forward into adulthood positively.

MYTH: Children are only sexually abused by men.
FACT: Although male offenders tend to be the majority of reported cases of abuse, reports show that female perpetrators and child-on-child incidents are on the rise. Female offenders have been reported in cases of abuse of both male and female children.

Click HERE for more information about understanding sexual violence. This information has been provided by the Hearts of Hope Education Director, Val Senegal.