sexual violence

Who Cares about Human Trafficking in Acadiana?

It’s so hard to believe that human trafficking exists in Acadiana.  What is human trafficking exactly? Why aren’t we talking about it more? Why aren’t we doing more? How do we recognize the signs? Some of these questions are not easy ones to answer, as we've learned through our Department of Justice. However, as a sexual violence agency for Acadiana, we can educate our community on some of these questions by providing concrete answers.

Human trafficking occurs as either sex trafficking or forced labor/slavery. All forms of trafficking are either forced or coerced. Labor trafficking and slavery involves individuals who are compelled to work or provide a certain service to people or organizations. Sex trafficking is when extortion is used to engage adults in commercial sex (escort services, pornography, illicit massage businesses, brothels, prostitution) or when minors are compelled to perform commercial sex acts whether or not the use of force, fraud, or coercion is used. Unfortunately, many people who are actually being trafficked do not identify themselves as victims. Like many survivors of sexual violence, they have formed a relationship with their abusers.

Because many Louisianians care, many have lobbied and rallied around this issue for years on both a state and federal level. Oftentimes, things seemed to result in little or no avail. Louisiana has recently joined forces with many other states through Governor Edwards’ initiative. This is one of many steps to doing more to stop sexual violence. These funds will hopefully go towards more local police trainings on how to recognize the signs and interceed appropriately. Many are hopeful that more funding will lead to swifter arrests.

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. January is “National Human Trafficking & Slavery Awareness Month.” To learn how you can make a difference, we encourage you to click HERE and share this information with your friends and family.

Keep in mind that websites are often utilized by sex traffickers. In 2018, the federal government seized the Backpage website, which was a leading site for prostitution. The FOSTA bill now allows 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. 

Online Safety Tips for Teenagers: #NowMattersL8R

Online Safety Tips for Teenagers: #NowMattersL8R

Caroline Marcello and Val Senegal sit down to discuss child pornography after three people were arrested on pornography charges and two of them for simple rape.

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.