Innocents at Risk is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded to fight child exploitation and human trafficking. Our mission is to educate citizens about the grave issue of global and local human trafficking. We are dedicated to protecting children from all forms of abuse, and work to end child exploitation and child trafficking everywhere.
Human Trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide, and it is happening throughout the world in every country and across the United States in every major city and small town. According to the Department of State, 2 million women and children are victims of human trafficking every year. In the United States, 300 thousand children are forced into child prostitution and child pornography each year. In Washington DC alone, trafficking innocent children is a $100 million industry.
Since 2004, Innocents at Risk has been working to raise awareness about the horrors of child trafficking in America and around the world. We conduct educational outreach programs through churches, clubs, organizations, schools and embassies. Our awareness DVD has been used at every major embassy and throughout the United States as an educational resource.
In 2007, we began training airline personnel, who are our first line of defense in protecting the countless children who are trafficked on major flights each day. Our brochures, wrist bands, and educational workshops have armed thousands of flight attendants with information on how to recognize and report trafficking before even reaching the ground. With the help of our new partner, Airline Ambassadors (airlineamb.org), we are working to expand our outreach to all major carriers.
Child trafficking affects all of us. TOGETHER, WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CHILD TRAFFFICKING.
Deborah S. Sigmund
Please watch this short fllm:
Innocents at Risk salutes ABC News, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) for shining a light on the Global Criminal Empire of Backpage
Emotional Senate Hearing Finds Backpage.com Complicit in Underage Sex Trafficking as Victim’s Families Testify
By Gloria Riviera, ABC news, Jan 13, 2017
“Those children were sold, and they simply tried to sanitize it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition of evil”, said Sen. Claire McCaskill, glaring at the five company executives sitting in front of her.
Jan. 10 was a day of reckoning on Capitol Hill for the controversial classified site Backpage.com, as the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a new report saying that Backpage had knowingly facilitated underage trafficking on its site by actively editing ads posted in the “adult services” section. The website’s top executives were subpoenaed to attend a hearing where the Subcommittee, led by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and McCaskill, D-Missouri, laid out their findings, which were based on over a million pages of internal company documents.
Innocents at Risk’s Founder Deborah Sigmund Visits Ninos de Cristo Orphanage in Dominican Republic
Click on any image for a larger view
Innocents at Risk Year End Update
Dear Friend of Innocents at Risk,
As 2016 is coming to a close, Innocents at Risk would like to share with you some of our major highlights of this past year. It is because of your support that we have had a productive year. If you are considering making a charitable donation before the end of 2016, I hope you will consider Innocents at Risk.
In January, Innocents at Risk attended the signing of the Code of Conduct by Sofitel Hotels. Thank you Sofitel for fighting against trafficking.
In February, Innocents at Risk was invited to the Armstrong Williams TV Show to talk about preventing Child Trafficking. Innocents at Risk was also interviewed by MSNBC.
In March, Innocents at Risk spoke at the UN Conference on the Status of Women. Innocents at Risk was contacted by academy Award winning Director, Jeffrey Brown and film Producer, Jane Charles to partner with them to promote their film SOLD. The film has been an excellent awareness tool.
On April 19th, Innocents at Risk held a beautiful Gala at the OAS. The Honorary Gala Chairs were Congressman Delaney and April Delaney. Annie Totah was our amazing Benefit Chair.
On April 26th, Innocents at Risk presented the film SOLD with Producer, Jane Charles to the American Mothers Convention at the Willard Hotel.
In May, Innocents at Risk met with our Partner, Operation Underground Railroad and the orphanage we support, Ninos de Cristos to arrange for children rescued by O.U.R. to be placed at Ninos de Cristo.
In June, Innocents at Risk visited several schools to discuss our “Kids Stay Safe Campaign.” The Cesar Chavez School’s middle school teachers requested the PG version of SOLD and it was widely received.
In July, Innocents at Risk was invited to the Dept. of State where Sec. John Kerry launched the TIP Report. This was followed by an international group sponsored by the state to visit their NGO partners. Innocents at Risk gave a presentation about our flight attendant initiative.Innocents at Risk continues to work with flight attendants and Airline Ambassadors to give training and support.
In September Innocents at Risk hosted a film screening of SOLD at Christ Church Georgetown and also one at the George Town Club in November. Throughout the rest of 2016, our awareness outreach does not stop. Innocents at Risk knows Awareness is Prevention.
Innocents at Risk is grateful for your past support! It has helped us save innocent lives with our programs. It is our hope that you will continue to support Innocents at Risk and make an end of the year contribution.
Wishing you a very happy, healthy, safe holiday.
Celebrating at Innocents at Risk’s 10th Anniversary Gala
Innocents at Risk celebrated our 10th Anniversary at a Black Tie Gala held at the Organization of American States on April 19, 2016! We had a marvelous evening, thanks to H.E. José Tomás Pérez, Ambassador to the United States, and Mrs. Caridad de Pérez; H.E. Pedro Vergés Ciman, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic to the OAS; Mrs. April Delaney, Honorary Gala Chair; Mrs. Annie Totah, Benefit Chair; and Mrs. Barbara Harrison of NBC4.
We’d like to thank all of you who attended or contributed to our Gala! All benefits and proceeds will help to launch our “Kids Stay Safe” Campaign which will spread awareness about child trafficking and educate and arm students in schools across the United States with the knowledge and reality of child trafficking.
Deborah Sigmund with Barbara Harrison of NBC 4.
The beautiful Organization of American States.
L-R: H.E. Pedro Vergés Ciman, Deborah Sigmund, April Delaney, H.E. José Tomás Pérez
Innocents at Risk is proud to partner with the movie SOLD!
April 22-May 5, 2016, 6PM
Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market
550 Penn Street NE, Washington, DC
Purchase Tickets Here
In the past week, Innocents at Risk has been very busy working with our partners, friends, and supporters to bring more awareness to the issue of child trafficking! Innocents at Risk was proud to be at George Washington University on Thursday, April 21st, for the screening of SOLD. Innocents at Risk, EPACT USA, Save the Children, and Vital Voices joined SOLD’s Director and Producer on the stage to speak to the audience.
SOLD tells the uplifting story of a 12-year-old girl who is trafficked and eventually escapes. It is still being shown all week, so take advantage of this opportunity to see a spectacular film and bring more awareness to trafficking!
SOLD is currently showing at the Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market. Angelika Pop-Up is located at 550 Penn Street NE, Washington, DC, 20002. SOLD screenings will continue from today until May 5th, due to popular demand. Purchase tickets here!
Jane Charles also attended the American Mothers, Inc. 81st Annual Conference with Deborah Sigmund, our Founder and Executive Director. AMI celebrates honors mothers at home, at work, and throughout the world. Deborah was selected by AMI as DC Metropolitan Area Mother of the Year 2013 for her work in human trafficking. She was excited to bring awareness to the issue and to the film SOLD to mothers throughout the country so that they can aid in fighting this crime!
Innocents at Risk is excited to partner with the movie SOLD, produced by Emma Thompson, directed by Academy Award-winning Jeffrey Brown, and starring David Arquette!
David Arquette appeared on the Today Show to promote Sold and speak about his role in the film. You can find his interview here! Everyone must see this film!!
For more information about the film, please visit www.soldthemovie.com
Mediaplanet Campaign Highlights the Perils of Human Trafficking in the United States and Abroad
Mediaplanet today announces distribution of its first ever “Human Trafficking” cross-platform campaign, which will focus on human trafficking as an issue that extends beyond developing nations.
The campaign focuses on a number of topics surrounding both sex and labor trafficking, and calls for swift advocacy and policy measures to enact change. Editorial features include inspirational survivor stories, policy changes needed to combat sex trafficking surrounding the Super Bowl, supply chain transparency, human trafficking in the Los Angeles area and many others.
Human Trafficking is a print and online campaign, distributed within this Saturday’s edition of the LA Times, with a circulation of approximately 455,000 copies and an estimated readership of 1.4 million. The print component will also be featured at the upcoming Innocents at Risk 10th Anniversary Gala on April 19, 2016, at the Organization of American States.
The digital component is distributed nationally, through a vast social media strategy, and across a network of top news sites and partner outlets. To explore the digital version of the campaign, click here. The digital homepage and cover of the print publication features Mira Sorvino, Academy Award-winning actress and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking. In an exclusive interview, Ms. Sorvino discusses why she has prioritized leading the charge against trafficking in persons, and why this is a particularly pertinent issue to the Los Angeles area.
This campaign was made possible with the support of Mira Sorvino, the Health and Human Services Office of Trafficking in Persons, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Shared Hope International, End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), Siddharth Kara, Not For Sale, The Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign, UNICEF-USA, The University of Denver Human Trafficking Center, CAST LA, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Altruvistas, The Vanguard University Global Center for Women and Justice, Fair Trade USA, The California Endowment and Innocents at Risk.
Mira Sorvino: A “Heart Wrenching” Struggle
Advocacy Fans know Academy Award-winner Mira Sorvino for her movies. But the “Mighty Aphrodite” actress has another role she’s passionate about.
“This is the other side of me,” says Sorvino, whose latest film with Keanu Reeves, “Exposed,” premieres in January.
Finding a cause
Sorvino has always been impassioned to fight the incidence of people treating others as less than human. At Harvard, her undergraduate thesis was concerned with racial conflict; she’s also worked with Amnesty International as their Stop Violence Against Women Campaign spokesperson, where she first learned about human trafficking.
“I was staggered. I had naively thought that slavery was a thing of the past,” she says, explaining after meeting with two survivors, “my heart was forever changed—my eyes forever opened.”
DEBORAH SIGMUND every two minutes
January 11, 2016
In honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, we want to share our interview with Deborah Sigmund, the founder of Innocents at Risk. This non-profit company is dedicated to fighting child exploitation and human trafficking.
Innocents at Risk is grateful to the Archdiocese for creating Awareness of Trafficking!!
Archdiocese calling for social media fast to raise awareness for human trafficking
NEW ORLEANS – WGNO, Januray 25, 2016
Can you take a social media break for one day? The Archdiocese of New Orleans is calling on all Catholics to take a stand against human trafficking. They want people to fast from social media on February 1.
“It is an initiative born out of the latest synod priorities to advocate for victims of human trafficking, and the local day of Prayer and Awareness coincides well with two major events that cause a spike in human trafficking activity: the Super Bowl (February 7) and, locally, Mardi Gras (February 9),” the Archdiocese said in a statement.
Deborah Sigmund at Taping of Right Side with Armstrong Williams on ABC
The show will air at a future date
Flight attendants train to spot human trafficking
Last Wednesday, January 20, our Founder and Director, Deborah Sigmund, was interviewed on MSNBC by Ayman Mohyeldin. Deborah spoke of working with Sandra Fiorini, Senior American Airlines flight attendant, in 2008 to to begin the Flight Attendant Initiative. In 2010, Deborah and Sandra testified to the Human Rights Commission (led by Representative Jim McGovern). Through our ongoing work with the Flight Attendant Initiative, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888), and Airline Ambassadors, thousands of lives have been saved. You can view the segment here.
Innocents at Risk is extremely grateful to MSNBC and host Ayman Mohyeldin for having Innocents at Risk appear on MSNBC’s Road Map. The media can play, and is playing, a tremendous part in helping us to fight this evil. Innocents at Risk has learned that Awareness is Prevention. Please continue to help us inform the public that Human Trafficking is a $150 Billion Annual Industry. We must stop it!!!
If you see something suspicious,
Remember, a phone call or an alert from you could save a life. Report suspicious activity to your nearest law enforcement officer, call 911, or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
If you would like to have the Innocents at Risk team come to your school, organization, or group, you can reach us at email@example.com, or at our office at 202-625-4338.
Please visit our website for more information.
If you would like to help Innocents at Risk continue our work against human trafficking, text AWARE to 41444 or visit https://app.mobilecause.com/f/8ms/n to donate any amount with your credit or debit card.
MSNBC, January 20, 2016
Advocates are trying to take their fight against human trafficking to the skies. Deborah Sigmund from Innocents At Risk joins Ayman Mohyeldin to discuss.
Watch the video here»
January is Human Trafficking Month. Why should you care?
Why should you care about human trafficking?
- Human trafficking is a moral issue: It’s the greatest civil rights issue of our time.
- Human trafficking is a security issue: Organized crime promotes corruption and disrupts the stabilizing of countries.
- Human trafficking is a health issue: Diseases are transmitted and spread in communities.
What’s being done about it? Last week the President’s Inter-Agency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking met for their annual meeting, wherein Secretary Kerry said that every country has been asked to become more diligent in the fight to end trafficking.
Other news from the annual meeting includes:
US and Mexico working together: There has been great collaboration with the US and Mexico which led to more arrests and prosecutions of traffickers.
Task Forces hard at work:
- There are 16 Task Forces working against human trafficking in the US that are supported by the Office of the Attorney General.
- These Task Forces consist of representatives of the Attorney General’s office, prosecutors, law enforcement, and the NGO Community.
- All 16 Task Forces work with the FBI in the US allowing law enforcement to work together to conduct “Operation Cross Country” rescuing thousands of children and arresting 2000 traffickers.
- This year three traffickers received life time sentences.
A new Council added: A Council of Survivors. This is an important addition to the Presidents Inter-Agency Task Force, as they can provide crucial information. The Task Force was established in 2000 and in 2011 the Intelligence Agencies joined. This is an ALL government effort to work to end this $150 billion criminal industry.
Campaigns like DHS Blue Campaign, which includes signs posted in airports, and the Flight Attendant Initiative are saving thousands of lives.
What can you do? If you see something, say something. Spread the message to be alert and report anything suspicious to the nearest person in a uniform or call 91. The need to create awareness in every community was stated by every agency. Law enforcement cannot be everywhere.
It is encouraging to hear the serious efforts of the Departments of Defense, Education and Transportation, and all members of the President’s Inter-Agency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking. Their message is we still have much to do. We need the help of the general public. We need you.
As January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, please get involved and help Innocents at Risk. There are many who do not know trafficking exists. Help us continue our awareness campaign in cities, communities and schools and continue to expand our Flight Attendant Initiative.
We work with a vast number of partners, you can become a partner too. Join us in this fight to save innocent lives. Call our office to see how you can help or donate now in honor of Trafficking Awareness Month! (Donate online here: https://app.mobilecause.com/f/8ms/n)
Nuns who rescue sex slaves expand efforts to 140 countries
LONDON – An army of Catholic religious sisters who rescue victims of human trafficking by posing as prostitutes to infiltrate brothels and buying children being sold into slavery, is expanding to 140 countries, its chairman said Wednesday.
John Studzinski, an investment banker and philanthropist who chairs Talitha Kum, said the network of 1,100 sisters currently operates in about 80 countries but the demand for efforts to combat trafficking and slavery was rising globally.
The group, set up in 2004, estimates that one percent of the world’s population is trafficked in some form, which translates into some 73 million people. Of those, 70 percent are women and half are 16 or younger.
“I’m not trying to be sensational, but I’m trying to underscore the fact this is a world that has lost innocence … where dark forces are active,” said Studzinski, a vice chairman of US investment bank The Blackstone Group.
“These are problems caused by poverty and equality, but it goes well beyond that,” he told the Trust Women Conference on women’s rights and trafficking hosted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Detailing some cases involving trafficking and slavery, Studzinski said the treatment of some victims was horrific.
He told of one woman enslaved as a prostitute who was locked up for a week without food, forced to eat own her feces, when she failed to have sex with a target of 12 clients a day.
In another extreme case, one woman was forced to have sex with a group of 10 men at the same time.
Studzinski said the religious sisters working to combat trafficking would go to all lengths to rescue women, often dressing up as prostitutes and going out on the street to integrate themselves into brothels.
“These sisters do not trust anyone. They do not trust governments, they do not trust corporations, and they don’t trust the local police. In some cases they cannot trust male clergy,” he said, adding that the low-key group preferred to focus on their rescue work rather than promotion.
“They work in brothels. No one knows they are there,” he said.
The sisters were also proactive on trying to save children being sold into slavery by their parents, setting up a network of homes in Africa as well as in the Philippines, Brazil, and India to shelter such children.
He said the religious sisters of Talitha Kum raised money to purchase these children.
“This is a new network of houses for children around the world who would otherwise be sold into slavery. It is shocking but it is real,” he said.
Studzinski said the network of religious sisters, that was in the process of expanding, also targeted slavery in the supply chain with sisters shedding their habits and working alongside locals for as little as two cents an hour to uncover abuses.
He said Talitha Kum, which translated from Aramaic means arise child, was now being hired by companies to see what is going on with respect to the supply chain and expanding globally would help address this issue.
“You can’t generalize about trafficking and slavery as no two countries are the same,” Studzinski said.
Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters
’3AM Girls’ — Our America with Lisa Ling
Human Trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide, and it is happening throughout the world in every country and across the United States in every major city and small town. According to the Department of State, 2 million women and children are victims of human trafficking every year. In the United States, 300 thousand children are forced into child prostitution and child pornography each year. In Washington DC alone, trafficking innocent children is a $100 million industry
Right here in our Nation’s Capitol, just 6 short blocks from the White House, girls as young as 10 years old are being bought and sold every night. Watch Lisa Ling explore the issue in this episode, ‘3AM Girls,’ – Our America with Lisa Ling.
“By day the city belongs to the ones who make the laws of our land, but by night the laws of those who run the street take over,” says Ling.
We ask you to please watch this video clip and see why Innocents at Risk is dedicated to protecting children.
While this is a joyful time for most of us, with holiday parties with family and friends, to many this is far from reality.
Children are at risk all over the world, now more than ever with the refugee crisis, but our own children are also at risk. Traffickers work the internet, the malls and school yards recruiting girls and boys (like the ones seen in the video) for jobs or simply to go to a party. They end up in a hotel or on the street forced into the sex trade.
Innocents at Risk’s “Our Kids Be Safe” campaign works to ensure that children know the true dangers that exist. Innocents at Risk works in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, National Human Trafficking Hotline, and DC Stop Modern Day Slavery to get the message out that children should not be SOLD.
Please consider making a year-end donation to join us in this effort. I pray that you will join us in this fight to save innocent lives! Text AWARE to 41444 or visit https://app.mobilecause.com/f/8ms/n to donate any amount with your credit or debit card.
Innocents at Risk ‘Hope for the Holidays’ Event
Innocents at Risk would like to thank everyone who was able to attend and donate to the cause. We are also very pleased that the Hope for the Holidays event raised almost $15,000.
Contributions are being accepted through December 31st. If you would like to donate click here. The proceeds raised from Hope for the Holidays will be divided between: Amara Legal Center, Courtney’s House, Innocents at Risk, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Initiative, and Restoration Ministries.
Pictures of the event have been uploaded here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/136331907@N03/
Thank you again for your continued support! We hope to see you in September for the DC Stop Modern Slavery’s 2016 WalkFest!
DC Stop Modern Slavery – Love 146 – Clarendon Ballroom
Innocents at Risk 10th Anniversary Gala
On April 19, 2016, Innocents at Risk will bring together members of the Administration, leaders in Congress, government leaders in Washington, D.C., members of the Diplomatic Corps, corporate community, philanthropic communities, and non-government organizations to celebrate the accomplishments we have made over the past 10 years in the fight to end child trafficking.
Read more here»
Learn how you can support the 10th Anniversary Gala»
Swearing in Ceremony for Ambassador at Large at the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
On Friday, November 20th, Innocents at Risk was invited to attend the Swearing in Ceremony of Susan Coppedge as the new Ambassador at Large at the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the Department of State. Previously she was the Assistant United States Attorney in the Northern District of Georgia. Secretary of State John Kerry gave warm welcoming remarks to Ambassador Coppedge and once again emphasized the importance of all of us working together to end the evil scourge of modern slavery.
Innocents at Risk welcomes Ambassador Coppedge and we are so encouraged by her dedication to fighting Modern Day Slavery!
Click on images for larger view.
2015 Mentor Foundation Gala
Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden; HE Bjorn Lyrvall, The Ambassador of Sweden; Prince Abdul-Aziz bin Talal Abdul-Al
Saud of Saudi Arabia; Deborah Sigmund, Founder of Innocents at Risk; and Members of the Committee
The Dangers Of Social Media (Child Predator Social Experiment)
Innocents at Risk Fundraises with ‘Cocktails for a Cause’
THE GEORGETOWNER, August 5, 2015, by Mary Bird
Innocents at Risk celebrated successes in putting an end to child trafficking with a cocktail reception and silent auction at the George Town Club July 22. Founder Deborah Sigmund thanked supporters for increasing awareness of the issue. The evening was filled with laughter, delicious hors d’oeuvres and education.
(Click on image for larger view)
In just two weeks, the Innocents at Risk team will depart for the Ninos de Cristo Orphanage in the Dominican Republic. Here, we will visit and provide for more than 180 children who have been abandoned, abused, and often trafficked.
With your support, we will be able to buy simple yet essential items for the well-being of these children. We will be able to provide them with hot lunches, groceries, library books, vitamins, toiletries, children’s uniforms and much more.
Innocents at Risk depends on the generous contributions from donors like you! We all can make a difference in these young children’s lives!
We thank you greatly for your consideration and continued support of this worthwhile project!
Donate now online: https://app.mobilecause.com/f/8ms/n
The Innocents at Risk Team
Mr. Robert Devaney
Editor in Chief
Georgetown Media Group, Inc.
2801 M ST NW
Washington, DC 20007
June 23, 2015
Dear Mr. Devaney,
Thank you so much for the article The Georgetowner published about Innocents at Risk on May 6, 2015 entitled “Helping to End Human Trafficking: Two Women, Two Organizations”. We value your support in helping us educate the public on the reality of child trafficking, both domestically and internationally.
We are, however, disappointed with the photo and quote used in the article. We feel the photo-quote-combination was an inappropriate representation of our work. Innocents at Risk is extremely careful about the discourse we create and the images we project. Our founder, Deborah Sigmund, was referring to the Flight Attendant Initiative when she said “many lives have been saved….”. Therefore, the picture used along with this quote was misleading. The mission of Innocents at Risk is to raise awareness and prevent child trafficking. We have nothing to do with law enforcement or incarceration.
We hope The Georgetowner will print a retraction in the near future.
Thank you for your understanding and support.
The Summer 2015 Interns
A lot of exciting things are happening at Innocents at Risk! T-shirts are available. We are also excited to announce that we have started a Go Fund Me Campaign. Please support us by visiting the following link..
Go Fund Me: https://funds.gofundme.com/w8whz8
$15 Innocents at Risk Tshirts!
We relaunched our T-shirt campaign! Now, for a limited, we have two T-shirt options to choose from! A variation of styles are available, such as hoodies or women’s fitted shirts.
Celebration of The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act
On May 21st, Deborah Sigmund attended the of The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act Celebration Ceremony, with Representative Carolyn Maloney. It was so exciting to be there! We hope that President Obama will sign this legislation into law shortly. Congratulations to all who made this significant legislation happen!
Human Trafficking Fugitive on ICE’s Top 10 List Arrested
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Mexican Federal Police are proud to announce the March 31 arrest of Paulino Ramirez- Granados in Tenancingo, Mexico. Granandos has been on the ICE’s top 10 most wanted human traffickers list since 2010 for his role in sex trafficking from Mexico to the Eastern District of New York. Granandos has been charged with sex trafficking, alien smuggling, money laundering, and conspiracy to import aliens. The arrest of Granandos is a result from a joint investigation between the ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Mexico City, HSI New York, and the Mexican Federal Police. To date, 13 members of Granandos’ sex trafficking ring have been indicted within New York’s Eastern District while Raul Granados- Rendon still remains a fugitive.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Granados- Rendon should immediately;contact the local ICE office or call the national hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) as soon as possible. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Tips can also be submitted online at www.ICE.gov/tips.
Innocents at Risks congratulates all those involved who made this arrest possible. This is a major victory in the fight against human trafficking in the United States and abroad. It is also an indication of the excellent work of U.S. Law Enforcement working in partnership with the Government of Mexico. Happy Cinco de Mayo Day!
On May 6, Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund was invited to attend the Graduation Ceremony of the 2015 CBCF Spring Interns of the Black Caucus Foundation in a celebration of the vast achievements of the interns. The event was sponsored by Regina Dillard of State Farm and Wanda Simmons and Micaela Fernandez of Walmart. It was a true privilege for Deborah to be there as she served as one of the interns’ mentors and speakers during their stay in DC. She was so impressed with these students who chose the topic of human trafficking as their project. These young men and women are all future leaders that will go far. Most importantly, they continue to spread awareness of the urgent need to keep children safe!
Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund participated in the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Interns Presents: Human Trafficking Awareness PSA Screening and Panel Discussion, April 27, 2015
Senate passes trafficking bill, ending abortion fight
The Senate on Wednesday passed legislation aimed at curbing human trafficking, ending a month-long fight over abortion that bitterly divided the parties and held up attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch.
The legislation, which was approved 99-0, would create a special fund to help victims of sex crimes, bolstering efforts to combat what advocates decry as “modern-day slavery.”
Benefit for Victims of Child Sex Trafficking
Alliance To Rescue Victims of Trafficking (ATRVT) benefit held March 21, 2015
Human Trafficking: Solutions to a Global Epidemic
Please join us in NYC as Founder of Innocents at Risk, Deborah Sigmund, will speak at the United Nations March 10th.
We are excited to again be sponsoring a parallel panel event during the 59th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York. We will be gathering international experts in the field of Human Trafficking, including Tim Ballard with Operation Underground Railroad, ad Deborah Sigmund, with Innocents at Risk to discuss possible solutions to this global epidemic.
Our parallel event will be on Tuesday, March 10th with the full session of the CSW taking place from March 9-21, 2015. If you are interested in attending or assisting with our event, please let us know HERE so we can keep you informed on the details relating to this special event!
Pictured below with American Mothers Delegate to the United Nations Dianne Callister, is Tim Ballard, with Operation Underground Railroad.
Innocents at Risk founder, Deborah Sigmund, attends event hosted by The McCain Institute
Today, Founder of Innocents at Risk, Deborah Sigmund, attended an event hosted by The McCain Institute held at The Heritage Foundation titled Combatting Human Trafficking: Evaluating the Roles of Government and Civil Society. The Keynote Speaker was the Honorable Christopher Smith, Congressman from the 4th district in New Jersey.
Congressman Chris Smith has served in Congress since 1980 and has served as a “Special Representative” on Human Trafficking for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Congressman Smith is the author of America’s landmark anti-human trafficking laws including The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, a comprehensive law designed to prevent modern-day slavery, protect victims, and enhance civil and criminal penalties against traffickers. Congressman Smith also authored Megan’s law in 1994 which required law enforcement agencies to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders.
Innocents at Risk has been blessed to have the guidance and support of Congressman Smith since 2005, a true hero in the fight to end human trafficking and child exploitation. In 2008, Congressman Smith was the guest of honor at the 2008 Innocents at Risk Benefit when we announced the launch of the Flight Attendant Initiative. In 2009, Congressman Smith was instrumental in having Deborah Sigmund testify to the Human Rights Commission about the Flight Attendant Initiative. In 2010, Congressman Smith arranged a Congressional Briefing for Deborah and Founder of Airline Ambassadors, Nancy Rivard to brief the airlines on how flight attendants are the first line of defense. At the event today, Congressman Smith recognized Deborah and Nancy for their ongoing relentless work and trainings with the airlines and their partnership with The Department of Homeland Security. Congressman Smith said every airline in the world should be training their employees as this initiative is saving lives.
Today, Congressman Smith gave a strong speech and ended his powerful remarks with everyone needs to get involved. We can all do something and make a difference to prevent the scourge of this horrific evil!
Innocents at Risk is grateful to the McCain Institute and the Heritage Foundation for today’s excellent event.
Innocents at Risk endorses The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act
More Than 180 Human Rights Groups Endorse Cornyn, Wyden, Kirk, and Klobuchar’s Bipartisan Human Trafficking Bill
WASHINGTON – Ahead of today’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) released the following statement upon receiving support from 184 human rights organizations across America for the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, bipartisan legislation he has introduced with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). The letter of support, which calls the bipartisan bill “vital,” is attached.
“Human trafficking has long been a scourge on our society, and we must do everything in our power to abolish it. I thank this coalition for their support for this effort to help law enforcement target perpetrators, rescue victims, and ensure survivors a fresh start. Together, we can provide hope and opportunity to everyone suffering in the shadows of modern day slavery.”
Benefit for Victims of Child Sex Trafficking Will Be Held at Broadway’s Finding Neverland
An inaugural fundraiser to benefit Alliance To Rescue Victims of Trafficking (ATRVT) will be held March 21 at the new Broadway musical Finding Neverland, a story about how Peter became Pan.
Alliance To Rescue Victims of Trafficking, a Washington D.C. foundation established to help rescue victims of child sex trafficking, was established in 2014 by author and journalist Conchita Sarnoff, who serves as executive director.
The mission of ATRVT is to “rescue and rehabilitate sex-trafficked victims in North America, to establish the first ‘safe house’ for girls who have been trafficked for sex and to raise awareness for what has been described as ‘the largest slave trade in history.’”
The March 21 benefit event includes a pre-show VIP cocktail reception at New York’s Le Cirque Restaurant (151 E. 58th Street) at 5 PM, followed by transportation to Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (205 W. 46th St.) for VIP seating at the 8 PM performance of Finding Neverland.
The new musical stars Tony and Emmy Award nominee Matthew Morrison (“Glee”) and five-time Emmy Award winner Kelsey Grammer (“Frasier) under the direction of Tony Award winner Diane Paulus.
The musical, opening April 15, is based on the Academy Award-winning film of the same name, and follows playwright J.M. Barrie as he summons the courage to become the writer — and the man — he yearns to be.
For more about the Alliance To Rescue Victims of Trafficking, visit ATRVT.org. For more about Finding Neverland, visit FindingNeverlandTheMusical.com.
Hedging Risk by Combating Human Trafficking:
Insights from the Private Sector
A report prepared by the Network of Global Agenda Councils task force on human trafficking
According to the International Labour Organization, more than 20 million women, men and children around the world are currently the victims of human trafficking.
Tricked, desperate or simply coerced, they provide cheap labour for a wide range of sectors, from domestic work and agriculture to construction and manufacturing, or are the unwilling victims of sexual exploitation.
Small wonder, then, that the UN describes human trafficking as “a crime that shames us all”.
January 2, 2015
Happy New Year!
The team at Innocents at Risk is excited to share this news with you.
We are all happy to hear that the Pope’s first Mass of the year was a call to end human trafficking. “All of us are called [by God] to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement. From every people, culture and religion, let us join forces,” said the pope to an audience of tens of thousands of people.>p>
We hope that the Pope’s message reaches everyone and will give them the desire to help Innocents at Risk and other organizations working to end exploitation and trafficking of women and children!
Read the complete story here»
Thank you for your support and time!
The Innocents at Risk Team
Utah attorney general in secret rescue of Colombia child sex slaves
Utah’s attorney general says he posed as a bodyguard and translator during a secret mission coordinated with authorities in Colombia to rescue more than 55 child sex slaves from a gang on an island off the country’s Caribbean coast.
Training for Taxi Drivers
Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund speaks to taxi drivers during a training session on trafficking awareness.
Inspired to fight slavery
Students around the world have been inspired to take up anti-slavery projects. They come from the richest countries and developing nations but everyone can find modern day slavery on their doorstep. Here they explain what they’re doing and why.
Champagne and Shopping
Innocents at Risk thanks Ann Hand for opening up her beautiful Georgetown Shop for Champagne and Shopping donating 15 percent of all purchases to Innocents at Risk
Innocents at Risk was so pleased to have been a part of the Everyone’s Kids Everyone Gives Campaign.
We were so fortunate to have raised more than $2,000.00 in just a few hours. We would like to thank all those who attended the event, and a special thanks to Cafe Milano for hosting our event on this day of giving.
Due to the overwhelming support for our original “Stop Child Trafficking” campaign, it is with great pleasure we announce the re-launch! Now through November 19th, 2014 you will have the opportunity to buy a shirt and show your support towards putting an end to human trafficking. Our goal is to raise $2,500 which will bring educational programs to local schools, teaching students to be safe and aware. Please feel free to check out our website to learn more about what we do in the community, and how you can get involved!
Trafficked No More!
Trafficked No More! is a special 30-minute documentary that sheds light on sex trafficking in Nevada. It depicts a growing crisis that’s claiming victims. Produced by the Nevada Sex Trafficking Awareness Campaign — For help, call 1-888-373-7888.
Reception at the Embassy of Canada
Monday evening, September 22, 3014, the Embassy of Canada hosted the Building Parternships: Combatting Human Trafficking Reception. We thank Pam Lambo, Senior Public Affairs Advocacy Officer, for planning the wonderful event, Ambassador Gary Doer for his support, Sheila Riordan, Minister of Political Affairs and the Embassy of Canada for providing the beautiful Arctic Room for the reception. We united as leaders from Homeland Security, the Administration, Members of Congress, Government Officials, Diplomats, and NGOs.
Speeches and Support
The Canadian’s Women Foundation’s President Sheherazade Hirji spoke about how their organization is determined to end trafficking. She focused on the need to support women and girls who have been victims of sex trafficking and rebuilding their lives after mental and physical abuse. We thank them for realizing what a crucial issue this is and using their organization as a tool to gather data, provide education and support victims. Victims who can heal enough to take a stand and use their bravery to end the abuse.
Our president, Deborah Sigmund, was able to speak about our fight against Human Trafficking. She thanked Ambassador Gary Doer and the Embassy of Canada for hosting the event. She spoke about our mission of education and prevention. Innocents at Risk is dedicated to expand awareness and stated that it is essential to inform everyone including our education system, schools and the general public. She explained how the Flight Attendant Initiative has educated flight attendants on the signs of human trafficking and what to do when they suspect it is happening. We are especially proud to work with the Department of Homeland Security and The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children. Our mission is to partner with the Administration, Members of Congress, Government Officials, Diplomats, and NGOs who are fighting human trafficking. With partnerships we are able to work together in order to find a way to quickly and intelligently resist and fight the dominance that trafficking has. When we share ideas, stories, and support we put a huge dent into the trafficking world.
“As the father of two daughters, I never want anyone to be a victim of this most heinous crime. The more we are aware of what this modern-day slavery looks like and how to report it, the less profit criminals make from these operations. We can’t win this battle alone, we have to join forces and Canada and the U.S. are doing just that.” -Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer
We thank Pam Lambo for organizing the event and all the work she did to make the event wonderful. We’re especially proud to be a partner with the Embassy of Canada for all of the efforts they take. We thank them and every single person who stands with us behind this cause.
Help Innocents at Risk Support Ninos de Cristo
Dear Friends of Innocents at Risk,
Every year Innocents at Risk travels to the Dominican Republic to work with Ninos de Cristo. Ninos de Cristo is an orphanage that houses, protects, loves, and cares for children who are abandoned, orphaned, abused, or whose parents are imprisoned, drug addicts, mentally ill, or unable to care for their children. There are currently 140 children from ages 1 to 18 residing in the orphanage; 80% of these children are girls. Ninos de Cristo shares Innocents at Risk’s mission to protect innocent children, as many of the children they help are victims of all forms of abuse including sex trafficking.
Innocents at Risk sponsors lunches for the children, organizes singing events, purchases groceries, and provides aid. The orphanage faces many monthly expenses and their costs are covered only partially by a private donor. Thus, the staff and children often find themselves in difficulty. Please help us support Ninos de Cristo!
During the summer, with the support of Innocents at Risk, the children of Ninos de Cristo were able to participate in many events such as drawing, performing, dancing, volleyball, music, games, parties, and a new tennis program. This year, Ninos de Cristo is proud that three of their girls are headed to college to study medicine, nursing, and psychology. Ninos de Cristo is grateful to all of their sponsors for everything they provided, but they still need our help. Currently, Ninos de Cristo still needs equipment for their clinic, beds for the girls’ rooms, and more than 85 kids to be sponsored. Please support these children and Ninos de Cristo!
The cost to sponsor a child aged 1-12 is $800 annually, and for a child aged 12-18 is $1200 annually. Please send a check to the Innocents at Risk office, and designate where you would like your donation to go. You can also click here to donate through MobileCause. Any amount is greatly appreciated!
Thank you for your support,
Innocents at Risk
Supporters of Innocents at Risk,
Innocents at Risk has received a request from an NGO partner at the Border in San Diego. Due to the hundreds of children arriving in the U.S., there is a desperate need for the following:
- Baby food
- Powder milk
- Children’s underwear
- Coloring books and crayons
Please mail to: Marissa Ugarte
Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition (BSCC)
241 National City Blvd
National City, CA 91950
Or you may bring items to our office for us to mail. Our address is:
1101 30th Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20007
You can also submit a donation online to our MobileCause account. Your funds will go to the Children In Need at the Border Fund. Click the link to donate: http://igfn.us/f/8ms/n
Please forward this message to your contacts. We would really appreciate you helping us help these children in need.
Deborah and the Innocents at Risk Team
“We each have a responsibility to make this horrific and all-too-common crime a lot less common. And our work with victims is the key that will open the door to real change—not just on behalf of the more than 44,000 survivors who have been identified in the past year, but also for the more than 20 million victims of trafficking who have not.
As Secretary of State, I’ve seen with my own two eyes countless individual acts of courage and commitment. I’ve seen how victims of this crime can become survivors and how survivors can become voices of conscience and conviction in the cause.
This year’s Trafficking in Persons Report offers a roadmap for the road ahead as we confront the scourge of trafficking.”
– John F. Kerry, Secretary of State
The 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report report is available in PDF and HTML formats. Due to its large size, the PDF has been separated into sections for easier download.
View the Report here»
Kerry’s Remarks at Release of 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report
The Trafficking in Persons Report is “a call to action to governments and citizens around the world to uncover modern slavery and hold it accountable to identify the victims, and bring their abusers to justice. There cannot be impunity for those who traffic in human beings. It must end,” Secretary of State Kerry says in remarks at the release of the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report in Washington.
Amb. CdeBaca on Release of Trafficking in Persons Report 2014
Ambassador Luis CdeBaca of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons briefs reporters in Washington on the release of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2014.
Kerry’s Letter on Trafficking in Persons Report 2014
“We each have a responsibility to make this horrific and all-too-common crime a lot less common,” Secretary of State Kerry says in a letter on the release of the Trafficking in Persons Report 2014. “And our work with victims is the key that will open the door to real change — not just on behalf of the more than 44,000 survivors who have been identified in the past year, but also for the more than 20 million victims of trafficking who have not.”
Phoenix’s plan to fight sex trafficking ahead of Super Bowl
The special training is done through a partnership with another group, Innocents at Risk. They made a stop in Phoenix earlier this year to train Valley flight attendants ahead of Super Bowl 2015.
“We have truly seen that this is one way that we can protect these innocent lives from walking out the door to a sentence of probably death,” said Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund.
Please Ask Senator Leahy to Consider the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act!
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) (S. 1738) provides funding and protections for victims of human trafficking here in the United States. It is the ONLY comprehensive legislation that provides funding for critical services victims need to heal and training for law enforcement so that they can better respond to victims and identify and prosecute traffickers.
We Need Your Help
On Friday May 30, please join national advocacy groups in calling Senator Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) office to let him know that you want him to put JVTA on the calendar for the Judiciary Committee. The House has already passed JVTA, so now we need Senator Leahy, as the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, to take up the legislation in the Senate if we want it to actually become law!
Call (202) 224-4242 and ask to speak with Emily Livingston.
Use the talking points below to guide your discussion:
- I am an advocate calling to ask Senator Leahy to put the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (S.1738) on the calendar so that it can be considered by the Judiciary Committee.
- JVTA is the ONLY comprehensive human trafficking legislation that provides funding and resources so that child victims of trafficking can receive critical services they need to heal.
- JVTA promotes interagency collaboration, which allows for law enforcement, child advocacy centers, social service agencies, healthcare providers, legal services programs, courts, and housing agencies to provide safety for child victims.
- JVTA clarifies existing laws, making it clear that those that abuse and buy children for sex must be held accountable for the harm they cause by law enforcement and prosecutors.
- Just last week, the House passed the JVTA unanimously on a 409-0 vote. We hope that the Senate can show similar support for our domestic victims of trafficking.
Background on JVTA
JVTA was originally introduced November 19, 2013 by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), the bill now has 20 bipartisan co-sponsors (13 R – 7D)! The House passed an amended version of the bill by unanimous consent on May 20, 2014, but it has to be taken up in the Senate if we want this important legislation to become law.
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) addresses domestic sex trafficking in four critical ways:
- Creates a fund for domestic victims of trafficking using fines for certain enumerated crimes.
- Corrects administrative barrier within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) denying U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) access to services and support available to foreign victims of trafficking.
- Encourages cross-system collaboration between law enforcement, child welfare systems, juvenile justice officials, courts, and victim service organizations (and where applicable tribal authorities).
- Reduces demand for sex trafficking by calling on law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute buyers, not just pimps/exploiters.
Innocents at Risk is so pleased to announce the exciting news of legislation passed by Congressman Poe. It addresses the three different groups of trafficking in the US and combats them with security measures. JVTA is a huge accomplishment and we applaud him for his success.
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Today, Congressman Poe (TX-02) released the following statement on the House passage of H.R. 3530, the bipartisan Justice for Victims’ of Trafficking Act. The bill passed the House unanimously.
“Today the House took necessary action to end human trafficking by passing a package of bipartisan bills to combat this heinous crime. My bill, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA) addresses each of the three different groups involved in the crime of human trafficking: the trafficker, the buyer and the victim. JVTA implements a new, robust and aggressive strategy to help combat human trafficking in the United States. It targets demand by treating those who buy sex from minors and other trafficking victims like what they are: criminals. Finally, JVTA encourages a victim-centered approach to fighting human trafficking so that victims are no longer treated as criminals. The House has taken necessary steps to end modern day slavery in America; I urge both the Senate and the President to do the same.”
Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act Background:
- Repurposes and reauthorizes a grant program to create a victim-centered model block grant to help state and local governments develop and implement comprehensive victim-centered programs to train law enforcement to rescue victims, prosecute human traffickers, and restore the lives of victims.
- Allows state and local human trafficking taskforces to obtain wiretap warrants within their own state courts without federal approval in order to investigate crimes of child pornography, child sexual exploitation, and human trafficking.
- Requires law enforcement to upload available photos of missing children into the National Criminal Information Center database and to notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of any child reported missing from a foster care family home or childcare institution.
- Reduces demand for human trafficking by clarifying current law and encouraging police, prosecutors, judges, and juries to target and punish persons who purchase illicit sexual activities from trafficking victims as human traffickers, rather than petty criminals.
- Reduces affirmative defenses for persons who exploit children through interstate prostitution by requiring them to show by clear and convincing evidence, rather than a preponderance of the evidence (current law), that they believed the child to be an adult.
- Reauthorizes the Victims of Child Abuse Act to provide funding to support regional and local Child Advocacy Centers (CACs), which offer a multi-disciplinary response to child abuse.
- Increases the obligation cap for the Justice Department’s Crime Victims Fund, financed solely by criminal fines, in order to provide services and support for victims of crime.
New York announces arrests of 71 individuals for sexual exploitation crimes
A official from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations announced the arrest of 71 individuals for crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children in Operation Caireen. This is the largest-ever enforcement operation in New York targeting predators who possess, produce or distribute sexually explicit images of children.
UPDATE: – Throughout the course of the operation, investigators identified nearly 150 distinct Internet Protocol addresses actively involved in trading sexually explicit images of children registered to users in the New York City metropolitan area. Some of the defendants arrested possessed libraries of sexually explicit images and videos of children numbering in the thousands. One of the defendants had been previously convicted of sexually abusing a child; another is charged with producing and distributing child pornography involving her own young child. Several of the defendants facing charges held positions of public trust, including two police officers, two registered nurses, a paramedic, an au pair, and an individual who served as both a den master with the Boy Scouts of America and a little league baseball coach. “The sheer volume of confirmed and suspected instances of individuals engaging in the sexual exploitation of children identified through Operation Caireen is shocking and the professional backgrounds of many of the defendants is troubling. We can no longer assume that the only people who would stoop to prey on children are unemployed drifters,” said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. “Clearly, this criminal activity has reached epidemic proportions and ICE HSI will continue to partner across jurisdictions to target those adults who egregiously violate the children of our communities.”
Kings County District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson said, “This case underscores the crucial importance of Internet surveillance initiatives by law enforcement to protect children from sexual predators. Each of these defendants – five of whom presently have cases pending in Kings County – is responsible for re-victimizing the children who appear in these despicable videos each time they view or share the files. These are real children whose abuse and victimization has been videotaped for the entertainment of an unfortunately large population of twisted individuals. I commend Homeland Security Investigations for initiating Operation Caireen.” Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, Jr., said, “The confiscated videos are nothing more than sadomasochistic snuff films showcasing a defenseless child – be they an infant, a toddler or a teen – being repeatedly raped and/or sexually assaulted. These are videotaped crime scenes watched by predators lurking in the shadows of the Internet. I want to thank my assistant, Ann Thompson, and the agents of ICE-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for bringing these crimes to light and the defendants to justice.”
Arrests predicating Operation Caireen:
- On January 23, HSI agents arrested Brian Fanelli, chief of the Mount Pleasant Police Department in Valhalla, New York. Fanelli has been charged with Federal child pornography violations in the Southern District of New York.
- On March 5, HSI agents arrested Samuel Waldman, a rabbi and an instructor of Judaic studies, at his residence in Brooklyn. Waldman has been charged with possession of child pornography in the Southern District of New York. While utilizing the P2P filesharing system, agents identified Waldman’s IP address as one that offered for dissemination videos of child pornography.
High profile arrests during Operation Caireen:
- On April 8, Kenneth Gardner, a registered nurse at Westchester County Medical Center, was arrested at his residence in Astoria and charged with violations of New York State Penal Law 263.15, promoting a sex performance of a child under age 17; 263.11, possessing an obscene sexual performance by a child; and 263.16, possessing a sexual performance by a child.
- On April 17, Eduardo Salcedo Urzola, who was working as an au pair, was arrested at his residence in Brooklyn and charged with possession of child pornography under federal law. This arrest followed the execution of a search warrant issued by a U.S. magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York. While utilizing the P2P file sharing system, agents identified an IP address at a residence associated with Salcedo Urzola’s thatmade known images and/or movies of child pornography available for distribution.
- On April 28, Aaron Young, a paramedic, was arrested at his residence in Queens and charged under New York State law with possession of child pornography. This arrest followed the execution of a state search warrant issued by a judge in Queens County. While utilizing the P2P file sharing system, agents identified an IP address at Young’s residence that made known images and/or movies of child pornography available for distribution.
- On April 28, Yong Wu, a police officer, was arrested at his residence in Ozone Park and charged with possession of child pornography under state law. This arrest followed the execution of a search warrant issued by a judge in Queens County. While utilizing the P2P file sharing system, agents identified an IP address at Wu’s residence that made known images and/or movies of child pornography available for distribution.
- On May 9, Jonathan Silber, a Boy Scout den leader and Little League baseball coach, was arrested at his residence in Suffern and charged under New York state law with possession of child pornography. This arrest followed the execution of a state search warrant issued by a judge in Rockland County. While utilizing the P2P file sharing system, agents identified an IP address connected to Silber that made known images and/or movies of child pornography available for distribution.
SAC Hayes thanked the United States Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York; the District Attorney’s Offices in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan, and the Bronx, New York; the District Attorney’s offices in Putnam, Dutchess, Sullivan, and Rockland counties in New York and the Hunterdon County prosecutor’s office in New Jersey for their exceptional legal analysis and for prosecuting the charges. SAC Hayes thanked the New York City Police Department, United States Secret Service, United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, New York State Police, the Dutchess and Rockland County sheriff’s offices, and the police departments in Kent, Spring Valley, Carmel, Haverstraw and Suffern.
SAC Hayes also thanked HSI New York Deputy Special Agents in Charge Glenn Sorge and Gabriel Garcia; Assistant Special Agents in Charge Michael Szrama, Joseph LeStrange and Michael Buckley; Group Supervisors Anthony Decrescenzo, Regan Madonia, Chris McClellan, and John Mirandona, Jr.; and the men and women assigned to the HSI New York Child Exploitation, Computer Forensics and Special Investigations units for their diligent and thorough investigative work and their commitment to the Homeland Security mission.
Michelle Obama tweets out support for Nigerian girls
First lady Michelle Obama showed solidarity with the families of Nigeria on Wednesday, tweeting out a photo of her holding a sign saying “Bring Back Our Girls.”
“Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families,” Mrs. Obama said in the message. “It’s time to #BringBackOurGirls. -mo.”
Nearly 300 Nigerian girls have been abducted by an Islamist extremist group that is threatening to sell them into slavery.
President Obama’s adminstration is sending technical experts and other assistance to Nigeria to help find the girls.
For more information, follow the hashtag #BringBackOurGirlsDC on Twitter.
US Deploys Drones in Search for Kidnapped Nigerian Girls
May 14, 2014
White House officials have confirmed that unmanned and unarmed reconnaissance drones are now patrolling an area of Nigeria the size of West Virginia in search of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in April by the militant group Boko Haram.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Wagner bill joins push against sex trafficking
Congresswoman Ann Wagner
Learn more about Congresswoman Ann Wagner here »
WASHINGTON • Finally, the fear of staying overcame the fear of leaving for Katie Rhoades.
A man had coaxed the drug-addicted 19-year-old from Portland, Ore., to California, where she spent two years being sold to men for sex. At last, she decided that if she stayed, “I was going to end up in a dumpster or be sold to another pimp. And that was terrifying.”
So at 21, Rhoades fled to the safety of a nurse practitioner who had cared for her as a child.
Rhoades, now 33, has earned a master’s degree in social work from Washington University and counsels girls and women in the city trying to escape or avoid the life she led. She tells corporate gatherings about how they can fight the problem.
Rhoades was trafficked for sex, a victim in an industry that activists say is widely known to Americans, but whose destructive reach is not fully grasped. Congress is starting to pay attention. Three bills designed to come down on human trafficking are working their way through the House of Representatives and could be up for votes this month.
One measure, sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, may turn out to be the most controversial. Her Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation act would criminalize advertising of sex with people, including children, held in human trafficking or sexual slavery.
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., is co-sponsor of two Senate bills aimed at sex traffickers, and he is writing his own bill that would criminalize advertising of illegal sex on the Internet. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., plans to co-sponsor the latter.
The federal government considers St. Louis one of the top 20 human trafficking jurisdictions, according to Wagner and local activists. The Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C., rescue organization for people trying to escape human trafficking and sexual slavery, reports that calls to its hotlines have risen by 259 percent since 2007.
The Justice Department officially defines human trafficking as “the act of compelling or coercing a person’s labor, services, or commercial sex acts. The coercion can be subtle or overt, physical or psychological, but it must be used to coerce a victim into performing labor, services or commercial sex acts.”
The laws are rooted in the 13th Amendment’s ban on slavery and involuntary servitude. And the Justice Department’s official description points out that despite common perceptions, a person does not have to be physically moved to be covered under the laws against human trafficking, but simply held against their will.
The United Nations says that human trafficking — primarily for forced labor or sexual slavery and illegal prostitution — is a $9.5 billion annual business in the U.S.
The Justice Department has estimated that as many as 300,000 American children are at risk of being trafficked for sex. The estimate comes from a Web-based reporting clearinghouse that collects actual and suspected incidents of human trafficking by a special Justice Department anti-human trafficking task force instituted in 2000.
In the St. Louis area, there is a waiting list for a new shelter for eight rescued girls between 13 and 17 slated to open in Jefferson County this spring. Rhoades helped write the plan for the facility, which is sponsored by The Covering House, a five-year-old nonprofit agency providing refuge and counseling for girls who have been sexually trafficked or exploited.
Dedee Lhamon founded The Covering House in 2009 after seeing a documentary on human trafficking. She said an undercover St. Louis police detective told her that he could rescue two or three children a day with enough resources.
“There would not be a problem if the demand was not an issue, and what drives the problem and sex trafficking is the demand,” Lhamon said.
Some of the legislation now working its way through Congress attempts to address the demand.
Wagner’s House Bill 4225 would “criminalize the knowing advertisement of a person in reckless disregard of the fact that the person was being forced to engage in a commercial sex act,” according to a memo prepared by her staff.
That has raised red flags with Internet freedom groups that have successfully challenged in court a Washington state law aimed at online advertising. But Wagner said she believes her bill will pass First Amendment challenges, and that it is necessary to combat a problem she said she first became aware of as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg from 2005-2009.
“Many of these girls, and I should say children of both sexes, are moved from city to city, depending upon a convention or sporting activity or some reason or another,” Wagner said. “I was just outraged it was going on to this level in our own neighborhoods.”
Activists say St. Louis’ middle-America location on interstate highways and its constant hosting of big sporting and entertainment events makes it both destination and layover in the sex trafficking trade.
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., are co-sponsoring the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, a companion to Wagner’s bill, that toughens penalties for people who buy and sell sex, and provides federal block grants to local law enforcement entities to fight trafficking.
Another bill heading for a House vote would provide incentives to states to pass safe harbor laws that treat trafficked minors as victims rather than criminals.
In the Senate, Kirk is co-sponsor on bipartisan bills that would make illegal sex trafficking subject to laws covering organized crime and another that is similar to the safe-harbor bill that was passed through the House. He and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., also plan to introduce a Senate version of Wagner’s House bill aimed at advertising.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery,” Poe said at a news conference featuring a young California woman named Jessica who said she was first sold to a man at 11 and trafficked across the country. “It fits all the definitions of slavery, and many times many of us in the community don’t want to talk about that, but that is exactly what it is.”
A primary target of Wagner’s bill, she acknowledges, is Backpage.com, the largest online host of prostitution advertising since Craigslist ended its adult section in 2010. Jessica, now 29, said she was advertised on Backpage.com
Last year, Florida-based AIM Group, which consults on interactive media, said online advertising of all kinds of prostitution exceeded $45 million annually, with 82 percent of it on Backpage.com.
But Peter M. Zollman, founding principal of AIM, said Wagner’s bill might produce the opposite effect she intends.
“Trafficking in children and women is one of the most despicable things out there,” he said.
“I am not at all suggesting that there is anything right about that. But the fact is that having a centralized repository where (the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) and law enforcement can go to find missing and exploited children and women — that is the most valuable tool they could have.”
A similar but more complicated law than Wagner’s was signed in 2012 by Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, but it was thrown out by a federal judge after challenges from Backpage.com and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Wagner’s allies in Congress are bracing for a fight. After Wagner’s bill was approved by a 24-3 vote in the House Judiciary Committee, its chairman, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said it “simply clarifies Congress’ intent” that “knowingly trafficking children for sex — or knowingly profiting from the forcible rape of children for profit — is against the law, regardless of the medium.”
As of Thursday, her bill had 88 co-sponsors, including 18 Democrats.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau, a powerful group that fights Internet regulation, so far has not opposed Wagner’s measure, but it is on watch for a fight in the Senate, where there is concern Wagner’s bill does not go far enough. The bureau represents more than 600 online advertisers, including global giants such as Google, Yahoo and Facebook.
The bureau’s public policy director, Sarah Hudgins, said her group would fight any law they think would inadvertently criminalize people who may come across the ads on the Internet and do nothing about it.
“We agree with Congresswoman Wagner that something needs to be done,” she said, with “bad actors using the products and services” offered by her organization’s members.
But, Hudgins added, “In the actual delivery of content and advertising there are multiple touch points throughout the supply chain, and at any stage there is an entity that could become aware (of illegal sex trafficking) but not have the power to control or stop it.”
Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said a “virtue” of Wagner’s bill “is that it is remarkably simple” by attaching advertising to existing criminal statutes outlawing sex trafficking. But it also opens what Tien calls “a significant First Amendment debate” over the definition of advertising.
Backpage.com lawyer Liz McDougall would not comment on Wagner’s legislation beyond this emailed message: “Despite the comments of some legislators, the problem and proposed legislation are Internet-wide, not restricted to or caused by Backpage.”
In 2012, in a guest editorial in the Seattle Times, McDougall wrote that “to stop human trafficking online, you have to fight it online. To fight it online, you have to be online. And you need allies online.”
Wagner portrays Backpage as a target of her legislation. She says that she is confident her bill will pass legal muster because “as a nation, we regulate commercial advertising all the time,” including that of tobacco and alcohol.
“If you want to put something out there for free on the Internet or in a paper, that is your First Amendment right,” she said. “You just can’t commercially advertise and profit after what is illegal activity.”
These debates are tangential to Jessica, the young woman who appeared at the news conference with Poe, and who now counsels children rescued from the sex trade for Los Angeles County.
She said she was sold, often multiple times a day, over a decade starting at age 11.
“There was never a shortage of sex buyers to purchase me,” she said.
She said she was “trafficked from Hollywood, Calif., to Hollywood, Fla., in Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and even right across from the White House on K Street; in big cities, small towns and truck stops in between.”
Rhoades, the St. Louis woman who now counsels others, said she began stripping at age 18.
Out of money, suffering from addiction, living out of her car, she said she made a “quick and rash decision, as often happens,” and followed a man and woman to California, and the man soon became her pimp.
“By the time I realized really what was happening, I felt it was too late, I didn’t think I had the support network to run to. And on top of it, I had a lot of shame and guilt and worrying about what I was doing.
“I wasn’t kept in a room, necessarily,” she added. “We drove around in a Jag, we partied at nightclubs with famous people. So on one hand there were some things I enjoyed about it.”
But pimps, she said, “make sure you are wined and dined so you continue to do their dirty work.”
Lhamon, executive director of The Covering House, said sexual slavery of children often starts in a home.
“They will start them out online doing pornography, on webcams, moving them into clubs and strip joints,” Lhamon said. “I don’t think the average person who looks at pornography considers the thought that these girls .. are having to do this against their will.”
She has run into cases, she said, “where you might have a parent or stepparent who might be renting out their child for the weekend to pay for their drug habits during the week.”
SAVE Act Updates
On Wednesday of last week, the House Judiciary Committee favorably reported out the SAVE Act with a vote of 24-3. In addition to the SAVE Act, the Judiciary Committee reported out Rep. Poe’s Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act and Rep. Paulsen’s Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act.
As amended, the SAVE Act would add advertising to the list of offenses that constitute sex trafficking as defined by Section 1591 of the Federal Criminal Code.
The SAVE Act, along with 5 other human trafficking-related bills, will come to the House floor the week of May 19th.
5 bills plus the SAVE Act on the agenda:
H.R. 3344- Royce (R-CA)- the Fraudulent Overseas Recruitment and Trafficking Elimination (FORTE) Act of 2013: The legislation requires overseas labor recruiters to provide detailed employment information to overseas workers, to avoid the bait-and-switch into slave labor or sexual slavery once they enter the U.S., and creates additional penalties and enforcement mechanisms. Additionally, the legislation requires the State Department and USAID to work to ensure that foreign assistance programs do not contribute to human trafficking and slavery.
H.R. 3530- Rep. Poe (R-TX)- Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA): This bill would boost support for and protection of victims of human trafficking by increasing law enforcement resources, enhancing victims’ services and increasing penalties in an effort to combat child sex trafficking, child pornography, sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
H.R. 3610- Rep. Paulsen (R-MN)- Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act of 2013- amends the National Safe Harbor Law to provide more flexibility to state and local judges in the sentencing and expunging of victims of sex trafficking’s criminal records
H.R. 4058- Rep. Reichert (R-WA)- The Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act: would require states to take steps to identify, prevent, and address sex trafficking of youth in foster care
H.R. 3253- Rep. Smith (R-NJ)- International Megan’s Law: aims to crack down on sex tourism by requiring registered sex offenders to notify the Department of State before traveling overseas
Reichert, Paulsen and Noem discuss the growing epidemic of human trafficking and the effort they are leading in Congress to fight this problem here at home
“The truth is it’s happening in our own backyards.”
Reichert, Paulsen and Noem discuss the growing epidemic of human trafficking
and the effort they are leading in Congress to fight this problem here at home
WASHINGTON, DC – The Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, Rep. Dave Reichert (WA-8), appeared before a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society this past Thursday morning to discuss the growing epidemic of human trafficking and the effort in Congress to fight this problem here at home. He was joined by fellow Reps. Erik Paulsen (MN-3) and Kristi Noem (SD-AL), who, along with Reichert, are leaders in this fight and members of a new anti-trafficking task force that House Republicans established earlier this year.
The breakfast followed up on the unanimous passage of the Preventing Sex Trafficking of Youth in Foster Care Act by the Ways and Means Committee last Tuesday. Reichert, who has over three decades of experience as a law enforcement officer and is the author of the legislation, opened his remarks by explaining why he believes it is so important to protect at-risk children and why it is critical for Congress to pass this bill. “I look at my life as a runaway living on the street,” Reichert stated, recalling his own difficult childhood. “I understand why kids leave and what they’re looking for, how confused they are, and how lonely they are. It’s our responsibility to be the ones to step up and protect these kids.”
According to Reichert, the Preventing Sex Trafficking of Youth in Foster Care Act is bipartisan legislation that would ensure States are taking the proper steps to keep foster youth safe, help them lead happy, normal lives and stay off the streets to prevent them from becoming victims of sex trafficking. It would also help identify victims and the services they need to get them out of their situation and successfully rehabilitated into society. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that 59% of suspected juvenile sex trafficking victims were in foster care or group homes before they ran away. This bill takes important steps to change these troubling statistics and prevent youth victimization.
“In the foster care system, even as far back as the ‘80s,” Reichert explained, in response to a question, “these kids move from home to home to home. Some of them age out of foster care. Some of them never have a permanent home. They have nowhere to go for Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving. The bill we passed this week gives some direction and sets some standards for states to collect information and data around the young women or girls who are getting into trafficking, where are they from, and the services we need to focus on that can help.”
Reichert served as King County Sheriff prior to his election to Congress in 2004 and rose to national prominence as head of the task force that caught the Green River Killer. He talked about the serial killer in his remarks, and some of the young girls who lost their lives in this horrific series of crimes.
“He chose victims who were vulnerable,” stated the former Sheriff. “Victims who ran away from home, who, in some cases, were never even reported missing. We found a body that was six years old – never even reported. For six years, she lay dead in a shallow grave south of Seattle. We finally identified and traced her back to her family. They had just given up. They were done reporting her as a missing person. They quit caring. We cannot quit caring. All of these girls did not come from homes that were violent. They came from good homes. They came from families in your community, and they just got caught up with the wrong person, the wrong group. They ended up on the street, and before they knew it, they got sucked into a lifestyle and they couldn’t get out alone.”
Paulsen, who also serves with Reichert on the Ways and Means Committee, echoed his colleague’s remarks and explained how hard this problem has hit his home state.
“I spent a little bit of time in Minnesota riding along with the police,” stated Paulsen. “I have four daughters myself, and it quickly became apparent that there’s a real issue with sex trafficking. A lot of people think this is an issue that only happens in far away countries and not in the United States. The truth is it’s happening in our own backyards. It’s happening in the suburbs with recruitment going on in malls and libraries. I’ve had a chance to meet with a lot of victims’ groups and organizations that have provided support for some of these young girls. And they are girls – the average age is 13 years old when they’re thrown in the trafficking system and wind up becoming a prostitute.”
“In Minnesota, we are the number one state per capita for the number of runaways in the country. Fifty percent of runaways become prostitutes, and our law enforcement officials say they are by far the vast majority of people who end up trapped in the sex trafficking system. These are essentially young girls who should be treated as victims, get the services they need, and come back out of the shadows, if you will … I think this awareness of sex trafficking and human trafficking is a lot like where domestic violence was decades ago. That’s the level we’re at, and we have the ability to raise the awareness.”
“I didn’t realize sex traffickers were targeting kids while they’re at school or in the mall until probably about a year ago,” said Rep. Noem. “I have two teenage daughters. I never realized that, as I sent my daughters out the door every morning, they could potentially be trafficked.” In response to a question after her remarks, Noem stressed the importance of not just raising awareness of human trafficking, but of taking concrete legislative steps to bring this epidemic to an end, as well. “My dad raised me that if you don’t like something, just fix it — don’t complain about it,” she remarked. “A lot of times, what we do in Washington is we talk. I don’t see the value very much in just talking about this issue. I want to pass bills, throw these people in jail, save the kids, and do all that we can.”
The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.
For more information on The Ripon Society, please visit www.riponsociety.org.
Pope Francis has made human trafficking and slavery a priority of his papacy
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has met with four women who were forced into prostitution as he denounced human trafficking as a crime against humanity.
Francis left the Vatican on Thursday to attend a conference of church workers, charity representatives and police chiefs from 20 nations who pledged greater cooperation to encourage victims of trafficking and slavery to come forward.
Francis told the conference that trafficking is “an open wound on the body of contemporary society.” He met privately with four freed sex slaves from his native Argentina, Chile, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Francis has made human trafficking and slavery a priority of his papacy.
The Vatican recently joined forces with the Anglican Church and Al-Azhar university, the world’s foremost seat of Sunni learning, in an anti-slavery initiative.
Innocents at Risk End of the Year Letter
December 11, 2013
Secretary of State John F. Kerry said in his introduction to the June 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report, “We have a moral obligation to meet this challenge head on. Human trafficking is an assault on our most dearly held values of basic human dignity.” Innocents at Risk concurs that we cannot just sit by and do nothing, when more than two million women and children are trafficked each year. Since 2004, Innocents at Risk has been dedicated to working to ending this horrific evil plaguing every country in the world.
Since 2008, Innocents at Risk has created a pathway of prevention with the very successful Flight Attendant Initiative. The Flight Attendant Initiative has been cited in a congressional hearing led by Rep. James McGovern, head of the Human Rights Commission; again, in two congressional briefings led by Rep. Chris Smith; coverage on CNN, Voice of America, NBC, and many additional TV and radio interviews.
Innocents at Risk partners with The Department of Homeland Security, The Department of Transportation, FBI, 22 members of Congress, law enforcement in 18 cities, American Airlines, Airline Ambassadors, the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, Air Canada, Aero Mexico, Copa Airlines of Panama, 46 embassies represented in Washington, the Polaris Project, and a team of flight attendants from American Airlines, Delta, US AIR, United, Southwest, Continental, Jet Blue and Frontier Air. Since 2008 the Innocents at Risk office has been a liaison and training point for flight attendants, providing them with essential awareness materials and a protocol on how to report the red-flag situations they see to law enforcement. Thousands of lives have been saved as a result of a flight attendant or other airline personnel reporting a situation to law enforcement (DHS-ICE or DHS-CBP or FBI).
During 2012 and 2013, the Department of Homeland Security has expanded the initial protocol with The Blue Campaign. Working with the above-listed team of the Flight Attendant Initiative task force members, the Blue Campaign’s protocol will be incorporated in the Innocents at Risk training brochures, in order to expand trafficking prevention. Since 2008, With the Blue Campaign and the partnership of The Department of Transportation, we now have additional partners in all areas of transportation getting on board.
We have an association of “Truckers Against Trafficking,” as well as representatives in shipping, and first responders (such as ambulance drivers, emergency room workers, and some taxi companies). Innocents At Risk applauds the work of DHS and The Blue Campaign and welcomes our additional partners. However, due greatly to the expansion of the internet, human trafficking continues to be the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. It is now even more profitable than the drug trade.
We are asking for your help to support Innocents at Risk to expand our awareness training. We plan to turn millions of eyes on this issue. We are taking our “Awareness is Prevention” campaign city by city. Innocents at Risk and Airline Ambassadors will work with our task force to conduct airport and community awareness training, where it is most needed. We hope to begin with Phoenix, which is the home of US AIR. Each training requires personnel, training materials, DVDs and posters. We hope to raise $60,000 for the training program in 2014.
In addition, in 2014, Innocents at Risk will continue our educational awareness outreach to Washington DC metropolitan area schools. Since 2011, using awareness posters and other materials from The National Center of Missing and Exploited Children and Innocents at Risk, we have taken our message to hundreds of students eager to learn about the issue. More than 100,000 children are exploited in the commercial sex industry each year in the United States. Innocents at Risk is dedicated to helping children stay safe. With your end of-the-year contribution, Innocents at Risk can continue this vital work. We hope we can count on you. Wishing you and your family a safe and wonderful holiday and a very Happy New Year!
Deborah S. Sigmund
An Open Letter From Dylan Farrow
By DYLAN FARROW
(A note from Nicholas Kristof: In 1993, accusations that Woody Allen had abused his adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow, filled the headlines, part of a sensational story about the celebrity split between Allen and his girlfriend, Mia Farrow. This is a case that has been written about endlessly, but this is the first time that Dylan Farrow herself has written about it in public. It’s important to note that Woody Allen was never prosecuted in this case and has consistently denied wrongdoing; he deserves the presumption of innocence. So why publish an account of an old case on my blog? Partly because the Golden Globe lifetime achievement award to Allen ignited a debate about the propriety of the award. Partly because the root issue here isn’t celebrity but sex abuse. And partly because countless people on all sides have written passionately about these events, but we haven’t fully heard from the young woman who was at the heart of them. I’ve written a column about this, but it’s time for the world to hear Dylan’s story in her own words.)
What’s your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies. I remember staring at that toy train, focusing on it as it traveled in its circle around the attic. To this day, I find it difficult to look at toy trains.
For as long as I could remember, my father had been doing things to me that I didn’t like. I didn’t like how often he would take me away from my mom, siblings and friends to be alone with him. I didn’t like it when he would stick his thumb in my mouth. I didn’t like it when I had to get in bed with him under the sheets when he was in his underwear. I didn’t like it when he would place his head in my naked lap and breathe in and breathe out. I would hide under beds or lock myself in the bathroom to avoid these encounters, but he always found me. These things happened so often, so routinely, so skillfully hidden from a mother that would have protected me had she known, that I thought it was normal. I thought this was how fathers doted on their daughters. But what he did to me in the attic felt different. I couldn’t keep the secret anymore.
When I asked my mother if her dad did to her what Woody Allen did to me, I honestly did not know the answer. I also didn’t know the firestorm it would trigger. I didn’t know that my father would use his sexual relationship with my sister to cover up the abuse he inflicted on me. I didn’t know that he would accuse my mother of planting the abuse in my head and call her a liar for defending me. I didn’t know that I would be made to recount my story over and over again, to doctor after doctor, pushed to see if I’d admit I was lying as part of a legal battle I couldn’t possibly understand. At one point, my mother sat me down and told me that I wouldn’t be in trouble if I was lying – that I could take it all back. I couldn’t. It was all true. But sexual abuse claims against the powerful stall more easily. There were experts willing to attack my credibility. There were doctors willing to gaslight an abused child.
After a custody hearing denied my father visitation rights, my mother declined to pursue criminal charges, despite findings of probable cause by the State of Connecticut – due to, in the words of the prosecutor, the fragility of the “child victim.” Woody Allen was never convicted of any crime. That he got away with what he did to me haunted me as I grew up. I was stricken with guilt that I had allowed him to be near other little girls. I was terrified of being touched by men. I developed an eating disorder. I began cutting myself. That torment was made worse by Hollywood. All but a precious few (my heroes) turned a blind eye. Most found it easier to accept the ambiguity, to say, “who can say what happened,” to pretend that nothing was wrong. Actors praised him at awards shows. Networks put him on TV. Critics put him in magazines. Each time I saw my abuser’s face – on a poster, on a t-shirt, on television – I could only hide my panic until I found a place to be alone and fall apart.
Last week, Woody Allen was nominated for his latest Oscar. But this time, I refuse to fall apart. For so long, Woody Allen’s acceptance silenced me. It felt like a personal rebuke, like the awards and accolades were a way to tell me to shut up and go away. But the survivors of sexual abuse who have reached out to me – to support me and to share their fears of coming forward, of being called a liar, of being told their memories aren’t their memories – have given me a reason to not be silent, if only so others know that they don’t have to be silent either.
Today, I consider myself lucky. I am happily married. I have the support of my amazing brothers and sisters. I have a mother who found within herself a well of fortitude that saved us from the chaos a predator brought into our home.
But others are still scared, vulnerable, and struggling for the courage to tell the truth. The message that Hollywood sends matters for them.
What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?
Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
So imagine your seven-year-old daughter being led into an attic by Woody Allen. Imagine she spends a lifetime stricken with nausea at the mention of his name. Imagine a world that celebrates her tormenter.
Are you imagining that? Now, what’s your favorite Woody Allen movie?
ARIZONA’S MAJOR AIRPORT AND AIRLINE PERSONNEL RECEIVE TRAINING TO HELP EMPLOYEES RECOGNIZE AND REPORT SUSPECTED HUMAN TRAFFICKING
This week Deborah Sigmund has traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to conduct a presentation with our partner, Airline Ambassadors, at the Anti-Trafficking Awareness Training Program for Airport Personnel. Our flight attendant initiative has already yielded great success in helping to stop human trafficking. These efforts have brought awareness to flight attendants and airline personnel about Human Trafficking and how to spot it, creating a first line of defense and prevention for these innocent lives. We are so excited to bring this training program to Arizona and hope to continue expanding to airports and airlines nationwide. For more information about this weeks program in Phoenix, please take a look at the event’s Press Release.
International Human Trafficking at Major Sporting Events including the 2014 Super Bowl
Excerpts of Remark by Chairman Chris Smith
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and Int’l Orgs.
2172 Rayburn HOB
January 27, 2014
Our hearing today will focus on the preparations for the upcoming Super Bowl to prevent human trafficking and strategies employed by airlines, busses and trains, as well as hotels designed to mitigate human trafficking.
Authorities free 16 juveniles and 54 women, and arrest more than 45 alleged pimps and their helpers.
High school students, teens as young as 13 and other children reported missing by their families were among 16 juveniles rescued from forced prostitution during Super Bowl festivities in and around New Jersey, the FBI said Tuesday.
Washington Life coverage of Innocents at Risk Reception
Innocents at Risk Reception
Suellen and Melvyn Estrin hosted a cocktail reception at their home Oct. 24 to support and join the fight Innocents at Risk is waging against child trafficking. The hostess spoke of the “magnitude and inhumanity of child trafficking.” Deborah Sigmund founded the not-for-profit in 2005 to protect women and children by raising public awareness of the issue which goes under reported and is a $32-billion industry worldwide.
Wear Your Support for Innocents at Risk
A letter from Deborah Sigmund
One Voice. Once Mission. End Human Trafficking
We appreciate your continued engagement on the issue of human trafficking, and wanted to share with you a story of a successful investigation of an international sex trafficking ring. Please see the ICE press release below for more information on this case. Thank you for your continued efforts to combat human trafficking. To learn more about human trafficking, how to identify victims, and report suspected cases of human trafficking, please visit www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign.
HSI special agents arrest 13 in connection with international sex trafficking and prostitution network
NEW YORK — More than a dozen members of an alleged international sex trafficking ring were taken into custody Tuesday to face charges for sex trafficking. The arrests are a result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Jada Pinkett Smith and the War on Human Trafficking
A crime that amounts to modern day slavery
“The War on Human Trafficking” Aired on January 14, 2013
Innocents at Risk Year End Letter
Dear Friends of Innocents at Risk,
2012 has been an especially busy year for Innocents at Risk. Working in partnership with The Department of Transportation, The Department of Homeland Security (CBP, ICE) and Airline Ambassadors the Innocent at Risk Flight Attendant Initiative has become more efficient and has expanded to all forms of transportation including trains, trucking and taxis (this is referred as The Blue Campaign). Innocents at Risk partnered with Airline Ambassadors for Airline Trainings in San Francisco and Ronald Regan Airports for US carriers. Additionally, we have expanded our airline training to Aeromexico, Air Canada and recently Copa Airlines of Panama. Our office continues to act as a liaison and training point for flight attendants, as well as high school and college students.
Throughout the year, Innocents at Risk was hosted for Awareness Events internationally and throughout the US. The events were held in Palm Beach, Florida; in New York City, New York; Los Angeles, California; the Embassy of Mexico; in Washington DC; in Louisville, Kentucky; Panama City, Panama; at the Arena Stage in Washington DC; at area schools in Maryland and Washington DC. For more information about these events, please visit our website (www.innocentsatrisk.org).
We are so grateful for each of these events as they help educate the public that
Child Trafficking is real and a great threat to our society. This elicit industry produces over 32 Billion Dollars annually and has been able to thrive due to general lack of awareness. This week as I spoke with 9th and 10th grade girls at the Friendship Collegiate Academy in NE Washington, I was reminded of how important it is to get the message out to children, parents and teachers. Please help us continue our outreach to schools to educate them about the seriousness of this issue — This is the greatest Human Rights issue of our time. It is an educational issue, a health issue, a security issue and most of all it is a moral issue. It is our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable; Our Children. In the words of Queen Silvia of Sweden, “To see but not to see, to see but to deny, to see but not to act is a crime against a child. You can all do something. You can make a difference. Save a child.” We need your support in this fight to save innocent lives. We are making a difference…with your help now at the end of the year… we can continue our necessary work. We thank You for Your support.
Have a Wonderful Holiday!
Deborah S. Sigmund
A note from our friends at the Ninos de Cristo Orphanage in the Dominican Republic
Innocents at Risk is dedicated to helping prevent children from being trafficked.
On May 3rd, 2007, British girl Madeleine McCann was taken from parent’s hotel room in Portugal. She has never been found.
In 2010, while visiting the Home of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus, Turkey, Deborah Sigmund Founder of Innocents at Risk- saw this message tied to a post, “Don’t Give Up On Me.” In the name of all missing children worldwide: Let’s not give up on them.
Wendi Adelson: Children Don’t Belong on the Backpage
A child talking about being raped and sold on backpage.com is captured on a fuzzy video. Zooming in closer, we see a thirteen-year-old girl, telling her traumatic story. Hers should not be the only voice speaking out against child trafficking and the venues that make this horrific abuse against children possible. Village Voice Media (VVM) is one such venue; the Adult Section of its website, Backpage.com, is used by traffickers to facilitate child sex trafficking. VVM should immediately take this web platform out of the hands of those who buy and sell children. As a society, we must shun the attitude that there will always be a website selling underage girls and that shutting down Backpage only creates a hole to be filled. The message to VVM should be clear: no website will be tolerated that allows children to be trafficked.
Photo from Innocents at Risk’s second visit to Nios de Cristo
Sen. Rubio: We are ‘obligated’ to shame Village Voice Media
IAR in the Twitter-sphere
5th Humanitarian Mission to the Dominican Republic
Mission Trip Dates: July 12th – 16th, 2012
Friends and Supports of Innocents at Risk,
From July 12th to July 16th, Innocents at Risk will be hosting its fifth trip to the Dominican Republic to aid the children of the orphanage, Ninos de Cristo. The orphanage houses more than 180 children who have been abandoned, abused and often trafficked. Please help us by coming on the trip or making a donation to support the mission.
Please click on the attachments to learn more!
Innocents at Risk and Airline Ambassadors were recognized at this Department of Homeland Security Event for being the driving force behind “Blue Lightning.” Our Flight Attendant Initiative is now DHS Backed!
January 12, 2011
Dear Friends of Innocents at Risk:
Yesterday Innocents at Risk was invited to attend the DHS Blue Campaign Anti-Trafficking Stakeholder Event in recognition of January 11th Human Trafficking Awareness Day. It was an exciting event where Alice Hill, Chief Counsel to Secretary Janet Napolitano, announced the details of an expansion of the Blue Campaign to include partnerships with each Government Agency. Working with Secretary Raymond LaHood and the Department of Transportation, a comprehensive training program is in effect to train all airline personnel and everyone involved in any form of transportation of people, which includes trains and truckers, to recognize the signs of Human Trafficking and a protocol to report it.
Most importantly, the DHS Deputy Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, David Aguilar announced that the Blue Lightning Initiative is now in place. This is the program that Innocents at Risk and Senior AA Flight Attendant, Sandra Fiorini, began with CBP, ICE, the FBI, EPACT and Polaris in 2008. The original purpose of Blue Lightning was to elevate our Flight Attendant Initiative to a DHS Government supported initiative.
In 2009, Deborah Sigmund and Innocents at Risk partnered with Nancy Rivard and Airline Ambassadors to expand the Flight Attendant Initiative and lobbied to get additional support from DHS. Since 2008, with the training from Innocents at Risk, Flight Attendants and Airline Ambassadors have reported situations on planes and in airports of individuals or children who appeared to be in a situation of trafficking to the authorities. When reported, the plane was met by CBP, ICE and the FBI and we have had great success in saving Innocent Lives. With Blue Lightning in place, the successes will only increase as a result of all Government Agencies involved an actual DHS-backed Initiative. Deputy Commissioner, David Aguilar, recognized Nancy Rivard and Deborah Sigmund as being the driving force behind the Blue Lightning Initiative and referred to us and the Flight Attendants as CBP’s “Boots in the Air” and “The enablers”. It was a great moment for Innocents at Risk and Airline Ambassadors. We are very proud of our efforts as well as our close Partnership with DHS and the Department of Transportation.
In addition, DHS will provide training material and DVDs for the Blue Lightning Initiative which can be down loaded from our website. It is a tremendous support system that is now in place which will enable us to provide online training to Flight Attendants and individuals. This will help us expand much needed public awareness and turn a million eyes on the issue which will save lives.
Another very significant announcement yesterday from the DHS Director of the Office of Health Affairs, Dr. Alexander Garza is the plan to train all emergency medical personnel. Emergency room and 911 operators are in an excellent position to identify a possible victim of trafficking and to report it, again saving a life. For additional information and the complete Blue Campaign program of yesterday you may visit our website or the DHS website http://www.dhs.gov/humantrafficking!!
Deborah Sigmund congratulated Alice Hill and DHS yesterday for their exceptional comprehensive initiative to combat and hopefully eliminate Human Trafficking! It was a great day, but our work has just begun. We hope we can count on each of you to get involved. Go on the website to see the general training information and keep your eyes open while traveling and in public places such as malls, theme parks, and anywhere children may be. Your support is also needed to help us produce training materials and get them in the hands of all airline employees. Currently we are working with all US carriers, Air Canada, Aero Mexico and South African Airlines. Working with DHS, we will expand to other carriers. With your help we can keep educating flight attendants and the general public and keep saving lives.
Thank you for your support and Happy New Year!!
Anti-sex trafficking in Virginia: Sign Petition to enact a law prohibiting human trafficking for the sex industry.
Despite the widespread belief that sex trafficking is exclusively an international problem, domestic trafficking has increased dramatically in recent years. Today, Virginia is the fastest-growing destination for individuals who have been forced into prostitution. While the Commonwealth of Virginia has enacted legislation to protect individuals from being trafficked into the state as laborers, current statutes do not address the thousands of women and children who are forced into prostitution within the boundaries of Virginia. In order to combat the growing problem and protect those who suffer from its effects, Virginia must take an active stand against sex trafficking. Beyond making sure that the state becomes a leader in this global battle, we need to raise awareness among all Americans and send the message that sex trafficking is an intolerable and unconscionable crime against human beings everywhere.
Obama declares human trafficking prevention month
USA Today, by David Jackson
December 30, 2011
President Obama is declaring January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
“We stand with all those who are held in compelled service,” Obama wrote in a proclamation issued today. “We recognize the people, organizations and government entities that are working to combat human trafficking; and we recommit to bringing an end to this inexcusable human rights abuse.”
Innocents at Risk 2011 Events Press Coverage
Innocents At Risk Conjures Up Old Havana
Innocents At Risk and Airline Ambassadors hosted a Standup For Children Gala: An Evening in Old Havana on Oct. 19 at The Mayflower Hotel, which hails itself as “Washington’s Second Best Address.” Mike Walter emceed the program which included a video produced by Innocents At Risk, the internationally recognized nonprofit to stop the scourge of human trafficking founded by Deborah Sigmund in 2005. The evening was co-chaired by Nancy Rivard, who in 2009 brought additional support from Airline Ambassadors. Gabriela Ferrer and members of The Miami Sound Machine opened their performance with “How Can You Take Something that Does not Belong to You?”
Watch This Video About Innocents At Risk:
Innocents at Risk Newsletter End Of Year Update
Dear Friends and Supporters,
On behalf of all of us at Innocents at Risk, thank you for your continued support throughout 2010. It has been an eventful year with commendable support. We have successfully expanded our awareness/prevention campaign throughout the United States with our flight attendant initiative and training programs. In addition, Innocents at Risk was asked in March to speak at a Congressional hearing to the Thomas Lantos Human Rights Commission about our flight attendant initiative. With support from members of Congress, such as Congressman Chris Smith, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Congressman James McGovern, Congressman Joe Pitts, as well as others, we have been able to gain the much-needed attention of the major airlines.
In September, His Excellency, Gary Doer, the Ambassador of Canada, hosted “An Evening To Benefit Innocents At Risk” at the beautiful Embassy of Canada. Air Canada joined us as we honored Secretary Janet Napolitano and our partnership with the Department of Homeland Security.
Furthermore, we would like to thank American Airlines for coming forward and supporting our flight attendant initiative in 2010. Working in partnership with American Airlines, flight attendants/airline personnel and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), we were able to save precious, innocent lives. To date, in partnership with Airline Ambassadors, we have over 1,000 trained flight attendants working on protecting children, and we look forward to collaborating with many more airlines. Through dedicated support and cooperation of embassies, we have the support of Air Canada and Aero Mexico.
With your year-end support, you can help us continue to protect women and children by expanding awareness campaigns to schools, corporations, and the general public. Unfortunately, very few people realize that selling children around the world, including the United States, is an over $32 billion annual industry. Please help us end this horror and protect those most innocent…OUR CHILDREN. Awareness is vital and absolutely paramount.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a Merry Christmas.
Canadian Ambassador: “Slavery Is Not Dead”
The ambassadors of Canada, Sweden, and Mexico weigh in on human trafficking with Innocents at Risk founder Deborah Sigmund and DC Housewife Lynda Erkiletian at the Canadian Embassy.
Innocents at Risk in BISNOW’s The Scene
|Innocents at Risk!|
We stopped by the Embassy of Canada for the Innocents at Risk VIP reception to recognize those who are taking steps to end human trafficking on land and in the air. RCMP officer from Ottawa, Charlene Rivet, is here with Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer and Innocents at Risk founder Deborah Sigmund.
All guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and received blue human trafficking awareness bracelets. APFA Prez Laura Glading, American Airlines flight services VP Denise Lynn, MSCI’s VP Cynthia Turner, and Airline Ambassadors founder Nancy Rivard.
2010 Trafficking in Persons Report
This morning, June 14, Innocents at Risk attended a special meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to present the 2010 Trafficking In Persons Report. It was encouraging to hear from the Secretary’s remarks how far we have come in ten years, and how much we still must achieve to eliminate modern day slavery. Secretary Clinton has made the fight to end modern day slavery a priority and emphasized that if the US Government, Congress, foreign governments and the NGO community can work together, we can end the global scourge of human trafficking.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Deborah Sigmund with Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
July 1st Congressional Briefing
Representative James Oberstar, the Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Representative Christopher Smith hosted a closed briefing on Capitol Hill, July 1st, between 2:30 and 5pm in the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Meeting Room South to bring together U.S. airline executives and representatives, the Federal Aviation Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICA), the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Office (G/Tip), and other gatekeepers. ICE and G/TIP gave presentations on the scope of the problem and law enforcement response. Airline Ambassadors and Innocents at Risk unveiled a prototype for the training manuals, flight bulletins, and brochures. The briefing was a major success! We were honored to be invited, and hope that this will lead to major progress in the future towards incorporating human trafficking information into the regular governmental training of flight attendants.
Deborah Sigmund with Congressman Chris Smith (left) and Congressman Joe Pitts (right)
Check out the rest of the photos here!