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 $32 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.


Deborah S. Sigmund

Please watch this short fllm:

Shop to Benefit Innocents at Risk


Thursday, April 16th, 2015
6:00 – 8:00 pm
Four Seasons Hotel
2800 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007
RSVP to RonEdwards@FourSeasons.com 202-295-2829

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

3-4-15Today, 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!


Deborah Sigmund
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.

Read more here»


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.

IAR-teeshirt-saleOur shirts are back!

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
  • Formula
  • Powder milk
  • Diapers
  • 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.

Thank you,

Deborah and the Innocents at Risk Team

U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report

“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 Report

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:

  1. Creates a fund for domestic victims of trafficking using fines for certain enumerated crimes.
  2. 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.
  3. Encourages cross-system collaboration between law enforcement, child welfare systems, juvenile justice officials, courts, and victim service organizations (and where applicable tribal authorities).
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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

bring-back-our-girlsUSA Today
May 7, 2014

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
2nd Disgtrict of Missouri

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.”

Noem agreed.

“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

Dear Friends,

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!

Warm Regards,

Deborah S. Sigmund


An Open Letter From 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?



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.

View photos from the Reception on THE GEORGETOWNER here »

Wear Your Support for Innocents at Risk


A letter from Deborah Sigmund

Blue Campaign
One Voice. Once Mission. End Human Trafficking

Dear Stakeholders,

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!

Warm Regards,
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

Join @InnocentsatRisk 2012 #SMSWalk team at sms.kintera.org/faf/search/sea… and help them abolish #childtrafficking in the #US

5th Humanitarian Mission to the Dominican Republic

Mission Trip Dates: July 12th – 16th, 2012

IAR in the Dominican Republic

Deborah Sigmund and the Innocents at Risk Team arrive in the Dominican Republic to help Ninos de Cristo

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!

5th Humanitarian Mission to the Dominican Republic Flyer
Children’s Needs Donation Form
Intern Travel Expenses Donation Form

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!

Download the DHS – Blue Campaign Presentation (pdf file)

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!!

Warm Regards,
Brenna Grover
Senior Intern

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

Ambassador of Mexico Arturo Sarukhan, Gabriela Ferrer, Deborah Sigmund, Veronica Sarukhan

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:

Watch Other Innocent at Risk Videos

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.

Warmest Regards,


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!
RCMP officer from Ottawa, Charlene Rivet, is here with Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer and Innocents at Risk founder Debra Sigmund.

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.

APFA Prez Laura Glading, American Airlines VP of flight service Denise Lynn, MSCI's VP Cynthia Turner, and Airline Ambassadors founder Nancy Rivard.

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!


Our Mission

Human Trafficking is a $32 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. The selling of bodies of women and children is the fastest-growing industry in the world, and an incredibly lucrative criminal industry, second only to drug [...]

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Actors from across the globe have come together to break the cycle of silence around gender-based violence.