In The News

Innocents at Risk Gala, September 18, 2018



by Janet Donovan  |  on September 23rd, 2018  |
Photo credit: Neshan Naltchayan
September 18th, Innocents at Risk brought together Government officials, members of the Diplomatic Corp, representatives of the corporate world, friends of the philanthropic world, non-profit organizations and the press to celebrate what is being done to help prevent child trafficking. The Benefit evening at The Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC recognized Award Winning Film Director Jeffrey Brown for his film SOLD which has served as an excellent awareness tool for all the organizations to end child trafficking. Hollywood on the Potomac recently spoke with Brown and his producing partner Jane Charles.
“I’m a filmmaker, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a good friend.  When I read the book SOLD, the award-winning novel by Patricia McCormick almost 10 years ago and started researching human trafficking, I didn’t realize that this is the second highest grossing illegal crime (2nd only to drug trafficking) and that it is happening right here in the United States,” Charles us. ”Making this film was both the most difficult and the most worthwhile thing I have ever done in my life so far.  I spent almost 10 years researching, making and distributing SOLD.  Jeffrey Brown, the writer/director of SOLD and I traveled to India and Nepal several times before shooting the film and went back after to shoot some pick-ups and record needed audio.  I fell in love with India and Nepal and our extended families in both countries that we met along the way, especially the survivors, the many girls we met at rescue facilities and shelters that we remember and carry with us every day. Making the film SOLD forever changed the trajectory of my life and career.  What began as a feature film to create global awareness of human trafficking has turned into an ongoing advocacy and impact campaign.”
Jeffrey Brown
“What most people don’t realize is that human trafficking is a 150 billion dollar industry; that children are being bought and sold in every city in the world, in every country in the world,” she added.  “This is a global issue. We have to join together and work to end this misery.  Millions of children are sexually abused, beaten, held captive and sold every day.  It’s hidden – the perpetrators would like us to believe that ‘it doesn’t happen here.’ Yet it does and we all have to act – governments, non-profits, business and citizens.  We all have to unify and join together and hit this issue on every level possible. Stories have the power to ignite activism and to change the world.”
Deborah Sigmund
Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund also recognized the Marriott Corporation for being a leader in the Corporate World by training their employees to report situations of possible exploitation and child trafficking. She talked about a situation she witnessed in a Tampa Florida Marriott Hotel during a Conference where she was speaking about Child Trafficking, an actual situation of human traffickers selling young girls for sex. The hotel staff reported the suspicious activity to police and the FBI. Deborah said that it was very appropriate to present Tony Capuano of Marriott International Corporation The Innocents at Risk Corporate Responsibly Award and thanked Tony for his leadership at Marriott to do something to save young lives!
Jeffrey Brown, Staci Capuano, Tony Capuano with Deborah Sigmund
Deborah thanked both recipients and said that this film was  “a Gift” and a tremendous tool to use in schools, churches Embassies and communities to create Awareness! Deborah presented Jeffrey Brown with the Innocents at Risk ” Making a Difference” Award. Jeffrey thanked Deborah and said she was his “Heroine” and said it was amazing how much Innocents at Risk had accomplished in just 13 years. Jeffrey thanked everyone in the audience for supporting Innocents at Risk.
NBC’s Barbara Harrison was the event MC.

Innocents at Risk Fights the Scourge of Child Trafficking


Innocents at Risk Fights the Scourge of Child Trafficking

Consular | Diplomatic Forum, Summer 2018

ESTABLISHED IN 2005 BY DEBORAH SIGMUND, Innocents at Risk is dedicated to protecting children from Exploitation and Child Trafficking. Working to raise awareness of the horrors of child trafficking, Innocents at Risk has built partnerships with the Department of State, corporations working to end trafficking, embassies, organizations, churches, law enforcement, and schools to help prevent the Trafficking of Women and Children.

When people hear the term ‘Child Trafficking,’ they usually think of something on the other side of the world. Unfortunately, Child Trafficking is in every state in the US and in every corner of the world. The Trafficking of Children is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. It is a $150 Billion Business annually! It is more lucrative than the drug trade. Why? In order to get into drug trafficking, one needs cash; to get into Child Trafficking, one just needs a child.

Innocents at Risk began by sponsoring Awareness Events in the US and abroad to open the eyes of people everywhere about Child Trafficking. Involving the diplomatic and consular community was essential to addressing the transnational aspect of Child Trafficking. Embassies hosted events where we invited speakers from the Department of State, the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, the National Human Trafficking Hotline run by the Polaris Project, and Shared Hope International.

In 2008, a senior flight attendant for American Airlines heard about the Awareness Events sponsored by Innocents at Risk and contacted us. She said, “We see what you are talking about on planes and in the airports and we don’t know what to do about it.” The staff at Innocents at Risk realized immediately that the worldwide network of flight attendants was a natural partner in the fight to prevent Human Trafficking. They responded to her inquiry, letting her know that Innocents at Risk would work with them to solve that problem. Innocents at Risk produced a brochure giving Flight Attendants the knowledge of what to look for and the protocol for reporting a red flag situation. This partnership resulted in a tremendous breakthrough in identifying potential victims and saving lives. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security supported our initiative by putting out an undated protocol. This DHS Protocol is still in effect and saves thousands of lives annually.

Empowering flight attendants to recognize and help prevent the transport of human trafficking victims across international lines represents one critical way that Innocents at Risk has worked to save children from the horrors of Child Trafficking. Sharing information and partnering with embassies, the Departments of State and Homeland Security, and other NGO’s has also helped to rescue young victims and capture human traffickers. While both of these areas of concentration have made substantial differences, human traffickers find many creative ways to procure more young victims.


Innocents at Risk Heros!

Innocents at Risk thanks the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for their continued efforts to arrest and remove members of the MS-13 Gang, known participants in human trafficking.

Read a transcript from recent testimony presented by DHS/ICE before the Senate: “The MS-13 Problem: Investigating Gang Membership As Well As Its Nexus to Illegal Immigration, and Assessing Federal Efforts to End the Threat

Innocents at Risk Featured in the Kent Connection, August 2017

Innocents At Risk Fighting Human Trafficking

Read the entire article here»


THE GEORGETOWNER at Innocents at Risk Gala


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)

Helping to End Human Trafficking: Two Women, Two Organizations

Innocents at Risk is proud to announce they were featured in an article in the Georgetowner on May 6, 2015.


April 16 was the 153rd anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Washington, D.C. More than 3,000 enslaved persons were freed in the District on that date in 1862, eight months before the Emancipation Proclamation called for the end of slavery on Jan. 1, 1863. To mark the anniversary, a fundraising event dedicated to preventing child trafficking was held in Georgetown at M29 Lifestyle.

Human trafficking – the trade in human beings, mostly for the purpose of sexual slavery, forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others – is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world today. It may encompass providing a spouse in the context of forced marriage or the extraction of organs or tissues, including for surrogacy.

Every day, young women and children are being bought and sold, used and tortured. In Washington, D.C., alone, trafficking innocent children is a $100,000 business. Two individuals, and the organizations they founded to help prevent human trafficking, are described below.

Deborah Sigmund Founder, Innocents at Risk

Deborah Sigmund is the founder and director of Innocents at Risk, a nonprofit organization established to help stop the trafficking of women and children. Its mission is to educate citizens about the 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,” Sigmund says.

Officially launched in 2005, Innocents at Risk has been working since then to raise awareness about child trafficking in America. The organization regularly presents at seminars nationwide. Sigmund believes that people need to know that children are being targeted, kidnapped and abused.

In addition to their seminars, Innocents at Risk launched a Flight Attendant Initiative program in 2008. “Through this program, many lives have been saved,” Sigmund said.

Because many people don’t know what actions they can take – some aren’t even familiar with the term human trafficking – Innocents at Risk has partnered with the Department of State and Homeland Security to make the public aware of this issue. “In every single aspect, we need people to create awareness,” Sigmund said.

Dr. Ludy Green Founder, Second Chance Employment Services

Dr. Ludy Green is an expert on U.S. domestic violence and human trafficking issues, as well as an internationally acclaimed speaker. Green founded Second Chance Employment Services (SCES) to help women at risk find stable employment and assist them in achieving financial independence.

SCES was founded in February 2001. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the organization educates, trains and places women in meaningful long-term careers, providing them with the financial independence and confidence they need to take care of themselves and their children.

Green has created an alternative approach to survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking and other forms of extreme oppression. In her book “Ending Domestic Violence Captivity: A Guide to Economic Freedom,” the link between financial independence and freedom is drawn. A tool to help victims of domestic abuse, the book details Green’s volunteer experience at My Sister’s Place, which led her to a better understanding of the importance of economic independence. Her next goal is to have the book included in university curricula.

SCES’s placement program specializes in helping clients from shelters, faith-based organizations and other nonprofits. The organization works with companies that are interested in offering priority placement to SCES’s clients, such as Booz Allen Hamilton, Macy’s, SunTrust Bank and IBM. SCES also provides comprehensive employment services throughout the community.

Ricky Martin Foundation Newsletter

April 2015


ECPAT USA May Newsletter

Meet Emmanesting dolls

International advertising agency JWT has just created a child exploitation  awareness raising tool called “Meet Emma.”  Emma is a traditional nesting doll but with an important message inside.   They are being sent to targeted opinion leaders throughout the United States, asking for their help to talk about the terrible issue of child sexual exploitation.  Besides the actual dolls, JWT has created a video on our website and a radio psa.  Meet Emma here:

New York City Council Hearing

Ana Morse, ECPAT-USA’s board president, testified at the New York City council hearing in support of a resolution calling on Backpage to remove its escort advertisements because of the large number of children  who have been sold through the site.  Her testimony is on our website:

Brazil Project

Our Protect Child in Trafficking Project in Brazil has been  hard at work in Rio de Janeiro and Recife.  In partnership with the ECPAT groups there we are producing awareness raising t-shirts, posters and other give-aways; national radio public service announcements, training sessions and training materials, and workshops for children.   Just recently the project expanded to Manaus in the Amazon region.  This is a major child sex tourism destination, for Americans and others, where  we will work to strengthen partnership between law enforcement and civil society to protect all of the region’s children.


Executive Director

Carol Smolenski


ECPAT-USA and WITNESS have developed a 21-minute advocacy video, “What I’ve Been Through Is Not Who I Am”.  View it on our website:

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Sixty two organizations joined ECPAT-USA in submitting a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child evaluating the U.S. government’s implementation of the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.  In September the Committee will issue recommendations for how the U.S. can better protect children.  ECPAT-USA is happy to have partnered with Shared Hope International and Loyola University Chicago’s Center for the Human Rights of Children to gather the information in the report.

Staying Safe on Halloween

It’s the beginning of fall which means Halloween is creeping around the corner in just another few weeks. So while taking time to pick out costumes, also take some time to talk to your children about safety while Trick or Treating. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released safety tips for parents who are preparing spooky fun for their kids this Halloween. Some of these include:

  • Instruct children to stay in well-lit areas, never to take shortcuts, and never to go into isolated areas.
  • Ensure that children wear reflective clothing and carry a flashlight or glow stick when traveling during the evening hours.
  • Teach your children only to enter homes of people you know, and with your prior permission and only to approach homes that are well-lit both inside and outside.
  • Accompany, or make sure a trusted adult accompanies, your younger children to the door of every home they approach.

Fall is also a great time of year to reinforce the importance of internet safety, now that our kids are back in school.
With homework and extra-curriculars in full swing, kids are spending ever-increasing amounts of time online, on the computer, on iPads or smartphones, texting and growing their social networks. While parents may be apprehensive about the amount of time spent online or digitally connected, there are easy rules you can follow to make sure your kids are staying safe. For instance, monitor email and social network profiles, scouring for evidence of bullying. SCP President Stacie Rumenap was recently quoted by Janice D’Arcy  in The Washington Post’s Lifestyle section, with great tips for parents who have kids online. You can read that article and Stacie’s suggestions here.

“Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter where you can find other great safety tips like these, as well as relevant news articles and updates from the team. Join the community today and share your efforts, thoughts and concerns about child safety.

Best regards,
The SCP Team

Briefing: “How Countries Can Work with Flight Crews to Combat Human Trafficking”

“How Countries Can Work with Flight Crews to Combat Human Trafficking”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010
10:30 -11:30 am
CVC-266 of the United States Capitol Visitors Center

Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund will speak at this briefing.

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.

Innocents at Risk in the News

Innocents at Risk in the Diplomat!

The Washington Diplomat Magazine

May 2010

Local Charities and Embassies
Party and Partner with Purpose

by Gail Scott

“Yes, we get a lot of solicitation and it’s hard to say no, that is why we have to choose carefully,” admits Veronica Valencia-Sarukhan, wife of the Mexican ambassador. “We do it because we believe it’s the right thing to do ……… and because we know that in the process we are helping disadvantaged people,” she said, referring to groups she assists such as the Latino Student Fund, the anti-trafficking organization Innocents at Risk, and Refugees International………Likewise, Deborah Sigmund, founder of Innocents at Risk, a Washington-based organization combating the worldwide trafficking of women and children since 2005, said that working with the diplomatic corps has been essential to “our awareness work.”

“Over 15 ambassadors graciously opened their beautiful residences to host fundraising events for us, and from those events we build ongoing relationships with each country that have led to great success in launching awareness programs back in their countries,” Sigmund told The Diplomat.

“Through the embassies we have been able to identify and partner with NGOs in their home countries,” she added, noting that “two former diplomatic wives, Minerva Espinal in the Dominican Republic and Veronica Ferrero in Peru, are still helping us even though they’ve left Washington and returned home.”

To read this complete article, follow this link to The Washington Diplomat.

March 25, 2010: Congressional Hearing on Human Trafficking

On March 25, 2010 Innocents at Risk appeared before Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission at a hearing on Human Trafficking. The Co-Chairman of the HRC, Congressman James McGovern, MA and Congressman Frank Wolf, VA, led the panel. Founder,  Deborah Sigmund, appeared on a panel with:
  • TIP (Trafficking In Persons) Ambassador Luis C deBaca of the Department of State
  • Timothy Williams, Director of INTERPOL Washington DC
  • Dallas Jessup, “Just Yell Fire”
  • Sandra Fiorini, Sr. Flight Attendant, AA
  • Selene Martin, Director of LexisNexis Cares.
Innocents at Risk is grateful to the Human Rights Commission for the opportunity to speak about our organization.  Deborah Sigmund spoke about the “Awareness Campaign”  Innocents at Risk began in 2005 and spoke about the Flight Attendant (Blue Lightning) Initiative which began in 2008 with one single flight attendant, Sandra Fiorini. At present we have a small army of flight attendants who we have trained based in Dallas, Miami, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Atlanta, Washington DC, Idaho and LA.  We provide them with our blue brochures “Protecting Women and Children from Human Trafficking” and our blue wrist bands printed with Innocents at Risk and the National Human Trafficking HOTLINE 888-373-7888.
The hearing was very successful. The panel of 8 members of Congress were very pleased to hear about this Flight Attendant Initiative and our Awareness Campaign.  Awareness is prevention.  We are very grateful for the valuable assistance from Congressman McGovern and the members.
Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund’s Testimony:

I am Deborah Sigmund, Founder and Director of Innocent at Risk a 501(c) (3) organization dedicated to preventing child exploitation and child trafficking.  I would like to thank the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for asking me to be with you today to talk about THE GREATEST HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE OF THE 21ST CENTURY! – Human Trafficking!

I first learned about human trafficking in the summer of 2002 from a friend living in France.   I learned that each year millions of women and children are coerced, tricked, drugged, kidnapped and sold into the underground world of the sex trade.  I was horrified that this was happening yet no one spoke about it Child trafficking is happening EVERYWHERE not just in India or China, but everywhere in the world and in every city and town in the U.S.  I continued to ask “Why doesn’t anyone know about this and WHY ISN’T THIS FRONT PAGE NEWS?”

From the office of Trafficking In Persons, Department of State, I learned that Human Trafficking is a $32 billion dollar global industry.  It is actually the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.  Second only to the drug trade and more lucrative than the illegal arms trade. I learned from the Dept. of State in spite of the number of dedicated Government and Non Government organizations working to combat trafficking there was a great need for awareness and education about the issue.  As a result, Innocents at Risk was formed.  Since 2004 Innocents at Risk has been working with the Dept. of State, leaders in Congress such as Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Congressman Chris Smith, the Diplomatic Corp., Corporations and the media to educate the public about the horrors of the human trafficking.  We built partnerships with NGO’s in the US and abroad.

As the result of an awareness event two years ago, I met Sandra Fiorini, Senior Flight Attendant for American Airlines.  Sandra told me that she and other flight attendants often see suspicious situations in the airports and in the air that could be children being trafficked.  Sandra said, “We do not know what to do about it.”  As a result, Innocents at Risk produced 10,000 “Protecting Woman and Children from Human Trafficking” brochures containing

basic information of “How to Recognize Potential Victims” and containing the National Hotline Number 888.373.7888, run by The Polaris Project.  Soon a task force of Sandra and

flight attendants sprung into action.  We learned from these flight attendants that much trafficking was taking place via commercial airlines. This was a major breakthrough and a real positive step for Prevention.

The flight attendants initiative grew and we learned valuable information from airport personal and specific information was given to the authorities.  We were informed that twice a week there were young girls in a flight from Moscow to Chicago with one way tickets who were told they would be “models” or “work in TV” in NYC.  I called DHS, a trusted NGO working in Moscow and the Association of Catholic Bishops working in Chicago.  With law enforcement and the immediate attention of the NGO’s, lives were actually being saved.

Learning of The Flight Attendant Initiative, in early 2009, John Ingham of DHS assembled together the correct players from DHS, ICE and the FBI to meet with an American Airlines representative (Mike Wascom), The Polaris Project, Sandra Fiorini and Innocents at Risk to discuss how to mobilize this incredible resource of flight attendants who are “The First Line of Defense.”

After meeting for 6 months BLUE LIGHTNING CAMPAIGN was established to Denounce All Forms of Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Procedures were put in place.  For example:

  1. 1. To begin training all Airline personal in recognizing situations of human trafficking.
  2. 2. To begin training Custom agents and Law enforcement how to recognize human trafficking and how to respond most effectively.
  3. 3. Passengers would receive acceptable information about human trafficking in corporate flight magazines, videos, and poster campaigns.
  4. 4. Identical training for the travel industry would be incorporated.

It was a tremendous accomplishment! Innocents at Risk applauds American Airlines for coming to the discussion table and we congratulate the leadership of John Ingham for bringing everyone together to establish a protocol to expand this talented force of individuals and agencies. HOWEVER, THE BLUE LIGHTNING CAMPAIGN IS NOW ON HOLD AS IT HAS NOT BEEN FUNDED…

To date, Innocents at Risk is continuing our informal training of flight attendants.  We have Senior Flight Attendants based in Chicago, Miami, New York, Idaho, Atlanta, Ohio, Kentucky and Detroit who are training fellow flight attendants with our awareness brochures.

We have partnered with Airline Ambassadors who bring this effort a vital work force of over 6,000 members and corporate partners dedicated to preventing child trafficking in the U.S. and around the world.  With their focus to stop child trafficking, we have already had some successes.  Calls to the hotline had been made, planes have been met by the authorities and lives are being saved.  However, this is ONLY A FRACTION OF CHILDREN WHO COULD BE SAVED.

We need to do more! We need to train ALL Airline personal. Today, we are asking Congress to help fund the efforts of Innocents at Risk and the entire Blue Lightning Campaign which is ready to go.  Help us wake up America and “Open their Eyes” of the public to this horror happening all around us. IN THE NAME OF CHILDREN, today we ask for your support and funding to help us prevent more innocent lives from slipping away.

Flight Attendant Sandra Fiorini’s Testimony:

Good morning my name is Sandra Fiorini and I am an international flight attendant with American Airlines. My seniority number is 719 and I have flown with American for 39 years.  I would like to thank the House and Innocents at Risk for their opportunity to comment on Human trafficking.  During my career with American Airlines I have seen many instances of human trafficking. While every instance has been different, there were always red flags that indicated that something was not right. Most of us are parents and when children of any age are involved we seem to be more keenly aware when these flags are raised. A few examples I have seen can enlighten you to what is happening everyday:

  1. 18 year old boy with newborn baby. No diaper bag, just one bottle and two diapers.
  2. 3 adults of same nationality with 5 children of all different nationalities and same age (4-5 yrs old).
  3. Prostitution tents at Redwood, CA campground.  Men coming in and out.
  4. Young girls 15-17yrs old coming over from Russia thinking they are going to be models and work on TV in NYC, even though they didn’t speak any English.  Moscow to Chicago direct flight.

Please remember I am just one of 90,000 flight attendants world wide. Think of all the stories the other 90,000 can tell.  Before I was involved in Innocents at Risk, I would call the local police.  They would respond it was my word against theirs and what did I want them to do about it. Of course I wanted them to respond and file a report, which they would not do. Innocents at Risk has created a brochure with the trafficking signs and the Hotline Number to call.  This gives us a tool to report from the plane what we are seeing, which is the first step in prevention.  Because of calling the hotline an ICE agent was assigned to work the Moscow to Chicago flight to prevent the daily flow of young boys and girls from Russia for the sex trade.

Flight attendants are the first line of defense against human trafficking. Innocents at Risk is pulling together with many government agency’s in a coordinated effort under Blue Lightning.  For two years I have been educating my crews with the Innocents at Risk Brochures and wristbands with the Hotline number. I am asking them to wear the bracelets and use the hotline number to report what they have seen and pass the brochure on to other flight attendants. During that time the hotline has reported a 30% increase in call from flight attendants.  The general public is unaware of the positive results Innocents at Risk is making.

Flight attendants are an untapped work force that can combat this crime against woman and children.  Innocents at Risk is raising awareness in my workplace. The small percentage of trained flight attendants are reporting what they encounter everyday. With funding we could educate the whole 90,000 person strong army of winged angels.  I intend to keep working with Innocents at Risk until all 90,000 flight attendants are trained.


Co-Chairman McGovern and Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund


Dallas Jessup, Deborah Sigmund, Sandra Fiorini, and Selene Martin

Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund Speaks to Voice of America

Flight Attendants Are First Line of Defense Against Human Trafficking

Elizabeth Lee

April 5, 2010

Flight attendants at a large U.S. airline are training other flight attendants  to recognize signs of human trafficking on international and domestic flights. The flight attendant leading the program says it’s  possible to catch traffickers in the act, saving the lives of women and children trapped in the net.

For a moment in time, strangers from around the world come together as travelers.

It’s also a moment when American Airlines flight attendant Sandra Fiorini can save a life. ”We had an 18-year-old boy and he had a brand new day-old baby, umbilical cord everything was still there, day-old baby. He’s going on a six hour flight, no wife. He has two diapers stuck in his pockets and one bottle,” she describes.

Fiorini sees scenrios like that on a regular basis when she is on one of her international flights.  She says after 39 years on the job, it’s not difficult to recognize a suspected case of human trafficking. “Most of us are parents. When you see an instance that’s not right and a red flag is raised, especially when there is children involved, you’re more in tune with what’s happening,” she said.

Fiorini had tried to report suspicious activity to the police but they never responded.  Two years ago, it all changed when Fiorini met Deborah Sigmund, founder of the organization Innocents At Risk.

“It’s enslavement. We’re talking about modern day slavery,” Sigmund said.

Innocents At Risk provided Fiorini with brochures detailing the signs of human trafficking. There’s also a phone number to report a suspected case.

“Before you couldn’t call anyone,” Fiorini said. “The local authorities would not respond to you. So now when you do call this hotline number, someone does respond.”

Law enforcement will be waiting at the gate if a flight attendant reports something suspicious.  Innocents At Risk created a video showing why it’s important for law enforcement to respond.  The organization says women, girls and even boys are being sold into sexual slavery.

“This is happening everywhere in the world, every country in the world,” Sigmund said. “And it’s happening here in the United States.  Its a multi-billion dollar industry.”

Meanwhile, Fiorini educates flight attendants around the world, using brochures and bracelets that contain the human trafficking hotline number. “I show my brochure, I tell them what I’m doing, and then I ask them to put the hotline number in the cell phone,” she said. “Please pass the brochure onto another flight attendent.”

Fiorini and Innocents At Risk have also been mobilizing lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“We are working with Congress, with Human Rights Commission, and I think that something will come out of that and I’m very optimistic,” Sigmund said.

The hope is that brochures like these will eventually end up in the seat back pockets of all flights so passengers will notify the flight attendants if they spot something suspicious.

Fiorini hopes once passengers know what to look for, they won’t turn the other way.

Follow this link to view the video:

VOA Flight Attendants Fight Human Trafficking


By: Conchita Sarnoff

February 4, 2010

At long last a step in the right direction! With the heart wrenching crisis in Haiti reaching its apex and human atrocities being plastered across every television screen and front page daily, abducting those vulnerable and defenseless Haitian children was a very dumb idea. Yet again, maybe not… And not for the reasons you think.

After four years of grueling investigative research at great personal cost I am now just beginning to see the light. Across movie screens, television sets, new and traditional media the issue of sex slavery or child trafficking as it is most commonly referred to, is finally out in the open and beginning to pick up speed. Most recently, the U.S. Congress agreed to address the issue.

Last week during an off the record meeting at The Hill, I was assured that child trafficking in America is a subject worthy of an audience. The downside of course is that politically it is very much a hot potato with obvious long-term repercussions for anyone who takes it on.

Until our government is well and ready to honestly tackle the issues of: immigration, child pornography on the Internet, Internet security, national security, child prostitution, homeland and border patrol, Mexican drug cartels, money laundering, law enforcement, the administration of T and U Visas, training and recruiting, education and everything in between, Congress cannot have a transparent dialogue that will lead to the creation of valuable laws that protect, prevent, and stringently prosecute. Today there exist only two. “The Mann Act of 1910″ and the “Trafficking Victims Protection Act” (TVPA) of 2000. Both Acts in need of serious revision.

The Miami Herald finally exposed only a week ago, the story of a 2008 raid where agents arrested a ring of child traffickers operating out of a tony West Palm Beach neighborhood. Why did it take so long? Maybe it was economics driven by fear. The thought of real estate prices plummeting even further south in the area probably hit the panic button at the local government level.

For over a year I have been calling Maria Villafana’s office the Assistant U.S. Attorney, to give her inside information about a number of active “stash houses” in the area (brothels where they prostitute trafficked children). No response. I had acquired this information while interviewing one of the convicted traffickers arrested during that raid. He wants to negotiate his sentence and was ready to sing.

A few weeks after Ms. Villafana did not return my calls I turned the list over to an undercover agent working on a similar case. Luckily, at the insistence of my friend and colleague Renee Morrison, The Palm Beach Post finally broke the story.

At school I was taught that “every cloud has a silver lining”. Today, I’m praying that on the backs of those most unfortunate Haitian children the light might have begun to shine. It is time for our Government to move forward and help right this terrible wrong. Because in the long run the children who are trafficked, the government who stays silent and the predators who abuse the children will all pay the same price.

For the original article or other articles by Ms. Sarnoff follow the link to The Huffington Post:

Washington Life: 2009 Innocents at Risk Benefit

Summer 2009


Washington Life: Carlos Gutierrez Reception for Innocents at Risk

February 2009


Georgtowner: Tea Hosted By Ann Hand

December 24, 2008
Georgetowner vol 56, no-6


Washington Post: Protecting ‘Innocents at Risk’


Georgetowner: Innocents at Risk Reception

November 26, 2008
Georgetowner vol 56, no-4


Georgetowner: Innocents at Risk

June 9, 2008
Georgetowner vol 55, no-20


Washington Life: Diplomacy After Dark


Washington Whispers: Who Says Jewelers Have to Spell?


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Capital File: 2007 Innocents at Risk Benefit


In The Name of Our Children