Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Working to stop sex slavery



By NATHAN HALVERSONTHE PRESS DEMOCRATPublished: Sunday, January 11, 2009


Sonoma County is home to women and children trafficked for sexual exploit.How to stop it and how to handle the mental health of the victims was the topic of a panel discussion Sunday at Santa Rosa’s Finley Community Center.Prostitution is one of the last remnants of slavery in the United States, according to a panel of law enforcement experts and social workers specializing in human trafficking.“We see in Santa Rosa that a lot of young juveniles are victims of human trafficking,” said Leslie Armbright, a Santa Rosa police detective.“What you see on Santa Rosa Avenue is just the surface. It is so much deeper than that,” she said.Victims are coerced or forced to work the streets, massage parlors and elsewhere, Armbright told the audience.About 75 people gathered to listen to the panel discussion, hosted by the local branch of the women’s group Soroptimist International.But more than of half the seats in the auditorium remained empty, and that is reflective of the permissiveness people feel toward prostitution, many speakers said.“I look at all these chairs that aren’t filled and it saddens me,” said a Rohnert Park mother whose mentally disabled daughter was coerced into prostitution.Her daughter was approached at Santa Rosa Junior College by a woman who lured the young disabledstudent into prostitution, said the mother, who asked not to be identified. A man was convicted for taking part, she said, and he will be released in 11 days as a sexual offender.“People don’t want to hear about it,” said county Supervisor Valerie Brown, who attended Sunday. “We have a dirty little secret here in Sonoma County.”Mendocino County Sheriff Thomas Allman asked the panel how he can monitor sex trafficking in his county.No one on the panel had a clear answer for Allen, indicating the difficulty of detecting human trafficking networks. With Web sites such as http://www.craigslist.org/ and a San Francisco-based escort site, http://www.myredbook.com/, human traffickers can solicit services to people widely dispersed across Northern California.But law officers still try to curb it.“We have four to five agents in my office making arrests weekly,” said panel member Aleksandr Kobzanets, a special agent with the FBI in San Jose. “Most women are trafficked from Asia or Mexico and South America.”Women and children from poorer countries often are tricked to coming to the United States or Europe and then are sold and held captive, according to the PBS documentary “Sex Slaves,” which was shown Sunday.“People think slavery doesn’t exist anymore,” said panel member Nola Brantley, executive director of the nonprofit Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth. “Well, it is definitely alive. Even if it is much different than old slavery from the South.”Some panel members criticized lax laws against people who pay for prostitutes. “It is supply and demand. Prostitution would not exist if there was not demand,” said panel member Donna Sinar, a spokeswoman for Standing Against Global Exploitation.Panel members urged people in the community to watch for signs that young women or others are being held captive or exploited as sex slaves.“The more people are better informed, the more we get them to bring us victims of human trafficking,” Sinar said.You can reach Staff Writer Nathan Halverson at 521-5494 or nathan.halverson @pressdemocrat.com.Working to stop sex slaveryBy NATHAN HALVERSONTHE PRESS DEMOCRATPublished: Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 3:00 a.m. Last Modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 10:58 p.m.Sonoma County is home to women and children trafficked for sexual exploit.How to stop it and how to handle the mental health of the victims was the topic of a panel discussion Sunday at Santa Rosa’s Finley Community Center.Prostitution is one of the last remnants of slavery in the United States, according to a panel of law enforcement experts and social workers specializing in human trafficking.“We see in Santa Rosa that a lot of young juveniles are victims of human trafficking,” said Leslie Armbright, a Santa Rosa police detective.“What you see on Santa Rosa Avenue is just the surface. It is so much deeper than that,” she said.Victims are coerced or forced to work the streets, massage parlors and elsewhere, Armbright told the audience.About 75 people gathered to listen to the panel discussion, hosted by the local branch of the women’s group Soroptimist International.But more than of half the seats in the auditorium remained empty, and that is reflective of the permissiveness people feel toward prostitution, many speakers said.“I look at all these chairs that aren’t filled and it saddens me,” said a Rohnert Park mother whose mentally disabled daughter was coerced into prostitution.Her daughter was approached at Santa Rosa Junior College by a woman who lured the young disabledstudent into prostitution, said the mother, who asked not to be identified. A man was convicted for taking part, she said, and he will be released in 11 days as a sexual offender.“People don’t want to hear about it,” said county Supervisor Valerie Brown, who attended Sunday. “We have a dirty little secret here in Sonoma County.”Mendocino County Sheriff Thomas Allman asked the panel how he can monitor sex trafficking in his county.No one on the panel had a clear answer for Allen, indicating the difficulty of detecting human trafficking networks. With Web sites such as http://www.craigslist.org/ and a San Francisco-based escort site, http://www.myredbook.com/, human traffickers can solicit services to people widely dispersed across Northern California.But law officers still try to curb it.“We have four to five agents in my office making arrests weekly,” said panel member Aleksandr Kobzanets, a special agent with the FBI in San Jose. “Most women are trafficked from Asia or Mexico and South America.”Women and children from poorer countries often are tricked to coming to the United States or Europe and then are sold and held captive, according to the PBS documentary “Sex Slaves,” which was shown Sunday.“People think slavery doesn’t exist anymore,” said panel member Nola Brantley, executive director of the nonprofit Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth. “Well, it is definitely alive. Even if it is much different than old slavery from the South.”Some panel members criticized lax laws against people who pay for prostitutes. “It is supply and demand. Prostitution would not exist if there was not demand,” said panel member Donna Sinar, a spokeswoman for Standing Against Global Exploitation.Panel members urged people in the community to watch for signs that young women or others are being held captive or exploited as sex slaves.“The more people are better informed, the more we get them to bring us victims of human trafficking,” Sinar said.You can reach Staff Writer Nathan Halverson at 521-5494 or nathan.halverson @pressdemocrat.com.

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