It’s on all of us to fight human trafficking | Opinion

(Patrick Feller/Flickr)

By Todd Stephens

The salacious details of a South Florida sex trafficking ring have now been fully laid bare, including the involvement of several famous men, among them, the owner of the NFL’s New England Patriots, Robert Kraft.

It is likely that we would not know of the details of what prosecutors are describing as a massive sex trafficking ring that stretches from China to New York to Florida’s Treasure Coast if it wasn’t for the involvement of wealthy and famous men being caught paying for sex.

This is not a victimless crime. Reports are that the women at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa slept in the same room and beds where they performed services, had access to minimal hygiene and “served” as many as eight “clients” per day and were not allowed to leave the premises without an escort.

These are victims.

What gets a little less attention are the victims of sex-trafficking cases. Exploited women, often under age or with no documentation and no means to notify authorities. Women who are held against their will, who may be suffering from substance abuse addiction which is also used to keep them under control.

Project PA reported that “60 percent of all child victims nationwide have a history in the child welfare system. Many of them found during FBI raids of sex trafficking rings across the country.”

It is these victims, those who most likely have endured years of abuse and neglect that give me the most concern.

According to the International Labour Organization, approximately 10,000 children a year are commercially, sexually exploited in the United States. On average, child victims are raped more than five times a day.

We’re fighting a battle against predators who prey on our society’s most vulnerable with little regard to consequences even if they are caught.

As a former sex crimes prosecutor, I am all too well familiar with the lurid details of these crimes, including the exploitation of women.

As captain of the Montgomery County Sex Crimes Unit I saw and prosecuted countless cases involving the sexual exploitation of women. As a legislator I’ve worked to strengthen the laws on reporting abuse of children and increase penalties for those who fail to report abuse.

As citizens we all have a role to play in recognizing the signs of human trafficking and to report suspicious behavior when we become aware.

Signs include women or children being moved repeatedly from locations, being unable to travel freely, showing signs of physical or psychological trauma, being fearful of those that they work for and working long or excessive hours under duress.

Kraft and the criminals allegedly responsible for participating in illegal sex rings all across the country are equally culpable in human trafficking.

This is not about a rich guy getting caught having a good time. This about men breaking the law, victimizing women and being willing participants in a criminal enterprise.

State Rep. Todd Stephens, a Republican, represents the Montgomery County-based 151st House District. He writes from Harrisburg. 

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