Category: Recent News

We want to do our best at keeping you up to date by providing you with the most recent stories of Trafficking in the USA and Internationally.

Advocating on Captial Hill for Victims of Trafficking




RICHMOND, VA (June 12, 2013) – Richmond resident, Sara Pomeroy returned home late Tuesday evening from Washington D.C. after meetings with the Virginia Congressional delegation. Sara was among 250 individuals from 40 states who took part in a day of advocacy organized by human rights agency International Justice Mission (IJM).  Participants met with more than 210 Congressional offices to build support for strong U.S. policies to combat trafficking and slavery at home and abroad.

 Pomeroy and fellow advocates from Virginia advocated for passage of the “Human Trafficking Prioritization Act,” which elevates the authority of the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Office—a U.S. government agency dedicated to combating human trafficking.  U.S. citizens’ interest in eradicating slavery has kept the issue high on the political agenda in Washington for the past decade.  In recent years, the existence of proven anti-slavery models has equipped advocates with data and success stories to encourage Members of Congress and Senators from across the political spectrum to support increased investment in anti-trafficking programs.

 Human Trafficking has been, for me, a 3.5 year long fight and this day was a huge victory in what will be a long, hard fight in years to come on a local and federal level. I was encouraged to have over 40 other Virginian’s join me at the Capitol and I expect there will be even more during Virginia General Session. I know that people in Richmond care about modern-day slavery, but we often feel overwhelmed by the problem. Knowing that it is possible to combat crime has given me the confidence to advocate for strong policies and funding with our elected leaders in government,” said Pomeroy.           

 All government agencies have faced budget cuts in the face of sequestration, making citizen support for US government programs to combat slavery more important than ever. “When it comes to fighting human trafficking, a relatively small amount of money goes an extremely long way,” said Holly Burkhalter, vice president of government relations at IJM.  “The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons office makes grants that save lives and build international capacity to end human trafficking. The office should be made a full-fledged State Department Bureau, in order to best represent the interests of the most vulnerable people in the world – slaves and trafficking victims.”

 Organizations like IJM are seeing significant improvements in public justice systems protecting the poor and preventing slavery, even over short periods of time.  In just four years of collaboration with local authorities in Cebu, the Philippines, IJM has seen the number of minors available in the commercial sex trade reduced by 79 percent. Private investment by for IJM’s anti-slavery work in India has enabled a dramatic expansion of the organization’s work there from 9 to 50 states in the country, resulting in the freeing of nearly 1,000 bonded labors in just ten months.

 “There is much work to be done, and this urgent, transformative work is worthy of U.S. government investment,” said Pomeroy. “I am hopeful that the success we had today on the hill will be a reflection of future success in Virginia General Assembly.

 IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals secure justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. In the past year alone, IJM has brought rescue to more than 2,400 victims of violence and injustice. For more information about International Justice Mission visit


Happy Birthday William Wilberforce

Today we celebrate the birth of one of our greatest examples and heroes in the pursuit to eradicate slavery, William Wilberforce, born this day in 1759. Wilberforce was a British politician, philanthropist and a champion in the efforts to put an end to the British slave trade, thus in hopes of stopping slavery altogether. His involvement in the abolition movement of his day was motivated by his earnest desire to put his Christianity into action and to serve God in all aspects of his life….public and private. By 1783, slavery was at an all time high carrying as many as 40,000 slaves…men, women, and children…..across the Atlantic Ocean under the worst possible conditions of what was known as the Middle Passage. So horrid were the conditions that of the estimated 11 million African slaves transported, as many as 1.4 million died along the way (Wikipedia). Sensing a calling by God, Wilberforce would journal in 1787, “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the reformation of manners.”

Today, there is an estimated 27 million slaves in the world…more slaves than at any given time throughout history. Even with the abolishing of the slave trade in Britain and in America in the 1800’s, slavery never ended, it just changed faces. Where precious humans were traded in open market places in the past, today they are sold over the internet on such sites as Human trafficking is the fastest growing form of organized crime, second only to the sale of drugs (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). According to UNICEF, there are an estimated two million children in the commercial sex trade making up for half of those sex trafficked. An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders annually (U.S. Department of State). It is a 32 billion dollar business (U.N.) More than ever, we need more William Wilberforce(s) in the world. “If to be feeling alive to the sufferings of my fellow creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” “So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the Trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for Abolition. Let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.” As incurable fanatics to the sufferings of those forced into slavery, let US not rest until we have put an end to all human trafficking.  “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

The Connections Between Pornography and Sex Trafficking

A friend of mine sent me this article and I had to share it because I don’t think many of us are making this connection. When I recently gave a message at a local church I addressed the audience with a challenge, and this article directly addresses that challenge. Before we can be a part of the solution to end human trafficking, we need to make sure we are not a part of the problem! If you are purchasing or watching Porn you are feeding the Sex Trafficking industry! Pornography infects approx 80% of men and 36% of women and it is an 82 Billion a year industry, and the church is not exempt from these percentages and statistics.  This article CLEARLY exposes the connection between the Porn industry and Sex Trafficking, and I recommend that everyone read this article and pass it on.

Resources can be found at: here

The Connections Between Pornography and Sex Trafficking

We often hear today about the horrors of sex trafficking, overseas and in the United States. We are appalled at those who would hold women and children as sex slaves, deny them their human rights, and make them mere objects for sexual pleasure. At the same time, pornography is tolerated, accepted, openly defended, and even celebrated. [1]Society views sex trafficking as something we ought to combat, yet it sees pornography as simply another genre of entertainment.

This dichotomy between sex trafficking and the realities of pornography is a serious misconception that needs to be addressed. As individuals who seek to oppose sex trafficking, we must understand its linkage to pornography. In this post, we will look at how pornography drives demand for sex trafficking, how victims of trafficking are used in the production of pornography, and finally, we will see that the production of pornography constitutes sex trafficking under current legal definitions.

Porn drives demand for sex trafficking

According to Shared Hope International’s report on the demand for sex trafficking, pornography is the primary gateway to the purchase of humans for commercial sex. Why this is so becomes clear when we think critically about what pornography is and how it affects its consumers.

Pornography comes from the Greek words porne, meaning “prostituted woman” or “prostitution”, and the word graphos, meaning “writings.” If we can begin to comprehend that what is depicted in pornography is not simply sex or sexuality, but commercial sexual exploitation, we can begin to rightly appreciate the negative and corrosive effects of this content.

Catherine Mackinon, a feminist professor at Harvard Law School, says that “consuming pornography is an experience of bought sex” and thus it creates a hunger to continue to purchase and objectify, and act out what is seen. [2] And in a very literal way, pornography is advertising for trafficking, not just in general but also in the sense that traffickers and pimps use pornographic images of victims as specific advertising for their “products.” [3]

In addition, viewing pornography and gratifying oneself with it ends up short-circuiting the sexual process. This creates a drug-like addiction which distorts the individual’s view on sexuality. It also trains the mind to expect sexual fulfillment on demand, and to continually seek more explicit or violent content to create the same high. [4]

As Victor Malarek put it in his book The Johns:“The message is clear: if prostitution is the main act, porn is the dress rehearsal.” [5] Pornography becomes a training ground for johns/tricks. When pornography is the source of sex education for our generation, the natural outcome is a culture of commercial sex and sex trafficking.

Trafficking victims are exploited in the production of pornography

Many women and children who are being sexually exploited and trafficked are also being used for the production of pornography. Sometimes acts of prostitution are filmed without the consent of the victim and distributed. [6] On other occasions victims are trafficked for the sole purpose of porn production. In today’s era of webcams and chatrooms, the lines between interactive pornography and virtual prostitution websites have been blurred. [7] According to Donna Hughes, “porn and internet sex shows are markets for trafficked victims.” Truly, pornography is another avenue for women to be trafficked. [8]

Porn actors and actresses are often construed as no different from those who chose to have any other career in the entertainment industry. There is little cultural understanding that many of those involved in pornography are otherwise victims of sex trafficking. Despite this lack of general awareness, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), which created our  current federal legislation against sex trafficking, it states that people are trafficked into and exploited in pornography.[9]

Porn production is a form of trafficking

Under the TVPA sex trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” [10] The realities of the porn industry are perfectly described in the definition of sex trafficking in TVPA.

A commercial sex act is “any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.” [11] Pornography qualifies as a commercial sex act in two ways. First, the production of pornography involves payment of individuals to perform sex acts before a camera. Most performers in the industry are paid for the different films or photo shoots. Because they are produced by recording actual events, real men, women, and children are actually engaging in sexual acts, often repeatedly to get the desired shot. In this way, the production of pornography is without question a case of commercial sex acts, in this case performed on camera.

Secondly, “consuming pornography is an experience of bought sex.” [12] The experience of using pornography is a sexual one for the viewer, or as Catherine Mackinon put it, “porn is used as sex (masturbation). Therefore it is sex.” [13] Further, it is a commercial sex act in this sense because money or other items of value (clothes, cars, alcohol, drugs, etc.) are exchanged on account of this sexual experience for the consumer. The pornographers are receiving direct monetary benefit from providing this sexual act.

Recruitment for the porn industry occurs in many ways.  One former porn performer tells of being bombarded with calls to come and perform after posting a personal ad, while others were recruited through social media. According to those who were in the business of pornography, there are times when girls are held captive on porn sets or driven under the command of a pornographer or agent to and from the sets, which would fit the definition of “harboring and transporting.” Finally the provision is tangible in both the physical acts that are documented and the product that is supplied to countless consumers across the world. The porn industry is continually providing the world with commercial sex acts, which can be consumed without end.

At this point, what we have seen is that the production and consumption of pornography fully qualifies as sex trafficking as defined by U.S. federal law. Yet, under the TVPA, only a “severe form of trafficking”—one that involves “force, fraud, or coercion”—can be prosecuted. This is discomforting to know that in our legal system we tolerate and accept certain instances of sex trafficking.  Even so, many instances of porn production do involve some level of force, fraud, or coercion; we just need some political will to investigate and prosecute it. [14]

You do not have to look hard for force in the production of pornography, because even at the surface level, the violence towards the actors involved is evident. Pornographers themselves describe the violence they perpetrate on their performers without the consent of the actors.

Former porn actress Jan Meza describes the fraud in the industry. She says that the actors and actresses do not know what they are agreeing to or after their initial agreement they couldn’t get away. Something that should be noted, especially in the case of fraud, but also generally, that federal law is clear that initial consent does not preclude the possibility of the individual being victimized. Pornographers, like other pimps, learn how to exploit economic and psychological vulnerabilities to coerce them to get into and stay in the sex industry. [15] Other times they threaten or use alcohol and drugs to induce compliance, which is included in some state definitions for coercion.

The other criteria to establish that a particular case is a severe form of sex trafficking is that the minor is under eighteen years of age. Shared Hope International estimates that one in five pornographic images online is of a child. The prominence of this speaks to the very “severe” nature of the porn industry. Yet even among the material that is not deemed “child pornography” you can find individuals under the age of eighteen.

Having understood the interconnectedness of pornography and sex trafficking, we must resolve to no longer erect false distinctions between pornography and sex trafficking.  In seeking justice for those who are commercially sexually exploited, accepting and using pornography is not an option.  It’s time to understand the reality of pornography and act accordingly.

. . . .

Ana Stutler served as a pureJUSTICE intern during the summer of 2011. She was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, where her parents serve as missionaries. She is a 2011 graduate of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a degree in International Relations, and is currently a first-year law student at Wayne State Law School in Detroit, Michigan.

[1] Mackinnon, Catharine A. “Pornography as Trafficking.” Pornography: Driving the Demand in International Sex Trafficking. By David E. Guinn and Julie DiCaro. [Los Angeles]: Captive Daughters Media, 2007. 31-42. Print, 32

[2] Mackinnon, “Pornography as Trafficking,” 34.

[3] Farley, Melissa. Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections. San Francisco, CA: Prostitution Research & Education, 2007. Print, 153.

[4] Struthers, William M. Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2009. Print, 97-99.

[5] Malarek, Victor. The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men Who Buy It. Toronto: Key Porter, 2009. Print, 196.

[6]  Smith, Linda, and Cindy Coloma. Renting Lacy: a Story of America’s Prostituted Children. Vancouver, WA: Shared Hope International, 2009. Print, 15-25.

[7] Malarek, 203.

[8] Farley, 154

[9] U.S. Dept. of State, Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)2000, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (2001) (enacted). Print, Sec 102 (2).

[10] U.S. Dept. of State, Sec 103 of TVPA 2000 (8) (A), (9).

[11] U.S. Dept. of State, sec 103 (3).

[12] Mackinnon, “Pornography as Trafficking,” 34.

[13] MacKinnon, Catharine A. Only Words. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1996. Print,17.

[14] U.S. Dept. of State, Sec 103 of TVPA 2000 (8) (A), (9).

[15] Farley, 153.

Mexican President Calderon Puts His Foot Down

Mexico has put its foot down on the horrific human trafficking within its borders.  As a part of Mexico’s AMBER Alert program, a program aimed at finding missing children, authorities in Ciudad Juarez over the weekend arrested over 1,000 people involved in human trafficking.  20 female minors were given their freedom.

Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon, is a figure to applaud when it comes to the fight against human trafficking.   Earlier in July, he approved changes to the constitution that require the imprisonment of those accused of human trafficking during trials and guarantees the anonymity for the victims who turn the scoundrels in.  He also is waiting for Congress to approve a nationwide human trafficking law that would reform and streamline the process for handling human trafficking perpetrators.

To read more, click here.

Fernandez de Kirchner Takes a Stand Against Sex Ads

Earlier this month, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner passed a law banning classified ads offering sex in Argentine newspapers.  Many of these ads are not consenting adults, but rather trafficked women and girls being sold for sex.

Kirchner scolded the media for their “double morals and hypocrisy,” saying that “newspapers can’t print headlines demanding that we fight human trafficking, while their back pages present ads that humiliate women.”

Perhaps those within the Beltway can learn from Kirchner’s example and start tackling this problem in American newspapers and websites.

To read more, read here or here.


Wal-Mart Pressed to Disclose How Global Suppliers Treat Workers

Wal-Mart is the place to go if you want a discount on a book, cheaper deodorant, or a slashed grocery bill.  But where do all of these savings come from?  Who is paying for the $10.00 you saved today?  Wal-Mart is infamous for its every-day low prices, but those low prices are the result of externalizing costs to Wal-Mart’s suppliers.  Wal-Mart demands its suppliers to decrease their operating costs in order to maintain a contract with Wal-Mart, one of the biggest companies in the world.  Doing so often times is the only way a company can stay in business.

However, whenever costs are lowered among suppliers, this can often result in lower wages and longer hours for factory workers.  Many factories end up not complying with the laws of their country such as minimum wage and safety standards.  But shareholders are starting to take a stand.

In May, at Wal-Marts annual shareholder meeting, the New York City pension funds who own $311 million dollars in stock (only .2%) of Wal-Mart, proposed that Wal-Mart require its suppliers to publish an annual report that details the working conditions of their factories.  Wal-Mart is resisting this proposal because it would have to renegotiate with thousands of suppliers.  However, bringing to light this severe issue of human rights issues to the leaders of Wal-Mart and before other shareholders is a step in the right direction towards eradicating human trafficking around the globe.

To read more about the New York City pension funds’ proposal, click here.