Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Slavery in Connecticut 2012: Event Recap

Opening Remarks by Featured Guests:

Officer Deborah K. Scates: Got involved with human trafficking as the arresting officer of a young lady. This was as a Vice Officer, primarily with a mission to end prostitution. She was arrested one August afternoon. This was someone she had not seen before. She began telling Officer Scates a story, one that she did not originally believe. This woman was offered a rehabilitation program or going to jail. She told Officer Scates about people who kidnapped her, held her in a house in East Hartford, and forced into prostitution. She was beaten, raped and became a drug addict. Her first pimp made about $1500 a day from her alone.
In 2004, the Federal government began readdressing and rewriting the slavery statutes. Officer Scates was looking at this case originally as a case of kidnapping and sexual assault. The Alpha Club was a house of prostitution on Franklin Avenue that existed for decades. This is where she learned that the IRS could get things done that no other agency could. Doing a joint venture with them, Officer Scates was involved with closing down the Alpha Club and seizing 2 million dollars. When it came to the case of this woman she arrested, she wanted to involve the IRS. This became a four year case. The story became verified. This woman came to visit her aunt on vacation in Hartford. The aunt turned out to be a prostitute and she was forced to be introduced to her pimp.
He is not what you imagine to be a pimp. This was a well educated man who dressed in shirts and ties, drove fancy cars, but not too fancy. He started dating her, he met her family and coerced her not as a missing person, but as a family friend. He took her to a house, locked her in a room, shot up with heroine and raped. This case took Officer Scates to CT, RI, VT, MA, and NY. This was the first case to be tried in a Federal courtroom under the new statutes.
At this time, Hartford was breaking ground. No task forces were made, nothing was being done like this.  Money for human trafficking was going towards illegally trafficked women and men, not US citizens. In 2004, no one knew what human trafficking was like for American citizens. It is still going on, but there is thankfully more awareness.
You can only imagine the courage it took for these women to step up on the witness stand in court.
When an officer pulls someone over it is so difficult to do something if the person driving the car says that the woman in his car is his girlfriend.

Polly Marston: I would like to say that the story we just heard was unusual, but it's not. I'd like to say that the state is prepared for this, but it's not. The Department of Children and Families got involved in human trafficking first as an international response. We waited for the international victims and we have seen zero. There is a trend going on, girls in the facilities are running away. Teenage girls get a bad rap, characterizing them as acting out sexually. The runaways are being sexually assaulted, having sex for meals and rides. A girl from Vermont funded her entire runaway down the East Coast by having sex. Survivors of trafficking don't necessarily have to have a pimp. There are cases where a young girl is forced to have sex in order to get two of her items back. This is still trafficking. We needed to turn our focus to domestic issues.
These girls are at such high risk that sexual exploitation has become the biggest child crisis that we face. Sexual exploitation of children is a form of illegal child abuse. We have about half a million domestically trafficked people in the United States.
Since 2009 we have had 88 confirmed cases and there is probably three times that that haven't come to our attention.
Pimping looks different from case to case. We have two boys that were pimped by their own father. Pimps are very good at their job. They can figure out how to get girls and boys to do things. They know what to say and what to do. The paperwork that is forged for them can change their age and be incredibly believable. Pimps turn this into a family business.
The trafficking act tries to avoid sending those who are arrested to jail. The safe harbor law says that no one under the age of 18 can be arrested for prostitution. Anyone under 18 that is arrested is then turned over to DCF. Public Act 11-180 states that children under 18 who are arrested must be reported to the hotline. Trafficking is illegal, not matter what age the victim is.
What can we do to get these girls back to where they need to be? $5 million each. We need to talk about how we can prevent this, we don't want it to happen in the first place.
Prevention IS social justice. We need to talk about relationships, what they mean and how to have meaningful ones.

Group Discussion
What has the Department done according to the Federal law? 
We follow all Federal standards as our rule and criteria. DCF trains police officers on the state level, using Federal guidelines.

If prostitutes think they are going to be arrested, will they attempt to fit into a program where they will not go to jail?
The law does only work for minors, but we would like to see something extended to adult prostitutes. Many adult prostitutes were brought into this business as minors and they "age out" of the protection that is given to minors.

What is the rate of return to the community for survivors? Meaning active citizens and earning an education? Is there follow up? 
DCF places these survivors into homes. Some of them will return to the life that they were in. Most of the girls who have been identified have been placed into new homes. There are laws that limit how much follow up

No international trafficking cases have been brought up, does that mean that there are no cases? 
No, there are cases. Since the international cases in Connecticut will not go through DCF because they are not in the system. Many of them are given Visas. There are smuggled victims for labor situations, forced work. This is dealt with differently than sex trafficking.

We need to get this issue into schools, into curriculum, there are people who are trafficking people who are probably unaware that they are trafficking people. A lot of times traffickers will charge the person working for them in cases of labor trafficking. Life imprisonment is the sentence for this crime. We need to get the word out, we need a proposal for town council, we need to get this on public access, we need to make more people aware. 

We see in high school kids saying if you bring a keg of beer to this party, you can have sex with my girlfriend. This is trafficking. Many of the victims of trafficking don't even know that they are being trafficked. 

There are so many cases where people don't know that they are involved in trafficking.

There was a house in Hartford that we suspected something was going on in the late 1980s. Police were responding to domestic violence calls. A female officer looked into it and found out that the man there was a pimp. How can neighborhoods be trained to see signs of trafficking? Is anything done in neighborhoods? 
DCF will come out to neighbors to discuss this. If you suspect something you can call a hotline. If you want to have a community awareness meeting, DCF will come out and talk to people. Even if it is 2 people.
If you suspect a case, call the hotline. Tell the operator that you suspect human trafficking.
The Hotline: 1-800-842-2288

What are the estimates for numbers of cases? 
Every cases leads to more and more. For everyone one case there are 10 more.

What is the network of pimps like? 
There are gang agreements. There is a large support network. Some pimps watch other pimps girls in bars just to make sure they don't run away. There is a network on the computer with code words and deals being made. Craigslist and

How much is gang related or organized crime related?
We don't run into large gang networks. Individuals are making so much individual money from this.

Do you see harsher punishment coming for johns or education for them? 
There are johns that actually use credit cards and this has been a path to find them. After spending time with them and educating them, many did not understand what they were doing. Educating them can have an impact.

How can we change this through education? 
Trafficking does not only happen to people from broken families. We educate about domestic violence and child abuse. We need to make sure that children are involved in activities that inspire them and families that are using community resources. This is an issue of access. We need places for children to develop themselves, not turning to drugs, violence and running away.

What should we be doing for the perpetrator? 
Johns get training, but pimps go to jail. It is a complicated situation. Some people who were trafficked end up involved in running the system to.

There are organizations that educate. Is there training for people who want to provide education for the community. People work full time, but are there weekend workshops? 
This is a brilliant idea. We will provide our contact information. DCF will provide training, please reach out. Love146 also does this. This needs to be a part of education in schools, this should be taught every year in school. Students should not have to dig for this information. Bullying is such a problem, so many relationships end up with people disrespecting each other. Believe it or not, this is a topic that many times parents do not want schools to address.

How do students become more active in the movement? They are aware, but what more can people do? 
There is an up and coming movement that has received funding.  They would like to open a store selling clothing and bringing in survivors to run the business and also offer some counseling. They are going to be looking for volunteers, looking for mentors, and looking to involve the community with the survivors.

Men predominantly use these services and women are usually involved in the abolitionist movement. We need to get more males involved in creating change. 

If you advertise in a newspaper that advertises "escort services" stop. You can call others who advertise in these papers and tell them that you won't support a newspaper that promotes escort services that promote human trafficking. 

Inspiration to Action: 
The Stowe Center can be a space where you can organize
Contact elected officials to reinstate the TVPRA
Educate yourself and others
Share survivor stories
Host a community awareness program
If you suspect trafficking call the hotline
Don't advertise in newspapers that
Ensure communities have places for youth to go
Watch the film "Very Young Girls"
Men should get more involved.
Organizations doing good work: Love146, Not For Sale Campaign, Gems, Operation 21st Century
Mandatory in-school training. Contact your school board
Find a way to create billboards to raise awareness, get sponsorship to do this.

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