THE REALITY OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
-The world’s second largest illegal market
As defined by the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol (Palermo Protocol), human trafficking is defined as the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring, and/or the receipt of persons. These acts are carried out through use of physical assault, sexual assault, confinement, threats of harm, debt bondage, psychological manipulation, confiscation of documents, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power, and abuse of vulnerability. When a minor is involved in commercial sex trafficking the question of consent is irrelevant and no proof of assault, coercion, etc is needed.
Human Trafficking Statistics
- The International Labor Organization estimates it is $150 billion business worldwide
- 40.3 million victims worldwide
- 71% of victims are female
- 25% of victims are children
- Average age of recruitment for girls is 12-13 years
- The youth are at highest risk- this includes the homeless, runaways, ethnic minorities, unaccompanied foreign nationals, and rural youth
Victims of human trafficking often do not see themselves as a victim and may refuse help when offered. They may even express loyalty and affection toward their trafficker, which is a result of trauma bonding. Many of them do not realize what has been done to them is illegal. Survivors usually have substance abuse problems and a history of sexual abuse or other trauma prior to becoming a human trafficking victim. The most common causes of death of these victims are homicide, suicide, drug overdose, and HIV.
Who are the traffickers?
72% of human traffickers are male and 28% are female. More than 50% of the time they are a stranger to the victim. Traffickers may operate independently or with partners ranging from a small criminal group to a large-scale organized criminal network. These traffickers can be anyone from a business owner to government authorities. These traffickers prey on the vulnerable and create a bond of dependency with their victims. They use threats, drugs, violence, and psychological manipulation in order to control their victims by forcing a bond of loyalty forged from fear.
How do traffickers make contact with potential victims?
Many traffickers begin contacting potential victims via social media or through conversation in social settings. A majority recruit their victims through a tactic known as “Boy-friending”, in which the trafficker plays the role of a boyfriend or father figure in a young girl’s life and showers her with gifts and affection. The goal of this tactic is to gain her trust by convincing the victim she is in love; this ultimately isolates the victim from family and friends, making the victim dependent on the trafficker for all of her needs and attention.
A man and woman, Robert Middlebrook (41 y) and Kiari Day (26 y), from Pittsburgh were pulled over by state troopers on Interstate 81. Four teenage girls and thousands of bags of heroin were found in the vehicle. The girls told police they were forced to work as prostitutes in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The man and woman both pled guilty.
Fourth Federal Conviction
Mario Grisom (34 y) from Homestead was arrested for a prostitution bust in Station Square and then later found a missing teenage girl he had been advertising on backpage.com. He is held under multiple federal charges with an unknown sentencing.
Ralph Ruprecht, a 6th grade girls’ basketball coach in Ambridge, pled guilty to rape and sexual assault of teenage girls on the team after recruiting them through social media by posing as a woman. Ruprecht is sentenced to 8-16 years.
Businessman Daniel Teed (56 y) from Wexford participated in sex parties and transportation of girls. He pled guilty, but failed to show for prison and register as a sex offender. He was later rearrested in Arizona and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and 20 years probation.
August 2017: Chinese Foot Massage Parlor in Cranberry was raided and 2 Chinese women and the owner were arrested.
November 2017: Seth Mull was arrested in Bethlehem, PA and linked to sex trafficking in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Chicago, and Honolulu.
December 2017: Nine people from four different states arrested in a 2-day undercover sting at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh.
January 2018: Eight people arrested in Pittsburgh Mills Mall parking lot for trafficking prostitution, and drug charges.
March 2019: Man at Cranberry hotel arrested for using the hotel as a base for operations of his sex trafficking business.
December 2018: Turtle Creek man arrested for soliciting sex from two students at Northgate High School in Bellvue.
United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime; International Labor Organization; 2018 Global Slavery Index
2018, ILO, Walk Free Foundation, & IOM Global Estimates of Modern Slavery
UN Global Report, 2014; www.humantraffickingsearch.org