Sex Trafficking | St. Louis Public Radio

Sex Trafficking

The rate of emergency room admissions for child sex abuse in the U.S. nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016, according to research from Saint Louis University.
Maria Fabrizio | NPR

Children who have suffered sexual abuse are now going to the ER at much higher rates compared to a decade ago, according to research from St. Louis University. 

The national rate of ER admissions for child sex abuse nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016. At the same time, cases of confirmed child sex abuse in the U.S. have been declining since the 1990s, according to data from the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. 

InPower Institute hosts community meeting to inform people on how to spot human trafficking and what to do about it.
Ashley Lisenby | St. Louis Public Radio

If you were a baroness trapped in the house of a jealous baron and had the opportunity to flee, would you do it if you knew your fate was death should you be caught?

That's the fictional dilemma, Lorren Buck presents attendees of a sex trafficking discussion in St. Louis on Saturday. The “drawbridge” exercise was intended to help people understand the kinds of choices and challenges a victim of sex trafficking might experience. In small groups, participants discussed who in the story could have helped the woman along the way and what her options might have been.

Executive director of Healing Action Katie Rhoades shared her own experience of human trafficking on Tuesday’s “St. Louis on the Air.”
Aaron Doerr | St. Louis Public Radio

Human trafficking remains a problem throughout the world, but it is closer to home than we often realize.

“It’s a tremendous issue here in Missouri,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Norman Murphy said regarding both sexual and labor exploitation.

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, a Republican from Ballwin
Ali Pardo/Wagner congressional office

On the latest edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio's Jo Mannies welcomes back U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner to the program.

The Ballwin Republican represents Missouri's 2nd Congressional District, which takes in parts of St. Louis, St. Charles and Jefferson Counties. She recently filed to run for another term earlier this week.

U.S. Rep Ann Wagner, a Republican from Ballwin, raised $804,000 from Jan. 1 to March 31.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

On Friday’s “Behind the Headlines” on St. Louis on the Air, we took an in-depth look at a bill on sex trafficking that has passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. House of Representatives and will be moving on to the Senate.

U.S. Rep Ann Wagner, a Republican from Ballwin, raised $804,000 from Jan. 1 to March 31.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri says coordination between private area transportation operations is crucial in the fight against sex trafficking, especially since St. Louis has become a hub in the illegal trade.

The Ballwin Republican met Thursday with representatives from rail and bus companies, along with Uber and Lyft ridesharing services. During the closed-door meeting, they discussed ways that drivers and employees can spot potential trafficking victims, who are often underage and forced into the sex trade.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley shares evidence included in a motion to dismiss Backpage's lawsuit against him.
File photo I Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

A two-year federal investigation of Backpage.com, a website that frequently advertises commercial sex, led Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill to introduce legislation Tuesday. The bill, filed with bipartisan support, would make it illegal for websites to "knowingly  facilitate sex trafficking.”

McCaskill said Backpage.com appears to be actively involved in cultivating and publishing ads for minors engaged in commercial sex, a felony. The company's activities are detailed in a growing cadre of evidence released by federal investigators, uncovered in ongoing civil and criminal court cases and published by the Washington Post.

Advocate and author Christine McDonald, right, listens to U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri testify during a public hearing in St. Louis about human trafficking.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Eastern Missouri has four full-time police officers dedicated to investigating human trafficking cases, but convictions are rare.

Law enforcement officials say it's hard to build cases against perpetrators because witnesses are few and victims often are unseen. To improve awareness, Webster University will hold a training session this weekend for law students and the general public. Attendees will hear how people are forced into sex work and other trades, and how to identify warning signs.

Judge Paul Herbert stands in his courtroom after one of the court's weekly sessions.
Andrea Muraskin | Side Effects

Originally published July 7, 2016, by Side Effects Public Media. 

It’s not something you expect to see in a courtroom: 35 women, chatting, laughing, eating lasagna. But brunch before the session is a weekly tradition at an unusual court in Columbus, Ohio.

Once the plates are cleared away and everyone sits down in a semicircle facing the bench, a probation officer steps to the center of the room, with an empty plastic bin and a big smile.

“You know I love you so much, right?” she says, as she collects everyone’s cell phones, to a chorus of groans.

Katie Rhoades is the founder and executive director of Healing Action. At 18, Rhoades began working in the sex industry, and experienced episodes of trafficking and abuse until she left age 21.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

When Katie Rhoades founded Healing Action, she made a commitment: every peer counselor she hires has worked in the commercial sex trade, and gotten out. Including herself.

“They have walked that path," Rhoades said. "They have, through help, and sometimes not so much help, have been able to come out and do something different with their lives. And that creates a sense of hope and possibility for the women that we serve.”

Healing Action is the latest addition to a regional effort to stop sex trafficking and exploitation in St. Louis.

human trafficking
FBI website

Senate Bill 804 would make it illegal to advertise the availability of a child for sex. It would also make it illegal to advertise the availability of an adult for sex without her or his consent, a provision that was not included in a similar bill last year.

Advocate and author Christine McDonald, right, listens to U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri testify during a public hearing in St. Louis about human trafficking.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

About three dozen minors in the St. Louis region have been rescued from sex trafficking so far this year, and a nationwide sting last week recovered 149 children, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But during a public hearing in St. Louis, local agencies who help victims said they’re strapped for resources.

Katie Rhoades (left), a sex trafficking survivor who leads group sessions at Magdalene House, and Tricia Roland-Hamilton (right), Magdalene St. Louis' executive director.
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

On May 30, the Magdalene St. Louis held its opening ceremony in the city’s Old North neighborhood. The ceremony took place just one day after President Obama signed The Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act of 2015 (JVTA). The newly renovated home serves as a residential program for women who have been victims of sex trafficking.

Ann Wagner
St. Louis Regional Chamber | File photo

For the first time in 13 years, Congress has passed new regulations on human sex trafficking. On May 29, The Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act of 2015 (JVTA) was signed by President Obama.

The bill is comprised of a number of specifications, which include:

New home for sex traffic survivors opens in St. Louis

May 31, 2015
Magdalene St. Louis director Tricia Roland-Hamilton and sex traffic survivor Shelia McCain cut the ribbon for the opening of the Magdalene House in St. Louis' Old North neighborhood Saturday, May 30, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A four-year-long project to open a residential program in St. Louis for women who have been victims of sex trafficking has come to fruition. Magdalene St. Louis held opening ceremonies for the newly renovated home in the city’s Old North neighborhood Saturday.

The first seven women accepted into the two-year program move in on June 8. The house has the space for eleven, and according to Magdalene St. Louis Executive Director Tricia Roland-Hamilton, the program already has 25 women on a waiting list.

human trafficking
FBI website

UPDATED 2:30 p.m. April 23 with Lynch confirmation - Even if it becomes law, the human trafficking bill the Senate approved Wednesday may be remembered most as a historical footnote in a fight that involves abortion issues and Loretta Lynch's nomination. Lynch, who would be the first African American woman attorney general, has faced the longest confirmation delay since the 1980s. The Senate is finally scheduled to vote on her nomination Thursday. She was confirmed 56 to 43, with 10 Republicans voting for her.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

There was a time when Katie Rhoades was sold for sex out of nightclubs, strip clubs, magazines and online websites. She was part of an estimated $45 million industry of what she called “selling human beings online.” 

“It’s a lot of money, said Rhoades, the founder of the Healing Action Network. “It’s a lot of economic incentive to keep this industry going.”

Rhoades said it’s crucial that third-party facilitators of prostitution are held accountable. That’s why she’s supportive of Rep. Ann Wagner’s legislation taking aim at publications advertising human trafficking.

Via Flickr / humanrightsfilmfestival

Sex trafficking is not just an international problem, or even a national one. It is also a problem here in St. Louis. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, St. Louis is a hot spot of sex trafficking activity, one of the top 20 in the country.

photo of Molly Hackett
Provided by Nix Conference and Meeting Management

Jan. 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

You may assume that human trafficking has nothing to do with you, and that there’s nothing you can do about it. If so, you would be wrong.

The average age of a child recruited into sex trafficking is just 12. When we tell that to people who know little about human trafficking, particularly child sex trafficking, we see them literally take a step back.

Catharine MacKinnon speaking in 2006
Wikipedia

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Despite a view by some that prostitution is simply “sex work” that should be legalized and controlled, attorney Catharine MacKinnon dismisses that approach as misguided and harmful to women who in most cases have no choice.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 24, 2013: Missouri Attorney General Koster was the lead-off signature on a bipartisan letter sent today by most of the nation’s state attorneys general that calls on Congress “to amend the law to help fight prostitution and child sex trafficking.”

Sent to top legislative leaders, the letter advocates that Congress “amend the Communications Decency Act to provide criminal jurisdiction to state and local prosecutors.”

At issue, wrote Koster and others, was the fact that the act was drafted in the mid-1990s before the internet became such a dominant force.

(via Flickr / Daniel P Davis)

Magdalene is a residential program which provides services to women who are involved in prostitution, trafficking and addiction.

The program was founded in 1997 by Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 10, 2012 - St. Louis is on the front lines of a battle between two networks. Both use the internet, business contacts, interstate highways, airlines and hotels. One exploits young girls, selling them for sex. The other is trying to rescue them.