The United Nations has recently come under attack for its handling of both the Ebola outbreak and the war in Syria. It has prompted some to question what the role of the U.N. should be on the international stage. We look at the relevance of the U.N., 70 years after its creation.
A young, educated British woman was spending an idyllic weekend in Italy with her seemingly charming boyfriend she knew for five years. But the day she was supposed to return home, he threatened to kill her younger brothers if she didn’t help him pay off debts. For the next six months, she was forced to work as a prostitute. She wrote a memoir about her escape and how her captor remains at large. This young woman is one of an estimated 20 million people who are trafficked for sex or forced labor worldwide. We talk with her and a panel of guests about new efforts to combat modern slavery.
- Bill Woolf detective, Fairfax County Police
- Martina Vandenberg president and founder, Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center.
- Bradley Myles executive director and CEO, Polaris Project.
- Sophie Hayes author of "Trafficked: My Story of Surviving, Escaping, and Transcending Abduction into Prostitution." (The name Sophie Hayes is a pseudonym to protect her identity.)
Read An Excerpt
Excerpted from “Trafficked: My Story of Surviving, Escaping, and Transcending Abduction into Prostitution” by Sophie Hayes. Copyright © 2013 by Sophie Hayes. With permission of the publisher, Sourcebooks.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. An estimated 20 million people are trafficked into prostitution or forced labor worldwide. With me to talk about new efforts to combat human trafficking, Sophie Hayes, author of the memoir "Trafficked," Bradley Myles, executive director and CEO of the Polaris Project and Martina Vandenburg, president and founder of the Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center.
MS. DIANE REHMI think you'll be surprised at what you hear this morning. This kind of trafficking not only takes place in other countries, but right here in the United States as well. Join us, question, comments, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a Tweet. And welcome to all of you.
MS. MARTINA VANDENBERGThank you very much.
MR. BRADLEY MYLESThank you, Diane
MS. SOPHIE HAYESThank you, Diane.
REHMGood to have you all here. Bradley, I'll start with you. I know you operate the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Give us a sense of the scope of this problem of human trafficking either for prostitution or forced labor.
MYLESYes. We operate the national hotline for the country on this issue. And it gives us a really unique sense of scope. And the most striking thing we realize is, it's much larger than most people realize. We've taken almost 90,000 calls into the hotline over the past few years.
REHMNow is that just here in the United States or is that from around the world?
MYLESThe major of calls are from here in the United States but we're also getting calls from around the world.
REHMWow. I see.
MYLESWe've learned about over 12,000 survivors of trafficking so far through the hotline. And that's just scratching the tip of the iceberg based on when people call in and discover something. So I think those of us who work on the issue are realizing this is much bigger than the society realizes and we need to be talking about it.
REHMAnd Martina, I know you represent people who have found themselves involved in this human trafficking problem on a pro bono legal basis. Explain these two types, this forced labor and sex trafficking.
VANDENBERGSo the federal law is very clear that there are essentially three kinds of trafficking that will be prosecuted in the United States. One is the trafficking of children into the sex industry. So that's a child under 18, so if anyone induces a child under 18 to commit a commercial sex act, that is a trafficking victim. The second is trafficking of adults into the sex industry, so trafficking adults into forced prostitution. And in order to prosecute that crime there has to be force, fraud or coercion by another person forcing someone into the sex industry.
VANDENBERGNow the third is a category that encompasses both children and adults and that's forced labor. And so the federal government does prosecute those crimes. Those have been crimes on the books in that form since 2000. But, for example, last year in the United States there were only 128 prosecutions at the federal level.
REHMGive me an example of the forced labor.
VANDENBERGSo here in Washington, D.C. and Maryland and Virginia we're seeing a number of cases involving diplomats. So diplomats have the right to bring domestic workers into the country on special visas. Sometimes when they bring those workers into the United States on those special visas, they lock them in their homes, they take away their passports. They strip them of all their rights. They refuse to let them speak to their families. They isolate them from the outside world. And in many cases they pay them nothing.
VANDENBERGIn the most egregious cases that we see here in Washington, D.C. and the suburbs, some of the diplomats and members of their household will even sexually abuse these workers who are locked in. The added problem that we have in the diplomatic context is of course these individuals have immunity. And so crushing that immunity in order to prosecute them or to have any kind of civil accountability against them is very difficult.
REHMSophie Hayes, you were trafficked into sex by a boyfriend you trusted. You knew him for years. Tell us what happened.
HAYESYeah, I was. As you said, he was someone I'd known for several years, which when you hear about this in a bigger context, actually that is so common that it is someone that you know. It's someone that you trust. And particularly in my case, we had been friends for years. He was, you know, an incredible guy. He had a great career and on the surface looked like, you know, a trusted relationship.
REHMAnd you had known him for five years.
HAYESYes, five years.
REHMAnd during that five years, you had no reason to suspect anything untoward.
HAYESNot at all. What he projected of himself was subsequently so different. He was, you know, a web designer. He was incredibly intelligent. He was travelled. And we took a trip. I went to Italy. And to begin with, the trip was incredible. It was, you know, romantic. It was good fun. Everything that, you know, a girl would really enjoy. And within three days, everything completely changed.
HAYESFrom the way that he was, he just turned into what I could only describe as a complete monster. His level of violence was just incredible because it's so easy to think, well, why not run? But when he first sat me down and told me why I was there and what I was there for, obviously I was in shock. But actually he physically, you know, threatened me, told me what he was going to do to me, took my passport away. But actually he told me that -- my younger brothers at the time who were, you know, 13 years old, he knew all about my family, where they lived.
HAYESAnd the threats were then put onto my younger brothers that if I did anything wrong, they would be punished because I've made a mistake. And he had friends in the police. He had friends across, you know, all different service areas. So those that you think that can help actually are the ones that even field this crime. So I knew then there was just no option to run.
REHMWhat -- could you speak Italian at the time?
REHMCould you have run out the door and gone to a next door neighbor and screamed bloody murder? What could you have done, if anything?
HAYESAt the time, it actually felt impossible to try and do anything. And I think that's what is really highlighted in terms of a -- the mental fare and entrapment is actually sometimes far worse than the physical restraint. Because, you know, he had guns to my head. He put a gun inside of me. You know, he put a knife to my neck. You know, all of these different things. And had police come to visit me who were, you know, incredibly intimidating. So the thought to run, it just wasn't possible.
REHMSo he said you will do what?
HAYESI was to work for him on the streets as a prostitute. And if I didn't, then I would be killed and so would my brothers.
REHMSophie, it's so difficult to understand how unless he had a knife or a gun to your back -- I mean, people are going to say, why couldn't she just get away?
HAYESI know. And even for me when sometimes you look on the outside, you think run, and you will people to run. But then you think, as you've heard from my colleagues here today, just the shear extent of this crime, if it was that easy we wouldn't actually be sought here today because people would be able to have the freedom to run. But actually, when you're in that situation, all of your freedom is completely removed.
REHMSophie Hayes. Her new book is titled "Trafficked: My Story of Surviving, Escaping and Transcending Abduction Into Prostitution." As you can well imagine, Sophie Hayes is not her real name. Martina, how typical is Sophie's story?
VANDENBERGYou know, unfortunately we see a tremendous amount of sex trafficking around the world. And the stories, the ones that get the most publicity are the very sort of fabulous, amazing stories of people being sort of kidnapped and thrown into the back of cars and driven to another area and forced into prostitution.
REHMAnd held in a house for ten years.
VANDENBERGExactly. But the reality is that many of the cases that we see are people who were recruited by others that they know. And so in doing interviews around the world with survivors of human trafficking, one theme that comes out again and again and again that you heard with Sophie is number one, I knew this person and I trusted them. They said that they would take me on a trip, or more often, get me a job abroad in a legitimate industry. Or secondly, they face threats to family members. And so one of the reasons why people held in the sex industry refused and were too afraid to leave was because they feared what might happen to their families.
REHMBradley, you've heard the same thing.
MYLESSure. We -- as an organization we serve victims of human trafficking both on the sex side and the labor side. Into the national hotline we hear it too. And I think that the traffickers are very skilled at seizing on some sort of vulnerability where they may try to recruit somebody who already has a huge debt. They may try to recruit somebody who has had some abuse in their background. And they may be far away from home. They may not speak the language.
REHMWhat about runaways?
MYLESSure. Runaways and people in the child welfare system, in the foster care system are targeted by pimps regularly. Because the pimps and traffickers are saying, these are kids who already have had a stormy life and they're going to try to leverage that background. So I think that what we have to recognize is the survivors are facing enormous obstacles to try to get out of these situations.
MYLESWhich is one of the reasons we've launched this national hotline to say, if they can get their hands on a phone, whether or not they're at a hospital, if they could send a text message, we want to make sure that people know that they're one phone call away from help. And that they can get connected to Martina and to Polaris and to all the groups that are trying to work to help them.
REHMBradley Myles. He's executive director and CEO of the Polaris Project. That's a nonprofit advocacy group that operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline. We'll take a short break here. I look forward to hearing your questions, comments. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we are back. Talking about a most unfortunate and terrible subject human trafficking. In both labor and prostitution, young people are given to trust, sometimes kidnapped but taken and used against their own will in, as you were saying Martina Vandenberg, sometimes in domestic situations. As you were saying Bradley Myles, sometimes in prostitution and labor. And you, Sophie Hayes, a pseudonym, had experienced it firsthand. Bradley Myles, why don't you give us that hotline number.
MYLESSure. The national hotline for anyone to call 24 hours a day, 1-888-373-7888.
REHMAnd we will of course have that number on our own website. Sophie, I understand you have to go to the hospital numerous times because of one infection or another. Did the hospital workers see bruises on you? Did they ask you questions? What was your situation once you got there?
HAYESWhen I eventually managed to get to a hospital, I obviously came in contact with several different nurses, seven different doctors and none of them asked me what was wrong, was I okay. And, you know, you see me here today, I am quite a small person. I was incredibly smaller. I definitely couldn't...
REHMYou went down to 84 pounds?
HAYESYeah, yeah. So I was, you know, pretty tiny, covered in bruises and they did physical examinations. So you would have seen -- they must have seen something...
REHMYou had various infections as well.
HAYESYeah. I mean, I'd had pneumonia twice, a broken shoulder blade. You know, there were a lot of physical damages that one could see. And he even came into the hospital and had his key stabbed into my leg while stroking my hair and smiled and said if you dare tell anybody, this key is going to go through you. I am going to take you outside and I'm going to rip that drip and you're going to go if you dare do anything to put me into jeopardy.
HAYESAnd this was all taking place in a hospital where you have the police maybe 10 meters away. And all of these professionals, again, the ones that could have done something, that could have intervened but actually didn't.
REHMHow terrifying. Martina, how often would you say this kind of intimidation can take place and be so successful?
VANDENBERGThis -- intimidation is very, very successful but it doesn't always have to be intimidation with threats of violence. In the United States, we see cases of forced prostitution and also forced labor where the threats are actually quite subtle where a trafficker will say, I will deport you. They take the passports away, they say I will turn you over to immigration authorities and they will detain you and they will deport you back to your country of origin in shame.
VANDENBERGAnd so the kind of intimidation that is now recognized under the law, it rangers all the way from the kind of severe physical violence that Sophie is describing all the way to more subtle forms of coercion. And Congress did that on purpose because Congress realized that traffickers used very, very subtle and nuanced forms of coercion to control people.
REHMBradley, give me a sense of, if you can, a typical phone call.
MYLESI think it's hard to describe a typical phone call. But some of the most important calls to us are calls directly from survivors where someone's in a situation, maybe they're a domestic worker held in a home and they were able to get their hands on a phone. Or they're someone in a small restaurant and they're calling. And we've gotten over 4,000 calls directly from survivors saying, is this the number that I call to get connected to help.
MYLESAnd so, for us, it's people with a moment and we're trying to create that moment so that we can intervene.
REHMHow? How do you intervene?
MYLESWell, what we've tried to do is there are thousands of great nonprofits working on this issue all across the country. There's thousands of law enforcement working on this issue all across the country. And what the challenge is that the people who are stuck in the situation don't know how to get connected to all the people who are trying to help. And the people who are trying to help don't know how to get connected to those who are stuck in the situation.
MYLESAnd the hotline becomes a bridge so that we can then route different calls to different actors all across the country who can help and everyone can begin working together as one concerted, almost orchestra of help.
REHMOkay. But let's just take Sophie's case as a hypothetical. If she had managed to get to a phone which I gather eventually you did managed to do and she was in Italy. What would your hotline had been able to accomplish to help her extract herself?
MYLESWhat we're building towards is the health care workers that encountered with all of those signs of human trafficking, they would have been well-trained, they would have understood what human trafficking is with the description that Martina gave. They would know the signs to look for. They would know where to report help and they would call some sort of hotline or some sort of protocol.
MYLESAnd that hotline would be connected to services and law enforcement and would do safety planning with the hotline to build a better response. And so in that case, I feel like there's so many missed opportunities where the people who are in the positions to help haven't been given the lens to understand what they're seeing right in front of them. And they need to understand what trafficking is, what the signs are and where to call for help.
REHMIs it that they don't see them or don't want to see them, Martina?
VANDENBERGI think frequently it's that they don't recognize it. I mean, here in the United States there are amazing protocols for recognizing and screening for domestic violence. We're at least 15 years behind in creating the same kind of screening and education about trafficking. And also I think that there's a misunderstanding that all trafficking is into the sex industry. It isn't. As we've said, there's a lot of trafficking into forced labor.
VANDENBERGAnd so people aren't looking for it there. They're not looking for hotel workers who may be trafficked. They aren't working for people in hair braiding salons or nail salons who may be trafficked. And so I think that we're missing an enormous amount of the forced labor. And instead of helping people who are trafficked into the sex industry, we have quite the opposite.
VANDENBERGWe have people being arrested, including children, arrested and prosecuted for solicitation and for prostitution even though that is completely inconsistent with federal and international law. So instead of trying to reach out and help children, for example, who are trafficked into the sex industry or women who are trafficked into forced prostitution, quite the opposite. Many of them are treated as criminals around the world and to some extent here in the United States.
REHMSophie, I gather that hospital staff eventually helped you. But prior to that, you would see many, many doctors.
HAYESYeah. I'd seen several doctors. But actually, again, if we can take it into the bigger picture. Actually as clients I saw doctors, I saw police, I saw lawyers, judges. So, again, your very kind of typical professionals from service providers to legislators. And again, all of those that you assume are those the ones that can help you. Again, if they are then breaking that trust and come to pay for sex, that trust is then broken.
HAYESAnd I hear that time and time again with other survivors that we work with that these men are the ones that come as clients. So once that trust is broken, it's even harder for then you to then as for help and know where to trust, who to trust because it's already broken down.
REHMTell me with whom you are working now to try to address this problem. have you established an organization on your own?
HAYESI have, yes. I set up the Sophie Hayes Foundation. And that is -- the overarching is around awareness, to try and change people's stereotypes and really challenge the mindset of individuals, of what we assume a trafficked person is actually is very different.
REHMWhat do you think we assume?
HAYESGeneral society -- and this is not just in the States, it's around the world -- that it's third world, it's poverty, it's ill-educated. And actually that stereotype really fuels this, you know, the awareness. Whereas actually what we've found and what you've heard today is that this happens to U.S. citizens, it happens in first world countries. This is a global crime and this can affect anybody.
REHMTell us how you eventually escaped.
HAYESWhen I managed to escape, I had -- I've become incredibly ill and I'd collapsed and subsequently managed to get into a hospital. And I just remember waking up in a hospital bed. But, again, I had no passport, I couldn't really speak the language and I managed to speak to my mom. And my mom and I...
REHMYou managed to get to a phone.
REHMAnd she was in the States?
HAYESShe was back in the U.K. And my mom and I used to speak every day. So whilst I was then in Italy, everything had changed. My behaviors had changed. I very rarely spoke to my mom. When I did speak to her, it was in controlled calls by him. And my mom is incredible. She had given me a code word and had said to me, if you're ever in danger, if you're ever in trouble, I want you to have a code word.
HAYESSo when I called her, she knew in my voice there was something wrong and asked me did I want to use the code word. It sounds so simple but actually it really did save me. My parents then drove out to Italy. They'd called ahead to the hospital to not let them have me leave with this person. So there was quite a few controls put into place. And they managed to come and collect me and then send me back to the U.K.
REHMNow, what happened to the young man?
HAYESNot long after I left, I was receiving phone calls actually from his brother. His brother told me that I had to go back to Italy and I was now to work for him, which now I got back to the U.K. was impossible. And I found that he'd been arrested. He'd been put into prison in Italy on drug charges because he was a known trafficker. I found that he was a drug trafficker, arms and he'd already ran girls prior to me.
HAYESSo he was put in prison. A year later, he managed to get back to the U.K. and found me. I'd worked with the police with the special divisions that specialized in human trafficking. And unfortunately, at the time, they had never heard of British cases and British nationals being trafficked outside of the country. So I really saw almost a black hole of where do you go? What do they do with me?
HAYESNo one quite knew. No one knew where was I to prosecute if it would be the U.K., would it be Italy because he's also Albanian. So we had a lot of different nationalities come into play. And, again, this is where it really highlights that legislation really falls and it still does now. And I was told by the police that the sentence could be very minimal if it was to be tried in Italy. There was no support in terms of protection, any witness protection for myself and for my family.
HAYESThe police then advised me to try and just get on back with the regular life, try to rebuild, try to put what happened to me behind me. And I found that really difficult. And I gave information to Europol, Interpol but they still did nothing.
REHMSophie Hayes, her story of surviving, escaping, transcending abduction into prostitution is titled, "Trafficked." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And joining us now by phone from Virginia is Bill Woolf. He's a detective with the Fairfax County Police. He's worked with federal agents to investigate sex traffickers who targeted teenagers through Facebook and shopping malls. Thanks for joining us.
MR. BILL WOOLFThank you for having me, Diane.
REHMAnd I know that you, Martina Vandenberg, must leave us now. Thank you so much for your contribution here today.
VANDENBERGThank you so much for having me, Diane.
REHMAnd for your work. Good luck.
REHMAnd back to you, Bill. Tell us about your investigation into juvenile sex traffickers in Fairfax County, VA.
WOOLFWell, what we're finding is an increasing number of cases, a lot of these cases you have elements of gang control as well in the northern Virginia area. But we also see cases where traffickers are bringing girls, very young girls, in from other locations, from other states. We just recently finished a prosecution trail involving traffickers that were operating as an enterprise that had brought over seven juvenile girls into Virginia from other states. And then traffic those girls in seven other states.
REHMYou're talking about involvement of gangs. So they're operating together to try to bring these young girls in?
WOOLFYeah. So what we know about gangs is typically we associate gangs with violence. And we believed that violence was their end game. What we're learning now is that the violence was really a means to an end. And that end was profit-driven crime. And the gangs have now learned that sex trafficking in and of itself is a very high yield enterprise, very low risk for being caught by law enforcement.
REHMHow did they recruit these young women?
WOOLFSo gangs use methods of indoctrination, the same way that they recruit new members. They give these girls, these very vulnerable young girls a sense of identity, a sense of family. They lure them in because these girls might be having problems at home or just going through an adjustment period in their adolescent years. And the gangs take advantage of that and welcome them in and coerce into a life of prostitution.
REHMSo you're saying they simply recruit them on malls or at bus stops. What about Facebook?
WOOLFRight. So we see Facebook and other social media being used more and more prominently to recruit. There are several reasons why they're using that. One of the reasons it was because it's very impersonable and they can reach out for large numbers of people all at the same time. But social media and the internet allowed these gang members and other traffickers to make their efforts more effective and efficient by gathering intelligence.
WOOLFThey have the opportunity to learn all about our kids based on what the kids are putting on the internet. And so then they can target who they want to go after.
REHMSo then they entice them by saying you're pretty, would you like to earn money, that sort of thing?
REHMAll right. We'd got to take a short break now. Bill Woolf, I hope you'll stay with us. We'll take our short break. And when we come back, he'll be with us as well as Sophie Hayes, Bradley Myles. We'll take your calls, your questions, comments. Stay with us.
REHMAnd it's time to open the phones 800-433-8850. I look forward to hearing your questions and comments. First let's go to John in Houston, Texas. You're on the air.
JOHNGood afternoon. I'm pleased to be here. I'd like to know if there is a characteristic ethnic profile or, like, if they're all Hispanics or Orientals or if there are any black people, Central European, thank you.
REHMAll right, thanks for your call. And Bill Woolf, I wonder if you have any reaction to that question?
WOOLFYes, ma'am. Human trafficking cuts across all races, ethnicities, classes, genders. It really is a nondiscriminatory crime. These traffickers target individuals that have specific vulnerabilities, but not necessarily vulnerabilities based on race or ethnicity. We see a very good mix of U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals that are trafficked here in the United States.
REHMAll right. And here is a question from Georgia in Vienna, Va. says, "Please ask if your guests have bumper stickers with the hotline number on it. I bet I'm not the only person who would put one on their car." Bradley.
MYLESYeah, Georgia, thank you for your question and you hit the nail on the head. We need the country to know that this hotline number exists and we need community members to help put the number out there. And just like this show is doing with what Diane's doing today is helping us publicize the hotline number, but we have billboards. It's up in airports. It's up on cars. It's on radio shows and there's even a pamphlet called the "Know Your Rights" pamphlet where when people come to America on a work visa they're given the hotline number.
MYLESAnd so we've built the system that can help and we're in touch with thousands of groups that can help, but what makes the whole system go around is if we can make the hotline number known to survivors. That's the recipe for success so thank you for targeting that because that's what we need. We need more publicity for this number.
REHMBill Woolf I want to come back to you because you were talking about Facebook and how individuals target young women who put lots of information on their profile. Has the internet made it lots easier for traffickers or has it made your job easier to investigate trafficking?
WOOLFUnfortunately I think it's made it easier for the traffickers. They can use the internet and the anonymity of the internet to recruit individuals into this lifestyle. They can also take prostitution, which historically tended to be something that was in the streets and easier for us to see. Now they're able to take it behind closed doors and advertise on the internet using various sites such as backpage.com.
REHMAll right. Terry in Cleveland, Ohio, remarks, "Sophie is dead on regarding mental control as a severely powerful tool for imprisonment. I was never trafficked, but I was raped for years. People often ask why didn't you just get away. We need to have faith in the victims, believe them and support them." Sophie.
HAYESThank you. I really appreciate the support in terms of that and I think, you know, just to really highlight that point around psychological entrapment. Under that you go into, you know, three states of mind, flight, fright -- freeze or flight and the default really is to freeze. And what you think you would do given a normal situation, given normal circumstances once you're in a situation of entrapment is a very different reality and you can't make rational choices.
MYLESI guess just to jump in and piggyback what Sophie is saying, I think that when most people hear human trafficking they hear the word modern slavery they assume physical violence. They assume whips and chains. They assume people locked in and the reality is that this is very psychological. There's sophisticated fraud. There's lies. There's holding people with debt. There's threatening their family. So most traffickers, I think, these days aren't using the physical violence. They're gravitating towards the psychological control and the mental control, which is harder to see and also harder to believe.
MYLESAnd so it would be easy if all the traffickers had the physical violence and whips and chains and bruises. We'd all understand this issue, but the more the traffickers use the mental control people start saying I can't really see that. It's much more invisible, therefore, much more effective, much more important for us to understand.
REHMLet's go to Denise in Tampa, Fla. You're on the air.
DENISEYes, good morning, Ms. Rehm. I just want to mention our state attorney general, a very determined lady called Pam Bondi and she has emphasized in past weeks do not do this in our state. We will find you. Now this isn't in legalese terms. This is straight English. And these people who gravitate to Florida, often runaway juveniles, it's warm here. They can stay outside if there's no hotel money and if a police officer sees someone hanging around a bus station, the Greyhound near downtown, if that officer takes the time to go over and say, well, you know, why you hanging around here?
DENISEIt takes the police to do the job.
DENISEAnd I have met police in the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. I see dedicated people in green and white and I see others who say, oh, I get paid anyway.
REHMBradley, do you want to comment?
MYLESWell, I think what's great about what General Bondi did there is she's using the political will as the attorney general to make this issue a priority. And President Barrack Obama gave a speech on modern slavery at the Clinton Global Initiative last September. And attorney generals all across the country are making this issue a priority. Police chiefs are making this issue a priority.
MYLESAnd so when our political leaders say we, as a country, need to be focusing on human trafficking and modern slavery, when a show like "The Diane Rehm Show" is featuring this issue it's helping to elevate the conversation and give this issue the level of importance that it needs because it's a major problem across the country that is still with us that we are not recognizing at the extent that we need to.
REHMExactly. Here's a message from Sherry in Miami. She says, "I lived in Rome, Italy and everyone knows the streets where the prostitutes are in the evening waiting for clients. Why don't these antislavery organizations go to these places to find these girls in trouble?" Bill Woolfe, is that what you're doing?
WOOLFWell, we are focusing our efforts here domestically we recognize that there is a huge problem on the domestic level, but we are working with our partners on the international front.
REHMBut what about the shopping malls in Fairfax, Virginia? What about the places where prostitutes congregate? Are you going in there to see what you can learn?
WOOLFAbsolutely we are. We are very much trying to saturate these locations that we know recruiting goes on, where the victims are and trying to recover them out of these situations and put them -- and restore them back to a normal life.
REHMAll right. Let's take a caller in Detroit, Mich. Hello, Ann, you're on the air.
ANNHi, how are you?
REHMI'm fine, thank you.
ANNOh, this is a wonderful -- I love your show, but this is wonderful for me. I'm going to be a little bit emotional. It's wonderful for me. It was the same -- this -- I was involved with an ex-Detroit police officer. I couldn't get away from him on and off for many years and I had a young daughter. I was a single mother. And he -- one of the things he did was -- the Albanian mob is very big here in the Detroit area. And it is true what they say about the Albanian mob and the techniques they use. And I was in -- one of the things he did to frighten me -- well -- was to take me through a slave house of -- full of women.
ANNAnd the first thing I noticed that made -- pulled my attention to it was -- was a group of women walking through -- very young women, but they were dressed like -- I don't know, like, they were just so made up and so, you know, so sexually provocative and...
REHMAnn, how did you finally get away?
ANNFrom this man?
ANNI just kept running and hiding and running and hiding and running and hiding and making -- I made him hate -- I made him not interested in me and I think he finally inherited enough money from his mother when she died.
REHMAll right, thanks for your call. Sophie, talk about Detroit, in particular apparently, you know, something about this so called Albanian group.
HAYESI don't know specifically so much around this Detroit group in terms of Albanians. There is a huge level of fear, intimidation and violence. It has been known that the Albanian community are one of the most ruthless, you know, rings and they operate all over the world. And I think that the lady that's just called in obviously, you know, you are really emotional and what I want to say to you is I think what you've done you've taken so much courage and bravery to keep on running.
HAYESAnd part of the Sophie Hayes Foundation we really want to send that message of hope. And I think there is always hope and regardless of how hard a situation has been where you have been hasn't defined you. It isn't, you know, you've got so much more to grow and you have a great future ahead of you. And I would just say, you know, remember what happened to you, but that isn't who you are.
REHMHere's an email from Eleanor. "Please ask Sophie is she has managed to move her life on. Can she trust men now? Is she currently in a relationship? If so, does he know about your past and what you are now doing with the foundation?"
HAYESThank you, big question. Yeah, it's taken quite a long time to move on, but I've really found over the past two years and, particularly, I have really been able to grow and really transform. And for me it's really important to remember, as I said earlier, what happened to me is something that happened. It's not where my future goes. It doesn't define me. And I am so much more than a trafficked victim. I am a survivor, but I'm also still an individual. I'm still a young girl who likes to shop with her friends, to go and, you know, go to the cinema, go to the movies, go out for dinner.
HAYESAnd what is really important, as we've mentioned around this psychological fear, is to not allow somebody to completely take over your mind and steal your whole future. And, for me, that was a real empowerment piece for me to able to take the situation and actually use that to really springboard me into a real growth. And that has given me the opportunity to set up the foundation and help other girls, for them to recognize that they have got futures. They aren't just victims. They are survivors. They are a voice and actually they can really change and shape the way that we operate and not just in the U.K., not just in the U.S., but across the world.
HAYESWe have a real opportunity to change and that's what's really special. And in terms of trust, I took a long time with that, but actually, again, I can't allow one person to dictate my whole future...
HAYES...And take away from me.
REHMSophie Hayes, she tells her story of surviving, escaping and transcending abduction and prostitution in her new book titled, "Trafficked." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I want to go now to Dave in Toledo, Ohio. You're on the air.
DAVEHi, good morning. Thanks so much, Sophie, for sharing your story and getting this information out to people. And I encourage all the listeners to support not only Sophie's foundation, but other nonprofits that help out with -- help the survivors. And I have four daughters myself and would like to know what I could do keep them safe and help protect them as they grow up.
REHMWhat a good question. Dave (sic) Woolf, what do you have to say? Bill Woolf, forgive me.
WOOLFThat's all right. I would say the most important thing is to be involved in your daughter's lives. Know what is going on, be a vigilant parent. Look at their Facebook. There's a fine line that we need to draw between the privacy of a teenager and safeguarding them from the harm that's out there. The other thing that we encourage parents to do is friend check. Find out who their friends are. Look on their Facebook page and see who they're talking to and ask them how do you know this person.
WOOLFIf your 15-year-old daughter is friends with a 26-year-old man that lives three counties over there's probably -- there's a problem there and you should find out what's actually going on. But just understanding what our kids are doing, asking the important questions. We have cases where kids will tell their parents that they're going away for the weekend with a girlfriend and her family, but never bother to follow up and talk to that family to make sure that's actually where they're going. And really they're going away with a boyfriend who is grooming them into a life of prostitution.
WOOLFAnd the other thing, the last thing that I would recommend is that parents make themselves aware of the issue and make your children aware of the issue. We're taking steps in Fairfax County to create a curriculum to be implemented in all of the public schools so that the kids are aware of the issue and are given the tools to prevent the tricks of the traffickers.
REHMBradley, do you want to add to that?
MYLESI'm just listening to what Bill was saying and also what Sophie was saying and I think that what's at stake is what is our collective view of human potential. And the trafficker's view is these people are objects. These people are nothing better than someone to sell their body. These people can be treated like less than human. And those of us that are working on the issue, Sophie, Polaris, Bill and the Fairfax Police Department and others, we believe that people can have these amazing lives.
MYLESAnd traffickers are these incredibly cruel individuals that are basically trying to suck away and zap away human potential. And that we can't stand for as a society. We can't stand for people that are basically saying someone's no better than an object. Someone's no better than an ATM machine that's going to make money for me. And it's really a war at stake of what do we believe in human potential and we can't allow these traffickers to basically treat other people around us like objects.
REHMSophie, I want to give you the last word.
HAYESThank you. It's been incredible to be able to have this opportunity just to speak here today and really highlight this issue because it is a global crime and collectively we have to work together. No one organization can solve this alone. It is incredible that we've had this opportunity to be able raise the awareness, but what I would really encourage all of the listeners is to be able to help us help others and send their messages of hope into the Sophie Hayes foundation that we can then give to survivors of human trafficking.
REHMSophie Hayes, her new book is titled, "Trafficked." Bradley Myles is CEO of the Polaris Project. That's a national human trafficking hotline and Bill Woolf is a detective with the Fairfax County Police. Thank you all so much. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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