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Sex Trafficking: A Part of Nebraska’s Good Life?

 

Brett Linn, Michael Escamilla, Alex Went, Mon Kami

The United States leads the global war against child trafficking, on a global scale. According to UNICEF, “1.2 million children trafficked each year”. More than 10,000 foreign children are trafficked to the United States every year as sex slaves. In 2003, lobbyist Bill Lyon stated that, “the porn industry employs an excess of 12,000 people in California….and pays over $36 million in taxes every year. Through exploits like this, cruel men are able to turn the innocence of others into a cash profit. The effects of which have a life-long effect that forever weighs upon the victims.  We wondered if Nebraska faced such a problem.

Methodology

Over the course of about two months, we worked as a team to formulate data in the pursuit of finding accurate and true knowledge, from Nebraska. To begin, we had to find a starting point. As a group, we addressed each of our individual beliefs on what sex trafficking is to us. As one could guess, Hollywood was the first thing to come to mind. After finding out that neither of us understood what sex trafficking is, we decided to start there.

To find the actual definition of what sex trafficking meant, we turned to scholarly articles. Using databases like ProQuest and Academy Search Complete, we found accurate data. With authors like E. A. Novak and A. Farrell, and many more, we were able to formulate our own definition of Sex Trafficking.

Sex trafficking is a global occurrence that reaches beyond the scope of Hollywood and international travels. It dives into an area of our local community. The system of trafficking is not bias to socioeconomic status but it is bias to women and children. The state of Nebraska is no exception to this bias. With the usage of sources such as the Omaha World Herald and research articles from the past ten years involving sex trafficking, our group is going to look at statewide efforts to minimize trafficking. This will include methods such as the Nebraska Crime Commission Task Force and Anti-Human Trafficking legislature. Using this data will help us reveal the truths behind sex trafficking in Nebraska.

With a basis on what sex trafficking is, we now needed to find out how it occurred in the state of Nebraska. Using secondary sources, we combed the web looking for data of occurrences and reports of sex trafficking in our area. Using websites like Human Trafficking Hotline and Net Nebraska, we found actual numbers and occurrences of reports.

Next came the process of formulating our ideas into a paper. Sitting down together, we pooled our information and shared our knowledge. Slowly we became subject-matter-experts and were able to structure our new thoughts.

Findings

When and Where Sex Trafficking Occurs

In Omaha, the sex business is growing every day. Council bluff, old market, and west Omaha are the places where the large amount of sex trafficking happens. According to an Omaha World Herald article, the main place where they buy sex from is from a website called Backpage. It is an online search engine where pimps provide a list of young and under aged women for sex work. Interstates rest area, hotels, parking lots, strip clubs, and massage places are another aspect of business. About 60-65% of victims are young girls actively working; there are more young women being trafficked than older women. Rural cities like Grand Island and Hasting are where the traffickers bring these girls  because there is more demand. According to an Omaha World Herald interview with Anna Brewer, who has worked with FBI for 20 years, “80% of sex trafficking happens on the internet, you can just scroll through ads on your phone and pick a human being to buy.”  When traffickers list young girls, ages 18 years old and younger they use words like virgin, fresh, new meat, etc. in the description of the ads. Research shows that 75% of people trafficked are from Nebraska. According to research done by Creighton University, funded by the Women’s Fund of Omaha, “there are 900 people for sale online every month in Nebraska, and almost all of them are female”.

Those who engage in trafficking others for sex sometimes include parents. In 2012, Michelle Randall who is the mother of three daughters (ages 14, 9, and 7 years old), from Kearney, NE, let multiple men have sex with her daughters for cash. This was not a one-time experience. It was also reported that she would watch her daughters having sex and even join in. She was sentence 92 to 120 years in prison. These traffickers are literally controlling their victims lives. Victims live with threats and manipulation every day; it’s like living in a prison where they can’t contact the outside world.

According to statistics from The National Human Trafficking Hotline, in 2007, Nebraska had 540 calls, 127 cases, and 122 victims, all related to sex trafficking. In 2012, there was only 11 cases and 37 calls. In 2016, it increased to 43 cases and 152 calls. Out of 43 reported cases: 32 were sex trafficking, six were not specified, four were labor trafficking, and one was sex and labor. These statistics show that in the next several years, victims to sex trafficking are expected to increase.

Analysis

As a society, we view women and children as less superior to men. This ideology is further progressed by the existence of sex trafficking. This provides a belittled view of women and children where social powers are able to exert their superiority upon them. Although stopping sex trafficking will not completely change the view of women and children, it will provide the beginning steps in changing the way society views them.

Task Forces and Laws for the Prevention of Sex Trafficking

Nebraska is working on reducing its footprint in the global market of sex trafficking. Current Nebraska laws do not have harsh enough penalties for sex trafficking offenders. An article from Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) states that current laws punish sex traffic offenders with a maximum sentence of four years in prison and a minimum of one year probation. This includes offenders who use drugs, physical force, emotional manipulation, or who use minors. Punishments that range only to a maximum of four years in prison do not give enough time to break the cycle of sex trafficking. Those offenders, who do not receive prison time, are free to continue their sex trafficking endeavors.

Attorney General Doug Peterson understands current sex trafficking laws are ineffective. He has backed a legislative bill (legislative bill 289) that will impose stricter punishment and prison time for those conducting sex trafficking. This bill can be found at http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/bills. It will raise the minimum prison time to 20 years. The maximum time in prison will vary depending upon the severity of the crime. If an individual is involved in a lesser sex trafficking incident, the time in prison can be up to a maximum of 50 years. Whereas those who use violence and force to victimize women and children can receive up to a lifetime sentence.

After the introduction of legislative bill 289, Peterson also announced the formation of the task force of human trafficking. This task force is a coalition from Nebraska that includes government officials, law enforcement, social workers, and others who have come together to combat sex trafficking in our state. The task forces backed by 1.5 million dollar Grant from the US Department of Justice. This task force has three main goals: help victims and survivors, to stop human traffickers, and to reduce the human trafficking market.

With the implementation of stricter policies on convicted criminals Nebraska’s newly initiated task force will ignite the beginning movement for ending sex trafficking in our state. Longer prison sentencing allows the task force to break the cycle by removing the criminals from their sex trafficking ring, a crucial step in breaking connection between victims and customers. This task force allows multiple avenues to work together towards a common goal. Eliminating dead-end work and consolidating keynotes and evidence to propel the task force forward.

Analysis

The task force has strived to educate their personnel to understand how to work with those involved in sex trafficking. New laws are currently being released that show the progress made to overcoming sex trafficking locally.

Victim Advocate Systems

A victim-centered system has recently been enforced as an attempt to end sex trafficking. The ultimate goal of this system is to rescue the victims and stop criminals from trafficking. This system provides support for victims and helps them to get back on their feet. Nebraska has proactively taken major steps to help victims instead of punishing them. Some of the systems currently being enforced in Nebraska are; SAFE-T, Women’s Fund of Omaha, SASA Crisis Center, Youth Emergency Services, and Magdalene Omaha.

An article from NET interviewed Jamie Manzer, an executive director for SASA Crisis Center. SASA stands for The Spouse Abuse Sexual Assault Crisis Center and this program works with sex trafficking victims and many other victims of assault. SASA assists victims by giving them emergency shelter, crisis intervention, legal assistance, even simply clothing or food. Manzer reported 11 cases of young girls last year were trafficked for sex at events like the State Fair and The College World Series. Programs like this are taking big steps to eliminating the stigma victims experience under sex trafficking.

A victim-centered system strives to help individuals get out of sex trafficking. Pimps often use fear, violence, and manipulation to enquire their victims and some feel as though they could not return to their previous situations based on their sufferings. Because of social stigma or misinformation, victims often go unidentified or misidentified and require treatment for other mental illnesses. Victims need help, not judgment or punishment.

The Salvation Army provides a program called “SAFE-T” that offers a comprehensive case management to help survivors accustom back to daily life. The Salvation Army websites provides a list of services and help lines to call when in trouble. SAFE-T has worked diligently to find a number of service providers across the state that help survivors’ needs along a Trafficking Specialist. Victims are often afraid to come out to others in fear that they will be charged/sentenced. This program provides not only safety, but also comfort and therapy to survivors.

Analysis

Victim advocate programs make a sociological impact by providing integration systems to victims. This helps victims to overcome past experiences and adopt social norms. When taken out of these harsh environments, victims struggle to readapt to everyday life. Without these programs, victims can become societal burdens or revert to previous ways.

Conclusion

Overall, we found that sex trafficking is prevalent in many areas across Nebraska. Women and children are currently being targeted and forced to endure horrendous violent sexual crimes.   Although greater penalties are being enacted by the task force, sex trafficking is still prominent. Educating law enforcement and the public, we can further progress our efforts to ending sex trafficking in Nebraska. Victim centered systems have altered the way victims re-enter themselves into society. These support systems help educate and provide assistance to those in need.

 

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