Category Archives: Trafficking still not a myth

Tell the BBC commercially raped children are not ‘workers’

The text accompanying this BBC report (which itself does not use the term ‘sex work’), refers to commercially sexually exploited children as ‘workers’.

You can complain to the BBC here, please feel free to copy or adapt the below text:

I am writing to complain about a report on missing/trafficked children in India using the term ‘sex work’ to describe the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Words and the meanings of words matter, a raped child is not a ‘worker’; ‘sex work’ is a partisan term, and using it in the context of child exploitation reduces a sexual exploitation issue to a mere labour issue.

The BBC has been celebrating pimps again!

The BBC has been celebrating pimps again with a link on the front page of their website yesterday inviting people to ‘pimp their video calls’.

I have written to the BBC to complain, you can make a complaint to the BBC here:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/contact/complaints/make-a-complaint/#/Complaint

Please feel free to copy or adapt the wording below:

I am writing to complain about a link on the front page of the BBC’s website yesterday morning (13/05/20), inviting me to ‘pimp my video call’ (the link was to this webpage: https://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/empty_sets_collection/zfvy382). A pimp is someone who uses physical violence and/or psychological manipulation to control another human being in prostitution, if that person is moved around, the pimp is also a human trafficker. I know that ‘to pimp’ is slang for ‘to improve’ but that is not a good enough excuse; there is plenty of other slang that the BBC would never dream of putting in a headline, so why make an exception for sex traffickers? This use of ‘pimp’ was particularly egregious when at the same time, the main page of the BBC news website linked to the story ‘My pimp branded me with a ‘Love is Loyalty’ tattoo’. Words, and the meaning of words, matters; the BBC is setting the standards for the nation, particularly under the present circumstances, and it failed on this occasion.

QotD: “Author of book about victim blaming bombarded with misogynist abuse”

A British academic whose new book is about why women are blamed for crimes committed against them has been subjected to thousands of coordinated attacks from alt-right trolls over the last week, culminating in her personal computer being hacked.

Dr Jessica Taylor, a senior lecturer in forensic and criminal psychology, is due to publish her exploration of victim blaming, Why Women are Blamed for Everything, on 27 April. Looking into what causes society to blame women who have been abused, raped, trafficked, assaulted or harassed by men, the book has drawn increasing publicity, including an appearance on Woman’s Hour.

But since 17 April, Taylor has been targeted by what she describes as a “group of organised trolls” who align themselves with the “alt-right”, men’s rights activists, incel (involuntary celibates) and Mgtow (men going their own way) movements, who have posted thousands of messages on her public Facebook page, including rape and death threats. On 21 April, Taylor contacted police when the screen on her laptop was remotely accessed. The investigation is ongoing.

“They had total control of my keyboard and mouse. I tried to stop them … after about 30 seconds of this, I realised how serious it was and I shut my laptop down and ran inside to turn my wifi off and shut all other devices down,” Taylor told the Guardian on Friday.

For five days, she was receiving 100 comments every few minutes, “everything from telling me to die, kill myself, messages saying ‘I will rape you’, messages saying I am not a real psychologist or PhD, that I’m fat, ugly, disgusting, dyke, ugly lesbian, barren, infertile, will die alone, that my parents hate me etc … When we started banning and blocking, they really ramped it up and it became violent and abusive.”

By Friday, more than 2,000 accounts had been blocked from her Facebook page.

Taylor is the founder of VictimFocus, an international research, teaching and consultancy organisation which aims to challenge the victim blaming of women subjected to violence and abuse. Her book is based on her doctoral research and on her 10 years of practice with women and girls, including interviews with women who were blamed for being raped, and the professionals who supported them.

“I knew the book needed to be written – but I didn’t know it needed to be written this badly. The targeted attacks from men in the last week have been appalling. I will always centre women in my work and I will keep making misogynists uncomfortable. Abuse and trolling is scary and it’s exhausting, but it’s never going to get me to a point where I say, ‘I will just stop talking about the abuse of women and girls,’” said Taylor.

She said the book was “written for every single woman and girl who has been told that she had to do something differently, change something about herself or make her life smaller so she isn’t subjected to male violence. I’ve had enough and millions of other women have had enough, too … [This book] has made a lot of men angry. You have to ask why that is. What are they frightened of?”

(source)

The Prosecutor: One Man’s Pursuit of Justice for the Voiceless, by Nazir Afzal

Nazir Afzal is best known for helping victims of the Rochdale sex abuse ring get justice. When he became a chief crown prosecutor in 2011 he overturned a previous decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to take the case forward, suggesting that as the perpetrators were Asian, “white professionals’ oversensitivity to political correctness . . . may have contributed to justice being stalled”. Nine men were later convicted of a catalogue of offences including rape, sexual activity with a girl under 16 and trafficking for sexual exploitation.

This fast-paced memoir, cantering through some of the most complex, violent and fascinating cases he oversaw, explores what led him to become a champion of the ignored. Afzal grew up in 1960s Birmingham in a Pakistani Muslim family who often felt that “without any warning, we might be told to leave”. The book opens with a powerful account of a young Afzal being assaulted in a racially motivated attack. Afterwards his father tells him: “The police are not interested in you. Justice doesn’t mean anything to us.” Afzal says he felt determined to ensure that justice really was for everyone.

He was an industrious student. Law school beckoned and by the end of the 1980s he was a defence solicitor. A second epiphany came when he was defending a rapist who he knew was lying. “The sex was consensual,” said the man. Afzal resigned that same day. Eventually he realised his calling lay with the CPS, even though the work was “relentless”. What Afzal, who left the CPS in 2015, confronted repeatedly is an anachronistic legal system, with archaic laws and courts that force victims to stand outside with the suspects’ families.

The main thrust of his career focused on what he terms “gender terrorism”: violence against women and girls, including so-called honour killings and forced marriages. He scrutinised in particular the way victims of honour killings were often treated as partly responsible for their own murders. One such case was that of Heshu Yones, a 16-year-old girl from west London whose father slit her throat after she started dating a boy. In court she was portrayed as “wayward” and when the judge sentenced the father, he said that he understood what it must be like to have a daughter who was out of control. The killer received a reduced tariff as a result. Afzal realised there were systemic problems with the way honour killings were handled by the police, by social workers, by the legal system — and started trying to educate them.

A similar victim-blaming attitude was present in Rochdale, where the girls were initially dismissed as not being credible. What had occurred was an epidemic of grooming and abuse; teenagers plied with alcohol and coerced into unprotected intercourse with multiple, much older men. In one case a man poured petrol over a 14-year-old with learning difficulties and threatened to set her alight unless she carried out a sex act on him. It was a world before #MeToo and these girls were brave silence-breakers.

Now Afzal sees the grooming trial as “one of the most important cases in the history of modern British justice”. The repercussions were huge; police officers were investigated and social workers struck off. I wish Afzal had gone into more detail on the case, though — it feels worthy of its own book.

The Prosecutor: One Man’s Pursuit of Justice for the Voiceless by Nazir Afzal

QotD: “Bangladesh sends food aid to prostituted women as industry goes into lockdown”

The government of Bangladesh has started sending emergency food and aid to the tens of thousands of women working in the country’s commercial sex industry as brothels across the country close.

To try to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the authorities have ordered the lockdown of the sex industry, closing the country’s biggest brothel in Goalanda in the Rajbari District of Dhaka until 5 April along with many others across the country.

The closures will leave many of the estimated 100,000 women working in brothels in Bangladesh with no way of supporting themselves or their children.

“We don’t earn much here, I make enough to survive day to day and most of us are in debt,” said one 26-year-old woman who has worked in a brothel in Goalanda for more than seven years. “What will happen if things don’t get better? Yesterday I needed to get some food but all my money is stuck in online banking apps and all the cashpoints are closed. I managed to borrow some from a friend, otherwise I would have been in big trouble.”

Local government official Rubayet Hayat, of the sub-district of Goalanda, said food and financial aid from the disaster management and relief ministry would start to be distributed by the end of this week.

“There are some 1,800 [prostituted women] in the brothels under our jurisdiction. We have asked for 30kgs of rice and 2,000 taka (£20) [for each of these women],” he said. “We have got the initial approval and are hoping the funds will be sanctioned by the end of this week.”

Healthcare workers at a charity hospital near to the brothel in Goalanda said more help would be needed to prevent an outbreak of Covid-19 in brothels and red light districts.

“The brothel area is very dirty and unhygienic. The rooms are inhumanly tiny. The house owners built the rooms strategically for more profit so that they can fit more rooms in a small area,” said Zulfekar Ali, the in-charge doctor at the Gonoshasthaya Kendra charity hospital. “In that same tiny room, the [prostituted women] live, work and often cook. Many share common toilets.”

He added that many women working in the brothels are often reluctant to access healthcare services because they fear being shamed and stigmatised. “We are using loud hailers to spread awareness in the brothels, telling the women who are there to wash their hands properly,” he said.

Prostitution is legal in Bangladesh and the government estimates that around 100,000 women are working in the sex industry. One study reports that less than 10% of those working in prostitution entered the sex trade voluntarily.

So many truths hidden in plain sight (I have ‘edited’ the use of the term ‘sex worker’ to more accurately reflect the reality of the situation), and waiting till the end of the article to mention that over 90% of the women in the sex industry are coerced, and not even bothering to mention that many of these ‘sex workers’ will actually be girls as young as 12! I have sent a complaint email to The Guardian, although they have never once replied, please feel free to copy or adapt the below:

I am writing to complain about the article “Bangladesh sends food aid to sex workers as industry goes into lockdown” (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/apr/06/bangladesh-sends-food-aid-to-sex-workers-as-industry-goes-into-lockdown).

There is something incredibly dishonest about writing an article on ‘sex workers’ in Bangladesh, and only admitting in the final paragraph that over 90% of the women you are writing about are coerced, while the side-bar links to an article that reveals that many of these ‘workers’ will be girls as young as 12.

Under any other circumstances, coerced sex is called rape, but, somehow, if the rapist hands over money afterwards, this rape is relabelled ‘work’. ‘Sex work’ is a partisan, obfuscating term, it turns a sexual abuse issue into a mere labour issue, and disappears the abusers.

The Guardian is still asking for financial support, I will not give you a penny while you are still calling commercially raped women and children ‘workers’.

guardian.readers@theguardian.com
international@theguardian.com
guardianfoundation@theguardianfoundation.org

UPDATE 09/APR/19

Amazingy, The Guardian has responded, and changed the article!

Thank you for your email.

We put your points to the relevant editor who replied:

Yes, in this instance I do agree that the headline was not what it should have been and the reader makes a fair point. We have changed the headline and moved the last paragraph up to near the top of the piece.

We take great care to distinguish between the terms prostitution, sex trafficking and sex work, and the only place that the term ‘sex workers’ was used in the body of this piece was in a direct quote from the Bangladeshi politician. At all other times we used “women working in brothels” as we have no way of knowing how many of the women receiving these aid packages are coerced or working in the brothels of their own free will.

Prostitute and sex worker are very politically charged terms and we usually use the words “women working in prostitution” when not referring to sex trafficking.

I hope this goes some way to addressing your concerns.

The current article is here (same url, changed headline):
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/apr/06/bangladesh-sends-food-aid-to-sex-workers-as-industry-goes-into-lockdown

An archived version of the original article can be found here:
https://web.archive.org/web/20200406102746/https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/apr/06/bangladesh-sends-food-aid-to-sex-workers-as-industry-goes-into-lockdown

The Guardian called commercially raped children ‘sex workers’ again today – but only for a few hours

My gratitude to whoever it was who complained to the Guardian about this article this morning; I saw it myself, and archived the page, but had other things to do today before I could write a complaint email.

It’s still worth spelling out the arguments: rape is not work; a commercially raped child is not a ‘worker’; calling raped children (and adults) ‘workers’ reduces a sexual abuse issue to a mere labour issue.

The Guardian’s own guidelines still say ‘child pornography’ should be referred to as child abuse images. Therefore a recording of a ‘child sex worker’ doing ‘sex work’ would be an image of abuse, but the creation of that abuse image would just be ‘work’, which is nonsensical.

Here’s the original:

And here’s the current version:

It’s interesting to note that the ‘Humanity United’ logo has disappeared from the updated article – it’s nice to imagine that the organisation complained, I’ve looked at their website in the past to see what their stance is on ‘sex work’ and I didn’t see anything calling for decriminalisation of the sex industry.

Children as young as 10 were among more than 230 people rescued last month during a series of raids combating trafficking and forced labour in Niger.

Operation Sarraounia uncovered 46 children who had been sexually abused or forced to beg and hundreds of Ghanaian men who had been recruited online and then enslaved in the capital, Niamey, said Interpol, which provided assistance.

The vast majority of the children rescued were aged between 10 and 17. Most had been sexually abused in hostels and slums, while others had been kidnapped from their families and forced to beg at markets and bus stations.

Many of the minors required immediate medical attention, with some of them displaying advanced human papillomavirus infections, according to Interpol.

Police arrested 18 suspected traffickers during the 10-day operation in late January, said Interpol’s secretary general, Jürgen Stock.

“Whether it’s children, men or women, traffickers show little regard for the health and wellbeing of victims, they are simply a commodity to make money,” said Stock.

“As vital as it is to track and arrest those behind these crimes, we also need to ensure that those rescued are protected and respected throughout the police process.”

The underage victims were all returned to their families, Interpol said, with follow-up provided by social services and NGOs.

QotD: “The portrayal of porn culture as an empowering, feminist win epitomizes the degree to which pop culture feminism has lost its way”

Last Sunday, a number of Pornhub’s most popular Asian performers took to the runway at New York Fashion Week to model the “Herotica” collection from Namilia. The designers behind the label, Nan Li and Emilia Pfohl, described their choice of models as a “feminist statement.” Li explained, “The cosmos of sexual pleasure has been restricted to a few boring and chauvinistic narratives for the pleasure of the male gaze,” adding, “Porn isn’t something existentially male.” With this collection, Li and Pfohl intended to subvert the dominant narrative of submissive Asian women, by using dominatrix-inspired looks — a traditional Chinese dress was deconstructed, and merged with contemporary sadomasochistic porn culture.

The collection is heavily influenced not only by porn, but by sadomasochism in particular — the designers included a schoolgirl-type uniform, with a pink and white pleated leather skirt (a blatant nod to porn culture’s fetishization of girlhood), and printed the phrase “cock wrecker” on a number of items from the collection. During a backstage interview, Li said, “We wanted to take porn into a new context to kind of normalize sex work, prostitution, pornography, and put it in a fashion show context, so there’s not as much shame and taboo,” emphasizing her desire to create a “revolutionary new feminist youth culture.”

The portrayal of porn culture as an empowering, feminist win epitomizes the degree to which pop culture feminism has lost its way, completely abandoning the long-standing feminist goal of female liberation in favour of a faux-feminism that panders to male desire. Far from representing a challenge to the male gaze (the apparent aim of the designers), the show stayed perfectly on script, falling prey to the sleight of hand that has convinced women that our sexual objectification is subversive and liberatory. In a classic marketing move, porn culture and those who profit from it have sold us something that harms us, and convinced us that we wanted it all along.

[…]

Pornhub is one of the most popular porn sites on the internet. Alexa, the leading web-traffic tracker, lists Pornhub in 36th place among the world’s most visited websites, out of tens of millions of sites. Rule out search engines like Google, web portals like Yahoo, and shopping sites like Amazon, Pornhub takes fourth place, beaten out of the top spot by Wikipedia, Microsoft, and Netflix. Four other porn sites crack the top 100, including XVideos, BongaCams, xHamster, and xnxx. Between these five porn sites, their combined views per month exceed 6 billion. That equates to over 138,000 views per minute, or 2,300 views per second. Pornhub alone claims 115 million visits per day, and 42 billion specific searches annually.

Over the last year, Pornhub has been implicated in a number of cases of sex trafficking, child exploitation, and rape, as the site hosts an unknowable number of video recordings of sex crimes. In October, a 15-year-old who had been missing for a year was found after explicit photos of the girl were posted online. Further investigation found that she had appeared in 58 porn videos posted on Pornhub, and the man responsible was arrested in Fort Lauderdale. The girl reported that she was forced to have an abortion after getting impregnated during this time.

A few months after being attacked and raped at knifepoint, Rose Kalemba, who was 14 at the time, found several people from her school sharing a link online in which she was tagged. After clicking on it, Kalemba was led to Pornhub and was horrified to find multiple videos of her attack posted online. Recounting her story, Kalemba said, “The titles of the videos were, ‘Teen crying and getting slapped around,’ ‘Teen getting destroyed,’ ‘Passed out teen.’ One had over 400,000 views.” Kalemba emailed Pornhub numerous times over a period of six months, begging for the videos to be removed from the site, but she received no reply and the videos stayed up. The videos were not removed until Kalemba set up a new email address pretending to be a lawyer and threatened legal action against the site.

In a viral blog entry posted last year, Kalemba shared a detailed account of her ordeal, and called for Pornhub to be held responsible for their extended inaction. She heard from dozens of other girls saying videos of their sexual assaults had also appeared on the site. Though Pornhub claims to remove all videos of assault, the reality does not reflect this and Pornhub continues to unapologetically host videos with titles such as, “Teen abused while sleeping,” “Drunk teen abuse sleeping,” and “Extreme teen abuse.” The company’s defence is that they “allow all forms of sexual expression” that do not go against their terms of service, even if “some people find these fantasies inappropriate.”

More recently, 22 women sued the owners of GirlsDoPorn, Michael James Pratt and Matthew Isaac Wolfe, as well as porn actor Ruben Andre Garcia, saying they were coerced into performing sexual acts on film that were later uploaded to Pornhub. The men had posted Craigslist ads for “beautiful college type preppy girls” needed for photo shoots, but when the women arrived, they were plied with drugs and alcohol and pressured to participate in a porn shoot. The victims were awarded $12.7 million. According to a federal indictment, Pratt and his co-conspirators also produced child pornography and trafficked a minor.

These cases demonstrate how dangerous Pornhub is, and how easily the site can be used as a tool to capitalize on the abuse of vulnerable women and girls. Laila Mickelwait, Director of Abolition for Exodus Cry and anti-pornography activist, found that all that is required to upload content to Pornhub is an email address. No government-issued ID is needed, even to become a “verified user.” She found that it took less than 10 minutes to create an account on Pornhub, and to upload blank content to the site, which was immediately live and accessible to all users. If she wanted to become a verified user, she could have done so with nothing more than a photograph of her holding a piece of paper with her username written on it.

Pornhub is a resource for anyone who wishes to upload content, with absolutely no verification needed other than an email address, making it a perfect breeding ground for exploitation — something they appear to be in no rush to prevent, despite claims made in their terms of service.

In her book, Pornland, Gail Dines explains that when you Google the term “Porn,” over 2.3 billion pages show up in the results, generated in less than half a second, with Pornhub being the top search result (hence it being frequently referred to as the “YouTube of Porn”). Based on what comes up just in the first page of links, some of the most common sex acts in mainstream pornography appear to be vaginal, anal, and oral penetration of one woman by three or more men simultaneously, double anal sex, double vaginal sex, gagging, and bukkake, along with regular references to women being “destroyed,” “punished,” “choked,” and “brutalized.”

The three porn performers that modelled for Namilia are Asa Akira, Marica Hase, and Jade Kush. A quick search of these names on Pornhub turns up videos with titles such as, “Japanese Porn Star Marica Hase Fucked Rough in Bondage,” “Marica Hase Beauty Teen Fucked Hard,” and “You Fuck Jade Kush Every Which Way Then Cum On Her Face.” When we consider the amount of abuse that has been hosted on Pornhub, the normalization of such titles is unsettling at best. And the idea that portraying Asian porn performers as dominatrixes will subvert the norm of submissive Asian women is nonsensical.

First, reversing a norm does not necessarily weaken the norm, and in fact could be said to strengthen it. The reversal is an acknowledgment of its power. The idea of a dominatrix is only considered sexy because we have been taught to eroticize imbalances of power; that a dominatrix is treated as a fetish shows that she represents a deviation from the norm of male domination. She is a male fantasy. Second, we do not undo the damage caused by sexist stereotypes by swapping sides in the narrative. A dominatrix is “sexy” because it is not real — that “power” does not extend beyond that moment, in that bedroom or scene. The dominatrix, though somewhat contrary to the social norm of male supremacy, still reinforces the eroticization of unequal power. Being a “cock wrecker” is not a feminist position, and only further perpetuates the idea of violence and abuse as sexy.

This move by Namilia does nothing to liberate women, and instead represents yet another instance of the pornification of pop culture. Pornhub is not a feminist utopia of sexual empowerment, but quite the opposite — it is a resource frequently utilized by abusers of women for manipulation and humiliation. Collaborating with Pornhub to display outfits that fetishize sexual power imbalance, girlhood, and leather is about as far from feminism as anything could be, and indeed, only serves to normalize and bolster the site not only in the eyes of the general public, but for young women specifically, who are being told this is what feminism looks like.

Andrea Dworkin once wrote that “the new pornography is left wing; and the new pornography is a vast graveyard where the Left has gone to die.” It looks like the corpses will be dressed in pink leather school skirts with “cock wrecker” emblazoned across their chests.

Jessica Masterson, Feminist Current, full article here

QotD: “Porn site to pay $12.7m to women who didn’t know videos would be posted”

A US judge has awarded $13m in damages to 22 women who were defrauded by the owners of GirlsDoPorn, a website specialising in “amateur”-style pornography.

The women were coerced and tricked into making pornography that was released on to some of the biggest adult sites in the world without their consent, leaving some of them suicidal.

The San Diego superior court heard evidence from the women, Jane Does 1 to 22, in a case their lawyers say has “exposed the rotten underbelly of the San Diego sex industry”.

GirlsDoPorn is an adult subscription service launched in 2006 by New Zealander Michael Pratt and operated by Ruben Garcia and Matthew Wolfe. Filmed in homes, hotels and trailer parks, videos on GirlsDoPorn specialise in promoting the image of the “ordinary” college girl who is making her first and only pornographic film.

The women told the court they had replied to ads on Craigslist asking for “beautiful college-type preppy girls” aged 18 to 22 interested in modelling.

After applying for the modelling work, they received phone calls from other women who have been described as a key part of the business – “reference women” who pitched the idea of making porn and assured them that it would never go online.

The women all said they were pressured into taking part. Those who tried to back out once it was clear what was involved were threatened, plied with alcohol and told they would have to pay for their own way home from San Diego.

They were promised that the footage would go straight to DVD for wealthy buyers in other countries, in particular Australia and New Zealand, where the defendants come from.

The videos were in fact uploaded to some of the most used adult sites in the world and have been viewed more than a billion times. Anonymous emails were sent to their families, universities and friends, linking them to the videos.

In her evidence, Jane Doe 1, who was studying law when the videos were released and seen by fellow students, family and friends, said: “I felt ripped apart, piece by piece. Honestly I wanted to commit suicide when it all came out … I tried moving away. I have tried going places people don’t know me and it just follows me everywhere.

“I’m always paranoid when I meet new people that they have seen my video or [when I] meet new people [they] are going to say, ‘I know you.’”

Judge Kevin Enright described in his findings how the need to keep finding young women new to the porn industry drove the “deceptive, coercive and threatening behaviour” used by the defendants.

He said: “Subscribers [to GirlsDoPorn] are meant to be left with the impression that the women in [the] videos are everyday women that they could encounter in their communities, campuses and daily lives.

“In accordance with this ‘one time only’ paradigm … business is dependent on recruiting a constant stream of new models. The court finds … that fraudulent practices [were used] to facilitate such recruitment.”

After the films were released details of the women were published on WikiPorn.

Enright said: “Defendants’ tactics have caused the videos to become common knowledge in [the women’s] communities and among their relations and peers – the very thing that [they] feared and that defendants expressly assured them would not happen.

“Collectively, they have experienced severe harassment, emotional and psychological trauma, and reputational harm; lost jobs, academic and professional opportunities, and family and personal relationships. They have become pariahs in their communities. Several plaintiffs have become suicidal.”

[…]

During the course of the civil trial, Pratt, Garcia and Wolfe were criminally indicted for sex trafficking, among other charges. Garcia and Wolfe are currently in federal custody. Pratt is a fugitive.

Jane Doe 1 also gave evidence about the enormous impact online publication and subsequent WikiPorn leak had on her life. She has since had plastic surgery to try to disguise her appearance.

“I’ve gotten cheek fillers to try and change the structure of my face and microbladed my eyebrows to try and change my appearance,” she said.

At one point, the judge asked her if she needed a break from talking, as she described holding a loaded gun and thinking about taking her own life.

“I shake, I throw up from anxiety. I am on four different pills a day for anxiety. In law school I couldn’t focus.”

In November 2015 60 emails and phone calls called for her to be expelled. The emails went to the dean of the law school, and to the head of the student body with links to the video. “I felt ripped apart, piece by piece. Honestly I wanted to commit suicide when it all came out … I tried moving away. I have tried going places people don’t know me and it just follows me everywhere.

Her life, she says, is irrevocably changed, and her hopes of a legal career have been ended.

“I do not want a career as an attorney. My name is completely destroyed.”

Full article here

QotD: “Fraudster ran lettings empire for drug gangs and people smugglers”

A fraudster who ran an unofficial lettings agency for hundreds of brothels and cannabis farms is facing deportation after being jailed.

Feng Xu handed over the keys for 446 properties from the south of England to Scotland to serious organised criminals.

He used more than 70 aliases and at least 31 fake passports to secure the flats and houses from high street estate agents, then paid the first month’s rent and deposit before allowing crime gangs to pay for the rest of the tenure.

Over three and a half years more than £4 million in rent was paid out to estate agents that had let the properties to him, unaware that they were being used to house prostitutes and sex slaves and to grow marijuana.

The case is the first time that the National Crime Agency (NCA) has prosecuted someone involved in supplying properties for such uses.

He was investigated by teams working in modern slavery over concerns that he was supplying groups involved in people-smuggling. He admitted 22 offences of fraud and money laundering at Birmingham crown court in October and on Friday last week was jailed for seven years and four months.

He faces deportation after serving his sentence because he came to Britain from China in 1996 on a student visa and became an illegal overstayer.

“We established that his day-to-day activity was involved in renting properties,” Daren Nicholls, senior investigating officer at the NCA, said.

“We see him as a ‘go to’ person, a professional enabler. He’s someone criminals have gone to when they’ve needed a property. That’s how he earns money.”

The agency has said that there may be others offering similar services. Investigators described how Feng, 43, would use fake identities to secure the flats, which were mainly two-bedroom properties in city centres or close to train stations so that they were accessible to travellers seeking prostitutes.

Feng, who claimed to work in IT, would then provide fake payslips and utility bills to companies carrying out due diligence on behalf of the estate agents and phone numbers and email addresses that were secretly controlled by him to support his story.

He was arrested in May after a surveillance operation in which he had been seen visiting estate agents and properties and taking trains up and down the country. He also visited a Cartier jewellery shop.

He first came to the attention of the authorities after police in Lincolnshire found that a number of properties had been let to the same person using different identities. Most were flats but two were farmhouses in Shropshire and Gloucestershire where the cannabis farms were located. The owners had not suspected that anything was amiss because the criminals to whom Feng was sub-letting the properties ensured the rent was paid, Mr Nicholls said.

He is thought to have made a couple of thousand pounds per property and the NCA said that his empire covered 34 police forces across the country, including in Scotland.

When he was arrested he was found with meticulous notes because “if you’re going to operate 70 aliases, you need to be organised and be able to deal with letting agents when they come on the phone”, Mr Nicholls said.

Martin Grace, branch commander at the NCA, said that the conviction “will have caused significant disruption to a number of different organised crime groups involved in prostitution, people-smuggling and drug production. While he wasn’t necessarily involved in those types of offences himself, he was an important enabler for those who were. Put simply, these crime groups could not do what they do without his services.”

Attempts are under way to find the women working as prostitutes.

(source)

QotD: “Major global hotel brands accused of profiting from sex trafficking”

Hotel brands owned by Hilton, Intercontinental and Best Western are among a number of leading global chains accused of profiting from sex trafficking.

In a landmark case that lawyers claim demonstrates “industry-wide failures” to prevent sex trafficking, it has been alleged that women and children were held captive, abused and sold for sex in their guest rooms across the US.

A total of 13 women have accused a dozen hotel groups of wilfully ignoring warning signs that sexual exploitation was taking place on their premises.

The litigation, which was filed this week in a federal court in Columbus, Ohio, marks the first time the hotel industry has faced legal action as a group. It draws together 13 separate lawsuits filed in Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Texas.

New York law firm Weitz & Luxenberg – litigating on behalf of the women, many of whom were minors when the trafficking was alleged to have occurred – said the hotels “derived profit” and “benefited financially” by “providing a marketplace for sex trafficking”.

“It seems clear to us that these hotels knowingly put their own profits over the protection of the children, teenagers and young women who were being sold for sex at their hotels,” said Paul Pennock, trafficking and abuse practice group leader at the firm.

“We believe that they neglected their duty to take action to stop these heinous crimes for decades, and it is time for them to be held responsible for what they perpetuated through total inaction.”

One of the women in the complaint says she was held captive for six weeks in 2012 at various Wyndham Hotels locations, where repeated beatings broke her nose on two occasions, left her lip permanently scarred and caused an infection on her face. She was 26 at the time.

“I just wish that people realise how much [sex trafficking] really is here in the US,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a shady hotel or a nice hotel, it’s going on in all of them.”

An estimated 80% of all human trafficking arrests occur in or around hotels, the lawsuit claims. In 2014, 92% of the calls the National Human Trafficking Hotline received involved reports of sex trafficking taking place at hotels, according to the litigation.

Despite well-publicised industry-wide initiatives to tackle child and sex trafficking, including staff training to identify potential victims, the hotel chains named in the lawsuit failed to adequately implement such policies, and in some cases failed to implement any policies at all, the lawsuit claims.

“As well as the trafficking of enslaved children and exploited women in the sex industry, hotels should also be concerned about the risks of forced labour in ancillary services such as cleaning and catering,” said Aidan McQuade, former director of Anti-Slavery International.

“But this case should be a reminder to all businesses in all industries, not just hospitality, of something they should have learned over at least the past 10 years: unless you can establish effective systems to identify and remediate slavery and trafficking where it occurs in your supply chains and operations, you may well be the next held to account in the courts of law and public opinion.”

Full article here