Parenting Fail: Like Father Like Son

by Michelle Brock on October 29th, 2010

parenting fail 300x300Each parent has their own methods and ideas when raising children, but this one wins the year’s worst parenting award.  A BBC article tells the story of Romanian Bogdan and Marius Nejloveanu, a father and son who ran a family business of trafficking women into the UK.  The women were promised homes and jobs, but upon arrival were forced into prostitution in Manchester.

Rachel Smith, the prosecutor for the case, is quoted saying: “you may conclude that the son learnt this trade from his father and that this was a family business.”

How does this happen?  A letter from father to son might have looked something like this:

Dear Son,

letter writing2I love you, and want to provide you with a significant income stream that will benefit you and our extended family.  As your father, I want to train you to take over the family business.  You are finally old enough to learn this valuable trade.  By working with me, you won’t have to be tied down to some regular job that pays next to nothing.  This business is international in nature, allowing you to be free from the rules of both Romania and the UK.

Since you were a child, I have taught you that women are inferior to men.  But they are useful to us. Why? Because sex sells.  Hookers make bank.  But not for themselves…for us.

Here’s how we operate.  Look for vulnerable women aged 19 to 27.  You know how to spot them…there really isn’t very much opportunity for a lot of them in Romania, and this is to our advantage.  Befriend them, charm them.  Stay in shape and dress well – this will make your job easier.  Offer them jobs in the UK, whatever you feel they are interested in: nannying, waitressing, modelling, whatever.  Tell them housing is covered too.  This will get them to start dreaming about their new little home in England and how they want to decorate it.  They will feel like they won the lottery.

Once you have wooed them, I will teach you how to get them to the UK.  And you have already seen what we do once they arrive: rape them into submission and train them for the streets. Manipulations, threats, and physical force are all good tactics at this point.  Once they start working you will be rolling in cash.  There is a lot of demand out there.

I know you will do well, my son.  I am excited about taking you on as my business partner.  You won’t be disappointed.

Sincerely, Dad

Manchester Court1Fortunately, Bogdan and Marius Nejloveanu were arrested and are facing 33 charges, which they have denied.  The son faces six counts of rape, nine counts of trafficking, assault, controlling prostitution for gain, causing sexual activity without consent, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.  All of these acts took place between 2006 and 2010.  The trial is expected to last six weeks.

Fathers, please train your sons to respect and value women.

Michelle Brock

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My Interview With the Mother of a Missing Victim of Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on October 27th, 2010

missing jessie foster1This is Jessie Foster.  She is a beautiful Canadian girl who worked at Boston Pizza in Kamloops, BC before moving to Calgary to live with her father in 2005.  She met a man at a party who had an extra ticket to Florida, and Jessie took the bait despite warnings from her family.  After arriving in Ft. Lauderdale the man told her she had to “repay him” by being sold for sex.  Jessie was moved to New York, Atlantic City, and finally Las Vegas.

On March 24th, 2006, Jessie called her mom from Las Vegas, telling her she wanted to come home and would try to back in Canada by Easter.  It was the last time Glendene Grant heard her daughter’s voice.  Easter came and went. A private investigator discovered that a man was offering Jessie for sale through escort ads in Las Vegas.  He was the last person to see her alive.

jessie foster missing posterSince then Glendene has done everything in her power to locate her daughter.  Jessie has been profiled on America’s Most Wanted and posters like this one have been widely distributed.  As published in Benjamin Perrin’s Invisible Chains, here is a letter Jessie’s mother wrote in an effort to get a message out to her daughter:

My sweet, dear, wonderful Jessie…

Hi baby, this is Mom.  I just wanted to let you know how much I miss you and how hard we are working to find you and bring you home.  I know how scared you must be and how worried you are about us worrying about you.  With all my heart and soul I feel you are alive and out there, somewhere, needing to be found and rescued. We will do that.

Jessie and MomJessie, I also want you to know that we know what you have been through.  We know what was happening in Vegas.  Do not blame yourself or think you need to be forgiven for anything.  You are a victim, even if you think you could have left, you were not able to – you being a victim of human trafficking is proof of that.  You were trying to come home to Canada and someone stopped you…I have missed two of your birthdays and a lot of other special occasions and holidays…you have such a strong, huge support system, Jess.  Your friends all miss you and are so worried and supportive to us.

Jessie, remember…we will find you, love Mom xoxoxoxoxo

I had the honour of recently meeting Glendene and asking her about her experience.  Here is what she had to say.

What is the hardest part about losing Jessie?

Not knowing.  That is the hardest part.  When Jessie went missing I entered into the family that no one wants to be in, and that’s the family of missing loved ones.  But that’s also the family where you will get the most love and support from anywhere.

What do you love about Jessie?

Jessie is the most beautiful, sassiest, spunkiest person you can meet.  People thought she was a boy until she grew up to be a knockout.  She can swear and burp and spit –  she’s an everything girl – the kind of person everyone wants to be friends with.  Jessie was not a prostitute wannabe, she is not a drug addict, or someone who would abandon her family.  She is fun-loving, had tons of friends…she danced and worked and lived life.

What are some warning signs to watch out for?

It’s a tough call.  If it seems too good to be true it is…the phone calls, the control someone has over you.  I made a list of what a person who cares for you would and would not do.  Jessie thought she could handle herself, and when you are 21 no one can tell you what to do.

What was it like when she first went missing?

The night Jessie went missing, the phone rang and my other daughter was calling me on a friend’s phone who happened to have a Las Vegas 702 area code.  All I heard was screaming and yelling and I thought it was Jessie calling for help, and my daughter was screaming, “no mom, it’s not Jessie, it’s Crystal.”  We never heard from Jessie after that.

How do you feel about Jessie being mentioned in Benjamin Perrin’s book?

Invisible Chains is such an ironic book for Jessie to be in.  When she first went missing I was told not everyone is behind a locked door.  So I got this picture in my head that helped me, one in which Jessie was sitting on a beach somewhere with a mai tai in her hand – she is still trafficked and can’t phone – but at least she is in the fresh air and not in a basement behind a locked door.  Benjamin Perrin came up with the term “invisible chains” but I had been thinking about that already before I even met him.

IMG 5292 225x300What keeps you going?

When Jessie went missing I had no control, no choice. That is why I am making these choice now because I can.  I couldn’t choose to have a kid go missing but I can definitely do everything from there on.  I can make that choice.

If you could send out one message out to our readers, what would it be?

Listen to Jessie’s story, does any of it resonate with you? Look at the faces of the missing.  Look at the people you pass on the street.

Thanks Glendene for sharing your heart with us.  We support you in your search for Jessie wait for the day we can celebrate her rescue with you.  For those of you who want to learn more about Jessie’s story, check out www.jessiefoster.ca and M.A.T.H. (Mothers Against Trafficking Humans).  Let’s bring this girl home!

Michelle Brock

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The Pressure Is On for Craigslist Canada: Shut Down the Erotic Services Section!

by Michelle Brock on October 26th, 2010

Craigslist

In September, after pressure from NGOs and 17 American attorneys general, Craigslist shut down the erotic services section in the U.S. It was a day of celebration for anti-trafficking groups across America, as Craigslist is a medium of choice for traffickers who sell their girls online.

toronto 300x197Unfortunately Craigslist has not taken the same action in Canada, and sexual exploitation through their online doors continues to flourish.  In fact, over the last few years there has been a dramatic growth in the number of erotic services ads in Canadian cities like Toronto, which saw a 100% increase between 2008 and 2009.  This figure is on the rise, and victims of trafficking are increasingly being discovered amidst those who advertise their services ‘by choice.’  Sadly these victims are impossible to distinguish based on a mere photo and description online, and most of those who have been found have already been exploited for a while through the online market.

When Craigslist shut down its erotic services in the U.S., many wondered why it did not extend the action to Canada as well.  Craigslist simply stated that there was no concern expressed from Canadian authorities to do the same.

perrin 3Benjamin Perrin, author of Invisible Chains, is on a mission to change that.  He has spoken extensively with Craigslist about this, asking them to take action in Canada.  It has fallen on deaf ears. So Perrin is rallying up Canadian citizens and leaders send the message to Craigslist, loud and clear.

Three Ontario cabinet ministers are on board, recently sending a letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster.  Manitoba, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan have followed suit.  The pressure is building.  And if Craigslist refuses to take action?

“I’m prepared to lay private criminal charges against Craigslist” says Perrin in a CBC article, “The basis of the case would be the evidence we have obtained through our research over a three-year period that they are aiding and abetting human trafficking and the sale of minors and prostitution.”

And what can you do, as a Canadian citizen wanting to take action? Sign an online petition to make your voice heard. There are almost 10,000 signatures to date, so add yours now!

Michelle Brock

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We Were Built to Last Music Video

by Michelle Brock on October 22nd, 2010

I saw this music video about sexual exploitation and hope for healing at Benjamin Perrin’s Invisible Chains book tour in Vancouver.  Check it out – Dani & Lizzy do good work.

Michelle Brock

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The Invisible Chains Book Tour Comes to Vancouver!

by Michelle Brock on October 20th, 2010

IMG 52961 225x300On Monday night I attended Benjamin Perrin’s book tour in Vancouver for Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking.  The tour began in Toronto and has already hit several cities on its way across the country.

As I sat in a coffee shop yesterday reading the book before the event, there were moments I had to put it down and allow my mind to really process what I was reading.  I thought I was somewhat knowledgeable about human trafficking in Canada, but the stories, facts, and information in Perrin’s book have moved me to the core and helped me realize I have so much still to learn.

The place was packed and more seats had to be brought in.  I sat between one of Perrin’s law school colleagues and some of his students from UBC.  Within a few minutes our conversation was in full swing, and I really got the sense that people are curious, intrigued, and disturbed about this phenomenon that is being brought to their attention.

IMG 52784 1024x768IMG 5281 1024x768

IMG 5283 300x225The event kicked off with a powerful short film that gave an overview of the issue.  It included testimonies from young victims who were being sold for sex at truck stops in the U.S. and victims from Romania who were deceived by traffickers.  It also summarized Perrin’s experience in Cambodia, which served to set the stage for the work he does today.  I was delighted to see that a section of our documentary was used in this introduction film as well.

Perrin talked about ‘micro-brothels,’ Craigslist, Aboriginal trafficking, and how Pearson and Vancouver airports have reportedly been infiltrated by organized crime who get their associates hired to work there.  He told story after story of foreign victims who came to Canada and found themselves being sold for sex in various cities across the country, and domestic victims that were sold by their ‘boyfriends.’  Perrin had a very engaging, personable way of speaking and even managed to occasionally throw in some cheesy humour to alleviate the heaviness in the room…much appreciated by many, I am sure!

IMG 5291 1024x574After the talk we had some Q & A, and a rep from the UBC student paper asked about the rights of women who choose to be prostitutes, touching on the issue of legalization.  Perrin said this:

IMG 52794 300x225“When responding to sex workers who choose their profession, I say “thank you for speaking out.  But I am speaking for the 85-95% of those in the sex trade who don’t have the luxury of driving down to the CTV station tonight to talk about their rights.  Studies show that up to 95% of women in the sex trade desperately want out but have no exit strategy.  You can imagine if I told you there was asbestos in the walls of this room.  95% of us will get cancer.  How many would say: ‘but 5% won’t get cancer, so let’s just leave the asbestos in the walls.’ When you are making public policy you have to take into account the most vulnerable.”

After the talk everyone had the opportunity to check out some tables set up by anti-trafficking organizations and get their copies of Invisible Chains signed by Perrin.  I had the honour of meeting and interviewing the mother of a Canadian trafficking victim who is still missing (a post on this coming soon), and reconnect with Michelle Miller who we interviewed for our documentary last year.

IMG 5294 1024x768IMG 5293 1024x768If book sales alone were the measure for success, the Invisible Chains Vancouver event would certainly be described as such!  Check Benjamin Perrin’s website for more info on human trafficking in Canada, and buy his book here.  And just so you know, part of the proceeds are going to help victims of trafficking rebuild their lives!  Expect a book review soon.

Michelle Brock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Misguided Optimism Makes Us Bad Global Citizens

by Michelle Brock on October 14th, 2010

good citizenAll of us like to think that we are generally good employees, friends, spouses, mothers, fathers, students, and citizens.  While optimism can motivate us to be more confident and productive, misguided optimism and wearing rose-coloured glasses when assessing our own character can provide us a grand disservice.

Our society has created a culture of disconnection. No longer do we kill the animals we eat or plant the seeds that provide us with vegetables.  Due to high government regulations it is illegal to even sell your cow’s milk to a neighbour!  We play video games and watch movies to feel adventure instead of sailing out on an open ocean or trekking into the wild to confront our fears.  Facebook, texting, and even blogging (yes, I realize the irony) have replaced a knock on a friend’s door.  We are more informed, educated, cyber-connected and efficient, but this ultimately results in a culture of disconnection.

consumerismWhen consumerism is paired with a culture of disconnection, a market for exploitation begins to take shape. Yes, there is a reason you got ‘such a good deal’ on those jeans, jacket, or shirt.  Yes, someone did pick the coffee beans you now enjoy in your americano.  No, it is not a coincidence the same countries appear on label after label when you check for laundry instructions on your clothing. People around the world sacrifice more, more, more while we buy more for less, less, less.

Why am I talking about this on a blog about sex trafficking? Because one of the root causes of trafficking is poverty. Buying products for a ‘good deal’ reinforces the market for exploitation.  Families in India, China, Thailand, the Philippines, Honduras, Mexico, Ethiopia, and the Ivory Coast are struggling to support themselves with the meager wages earned from making us clothes, coffee, tea, and other products.  The global economic structure does not allow them to compete fairly with Western countries, which embeds poverty into communities…and poverty makes people do desperate things.

Like selling a daughter to a brothel owner so at least some children in the family can be fed.

Like searching for jobs overseas and getting enticed by traffickers who make false promises.

chocolateWhether we like to think about it or not, our daily choices have an impact on those we have disconnected ourselves from.  I recently decided not to buy chocolate that is not fair trade.  Yes, I pay more for a chocolate bar which means I eat less chocolate.  But regular chocolate, despite its sweetness, began to taste bitter on my tongue as I thought about the labourers who were exploited so that I could have a snack with my tea.

Here’s a revolutionary concept: Let’s consume less, buy wisely, and give more.

It does cost to be a good global citizen. Please don’t be fooled: your optimism about how ‘good’ you really are can lead you astray.  If you do decide to wear rose-coloured glasses, make sure you remove them every once-in-a-while to ensure you are not stepping on any wayward petals.  I am trying my best to do the same.

Michelle Brock

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Benjamin Perrin Begins Book Tour: Press Conference Highlights

by Michelle Brock on October 12th, 2010

Benjamin PerrinThis morning I attended an online press conference for Benjamin Perrin, author of Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking.  The book tour begins today in Toronto, and the sold out events across the country are a clear indication that there is a growing tide of awareness about the issue in Canada. Here are some highlights from this morning:

  • Human trafficking cases have occurred across several cities, including Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, and Halifax. Smaller towns and rural areas are unfortunately not exempt.
  • Trafficking victims fall into one of three categories: foreign sex trafficking, forced labour trafficking, and domestic sex trafficking.
  • Of foreign victims, 74% are women.  6% are minors.  42% are victims of sex trafficking while 46% are used for forced labour.  Less than 10% came forward on their own or with a lawyer to immigration authorities.  Most were identified by police.
  • 59% of victims came from Asia, 33% from Eastern/Central Europe, 4% from Africa, and 4% from South America.  China, Moldova, the Phillippines, and Romania were the top source countries. Some women are brought in from war zones.
  • craigslist graph 300x225Victims have been found in ‘micro-brothels,’escort agencies, massage parlours, stripclubs, and being advertised on Craigslist. Since Craigslist took down their exotic services section in the U.S., the ads have slowed down to a trickle (as seen in graph).  As a graph shown in the conference revealed however, Craigslist erotic service ads in Toronto and Vancouver have shot up.  This must be brought to an end as Craigslist is a tool regularly used by traffickers.
  • The estimated revenue annually for one Canadian victim of sex trafficking is $280,000.
  • Ontario is the top destination province for trafficking victims.  Currently it does not have a provincially mandated body to coordinate services.  An Ontario Coalition Against Human Trafficking must be created.

invisible chainsFor more information, check out Perrin’s website and order a copy of Invisible Chains.  And if you are one of the lucky people who snatched tickets to one of the book tour events over the next couple of weeks, I would love to know about your experience!

Michelle Brock

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SOLD: MTV Exit Special on Human Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on October 11th, 2010

mtv exitAs you may know, MTV is making an effort to raise awareness about human trafficking though their MTV Exit Campaign.  In this short documentary the three forms of human trafficking are addressed: labour, domestic servitude, and sexual exploitation. Let’s not be naive in thinking that these are never linked.

The only part of the content I disagree with is when they tell purchasers of sex to make sure they are distinguishing between trafficking victims and girls who want to sell their bodies.  This is foolish advice, as most victims are trained under threat to perform with a smile on their face.  This often makes them impossible to identify.

That said, this film is worth watching, as it shows interviews with victims, trafficking middle-men, and those who patrol borders and train stations in India to spot suspicious activity.  Thanks Amanda from Culture Unplugged for sending me the link to this film!

Michelle Brock

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Send an Online Greeting Card & Help Stop Human Trafficking: Love 146 is Your One-Stop Shop!

by Michelle Brock on October 7th, 2010

e cards

I recently found these cool online greeting cards from Love 146, a great organization that fights sex trafficking.  Pick the one you want from these options and make a donation in the name of the one you are sending it to.  Below are a couple samples, and you can check out the full selection here.  Happy browsing!

Michelle Brock

baby card1

bday card1

anniversary card

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Prostitution Law for Dummies: Ontario’s Recent Court Ruling in 9 Simple Points

by Michelle Brock on October 5th, 2010

Bedford

The last seven days have been kind of a big deal in Ontario when it comes to human trafficking and prostitution.  If you have somehow missed it in the news or are unclear as to what actually happened last week, here is a list of the basics you must know.

  • Two sex trade workers, Terry-Jean Bedford and Valerie Scott (along with Amy Lebovitch and their lawyer Alan Young), launched a constitutional challenge of Canada’s anti-prostitution laws.  In simple terms, they want prostitution and everything surrounding the actual act to be decriminalized. This would make prostitution legal, allowing sex workers to operate freely. (To be more precise, the process of prostitution would be allowed.  Check out what John posted in the comments section to understand this more).
  • Last week on September 28th the Ontario Superior Court ruled in favour of their proposal.  As a result, now in Ontario it is no longer illegal to keep a bawdy house (brothel), communicate for the purposes of prostitution, or live off the avails of the sex trade.
  • Bedford said that is was like emancipation day for sex workers, because now they can work from the safety of their homes instead of facing the dangers of the street.  Valerie Scott said that now sex workers can “pick up the phone and call the police to report a bad client.”
  • Not everyone is celebrating.  Many claim that prostitution and sex trafficking are linked. MP Joy Smith, who works with victims of trafficking, had girls call her in tears when they found out about the Ontario court ruling.
  • Police point out that in some cases trafficking victims are unwilling to cooperate with police because they fear their traffickers.  In such cases, police have been able to charge the trafficker with living off the avails of prostitution.  Now they can no longer do this.  This means that pimps cannot be charged for living off the money that their girls bring them through forced prostitution.
  • Some argue that prostitution is a chosen profession, just like any other.  However several studies show that most ‘sex workers’ chose their ‘profession’  because of dire circumstances that were not based on real choice at all.  Many are too drug-addicted and manipulated by pimps to make their own decisions.  Benjamin Perrin points out in his CBC radio interview and Globe and Mail article that though Bedford is a confident woman in her 50s today, her affidavit tells the story of a childhood filled with physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.  At 16 years old while she was under provincial child protection, she met “an abusive 37-year old drug dealer and drug addict” and was sold for sex to fund their drug addictions.
  • Anti-trafficking groups want Canada to adopt the Swedish model of dealing with prostitution, which criminalizes the men who buy sex and offers the sellers of it with help to leave the industry.
  • Justice Susan Himel, who made the court decision, stated that the information about sex trafficking brought to her attention was “incidental and not directly relevant to her decision.”  In other words, she does not believe there to be a link at all between prostitution and sex trafficking.
  • The federal government is going to appeal the court ruling in an attempt to reverse the decision made by Himel.

The debate about prostitution and human trafficking in Canada is going to be quite a hot one for a while.  Here are a couple of resources that can help you gain an understanding about the ruling and the prostitution debate.

I promise to keep you up to date with how this develops.  What do you think about the Ontario court ruling?  Feel free to post a comment to kick off the conversation!

Michelle Brock

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