Recent Midwest Sex Trafficking Convictions
Indianapolis, the hometown of SOLD founder Rachel Sparks-Graeser, recently had its first-ever human trafficking conviction. A 19-year old woman was violently forced to sell herself for sex and work at a local strip club against her will. The human trafficking law used in the conviction was started in Indiana in 2007; read the full legislation here.
Even Omaha, Nebraska had a sex trafficking ring bust. The initial arrests took place in January 2010, and the last of three offenders was sentenced to prison last week. One fifteen-year old girl was discovered to be among the victims, along with a woman from La Vista, a small suburb where SOLD employee Heather Colletto attended school. The ring, which had been operating since August 2007, ran out of both Omaha and Council Bluffs, Iowa, which are across the Missouri River from each other.
According to a local news report on Feb. 7, 2011:
“Sex trafficking is human trafficking,” said United States Attorney Klinefeldt. “It often involves, as it did in this case, physical abuse as well as mental and emotional abuse. The horrible acts in this case were committed against young women, one of whom was just fifteen years old. These are important cases, and we will continue to prioritize them and prosecute the people who commit these acts to the fullest extent of the law.”
An FBI Special Agent in Omaha added that sex trafficking is not only a “growing problem” in the country, but also locally. Often Americans have a “that can’t happen here” mentality that allows commercial sexual exploitation to persist without much notice. As the issue of sex trafficking becomes an issue more people are aware of, it is important that we understand it isn’t just something that happens in the rural communities of northern Thailand.
Last year, a friend of SOLD noticed a very young teenage girl dressed up (a little too much) and out (a little too) late near a local Starbucks on several occasions. It was just something too out of place to ignore. Maybe it was nothing. Or maybe it was something. But this friend reported it, and her awareness of the issue and understanding that it can happen anywhere could have possibly saved a young girl.