Tag Archives: sexual

Human trafficking cases rise in Wisconsin, U.S.

New data show a 17 percent increase in the number of human trafficking cases handled in Wisconsin in 2015 and an increase of 24 percent nationwide.

Polaris, a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery, released data earlier in February from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline and the BeFree Textline. The organization’s numbers do not represent the full scope of the problem, but rather the incoming calls for help.

There were 50 cases of human trafficking reported to the hotline from Wisconsin in 2015, including 45 cases of sex trafficking and three cases of labor trafficking.

In 2014, Polaris reported 43 cases of human trafficking from Wisconsin.

Since 2007, the organization has received reports of 205 cases in the state.

Nationwide, the increase in the number of cases was larger — 24 percent from 2014 to 2015 and an increase of 519 percent since 2008.

There were 5,973 cases of human trafficking reported to the hotline and the BeFree textline in 2015. Most of these cases involved reports of sex trafficking and about 30 percent of the survivors or victims were identified as U.S. citizens.

“From the domestic servant forced to work for little pay who required emergency shelter to the young girl made to sell sex online against her will who texted us for crisis support, survivors of human trafficking are reaching out to the national hotline more than ever,” said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris. 

Also, recent research by Northeastern University funded by the National Institute of Justice found that posting the number to the hotline in public areas is one of the most effective ways to increase the number of human trafficking arrests. The hotline has collected more than 6,500 tips since 2007.

Myles said, “More survivors calling the national hotline means more women, children and men are being connected to life-changing support through the incredible work of more than 3,000 service-provider partners across the country.”

In Wisconsin, those partners — prosecutors, police officers, social workers, educators, victims advocates, lawyers and other professionals — have begun meeting as a task force to address eradicating modern-day slavery. The task force consists of 37 members representing public and private agencies and is co-chaired by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson.

At the task force’s first meeting in late 2015, the attorney general’s office shared the case of a 15-year-old girl rescued from sex-traffickers by Department of Justice agents. Undercover officers found information for the girl, missing from her home for months, posted on an Internet site under “escort.” 

“We challenged everyone in the room to make this a true working group — one that works to improve training, law enforcement, prevention, awareness, advocacy, resources for victims seeking help, sensible legislation, counseling and other direct services to survivors, housing for survivors and aftercare,” Schimel said after the meeting.

Task force members emphasized their work on this issue requires putting aside partisanship and politics.

“We have an amazing multi-disciplinary group from all across the state,” Schimel stated. “If anyone can accomplish something, it is this group.”

A month after the task force’s first meeting, legislators introduced SB 618, legislation intended to make certain that child victims of human trafficking can access services. Through a loophole in the law, child victims of human trafficking are not automatically eligible for services made available to victims of child abuse. 

The measure also would require the reporting of suspected abuse — child prostitution and sex-trafficking — to a law enforcement or social services agency, possibly leading to earlier intervention in cases.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety held a hearing on the measure on Feb. 1.

On the line

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline is 1-888-373-7888. Reach the Polaris BeFree textline at 233733.

Recognition in Racine

Karri Hemmig on Feb. 2 received the first “Unsung Hero Award” from Racine Mayor John Dickert for her work with the Racine Coalition Against Human Trafficking. “I don’t know that people realize that for years, Karri worked without a salary to make sure the lives of our women and men, boys and girls who have become victims of human trafficking are rescued from a perilous future,” Dickert said.
— L.N.

Senate passes bill to help victims of human trafficking

The Senate unanimously passed legislation on April 22 to help the victims of human trafficking, ending a tortuous partisan standoff over abortion that also delayed confirmation of President Barack Obama’s attorney general nominee.

The vote was 99-0 to approve the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which expands law enforcement tools to target sex traffickers and creates a new fund to help victims. The House has passed similar legislation and the White House has voiced support.

“We have not fallen deaf to the cries of those who actually need our help, the victims of human trafficking,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the lead GOP sponsor. “This legislation will be instrumental in helping victims of sexual abuse and trafficking recover from a life in bondage.”

The unanimous outcome put a bipartisan punctuation mark on legislation that started out with wide support from both parties, but veered into a partisan cul-de-sac last month when Democrats said they’d noticed language that could expand federal prohibitions on abortion funding. How or why Democrats had failed to see the provision in the first place became a topic of frosty dispute on Capitol Hill, with Republicans pointing out that the bill had unanimously passed committee, and one Democratic senator’s office acknowledging that an aide had in fact known of the abortion language.

At the same time, Attorney General-designate Loretta Lynch languished despite commanding enough votes to be confirmed, because Republican leaders made the decision, never fully explained, to delay her confirmation vote until the trafficking bill was completed. Now that it is, Lynch will get a vote on April 23 to replace Eric Holder and become the nation’s first black female attorney general.

The partisan gridlock on the trafficking bill and Lynch made no one look good, and with all sides eager for a resolution Cornyn worked with Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to arrive at a compromise, which they announced on April 21. It addresses Democratic concerns about expanding prohibitions on spending federal funds for abortions, by splitting the new victims’ fund into two pieces.

One part of the fund would be made up of fines paid by sex traffickers, and it could not go for health services, rendering the abortion restrictions moot. The other part of the fund, which could go for medical services, builds on $5 million already appropriated by Congress for Community Health Centers, which are already subject to abortion spending prohibitions. The compromise allowed both sides to claim a win since Republicans ensured any money for health services could not go for abortions, while Democrats could say that they had prevented prohibitions on spending federal money for abortions from being expanded to a new source of money.

“An effort to fight back against human trafficking in our country is, without question, no place for gridlock and dysfunction,” Murray said. “It certainly shouldn’t have taken this long but I’m pleased that we were able to work together, find common ground and reach an agreement.”

With the bill finally greased for passage following announcement of the abortion compromise, Republican leaders staved off one final partisan controversy by persuading conservatives in the caucus to hold back on a handful of immigration-related amendments they wanted to offer. U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said he was urged to pull back an amendment that would have allowed for punishing people for immigrating illegally with their kids or other family members.

“I yielded to higher authorities against my better judgment. … We ended up with no immigration amendments,” Sessions said. “They wanted another bipartisan accomplishment and it wouldn’t have achieved it.”

The amendments that did get attached to the bill passed with little controversy, though one, by Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., drew concerns from at least one advocacy group. The measure would make it illegal for websites or social media sites to “knowingly” sell advertisements for sex services involving minors. A pro-privacy group, the Center for Democracy and Technology, said the measure was so vaguely written that it potentially makes every U.S. company that hosts web content subject to criminal prosecution.

Announced presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, missed the vote.

Sexuality survey refutes key evangelical claim

Right-wing evangelicals claim that acceptance of gays contributes to widespread sexual promiscuity, but a new government survey of Americans’ sexual behavior offers evidence to the contrary.

According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer teens and young adults are having sex of any kind than they were in 2002, the last time the survey was conducted.

Among 15 to 24 year olds, 27 percent of males and 29 percent of females reported they had never had sexual contact with another person. Only 22 percent of males and females that age reported being virginal in 2002.

During the years between surveys, acceptance of same-sex relations has risen dramatically and five states have enacted same-sex marriage laws. (Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, has the lowest divorce rate in the nation. Divorce rates are highest in the southern Bible Belt and western red states.)

The new sex survey also looked at same-sex relationships, and found that twice as many women as men admit to having had a same-sex experience. Among 15 to 44-year-old women, 13 percent say they’ve had a sexual experience with a woman. Only 5 percent of men in that age group acknowledged being intimate with another man.

aWomen were also three times more likely than men to say they are bisexual.





Hefner and the unhealthy straight lifestyle

The religious right spends millions of dollars each year promoting inflammatory depictions of unhealthy gay “lifestyles” as the norm for the LGBT community. But it appears that the creator of the world’s most envied straight lifestyle, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, lives a life of sexual dysfunction more gag-worthy than anything evangelical Christians can throw at us.

In her new memoir, former Playmate Izabella St. James reveals how Hefner, 84, treats his harem at that temple of traditional heterosexism known as the Playboy Mansion. For starters, she recounts the problem of Hef’s dogs:

“They weren’t house-trained and would just do their business on the bedroom carpet,” writes St. James, in excerpts that appeared in London’s Daily Mail. “Late at night, or in the early hours of the morning – if any of us visited Hef’s bedroom – we’d almost always end up standing in dog mess. Everything in the Mansion felt old and stale, and Archie the house dog would regularly relieve himself on the hallway curtains, adding a powerful whiff of urine to the general scent of decay.”

St. James also shares how Hefner, who recently announced his engagement to Crystal Harris, 24, paid his harem.

“Every Friday morning we had to go to Hef’s room, wait while he picked up all the dog poo off the carpet – and then ask for our allowance: a thousand dollars counted out in crisp hundred-dollar bills from a safe in one of his bookcases. We all hated this process. Hef would always use the occasion to bring up anything he wasn’t happy about in the relationship. Most of the complaints were about the lack of harmony among the girlfriends – or your lack of sexual participation in the ‘parties’ he held in his bedroom.”

Of course, there’s nothing in the way Hefner lives that’s inconsistent with the “traditional” sexual morality promoted by the Bible. The good book encourages men to take as many wives and sleep with as many servants as they can afford. It also mandates the complete submission of women to men, including surrender of control over their bodies.

And, in biblical times, living in close proximity with domestic animals and their refuse was the norm.

Gay miner endured years of abuse

Troubled coal producer Massey Energy Co. is facing more legal problems, this time in the form of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a gay miner.

Sam Hall’s lawsuit claims he endured years of verbal abuse and threats from co-workers and managers at several Massey mines in West Virginia. The lawsuit names Massey subsidiary Spartan Mining Co. and a Spartan foreman as defendants.

The lawsuit adds to a turbulent year for Massey. The Richmond, Va.-based company has suffered steep losses, had its longtime chief executive retire and found itself the subject of takeover rumors since an explosion killed 29 miner at its Upper Big Branch mine. The April 5 blast also prompted several shareholder lawsuits and an industrywide safety crackdown blamed for hiking costs and cutting profits across the country.

Hall’s lawsuit chiefly seeks a court order requiring Spartan’s management to put an end to the threats, intimidation, name calling and the like. And it seeks court-ordered monitoring by the West Virginia Human Rights Commission, as well as unspecified damages.

“He wants to be a coal miner and he wants to be protected and safe,” Hall’s lawyer, Roger Forman, said. “This is a dangerous job and you can’t be preoccupied about what other people are going to do.”

Hall still works for Massey, where he started his mining career in 2005. He has stayed with the company, transferring as mines ran out of coal and closed over the years. Through it all, he’s put up with harsh treatment from name-calling co-workers, according to the complaint.

“He didn’t want to sue anybody, he wanted to work it out,” Forman said. “There needs to be some education of people who act that way.”

At one mine, a co-worker allegedly spray painted a picture depicting Hall engaged in a homosexual act and attaching a sign accusing Hall of pedophilia to his car.

At another mine, Hall “became seriously worried because the harassing slurs accelerated to violent threats, such as ‘I would like to see all faggots die.'”

“The sexual harassment faced by Mr. Hall is pervasive and persistent and includes acts by top management which have not been properly or effectively dealt with by Defendant Spartan Mining Company and its management,” the lawsuit claims.

“Coal miners work hard and every miner deserves respect — without exception. With that in mind, we will investigate these allegations thoroughly and take whatever steps are needed to appropriately address this matter,” Massey general counsel Shane Harvey said.

UN debates whether to denounce killing gays

A culture war has broken out at the United Nations over whether gays should be singled out for the same protections as other minorities whose lives are threatened.

The battle will come to a head Dec. 21 when the General Assembly votes to renew its routine condemnation of the unjustified killing of various categories of vulnerable people.

It specifies killings for racial, national, ethnic, religious or linguistic reasons and includes refugees, indigenous people and other groups. But the resolution, because of a change promoted by Arab and African nations and approved at committee level, this time around drops “sexual orientation” and replaces it with “discriminatory reasons on any basis.”

The U.S. government says it is “incensed” at the change, as are gay rights campaigners.

“Even if those countries do not support gay rights, you would think they would support our right not to be killed,” said Jessica Stern of the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

Stern said gay people all over the world are frequent targets of violence because of their sexual orientation.

Authorities in Jamaica are investigating a possible hate crime in the slaying earlier this month of a man who belonged to the sole gay rights group in the conservative, largely Christian nation. Uganda, among 76 countries that criminalize homosexuality, is debating whether to join the five other countries in the world that consider it a capital crime.

The General Assembly is set for a final vote Dec. 21 on its biennial resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings – without the reference to sexual orientation for the first time since 1999. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice has said she was “incensed” the reference was removed and the United States will move to restore it.

The battle over those two words underscores the historic split over gay rights among U.N. members and their diverse religious and cultural sensibilities. Activists say gay and lesbian issues got only minimal attention at the U.N. a decade ago.

“There has been slow, but steady progress on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights at the U.N.,” Stern said.

Stern cited as progress Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s “landmark” speech during a gay rights forum at U.N. headquarters on Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, calling for an end to laws around the world that make it a crime to be homosexual.

But as gay rights gain more acceptance in the U.N. system, some member states are pushing back, said Mark Bromley, of the Washington-based Council for Global Equality, which aims to advance gay rights in American foreign policy. “I think some states are uncomfortable and they are organizing to limit engagement on the issue.”

“We are seeing a backlash,” agreed Stern. “This is an illustration of the tensions around culture at the United Nations, and how power plays out and alliances are made.”

Benin, on behalf of African countries, introduced the amendment deleting the specific reference to sexual orientation at a Nov. 16 General Assembly committee meeting. Benin’s mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to a request sent via e-mail for more information about why the amendment was introduced.

Benin, a largely Christian country of 8 million with a sizable Muslim population, argued that “sexual orientation had no legal foundation in any international human rights instruments.” Morocco, an Arab country in north Africa that is almost exclusively Muslim, asserted that such selectivity “accommodated particular interests and groups over others” and urged all U.N. member states “to devote special attention to the protection of the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society.”

Western nations opposed the move to delete the mention of sexual orientation.

Britain called it “an affront to human dignity,” and France and Norway said the move was “regrettable.” Sweden said the change amounted to “looking the other way” when people are killed for being gay.

The amendment narrowly passed 79-70, with 17 abstentions. The so-called Third Committee, which deals with human rights issues and includes all 192 U.N. member states, then approved the entire resolution on all unjustified killings for discriminatory reasons 165-0, with 10 abstentions.

General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but rather reflect the views of the majority of the world’s nations.

Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said the United States will introduce an amendment next week to restore the previous language including the phrase “sexual orientation” because “this is an issue that is important to us.”

“We’ve also been doing a great deal of lobbying” to get the restoration of the phrase approved, Kornblau said.

Gay rights and human rights activists also have been lobbying missions to the U.N. in New York in recent days, urging especially those delegations that abstained on the amendment to help restore the mention of sexual orientation.

“We only need a few more countries and we can change this vote around,” said Boris O. Dittrich, who directs the program on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights for the international advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

But gaining the world’s support for gay rights will take far longer.

More than two-thirds of U.N. members, many of them Muslim nations, are refusing to sign a separate United Nations statement condemning human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, especially with regard to the application of the death penalty and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Under the Bush administration in 2008, even the United States refused to join all other Western nations in signing that declaration, arguing that the broad framing of the language in the statement might conflict with U.S. laws.

After President Barack Obama took office, the United States last year joined other member states to support the declaration, saying it found that the language did not conflict with American laws. Sixty-eight of the U.N.’s members have now signed the declaration. That leaves 124 countries that have not.

HIV-positive porn star stands by story

A clinic frequented by porn stars stood by findings that an adult film actor contracted HIV through personal sexual activity, contradicting his claims that he was infected through work.

Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation spokeswoman Jennifer Miller said the San Fernando Valley clinic stands by its testing, which resulted in the quarantine of an unknown number of actors and found no other cases of the disease.

“It’s going to come down to ‘he said, she said,’” said Miller.

At a news conference, Derrick Burts came forward for the first time since news of his illness rattled the multibillion dollar adult film industry and shut down a handful of productions for several weeks earlier this year.

Burts, previously known as Patient Zeta, said he was identifying himself after reading last month that Miller said his illness was contracted outside the porn industry “through private, personal activity.” Productions resumed after Miller’s announcement.

Burts said that he was faithful to his HIV-negative girlfriend except for his work, and that he believes he was infected during a shoot in Florida. He said he used condoms for intercourse, but they aren’t foolproof and he may have contracted the disease through other on-camera sexual contact.

The boyishly handsome 24-year-old, who performed in straight films as Cameron Reid and gay films as Derek Chambers, broke down in tears while recalling the frustration he felt after his diagnosis.

The clinic failed to return calls, e-mails and text messages for weeks, Burts said, adding: “I felt neglected. AIM wasn’t there to protect me.”

Burts said instead of providing the follow-up he needed, Miller, who is also the clinic’s HIV/STD counselor, advised him to avoid media, change his phone number and leave town.

In a statement, lawyers for AIM said Patient Zeta was offered counseling, test results and information on how to get treatment.

“Any statements made by Patient Zeta which portray AIM as not providing appropriate and proper services are not truthful and are self-serving,” the clinic’s statement said.

When he first began working in the industry in June, Burts said agents “loved my look and said I had money written all over me.”

He said he began to have doubts about the business after contracting chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes in his first month of work, but was convinced to keep working.

“I wasn’t stupid or oblivious, I knew what was out there. But it’s not something you think about when they fill your head” with lucrative offers and promises that the work is safe, he said.

Burts said after his initial diagnosis Oct. 9, the clinic conducted a follow-up test and began testing performers he’d worked with since he lasted tested negative for HIV on Sept. 3.

On Oct. 23, the positive diagnosis was confirmed, and he said the clinic had traced his infection to an HIV-positive performer with whom he had worked.

After weeks of no response from the clinic, on Nov. 24 Burts said he visited an AIDS Healthcare Foundation center in Los Angeles but didn’t identify himself as Patient Zeta.

Burts contacted the head of the organization last week and identified himself as Patient Zeta, as first reported by The Los Angeles Times. He said he wanted to speak out in favor of enforcing mandatory condom use in porn productions.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” said Burts. “We need to come up with a system that works.”


Police investigate new hate crimes at UW-Whitewater

Police are investigating more hate crimes at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater – this time involving vandalism to the cars of three black students.

The university said someone slashed the tires of the cars and spray-painted “KKK” on the doors and hoods. The incidents happened between 11 p.m. on Nov. 8 and 10 a.m. on Nov. 9.

The reports of vandalism follow closely on the heels of a Nov. 7 incident in which a freshman walking on the north side of campus was approached by two white males, one of whom pushed her into a fence and held her there. He let her go after making a derogatory remark about her perceived sexual orientation.

In September, a woman was punched in the face near campus while wearing a T-shirt that said “Legalize gay.”

The State Journal reported earlier that police do not believe the two assaults are linked.

UW-Whitewater Chancellor Richard J. Telfer issued a statement following the second assault saying that bullying and hate crimes would not be tolerated on campus or in the local community.

“UW-Whitewater is a place that values all people,” he said. “This incident goes against everything that we stand for as a campus.”

In addition to conducting an exhaustive investigation, UW-Whitewater police will provide an increased presence on campus, Telfer said.

The university plans meetings to discuss how to stop such incidents.