Posts tagged with "sex trafficking prevention"

Elizabeth Peyton-Jones

A Threat in the Fashion Industry–and What Can Be Done about It

 

The Jeffrey Epstein case brought to light one of the ugliest secrets of the fashion world. In too many cases, a pretty girl is offered a glamorous and lucrative career in modelling and ends up being trafficked.

Traffickers Use Modeling as a Lure

That’s what happened to at least some of the young women who ended up servicing Epstein and his friends. In the view of Elizabeth Peyton-Jones, founder of Responsible Trust for Models (RTM) “Fashion is a global industry with no borders and no controls, and this makes it is easy to use and abuse the system.”

Peyton-Jones has an impressive and effective approach to addressing the issues in the model industry which are hiding in plain sight, like the abuse of power and the ability for predators to use model agencies as scammers or worse, trafficking and money laundering.

As she puts it, “The modeling industry attracts children who wish to work as models. They are self-employed which means they fall through the cracks. It is not up to them to change the abuse; it is up to the adults in the industry to see what is wrong and change it.” 

She goes on to say, “We at RTM wish to aid in protecting the vulnerable within the industry by creating a globally recognized standard, one that’s  awarded to model agencies, and that will allow  ethical agencies to step up and show best practice and alert brands as to which agencies are best to source their models through.”

Abuse Hiding in Plain sight

We’ll get to Peyton-Jones’s ideas on improving the safety of models in a moment. But first, let’s take a look at a typical case of how models can be exploited. It’s the case of Larisa Popova. That’s not her real name, but the events described did happen.

“At age 16,” begins Peyton-Jones, “Popova was a young, beautiful, eager and impressive Russian girl.”

Her fabulous looks attracted a European scout who was in Russia looking for ‘new faces’ for their internationally renowned brand. “They loved her look so much they decided to sign her to an agency in NYC with the intention she would be their next new prodigy,” says Peyton-Jones. This young girl had a ‘Mother Agency’ in Russia who was supposedly taking care of her.

Popova, who arrived in NYC did not speak a word of English, needed some serious guidance, which the agency in NYC gave her. She was given a tutor for English and her career began to take off. She made a significant sum of money, but the ‘mother agency’ refused to open a bank account, which meant Popova had to take wads of cash home to Russia each trip.

The agency became suspicious when, even after several months of asking, no bank account was opened. Popova had also started hanging around people taking drugs and alcohol. The US agency gave the mother agency in Russia an ultimatum, “Get your model away from the bad element, open up a bank account or the police will become involved.”

At that point, Popova disappeared.

When the agency looked into things further, they discovered the truth: The mother agency was a prostitute ring and the model agency had been a front for a criminal gang, which meant that the brands had inadvertently sourced a model who was legitimizing a criminal activity. If this ever got out, the brand’s reputation would be destroyed as it is directly their responsibility and their supply chain.

This obviously does not end well for anyone. The US agency is wondering what they could have done better, and it’s hard for the  brand to pursue this because of the negative press it would attract.

Peyton-Jones won’t speculate on what happened to Popova. All she knows for sure is that the fashion house or model agency was never able to locate the girl.

What Can Be Done

Peyton-Jones knows that because of the glamourous nature of the industry and indeed models, this is a difficult story to tell and gain sympathy. However, the fact that any person can approach anyone in the street, mall or online, whether legitimate or not, and there is no method of knowing who the good guys are, means that everyone is vulnerable. If you have a child who is easily led, she is a potential victim. This is so even if she never set her sights on fashion.

The resolution to this is simple and positive and will allow for positive change in an industry which is calling out for better, more modern governance and operational behavior.

It begins with an industry-led and curated kite mark of best practice. A good house-keeping mark, if you like.

  1. 1.A global standard, respected and recognized by industry professionals championed by model agencies, allowing for best practice, professionalism and labor rights for models.
  2. 2.A piece of research to show that this abuse exists, mapping countries and profiling for patterns.
  3. 3.A training and educational program for models which will allow them to understand their career value and teach them about finance, contracting, social media rights and public speaking.

Funding at this point is important for the research piece. For philanthropists who would like to see a measurable outcome and want to shift the dial on modern slavery, this is an opportunity.

For more information, go to https://www.modelstrust.com or @models_trust. Or contact Peyton-Jones on sue@modelstrust.com

Mitzi Perdue is the Founder and President of Win This Fight and author of 52 Tips for Combatting Human Trafficking. Contact her at Mitzi@WinThisFight.org.

A System for Protecting Children from Trafficking

Lamont Hiebert

Lamont Hiebert

 

You want your kids to be safe, right?

“Start early,” warns Lamont Hiebert. “Traffickers have been known to start grooming children as young as eight years old.” As Program Director of UNITAS, the New York and Serbian-based anti-trafficking organization, he has more expertise on this than most people. 

He’s seen that traffickers can be patient and strategic about gaining the confidence of their targets. Let’s say we’re talking about a boy.  He could be ten or 12, and one day an older boy he knows and looks up to tells him, “Here’s $100, get your mom a bag of groceries.”

The boy is thrilled.  As Hiebert says, “Can you imagine how good he feels?  He’s a hero!”

The older boy stays in touch with the boy, acting like a mentor, doing small favors for him.  Then one day, when the boy is a couple of years older, his “friend” says, “Hey, I need a favor.  Run this errand for me.”

The errand involves something illegal, and the boy knows it, but he wants to look good to the older boy and agrees.  Helping out his older friend and getting paid for it becomes a habit.

So where does this lead?  Soon, the older boy asks him to help recruit girls for trafficking. He’s on his way to a life as a pimp.

Hiebert knows countless stories like this, but here’s what he does with them. He and his colleagues have created what must be one of the most comprehensive school-based trafficking prevention programs in the United States. Maybe in the world.

Tonya Turner

“It’s based on the lived experience of survivors,” his colleague, UNITAS Education & Training Director Tonya Turner explains. Kids relate to what others have gone through, and they learn the tools to recognize the threats and to resist them.

One of the truly impressive approaches UNITAS uses is comics. One of the comics, for example, tells of a high school girl who’s lonely and meets a guy on Instagram who truly “gets” her.  The story is gripping and relatable as you watch her fall in love with the guy.

The guy wants pictures of her naked, and she ends up going along with it. But then she tries to back off and doesn’t want to send him the more revealing pictures he’s demanding. He texts back that if she doesn’t send him even more explicit photos, he’s going to send all the photos she ever sent him to her whole school. “Everyone @ school will see yr a slut with tiny boobs and a fat stomach.”

The entire course is realistic, at times gritty, but the young people who take the course learn enough to be highly vigilant against the traffickers.

Todd Cavaluzzi

UNITAS Executive Director Todd Cavaluzzi has suggestions for things you can do to help prevent trafficking:

  1. The first thing you can do is to learn and spread the word.  
    • Keep seeking out information from reputable sources online like our website (www.unitas.ngo), as well as other organizations like Polaris, ECPAT, and Love146.
    • Then spread the word and help educate others in conversations with family and friends and colleagues to make sure that more and more people know what is going on with this important issue. Here is a link to seven downloadable infographics that help explain human trafficking in the US.  Download them, share them, post them, print them, whatever you need to do to help explain this complex issue to your family, friends, and colleagues.
    • Use this link to our digital comics that you can view and share with your social network. The comics  help make human trafficking easily understood even by kids. The latest installment deals with the issue of sextortion and how kids can get trapped by emailing sexy pictures of themselves to someone they think they know.
  2. The next level you can go to is to donate your time, energy and resources to anti-trafficking organizations that are doing good, smart, work to fight human trafficking.
  3. Finally, you can get involved directly with kids who are at-risk for being trafficked, by becoming a tutor, a mentor, or even a big brother or big sister and just being there for them.

 Visit Unitas at www.unitas.ngohttps://www.linkedin.com/company/unitas-north-america/ or write to Todd Cavaluzzi at: todd@unitas.ngo

Author Mitzi Perdue is a speaker, author, business owner, and organizer of the Global Anti-Trafficking Auction. She is dedicated to helping people learn how to prevent human trafficking.