Categories for Survivor Support

Human Trafficking Survivor Partners With FBI To Help Others

April 20, 2021

DETROIT (FOX 2) – A human trafficking survivor is sharing her story after she said she was charmed and groomed into a trusting relationship that led to multiple sexual assaults.

Nicole Denson is a survivor and activist. She met the man who trafficked her on her 16th birthday. That was 21 years ago at the old Northland Mall in Southfield. While she’s escaped, she’s looking back and knows that it was her vulnerable state that led to her fall into the human trafficking world.

“One day really changed my life forever. I was in an accident with my father and he was critically injured, he died. He was killed,” said Nicole.

A vulnerable state

She grew up in a loving home on Detroit’s west side but it was complex. She says there was physical and emotional abuse. With the sudden loss of her dad, Denson remembers the things she found joy in were gone.

“I remember I just stopped loving doing all of the things that I was doing. I stopped dancing, laughing. I just felt numb,” said Denson.

She was ripe with grief when she met her trafficker and she said he approached her like any other guy and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

“He was very charming, he was charismatic. He really seemed like he wanted to get to know me,” she said. “It wasn’t like anything that would give a red flag like you’ve seen in the movies. It wasn’t like the movie ‘Taken’ which is like a movie that people think (when they think of human trafficking). It actually happened very gradually and very slow.”

The relationship changes

Eventually, he became her boyfriend but the entire time he was grooming her and gaining her trust. Then it all changed.

“I walked into this house. It was loud music, there was smoking and drinking and there were over 15 to 20 different men. I remember my heart started racing and I said ‘oh my goodness, what am I doing, what is happening’,” said Denson. “I was trembling. I’m even trembling as I tell this.”

Just like that, SHE was having sex so HE could money. For more than a year, he passed her around at house parties and hotels – all while she still went to private school and played her other roles as a daughter and friend.

“One of the most lowest points was when I was driven to his friend’s house and, unfortunately, I didn’t know that there would be a camera there. At the age of 16 I was sexually assaulted via camera,” said Nicole.

Now he had leverage to control her and to do the unthinkable. Then, suddenly, it just stopped.

“One day, I was supposed actually to go into a house and forced to do these acts. He had a change of heart and decided to drop me off instead, at home. He cried and said he was sorry and I said it’s okay. After that, I never heard from him again.”

Read the full story by Jessica Dupnack on Fox 2 Detroit.

Justice for Trafficking Victims: ‘Guardian Angels’ Provide Shelter, Seek Solutions 

April 6, 2021

Kris Wade was only 18 years old when she left home with $30 in her pocket. She boarded a train to Chicago, Illinois, and, within minutes of arriving at Dearborn Station, was approached by a man who offered her a place to stay and something to eat. “I’d spent all my money on the train ticket and had only $1 left, so I followed him,” Kris says. “He bought me a hot dog and took me to a two-bedroom apartment on the third floor of a neighborhood in the city’s North end.” The apartment turned out to be a hub for drug dealers and small-time gang members who were running a prostitution ring from the building.

“I came from a loving family of fabulous parents and was an honor roll student and president of the debate team in high school,” Kris says. “But I wanted to be on my own. Within a day of leaving home, I fell in with drug dealers. I was at their mercy for a long time.”

Kris managed to escape, but not before witnessing a murder. “I have my parents to thank for taking me back,” she says. “Unlike other women, I have a family that loved and cared about me. Many women in similar circumstances have no home and no one to turn to.”

Now 69, Kris is one of the lucky ones. After escaping her abductors, she put herself through college, earned a degree in criminal justice and became a fierce advocate for homeless female trafficking survivors, working closely with Sisters of Mercy who are also engaged in the fight. “What happened to me is as prevalent today as it was 50 years ago,” she says. “Human trafficking has been going on for thousands of years.”

Read the full article by Deborah Herz from ¡Viva! Mercy (PDF)

Potato Slaves: The Cost of an H-2A Visa in Texas

September 8, 2020

Workers at a potato processing plant in Texas face abuse by their employers but choose to stay silent out of fear of losing their H-2A visas. Most are unaware they’re even victims of forced labor, or that the fees they’re required to pay to their supervisors for a visa are illegal. They don’t trust the authorities either, and fear retaliation for speaking out. It’s a reality faced by some 36,000 people a year in this border state.

Pablo suffered through countless hardships to avoid losing his temporary work visa and job at a potato plant in Dalhart, in the Texas Panhandle. One day, he said his boss, Xavier López Palacios, hit him so hard in the leg that he was left with a limp. On others, Pablo was pressured repeatedly to work faster.

Palacios, who was in charge of the warehouse until June, also shouted insults at Pablo and threatened to call immigration agents to deport him; under strict orders, Pablo worked up to 22 continuous hours. Once he was so tired that he accidentally fractured his hand. In spite of the doctor’s orders, López Palacios —who has denied the aforementioned accusations—wouldn’t allow Pablo to rest, he said.

Pablo’s name has been changed and some of his personal details were omitted to guarantee his and his family’s safety, and to avoid retaliation.

To read the full story by Patricia Clarembaux & Almudena Toral on Univision: Click Here

September, 2020 Monthly Reflection

September 3, 2020

Words Do Make a Difference

By Kris Wade, Executive Director of The Justice Project KC, and Member of the USCSAHT Survivor Services Working Group.

 As awareness of present-day slavery expands, more attention is being given to human trafficking through prostitution. Prostitution is often viewed as a “victimless crime.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Hazards include rape, robbery, assault, exposure to sexually transmitted illnesses, and most unfortunately death at the hands of violent tricks, drug dealers, or pimps. Because of their poverty, homelessness, hunger, and /or addiction, many of the women served by the Justice Project KC have been exploited, victimized, and severely traumatized through prostitution.

As law enforcement, courts, and service providers begin to attack this devastating crime and interact with survivors, it is apparent that a quick tutorial on terminology is needed. Words have power, and the labels and descriptive language we use contribute to our perceptions of commercial sex trafficking and the victims produced by this terrible crime. Prostitution is one of the most harmful manifestations of human trafficking. The importance of proper terminology when addressing this issue can not be underestimated. Words make a difference in how those used in prostitution are perceived. Harmful labels lead to misunderstanding and bias toward those who have been used in prostitution. Negative labels also contribute to low self-esteem and self-hatred in those who have been harmed by experiencing prostitution. As a survivor organization, we feel the sting of these labels and see the harm inflicted by such words.

The word “prostitute “is generally perceived as negative and derogatory. It implies that someone is “dirty” a “whore” a “slut”, a bad person who is unworthy, and a social outcast. It does not take into consideration that the individual is a human being, one who may be someone’s mother, daughter, sister, or brother. The word dehumanizes this population and perpetuates negative stereotypical labels. At the Justice Project KC we only use “prostitute“ as a verb. Prostitution is something a person does, not who that person is. We view prostitution as an exploitive form of violence against persons, and a human rights violation. We advocate for the use of other terms like “prostituted persons,” “persons used in prostitution”, or “sexually exploited persons.” These terms do not stigmatize victims and describe prostitution as an abusive experience, not a personal characteristic of an individual.

Two other terms frequently seen as “politically correct” we do not use are “Sex Work and Sex Worker.” These terms are now widely used instead of “prostitute” by those working in trafficking abolition. While these terms may be well-intentioned, it is our belief they infer prostitution is somehow “work” an occupation, a job. This tends to imply a normalization of prostitution as a career choice. Sex trafficking through prostitution is human slavery. It is not “work.” As survivors we have a keen understanding of exploitation.

When discussing prostitution and its survivors please remember to use phrases like “prostituted person” “sex industry survivor” or “victim of commercial sexual exploitation.” These terms relay the idea that persons used in prostitution are entangled in an inherently dangerous, traumatizing, exploitive system that victimizes human beings. They are girls, boys, men, and women who have been dehumanized not only by prostitution but also by the terminology used to describe them. They are individuals who deserve dignity, respect, compassion, and mercy just like anyone else.

‘Modern-Day Monster’: Report Links Sex Trafficking To Generational Trauma

June 22, 2020

It can be difficult to talk about and even harder to process, but in the past few years an insidious wave of sex trafficking has hit the Navajo Nation and Navajo Nation Council delegates want people to be aware so they can help protect potential victims.

Delegates Amber Kanazbah Crotty and Nathanial Brown say raising awareness about the issue is crucial to mitigating the threat that has permeated Navajo’s highways, byways and border towns. “We have to let offenders know this is not a target area,” said Crotty, “that we are going to protect our children and our community members.” Sex trafficking is defined as the use of coercion, force or fraud to elicit commercial sex acts in exchange for something of value, whether that is money, or goods and services.

Three participants are involved in the sex trafficking transaction — the buyer, the seller, and the victim, who can be a man, woman or children. Furthermore, there is an intersection between sex trafficking and missing and murdered indigenous relatives, said Crotty.

Sex trafficking is prevalent at casinos, hotels, and highway truck stops or gas stations, where there are a lot of people coming and going, and the buying and selling of sex can occur largely undetected. Additionally, sex traffickers use online resources and social media to seek out vulnerable youth, said Brown. Facebook and Instagram are used to lure and trade victims, he said, and there are also apps that can be used to buy sex.

Crotty said it’s important to monitor your children’s online and phone activity. “Someone’s being groomed and someone’s being exploited,” Crotty said. “It’s not happening by accident.”

To read the full article by Rima Krisst on Navajo Times: Click Here

Program Launched To Aid Foreign-Born Trafficking Victims In Detroit

May 20, 2020

Detroit — Foreign-born trafficking victims in Metro Detroit can now find sanctuary through an assistance program launched by a Grand Rapids-based family service organization.

After Bethany Christian Services’ success with the Trafficking Victim’s Assistance Program in West Michigan, it decided to replicate its model, opening offices in Detroit and New Jersey.

Karen Hanks, the coordinator of the program, said the organization has seen a spike in cases in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties where victims are often hidden in plain sight.

“Labor trafficking cases are often overlooked for a variety of reasons,” said Hanks, who has been working with the program since May. “All of the cases we currently have are all labor trafficking, almost exclusively to foreign nationals, who come here on a false promise and are vulnerable.”

Those at the highest risk of trafficking are immigrants here illegally, migrant workers, or foreign-born persons solicited into coming to the United States to pursue education or work opportunities. Hanks said it’s very difficult for a U.S. citizen to be pulled into labor trafficking because they know their rights and find opportunities to seek help, whereas a foreigner is already vulnerable and may not know English.

“It’s much easier to trick them and they may end up in a situation they don’t even realize,” she said. “It’s people who often come here illegally, but it shouldn’t make a difference when people are being exploited.”

Because foreign nationals don’t qualify for federal programs, Hanks said it’s difficult to locate safe housing, funding and help with re-entry. Bethany’s program is focused on helping victims return to a normal life at no cost.

They aid with counseling services, food, clothing, housing, employment and family reunification when possible. The program is funded and overseen by a grant from the U.S. Committee of Refugees and Immigrants and is time and financially limited to one year.

To read the full article by Sarah Rahal on The Detroit News: Click Here

How Important Is Clemency For Trafficking Victims? Let One Tell You

April 26, 2020

Readers of this newspaper and its editorials will know the name Robbie Ann Hamilton. On Jan. 11, Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Gov. Greg Abbott granted Hamilton, a North Dallas survivor of sex trafficking lured into the life at the age of 15 while suffering from drug addiction, a full pardon for petty crimes committed decades ago while she was being sold for sex.

In announcing the pardon, Gov. Abbott rightly described Hamilton, now 58 and a brave advocate and mentor for victims of trafficking, as “a testament to the principle that our lives are not defined by how we are challenged. Rather they are defined by how we respond to those challenges.” She demonstrated, he said, “the internal fortitude to turn her life away from being a victim of human and sex trafficking and toward a life of redemption and improving her community.”

So, we ask, who better than Hamilton to understand the legal and moral significance of the governor’s Feb. 20 announcement that he, in coordination with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP), had established a “customized clemency application specifically for survivors of human trafficking or domestic violence”? Under the new protocol, Texas inmates and those seeking clemency will be allowed to cite their experiences as victims of sex trafficking, coercion and violence when requesting relief from the BPP.

Last week, Hamilton explained to us what a meaningful and historic change this new path toward clemency is for survivors like herself, but also in the way our state criminal justice system views trafficking victims, the great majority of whom are forced to commit the crimes that keep the global $150 billion human-trafficking industry — two-thirds of which is sex trafficking — in business.

To read the full story on the Dallas Morning News: Click Here

April, 2020 Stop Trafficking Newsletter

April 1, 2020

Focus of this issue:

Human Trafficking and the Foster Care System

Children in the foster care system lack a permanent and stable family, they may move multiple times during their time in foster care and may have limited access to educational opportunities.  These may contribute to their sense of vulnerability and puts them at risk to human trafficking.

To view the current issue: Click Here

Stop Trafficking Newsletter is produced by US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, to serve as a forum for exchange among religious congregations and their collaborating organizations:

  • to promote awareness regarding human trafficking;
  • to exchange best practices in advocacy for and empowerment of survivors of human trafficking;
  • to recommend actions to counter human trafficking;
  • to share information about survivor services.

We are grateful for all of the sponsors of the Stop Trafficking Newsletter. For the list of our sponsors: Click Here

If your community is not currently a sponsor but would like to be, please contact Jennifer Reyes Lay.

February, 2020 Stop Trafficking Newsletter

February 3, 2020

Focus of this issue:

The role of racism in human trafficking

As we celebrate Black History Month in the United States, it seems appropriate to reflect on the intersection of racism with human trafficking. Almost anywhere in the world, victims of trafficking are disproportionately racial and ethnic minorities.  With this issue of the Stop Trafficking Newsletter we hope to bring more attention to the racial disparity of trafficking victims, both in the United States and globally, and ensure that it not remain unknown—or ignored.

To view the current issue: Click Here

Stop Trafficking Newsletter is produced by US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, to serve as a forum for exchange among religious congregations and their collaborating organizations:

  • to promote awareness regarding human trafficking;
  • to exchange best practices in advocacy for and empowerment of survivors of human trafficking;
  • to recommend actions to counter human trafficking;
  • to share information about survivor services.


We are grateful for all of the sponsors of the Stop Trafficking Newsletter. For the list of our sponsors: Click Here

If your community is not currently a sponsor but would like to be, please contact Jennifer Reyes Lay.

New USD Legal Clinic To Serve Victims Of Human Trafficking

January 30, 2020

SAN DIEGO —  Legal clinics providing free services to vulnerable populations have long been a staple at law schools, and now the victims of human trafficking in San Diego will have one of their own.

The University of San Diego is establishing a Women’s Legal Clinic that will initially focus on providing human trafficking victims with family law services, such as child custody representation, domestic violence restraining orders and divorces.

The new clinic is being funded by an anonymous $1 million donation through a charitable estate, arranged by Una Davis and alumnus Jack McGrory.

Law students will begin taking clients at the start of the semester in January.

The school has been conferring with Free to Thrive, a nonprofit started by USD alumna Jamie Beck that provides expansive legal services to survivors of human trafficking. The nonprofit has more work than it can handle, Beck recently testified before a state oversight commission.

Professor Robert Muth, academic director of USD’s clinic programs, said the new clinic will help fill in gaps.

To read the full article by Kristina Davis on The San Diego Union-Tribune: Click Here