Monthly Archives: January 2015

What are the Parents of Trafficking Victims Experiencing?

happy family, hopes and dreams

When I was a young adult and became pregnant with our first child our family’s world view changed. Suddenly, my husband and I became concerned about politics, education, crime, discussions on abortion, health care, our future, finances, and values. We wanted to make sure the world we brought our child into was the best possible for her success so she would thrive and live as a happy child and then a happy adult.

If anyone in my vicinity would light a cigarette I left the room immediately.  I ate carefully, walked as much as possible and dreamed about the beautiful life I hoped for our child.  The same was true when I carried our second child. They were both born healthy, and in what seemed like 5 minutes, they became school aged.  I became involved in their education,  knew their friends, made their school lunches, and spent much time with all their teachers.  I went to every after school event and athletic practice, our daughter showed in FFA and our son excelled in football and drama.

As parents, we made ourselves available no matter how busy or tired or overwhelmed we were because our children were the center of all that was important. Every night I hoped and prayed to please keep them safe from predators, disease, accidents, and themselves as they grew up. For the better part of 2 decades we were the best parents we knew how to be, not perfect, not always sure, but always with love, we gave our all.

I used to say they were my “Kryptonite.” I would melt into mush if they were hurt and become a dangerous mother bear if I sensed any danger near them.  We were the stewards of their lives, the guides to their future, and all of our selfish needs were put on hold.

We are very fortunate, our children are now adults, they had very happy childhoods, and now even better adult lives.

It was time for me to return to my own hopes and dreams and I began my work on human trafficking.

Over the past 12 years, I’ve met many parents whose dreams and efforts were similar to mine, however, evil swept in and destroyed all the dreams turning them into a parent’s worst nightmare. Much like having their lives destroyed by a wreck due to a drunk driver, the families were blind sided by the worst possible circumstances for themselves and their children.

I’ve seen fathers and grandfathers weep as they are describing their ‘little girls’ and the acts of prostitution committed upon them. The absolute helplessness they feel and the heart ache they are enduring have no adequate words to describe it.

Well meaning people often comment, “if it were my daughter I would…….”worried mother, trafficking victim, human trafficking, sex trafficking

I’ve met parents who “rescued” their adult children by force and were prosecuted. In the end, the bad guys kept the victim and the family was further destroyed by time spent in jail.  This advise is distressing to the families as they feel pressure to take action. The constraints of the law which often does not provide justice to the traffickers, but, in contrast, will certainly take down a law-abiding citizen who breaks it.

Mothers don’t sleep.

Someone commented, “I didn’t call her because it was late” to which I said, “There is no late hour for the mother of a trafficking victim.” For a caring mother trying to find her child and knows that she is being raped and beaten, there is no sleep.

The day I will never forget:

My team was helping to locate a victim of trafficking that had gone missing on Long Island where a serial killer had been active. We discovered her at the very same time as the police did, dead and cut up on a beach. I called her aunt, as I had done many times in the past week, only this time to report the murder of her niece whom she had helped to raise.

I knew as soon as she said hello that she knew. I heard the hope gone. I heard all her worst fears came true, her dreams had died. Her voice was changed forever with the horrible murder of her niece.

Often families become divided due to the horrible experiences of trafficking.

In one case, a mother was actually slapped in the face by her sister because the family believed it was the mother’s fault the victim was being prostituted. Of course, that was not the case. In truth, the victim had been targeted, groomed and controlled by an organized effort, the parents didn’t know until it was too late.  Their daughter was targeted at college. When the parents found out they did everything a parent could do.  But the shame, guilt, and brainwashing kept the victim involved with the ones who were trafficking her. Her extended family made it worse by believing the facade of the scheme and not trusting their own family member. At one point, aunts exposed the victim’s younger sister who was also being targeted by the bad guys (this often happens).

I warn families immediately that any younger siblings should not be in contact with the victims while they are being trafficked, it’s very dangerous.  In this case, the aunt lied to the mother and took the younger sibling to see her victim sister with the traffickers present.

The fear and the pain of the treasonous aunt was devastating to an already devastated family. Mistakes like this can not be made, a point that I and my team emphasize to families, that trafficking is truly a life and death situation with dire consequences.

Isolation

isolation of trafficking victims, human trafficking, sex traffickingThe predominant tactic of traffickers is to isolate the victim by allowing her circle of family and friends to think that suddenly they became estranged to her/his whole life, family, friends,work, school, etc.

In a Psychology Today article it states the most hurtful pain, more than death, is being cut off from a child or loved one with no explanation. I agree, there is no “moving on” or acceptance when your child is being trafficked or otherwise missing from your family.

I’ve seen best friends and roommates change schools, or quit school altogether due to the trauma of seeing their friend groomed and trafficked. Siblings often report not only being hurt by the absence of their sibling, but witnessing the devastation of their parents, and, of course, the caring parents are in a state of Hell on Earth.

The “ripple effect” of trafficking

The consequences of human trafficking are exponential, not just for the victim but their parents, grandparents, children, siblings, teachers, friends.  Whole communities are affected yet, in the 15th year since the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), parents are told by law enforcement and others:

  • “just move on”
  • he/she is an adult and wants to be there
  • stop trying to contact your child or you will be arrested
  • your child is a prostitute and should be prosecuted
  • why don’t you just kidnap them?
  • the purchase of illegal sex is between consenting parties

It takes the community to demand that their law enforcement, media and elected officials treat human trafficking as a high priority with educated and skilled people working as a team to help the victims and their families. It’s when these needs are not met that parents call in my team, often as a last resort to save their child. We don’t wish to be the last resort, but to work side by side with the team and restore trafficked children to their families. My heart breaks when opportunities to free the victim are missed due to lack of training, experience, team work or other reasons.

I hope for a day when our team is no longer needed, a time when advocates and organizations are so well-trained about trafficking and its victims that traffickers become rare because it is too risky a crime.

However, we are not there yet.

Dottie Laster

Dottie Laster

Dottie Laster

Dottie Laster is affiliated with the non-profit Bernardo Kohler Center where she is accredited to practice immigration law. She created their Casita program and Save One Soul outreach.

As a weekly Co-Host on the nationally syndicated radio show, The Roth Show, Laster presents discussion and guests who speak out about a variety of controversial subjects surrounding the abolishment of human trafficking and corresponding crimes.

Dottie Laster is featured in the documentary on sex trafficking in Latin bars and cantinas, The Cantinera, and her direct rescue work is the subject of the MSNBC Documentary, Sex Slaves: Texas Rescue. She is the recipient of several human rights awards and has been featured in numerous publications including recent issues of Texas Monthly, Town Hall, and MORE Magazine.

Dottie Laster is the CEO of Laster Global Consulting which has consulted in several high-profile trafficking cases, and has been directly and indirectly responsible for the rescue and restoration of hundreds of trafficking victims. Her strong multi-disciplinary team has an established track record and provide project development, consultancy, and training resources in domestic and international trafficking.

To book trainings in your community and become involved in making your area safe for victims and their families, and hostile to traffickers, contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-0859 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com

What are the Parents of Trafficking Victims Experiencing?

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Historical and Modern Slavery Collide

Frederick Douglass home

Frederick Douglass home today

 

Notes from 2013 on a trip to Washington and visit to the home of Frederick Douglass:

I had been a bit tired lately and quite frankly a bit beaten by the work I do. This rarely happens but when it does it is due to such loss and destruction of souls that I sometimes witness. I was in search of something to amaze and inspire me but could not think of what it would be. Soon after this feeling began, I was hosted at an event in Washington. Since, I live in Texas this was a rare treat. While in D.C., I made time to go to the home of Frederick Douglass. I have studied Douglass and his writings since I was a young child. I was always so amazed by a man who freed himself by not recognizing the legitimacy of his enslavement. In a time when it was illegal to educate slaves he learned to read and write and later was the editor of newspapers and authored books.

In a time when the American Dream was not available to him he struggled and overcame the legal and social barriers that blocked him from his freedom. After becoming free, he could have stopped there however he continued to combat the institutions that discriminated against and enslaved others. He was a strong advocate for women’s rights, the poor (black, white or any race), improved education, and for prison reform.

He excelled in education, languages, family life and served his country in numerous ways though public service. He was a U.S. ambassador to Haiti, a U.S. Marshall, advisor to Lincoln and four other presidents.

In 2007, I was so fortunate to meet a direct descendant of Frederick Douglas, Ken Morris. I could not believe my fortune. Now, I proudly serve on the board of advisors to the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. So when given the amazing opportunity to see where my historical mentor and hero lived I took it with gusto. Since I am unfamiliar with Washington, I had no idea what this meant.

Finding the Frederick Douglass home

Cedar Hill, home of Frederick Douglass

Cedar Hill

I found a wonderful taxi driver and we began our journey. At first my GPS was confused by the address. The driver also could not recognize the address. We stopped and asked taxi drivers at two hotels and no one knew where it was. I was so confused, how could no one know where this amazing’s man’s house was located in a city he had made such a presence?

So finally, thanks to Google, we found the address. I showed my phone to the driver and suddenly all the confusion was clear to him. He said, no wonder- it is in a place in D.C. that is very dangerous. He said are you sure you want to go? I exclaimed, Yes! I told him about my work and how important Douglass was to helping me combat modern slavery. He said, OK, I will take you.

So we were to drive only 5 miles but it turned into another world. We crossed the Anacostia River and exited the freeway. There he so politely said I know you are from Texas but it would be very unethical for me to leave you here- he told me that there was a recent time when there were one to two bodies a day found due to murder, drugs and other crimes. He said they would know immediately that I was not from the neighborhood. I rarely yield to fear of bad neighborhoods however at this time his advice was appropriate.

I giggled and said yes I agree that I would stand out- as we drove by a group of people who all looked to under the influence of several substances. He also told me this area was known for drugs, weapons and prostitution. I thought how disrespectful to my historical hero that in the shadow his home, a symbol of his overcoming historical slavery, modern slavery was flourishing. I was truly angered. I kept thinking the tour is free- why don’t they all take it and understand that they are willingly forfeiting their freedom to criminal enterprises? If Douglass were alive I am sure he would be addressing them. The “Sage of Anacostia” would not remain silent.

So we made arrangements that my driver, Mosh, would drop me off and come back. When we arrived at the home which is a national park we found it was not open yet. My driver looked as if he was again struggling with ethics. He said, I cannot leave you here while they are closed- you will not be safe. I must say I agreed- so again we discussed what to do- it ended with he would stay with me- I agreed to pay his rate with the stipulation that he take the tour with me. He happily agreed.

As I was worried such a wonderful park would be crowded and the tour at capacity, we had arrived 45 minutes before they opened. We drove around and spoke about the city, Douglass, life in the 1800’s and what a beautiful day it was. When the first park ranger arrived we followed him in the service entrance. There, we were able to sit at the top of the very elevated property and see Washington as Douglass must have seen it every morning. It was so breath-taking. The home was on the highest point and the land below was flat and could not obstruct the amazing view. We talked about Douglass and how he must have been able to see visitors approaching his home as far away and the Anacostia River. We spoke about the strenuous life one must have lived even in a fine house such as his- hauling water and materials, walking or riding everywhere and being your own security force in a time where just by being alive he created enemies.

Then the park opened and we went on a tour- again more amazement!

Description of the Frederick Douglass home

Douglass’ house was a grand 2-story home with cutting edge additions for the time- he had a washroom built for his wife before people washed their clothes indoors, indoor water, and the most family centered home one could imagine.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, my historical mentor

He had achieved the American dream in spite of all the harsh barriers of the time and his most horrific entrance into the world through the system of slavery. He was successful in education, family, finances and health. My new friend, Mosh and I left so inspired and humbled by our experience that we now stay in touch. I cannot wait to return and learn more about what is possible in the face of adversity.

However, it also reminded me of the many struggles we as a society face today. All I could think of is why does the community around this home allow criminal elements to flourish? It is so disrespectful to themselves and to those who came before them. What would Frederick Douglass do?

In my heart I felt that he would not relax, that he would not rest or recognize the situation as legitimate.

So with an inspired heart and determination I returned home and began again- combating these same elements wherever I am called. It just reminded me that modern slavery occurs everywhere- not just in the shadow of Douglass’ house- it is disrespectful and damaging everywhere and must be disrupted.

Thank you Frederick Douglass for reinvigorating my heart, my drive and my passion. Your efforts pass through time and have given me steam to proceed – I can’t wait to visit you again.-

Dottie Laster

Marisol Nichols, Terry Crews, Dottie Laster

Dottie Laster is affiliated with the non-profit Bernardo Kohler Center where she is accredited to practice immigration law. She created their Casita program and Save One Soul outreach.

As a weekly Co-Host on the nationally syndicated radio show, The Roth Show, Laster presents discussion and guests who speak out about a variety of controversial subjects surrounding the abolishment of human trafficking and corresponding crimes.

Dottie Laster is featured in the documentary on sex trafficking in Latin bars and cantinas, The Cantinera, and her direct rescue work is the subject of the MSNBC Documentary, Sex Slaves: Texas Rescue. She is the recipient of several human rights awards and has been featured in numerous publications including recent issues of Texas Monthly, Town Hall, and MORE Magazine.

Dottie Laster is the CEO of Laster Global Consulting which has consulted in several high-profile trafficking cases, and has been directly and indirectly responsible for the rescue and restoration of hundreds of trafficking victims. Her strong multi-disciplinary team has an established track record and provide project development, consultancy, and training resources in domestic and international trafficking.

To bring Dottie Laster to your community or event, please contact ImaginePublicity, Tel: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

Historical and Modern Slavery Collide