Category Archives: Human Trafficking

Arrest of Backpage CEO is Human Trafficking Game Changer

backpage

Today, October 5, 2016, is a day that will be remembered as a turning point in a battle against modern slavery with the arrest of Backpage CEO in Houston, Texas, my home.

Our future generations will look back at a time when commercial sex was available everywhere and they will study the horrible stories of abuse, murder, child rape, porn, strip clubs and torture and think of this time we live in now as barbaric. The crimes surrounding commercial sex, the money drained from families and communities, the diseases, torn relationships, mental illness, victims incarcerated, long-term trauma, the children born because of commercial sex and the problems given to them, the costs to society.

 

Sex should not be sold in a civil society.

Stripping, porn, and prostitution are detrimental to all who are near them, buyers, victims, wives, girlfriends, mothers, fathers, children. The damage done grows exponentially in concentric circles for generations. Children and adults should be saved from rape for pay, torture, grooming; not considered collateral damage so that sex can be purchased on demand, free of risk, and at a cheap price with no chance of consequences.

Anyone, child or adult deprived of ALL of their human rights can NEVER be considered a product to be sold, traded, branded, marketed and served to predators. This is the United States and we are the land of the free and the spirit of justice for ALL. We already settled the issue of servitude and it costs us dearly, even today.

There is no business too big or person too powerful that can justify such behavior.

In fact quite the opposite. Someone blessed in life, those with power and position, have a duty to not use it for the purpose to enslave others.

I know that our society can move past these very common barbarous acts. However, those who would benefit from others’ exploitation have chosen to worship money. They have chosen not to go away on their own. Laws in 2000 were changed to stop this modern slavery, 16 years later human trafficking has grown not diminished.

Today is a turning point. This story and criminal case cannot go away with the next news cycle. This must live on strongly and now. Each day, in my office parents, children, siblings, and guardians lives are destroyed by commercial sex. Rapes by dozens and hundreds, starvation, beatings, deaths, murders, forced abortions, trauma 24/7 for days, months, years. The pain caused is unsustainable.

The sale of Commercial Sex is as barbaric as the slave trade in historic times. Traffickers are harvesting our youth, our future, and selling it off as quick and dirty as possible.

We need to make the choice today to stop.

No excuse, no myth or distortion, no fake lawyer’s argument about art, free speech, or some other distortion of the truth. This is ENOUGH!
I have never been so proud of Houston, the State of Texas and the State of California. I have worked in all of them for 13 years to combat this evil. Today, my soul is smiling with hope and encouragement for our future.

Please comment and share, please think about us today reading about Harriett Tubman, John Brown, and Frederick Douglass.Comment for future generations to read and to know that we got it right today!

https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/news/releases/ag-paxton-arrest-of-backpage.com-ceo-shows-texas-doesnt-tolerate-human-traf


Dottie Laster, human trafficking

Dottie Laster spent the last 13 years in the effort of the anti-human trafficking movement nationally and in her home state of Texas. She is the co-founder of the San Antonio, Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking and the past Administrator of the Orange County, California Human Trafficking Task Force and has successfully written millions in grants to assist children and victims of human trafficking.

Along with her position as Executive Director at Heidi Search Center, Laster is the Anti-Trafficking Coordinator with the Bernardo Kohler Center as an accredited representative recognized by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals to practice immigration law under BKC.

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’s Sex Trafficking’s Unlikely Angel and recipient of the Guardian Angel Award.

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

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Unlikely Angel meets Angel Flying Close to the Ground

Lukas Nelson, Dottie Laster

Unlikely Angels flying too close to the ground

When I was interviewed by Mimi Swartz for MORE Magazine in 2012, they dubbed me “Sex Trafficking’s Unlikely Angel.” Probably because I’m just like every other mom next door, but when I work for victims of trafficking, or the Heidi Search Center, I become endowed with super powers.

Recently, my family and I were in San Marcos, Texas attending an event to raise money for the Heidi Search Center. My husband began speaking to a bus driver while walking in the parking lot. Since he drives a truck, he struck up a conversation with the fellow driver. My husband told his new friend that his wife (me) works for a non-profit which helps find missing people and stops human trafficking. The driver said he was driving for a band and offered to bring the lead singer to meet me.

Well, to my very pleasant surprise, the singer was Lukas Nelson, son of super star Willie Nelson. I had just listened to Lukas sing a Don’t Mess With Texas ad in a nod to the ads his father had done years ago. I thought then how much I liked his voice but went back to my usual work and chaos of traffickers and missing cases. I let it slip my mind even though I meant to follow-up on his music.

Here I was, standing in front of Willie Nelson’s infamous bus which now belongs to his son’s band Promise of the Real.  The opportunity to be taking photos with Lukas, and speaking to him about the work we do, he now had my full attention!

Lukas is a gentle soul, the kind where you feel the embrace of his energy instantly rather than by need of conversation. He was so sweet to my disabled daughter (who is a music savant).  So, of course, since my daughter smiled, I bought his album on Amazon immediately and began to absorb myself in his music.

His music contains lyrics, sounds and rhythms that I have never heard and I can’t get enough. He embraces his father’s voice and songs, yet I hear his own voice coming through each song. His guitar whines, sings, and envelopes my soul in ways that defy my memory hearing before. In his voice I sometimes hear Willie, but Lukas has his own distinct vocals. He doesn’t shy away from his father, he embraces his music.

His relationship with Willie is an example I wish to show the teens and young adults I work with. So often they are tricked into not learning from their parents, they get lured into trafficking and other dangerous situations by being separated emotionally from them. They allow their own young egos to get the best of them. If teens and young adults could learn from their parents, embrace their lessons and move forward, their potential could be limitless. Lukas makes loving your parents not just cool, but stylish and beautiful. That example alone could save many from straying away from their families.

Listening to his album, I hear his beach experiences, his Texan birth rights, and the jam sessions with the world’s best musicians that he absorbed in his life. Now, Lukas and Promise of the Real is the big thing happening.

His soul touching lyrics like, “the moon will wipe my canvas clean” give me chills. Lukas posts videos to Facebook, and his recent post singing Willie’s Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,  which is my all-time favorite song, now Lukas’ version is my new favorite.

Lukas is in the early stages of becoming a shooting star. Since he hails from music legend, and always surrounded by other music legends, he may not know how amazing he is. However, that may be why he is an Angel flying so close to the ground.

Lukas Nelson – Promise of the Real, Something Real, played at White Water Amphitheater, New Braunfels, Texas

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real can be found on Facebook and at PromiseoftheReal.com


 

Dottie Laster, human trafficking

Dottie Laster spent the last 13 years in the effort of the anti-human trafficking movement nationally and in her home state of Texas. She is the co-founder of the San Antonio, Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking and the past Administrator of the Orange County, California Human Trafficking Task Force and has successfully written millions in grants to assist children and victims of human trafficking.

Along with her position as Executive Director at Heidi Search Center, Laster is the Anti-Trafficking Coordinator with the Bernardo Kohler Center as an accredited representative recognized by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals to practice immigration law under BKC.

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’s Sex Trafficking’s Unlikely Angel and recipient of the Guardian Angel Award.

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

The Cantinera Screening in San Antonio Benefits Heidi Search Center

On Thursday, May 12, 2016 Heidi Search Center is presenting a screening of The Cantinera at the Alamo Draft House Cinema Marketplace located at  618 NW Loop 410, San Antonio, TX.  The event will begin at 6pm with the film screening followed by a panel discussion led by Dottie Laster, Executive Director of Heidi Search Center who is featured in the film.

The screening and panel discussion is open to the public and proceeds will benefit Heidi Search Center who is looking for 300 people to commit to a $20 per month recurring donation. For $20 per month the donation will assist in meeting budget needs and enable the center to continue to serve the families of missing persons. A special thank you to Ohlrich Law Firm for their sponsorship of this event.

Seating is limited and tickets need to be purchased in advance at HeidiSearchCenter.Com

i ticket : $20.00 USD – monthly
2 tickets : $35.00 USD – monthly
3 tickets : $50.00 USD – monthly
Recurring Monthly donation
$20.00
$30.00
$50.00

CantineraScreening

The Cantinera captures the essence of trafficking for sex in the gritty bars and hidden back rooms in Houston’s cantinas. It takes viewers into the secret life, along with a group of advocates who fearlessly tread into dangerous situations looking for victims and offering help.

Additionally, the film records the true story of one cantinera who was brought into the life by her mother at 13, how she lived for 23 years drinking 30 beers a night, and how she longs for sobriety and a second chance.

Heidi Search Center prevents human trafficking

heidi search center logoWith the help of Dottie Laster’s expertise in combatting human trafficking, the center has been able to step in and prevent several missing youth from becoming victims of human trafficking by finding them early and returning them to their families along with referrals to specialized resources when needed.

Heidi Search Center has been on the cutting edge providing up to date resources, including the new Digital DNA kit which is devised to immediately conduct searches for individuals who are connecting with others online. The Digital DNA kit is a free download from their website and available to everyone.

Heidi Search Center was established in August, 1990, following the abduction of 11-year-old Heidi Lynn Seeman. She disappeared from her Northeast San Antonio neighborhood on August 4, while walking home from a friend’s house. The non-profit organization provides community resources and aids law enforcement with search efforts, provides advocacy, and referrals.

By providing educational programs, referrals, advocacy, and assisting law enforcement in search efforts for missing children and adults in San Antonio, Texas and beyond, Heidi Search Center continues to work towards their mission.

Heidi Search Center in need of donations

In order to keep the doors open at Heidi Search Center they are in dire need of funding.

Executive Director, Dottie Laster says, “We’ve received generous contributions from individuals for which we are grateful, but we must have a large influx of funds to be able to continue our mission. Our operating expenses have been cut as far as we can go, but the need for services from Heidi Search Center continues to increase.”

If unable to attend the screening, to make a donation please contact Heidi Search Center, 4115 Naco Perrin Blvd., San Antonio, TX, 78217 or call 210-650-0428. Donations can also be made through their website HeidiSearchCenter.Com

Who is Dottie Laster?

Dottie Laster, human trafficking

Dottie Laster

Dottie Laster spent the last 13 years in the effort of the anti-human trafficking movement nationally and in her home state of Texas. She is the co-founder of the San Antonio, Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking and the past Administrator of the Orange County, California Human Trafficking Task Force and has successfully written millions in grants to assist children and victims of human trafficking.

Along with her position as Executive Director at Heidi Search Center, Laster is the Anti-Trafficking Coordinator with the Bernardo Kohler Center as an accredited representative recognized by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals to practice immigration law under BKC.

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.

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

1 ticket : $20.00 USD – monthly
2 tickets : $35.00 USD – monthly
3 tickets : $50.00 USD – monthly
Recurring Monthly donation
$20.00
$30.00
$50.00

How to Help Those Who Help Others

help those who help others

It’s the time of year when we think about giving. The Combined Federal Contributions Campaign has been active for Federal employees, mail boxes and inboxes are filling up with letters, catalogues and other forms of pleas for donations and charities.

If you have a business or work for a large corporation your company may have a whole department, or person, dedicated to charitable giving. Businesses gain a large amount of goodwill among their supporters by giving back to the community that benefit from their business.

I come from a background of studying Sociology and International Relations. I started out studying psychology but quickly found that the social context one lives in has a very strong effect on their life.  In order to be most effective in helping others I switched my major to Sociology. I found a world full of answers to complex problems, and more questions than I could imagine to ask, were now in front of me, along with myths that had often been seen as fact.

A civil society

One of the issues that was powerful for me in my studies is the idea of civil society. Civil society is the way that organizations of people fill in the needed gaps between government and business that make a society function properly, or improperly, if those gaps fall unserved. Organizations that are immediately recognized would be the YMCA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Salvation Army and many more.

There are many societies in the world that do not have a full range of organizations to meet the gaps between business and government. Both business and government can be harsh and leave many needs unmet due to bureaucracy or staying focused on markets.

In the United States, we place a high value on professional services like attorneys, engineers, accountants, sports figures, celebrities and others. We often expect those who serve people to take little to no income. People who educate, rescue lives, and provide social services are often marginalized when it comes to financial compensation.

However, when we have the services needed for families in crisis, it benefits all of society.  The presence of social services restores employees to their jobs, helps children reach their potential, makes neighborhoods safer and guarantees our thriving in the future.

Yet, as I counsel many college students who ask, “How can I do what you do?” I respond, “The best advice I can give you is to do anything else!  You will not be financially rewarded and if you need money to survive, go elsewhere.” What a shame to have to choose between helping others and financial stability.

Example of financial expectations

Christmas party at Heidi Search Center

Christmas party for families of the missing at Heidi Search Center

I was at a meeting years ago with a man who was truly blessed, he and his family owned many businesses in southern California, all extremely successful. He was wonderful to meet with me and let me know he wanted to help with combating human trafficking.

We developed an idea for a fundraiser and raising awareness that trafficking was occurring in his community. After our meeting he said, “This is great and I need your help to make it successful, but I have to work and earn money.”  A few sentences later he said, “… and we will raise all this money, but no salaries will be paid.”

My heart sank. He needed me to feel good, contribute to society, but relieve him so he could earn money. He gave no thought to me not being able to pay my bills or be secure in the process, even though he met me because of my work rescuing victims.

That’s when I realized that our American society does not value the work of social services. It wasn’t his fault, but it’s what we have come to expect.

My personal dream

My dream is that we value human and social services more than we value professional sports teams or the latest celebrity in the news. If people are enslaved, missing, victims of crime, and hungry, then how can we pursue so many other expensive endeavors?

We should solve human suffering as the highest priority, because we are a country built on the idea of compassion, but, we’ve also become a nation of greed. We are a people that puts focus on a problem and we fix it, it’s been proven so many times. The end of World War II, winning the Space Race, finding Bin laden, are examples of human energy put towards a common goal, often framed as good and evil.

Resources for freelance advocates

Why should someone who is combating modern slavery be forced to do so with little to no resources? What could be more evil in modern times than selling others for commercial sex or for forced labor?

We villainized Saddam Hussein for his rape police, but we buy and sell rape in the U.S. as a commodity. Those perpetuating the rape culture and sex trafficking have up to $32 BILLION dollars.

How much could we benefit as a society if the suffering that money caused was stopped?

What if all those people were free and pursuing their full potential and benefitting society?

What if they were never exploited?

What if children were never born into or because of this spectrum of crimes?

What if those children affected by trafficking were protected? Nurtured? Supported?

How much is that worth? Should someone who is experienced and skilled have to work with the risk, but without the benefit of financial resources?

Building a better world for all

If freelance advocates could receive financial compensation similar to an attorney, engineer, or sports figure, the population we serve would benefit and it would allow the freedom needed to find more victims and prevent more exploitation.

I believe we can change the world in a very positive way. I believe we can start a wave of good and create the ability for others to be able to reach their purpose in life. It could be a world with less crying mothers, damaged children; a world with less rapes for money, less murders, less adultery, less STD’s; a world with safer schools and communities for children to grow and thrive.

We need a world where men don’t engage in the barbarous acts of commercial sex.  Men would be able to enjoy women for who they are and not the distorted lies of commercial sex. Men would become the men they should be.

It would be a world safe for victims and hostile to those who exploit them. It would be a world of compassion, where the best and brightest minds were paid to help other people, where material things and fame still existed, but aren’t as important as us as a society loving ourselves!!!

It would be a safer world where everyone has the chance to reach their highest and brightest potential to shine and pursue happiness and joy.

 

Dottie Laster

 

Dottie Laster creates art and jewelry to fund rescue and restoration of human trafficking victimsDottie Laster is the Executive Director of Heidi Search Center in San Antonio, TX and is also affiliated with the Austin, TX non-profit Bernardo Kohler Center where she is accredited to practice immigration law. She heads their Save One Soul outreach.

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.

She is the CEO of Laster Global Consulting,  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 schedule training 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 Parents Need to Know about the Internet

A look back to how it used to be

1950s-TV-Set When I was a child we had 3 TV channels and two of them were snow.  Taking photos meant taking film to be developed by Kodak and waiting a week or more to be processed. We did not have call waiting, call forwarding or even caller ID. The closest thing we had to the internet was a set of World Book Encyclopedias, a very expensive set of books that all parents invested in to ensure their children had access to knowledge and could do their homework.

I was taught to never confirm our address over the phone and to not provide any information about our home, or my parents, to anyone who called that I did not know personally, and to NEVER, even to trusted friends, disclose whether I was home alone.

My father worked, my mother took care of me and had many social and community activities. She got me ready for school and was home when the school bus dropped me off in the afternoon. I would watch Gilligan’s Island and Leave it To Beaver.  Eddie Haskell was such a stinker and was probably the closest thing to a bad guy that ever entered my consciousness. I played outside, climbed trees, rode horses, and all the neighborhood adults watched out for all the kids, not just their own family.

Bad things happened back then, too

One sunny afternoon, I answered the phone and a male voice which I thought I recognized from church called and began saying very ugly, gross and repulsive sexual things to me. I didn’t know what to say or do as this had never happened to me before. I must have looked shocked because my mom saw my face, took the phone from me and hung up. I remember being sad because this man had ruined my beautiful day of riding my horses. I felt sick to my stomach when my mind kept re-playing his voice and his words. I was deeply disturbed by his call for the rest of that day and 2 more days. I was afraid I would see him somewhere and I was concerned as to why such bad things could be on this earth. I was even afraid to go to church. Luckily, it never happened again and I returned to normal quickly.

The day we received our World Book Encyclopedias, I sat for hours looking at photos and reading about amazing things a world away. Now, in an instant, I could read and learn about anything, anywhere in the world.

I now see such a different society for children. Not better or worse but definitely different.

How it is in today’s world

We are connected all the time. Children are connected, not just by a landline phone as I was, but through many applications of the internet, cell phone and cameras. We thrive on instant- instant connection, data downloads, responses and information, information, information!  Our phones can do anything, find any answer, move mountains of data, save screenshots, and forward with just a click and send.

Without a request, our locations, preferences, order history, and more are sent to places we don’t even know are watching our habits, behaviors and social connections.  Apps like Snap Chat, KIK, OVOO, Periscope and more are connecting people, places, images and conversations instantly and often leaving no trace.

These days, people like that man who called and disrupted my beautiful day can reach out with limitless access to information.

Children in today’s world, with unlimited access to knowledge and information, may not be aware of how the information they post and share can be used by someone who is gathering it to use for harm to them, or their family. Most young children, and even college age children, do not understand the schemes and tactics used by predators. The information you and your family share online may be similar to giving them the key to your front door.

As a child, I was in shock and didn’t know what to do as I was receiving that man’s gross fantasy, even though my mom was just a few feet away, I froze. I now understand that my child brain couldn’t hear him and at the same time formulate an effective escape. Imagine if he was also sending me images, telling me he saw me come home from school, threatening to hurt my mother! I would have been taken much further down his dark road.

The present challenge

3601525070_78444c9087_bIf our children are on the internet through online gaming, Facebook apps or other social media, they will be targeted. It’s not a question of if, but how many times.

As the Executive Director of Heidi Search Center I receive calls for help daily because a child has gone missing or is being targeted online. The number of predators looking for children is so numerous that we have to wade through them each time to find the missing person.

Parents and guardians are faced with many challenges that are vastly different from when my parents raised me. A young mind having access to instant information is amazing and beautiful, however, without protection it’s like giving the key to your home to every predator, con artist and schemer around the world.

Children are rightly confident that they can do so much more on the internet than their parents, however, this hubris from them is false. While they can make the internet bend to their will and do what they want, they don’t have the life experience or understanding about the evils that await them online. They don’t have knowledge of how a predator moves rapidly from the virtual world to reality in a flash.

One example, a child who was restricted from the internet by her parents due to messages they thought were inappropriate, went to visit her aunt who let her use the computer.  The adult male she was speaking with through texting apps mailed an iPod to her aunt’s house where no one knew she had received the device.

She began communicating and sending him photos of herself. She soon went missing, but he was arrested because he was found with illicit images of her on his phone, although she wasn’t with him. We went to two more adults, who were also arrested, before finding her in a very desolate place where there was no internet.

She has since returned to her family, however, her parents and family expended all their resources looking for her. Jobs, money, time, emotion; the damage was extensive, relationships were damaged, lives and careers altered.

Siblings are often traumatized and become fearful for their own safety, overly concerned for their parents, as well as the missing person. Parents cannot sleep, eat, work, pay bills or even attend necessary appointments while their child is missing.

Teachers, friends, peers, and even people the missing person doesn’t know are all affected adversely.

Psychology Today  report claimed that when a loved one goes missing the trauma caused is more painful than death.  “The pain of your child dying is incredible, but losing a child to estrangement is unbearable, it hurts so, so much more.” A quote from a mother of twins, one who died of cancer and the other who was estranged.

Children, adults, and minors need to understand the dangers of the internet and the ways that predators use different apps to their advantage. Children also need to understand the pain caused by their absence, whether their idea or someone else’s. They must adapt to the use of technology in an informed way.

Parents need to be educated and informed so they can make appropriate parenting decisions. It will not do to be absent from social media and ignorant of the ways it’s intertwined in their children’s lives. To do so is to invite pain suffering and predators into your life.

Dottie Laster

Dottie Laster

Dottie Laster is the Executive Director of Heidi Search Center and is also affiliated with the non-profit Bernardo Kohler Center where she is accredited to practice immigration law. She heads their Casita program and Save One Soul outreach.

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.

She is the CEO of Laster Global Consulting,  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 schedule 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