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!
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: email@example.com
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
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 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
A dramatic shift in awareness and interest about Human Trafficking has occured in the United States.
TV Shows like The Killing, the Black List, Luther, Law and Order and many others have included human trafficking in episodes.
Many real life movies about Human Rights and freedom have been hugely successful in the recent past such as Lincoln, Mandela, 12 Years a Slave and the box office record breaker, American Sniper.
American Sniper shows the real life story of one aspect of the war in Iraq, from the Twin Towers bombing killing innocents to bullies torturing children. The audience is placed in awe of the idea of someone protecting other souls. At over $200 million dollars in box office sales we can see that our collective conscience is yearning for the stories of struggle and sacrifice for the freedom and protection of others in danger.
Since the beginning of the year I’ve had many contacts from producers and film companies that are developing projects about human trafficking. (For a glimpse of some of my past and current projects, please go to the Media page)I hope I can help answer some of the many questions my team receives. We also hope to broaden the stories to reflect what we are seeing everyday as we work in these cases from rescue to courtroom to direct victim assistance. It’s often more harsh, and beautiful, than any script could reflect. These are real life stories of human survival yearning for freedom and the opportunity to pursue their highest potential, which in many cases is what freedom means. I’ve enjoyed learning from this work what love, freedom and happiness mean. It’s taught me more about life than mere words can explain.
Here are some of the questions that are often asked and our responses:
This is such a dark subject, can we tell it without alienating the audience?
Yes, it is dark and some of the most horrible series of crimes are ALL committed upon one victim. It’s not just a single crime, but a spectrum of crimes and a climate of fear that encircles victims.
However, as with all compelling stories, the human will and spirit overcoming insurmountable obstacles moves viewers to awe and amazement. The unconditional love of putting oneself in harm’s way to protect another reaches many hearts and sparks conversations.
Aren’t you ever afraid? Do you receive threats?
Yes, we (my team) are often in danger, however, we believe that if we are feeling threatened how must the victims feel? It’s much harder to intimidate an adult woman who is surrounded by a team of professionals, media and law enforcement contacts than it is to scare a hurt teenager, or an adult struggling to protect his/her family or children.
We make ourselves a very hard target, if bad guys want to hurt us they can, however, they will lose something for their efforts. This is the point where having media helps, it’s very intimidating to the bad guys to see how big a presence we have in society.
If we were unknown, I believe we would receive more attacks.
Will the victims be willing to speak out about their experiences?
Yes, many victims have cases that need public attention. Often the victims are arrested and prosecuted for acts related to the trafficking and I’ve found that public attention helps these cases. Often it’s very difficult to get prosecution to shift from punishment to protection. The justice system has a myopic view of reality and it takes public pressure to force officials to look up and stop errant processes. This is where the media can be the difference in a victim’s life.
I often ask journalists and film makers, “Why did you get into this field?” They often say something like, “changing the world, or giving a voice to the stories that need to be told.”
Covering the story of a prosecuted trafficking victims is, in my opinion, the very reason many people chose their careers. To make a positive difference on individuals and society, protecting one victim often leads to the protection future victims. To see that society, the judicial system and bureaucrats see their roles in a story and the impact each has.
What part of this issue needs to be told?
I’ve seen stories since 2004 about the crying victim, sex trafficking of children, and a simplified version of human trafficking using images of locks and keys, bars, and handcuffs.
In my experience, the story we see everyday are not locks, keys, or bars. Those images are often why victims are not identified. Law enforcement and the community are looking for guns to the head, locked rooms and chains. What we see is more powerful than any locking device but invisible to the uninformed.
The locking device of modern slavery, or human trafficking, is the absolute inescapable tool of grooming and psychological coercion.
The example I use when speaking and training is that if you have a lock or gun all the victim needs to do is escape those and then he/she can run free screaming for help. The bad guys know this and use a different approach. They target the victim, find the weakness, exploit it and then induce trauma.
While the victim is in trauma they re-write that victim’s reality and history, and add-on sleep deprivation and fear to their tactics. There’s no need for bars or locks, the victim will not escape no matter the opportunity placed in front of them, because the psychological coercion works 24/7, anywhere, in front of anyone. This is the most difficult part of rescuing a victim or getting a person recognized as a victim. It’s a process that works on everyone, any time and anywhere.
Also, as a society, when we see horrible acts that are out of our ability to control or understand, we resort to blaming the victim. This allows us to feel safer and justifying that this will not happen to us or our loved ones. We create a clear conscience to move forward rather than stopping to help in this impossible situation. It’s a needed survival tool for society because if we didn’t have it we would be paralyzed. I’ve seen this tear families apart and have held the hands of grieving parents who are shunned by law enforcement, society, and even family, while they are screaming for help for their loved one.
I’m dealing with more U.S. citizen adults targeted while attending college, which seems to be occurring more often in the last 4-5 years. These types of cases need attention as any family sending their beloved child to college will tell you.
Forced labor is a large part of the issue of trafficking. I see domestic servants in the clutches of very wealthy and respected families, performers, laborers, restaurant workers, magazine sellers, religious groups, and other schemes that are nothing more than cons using forced labor disguised as opportunity for the victims and the purchasers of cheap labor products.
How can I help with your media project?
Laster Global Consulting can help make your projects become reality. My team has experience both in front of and behind the camera. Our contacts and access to law enforcement, survivor victims, and other key people is based on 12 years of working directly in the field and fostering trusted relationships.
We’ve worked with national and international media and film producers to create compelling stories about human trafficking. We are available to make your project go smoother, or fill in gaps that are often impossible to surmount without the help of an experienced professional team.
Refer to the Media Page for past and ongoing media projects.
For more information about how to hire Laster Global Consulting please contact: