New sex trafficking charges were filed against Ghislaine Maxwell this week, including a fourth underage victim added to the case and a new charge of sex trafficking conspiracy. And so the Ghislaine Maxwell saga continues. Although the case is salacious fodder for the media frenzy, it does help shine a light on a very real problem here in New York City and throughout the United States.
Sex trafficking is alive and well and not necessarily confined to the upper crust or dark shadows. It is also just as prevalent out in plain sight here in New York City, should we care to take the time to look.
Special agents involved in the FBI Crimes Against Children and Human Trafficking program have indicated that, as of November 2020, there were over 1,800 pending trafficking investigations throughout the country. Here in New York, Gov. Cuomo launched a media campaign back in August to bring awareness to trafficking and to dispel myths. But those of us who understand sex crimes in New York know that as kids logged on for their online classes because of COVID, they were also entering a world of potential predators.
“Pervasive and Under-Addressed Problem” in New York City
Restore NYC, a local nonprofit assisting and advocating for survivors of human trafficking in the United States, reports that sex trafficking is a pervasive and under-addressed issue here in New York City, with our city serving as a “gateway and one of the largest destinations for trafficked women in the country.”
While the media surrounding Ghislaine Maxwell may spin it as something unusual that happens to “certain” people, the reality is far more prevalent and often happens right under our noses.
According to Restore NYC, traffickers adeptly lure victims through a variety of means. These can be deceptive job offers or otherwise false promises. The young women allegedly lured by Maxwell and Epstein were enticed with promises of modeling careers. Once in the grips of traffickers, victims are commonly kept in check through exploitation of their fears and vulnerabilities.
Consequently, they often become both emotionally and economically dependent on them. Some traffickers specifically prey on immigrants or at-risk kids with little self-esteem, opportunities, or options.
Bridget Simunovic, a victim specialist with the Pittsburgh FBI office, says she sees local kids being coerced every day. She said one tactic that was used by traffickers was giving someone a compliment as they walked by. If they turned around to say “thank you,” it was something that they looked for.
“(Traffickers) look for that vulnerability, they look for that isolation,” she said.
Keeping Eyes and Ears Open to Trafficking
While Ghislaine Maxwell’s issues may provide the media with some salacious tidbits, we do have a real-time, in-our-backyard problem with trafficking that demands us to keep our eyes and ears open for it. To learn more about human trafficking in New York, go to https://restorenyc.org/sex-trafficking or to report a trafficking matter or suspicion, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or go to their website at https://humantraffickinghotline.org/.
Some sex crimes serve as the tip of the iceberg when it comes to uncovering networks of human trafficking in New York. If you need advice about a criminal sex crimes defense, contact the New York criminal defense firm of Arkady Bukh for a confidential consultation.