Stand Up For Powerless Women: Advocates For Sex Trafficking Victims Are Few And Far Between

April 11, 2019

March 8 is United Nations-designated International Women’s Day, which has roots in the fight for better and safer working conditions in the U.S. This year, many global corporations are marking the day with events celebrating women’s education and parity in the workplace.

While many professional women are exalted, let’s consider thousands who aren’t, including those who are commercially sexually exploited and trafficked right here in New York City.

The charging of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution after twice visiting a Jupiter, Fla. “rub and tug” massage parlor shone a bright light on a world of commercial sexual exploitation.

Astoundingly, according to the anti-trafficking group Polaris, the U.S. is home to some 9,000 such establishments, and experts say many of the women who staff them are exploited and trafficked.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as modern-day slavery involving use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain labor or commercial sex acts.

That’s what’s happening in many massage parlors across the U.S., says Irina Tsukerman, a New York-based human rights attorney. “There’s no way to know without investigation whether a place is legitimate, or if someone is a trafficking victim in any individual case, [but] absolutely, a lot of them have been abused and deceived.”

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements raised awareness of sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond. But the outrage for women on the lowest rungs of the economic and educational ladder is far harder to find.

Shandra Woworuntu of Queens-based Mentari USA, who is dedicated to helping women escape commercial sexual exploitation (advocates reject words like “prostitution” as dehumanizing), and receive job training, survived the massage parlor underworld herself.

Trafficked at age 24 from Indonesia with the promise of a job in the hotel industry, Woworuntu was held at gunpoint and sexually trafficked in “many places up and down I-95.”

To read the full story by Heather Robinson on The Daily News: Click Here

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