Robert Kraft solicitation charge puts spotlight on sex trafficking
The charging of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft last week for allegedly soliciting prostitution at a Jupiter, Florida massage parlor has shed new light on the little-known industry of human sex trafficking.
Kraft has been charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution and faces up to one year in jail if he's convicted. Police allege they have surveillance video of Kraft engaging in sex acts during two visits to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter. But the action of soliciting prostitution is a misunderstood — even hidden — crime, and one that sometimes involves a devastating cost.
In an interview Wednesday with CBSN, Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, author of "Hidden in Plain Sight: America's Slaves of the New Millennium," who serves as an expert witness in criminal and civil court cases relating to human trafficking, said that human sex trafficking preys on victims who may not even understand what they've become involved in.
"Someone who is sex trafficked has either been forced, defrauded, coerced or deceived into the commercial sex trade," Melhman-Orozco said. "Or they are someone under the age of 18. So we are talking about people who are being exploited who really don't understand how they are being used within the commercial sex trade."
According to statistics shared with CBS News by the National Human Trafficking Hotline, girls who are sexually abused are 2.5 times more likely to be victims, up to 30 percent of homeless teens trade sex for money and shelter, and 67 percent of victims were trafficked by a family member.
Massage parlors, like the one where Kraft was charged for allegedly soliciting prostitution, are also viewed as high-risk places for containing women who may be victims of sex trafficking.
"A lot of women being brought in (to massage parlors) don't speak the language, are being deceived on the cost on their travel to the United States," Melhman-Orozco said. "They're put into a perpetual debt-bondage situation."
She added, "They're sometimes deceived on the nature on the type of work they're doing."
In an interview with CBSN on Tuesday, Kevin Malone, president and co-founder of the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking, said that the crime of human sex trafficking is more widespread than many Americans could imagine.
"Not many people are aware, and if they are aware they're not talking about it because it's so evil, that men are paying to rape women and to rape children, boys and girls, all across our country," Malone said. "We believe there are 100,000 American boys and girls being sold for sex daily all across our country," adding that "no one thinks it's happening but it's happening in our own backyard."
When asked how the urge to solicit prostitution begins, Malone pointed a finger in the direction of pornography.
"A lot of times it starts with pornography. There's a real problem in our country with men who are addicted or are regular viewers of hardcore porn. What they visualize they start to want to actualize."
As for the women and children who find themselves involved, Malone said, "some are lured into it, some are abducted."
When asked for how the country can reduce this practice of soliciting prostitution from human sex trafficking victims, Melhman-Orozco argued that prostitution should not be legalized, as some suggest, but that it should be decriminalized.
"It basically means we offer lesser sentences for consenting adults and women who may or may not have been sex trafficked so they don't fear about coming forward and reporting these victimizations to police."
Ultimately, the charging of Robert Kraft may prove to be a tipping point in creating an improved understanding by many Americans about a crime hidden in plain sight.
"These are unwilling participants," Malone said. "It's not a joke, it's not a laughing matter because of what Robert Kraft did. This is a serious problem in a America."
An earlier version of this story said Robert Kraft was arrested for soliciting prostitution. He was never arrested, only charged with solicitation.
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