Friday, September 19, 2008
ARTICLE #76) Gals told 'don't go' to work in Vegas: Alberta woman's disappearance now looks like case of human trafficking
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Gals told 'don't go' to work in Vegas: Alberta woman's disappearance now looks like case of human trafficking
Edmonton Sun by Glenn Kauth
Carol-Lynn Strachan shudders whenever she hears of Edmonton prostitutes going to work in Las Vegas.
"I tell them don't go, and find out who you're working for," said Strachan, a local sex-trade advocate.
Strachan's concern is the rise in human-trafficking cases in the Las Vegas sex trade.
Just recently, authorities there revealed they believe Jessie Foster, an Alberta woman missing since March 2006, is the victim of a possible trafficking ring.
"This sounds like a really bad detective movie that never ends," said her father, Dwight Foster, from Calgary yesterday.
Dwight called his daughter's case a "textbook" example of trafficking in which a pimp lures young women to places like Las Vegas with the promise of bright lights and big money.
Once they get to Sin City, they essentially become slaves to pay off the pimp for bringing them there.
"The problem is the debt keeps rising. The debt never goes away," said Terri Miller, program director with the Las Vegas-based organization, the Anti Trafficking League Against Slavery.
In Foster's case, the 21-year-old went to Las Vegas in order to join her boyfriend, Peter Todd, who told her he had lots of money and who at first showered her with a life of luxury, Dwight said.
Since she went missing in March 2006, however, the family has since learned she had earlier been arrested for prostitution.
What makes a sex worker a victim of trafficking is the element of coercion and fraud, said Miller. Victims can't leave the trade because of the debt, and in many cases they're kept hidden and cut off from family and friends.
"Most of the time, there's some sort of threat against their safety, the safety of their family," said Miller.
The only way out of the trap, she added, is to pay off the debt or get help from an organization like hers.
Tragically, though, some victims end up dead either through suicide or murder, Miller noted.
Like Strachan, JoAnn McCartney, a former Edmonton vice cop who counsels prostitutes, warns local sex workers about the lure of Las Vegas. She's been involved in incidents where parents have had to sneak plane or bus tickets to their daughters trying to escape controlling pimps.
"They're subject to a whole lot of violence once they get there," she said.
"The only thing you can tell them is (that) whatever sounds too good to be true probably is," she added.
Foster's mother Glendene Grant, meanwhile, said the fact her daughter is now considered a suspected victim of a trafficking ring means police in Las Vegas are now taking her case more seriously.
"It's not just a person who went to Las Vegas who wandered off. It's a whole lot bigger than that," she said yesterday from Kamloops, B.C.
While both she and Dwight are prepared for the fact Foster may be dead, they hope her case will at least make people aware of the dangers of trafficking.
"It's a little late for my daughter, but if we can get to and educate one girl, then we've made inroads," said Dwight.