A new study finds spending on the underground sex trade in Seattle has gone way up. Of the cities studied, Seattle is one of only two where spending increased, and it’s not pennies: $50 million in 2003 to $112 million in 2007.
Those caught up in it call it "the life." It usually involves a pimp, coercion and prostitution.
For young victims of sex trafficking, getting out of that life and building a new one can be a monumental task. Having a rap sheet for prostitution makes it incredibly difficult to apply for jobs, or housing, or school — the things it takes to start over.
Writer and storyteller Jack Hitt has made a career portraying the larger-than-life characters he's encountered: a flamboyant neighbor who made international news as one of the world's first transsexuals, a building superintendent who was also a Brazilian mobster. "Why do these things always happen to you?" people ask. They don't, he says. Unbelievable stories happen to everybody. His new solo show mingles these stories with scientific research to show how our story-generating brains are constantly editing reality and "making up the truth" for us. Steve Scher talked with Jack Hitt in 2009.
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet W.S. Merwin is best known for his writing about the Vietnam War. Merwin has written and published poetry for over 50 years and translated the works of Dante and Pablo Neruda. He also comes from the generation of some of America's most famous poets: James Merrill, Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O'Hara, James Wright and John Ashbery. What was it like to work in that company? Steve Scher talked with W.S. Merwin in 2010 about the art of poetry.
Have you heard of a "choosey Suzie" or a "wife-in-law?" Do you know what being "in pocket" is? Thousands of underage kids trapped in prostitution know all too well. Steve Scher talked with Joanna Ward, then a case manager at YouthCare’s Orion Center, and heard first-hand stories of underage sex trafficking.
Two and a half weeks ago the FBI, in partnership with local law enforcement, conducted a cross-country sweep looking to help stop child sex trafficking. They recovered dozens of under-age victims who have been forced into prostitution, and they arrested their pimps. Three child victims were found in Washington state, and nine people were arrested here.
On Tuesday, something very different happened at FBI offices in downtown Seattle.
Over the last several days the FBI, in cooperation with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, conducted its seventh cross-country sweep looking to help stop child sex trafficking. The FBI worked with local police agencies, helped recover victims who have been forced into prostitution, and made arrests. About 50 different task forces participated.
Children's book author Maurice Sendak is a kind of father figure for many of us. He had a profound sympathy for children and never belittled their emotions. He daylit their anxieties and coaxed them into poetic form in books like Where the Wild Things Are, In The Night Kitchen, and Outside Over There (a book that frightens many adults).
In 2009, a pair of Newsweek reporters interviewed an 81-year-old Sendak. The result was a good article. But the interview itself never aired, so we're playing it on KUOW today. There's an animated version, too:
Today, we concluded the WGBH series on Human Trafficking. Noel Gomez is a local activist trying to end sex trafficking here in Seattle. She's the founder of the Organization Of Prostitution Survivors. She told us two stories back in 2010:
Last week, we began running an outstanding series on human trafficking from WGBH called "The Underground Trade." We're halfway through, with more episodes scheduled through the week. If you've just tuned in, this is your chance to catch up.
A System Of Modern Slavery That Touches All Points On The Globe
Boston-based reporter Phillip Martin began with a police bust of a ring of massage parlors that offer more than massages. Many reporters would have stopped there. But Phillip started pulling on the "thread" of that story, and over his eight-part series, he's unraveled the whole sweater, tracing the route of human traffic all around the world to its roots in Southeast Asia.
In a recent radio piece, WGBH’s Phillip Martin explored forced prostitution in East Asia. That’s a problem in the Puget Sound region, too.
Pimps here often prey on young girls who’ve run away from home. Detective Todd Novisedlak of the Seattle Police Department says that in some ways it’s similar to cases in Vietnam. He said traffickers here, too, prey on young girls’ susceptibility to fall in love.
People take long flights to pay low prices for sex. In a radio story from WGBH, Phillip Martin explores the international sex tourism industry. Here in the Seattle area, Highway 99 hosts one main corridor where prostitution is easy to see. Hot spots dot the roadway, from Northgate to Sea-Tac.
Some of those prostitutes are also underage girls, forced by pimps to walk the streets. That's called child sex trafficking.
The state of Washington will not appeal a federal court decision to strike down a new state sex trafficking law. The law would have held online websites like Backpage.com accountable for illegal ads posted on their sites.