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Professor explains horrors of human trafficking

Published: Monday, February 18, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 00:02

 

For many students, the thought of a young child sold into a world of violence and abuse for a mere $200 by her mother or father is a scenario thought about when watching Hollywood-produced movies such as “Taken.” 

Yet for numerous women and children around the world, the scenario is a ruthless reality.

The topic was the focus of a lecture by Leonardo Territo, a professor in the department of criminal justice at Saint Leo University and professor emeritus in the department of criminology at USF, who spoke to a small crowd of about 20 in the John and Grace Allen Building on Friday.

Territo, who served as chairman of the department of police administration and director of the Florida Institute for law enforcement at St. Petersburg College, gave students in the Honors College a deeper insight into the content of the book he co-wrote titled “International Sex Trafficking of Women and Children.”

Due to corrupted living conditions in many countries such as Russia and Cambodia, Territo said the appeal of coming to America runs high for many women living in such places looking for a better way of life. 

According to Territo, about 14,500 to 17,000 foreign women and children are trafficked into the U.S each year and physically controlled by their captor. 

Territo said a reason for this is the use of false advertisements that con many women into becoming sex slaves unknowingly.

“Generally there will be ads in newspapers offering lucrative job opportunities such as waitress jobs or nanny openings,” he said.  “She will be drugged and repeatedly raped. She’ll be moved place to place, not able to establish relationships with others.”

Territo spoke of the brutality of human trafficking.  

He shared the story of a 13-year-old Cambodian girl named Long Pross, who had her eye gouged out with a piece of metal by a pimp because she asked to be set free.   

“Many girls in places such as Cambodia may be sold for as little as $200 to $300 and will not likely see their parents again,” Territo said.

But foreign women and children are not the only casualties of this brutal business.

According to Territo, roughly 100,000 to 300,000 American children are sexually exploited annually.

Students such as Monica Restro, a freshman majoring in civil engineering, were alarmed by the statistics. 

“Coming in, I knew it was a problem in foreign countries but not in the U.S.,” Restro said. “It really opened my eyes to the awful people who live here and do these things.”

In the U.S, Territo said pimps seek out troubled young women, often runaways, at public places such as shopping malls or bus stops in order to take advantage of them. The pimps, he said, are master manipulators and work by schmoozing their underage prospects at first.  These pimps will buy them lavish gifts and shower the girls with affection.

“It’s often the first time in these girls’ lives that a man has treated them that way,” Territo said.  “The average age of a young person entering prostitution is 14 years old. Many think, ‘Who would want to be intimate with a girl that small?’ You’d be surprised.”

Often times the younger the girl is the more expensive she is to the customer, Territo added.  

Territo said he hopes education about human trafficking continues to spread throughout the community. He said the industry is all about money, and there is no lack of customers.  

“It’s a tragic subject, but an important subject,” Territo said.

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