Human Trafficking: A Global Crisis
Jones Day's Bethany Biesenthal, a former assistant United States Attorney, talks about the scope of the global human trafficking crisis and explains how the Firm is devoting resources to the fight against these illegal and immoral activities in jurisdictions around the world. Laura Ellsworth, Partner-in-Charge of our Global Community Service Initiative, explains some of the ways Jones Day works with global clients, to help identify, prevent, and prosecute human trafficking crimes.
Read the full transcript:
Human trafficking is an enormous problem. And it's a global one. So just looking at the numbers alone, there's conservative estimates that there are 24.9 million victims of forced labor throughout the world. That's both adults and children. Conservative estimates are 4.8 million victims of sexual exploitation. Again, across the world, both adults and children. So when we look at numbers, it doesn't appear as though the numbers are going down. What it does look like is we have a better understanding of the enormity of the problem. So now with that understanding, we're able to start combating human trafficking, and we anticipate the numbers or hope the numbers with our work will start to go down.
The way that Jones Day is combating human trafficking or approaching the problem is largely the same that historically the firm has approached their client problems. There's an integrated approach where, because of the size of the firm, its global reach, the number of people, the diversity of its people, the different skill sets, this firm is uniquely equipped to be able to take a really all hands-on approach and an integrated approach to any type of problem.
We help different kinds of victims in different kinds of ways. Sometimes we do individual representations of victims who have been trafficked and are seeking restitution. And we have had multi-million dollar verdicts for those clients. We also represent clients who have been victims of online child sexual exploitation, who are trying to get their images taken down, who are trying to get restitution from their traffickers. We have represented children who were exploited by what's called voluntourism. So people who go abroad for the purpose of finding vulnerable children and sexually abusing them.
We will represent the interests of those children in litigation here in the United States where US law provides restitution for those children. And one of the things we learned in that work, one instance where we were writing the check to the child. And we were asked to mail it to a particular address. And we looked at that address and realized it was one of the addresses where the child had been abused. And what we realized was the family who had been perpetrating the abuse was now trafficking this child in a different way, to us, for restitution.
And for what we thought was good work, obtaining restitution for a victim, we realized risked perpetuating trafficking and perhaps creating new incentives for trafficking. We have worked with NGOs in country and financial institutions to develop models where the payments that are made for restitution go as they do in settlements for minors, right? Something we're familiar with. It goes to the benefit of the child and enables that child to maybe get schooling away from that family. And then, we work with judges in the US to sensitize them to that issue, so that when they are awarding restitution, the judges and the prosecutors ask those questions. So we're trying to help the judicial system, but more importantly, we're trying to help those victims.
Jones Day currently is doing a lot with the court specifically in trying to put together a model diversionary program that would help victims of human trafficking who have convictions, criminal convictions, oftentimes felonies as a result of their trafficking situation. So just by way of example, only a sex trafficking victim, by the time they reach federal law enforcement or local law enforcement, they may have several prior convictions for prostitution, all of which were done under the guide of their trafficker. So the firm is working hard with the courts to try to come up with a way to stop those convictions, have victims of human trafficking come into the courts. And instead of racking up another conviction, seek therapy services, help them find a job, do things that then we can divert them from the crime that they ultimately were going to be convicted of.
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