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Presidential Initiative Summit in Seattle Shines Spotlight on Human Trafficking

In the waning hours of the 2012 Presidential Initiative Summit (March 28-30), two courageous women joined Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and me in sharing their stories of terror and hope with Seattle media.

Today, Rani Hong is the founder of the Tronie Foundation and United Nations special advisor to the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (GIFT). At the age of seven, she was stolen from her family in India to become a child slave. With no home, no family and no identity—she kept only her first name - Rani.

By age eight, she told reporters, her physical condition and emotional state had deteriorated so much that she was near death. Because she was no longer of any value to her slave owner, he sold her into an illegal adoption. At that point, Rani’s life took a powerful turn for the better when an American woman adopted what she thought was a little orphan girl from India. Through her adoptive mother's love, Rani began to find stability, healing and a sense of personal freedom. Now, she’s dedicated her life to fighting human trafficking around the world.

Kathryn Griffin Townsend is founder of an organization to rehabilitate women who have been rescued from prostitution. Kathryn gave a face to domestic human trafficking as a former prostitute who rose above that life and has dedicated herself to saving others.

She emphasized the importance of confronting pimps and standing up for their victims, who are often runaways, drug addicts and other “throw-away” members of society. “I have been fortunate to survive having my ear cut off, my face rebuilt, my bones broken, hit and run over by a car – all my teeth knocked out,” said Townsend. “Only by the grace of God do I stand here today to give back and fight back. If someone is cursing you out, beating you, starving you, making you have sex for money for them, it is not normal. It is a crime.”

These women were two of the nearly 300 attendees who participated in the Summit, representing local, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and private businesses from communities here in Washington and throughout the country.

Both women joined me in commending Attorney General Coakley for agreeing to continue the Association’s emphasis on this issue beyond my tenure as president of the National Association of Attorneys General, which concludes in June.

Both shared their optimism that the work you all joined me in doing this year—and the work that remains to be done—will result in a better life for those thrust into the shadowy world of human trafficking.

Pillars of Hope in Action

Working together, we have made significant progress over the past year as the Pillars of Hope are being employed in every corner of the country. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi worked for the passage of new legislation to make Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking. In Mississippi, Attorney General Jim Hood has been working to raise public awareness throughout his state and plans to strengthen laws that deal with human trafficking crimes. New Mexico Attorney General Gary King’s office was recently featured on America’s Most Wanted for the prosecution of local human trafficking cases.

Thanks to the work of Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, new legislation has been passed in Wisconsin and the Department of Justice has just published a Human Trafficking guide for Criminal Justice Professionals. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has been doing a fabulous job in his state, particularly his recent work centered on the Super Bowl and the innovative Don’t Buy the Lie campaign. Attorney General Zoeller also led a successful effort to adopt Indiana's first anti-human trafficking statute.

Attorney General Coakley was recently acknowledged by Shared Hope International for her great work in passing a tough new statute in Massachusetts, under which four individuals have already been charged for human trafficking in Boston.

Although these are just a few examples, I’m tremendously proud of all of the work being done by Attorneys General across the country. I’ll be sharing even more of this work with you when I issue our status report on the Presidential Initiative at the Summer Meeting in Alaska, June 18-22.

Summit Take 2 Watch the re-runs here!

Because the presentations and discussions during the Summit were so informative, I’m seeking to make them as widely available as possible so that anyone who is interested in this issue and did not attend the Summit can still benefit from the wealth of perspectives and expertise, learn more about the issue and see firsthand how all of the efforts over the past year have come to life.


Below is a snapshot of Summit events, along with many links to speaker videos, our panel expert discussions, details of the Pillars of Hope Initiative, and much more. I hope you will take a moment to check out these news stories, peruse the Summit meeting materials, watch a speaker or listen to a panel discussion.

Human Trafficking: North American Perspective

This panel, moderated by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, discussed comparative federal approaches to human trafficking in North America, including prevention, prosecution and victim services.

PANELISTS: Angelica Herrera Rivero, Director, Special Prosecutions Unit for Crimes of Violence Against Women & Human Trafficking, Office of the Attorney General of Mexico; John Miller, Former U.S. Ambassador At Large on Modern Day Slavery; Todd Shean, Assistant Commissioner, Federal and International Operations, Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

WATCH NOW: John Miller, former US Ambassador at Large on Modern Day Slavery

Public Response: Corporations Taking the Lead in Fighting Human Trafficking

This panel addressed the corporate response to labor trafficking, including compliance with the California Transparency Supply Chain Act, industry specific versus market-wide codes of conduct, personnel policies and corporate philanthropy.

MODERATOR: Christopher Johnson, Jr., Associate Professor and Director, Graduate Program in Corporate Law and Finance, Thomas M. Cooley Law School and former General Counsel, General Motors North America

PANELISTS: Shawn MacDonald, PhD, Director of Programs and Research, Verite ; Stephanie Richard, Policy & Legal Services Director, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST); Steve Lippman, Director, Environmental Sustainability, Microsoft Corporation


Prosecuting Traffickers: Best Practices

The successful “triage” of trafficking cases requires coordination between federal and state law enforcement and prosecutors, an understanding of the charging tools available, and training in successful trial advocacy strategies.

MODERATOR: Lenny Rapadas, Guam Attorney General

PANELISTS: Sean O’Donnell, Senior Deputy King County Prosecutor & NAGTRI Trainer; John Richmond, Special Litigation Counsel, Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, U.S. Department of Justice; John Blakey, Chief, Special Prosecutions Bureau, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office & NAGTRI Trainer; Ye-Ting Woo, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Terrorism and Violent Crimes Unit, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington


Holding Traffickers Accountable: What NGOs Want Law Enforcement to Know

This session focused on comparative best practices for training law enforcement in how to identify trafficking incidents, and ensure a victim-centered response.

MODERATOR: Honorable Alice Chamberlayne Hill, Senior Counselor to the Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

panelists: Linda Smith, Founder & President, Shared Hope International; John Wilkinson, Attorney Advisor, AEquitas; Brad Myles, Executive Director and CEO, The Polaris Project


Mobilizing Communities to Care for Victims: Collaboration Amongst Anti-Trafficking

Preventing human trafficking and ensuring that survivors receive effective services and advocacy necessitates a new paradigm based upon research, community mapping and collaboration.

MODERATOR: Joan Jarman, Executive Director, Chab Dai USA


PANELISTS: Rose Gundersen, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Washington Engage; Jim Grenfell, Executive Director, AWARE, Inc.; AnnJanette Alejano-Steele, PhD, Research and Training Director, Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking; Emma Catague, Community Organizing Program Manager, Asian & Pacific Islander Women & Family Safety Center


“SOLD” Trailer and Q&A

The co-founders of GRAiNEY Pictures moderated a discussion on how film can both move the needle on public awareness of human trafficking, and change individual behavior at the same time.

The Sibs (Colin and Megan), Co-Founders, GRAiNEY PICTURES ➢ Melinda Giovengo, PhD, Executive Director, YouthCare ➢ Samir Goswami, Director of Corporate Responsibility, Rule of Law, LexisNexis


Additional information about the Presidential Initiative can be found here:

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