Girls wearing almost nothing at all, suggesting all sorts of sexual acts, listed on page after page of Backpage.com's escorts section. When she looked closer at the photos, she noticed something eerie.
She could recognize the rooms.
Ritter is a meeting planner at Nix Conference and Meeting Management of St. Louis. She and her co-workers work with 500 hotels around the world and visit about 50 properties annually. She can identify many hotel chains used in escort ads by their comforters, bathroom sinks, air conditioning units and door locks. Sometimes, she can also identify a specific property.
Meet Kimberly Ritter, sex trafficking sleuth.
A child protection code of conduct
Ritter has become a force in the international anti-trafficking movement, where she uses her expertise to identify the mainstream middle-end and high-end hotels used by traffickers.
She negotiates with hotels to fight trafficking at their properties, while also trying to convince hotel general managers that it's good business to fight trafficking through signing the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, a voluntary set of principles that businesses can adopt to fight trafficking. Her firm has created a version of the code for meeting planners and was the first signatory a few weeks ago.
Ritter hopes to recruit other planners to sign on to the code.
Once Ritter and her co-workers realized they could have an impact, "we thought this should be something all meeting planners could do," she said.
Although anti-trafficking organizations can't be sure how many people are forced into commercial sex work, the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking estimates that human trafficking is a $32 billion business worldwide, with $15.5 billion coming from industrialized countries. (That includes forced sexual and nonsexual commercial labor of adults and children.)
An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 children are at risk of commercial sex exploitation in the United States, according to End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT), which created the tourism code. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (888-373-7888) has recorded 46,000 phone calls over the past four years requesting information, reporting tips about trafficking and connecting about 3,600 victims of sex trafficking to social services. (The hotline takes calls about sex or labor trafficking.)
Trafficking isn't simply sex for sale
Sex trafficking isn't prostitution, which is engaging in sex with someone for payment. The crime of sex trafficking has three parties: one person holding the victim, while using "force, fraud or coercion" to make the victim engage in sex acts for payment, and the third party paying for the sex, said Brad Myles, executive director of the Polaris Project, which operates the hotline with funding from the U.S. government. If the victim is a child, no force, fraud or coercion is required for the se