Epstein, Maxwell, Acosta, Raniere – Who else should be investigated?

By Dottie Laster

Commercial sex is barbaric and so are those who sell and purchase it

In the past few months, I have seen news stories and comments that both anger and shock those of us who see the barbaric nature of commercial sex. Maxwell, Epstein, Raniere and the resignation of labor Secretary Alex Acosta. The headlines are full of well-known names that are accused or even convicted of sex trafficking or associated with sex traffickers. While many speak about the accused or convicted, few understand or speak in an informed manner about the schemes used to coerce the victims of commercial sex. I hope we begin to shift the focus to discussing the glorified escapades of men who purchase sex and understand the pain and suffering that serving their urges on demand costs. I am often still shocked and stunned when hearing people speak about men who purchase sex. Often news media and individuals seem to give buyers of sex a free pass but if the same act happened without purchase people would be easily angered and clear about the need to seek justice. When money changes hands that seems to negate any crime in our societies’ perspective. To me, this seems unreasonable, however it is  necessary for people like Jeffery Epstein’s attorney to write his own plea deal with no input what so ever from the victims. When I was selected by the U.S. Attorney’s office to be trained on human trafficking by the Department of Justice in 2005, Alex Acosta was one of our speakers. He was selected by the Department of Justice and was someone I could call for help on trafficking cases. He is in a training film that showed him saying that human trafficking is hideous it is evil, he quotes a story of a minor being sex trafficked and a roll of paper towels being kept next to her teddy bear. He said this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Just over a year later he made the plea deal with Epstein and let Epstein escape the decades long sentence the law would have allowed for sex trafficking minors.

The Laws

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) was passed to stop modern slavery, also known as human trafficking. Now, state level laws that mirror the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act exist in all 50 states. The TVPA has both federal criminal and civil law statutes that state that commercial sex under force, fraud or coercion was considered sex trafficking and ALL parties are responsible the same both criminally and civilly. Assets may be seized that were used in the trafficking, RICO (Racketeering) seizures are codified into the law and everyone benefited, or who knew or should have known may be prosecuted and/or sued civilly the victims. The recruiter, the buyer of sex, the driver, the chef, the controllers, the schedulers -anyone involved is responsible the same as the other parties. Also ANY MINOR in stripping, pornography or prostitution is a victim. No force, fraud or coercion needed. Anyone who is a part of putting a minor 14 years or under in commercial sex may face a life sentence.  Age of consent to sex is not applicable because we do not allow minors to sell sex. Commercial Sex and sex with a boyfriend are not the same thing, even though many confuse such concepts. Just like rape is violence not sex, commercial sex is purchased coerced sex not an equal consent to sex. The only person who has control is the sex buyer and that is absolute. The coercion and force is used to create the product the buyer fanaticizes exists. 

 I get so frustrated when I see articles with titles like MIT scientist defended Jeffrey Epstein associate in leaked emails, claims victims were entirely willing, FOX News September, 14, 2019 or Yet Another Journalist Who Accepted Favors from Jeffery Epstein, where journalist, Edward Epstein (no relation to Jeffery Epstein) is quoted as saying ‘Epstein is a poster boy for rehabilitation….. I’m not sure he destroyed their lives…” Well, yes Edward Epstein, he did! He and those who purchased them ruined their lives, traumatized their bodies, robbed them of reaching their highest potential, this in turn causes victims’ families’ and parents lives to be destroyed as well. Their finances, well-being, the siblings and other family members are all damaged. The victims’ future children’s lives are altered, and the wives, children and girlfriends of the buyers of sex are damaged, and unknowingly exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. When a parent has a missing or exploited child they face huge barriers to keeping their job, their health, their home and often families fracture and separate under the stress. The damage done is extensive, expensive and ongoing for the victims’ lives and the lives of those who love them. Commercial sex leaves a trail of abortions, miscarriages, and children born into or harmed by commercial sex.

And for those dullards like reporter Edward Epstein and the others who sing the praises of Jeffery Epstein and to those who think that the minors and adults sold for stripping, pornography and prostitution are unharmed this message is for you. In a nod to a quote from President Lincoln regarding slavery, for those of you who espouse the virtues of commercial sex, I wish to see it tried upon you.  

Cases Examples

I once helped the mother of a sex trafficked minor who was a very devout Catholic, a great mother and a very humble and peaceful person. She stated on film for the documentary, Cargo: Innocence Lost that she was not opposed to the death penalty for those who sold her daughter for commercial sex. She stated they killed the daughter she raised and we would never again know that innocent child because of the traffickers’ actions. The TVPA does allow for the death penalty if someone dies due to the trafficking. That means if the victim dies due to the trafficking, the victim would not have to be murdered - also ALL parties involved are responsible, the same for the victim being deceased.

Another case recently led me to help the adult victim of a very perverted and deviant commercial sex scheme.  They sold subscriptions online for extremely sadistic sex with very high monthly fees. When I met the victim, soon after her escape, she resembled a walking corpse. She was alive but had no visible part of her soul exposed. Just 4 months after her escape, while being cared for by the very best treatment, protection and efforts in the nation to heal her, at just 20 years of age, she took her life. She was dead when I met her, just her body was alive. That is the goal of the grooming, luring, trauma inducement and climate of fear. It is to keep the body alive with the soul hidden or destroyed. This gives the commercial sex buyer a blank canvas to project and infect their perverted, impossible, porn driven fantasies upon. 

Coercion and Demand

To the public, it is perplexing is how a young adult or minor can be held through coercion for commercial sex in front of many people who could free her. We expect the victim to be held by chains of force, however coercion is more effective than force. If held by a gun to the head, all the victim has to do is escape the gun and flee. Coercion cannot be escaped from or protected against. It is in the victims’ total existence, awake, asleep, in a police station or completely alone. She can never escape, and she believes no one can help her. 

It is shocking that so many people would be willing to purchase sex with such a victim. In a research study conducted by ProstitutionResearch.com, a research team was searching for a control group of men who had not purchased commercial sex. This was a part of an effort to study buyers of sex. The team could not find 100 men who had not purchased pornography, stripping or prostitution. The buyers often reported not telling their wives and girlfriends about the buyers purchasing commercial sex.  

It happens here no matter where here is

Parents, grandparents, and friends of victims call me every day with requests to help them because someone they know has gone missing or is being trafficked.  They usually start by saying, I knew what you do but I never thought I would need your help. I cannot believe this happened to someone I know.

Sara, she is every one’s child (the name is changed and the details of cases are merged to protect those who helped the victim)

It was 6 months before the 1st very faint symptoms showed up. As a parent, it was the scariest thing one could imaginable. You have spent 20 plus years of your life protecting this child, preparing every step from her 1st day of kindergarten through to her college. Your job as the steward of her life is to making sure nothing bad happens to limit her potential or end her life.  As she has minor scrapes, fevers, struggles with math, disappointments with peers, rites of passages and lessons you and your loved ones are there to help guide her every day. From scraping her knee, to appendicitis, to her first dates and learning to drive you are there to brush off the dirt or the hurt and kiss her good night and tell her you love her unconditionally. Your job as a parent is to create a climate of love and protection around her. That never ends. Even as an adult you will try to guide her with you knowledge as she manages the bumpy ride from childhood to adult life.

As parents, we pour our hearts and souls into raising our kids. Spending countless moments filling them with love, knowledge and building an unbreakable trust.  A trust that we believe will stand the test of time. That it will be impervious to anyone trying to break that bond. As parents raising our kids in the world of smartphones, tablets, ipods, and online connectedness we are fighting an uphill battle unlike anything seen in history before. This is the first generation of parents raising kids who have direct connections to every predator in the world. There is no manual, book, or grandparent for a parent to ask “what should we do?” Sara’s parents were just this type of parents. They did such a good job as parents that Sara was accepted into college on her exceptional grades and merit. They spent $100,000 of their own money on her tuition. They could have had help in the form of scholarships but they chose to leave that money for someone else, because they began saving for her college the year she was born. One month before Sara was to graduate with honors, she went missing.

Imagine that you are Sara’s parents and without your knowledge some monster, invisible to you, has come in and destroyed all of your efforts. These monsters have now carried out ALL of your worst nightmares. The ones that you had always worried about and protected her from experiencing. 

The tactics used by both online and local predators are skills and techniques that were first taught in the 1940’s by our military for torture and war tactics that used to be in line with our morals as a country. They are highly effective and have now leaked into the criminal world and the criminals for many years have shared and tweaked these tactics for the purposes of targeting victims. These skills are being used on our teens and young adults to harvest our future for the barbaric practice of commercial sex. These tactics are almost invisible and they work on everyone. Sleep deprivation, befriend and betray, false praise and criticism, feigned love, peer recruiters, systematic destruction of social ties, orchestrated push factors like bullying, ongoing trauma, programming and more are used to create a climate of coercion that is effective and unbreakable. These tactics that are unable to be overpowered by our teens and young adults. 

Sara, at age 24 was on her path to becoming a medical doctor, initially connected with her trafficker through online video gaming. She had many identifiable elements of grooming, which is the most underestimated danger for teens and young adults today, but those signs were not identified as being caused by a predator.

Sara was groomed to connect with the perpetrators by communication in a chat room of the online game. Predators often hang out there to troll for someone who will communicate with them and a simple ‘HI’, can turn into a nightmare that is unable to be escaped.  Sara was targeted and coerced to such an extreme that she sought care from a neurologist who witnessed severe neurological dysfunction, such as losing time, memory lapses, night terrors, extreme anger and muscle tremors. However, after many tests he could not identify the source. 

We now know Sara was sleep deprived, induced to stop eating, was traumatized by a beating and gang rape that she was lured to witness. She also believes she was filmed while there. Next, Sara was harmed physically, and her memories rewritten while she was in a state of shock.  When she reached a state of learned helplessness, the trafficker and his team then induced her through coercion to perform both stripping, pornography and prostitution. It is estimated he was able to reap over $300,000 in the 9 months her held her in their control, not counting the ongoing revenue from the pornography. She never returned to her education or her previous life. She struggles many years later with things that used to be simple and not traumatic. She also has physical disabilities due to the trauma. Her medical bills have reached $1 million.  Her mother has developed chronic illnesses which I believe were triggered by the stress and trauma of enduring what happened to her daughter. Parents feel both their pain and their child’s pain.

I look forward to the day when commercial sex buyers are treated as the monsters they are and not congratulated and back slapped with a smile as they are now. I look forward to the day when our civil society chooses exile those who support or participate in commercial sex.

Copyright 2019 by Dottie Laster. All Rights Reserved.

Dottie Laster is an expert on human trafficking in the United States. She has served victims for 16 years and developed Department of Justice funded human trafficking task forces in Houston and San Antonio, Texas and Orange County, California. She triggered the U.S.’s largest victim rescue in 2005 with 120 victims being rescued from commercial sex. She consults on human trafficking cases, serves as an expert witness in courts and national media. She is a co -founder of Paratus Investigations and Protection which specializes in human trafficking investigation and training.  They have classes registering now, see ParatusIP.com to learn more. Dottie may be reached through her web site at TraffickingVictimRescueCentral.org or at Trafficked@protonmail.com

4 thoughts on “Epstein, Maxwell, Acosta, Raniere – Who else should be investigated?

  1. Exactly!!! Dottie Laster’s article, “Epstein, Maxwell, Acosta, Raniere – Who else should be investigated?”, directs the reader to the costs of the unimaginable depths of human suffering experienced by the “product” victim through the complex, extensive, deviant manipulations of all manners utilized by evil, greedy, dangerous, selfish people! This is indeed what needs to be on the front of newspapers as the “Glass Walls” to what is going on in every city to dispel the misconceptions of this HUGE societal ill and inform everyone; the How and Why needs to be read about and understood as much as the Who and What to stop this. Thank you Dottie for this great article and how everyone needs to know how this can easily happen to their loved ones and family!

  2. Dottie, you are the go-to expert on human trafficking, not only from the viewpoint of rescuing victims, but even more important, how to recognize signs and signals that a person is being groomed or coerced. Your years of work are a great achievement towards reducing commercial sex and labor trafficking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.