Recently, law enforcement agents, courageous survivors, and prosecutors came together to bring down one of the largest child prostitution rings in the country. But they couldn't have done it without the help of local hotels which were used by pimps to sell and store their "products." It's a case that shows hotels can be heroes in preventing and reporting child prostitution.
Jessica was a student at a local Boston high school when she first met Darryl Tavares, the man who would become her pimp. She had run away from home days before and was standing in the snow in skimpy clothes. Tavares convinced her that if she let him be her pimp, she'd never have to be outside in the cold. He failed to mention that he'd also cut her with a potato peeler to mark her as his property, kick her face with his work boots for disobeying, and keep the money she earned from having sex with men in hotel rooms around Boston. But that is what happened to Jessica and the many other girls as young as 13 in a violent child sex trafficking ring in Boston.
After years of abuse, Jessica had enough. She tried to leave her pimp, but he sent several women to find her and they attacked her brutally. So Jessica turned to the police for help and eventually became the first informant for what would be a massive FBI investigation into child prostitution in Boston. In the end, they arrested six pimps, two of whom are awaiting sentencing. Despite the fact that she has deep physical and emotional scars from her time in slavery, Jessica is now a college student. She's studying to be a social worker to help girls who find themselves in the same situation she did -- alone in the snow, making a choice between the home they hate and a smiling wolf offering a warm meal and a place to sleep.
Too often, victims like Jessica never get justice, because the information in a case comes down to her word against the pimp's. The victim is often very young, traumatized, confused, and may have lied to the police in the past. Pimps are usually older, self-possessed, and can afford a good lawyer. That's why evidence is so critical in cases like Jessica's.
Jessica and the other girls trafficked with her were sold at area hotels around Boston. And while no one is releasing the names of those hotels, a local radio station has speculated that they included some high-end properties where wealthy business travelers would stay. But part of the reason Jessica and the other girls were able to find justice was that the hotels released their records to the FBI, corroborating the girls' stories. Without those hotels, police might not have been able to prove Tavares and his colleagues had been running a child prostitution ring. Without those hotels, six pimps could still be out on the streets of Boston, luring young girls out of the snow.
Hotels can be heroes in the prevention and reporting of child prostitution and sex trafficking. One excellent tool for them is the Code of Conduct, which gives travel and tourism industry companies a rubric and resources for fighting child sex trafficking. And while many European and Asian companies have signed the Code, few American companies have. Ask Hilton to sign the Code of Conduct and become a leader in the fight against child prostitution.