During the day, Shandra Woworuntu was forced to service men at a brothel tucked away in New London. At night, she was driven to hotels in Connecticut and forced to service more men. Woworuntu was brought into the United States from Indonesia under false pretenses. She is now one of countless survivors of human trafficking in the country.
The issue of human trafficking has gained attention at both the national and state levels. Many state and non-governmental agencies in Connecticut have zeroed in on the crime in the last few years. Agencies have dedicated resources to educating the public, training law enforcement, identifying cases and providing services to survivors. State legislators have worked to pass laws to enforce stricter penalties for traffickers and increase protection for survivors.
Many agencies have caught onto the issue of domestic trafficking and have begun preventative workshops and education initiatives. “Prevention and education is so key because it’s giving these kids the tools and knowledge to protect themselves, and it’s empowering them to know that they have that knowledge to protect themselves out in the community,” said Nicole von Oy, U.S. training and outreach coordinator at Love 146 — an international organization dedicated to the abolition of child exploitation and trafficking. Its U.S. office is in New Haven. Love 146 workshops focus on training adults who work with at-risk children, intervention for victims, mentoring for survivors, and education for at-risk children.
In 2006, Connecticut passed a law that required training programs about human trafficking for local police departments and prosecutors. The training on domestic minor sex trafficking, including pornography, prostitution or sex tourism, in Connecticut being developed for law enforcement officials will be critical to the ability of patrol officers to identify the difference between a prostitute and a trafficking victim. As of 2010, Connecticut law prohibits law enforcement from prosecuting an individual younger than 16 for prostitution. In April, legislators introduced a bill to expunge the prostitution records of sex-trafficking survivors and enforce stronger penalties for johns. Another bill targets the pockets of traffickers with stronger profit and property forfeiture guidelines.
Woworuntu now lives in New York City where she spends a large portion of her time fighting human trafficking, including labor trafficking. “Working 24 hours, in sex trafficking … was like hell,” Woworuntu said. “That was not what you want. That is not what you think is the right thing. I didn’t know what trafficking was, but what I know, it wasn’t right, it wasn’t my dream.”
Learn more at Rachel Chinapen’s New Haven Register article: Human trafficking a United States problem, even in Connecticut.