Katia, from Moldova, was sold into sexual slavery in Turkey. Her husband decided to go undercover and try to find her.
If you are interested in helping any of the victims of sex trafficking who appeared in this report, "Sex Slaves," a trust account has been opened by the Canadian production company responsible for the film. The company has been collecting donations and wiring them directly to the victims who appear in the documentary. Should you be interested in helping, you can contact the producers of the film at email@example.com for further information.
It is with mixed reaction that I write this note. It was a sobering and deeply moving report on the horrific trade in human suffering. All in all, a damned good investigative report. One that will move many people to action. The producers had the courage to research and chase something that was awful and dangerous and vitally important to share with the world. However they rather missed the trees for the forest an d in doing so missed something very dear indeed.
I was disturbed by the fact that the producers of the program allowed...make no mistake about this point...ALLOWED... Tania's younger brother to die. This is not some damned Nature documentary where it could be construed that by resc uing a young zebra foal from a pack of hyenas, one might upset nature's fragile balance. This was the life of a suffering child, whom if I remember correctly, could have been treated and perhaps saved with a $600 procedure. (Nevermind the fact that Tania was going to prostitute herself in an attempt to pay for the procedure despite having narrowl y escaped from that hell).
To be very honest, I am disgusted nearly as much by the producers of the program as I am by the sex slave traffickers. That's not to say I'm not at least somewhat of a hypocrite myself...you don't see me writing any checks from my arm chair. But I wasn't the one in position at that moment to save a life. It is as though the producers witnessed a drowning and turned their boat around instead of extending an oar.
Perhaps they were concerned with some journalistic ideology of integrity, ethics, story purity, non-intervention...wh atever you want to call it. If you ask me, this is more about journalistic ambition and is about as unethical as it gets.
FRONTLINE's editors respond:
FRONTLINE regrets that it failed to supply some information in this report and thus created a misimpression concerning Tania's situation and the production team's relationship with her.
The team did in fact give her the money she needed for the operations for her little brother. This is a gray area of journalistic ethics. FRONTLINE'S policy is not to give money to subjects in a film. But it understands the producers' decision to help in a dire situation. We subsequently learned that the operations were not successful, whether due to bad medicine or to the seriousness of his condition.
The focus on her brother may well have created the impression that he was Tania's sole reason for re-prostituting herself. In her interview, Tania explained that she had other family members to support, in addition to her brother, and few opportunities to make the money she needed locally, so she felt that returning to prostitution was her best option. Like so many women who are trafficked, the promise of work abroad for desperately needed money is what initially lured Tania away from home, and it's what took her away from her family a second time, even after experiencing the horrors of Turkey's underground brothels.
Since the film's first airing in Canada and Britain, the production team has set up a trust fund for Tania and the other women for donations made by viewers, and they've helped make sure the money reaches them directly. (Anyone interested in making a donation can write to the producing team: firstname.lastname@example.org) And producer Ric Esther Bienstock has been keeping in touch with Tania and the other women who appeared in the film. You will find information about what has happened to them, and how they've been helped, by reading Ms. Bienstock's Washington Post Live Chat that followed the broadcast.
I found it morally reprehensible that the crew used hidden cameras to follow women being trafficked for sexual exploitation - a form of slavery. The footage added nothing to the documentary. The stories of the women who had escaped were enough to give viewers a sense of what it means to be trafficked. Who knows what happened to those women who were trafficked and how many tragic stories could have been prevented had crew members called the police? Long gone are the days of "objective reporting".
Great story done with detailed and indepth style. Very informative. As long as the punishment is a mockery , like in the case of Vlad's 5 year probation, there will be no change in the sex trade business. My guess is ,sex trade is no different than the drug business. Although your focus was not on that, it seemed paralleled in my mind, that the "mob" would be involved , paying off the officials and or threatening them. This helped me to see just how blatently prevalent this is, and yet very little is ever broadcast or reported about this topic. I guess we can't do much about other countries , but an awaremess in this country should help parents of young girls to be aware of the dangers. Thank you for airing this. Great job.
Covington , Kentucky
It appears that Turkey and a number of different countries are not safe for teenagers or women to visit. The kidnapping and imprisoning of teenagers and women as sex slaves appears to involve the support of the police, the courts and government officials in each of these towns, cities, and countries. So what power do we have to discourage these practices? Write letters to the ambassadors of each of the countries found to have these networks of organized sex slaves. Tell them you intend to: 1) boycott products from that country and, 2)refuse to travel in that country until they can prove that these networks of sex slavery have been eliminated.
San Diego, CA
Those who care write that "we must stop this" but the real fact of the matter is that SEXISM is so ingrained in men and women around the world--the idea that women were made for the use of men. Also, CLASS/poverty plays a second huge role. Money talks/if you don't have it you're not important. Unless THESE values are changed, trafficking will continue--the woman with the ill brother went back, right? Seems that she had to choose which mode of suffering would more likely lead to relief: doing nothing or selling herself. Who would resist the elimination of trafficking more? Filthy sexist men or desparate starving women? The greed of the former and the desperation/survival instincts of the latter are two of the toughest parts of human nature to battle against, no??
What a great show that really brought to light a very sad and serious problem. I have heard about this going on a long time ago. A problem that got especially worse since the fall of the soviet union, especially in the eastern European countries where the police are often so corrupt as the show mentioned, they not only wont do anything to stop it but will also participate too.
This really all stems from, believe it or not, from the corrupt banking systems of the world, headed by the IMF and World bank and their fraudulent fractional reserve banking system. It's due to that system that keeps everyone in constant need for fake cash and derivatives and since everything is money centered, people have to do anything in order to live and survive to obtain this false "god". Add to that the fact that no one is self sufficient anymore and the tragedy of her younger brother dying due to flawed medicine and the unfortunate accident and Chernobyl.. it only underscores all the more why man can not rule or solve his own problems and only God can. This is what happens when evil is allowed to run amok on earth.
New York, NY
Dear Frontline:This program left the viewer with the impression that it is Turks themselves who are doing most of this trafficking within Turkey. Actually, the sex trade's most dominant participant in sex slavery in Turkey is Israeli/Russian organized crime, a fact that was not mentioned in this documentary.
I was in Istanbul about six months ago and was told by a local journalist of my acquaintance that the Israelis had seized control of almost the entire sex slave trade in not only Turkey but throughout the Mideast. He also told me also that the Israelis had succeeded in thoroughly corrupting both the Turkish police and civil authorities authorities though bribes and blackmail. This was done in order to get them to ignore complaints about this trade. The Israelis had also managed to eliminate their local competitors in the sex slave trade either by threats, extreme violence or simply murder.
Santa Cruz, California
This is difficult to write but I noted that they gave the number of women that were prostituted in the Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union as 300,000.
Separate from that statistic was the trafficer Vlad's offhanded comment that 70% of the women knew what they were getting into, 20% thought they were going to do exotic dancing and 10% were tricked into sexual slavery. I would have liked to better understand these latter "statistics" their accuracy and how the various groups are handled.
Regardless of ones views on prostitution there is a qualitative difference between being tricked into sexual slavery and going with the knowledge of what you'll be doing. If it is true and the majority do understand they will be prostituting themselves it would certainly explain at least somewhat the attitude of cops and officials who see most of the girls as willing participants. Is this true or not? We only have Vlad's undisputed word...
The documentary left me with the impression (but no hard statistics) that one problem is cross-border prostitution with all participants being aware of what would happen and another problem being kidnapping and forced sexual slavery. The documentary focused appropriately on the latter as the main issue but it seemed to lump the two groups (and the "middle" group of exotic dancer wannabees) all in the same category... with the same attitudes towards them, same results, same interventions, etc...
Is this actually true? Are the statistics correct between the groups (70-20-10)? Are they actually handled/dealt with similarly? differently?
It is very unfortunate that anyone would have to prostitute themselves to survive but dealing with a bad situation and making this choice by free will is still fundamentally different than being forced against ones will into sexual slavery. the documentary did not seem to differentiate nor did it dispute Vlad's off-handed comment.
I know I may sound heartless in my response but I am retired military and have seen more than most. And, much of what I have seen confirms my beliefs that humanity is broken. This film is just another example.
There are three things I find most shocking about this story. The first is that these types of crimes happen on such a vast scale. These criminals simply co-exist with the "normal" world around them. The second is that it seems criminals are becoming so much more evil and are capable of meanness on an individual level unlike anything seen in mankind's history. I have family who work in corrections and they share the same opinion after witnessing and knowing the stories of inmates over the years. Many crimes have simply become so evil they are hard to comprehend; horrible things, like this story, that you simply cannot make up.
The last, and most disheartening issue for me, is what I hear in other's responses in this forum. In true sheep fashion, most people call for the government to do something or for a federal agency to take care of our problems. When did we, as individuals, stop being responsible for the world around us? These women were held in apartments alongside other citizens and in prime tourist towns. Are you telling me nobody saw anything suspicious or suspected something was wrong. Edmund Burke was speaking to all of us when he said "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Are we, as human beings, so broken that we will fail to intercede in an atrocity when it is happening across the street? My heart is broken for those those women. May God help them find their way...
Mascoutah , IL
I have seen things on the news about human trafficking and have not given it a whole lot of thought until now. The thing that makes me sick are the police, the law enforcement that is sworn to protect and serve, but instead turn their heads, and in some cases take part in the exploitation of these girls. I have to admit that guy who lost his wife had more control that I would of, I would of ripped the guys head off who took my wife. I would of never let her go to another country like that in the first place, but that is besides the point. I want to know what is being done, by the U.S. and other countries to combat this problem. The guy you interviewed who went to court and got 5 years probation would of been in the prison the rest of his life if he had been charged in the U.S. It just shows what a truly evil world we live in.
Thank you for your informative show on human trafficking. It may be of interest to viewers of the program to know that although the report focused mainly on victims from former Soviet socialist republics being sent to Turkey, the United States is also a major destination for women and girls. According to the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking the U.S. is ranked "very high" among the top ten destinations for trafficked persons. Turkey is on that list along with Belgium, Greece, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands Germany, Japan and Thailand. If you are interested in taking action, one way is to become involved is to call for the creation of laws that make all types of trafficking illegal and even more importantly, work to ensure that these laws are enforced. I was watching America's Most Wanted a few weeks ago and a young girl was in the studio with John Walsh who had escaped sexual enslavement. She was moved around quite a bit within the U.S. and was able to escape just before she was about to be put on a plane to Japan. This young, middle class girl was approached at a cosmetics counter in an upscale California shopping mall. So, keep in mind that these crimes - forced enslavement and human trafficking - don't only affect the most easily disregarded portions of our society, they can touch any of us. We are our sister's keeper.
After my wife and I watched the episode, we were saddened. It is common knowledge that the sex trade is a global issue, and a horrible one at that. I have friends in law enforcement up and down the west coast and they have told me some pretty crazy stories of 15 girls found in this situation. That is heart breaking. It happens all of the time, and it is often in the paper. Foreign girls are brought to the US with the promise of work at a relative or friends place of business, often restaurants. They do not make enough money to pay off their debt so they are forced into prostitution-the original premise on why they are brought here.
The concern my wife and I have, especially in Ukraine and Moldova, is that since this is such a common knowledge occurence why does it still happen? If this is such a travesty and a crime against humanity, then maybe the girls would actually quit taking the risk? Making money is one thing. Being beaten, given diseases that kill you, and servicing 8-15 men a day is a totally unacceptable way to live.
I have been poor and struggling, maybe not to that degree, but I still went and did whatever I needed to get by. They were some pretty crappy jobs, and very demanding phycially, but never did I allow myself to be used. Leaving my family and traveling to a foreign country to make the money seems a bit sketchy. You even reported that 90 percent of the women are aware of the probablities of prostitution, yet they still go, and one even went back afetr the hl she was put through.
Most people don't realize human trafficking is a huge domestic problem here in the good ole USA .. not just international victims being trafficked... but our children (boys and girls) are being kidnapped or tricked and sold into slavery. For those who want to learn more about the problem in the US, how they can help, etc. go to www.PolarisProject.org. Becoming informed and aware of the signs of trafficking is the easiest way to assist victims and law enforcement. There is a grassroots movement nationwide to educate America and save these victims. To report suspected trafficking, the Trafficking Hotline number is 1-888-3737-888. They will contact the appropriate agencies in your area with your tip. NotForSale.org is another site to learn more/assist in the fight against HT. Become an abolitionist!
I'm wondering how the John and Catherine McArther Foundation can finance films like this and not use their resources to STOP the perpetrators of these violations. Frankly, the misuse of money is evil....forget the films and free the women.
I find it at least strange that until this date, it appears that there is no organization/foundation that would step up to lead the efforts of prosecution of deeply undignifying and brutal crimes, in a form of Int'l Tribunals for the CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY, that you've covered in your courageous work. How about the funders for the project? They seem to support such important pioneering action - isn't it the time to take the charge in creating some actions, engaging government organizations throughout the World?
Berkeley, CA, USA
I want to thank Frontline for bringing us another amazing story about the hidden reality of the real world we are truly living in.
Having said that, I would like to thank even more, Dave Weiser from Davenport, IA for echoing my feelings so well. As soon as the airing I just watched ended, I came directly here to tell you Frontline, the same thing!
Frontline, I respect your investigative reporting more than anyone else on this planet. But you and every other journalist need to stop feeding me and everyone else this crap about 'journalistic ethics'. Give me a break. PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and every other news organization are subject to advertisers and any other monetary source that supports the paycheck they receive. None of you truly approach a project completely pure without letting your personal opinions, political or otherwise, shape and shade a story.
Having said that the producers should have done everything they could to save that boy. You all know that us, your viewers, will reimburse you a hundred fold many times over, those expenses once we see the great work for a call of help from our brothers and sisters across the world. Especially after you benefit from them giving you their horrific story.
I don't know if you guys did all you could for that boy, but at least you are providing us a way to help the survivors. Thank you for that and bringing us this story. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do above a financial contribution to help or to increase the help from others in my community.
Fort Wayne, IN