By Sara Lahman, Annie Malone CEO
Allison Mack, 36, best known for her role as Chloe in Smallville, pleaded guilty recently to charges of racketeering conspiracy and racketeering as a result of her involvement with Nxivm, a controversial alleged cult founded by Keith Raniere. Mack reportedly recruited women to become “obedient female companions” for Raniere. She admitted to luring women into Nxivm who were “extorted and coerced into following Raniere’s orders.”  The group claimed to be a “self-help” group. Mack will be sentenced September 11, 2019 on the two racketeering counts and faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. She was originally charged last year with sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy. As for Raniere, he is charged with multiple counts of sex trafficking along with wire fraud and most recently, an added charge of child pornography.
The Nxivm case has generated quite a bit of publicity namely because of its high-profile participants such as India Oxenburg, daughter of Dynasty actress Catherine Oxenburg, and heir to the Seagram’s liquor fortune, Clare Bronfman who is charged with racketeering. The same can be said of the media circus surrounding R&B superstar R. Kelly who was indicted on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse charges involving four victims, including teenagers below the age of consent. 
But sadly, not enough attention is paid to the thousands of victims of sex trafficking who are exploited every day in this country. The pain and suffering they feel is every bit as traumatizing as that of the women exploited by Mack and allegedly by R. Kelly. Often, their plight is ignored because they are in many cases, the forgotten ones. Too often, the victims are young teens with severed connections to family. They may be runaways or homeless youth. They are preyed upon daily. Young people signing on for what they think are glamorous jobs traveling the country selling magazines are often victims of labor trafficking. Juvenile boys and members of the LGBTQ community are exploited and beaten and engage in survival sex.  This happens every single day in the United States of America.
Human trafficking, or trafficking in person, is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for a commercial sex act or for involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, that is induced by force, fraud, or coercion. In case of persons who have not attained 18 years of age, force, fraud or coercion is not required.  Many consider human trafficking as modern-day slavery that violates the fundamental human rights of more than 40 million victims globally.  Victims of human trafficking are forced to work in sub-human conditions for little or no money. Others are forced into the sex trade. Human trafficking does not require travel or transportation of the victim across local, state or international borders. It can take place on your street, around the corner or on your block. Predators use coercion, physical abuse, and psychological manipulation to entrap their victims who are often struggling with life issues including depression, low self-esteem, and other mental health issues. Some are simply rebellious teens, isolated from their families and social networks, caught up in situations they have no idea how to manage.
Although no reliable and validated data of the magnitude of human trafficking in Missouri or elsewhere in the United States exists currently, the National Human Trafficking Hotline’s Missouri call data supports assertions that the I-44 and I-70 corridors are major hotspots for human trafficking. Missouri has enacted tougher legislation and developed a number of state task forces to help address the problem. High-profile awareness campaigns along with efforts of a growing number of community-based organizations are raising awareness about the issue.
Annie Malone Children & Family Services has partnered with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the St. Louis City Family Courts, St. Louis Children’s Division, Washington University School of Medicine, and the Daughters of Charity Foundation to open a new facility focused on juvenile girls at risk of sex trafficking. The program provides an alternative to detention for girls who are being trafficked or who are at risk of trafficking.
The Girls at Risk (GAR) Program is a 12-bed intensive therapeutic placement for females between the ages of 12 and 17. The program serves female clients whom have experienced severe trauma placing them in vulnerable situations. The GAR program emphasizes prevention and treatment for girls whom are at risk of being human trafficked and/or whom have actually been human trafficked. Because the federal definition of trafficking in person does not require the use of force, fraud or coercion for minors, for the GAR program a minor female age 12 to 17, with the evidence of commercial sexual exploitation (CSEC) or at high risk for CSEC is eligible.
The GAR Program provides a safe, therapeutic and trauma-informed space where young females are inspired and empowered to become strong and creative leaders. Through this program the female clients will have access to a police mentor, health services including individual, group and family therapy, to help support them in creating change. This is a secure facility providing structure and daily treatment to all youth residing in the program. The goal is to provide trauma-informed treatment to address the core of each client’s issues in an effort to provide a lasting solution for each client to be successful in a family and/or community.
Residential Treatment is designed as a short-term intervention to prevent life-threatening behaviors and stabilize their daily routines. It is the most intensive treatment service offered at Annie Malone Children and Family Services. Clients at this level of care receive 24-hour care from a multidisciplinary team of behavioral health care professionals.
The young women in our program are as traumatized as are those in the Nxivm case—perhaps more so because they are minors and a majority of them grew up in a socio-demographically disadvantaged environment. We have to be their advocates. The circumstances in which these young girls find themselves in do not attract the media attention of a high profile case like the Nxivm case but their cases are equally relevant. Media will not flock to our door asking about their well-being but we must remain vigilant and aggressive in our efforts to both treat the exploited victims and advocate against this scourge on society. We are committed to doing just that.
If you believe you are the victim of a trafficking situation or may have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-373-7888. NHTRC is a national, toll-free hotline, with specialists available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year related to potential trafficking victims, suspicious behaviors, and/or locations where trafficking is suspected to occur.
1. Cold MIcheal and Moynihan, Colin. Allison Mack of “smallville” Pleads Guilty in Case of Nxivm ‘Sex Cult’ Where Women Were Branded. The New York Times, April 8, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/08/nyregion/nxivm-allison-mack.html
2. Wagner Meg, Ries Brian, Yeung Jessie. R. Kelly charged with sexual abuse. CNN. February 25, 2019 https://www.cnn.com/us/live-news/r-kelly-indicted/h_387e12e2e134da19fbdd2c9ccba810dd
3. Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. Pubic Law 106-386, October 28, 2000.
4. Zimmerman Catherine, Kiss Ligia. Human trafficking and exploitation: A global health concern. PLoS Medicine. 2017;14(11).