Human trafficking happens even in upstate New York



Recent cases reveal the danger to young people, especially women

Human trafficking happens even in upstate New York


We tend to think of human trafficking, whether it involves forcing people into prostitution or exploiting desperate workers, as a crime that occurs in foreign countries, but there were 492 cases of human trafficking reported in New York State in 2018. Almost three-quarters of the victims were women, and over one-quarter were minors.

In the Hudson Valley, Lawrence Ray, 60, was arrested this February and charged with sex trafficking, extortion, and forced labor. He was accused with running a sex cult from his daughter's college dorm room for over 10 years. After being released from a prison term for securities fraud, he lived at Sarah Lawrence College, where he set himself up as a therapist to help his daughter's friends with emotional issues. He is alleged to have abused at least five young women psychologically, sexually, and physically, while manipulating them into prostitution for his own profit.

A recent article in the Daily Voice reports that prosecutors claim Ray, now in jail awaiting trial, has been using phone calls to try to prevent some of the young women from cooperating with the government investigation into his behavior. These allegations of witness-tampering have prompted prosecutors to ask the court to refuse Ray's request for temporary home confinement.

In an unrelated case, WSB-TV in Atlanta reported that state and federal agents, while searching for missing and exploited children, arrested nine sex trafficking suspects in Georgia, resulting in the rescue of 39 young people.

As a brochure from Orange County Safe Homes explains, such influences as poverty and homelessness can place youth in situations where they are vulnerable to exploitation, often by family members or acquaintances. Psychological and physical control are used to frighten victims into compliance, and escape can be dangerous unless outside help is available.

For more insights into the forces that contribute to trafficking, a list of signs that indicate a young person may be in a trafficking situation, and how to report a suspected case, see our article “Learn the signs of human trafficking.”



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