By David Pendered
The conviction of disgraced singer R. Kelly on all counts of abuse, including forced labor, highlights a groundbreaking new report on human trafficking in the United States that includes a section on Georgia.
Kelly’s conviction on September 27 ended nearly three decades of allegations against Robert Sylvester Kelly, known as R. Kelly, an R&B artist and music industry entrepreneur who is won three Grammy Awards and 26 nominations. A Brooklyn federal jury has found Kelly guilty of all nine counts of a substitute indictment, including the sexual exploitation of minors, coercion and forced labor, according to a declaration of the United States District Attorney’s Office for New York City.
The conviction drew attention to the “Federal Report on Trafficking in Persons 2020», Published on October 4 by the Human Trafficking Institute. Since 2017, the institute has provided an annual overview of all federal human trafficking prosecutions.
This year’s edition contains additional information – a compilation of all federal human trafficking prosecutions, in every state, since Congress in 2000 adopted the benchmark. Protection of Victims of Trafficking Act. Part of the law gives this definition of trafficking:
- “[T]Recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for work or services, by the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjecting him to involuntary bondage, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.
Key takeaways from the Human Trafficking Institute report include:
- Prosecutions for forced labor are rare. In 2020, prosecutors initiated more sex trafficking prosecutions than all forced labor prosecutions since 2000;
- The Southern District of Georgia filed its first-ever forced labor case in 2020;
- “In 2020, the Northern District of Georgia dismissed the charges against three defendants in a sex trafficking case filed in 2002. One of the defendants was prosecuted in Mexico and the other two are fugitives, also suspected of being in Mexico.
- A total of 3,169 defendants have been convicted in human trafficking cases since 2000;
- The majority of victims entering the United States come from Central and South America;
- Most offenders have used non-physical violence to control victims – threats, fraud, payroll deduction or immigration documents;
- A third of cases begin with a notification of a victim to the police or to the hotline.
This last data point, about who is alleging the crime, is a common occurrence, as the majority of victims tend to fear retaliation or feel ashamed and not inform anyone of their situation.
The courage of the victims who have come forward was cited by a leading investigator in the R. Kelly case. Peter Fitzhugh, special agent for homeland security investigations in New York City, noted in the statement:
- “When his victims attempted to escape, Mr. Kelly and his accomplices silenced them through corruption, intimidation and physical violence. The courageous survivors who overcame Mr. Kelly’s abuse deserve our utmost respect for telling their stories and ending his 30-year reign of terror over the young and most vulnerable.
In her introduction to the new report, Human Trafficking Institute Director of Legal Engagement Lindsey Roberson pays special tribute to victims of abuse and highlights their help in producing a report that highlights progress and highlights the need to work harder to combat predators. :
- “We are grateful to… the survivors who made this report possible and who ensure that it is an accurate, victim-centered tool for those fighting against trafficking. This one-of-a-kind analysis allows us to celebrate how far we have come to hold traffickers accountable for their crimes, but also to take an honest look at the work that remains to be done.
Note to readers: If you or someone you know is in immediate physical danger, call local law enforcement on 911. If you or someone you know could be a victim of human trafficking, call the National Helpline on Human Trafficking at (toll free) 888-373-7888.