February is Black History Month. We are focusing our blog this month on issues related to the African-American community, including cases of missing children like Dannette and Jeannette Millbrooks.
On March 18, 1990, 16-year-old twins Dannette and Jeannette Millbrooks left their home on Cooney Circle in Augusta, Ga. to visit a family friend. They were last seen near the intersection of 12th Street and MLK Boulevard at approximately 4:30 p.m.
Dannette and Jeannette’s mother, Mary, and their younger sister, Shanta, verified that the girls made it to their friend’s residence. They left their friend’s at approximately 4 p.m. and were seen inside a Pump-N-Shop gas station. Law enforcement says the sisters bought chips there and left, together, on foot. The two girls have not been seen or heard from since.
Both twins had hair styled in Jheri curl at the time of their disappearance. Their ears were pierced one time each and both had scars on their navel from hernia removal operation performed shortly after birth.
Dannette is described as 5 feet 6 inches, 130 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. She is bowlegged. Dannette was last seen wearing a white shirt with the image of the cartoon character Mickey Mouse on it, white jeans and black shoes.
Jeannette is described as 5 feet 4 inches, 125 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing a blue pullover shirt, a white turtleneck, a beige skirt with white stockings and white sneakers.
Twins Dannette and Jannette Millbrooks are still missing. View their poster: http://ow.ly/tf0q3. If you have any information, contact us at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Calls can be made anonymously.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is encouraged by the increased awareness of child sex trafficking that occurs before large events such as this weekend’s Super Bowl. However, some news outlets have attributed the statement “10,000 child sex trafficking victims were at the Super Bowl in Miami” to us. That is inaccurate.
No one knows with certainty the exact number of children exploited through sex trafficking in the United States or during events like the Super Bowl. The dynamics of power, manipulation, dominance and control involved in the crime make it very difficult for a child to disclose the abuse, violence or torture they have been forced to endure. Despite these challenges, law enforcement and advocacy groups are doing tremendous work in combating this problem.
“We applaud law enforcement, advocacy groups, community groups and hotels whose dedication advances efforts to combat this during the Super Bowl and every day of the year,” said John Ryan, president and CEO of NCMEC. “Greater collaboration between organizations means victims will not only be recovered, but will get the resources and services they need.”
While we don’t know exact numbers, anecdotal evidence offers some insight into the scope of the problem. We do know that 1 out of 7 of the runaways reported to us in 2013 were likely sex trafficking victims. This number has tripled since we started tracking this number.
We recently again partnered with the FBI for “Operation Cross Country 7.” During that operation, which spanned 72 hours and 76 cities, 105 child sex trafficking victims, as young as 13, were recovered. Operation Cross Country is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost Initiative. Launched in 2003, the initiative has helped recover more than 2,700 child victims.
The issue of child sex trafficking is complex. In the real world, children are being sold on the streets, in hotels and in casinos. In the online world, they are being advertised on a variety of websites. Their “pimps” can be perceived friends or boyfriends, or even family members or foster parents. It is a unique type of child victimization.
An often-overlooked aspect of child sex trafficking is that it is also a problem of missing children. Many child sex trafficking victims are missing from their parents, foster parents or group homes. Approximately 81 percent of the missing children reported to NCMEC are runaways. These children represent the most vulnerable children in our country. Traffickers know this. They actively target runaways and then lure them into the sex trade using psychological manipulation, illegal drugs and violence.
These children are victims and should be treated as such. It’s not an issue of prostitution. It’s not an issue of choice.
We applaud the hotel workers around the Super Bowl who are training their staff to identify possible trafficking incidents. We are grateful to the victim service providers who are already at work near the stadium, offering the victims hope and a way out.
The commercial sexual exploitation of children takes place every day in every state in the U.S. As one police officer told us, the only way not to find it in your community is not to look for it. Events such as the Super Bowl can serve as a catalyst for change – change that begins with awareness.
If you believe you are a victim of human trafficking or may have information about a potential trafficking situation, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or call us at 1-800-843-5678. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.
“Amy”, as she’s known in court documents, was just 8 years old when her uncle sexually abused and raped her. He photographed the abuse to produce child pornography. These images were then circulated on the Internet, and offenders worldwide collected and circulated the images. Amy was revictimized with each viewing.
The emotional cost of Amy’s harm is immeasurable. Individuals who possess child pornography violate and exploit their victims by viewing a record of the child’s sexual abuse for personal gratification. This problem is pervasive and has grown steadily in recent years. It is increasingly important for victims of child pornography to be able to recover full restitution for the harm caused to them.
Amy, through her attorneys, will argue today before the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Paroline v. United States. This landmark case will decide to what extent offenders who possess images of Amy’s sexual abuse must pay for the harm caused by their collective and ongoing victimization. This case will impact not only Amy’s ability to obtain restitution but the restitution claims of other victims of online child pornography.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, with pro bono assistance from the law firm of Ropes & Gray, has submitted an amicus brief to the Court supporting Amy’s request for full restitution. In this brief we explain that the demand for child pornography drives its production, and those who possess these images are as culpable as producers of the images.
Our organization serves as the central repository in the U.S. for information related to child pornography. Our Child Victim Identification Program provides information relevant to child pornography investigations and assists law enforcement in the identification of child pornography victims. The CyberTipline is the central reporting mechanism to which the public, law enforcement and electronic service providers can provide tips and leads concerning child sexual exploitation.
Amy’s experience demonstrates the unique harm she and other victims of child pornography suffer. Between August 2002 and September 2013, we received more than 4,900 submissions from law enforcement that included images of Amy. Those reports contained more than 70,000 images of her abuse that had been viewed and/or traded by offenders for their own gratification.
"How can I ever get over this when the crime that is happening to me will never end? How can I get over this when the shameful abuse I suffered is out there forever and being enjoyed by sick people?"
- Amy, as written in her victim impact statement
Every individual who views, possesses, creates or distributes child pornography contributes to the harm suffered by these victims. Restitution can never undo the damage Amy suffered, but it can provide necessary funds for her and other victims to receive therapy and compensation for the entirety of their losses. The full cost of the harm suffered as a result of the global trafficking of child sexual abuse images should be on the shoulders of the offenders, not the innocent victims.
Today is AMBER Alert Awareness Day and we are happy to announce the launch of the @AMBERAlert Twitter feed. Between Mar. 30 and June 30, 2013 Twitter had 49.2 million average monthly active users in the United States. @AMBERAlert will mobilize this large network to help rapidly and safely recover endangered missing children.
An 8-year-old from Ohio is abducted by his non-custodial father. An AMBER Alert is activated. A group of friends receives rapid notification of the AMBER Alert on their cell phones. They see the listed vehicle and call 911. The abductor is arrested and the child safely rescued.
An 8-month-old child is abducted from his home in Minnesota while his mother was in the shower. An AMBER Alert is activated. A teenager receives rapid notification of the AMBER Alert on her cellphone. She sees the vehicle and calls 911. The abductor is arrested and the child safely rescued.
A 16-year-old girl in California is abducted and her family murdered. An AMBER Alert is activated. A group of people five states away encounters the child and abductor while hiking. When they return home they receive rapid notification of the AMBER Alert on TV. They recognize the child and call 911. After a massive search effort the child is safely rescued.
By following @AMBERAlert on Twitter you are increasing your opportunity to help save a child. Not only will you receive notification of an AMBER Alert on your Twitter feed, you’ll have the opportunity to share the alert with all of your followers.
As always, the more eyes on a missing child’s photo, the better the chances someone will recognize him or her. Share news about AMBER Alert on Twitter by clicking on the Tweet button below.
This week we are excited to announce a new milestone: our 150th Missing Children Seminar for Chief Executive Officers.
This two-day seminar is designed for police chiefs, sheriffs, 911 call center directors and missing children clearinghouse managers. At each of these 150 training sessions we’ve welcomed CEOs with a varying degree of experience in missing child cases. Some are from large communities where, sadly, children go missing with a steady frequency. Others come from smaller, rural towns where a child has never gone missing.
We work to familiarize all participants, regardless of experience, with issues related to missing child cases. For some the training is a welcome refresher and for others it is an essential lesson. We spend the two days talking about effective policies and practices, technical assistance, training and our available resources.
“This was the best organized training program I have ever experienced… I am anxious to implement the many things that I learned at this seminar,” said Chief John Pritchard, Herington Police Department.
For example, the chief of the Gloucester Township Police attended our CEO Seminar in 2012. He then returned to New Jersey to implement some of the best practices he learned. In April 2013, Gloucester Township Police announced the creation of the Project MARRS (Missing At-Risk Response Strategies) program focusing on preventing child disappearances and responding to them.
We are happy to say that 5,762 law enforcement professionals have completed the CEO Seminar since it was first offered in 1997.
If you are a CEO interested in taking this free training, visit www.missingkids.com/Training/CEO for more information.
As we celebrate the holiday season surrounded by family and friends, we remember those who are still searching for their children. Those who will never give up the hope that one day they will be reunited. Until that time we can offer words of support and encouragement for each of the families missing a loved one on this holiday.
Highlighted are a few children who went missing in the month of December.
Jennifer and her daughter Ashley have been missing for twenty years after vanishing from Kansas City, Mo.
Alfred and Albert were abducted five years ago from Plainsboro, N.J. They are believed to be in India.
Tyler Thomas vanished three years ago from Peru, Neb.
In 2014 we vow to keep searching, keep supporting and keep hoping for the families of missing and sexually exploited children. This holiday season we wish you peace. As always, we stand with you and your families.
If you have any information regarding a missing or exploited child, call our hotline at 1-800-843-5678. Calls may be made anonymously. Someone is available 24 hours a day to speak with you, even on Christmas!
Melissa Snow is a Program Specialist on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Child Sex Trafficking Team. Prior to joining us Melissa worked with survivors of sex trafficking as a victim service provider.
I know just how important a Hope Bag is to a child survivor of sex trafficking. In my former role as a victim service provider, I watched survivors of child sex trafficking fluctuate from panic to relief when receiving just a few simple comforts and the support of someone who cares.
When I met one survivor, just 15 years old, she was sitting on a hotel room bed in the clothes her trafficker had made her wear. Three months earlier she had packed a suitcase to go to the beach with a man she thought was her boyfriend. She had never been to the beach before. When I met her, she didn’t know what that man — now her trafficker — had done with the suitcase. They never made it to the beach.
I handed the girl a bag of items and told her these were some things just for her. As she slowly opened the bag and started removing the items she asked, “Is this all for me?”
When she got to a pair of sweatpants with a big heart on the side a hesitant smile spread across her face. She told me she loved to draw hearts. She jumped up and ran into the bathroom to change. When she came out she had on the full sweat suit, new socks and had used the make-up remover to take off the fake eyelashes and make-up her trafficker made her wear to appear older. As she sat back down in front of me, the little girl had reemerged.
A few months later, I drove to pick up the same girl; we were going on that long awaited trip to the beach. As she hopped in the car I noticed she was wearing the sweatpants with the heart on the side.
“When I put them on it reminds me that someone cares,” she said.
Recovery is an important step, but it’s the first of many. We can make that first step easier by making sure these survivors have the basic items they deserve. Making a Hope Bag available to every recovered child is a lofty goal, but I believe these kids are worth it. If we know that offering this Hope Bag can make a difference, then it’s worth our every effort.
Please consider making a donation to our Hope Bags campaign this holiday season. There are many girls, like the one above, who are in need of basic items and the reminder that somebody cares. Just $45 will help us provide this to survivors of child sex trafficking across the country. Donate at: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/hope-bags
Leave a message of support for searching families in the comments below. A simple word of support can go a long way.
As you plan for your holiday season, take a moment to honor and recognize those who are missing a child. Our Team HOPE volunteers will read your notes and share them with the families they work with throughout the holidays.
We are proud and excited to announce the opening of a new office in Palo Alto, Calif. The new office brings us closer to the technology companies that are playing an important role in the effort to protect children from abduction and sexual exploitation.
Located in space donated by Palantir Technologies, the new office will provide technical assistance to law enforcement and enhance NCMEC’s partnerships with leaders in the technology industry.
Last night we were joined at the ribbon cutting by Michael Lopp, Palantir Director of Engineering; Mayor Greg Scharff of Palo Alto; Chief Dennis Burns of the Palo Alto Police Department and Chief Scott Seaman of the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Department.
Thanks to all who were involved in the opening of this important new branch! We look forward to broadening our relationships with technology companies as we continue to fight child abduction and exploitation.