LEE DOMINGUE & NATALIE LABORDE, DISCUSS HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Legal Lines with Locke Meredith

Natalie Labord

Lee Domingue

 

Hello, I’m Locke Meredith and I’d like to invite you to join me on the next Legal Lines. It is a serious and interesting topic and that is the trafficking of human beings. We are going to talk about sexual trafficking with Natalie LaBord. She has an organization Tigers Against Trafficking at LSU and Lee Domingue. He has an organization called Trafficking Hope. We have over one hundred thousand victims here in East Baton Rouge Parish. We are number ten in the nation in Trafficking. So join us on the next Legal Lines.

 

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

 

Mr. Meredith: Welcome to Legal Lines. I’m Locke Meredith. We have a very unique and unusual show today. We are going to talk to you about sex trafficking and labor trafficking. We are very pleased to have on the show Natalie LaBord. Natalie thanks for coming on.

Ms. LaBord: Thanks for having me.

Mr. Meredith: We are also going to talk to Lee Domingue who is actively involved. Lee thanks so much.

Mr. Domingue: Thank you.

Mr. Meredith: Thank both of you for taking the time out of your day. Natalie, let’s start with you. How did you get involved with this because it’s frankly not a topic or subject that a whole lot of people know anything about? I was frankly bewildered at what I learned.

Ms. LaBord: Yeah, absolutely. That was really the situation that I was in. I always say that this cause found me more than I ever really went looking for it. I was taking a year off after I graduated college before starting Law School. I was working for a non-profit in Australia and just having fun during that gap year before starting Law School and the organization I was working for decided to launch an anti-human trafficking initiative in Europe, Greece specifically which is a destination Country and we will talk about that a little bit more. So myself and another girl were on a world research trip just to find out what human trafficking essentially looks like on a global scale. What is out there addressing the problem, which models are working, what isn’t.

Mr. Meredith: Really? Who were the folks that were helping you with that?

Ms. LaBord: The non-profit is called Equipped and Empowered Ministries and the A21 campaign.

Mr. Meredith: I remember reading that. What does that stand for?

Ms. LaBord: It stands for abolishing human trafficking in the 21st century. I was, well I am still very young, but I was twenty three, fresh out of college, didn’t really have a lot of life experience and here I am meeting actual victims of human trafficking. I remember meeting this girl who was twelve years old and when I met her she had a baby on her hip. I assumed it was her little brother or something and they said that this was actually her child, when we found her she was six months pregnant, she had been trafficked into a child brothel in Cambodia and this organization had rescued her. It wasn’t a super emotional experience, it was more like I cant believe that this exists in the 21st century, ya know slavery was abolished a long time ago. I was part of that initial launch team and when I came back for Law School, it really planted something deep inside of me.

Mr. Meredith: Let me ask you this. When you worked there you traveled to multiple different countries right? So this was a problem you were witnessing from a birds eye perspective. It’s real, it’s here and it’s everywhere. Every country.

Ms. LaBord: Right. It exists in so many forms. It’s in every area of the globe from Asia to Europe to America.

Mr. Meredith: Folks here, well let’s face it, I saw a show on it last night. It is usually in Asia and Cambodia, you don’t assume that it is here.

Ms. LaBord: Right. You think it is only in rural nations but the truth is that America is one of the primary destination countries for international trafficked victims and then we have a domestic trafficking problem, which is the prostitution/pimp dynamic. So that’s initially how I got exposed. Like I said, it kind of found me. That’s what really prompted the birth, I shared my story with two of my best friends and we were like, “We have to do something.”

Mr. Meredith: And ya’ll started up…

Ms. LaBord: Tigers Against Trafficking

Mr. Meredith: Tigers Against Trafficking. That’s at LSU. And ya’ll have what a couple of events?

Ms. LaBord: We have had five events to date. Two of them were primarily just awareness events on campus. Showing documentaries, kind of thing.

Mr. Meredith: Your focus target was LSU students?

Ms. LaBord: Initially yes. Initially it was supposed to just be a fundraising event for A21 specifically. We realized that students were so passionate about this and they wanted to use their gifts and talents to play a part in eradicating this horrible crime. So we created something that is globally focused and locally. Let’s partner, there are things going on in our state and we will provide them with manpower.

Mr. Meredith: And Lee, I guess that is kind of where ya’ll got involved?

Mr. Domingue: Yes.

Mr. Meredith: So give the folks your story.

Mr. Domingue: My wife and I in 2006, went to Greece with Nick and Christine Cain that had started and founded the A21 campaign. They were telling us all of these stories about what was going on. Some of them I honestly didn’t believe they were that bad. Only to go to Greece and see it first hand. My wife and I were totally moved by it and we said, “We need to do something about this, we need to help.” So we gave and we donated money to launch A21 campaign. They have done a phenomenal job in rescue, restoration. Both in Greece, the Ukraine and Bulgaria and internationally. When we left that trip, we came home only thinking this is something that goes on over there.

Mr. Meredith: Right. Not here in the U.S, certainly not in Louisiana.

Mr. Domingue: Right. Let’s just send money, send a check and support what they are doing and pray for them. That was the extent of it. Only to find that it was happening in the U.S. The Department of Justice did a study on human trafficking. They found in the top ten cities Baton Rouge and New Orleans was listed.

Mr. Meredith: It’s incredible.

Mr. Domingue: So it moved us and what we did out of that, we were moved, very similar to Natalie. When you see it, you want to do something about it. It really moves you to get involved at whatever level that you can. We formed what is called Trafficking Hope and its focus is brining awareness in Louisiana, predominately in Southern Louisiana, in the I-10/I-12 corridor. You may have seen some of our billboards. Our focus is bringing awareness and then also our partner in this is Rescue and Restore Coalition.

Mr. Meredith: Now what do they do?

Mr. Domingue: Rescue and Restore is the government has a grant to help fight human trafficking.

Mr. Meredith: The Federal government?

Mr. Domingue: Right. They fund Rescue and Restore. Rescue and Restore/ Trafficking Hope is a sub-grantee of that. Our role is staying in our lane, which is awareness, and then also what we have done is the need for housing is critical because of the specialized care that is needed and also the length of stay.

Mr. Meredith: How much money has the Feds given to deal with this problem?

Mr. Domingue: The Federal government has given none for housing.

Mr. Meredith: How much money have they allocated to try and deal with trafficking?

Mr. Domingue: In the State of Louisiana our part of the grant that we have is a couple hundred thousand dollars a year. That is with all of the groups partnered together. So it’s a fraction. Most of it is private. What we have done and the people of Baton Rouge have responded tremendously, to try and get this hope house built. What we will do is, see it’s a partnership Locke, you have to have everyone at the table. Whether it is government, non-government, the public, the school systems, healthcare and law enforcement. We all have to work together because it’s a big enough problem that you need one another. One group is not going to be able to solve it.

Mr. Meredith: Right. Let’s back this up a little bit because I’m just trying to process it. So what we have is trafficking and it incorporates the problem of folks that are providing some form of labor and then you have trafficking in the sexual realm. Correct?

Mr. Domingue: That is correct.

Mr. Meredith: All right. The victims- tell me who the victims are in both of these areas.

Ms. LaBord: The trend is that it is people who are in a vulnerable situation.

Mr. Meredith: The poor.

Ms. LaBord: Right. Whether it is a family dynamic, or whether that is an economic situation. For instance like what we talked about in domestic trafficking. It is a pimp/prostitute dynamic. It’s a lot of kids in the foster care system, a lot of kids that are considered homeless, not necessarily that they live under a bridge or something, but they don’t have a stable environment that they live in consistently.

Mr. Meredith: So let me ask you something. Is the source of these victims folks right here in Baton Rouge that were born here, raised here or is it kids being brought in from other States?

Mr. Domingue: It’s all of the above.

Ms. LaBord: The statistics are that for a kid that is on the street, within twenty-four hours of being out there, they are approached by a pimp. One example was I think it was in May or June one kids was found in a hotel room, had been in there for a week in a trafficking situation.

Mr. Meredith: And I read they were six years old?

Ms. LaBord: This child specifically was fourteen.

Mr. Meredith: All right. Let’s continue this on the next segment. This is Locke Meredith with Legal Lines. We’ll be right back.

 

***COMMERICAL BREAK***

Mr. Meredith: Welcome back to Legal Lines. I’m Locke Meredith. Again we have a very unusual show for you today. We are talking about trafficking of human beings. We have on the show Natalie LaBord and Lee Domingue. Both of them are involved in this matter in significant ways. We’ve talked about the problem in kind of a big fashion. Let’s talk about the victims. You indicated that often times they come from broken homes or cultures where they are not really provided for, poverty, but that isn’t always the case. Tell the folks what you are seeing out there.

Ms. LaBord: The reality is that victims have so many faces. You have situations where it is literally the girl next door. A fifteen year-old who is in a high school. You could have been one of the kids that I went to school with who is in a situation where her boyfriend is forcing her to prostitute or you have a real poverty situation where that’s the alternative in terms of literally keeping yourself alive. There is such a wide range of people who are caught up in this and it is really going to take a community effort to identify the problem, learn what you are supposed to look for, and be the response. Be the change that really helps rescue these people.

Mr. Meredith: When I hear it discussed I think what, at least for me, I tend to associate the trafficking with prostitution. It’s been a problem since the beginning of mankind. Somehow society or culture has tended to say ok, yeah its bad, it happens, and we wish it wouldn’t. Is this something different than that? Is this another face of that?

Mr. Domingue: I think one of the things is that people tend to lump human trafficking with the sex trade or sex slaving. They just lump it in there with prostitution. I think that it dilutes the magnitude tremendously because it almost acts as a camouflage. Oh, that’s just prostitution. Which is a lie. What ends up happening is the pimps and the people that are profiting this know how to manipulate and work the system. You have girls that are out there that are forced into this. Seventy percent of girls that are trafficked had some type of pimp involved. When the dynamic of the pimp threatening them, beating them, a lot of times what a pimp will do is they will get the girl and then for a thirty day period hit and abuse the girl to submission. To where the girl has no value in her own mindset. See you have to put yourself in the perspective of a fifteen year old. As a sixty year-old or a fifty year-old person they aren’t thinking like you do. People say so why don’t they reach out and get help? It’s because of the heavy manipulation and the abuse that goes on, it’s almost like a trauma bong in essence.

Mr. Meredith: So the source of these can be like you said your neighbor, it could be someone across the nation or out of the country and they entice them to either come here or get with them and develop some time of relationship with them and then immediately abuse it.

Ms. LaBord: It comes in a variety of forms but yes it is usually some form of healthy interaction. Whether it is a boyfriend situation which quickly turns into “ If you love me you will do xyz?” which then turns into “You don’t have any other option, look at what you have done.”

Mr. Meredith: So they don’t have to be beating you. It can be physical or emotional.

Ms. LaBord: Right. There is a huge psychological element which if you can get them to that point. The physical aspect is messy. The reality is that the public has huge amounts of interactions with the victims. The perpetrators are the ones who are behind the scenes, that you don’t interact with.

Mr. Meredith: Let’s talk about the perpetrators. You gave me a number that blew my mind with the quantity of money that the one pimp can make selling some kid.

Mr. Domingue: It is seven hundred thousand annually.

Mr. Meredith: How does that happen? What do they do? I guess it is maybe twenty times a day they get a girl, or they said that even twenty percent of the victims are males.

Mr. Domingue: I think the average is somewhere around fourteen times a day. The figures that I gave you with the pimp, normally a pimp is going to have no more than one, so that is going to average them about four women that they will be trafficking. I think the estimates show that it is thirty two billion is the industry.

Mr. Meredith: You said B as in Billion?

Mr. Domingue: Yes. That would be combining Google and Starbucks, them merging together and it surpasses that.

Mr. Meredith: So that’s. And look I have used the analogy of the drug line. The bottom line is the reason it sounds like we have so much of this stuff going on in the U.S, Baton Rouge and Louisiana is because there is a demand for it.

 

Ms. LaBord: Right.

Mr. Meredith: How do we deal with that?

Ms. LaBord: That is such a huge aspect of eradicating human trafficking. It’s educating. A huge portion of the demand has no idea that people are forced into it. They think these girls choose to do this.

Mr. Meredith: Victimless crime.

Ms. LaBord: That’s right. That is why if we create these educational programs and say look here is the reality of what you are contributing to, this person is in slavery. Not only can you stop being part of the demand, you can be a part of the solution. You interact with people who are part of the problem.

Mr. Meredith: We have discussed this in the context of the sexual trafficking but let’s talk about it in the context of the labor. The way that the young kids, women are taken advantage of in the work place.

Mr. Domingue: Sure. Forced domestic servitude, ya know, forcing children to work and not paying them. I think that there have been several news reports recently throughout the U.S even where people were in forced labor situations and not getting any pay. They were basically enticed from a foreign country. It was Mexico or somewhere in Central America got them here, forced them to work and never paid them anything. They just basically kept them alive. A lot of times what happens, Locke, is that they will get someone from another country to come in, take their passport, take their identity away from them and make them believe that they are a criminal now. I am illegally in this country. They use that as well as a lot of other things.

Mr. Meredith: The bottom line is that there are billions of dollars involved in this. We have created the demand for this abuse as a culture. Louisiana is in the top ten.

Ms. LaBord: Right. We have such a sexually charged culture. You have the strip clubs and pornography industry which people think are separate from human trafficking but it is all intertwined. Girls who are prostituted are usually involved in the pornography industry as well.

Mr. Meredith: All right, so we have identified the problem, we’ve talked about the victims. Give me some tell-tale signs of victims. What are the things that you look for to say you know what, this is someone that I might need to be sensitive to and have my ears and eyes open. What are we looking for?

Ms. LaBord: Just to give you a practical example, say it was a medical service provider, a girl comes in who doesn’t speak very much English, she is always with some sort of chaperone, she cant even go to the bathroom without someone walking with her.

Mr. Meredith: Control.

Ms. LaBord: Right Control. The pimp will usually be with them. So that would be something that people need to be acutely aware of.

Mr. Meredith: I guess there are physical signs also that you have to look for.

Ms. LaBord: Abuse

Mr. Meredith: Physical and emotional turmoil. All right, we will continue this on the next segment. This is Locke Meredith. We are talking about trafficking in the State of Louisiana. We will be right back.

 

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

 

Mr. Meredith: Welcome back to Legal Lines. I’m Locke Meredith. Again, we have an unusual show today. We are talking about the trafficking of human beings. We are talking with Natalie LaBorde and Lee Domingue. They have been actively involved in this problem here in the State of Louisiana and the city of Baton Rouge. We were talking about the characteristics that victims display. They are being controlled, there is always some one around, they have the limited ability to communicate, and I imagine that there are physical signs also. What would they be?

Mr. Domingue: I think some are STD’s, I think you need to look for different areas of bruising, different areas of where they have been physically abused. Your child is all of a sudden becoming very distant from you, not wanting contact, angry.

Mr. Meredith: And that is communicated. Either you can visually note it or they are going to say something about it. The concern that I have, and we were talking about this just a second ago, is that someone who doesn’t really know anything about me comes along and says I think that kid over there might be being trafficked; and all of a sudden I have law enforcement knocking on my door and I realized that is a risk that we have and we have to balance this. What do you say when someone…

Mr. Domingue: It is no different than what exists today. If someone says they are a child molester. You have that same type of law enforcement protection.

Mr. Meredith: But that doesn’t make me feel happy. I’m not minimizing the problem. There has to be a system in place to make sure there isn’t abuse. Yet on the other hand you want to protect the helpless.

Ms. LaBord: Right. I think practically speaking that has not been the problem. The problem has been silence. That’s definitely a situation that is a possibility but that has not tended to be the side that we air on.

Mr. Meredith: Let’s face it, the bottom line is that the law enforcement personnel is in place to make sure that there is appropriate evidence to support the allegation. So there are checks and balances in our society and culture. So let’s talk about what ya’ll are doing.

Ms. LaBord: Education, handing out contact cards, we have a toy supply, that sort of thing. That is one of the tangible things that Tigers Against Trafficking does. We have really been expanding. One of the things that is on our heart is we had the opportunity to work with a lot of other college campuses to help launch similar programs.

Mr. Meredith: So you have created awareness.

Ms. LaBord: We became a model, not even on purpose. We basically said, “This is how you make this work on your campus.” We are constantly coming up with ways to expand and on how we can be more effective. Lee’s aspect really has to do with pushing hard to get a victim after care programs here.

Mr. Meredith: Talk to me about that Lee.

Mr. Domingue: If you get a message out, you have to over-communicate it. It has taken us almost five years. We’ve been running billboards and a lot of people didn’t think it existed. Now that everyone is really coming together and forming a coalition.

Mr. Meredith: Didn’t I read that a grant was obtained by the local law enforcement to create a task force?

Mr. Domingue: Yes, that is correct. You do have the task force with the Sheriffs association, faith based communities like Healing Place Church have really partnered in all of that. It takes everyone. When you get a victim of human trafficking, now what do you do with it? The number one need, because there is no safe housing. As a business person, I am thinking let’s raise money, administer it well, and lets go ahead and get the house built. We are raising money through a Faces of Hope gala, this community has stepped up big time.  This is not a quick fix, it is not a twelve step program. This is something that you are going to commit a very long period of time, a lot of resources, but even as the father of a daughter, you want those girls to know that they are valuable. You have value.

Mr. Meredith: The number one thing they need to know.

Mr. Domingue: Exactly. That is going to be key to their restoration. It’s not only feeding them for a day. It’s helping them restore their life so that they can come back into society and be productive.

Mr. Meredith: How do folks go… what do they go type it in Tigers Against Trafficking and go to your website and its trafficking hope.

Mr. Domingue: Yes. They go to traffickinghope.org they can hear about the gala April 21. We are having it at the Louisiana State Museum. That is to keep raising money for this Hope House.

Mr. Meredith: Awareness and money. Great guys. Thank you so much for coming in. We really appreciate it.

Mr. Domingue: Thank you.

Ms. LaBord: Thanks for having us.

Mr. Meredith: This is Locke Meredith with Legal Lines. Thank you for being with us today.

225-272-5555