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Brooklyn aids and empowers sex trafficking victims

Brooklyn sex trafficking victims gained attention last month, asDistrict Attorney Charles Hynes’ office announced an indictment oftwo men on June 29 who are charged with forcing a 13-year-old girlinto prostitution in 2003, and continuing to sexually traffic,rape, assault and threaten her for the next eight years.

The men, Damien Crooks, 31, and Jamali Brockett, 27, allegedlyforced the girl to have sex for money, and when she refused, the DAcharged, they raped and beat her, and forced her to performsexually humiliating acts. They also allegedly threatened theirvictim that if she reported the harassment, they would harm herfamily.

In addition to the emotional scars such victims face, womenattempting to escape lives of forced prostitution usually have noclothes but those on their backs, according to Michael F.Vecchione, chief of the Rackets Division in Hynes’ office.

It was this absence of basic human dignity that prompted membersof Hynes’ Sex Trafficking Unit to begin a donation drive calledBrooklyn Girls’ Initiative for Victim Empowerment (GIVE), also lastmonth, which supplies clothing and toiletries to these women inneed.

Organizers and supporters of the drive gathered at the Foley andCorinna boutique in Manhattan’s East Village earlier in June for areception to thank the businesses that had already donated to theprogram, including Tyte and Rewash Jeans, Tommy Hilfiger, FashionDelivers, the Body Shop, Park Slope Parents and Whole Foods.

I cleaned out two spaces – two file cabinets in our office –thinking that if we fill those [with donations], we’re in goodshape, Vecchione said. Well, now I think we need two offices,never mind two file cabinets or two shelves to fit this.

Lauren Hersh, the chief of the sex trafficking unit in theRackets Division in Hynes’ office, expressed her passion forhelping victims of forced prostitution, as well as her gratitudefor the community’s contributions.

Recently, I was talking to a woman about the work that I do,and she said to me, you must really see the worst in humanity,Hersh said. But as I look around the room tonight, I can’t helpbut feel that this is actually the best in humanity. The outpouringof support and people’s mobilization around this issue has reallybeen remarkable.

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