Meet The Recipients Of This Year's Freedom Awards - Kelly Fang and Ria Gaur

Held by ECPAT-USA, the Freedom Awards bring together a highly selective group of 200 luminaries in the corporate, philanthropic, government, and media communities in support of ECPAT-USA’s vital work to ensure no child is bought or sold. The highlight of the evening is the recognition of the world’s most remarkable individuals for their contributions in ending child trafficking.

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Kelly Fang

Brooklyn Tech High School

Next Gen Award

It was a Facebook post from the previous secretary of the Youth Against Child Trafficking program at her high school that Kelly Fang first realized that sex trafficking was an issue not only in other countries, but in her community as well. Then a freshman at Brooklyn Tech, Kelly decided to sit in on a few meetings of the club to learn more about the issue. After those first few meetings, Kelly became a dedicated member of the group and help host fundraisers throughout the year, hold assemblies, screened documentaries and hold card making sessions to empower survivors of trafficking.

Now the president of the Brooklyn Tech Y-ACT group, Kelly says she’s learned a lot about the exploitation, the causes, the legislation and the hardships from many points of views. She sees how larger issues such as gender equality and consumerism help perpetuate the cycle of exploitation and says she has become more conscious of how her everyday decisions affect others.  

“I hope that my peers understand that they have the power to make change happen and that it is not too early to start caring,” Kelly said. “Just showing up to club meetings on Monday, really means a lot to the cause, even if it may feel like not much is being done. Listening to stories and uncovering the complexities of the problem is important. Awareness is a crucial foundation for action. We have the power to decide the future and we have the means to do so now.”

Kelly hopes that the work of the Y-ACT group at Brooklyn Tech encourages other students to get involved with issues like trafficking that impact their community so directly.

“Working on such a heavy issue has definitely amplified my voice in my school community and encouraged me to develop my courage,” Kelly said. “I've realized my ability to make change, and understand that my actions leave an impression on those around me. For years, I've looked up to leaders who have inspired others but now I want to be that person who can move others to take action.”

Ria Gaur

Stuyvesant High School

Next Gen Award

When Stuyvesant High School student Ria Gaur first learned about trafficking through a documentary about the issue in India, she figured that if she was interested in this issue, there were probably other students at her school who would want to work with her in raising awareness about trafficking. After researching more about the issue and looking into volunteering with anti-trafficking non-profits, Ria started Stuyvesant Against Trafficking at her school at the end of her sophomore year.

For the past two years, the group has worked to raise money for trafficking survivors through Purpose Jewelry, put up posters at their school, and organized guest speakers from organizations who work on trafficking, including ECPAT-USA, to address their school. When the group wanted to expand their efforts beyond their own high school, they created Silent No Longer ( where they invited students from other schools to join their efforts to fight trafficking and post monthly blog posts about the issue.

Keeping the club up and running and organizing awareness events at her school have not been without their difficulties. But, even in the beginning, when only four or five people of the 3500 people at her school would show up to Stuyvesant Against Trafficking meetings, Ria said she didn’t doubt the group’s ability to make a difference.

“Just cause we’re students doesn’t mean we have less of a say or less of an impact on the issue,” she said. “I think it is really important for youth to be united against an issue like this. It affects our community. I think it’s really important for us to acknowledge it.”

Although Ria will graduate this year from Stuyvesant and start at NYU in the fall, she plans to continue raising awareness of trafficking and other social justice issues in whatever way she can.

“Because it’s not happening right in front of us, trafficking can be considered a myth,” Ria said. “But I think it’s important to have an open mind and be ready to learn about these types of things and the things that other people endure - not just in other countries but your own country as well - and be willing to help in whatever way you see fit.”

Meet The Recipients Of This Year's Freedom Awards - Jett Jeffrey and Glenn Logan

Held by ECPAT-USA, the Freedom Awards bring together a highly selective group of 200 luminaries in the corporate, philanthropic, government, and media communities in support of ECPAT-USA’s vital work to ensure no child is bought or sold. The highlight of the evening is the recognition of the world’s most remarkable individuals for their contributions in ending child trafficking.

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Jett Jeffrey and Glenn Logan

Delta Flight Products

Rescue Award

Delta employees Jett Jeffrey and Glen Logan were sitting in an Orlando-area McDonald’s on a Saturday afternoon in August enjoying their lunch when two girls walked in the restaurant who looked completely out of place.

Around 15 or 16 years old, the girls were dressed inappropriately for the area. The man with them looked much older, and the girls were timid around him. When he finished eating his lunch, he stepped outside, and the girls started chatting with each other. When he returned, they stopped talking immediately.

“It just didn’t fit,” Logan says of the experience in a Delta awareness campaign video.

When the man started snapping his fingers at the girls and urging them to get ready to go quickly, Jeffrey and Logan looked at each other and Logan remembers them asking each other at the same time, “Are we seeing what we’re seeing?”

The two decided they couldn’t just walk away from what they had just seen. Jeffrey went outside to get the plates, make, and model of the car, and reported the incident to local law enforcement. Later that day, they received a call back from the sheriff's department that the vehicle had come back as stolen.  

The two credit the anti-trafficking training they received from Delta as the reason either of them had noticed anything unusual about the situation at all. Jeffrey said, to him, what he was seeing at that McDonald’s lined up almost exactly with the indicators of potential instances of trafficking that he had been taught to look for training.

“It is vital for Delta to take a leadership role in combating human trafficking,” Jeffrey said. “By working together and educating employees and customers, we can shed light on the epidemic. Every company can make a statement to traffickers that their actions will not be tolerated.

Both Jeffrey and Logan hope that their experience is one that causes those who hear it to think about their role in ending trafficking and take that extra minute to be aware of their surroundings.

“Trafficking can take place anywhere, at any time,” Jeffrey said. “If you think you are witnessing human trafficking, please report it! It is better to report the incident than let it go and know you could have saved someone’s life.”

Meet The Recipients Of This Year's Freedom Awards - Anthony Spagnuolo

Held by ECPAT-USA, the Freedom Awards bring together a highly selective group of 200 luminaries in the corporate, philanthropic, government, and media communities in support of ECPAT-USA’s vital work to ensure no child is bought or sold. The highlight of the evening is the recognition of the world’s most remarkable individuals for their contributions in ending child trafficking.

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Anthony Spagnuolo

Hilton Area Director of Safety and Security

Defender Award

As the Hilton Area Director of Safety and Security, Anthony Spagnuolo oversees more than 20 different hotel properties across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. He and his team of 38 safety and security professionals are charged with keeping thousands of guests and associates safe every single day, and Spagnuolo has organized countless trainings for staff on security issues - including how to identify and best respond to instances of suspected trafficking.

Spagnuolo first became aware of human trafficking as an issue that could affect guests and team members during a special training session held in anticipation of New Jersey and New York hosting the Super Bowl in 2014. That program, he said, really opened his eyes to the topic, and he is proud of how Hilton embraced the issue and has worked to fight trafficking across all its properties.

Since then, Spagnuolo has ensured that anti-trafficking information has been incorporated into team member trainings and tailored each training to the specific department, so that each associate is receiving the most relevant information about how to identify instances of trafficking for his or her department. Additionally, when New York, Connecticut and New Jersey issued new regulations for postings and trainings at hotels, Spagnuolo spearheaded Hilton’s compliance efforts and led trainings at five properties and organized trainings at 15 more. Spagnuolo’s efforts mean that signage about human trafficking now appears in all of the Hilton properties that he oversees.

Spagnuolo said he has seen team members acting on the knowledge they gained during these trainings to keep guests and fellow associates safe through recognizing a situation as suspicious and reporting it to it to him or one of his team members.

“We really need to rely on all our team members to be our eyes and ears,” he said.

Whether the reports result in police action or a definitive conclusion that an incident was a case of trafficking, Spagnuolo says are the wrong things on which to focus. To him, an individual being aware enough to make the initial report is an accomplishment.

“People coming up to you and reporting situations, those are our success stories,” Spagnuolo said. “We may not find out exactly what happened, but we did our part.”

Meet The Recipients Of This Year's Freedom Awards - Arne M. Sorenson

Held by ECPAT-USA, the Freedom Awards bring together a highly selective group of 200 luminaries in the corporate, philanthropic, government, and media communities in support of ECPAT-USA’s vital work to ensure no child is bought or sold. The highlight of the evening is the recognition of the world’s most remarkable individuals for their contributions in ending child trafficking.

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Arne M. Sorenson

President and CEO, Marriott International

Visionary Award

“We are immensely proud to support ECPAT-USA and to take a stand against human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Trained on the signs of human trafficking and empowered to say something if they see something, Marriott associates are passionate about making a difference in this fight. Child sexual exploitation is a horrifying daily tragedy that no one can afford to ignore — and the hospitality and tourism industry has a unique opportunity to do something about it.”

Arne M. Sorenson is President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International, Inc. Mr. Sorenson presides over one of the world’s largest hospitality companies and some of the most iconic brands in travel.

Mr. Sorenson led the acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in 2016, resulting in a dramatic expansion of Marriott’s ability to provide unparalleled guest experiences around the world. The company now has more than 7,000 properties across 130 countries and territories and 30 brands. The merger also created the travel industry’s largest customer-loyalty program, with nearly 125 million members. An outspoken corporate leader, he has advocated for environmental sustainability, a more open, safe and inclusive workplace, a welcoming culture around the world and a future in which international travel is revolutionized with a global digital identification system.

Mr. Sorenson joined Marriott in 1996 and held a number of positions before serving as President and Chief Operating Officer. He was elected to Marriott’s Board of Directors in 2011. He became Chief Executive Officer in 2012, making history as the first person to hold the post without the Marriott family name.

With a keen interest in international trade, immigration and innovation, Mr. Sorenson is active on multiple boards. He joined the Microsoft board of directors in November 2017. He is also a member of the Business Roundtable. He serves on the board of trustees for The Brookings Institution, the board of directors for Warrior-Scholar Project and as a member of the Luther College Board of Regents.

Mr. Sorenson is a graduate of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and the University of Minnesota Law School. Before joining Marriott, he was a partner with the law firm Latham & Watkins in Washington, D.C.

Meet The Recipients Of This Year's Freedom Awards - Carol Smolenski

Held by ECPAT-USA, the Freedom Awards bring together a highly selective group of 200 luminaries in the corporate, philanthropic, government, and media communities in support of ECPAT-USA’s vital work to ensure no child is bought or sold. The highlight of the evening is the recognition of the world’s most remarkable individuals for their contributions in ending child trafficking.


Carol Smolenski

Retiring Executive Director of ECPAT-USA

Freedom Award

For over 25 years, Carol Smolenski has served as the executive director of ECPAT-USA. Under her leadership, the organization has grown from the ground up and become the top policy organization in the United States seeking to end the commercial, sexual exploitation of children.

In the early 1990s, Smolenski was working in the field of children’s rights child rights when she was invited to attend a presentation about the sexual exploitation of kids in Asian. Activists there had identified large numbers of children being bought and sold for sex in Asian - often by individuals from other countries. The presentation was targeted specifically at those countries from which the demand for the sex trade was originating, and it was there that Smolenski first saw how children were being marketed for exploitation. She left the presentation knowing that she had to do something.

A small team of people started developing the organization that would become ECPAT-USA. They raised money and hired their first staff member and little by little, started growing the organization. The first step for ECPAT-USA was overcoming the lack of awareness around the issue, including the lack of understanding that sex trafficking isn’t an issue that affects only kids in foreign countries. Initially, no one wanted to talk about child trafficking, especially those in the systems and industries that were unknowingly facilitating exploitation.

“We kept going despite how difficult it was in the 1990s,” Smolenski said. “No one was was talking about sex trafficking, but once you heard about it, you couldn’t just walk away. At least, I couldn’t just walk away.”

Eventually, public perception of the issue started to shift. Through the work of ECPAT-USA and other activists, legislators, law enforcement and the general public started to understand that kids who were arrested as participants in the sex trade should be seen as victims instead of perpetrators. In 2004, Carlson signed the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, and the travel and tourism industry began to come on board as allies in the fight to end trafficking. Programs were developed to empower students to become advocates against exploitation in their communities.

“I do want people to understand that if you keep at it, it gets better,” Smolenski says. “Because I do have this long perspective and I have seen a tremendous amount of change, it gives me faith. It gives me confidence to tell people that if you keep working at it, things will improve.”

After working on the issue since 1991, Smolenski will retire later this year. After a lifetime working for child rights organizations, she expects that she still continue in some capacity, but she also hopes to travel and spend time with her friends and family.

VIP Journeys Combats Sex Trafficking With ECPAT-USA And The Code

VIP Journeys has partnered with ECPAT-USA and joined The Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct (The Code) and implemented a policy against child sex trafficking. The Code is an industry-driven initiative to provide awareness, tools, and support to the private sector to help combat the sexual exploitation of children.

VIP Journeys’ policy states a zero-tolerance for child sex trafficking, instructs their associates what to do if they suspect instances of trafficking, and also addresses labor trafficking. VIP Journeys began training their staff to recognize and report suspected instances of trafficking in early 2018.

“Working closely in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and other Latin America countries we have always been compelled to give back to our communities, both locally and globally,” VIP journeys CEO and Co-Founder Michael Eiseman said. “As the eyes and ears of our partner Travel Agents and vendors, we are especially sensitive to the role and responsibility we have and that our travel brands. Human trafficking is an international and multi-billion-dollar market whose proceedings are often unwittingly facilitated by the travel and hospitality industries. As a member of the travel and tourism community, it’s our responsibility to shed light on this global atrocity. VIP Journeys manages luxury travelers and by working with our partners to include child protection language in RFPs and contracts, Tour Operators like VIP journeys can have a major impact on this issue.”

“ECPAT-USA is proud to partner with VIP Journeys to raise awareness and use their influence to combat human trafficking in the travel industry,” said Michelle Guelbart, ECPAT-USA’s Director of Private Sector Engagement. “They’ve hit the ground running and we are excited to continue this partnership in order to increase ECPAT-USA’s reach and protect children globally.”

ECPAT-USA partners with private sector companies in the travel and tourism industries to combat child sexual exploitation. Click here to see a full list of partners who have signed The Code.

ECPAT-USA Launches New Report At AHLA Safety Summit

ECPAT-USA was excited to participate in the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s annual Safety Summit in Washington, D.C. this week as part of the organization’s continuing efforts to make fighting human trafficking a top priority. Along with Polaris, ECPAT-USA spoke about the issue, the importance of training, and concrete steps the travel industry can take to protect children from exploitation.

Additionally, ECPAT-USA debuted their new “Unpacking Human Trafficking” report at the Summit. Financially supported by the American Hotel and Lodging Association Educational Foundation, the report is a survey of human trafficking signage and training laws across all 50 states. The publication is meant to help clarify laws and facilitate compliance for lodging facilities as an increasing number of states have passed laws requiring lodging facilities to combat human trafficking.

To learn more about how your company can partner with ECPAT-USA, click here.

ECPAT-USA Issues Report On State Human Trafficking Laws For The Lodging Industry

All Materials Required by Each State Available on Web  

Brooklyn, NY (May 1, 2019) - - - To help lodging companies facing different laws about human trafficking in different states, ECPAT-USA, with the financial support of the American Hotel and Lodging Association Educational Foundation (AHLEF), today issued a report detailing what each state requires and providing materials to comply with the laws. The report, “Unpacking Human Trafficking A Survey of State Laws Targeting Human Trafficking in the Hospitality Industry”, and all necessary materials are now available on the ECPAT-USA website.

 “We know that the hospitality industry is eager to help fight human trafficking, but the many different state laws makes that complicated. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for every company in the hospitality industry to comply with the growing number of state laws by giving them one place to find out what is required in each state and to find the materials they need,” said Michelle Guelbart, Director of Private Sector Engagement at ECPAT-USA.

“Human trafficking is a serious, international issue, and our industry, along with others in the travel and tourism industries have an important role to play in combating trafficking networks,” said AHLEF President Rosanna Maietta. “On behalf of the hotel industry and our member companies, AHLEF is committed to working with engaged partners like ECPAT-USA to support and fund research that can bring us closer to help end these heinous crimes.”

In recent years, an increasing number of states have passed laws requiring lodging facilities to display signage calling attention to the problem of human trafficking and alerting the public to the indications of trafficking, the hotline number to report suspicious activity, and services for victims. These laws take various forms and present a sometimes-confusing array of requirements that present a challenge to owners and operators of lodging facilities seeking to satisfy them. 

Similarly, a number of states have enacted legislation requiring lodging facilities to arrange for their employees to be trained to recognize signs of human trafficking and what actions to take in the event that such signs are observed. Other states do not mandate the training but have made it available on a public agency website. Additional states are currently considering similar legislation. Thus, it is safe to predict that the number of states mandating such training will continue to grow.

To help clarify the situation and facilitate legal compliance, ECPAT-USA, with the support of AHLEF, unpacked these laws by preparing a survey of all the applicable state laws currently in effect. The survey will be updated on a semi-annual basis to keep up with the constantly changing laws.

Posters that comply with the various laws, as well as additional resources for hospitality brands, management companies, and properties are available on ECPAT-USA’s website at For states that do not have a human trafficking awareness signage requirement, ECPAT-USA’s Standard Hotel Poster can be utilized.


13 states have laws mandating human trafficking awareness signage in lodging facilities:

California, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia

7 states have laws mandating human trafficking awareness signage in lodging facilities that have been cited as a public nuisance:

Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island

12 states have voluntary human trafficking awareness signage in lodging facilities:

Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin

14 states have penalties for failing to meet the human trafficking awareness signage mandates:

Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina

4 states have statutes mandating training regarding human trafficking for individuals working in the lodging industry:

California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey

11 states have voluntary training laws for individuals working in the lodging industry:

Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont

In addition to state laws, there are various agency and municipal regulations, which are beyond the scope of this project. Interested parties should contact their local lodging and hotel association, chamber of commerce or governmental agencies familiar with regulations in local jurisdictions.

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ECPAT-USA is the leading policy organization in the United States seeking to end the commercial, sexual exploitation of children through awareness, advocacy, policy, and legislation. ECPAT-USA is a member of the ECPAT International network, with offices in 95 countries.



AHLEF is the hospitality industry’s philanthropic organization, dedicated to helping people build careers that improve their lives and strengthen the lodging industry. Created in 1953, AHLEF initially focused on providing scholarships to a small group of promising hospitality students. Since that time, the Foundation has taken on a much greater mandate: ensuring a strong and viable future for the entire lodging industry. Underscoring the industry’s stories of opportunity, growth, and success, AHLEF priorities include scholarships, research and career development programs.

Is Grooming Teenagers for Prostitution “On-brand” for Teen Vogue?

At ECPAT-USA we teach youth through our in-school programming about how to avoid being groomed by traffickers who are always seeking new individuals to feed into the sex trade. Traffickers and pimps tell enticing stories to young people - many of whom are vulnerable because of their life histories of abuse and neglect. These stories involve the love and care the trafficker says he will bestow, and the great riches and success in store for young people if they just follow his lead. It is, of course, all lies and all manipulation that takes advantage of the youth and naïveté of young people who aren’t able to recognize a “recruitment conversation” when they hear one.  And now we have Teen Vogue helping the pimps.

The child exploitation grooming process is pretty well documented by now, and increasingly, the systems that need to know how to protect children from sexual exploitation are all on board.  Social workers, foster parents, criminal justice agents, health care workers and others have learned how traffickers use exploitative processes to lure their victims and passing on that information to those who are the most vulnerable to such tactics.

Not the editors of Teen Vogue. In a recent op-ed, space was given in their magazine to help out the pimps and traffickers by amplifying the message that these exploiters use to recruit teenagers.  The piece included language such as “purchasing intimacy and paying for the services can be affirming for many people,” which will only help lay the groundwork for pimps and traffickers trolling the internet, shopping malls or the streets to find homeless, sexually abused, LGBTQ or foster care youth.

As many survivors have attested, they were not empowered and they were not strengthened by being in the sex trade. Many were recruited well before they were 18 years old and their bodies were controlled by pimps and buyers. They suffered physical and mental abuse that affects them for years afterward.    

The retrograde and irresponsible message in the piece - from a magazine aimed at a teen audience - is that selling your body as a commodity to the highest bidder is something to be glorified and supported.  This message has already been communicated by the fashion industry - so maybe it is completely on-brand for Teen Vogue.