Four Ways You Can End Human Trafficking On Global Meetings Industry Day

On April 4, meetings professionals across the world will gather to showcase the impact the industry has on people, businesses and the economy on Global Meetings Industry Day. On this international day of advocacy, the meetings industry is also recognizing the unique role its associates play in the ending human trafficking. Chapters across the country are raising awareness of the issue and highlight how we can work together to protect children from exploitation.

Register for one of the events below to join the fight! We’re also making a special announcement on #GMID. Check our site on April 4th or learn more live at the events in NYC or Philadelphia!

In New York City

Global Meeting Industry Day Education & Engagement Event

Join SITE Northeast, Meeting Professionals International and PCMA NYC chapters in a special education and engagement presentation on Global Meetings Industry Day in conjunction with ECPAT-USA. You'll hear from speakers Carol Smolenski, Shanifa Bennett, Robin Carter, Jessica Schultz and David Peckinpaugh on how you and your company can fight the global issue of human trafficking.

Register here.

In the Bay Area

GMID Networking Event Benefiting ECPAT-USA

Join leaders from across the meetings and events industry at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square to showcase the real impact that business meetings, conferences, conventions, incentive travel, trade shows and exhibitions have on people, business and communities.

Register here.

In Philadelphia

Human Trafficking in the Hospitality Industry

Join PCMA Greater Philadelphia Chapter & MPI PHL at a special session shedding some light on the problem of human trafficking and how those in the hospitality industry can increase awareness of the issue. ECPAT-USA will be speaking alongside Hilton, Philadelphia CVB, Covenant House PA, and FBI.

Register here.

Anywhere Online

Last January, ECPAT-USA launched a new e-learning to help previously untapped sectors of the travel industry - including the meetings industry - join the fight to end human trafficking. Through the training, meetings professionals are given the tools to identify and respond to trafficking as well as how to take action with clients and suppliers. The e-learning and free resources for travel professionals are available anytime online.  

Sex Trafficking Survivors To Guide ECPAT-USA's Work

Creating a direct line of communication between those working to end commercial sexual exploitation and those who have first-hand experience with the issue.

Brooklyn, NY (March 11, 2019) - - Survivors of sex trafficking will now be playing a larger role in shaping the programs and materials of ECPAT-USA, the leading anti-child trafficking organization in the United States. ECPAT-USA announced today the creation of a Survivors Council comprised of seven survivors of sex trafficking. The members of the Council, one male and six female survivors, will be enlisted in reviewing and guiding current and future initiatives to ensure the efficacy and sensitivity of programs, reports and materials.

The new Survivors Council replaces the current Advisory Council, which included survivors but also many other interested individuals. The new Survivors Council will play a more active role in reviewing and providing feedback, including checking information about programs, reading reports, and viewing video and printed marketing materials. All members of the Survivors Council will be compensated at a rate of $50/hour for their time.

One of the keys to ending sex trafficking is not only showing empathy for survivors, but listening to their recommendations for how to better support other survivors, protect vulnerable populations, and craft legislation and policies that will be the most effective in preventing child sex trafficking. It is from this understanding that ECPAT-USA sought to create the Survivors Council, which allows for a direct line of communication between those working to end commercial sexual exploitation and those who have first-hand experience with the issue.

“We are humbled by the strength that each member of our Survivors Council has shown and are honored to, in some small part, support them on their journeys, as they help us help other survivors and work to prevent more children from being trafficked,” said Carol Smolenski, Executive Director of ECPAT-USA. “As individuals who were directly affected by sexual exploitation, the input from this council will be an invaluable resource moving forward.”

Grooming: Is R. Kelly Using The Same Tactics As Human Traffickers To Control His Victims?

Musician R. Kelly has been the subject of investigations, indictments, and lawsuits for decades. Most recently, the singer was indicted in Chicago in a lawsuit that accuses Kelly of sexually abusing four victims - three of whom were between the ages of 13 and 16 at the time - over a span of a dozen years. Through it all, the musician has maintained his innocence and has presented statements from other underage victims who reiterate that they remain in consenting relationships with Kelly.

This idea that girls would willingly subject themselves to a relationship in which their attire, food and even their bathroom use are all direct by someone else can be confusing to an outsider’s perspective. But the method used to teach an individual to accept an abusive relationship, known as “grooming,” is a process that has long been used by traffickers to continue their own cycle of trauma and abuse.

But the method used to teach an individual to accept an abusive relationship, known as ‘grooming,’ is a process that has long been used by traffickers to continue their own cycle of trauma and abuse.

“Grooming is the slow, methodical, and intentional process of manipulating a person to a point where they can be victimized,” Eric Marlowe Garrison, a sex counselor and author, said in an interview with Allure. “After [the perpetrators] find their targets, they then gain trust and move in from there.”

Grooming commonly starts with friendship. Specifically in Kelly’s case, grooming typically started with a promise to help a young singer with her music career. An abuser or trafficker approaches a victim with the promise of care and companionship, security and support, but then they will slowly convince their victim that they are the only one who cares about them. Teens who feel isolated and alone, or have run away from home, are especially vulnerable to traffickers. Kyra Wooden, Director of ECPAT-USA’s Y-ACT Youth Program, explains that “youths are more likely to fall victim to the trafficker’s ploys because of emotional wounds and voids that the trafficker promises to heal.”

Youths are more likely to fall victim to the trafficker’s ploys because of emotional wounds and voids that the trafficker promises to heal.

Like sex traffickers, Kelly systematically selected his victims, looking for individuals who felt as though they didn’t belong. His victims were girls who had big dreams and needed his help in order to make them come true. As the Lifetime documentary Surviving R Kelly points out, almost all of Kelly’s victims are girls of color - girls who have been taught by society that their lives are worth less than white children. This often leaves Black girls more vulnerable to all forms of exploitation.

After establishing a foundation of trust and care, abusers and traffickers will then start to make requests of the victim to judge how far his or her boundaries can be pushed. What might begin as a request to wear certain clothes or use certain names will slowly escalate to the point where an individual is no longer allowed to leave a room without gaining permission.

Throughout this process, the victim is isolated, which leads him or her to believe that there are no other options. To accelerate this, traffickers will confiscate a victim’s identification documents and money, which makes a victim even more reliant on his or her trafficker. The more an abuser is able to keep an individual from his or her support networks, the easier it is for the abuser to remain in control. As Dawn Michael, PhD, a sexuality counselor explained to Allure, the resulting behavior on the part of the victim can look to an outsider as though he or she has been “brainwashed.”

“The more they can cut off other people [who] are close [with the victim], the more power they have over that person, because they’re not going to have as much outside influence,” Michael said.

In Surviving R. Kelly, several interviewees described the two different sides of the singer: the one who was loving and confided in them about his own sexual abuse as a child and then the one who would withhold food from them for days when he was angry. This cycle of explosions and reconciliation manipulates victims psychologically, and as one psychologist puts in Surviving R. Kelly, creates “chains and handcuffs that are all mental.”

For many victims of abuse, the first step to breaking the cycle is the realization that their relationships aren’t healthy. The beginning of that realization can be as simple as receiving information for the first time about what a healthy relationship looks like. A core focus of ECPAT-USA’s Y-ACT Program is helping participants understand the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships and how traffickers manipulate those relationships - a process that had led some participants to self-identify as victims of trafficking or question the nature of their relationships.

“Child sexual exploitation, grooming, and avoiding toxic relationships are all very complex in nature,” Wooden, said. “Students need to learn preventative and protective behaviors because the tactics for luring and grooming are more intricate and conniving than young people are familiar with. Overall, teaching youth to understand their right to have relationships without hurt and pain can ultimately save a student’s life.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of trafficking, help is available at the National Trafficking Hotline (888-373-7888) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Cover image via Instagram

As Child Sex Abuse Cases Fill the News, Don’t Be A Bystander

For many, many years child exploitation and abuse perpetrated by people in positions of authority have been ignored or downplayed. Too many of those whose role in society it is to defend the vulnerable, enforce laws that protect children, or call for justice for them have been shown to be using their positions of authority to exploit and abuse, or at the least, to be complicit in letting it go forward. Some of them are finally being brought to justice, but that’s probably the tip of the iceberg.

There has been a constant drumbeat in the news in the last few weeks about long-festering cases of child exploitation that are now coming into the public eye:

  • Jeffrey Epstein given a very meagre sentence by the then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta (now Secretary of Labor).

  • R. Kelly arrested for sexually exploiting 4 young women, 3 of whom were under 18 years old.

  • The documentary by HBO about Michael Jackson’s “relationship” with young boys.

  • The Catholic Church just completed a summit meeting at the Vatican about systemic child abuse for decades.

  • The Southern Baptist Convention having to now deal with child abuse that was reported for years but never addressed.

  • Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been accused of soliciting sex in Florida after a large-scale investigation into sex trafficking in the state.

The natural question is how to respond, what can and should be done to fight this? For over 25 years, ECPAT-USA has been working to end the sexual exploitation of children through:

Working with the private sector to train key people in how to identify trafficking and how to report it. We do this in the travel industry, where most of the large hotels chains have signed our Code of Conduct and implemented training for staff. Marriott hotels trained 500,000 associates in the last year to identify and report trafficking. And that is just one company. And there have already been cases where an employee saved a young person.

Empowering youth in New York City through educating middle and high school students to recognize the signs of when they are being groomed by a predator.

Raising awareness of the issue and championing legislation that supports trafficking survivors.

While the recent news stories about trafficking can be overwhelming, reporting on the issue is also important. It lets victims know that this is not something they have to accept and that they can come forward. And it lets someone being approached know that they don’t have to succumb.

And the increased reporting is forcing institutions that have ignored the problem for years to finally deal with it.

Economist Intelligence Unit Highlights ECPAT’s Work In Latest Study On Ending Child Sexual Abuse

Click through to see the full report

Click through to see the full report

A new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit ranks the United States’ response to child sexual abuse and prioritization of ending the crime fifth on a list of 40 countries analyzed. The researchers looked at a country’s environment and stability, legal framework, government commitment and capacity, and engagement of industry, civil society, and media; and specifically referenced prior research and current initiatives from ECPAT International.

One of the areas in which ECPAT’s work was featured prominently is that of the measure of the engagement of the private sector in helping to end child sexual exploitation. The report highlights the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, ECPAT’s internationally accepted industry-driven corporate social responsibility framework that helps companies in the travel and tourism industry fight trafficking.

Additionally, the Economist report references ECPAT’s “Terminology Guidelines for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse” as a framework for the best language to use when talking about exploitation. Using appropriate terminology when discussing this issue helps to better contextualize the nature of this issue and offers a better understanding of the role we all play in ending sex trafficking.

“Government, law enforcement, health and education systems, civil society and the private sector must acknowledge the responsibility of what is happening within their respective jurisdictions and play a part,” Carol Bellamy, global chair of ECPAT International says in the report.

UN Agency Reports an Increase in the Number of Children Trafficked Worldwide

In January, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, “guardian” of the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol, released its fourth Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. This publication provides an overview of patterns and flows of human trafficking at national, regional and global levels based on information submitted by142 Member States of trafficking cases detected from 2014-2016. The Report collected data from 94% of the world’s population.

The main form of trafficking reported by countries was trafficking for sexual exploitation, 59%. Overall, 30% of those reported trafficked worldwide are children; 23% girls and 7% boys, but the Report states that of those children trafficked for sexual exploitation, 72% are girls and 27% are boys.

Although the Global Report shows an increase in the overall number of persons trafficked worldwide, because trafficking in persons is the second most lucrative illicit business in the world, reliable figures for the total number of those trafficked worldwide are hard to know and, doubtless, greater.  It is important, however, that in the eight years that the Report has been published the capacity of countries to gather data has greatly improved and the Report further shows convictions of traffickers are on the rise, greatly enhancing our efforts to combat trafficking.

Marriott International Announces 500,000 Associates Have Participated In Anti-Trafficking Training

ECPAT-USA corporate partner Marriott International announced last week that, as of this month, it has trained 500,000 of its associates in how to recognize and respond to human trafficking in hotels. The brand launched mandatory training for on-property staff last year as part of its efforts to combat exploitation after becoming a signatory of ECPAT-USA’s Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct in January 2018. The news is especially poignant as it comes during National Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month.

“Human trafficking is a horrific form of modern slavery that entraps millions of people around the world,” said Arne Sorenson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International, in a press release. “By educating and empowering our global workforce to say something if they see something, we are not just standing up for the most vulnerable in society, we are also protecting associates and guests as well as living up to a core company value — serving our world.”

Marriott’s training was developed in collaboration with ECPAT-USA and Polaris and has been translated into 16 languages to ensure that associates in all of the 130 countries in which the company has properties can access the training. According to the brand, the program has “directly resulted in young people being removed from dangerous situations.”

“Hotel workers wouldn’t necessarily see a human trafficker visibly restraining a victim; they would typically see a scenario that is much more nuanced and harder to detect if you don’t know what to look for,” said Dr. David Rodriguez, Chief Global Human Resources Officer, Marriott International. “That’s why helping hotel workers identify the signs of sexual exploitation and forced labor is so important. This knowledge gives them confidence that they can do something to help, which is already having an important impact in our hotels.”

Marriott’s announcement is also an important reminder that everyone has a role to play in the fight to end exploitation. Learning the signs of trafficking is a key way both hotel associates and travelers alike can help protect children across the country.

“We are extremely proud of the work Marriott has done,” said Michelle Guelbart, ECPAT-USA’s Director of Private Sector Engagement. “For years, hotels said it was impossible to do training across the board to all associates in their portfolio - that no matter how engaging or comprehensive training was, associates were not always reachable. We are pleased to see hotel brands requiring training across properties. Marriott’s efforts prove that when a company sets out to strategically and comprehensively engage everyone, they can do it.”

To learn more about ECPAT-USA’s corporate partnerships, click here.

To learn more about The Code, click here.

Atlas Travel Announces New Partnership With ECPAT-USA

(MARLBOROUGH MA) - Atlas Travel is proud to announce its partnership with ECPAT-USA, the leading policy organization in the United States seeking to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children. 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.

“We are proud of our ongoing commitment to our local communities and continually strive to set the standard for corporate contributions towards the betterment of society,” says founder and CEO Elaine Osgood. “We’ve spent considerable time and resources translating our long-standing culture of community empowerment into a foundational business pillar. We are honored and excited that these efforts have led to becoming the first New England-based travel management company to join ECPAT-USA in fighting global injustices against children.”  

In addition to partnering with ECPAT-USA, Atlas Travel has also become a member of the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct. The Code is the world’s first and only voluntary set of business principles travel and tour companies can implement to prevent sexual exploitation and trafficking of children. The Code provides members with support and resources to raise awareness; in turn, members commit to implementing six essential measures:

  • Establish policies and procedures against human trafficking and child exploitation

  • Train employees on said policies and procedures

  • Include a contract clause for business partners, including RFPs

  • Provide information to travelers

  • Support, collaborate & engage stakeholders

  • Report annually on initiatives

“Companies that recognize their role and responsibility in recognizing and preventing child sex trafficking are a key in ending exploitation,” said Michelle Guelbart, Director of Private Sector Engagement at ECPAT-USA.“We are excited to welcome Atlas Travel to The Code and as a new partner in helping us protect children.”

With these core measures in place, our work throughout the year will expand upon these commitments, especially raising both industry-wide and public awareness. We hope these efforts curb trafficking not only internationally, but domestically as well: human trafficking occurs in all 50 states, in cities and rural communities alike.

About Atlas Travel

Headquartered in Marlborough, Massachusetts, Atlas Travel offers corporate travel, vacation planning, and meetings and incentives services. For over thirty years, Atlas Travel has been providing easier travel and better management to companies around the globe. Through a wholly-owned UK division and affiliation with BCD Travel, Atlas Travel offers global travel programs to more than 110 countries. Atlas Travel is a certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) and Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB), as well as a distinguished member of the Inc. 5000 list.


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. For more than 25 years, ECPAT-USA has been leading the charge to prevent child trafficking before it happens. ECPAT-USA is a member of the ECPAT International network, with offices in 95 countries. For more information on ECPAT-USA, visit; for specific details on The Code, please visit

Koncept Events Joins Fight Against Human Trafficking

Koncept Events, an award-winning destination management company and corporate meeting planning agency, has announced its pledge to fight human trafficking during National Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month - and all year long - by becoming a partner with ECPAT-USA through The Code.

As a member of The Code, Koncept Events becomes part of an industry-driven initiative that seeks to provide awareness, tools and support to its members to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. Koncept Events joins with hundreds of other companies worldwide that have put ending trafficking and corporate social responsibility at the core of their missions.

According to their site, as a female-owned business, Koncept Events is focused on working to empower women and children in all areas. They believe that in the hospitality industry, in hotels and at airports, people are in a position to truly make change. 

Hear more from the company in the video below.