Sunday, February 23, 2014

#Author Spotlight: Aya Walksfar Exposes Human Trafficking


My guest for today is author Aya Walksfar. Aya brings to the Author's Spotlight today the second book of her Special Crimes Team series, Street Harvest. Street Harvest takes the members of the Special Crimes Team into the world of human trafficking.

IN THE WORDS OF AYA WALKSFAR

There are few things more terrifying than a missing child, yet in the United States a child goes missing every 40 seconds. Many are never reported as missing. They become the street kids who hang on the corner, stealing food from the local supermarket, panhandling and selling their bodies for one night of a warm bed and food in their stomachs.
Other children who vanish have families who grieve them, miss them, and may never see them alive again. Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar per year business and many of the lives that it consumes are children who have gone missing.
I have known some of these children, have worked with them on the streets of Seattle, have taken a few of them into my home. Some have run away from abusive families; some are seeking adventure and instead find terror, abuse and drugs; some are kicked out because they are lesbian or gay, transgender or bisexual. One thing they all have in common: they are at high risk to become prey for sexual predators.
Street Harvest presents the story behind the headlines. Through the fictional account of a case, I hope to enlighten others to the reality. We are the only ones who can change that reality, but we can’t change what we don’t know about.  I want to encourage people to see themselves in Auntie El’s outstretched hand, in Jaimie Wolfwalker’s determination to find the children, in the dedication of the police to bring those children safely home.
This is the reality: children disappear and are never seen again.

AN EPILOGUE FROM REALITY

A child is missing when it falls off the “normal radar,” such as the school or foster care system, or when a parent or guardian no longer knows where that child is, and law enforcement cannot locate that child.
In the United States, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention estimates that a child goes missing every 40 seconds. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that roughly 2,000 children in the United States go missing every day, a country that professes to love its children and to take care of them.
In the State of Washington alone, the Missing Children Clearinghouse estimates that over 20,000 children per year go missing. According to Washington State Missing Children “Dozens of children go missing from Washington State and most of them don’t get an Amber Alert.” Also, in Washington State as of December 2013, there are over 354 children still on the Missing Children’s List after five to ten years of being gone.
A child goes missing for a variety of reasons.
1. Runaway: these children leave home oftentimes due to intolerable abuse. Without skills, education
or money, these children fall easy prey to prostitution, sexual predation, pornography, and human trafficking.
2. Thrown Away: these children are kicked out of their homes for a variety of reasons; many are thrown away because they are LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning) children. Born different, discarded young.
According to Zack Ford in an article posted by thinkprogress.org and dated July 12, 2012, as many as 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT.
All street children are at risk for exploitation through prostitution, sexual tourism, pornography, human trafficking.
3. Human Trafficking:
The State of Washington is a good example of what law enforcement faces in trying to halt human trafficking. According to a report from the State of Washington's Task Force against Trafficking of Persons reports, “our state is a hotbed for the recruitment, transportation, and sale of people for labor. The report indicates several factors make Washington prone to human trafficking:
International border with Canada
Abundance of ports
Vast rural areas
Dependency on agricultural workers
Seattle is part of a trafficking circuit that can include Honolulu, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Portland, Vancouver (Clark County), Yakima, and Canada.
The report also notes that trafficking has occurred in 18 Washington State counties.
Victims range from "mail-order" brides to sex workers to domestic workers and children.
Local victims have come as far as Russia, the Philippines, China, and Mexico.
There are a number of destinations for children taken by human traffickers:
a. Sexual Tourism, which occurs in many different countries and for which countries import kidnapped children to satisfy the demand. This demand is frequently due to the perverted appetites of men from developed countries; brothels, and street prostitution.
b. Pornography, which includes a wide range of films—in some of which the child is murdered for sexual gratification of the potential audience; audiotapes, and still photographs. An article in Wikipedia from the report “Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children” states that child pornography is a multi-billion dollar per year industry.
c. Body Parts. We hate to consider it, but children are harvested for body parts. According to a report by Missing Children International: “The world we live in is no stranger to one of the biggest reasons many of our children disappear without a trace. Many children are abducted and sold for body parts throughout the United States, Central America, South America, and Europe. The Internet has become one of the greatest sources of business and the organized underground business is one of the most successful businesses anywhere in the world.”
d. Contemporary slavery, which includes sweatshops, field labor, servant type labor, and many other positions as slaves.
e. Breeding, yes this is exactly what it sounds like and includes forced marriages, sometimes of preteens.
4. Abduction: Approximately 58,000 children a year in the United States are abducted. According to a Q13Fox.com article in which Shellee Hale, Founder of Camandago, a private investigations firm that focuses on missing persons: “Unless a witness sees a child being taken, police cannot give the resources and attention of a kidnapping. Many of these kids vanished without a trace. Even high-profile cases are still unsolved with no leads. But as we’ve seen over and over again, it’s not impossible for these missing kids to resurface after months or even years.” (This is an excerpt. For the full article, please go to Q13Fox.com.) Children are kidnapped for a number of reasons:
Ransom: a child is taken to extract a set amount of money or favor from the parent or guardian.
Sexual Predation: a child is taken, raped, sometimes tortured, sometimes murdered.
Illegal Adoptions
5. Custodial Disputes: The non-custodial parent disappears with the child; sometimes, neither is ever again located.
6. Non-Stranger Abduction: this could be an aunt, uncle, other relative, or a boyfriend/girlfriend of the parent, a babysitter, anyone who is known to the child. These kidnappers often feel they are “in love with the child,” or that “they love the child more than the parent does.” This can be sexual or non-sexual relationships.
7. Murder: accidental or intentional
Key findings: Washington State Attorney General: 2006 Child Abduction Murder Study
The use of pornography by killers as a trigger to murder has increased.
In 74 percent of the missing children homicide cases studied, the child murder victim was female and the average age was 11 years old.
In 44 percent of the cases studied, the victims and killers were strangers, but in 42 percent of the cases, the victims and killers were friends or acquaintances.
Only about 14 percent of the cases studied involved parents or intimates killing the child.
Almost two-thirds of the killers in these cases have prior arrests for violent crimes, with slightly more than half of those prior crimes committed against children.
The primary motive for the child abduction killer in the cases studied was sexual assault.
In nearly 60 percent of the cases studied, more than two hours passed between the time someone realized the child was missing and the time police were notified.
In 76 percent of the missing children homicide cases studied, the child was dead within three hours of the abduction–and in 88.5 percent of the cases the child was dead within 24 hours.
I write novels, fictional accounts of situations. What you have read here is REALITY. A missing child is a child in grave danger. What are we, in the United States, going to do about our missing children?
Remember:
40% of street children are LGBT
In the United States on any given day over 2,000 children will go missing.
Human traffickers prey on children.
Street children are among the missing children, and are at grave risk.
It is up to us to FIND the children, and to bring them safely home.

STREET HARVEST BY AYA WALKSFAR

What do the bodies of two young children have in common with the murders of two adult men? 
Eleanor Hasting, a black bookstore owner and child advocate, knows these killings are linked. How can she convince Lieutenant Michael Williams, head of the Special Crimes Team? Someone is abducting street children and their bodies are showing up sexually abused and manually strangled. 
Psychic and member of Missing Children's Rescue, Jaimie Wolfwalker, is prepared to do whatever it takes to locate and rescue the missing street children. The law be damned. Jaimie's attitude and methods place her on a collision course with Sergeant Nita Slowater, second-in-command of the Special Crimes Team. 
Four dedicated people struggle to come to terms with each other in their desperate search for clues. Every day brings more missing children, more young bodies. Can they stop the monsters before another child disappears? http://amzn.to/1fsZR0f



WHO IS AYA WALKSFAR?

Aya's illiterate grandfather and nearly-illiterate grandmother conspired to teach her to read and write by age six, and succeeded with the help of a Carnegie librarian.
Since then writing has been Aya's all-consuming passion. "Words give us wings to soar above our circumstances, no matter how violent or poverty-stricken," Aya says. "I became a writer because I want to share the magic of words."
Once the novel is published, she makes a commitment to her readers: “I have created women and men
you will never forget; people you will laugh and cry with. I will appreciate and listen to your feedback, both positive and critical. I appreciate you, my reader.”
Aya draws from a vast array of experiences. She has represented people in committee hearings in front of members of the House of Representatives of California; she has lived on the road and eaten at soup kitchens; she has farmed, been a mechanic, worked in construction, been a waitress; she has been a personal guard for children who were under threats of violence.
Aya graduated from the University of Washington’s Writer’s Course. For a number of years she worked as a counselor and studied human nature.
Aya is passionate about changing the image of women in the media. "It is time for women to read about strong women who positively impact their worlds; who are the rescuers, rather than being the ones who must be rescued. This is why I write books with strong female characters, and strong, caring male characters."
Aya currently lives in the shadows of the Pacific Northwest mountains. She and her wife, Deva, own a 12-acre wildlife/wild bird habitat. When she isn’t writing, Aya loves to read, hike, work with her German Shepherd dogs, tend the land, ride her motorcycle, and spend time with her family and friends.
In 2013, Aya published three books:
Sketch of a Murder, Book 1, Special Crimes Team: Misfits and Loners, this team has to stop The Avenger’s murder spree.
Good Intentions, winner of Alice B. Reader Award 2002: Bev Ransom has a secret; so does the rest of her family.

Dead Men and Cats, novella: What do dead men and dead cats have in common



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