The scantily dressed teenager stood on the hotel balcony taking nervous drags from her cigarette. She’d been in downtown Ottawa for almost two weeks, forced to have sex with a long line of men.
But on that warm summer night in 2011, one man standing outside her hotel room door had something very different in mind.
Ottawa police Det. Shane Henderson had received a tip from hotel staff about a 17-year-old girl they believed was a prostitute.
So the unassuming policeman did something that would change both their lives and pull back the curtain on the human-trafficking industry in the nation’s capital: He knocked on the door.
These are the stories of how the constable and the teenager met at a Cooper Street hotel and how their journey together would lead to Canada’s first human trafficking conviction involving an adult who had placed a child into prostitution.
The Hungarian-based gang trafficked at least 120 women into London where they were raped, beaten and forced to work in brothels across the capital.
The six gang members — led by Indian-born Vishal Chaudhary — are among 25 criminals convicted or jailed in the past month alone in a series of operations against Eastern European human trafficking gangs targeting London.
Police say there are an increasing number of joint inquiries with countries such as Poland, Hungary and Romania into prostitution and trafficking gangs.
Scotland Yard said there are at least seven live inquiries into crime groups bringing women into London.
In one operation with Romanian police, the first of its kind, 12 Romanian nationals were jailed for 89 years in their own country for bringing women to Britain to work in prostitution.
In another case earlier this week a Russian madam who ran a “high class” escort agency was jailed for eight years at Southwark crown court. Tatiana Shmyrova, 45, exploited a talented former Bulgarian athlete after she was lured to Britain with the promise of a new life working as a tour guide in London.
The Chaudhary gang trafficked more than 120 women from Hungary into the UK.
Amina Filali committed suicide by swallowing rat poison in March 2012. She was 16 years old. Amina was raped in her small Moroccan town by a man she was then forced to marry. Moroccan law allowed rapists to escape prosecution by marrying victims under age 18. In Morocco and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa, such acts are often seen to restore the ‘honour’ of the victim and her family. But Amina could not live with her restored ‘honour.’
Amina’s death caused an outcry in Morocco and throughout the region, challenging the misplaced idea that rape can bring a family into disrepute and that the value of a young woman lies in her virginity.
In the wake of Amina’s death, Morocco changed its laws in January 2014. Rapists can no longer escape prosecution by marrying their victim. However, rapists will be punished differently depending on whether or not their victim was a virgin at the time of the attack.
In neighbouring Algeria and Tunisia, the law allows rapists to walk free if they marry their victim—if she is under age 18.
Inside Timothy Deegan’s home at 2676 NW 106th Way, investigators say, the well-known accountant led a sordid life of sexual assault, drugs and terror.
Deegan, they allege, kept three women trapped in virtual slavery for months, prostituting them, videotaping sex acts that he would then put online, and giving them drugs in exchange for sex and keeping his house clean.
Deegan, 53, the owner of Deegan Professional Tax Service, was arrested Friday on three counts of human trafficking and booked into the Alachua County jail, where he remained Tuesday on $300,000 bond.
‘Everything is broken, spoiled. They killed my ma and my pa and impregnated me, three men during the war. I live by myself and my two children are sitting at home, not going to school. There’s no one to help me.’
Carmen was ten when she was gang raped during the brutal civil war in Liberia that lasted from 1999 to 2003. The conflict left a generation of children orphaned and traumatised, without education or skills to make a living, and thousands of teenage girls were left pregnant from rape, with no means to support their children.
Now Carmen has no choice but to work as a hopojo, or sex worker, to support her son, now 10, and her daughter, seven.
‘When I don’t go on the street, I can’t eat and nor can my children,’ she adds.
Black girls in the U.S. are too often left out of the public outcry against sexual exploitation, and instead are presented as “prostitutes” who “choose” to participate in the sex trade. Latent in our willingness to cast them as willing participants in this underground economy are racialized gender stereotypes about the hyper-sexualization of Black girls—a myth that was historically used to justify the rape of enslaved Black females, and which has since morphed into a stereotype about “fast” Black girls that renders them vulnerable to multiple forms of abuse.