A New York state assemblywoman from the Hudson Valley was at a Ritz Carlton hotel in Westchester County Thursday. She was there to promote legislation she authored to require lodging facilities to provide human trafficking recognition training.
Anneka Lucas says she figures she was raped about six hours a week before age 12, during the time she was trafficked from 1969-1974.
“I was sold by my family in 1969 as a 6-year-old child,” Lucas says. “And I was sold into a murderous network.”
This was in Belgium, and she says the pedophile network operated in Europe, its members aristocrats and leaders. She told her story in a video.
“It went viral and I got a lot of attention and a lot of questions and I thought, this is a time to do something, so I wanted to choose something to do,” Lucas says.
And so Lucas, a Brooklyn resident, approached Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin of Scarsdale, telling her that a lot of child sex trafficking occurs in hotels, and legislation to educate hotel employees could make a difference. Here’s Paulin.
“I’ve introduced legislation that will require all hotels, motels and other lodging facilities in New York to require all employees to take a human trafficking recognition training program, much like we’ve seen implemented here, post in plain view and in a conspicuous place, in the lobby in the public restrooms, a notice which will include the National Human Trafficking Hotline telephone number,” says Paulin.
Paulin modeled her bill after legislation in Connecticut, which passed a similar law in 2016. Paulin discussed her bill at the Ritz Carlton in White Plains, which is owned by Marriott International. Tu Rinsche is director of corporate social responsibility for Marriott. She says the company put in place a human trafficking training requirement in January.
“Requiring human trafficking training of all our hotel associates in our 6,000 properties around the world so that they can better understand how to identify the many signs of human trafficking,” Rinsche says.
So far, 86 percent of Marriott’s employees have undergone the 30-minute training. William Yahr is general manager of the Ritz Carlton in White Plains, where he says some 85 percent, or 185 employees, have received the training.
“What this has done is it opened the eyes, especially to some of our heart-of-the-house, or back-of-the-house, ladies when doing this training with our housekeeping team, the questions and the aha moments, just to know what to look for,” says Yahr.
But there is not the requirement, as outlined in Paulin’s bill to post a notice that would include a hotline number. Marriott co-developed the training with ECPAT-USA, a Brooklyn-based group that seeks to end commercial sexual exploitation of children. Carol Smolenski is a founder and executive director of ECPAT-USA.
“Everyone needs this training, every hotel worker needs it and we’re going to save a lot of kids,” Smolenski says.
Lucas says she may have sought help had someone reached out to her or if there were someone to call.
“Because I was always looking to get out somehow, if I had seen one sign somewhere that would have said that a child is not a prostitute, for me, that would have made me think a lot because I thought I was a prostitute and I was never told otherwise,” says Lucas.
Paulin says she’s in the education phase with her bill.
“My hope is to move the bill,” says Paulin. “My hope is to move the bill even if, whether we’re able to make it law, we only have a few weeks left, or whether we raise awareness and get the bill in good shape for next year, both are good objectives.”
The bill has several co- and multi-sponsors in the Assembly, and Paulin says Jesse Hamilton, an Independent Democrat from Brooklyn, will sponsor the bill in the Senate.