Twenty-three year old Amy Bradley was last seen by her parents in her room on a cruise ship bound for Curacao. It was the morning of March 24, 1998, and Amy had been up most of the night dancing in the ship's disco. She returned to her room and then went out for a cigarette, never to return. As the ship was close to Curacao and Amy was a strong swimmer, her family thinks it unlikely that she fell overboard and drowned. Two passengers on the ship thought they saw her that morning on one of the ship's elevators, further indicating they last saw her at about 6 a.m. in the company of a musician who played on the ship.
No one saw Amy leave the ship, although a Curacao cab driver would later tell her father that she approached his cab on the morning of her disappearance and said she needed to get to a telephone. Other people have come forward to say that they too had seen Amy, to include a U.S. Navy Petty Officer who said he had seen her in a Curacao brothel and she had asked him for help, even telling him her name. He said he had decided not to report the incident at that time, fearing that he would get into trouble with the Navy for having been in a brothel, and only contacted Amy's family after he had retired and saw her picture, and perhaps information of a reward, in a magazine. The sailor's report has never been substantiated, and the reward of $260,000 remains unclaimed.
There are those, however, who believe that Amy may have been assaulted, murdered, and thrown overboard while still on the cruise ship. This possible explanation for her disappearance is said by some to be the most obvious and, therefore, the most likely explanation for her disappearance. Notwithstanding this alternative explanation to a kidnapping, Amy's parents still keep the emotional porch light turned on at night, hoping beyond hope that their missing daughter will somehow return to them. As a parent I share their hope
White Slave trafficking
A common theme that I've noticed in many of the e-mails that I've received after my two recent "Profiler's Perspective" articles concerning the now three-week-old mysterious disappearance of 17-year-old American Natalee Holloway in Aruba is the belief that she might have been kidnapped and sold into white slavery. I admit that I initially dismissed this idea as both far-fetched and highly unlikely. As a former FBI Agent and criminal profiler, I know that most crimes are solved by determining who had the opportunity and the motive to commit the crime, and that the "right answer" is usually the most obvious the most likely one. In the case of Natalee Holloway's disappearance, I continue to agree with her mother in that the three and perhaps now four local men in custody probably know what happened to Natalee, but have so far not told what they know about or what they did to her. Still the potential, no matter how remote, of a white slave kidnapping is something that the authorities must consider, the potential of which they must rule in or rule out by investigation in Aruba and other nearby countries, while they continue to hammer away at the stories of the men currently in custody.
Watch what you drink in clubs
Many news reports and statements from visitors to certain Caribbean island nations have suggested that bartenders or patrons of these bars have been known to use so-called "date rape drugs," e.g., GHB and Rohypnol (roofies), to take advantage of unsuspecting female patrons, with others suggesting that such drugs are used to render specifically targeted women unconscious in order to facilitate their transportation as victims of white slavery kidnappings. The truth of such allegations of drug-induced white slavery are unknown, and the statistics to support this belief as directed against American women in these bars are nonexistent. We note, however, that these drugs are available around the world and have previously been used to gain advantage of otherwise innocent women, although to be fair to the islands, such usage with illicit sexual intent has been reported a number of times in the United States.
How traffickers get their victims
The victims of white slave sex trafficking across the world are usually women and girls, although young boys are also victimized. Depending on the country and the age and sex of the potential victims, there are common methods used to lure them into white slavery, to include 1) being sold or traded by your parents, spouse or boyfriend; 2) being provided with a false promise of employment in another country; 3) traveling in furtherance of a fictitious promise of marriage; and, 4) being kidnapped and carried away by human traffickers. No matter the ploy or method used to get a victim to descend into this kind of living hell, once there they face the prospect of continual rape, beatings, emotional abuse, lack of proper food and medical care, the forced consumption of drugs and alcohol, and other vile punishments. Related physical health issues are as bad if not worse. To survive, a victim must learn to separate her mind from her body, convincing herself that she is not really there as she is continuously victimized. That is probably the only way someone could emotionally survive such a horrific ordeal.
There is a psychological phenomenon known as "identification with the aggressor," one that differs from the "Stockholm Syndrome" that I discussed in a previous article. This is a form of survival behavior in which the victim responds to the threat and fear of injury or death. She is "grateful" not to be severely injured or killed by her captor, and may believe that her captor is the only one that can protect her. Therefore, she does whatever she is told to do in a very compliant manner, perhaps even ignoring the opportunity to escape for fear of losing her captor's protection.
Types of sex trafficking
Victims of human trafficking can be forced into various forms of commercial sexual exploitation including prostitution, pornography, sex shows and even being sold as mail order brides. Sex trafficking operations are found in high risk, high profile activities such as street prostitution, as well as more underground systems such as private brothels that operate out of homes and advertised only person to person, or perhaps via the Internet. Sex trafficking also takes place in a variety of public and private locations such as massage parlors, spas, strip clubs and other fronts for prostitution. Victims may start off dancing or stripping in clubs and then be coerced into situations of prostitution and pornography. One sign in front of a Hong Kong club stated, "Young, Fresh Hong Kong Girls; White, Clean Malaysian Girls; Beijing women;
Luxurious Ghost Girls from Russia."
Human trafficking across the globe
Most island nations dispute the local trafficking in women, boys and girls for sexual purposes; but one study suggests that 100,000 women and children are trafficked in these locations for sexual exploitation purposes annually, and between one and four million people are trafficked worldwide each year, with 50% of the victims being minors.
Asia has made some advances in dealing with sex-related tourism, however the trade has increased in the Americas, to include 2,000 children that are said to be sexually exploited in 600 different brothels in Guatemala and an almost unbelievable 500,000 girls working as prostitutes in Brazil. Latin America is a transit point for trafficking women to Europe, North America and Australia. 100,000 women from former Soviet states are annually tricked into traveling with the promise of work as a domestic or in some other service related occupation, when in reality their passports are taken from them, they do not know the local language or culture where they arrive, and they are forced into prostitution to pay their traffickers' fee, often beaten and held in seclusion while they "work off" their debt. Interpol says 35,000 women are trafficked out of Colombia every year and that Mexico has as many as 20,000 child victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
Human sales are up
The trafficking of human beings is the third most financially lucrative business in the world, ranking close behind weapons sales and drugs, and is believed to generate "sales" of seven billion dollars per year. The international community has only recently begun to fully realize the depth and complexity of this problem and its global impact. Moreover, the changing nature of this use of human beings as chattel has meant that human trafficking is no longer a term used only to describe women and children forced into prostitution; but other forms of involuntary servitude as well. One study suggests that human trafficking involves the use of both enticement and deception, examples of which include Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian boys being sold to become camel jockeys in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, teenage Vietnamese girls sold into prostitution in Bangkok, Thailand, and, Nigerian women allegedly sold to brothels in the Netherlands and Italy.
In times of conflict
It's been found that there are more trafficking victims during times of conflict than in times of relative peace. By this, conflict may see the loss of social infrastructures and normal law enforcement agencies, as well as the crossing of international borders by victims fleeing conflict, thereby making them easy targets for human traffickers. Women in post-conflict societies like Kosovo and Kuwait and certain African nations who have been the victims of mass rapes and other forms of personal and sociological abuse are, unfortunately, sometimes reduced in value and status in their local communities and, sadly enough, become even more vulnerable. In international conflicts we find borders closed and legal asylum denied to tens of thousands of refuges, with these victims then forced to turn to human trafficking syndicates to facilitate their hoped-for escape, thereby giving the trafficking predators "easy pickings" from the ladder of human misery, noting that 150 million people migrate yearly in search of economic opportunity or to escape conflict or worse.
We next find the monsters that took advantage of last year's Asian tsunami in which over one-quarter of a million lives were lost and thousands of children became homeless orphans. We now know that human traffickers created phony orphanages to gain fraudulent access to relief funds and to avail them and their "customers" with access to the already traumatized and vulnerable child victims. There has to be a special seat reserved in hell for any and all of these two-legged human aberrations.
International protection -- where is it?
International involvement in developing protocols and legal protection for victims of human trafficking has been slow to come around. Nongovernmental organizations were the first to acknowledge the depth of this transnational crime and have raised our awareness of traffickers who take advantage of language barriers, sell victims to another owner to keep them disoriented, and threatening family members as well as cause their victims immeasurable physical and mental trauma. Human trafficking requires both sophisticated and extensive networking, something akin to that used by international organized crime groups, some of which are overtly supported or at least allowed to exist by crooked politicians, intentionally blind banks, dirty cops, and other criminal networks worldwide. Impoverished children are over and over again the most vulnerable population throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. They are often tricked or forced into the commercial sex trade. As a destination for many tourists, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Argentina are reputed to be at the center of a growing sex tourism industry in Latin American and the Caribbean.
So where is Natalee?
We've come full circle and we still don't know what happened to Natalee Holloway. If there was some type of conspiracy between the young men who were last with her and traders in human life, we would expect the Aruban authorities, with the "assistance" of the FBI, to uncover this potential fact and run the traffickers down and rescue Natalee.
Remember we initially discussed motive and opportunity concerning who might have taken or otherwise harmed Natalee. To this now add access. Who had access (or contact with) the victim? Who had the opportunity to interact with her in a negative manner? And, most importantly, who had the needed motive (still to be determined) to take or otherwise harm her? When we discuss what is possible verses what is probable, we start to narrow down our options. While white slavers could have kidnapped her, would they really want to take such a high-risk venture by kidnapping such a high profile member of a large group that would immediately bring attention to her being missing? If such kidnappers had previously been successful in such endeavors, would they risk it all to take Natalee? But should the answer be simpler than this elaborate conspiracy theory, one found more in movies than in real life, well, then 17-year-old Joran Van Der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers will know the truth. How quickly they are willing to part with the answers to Natalee's disappearance will be a product of their emotional tenacity and the interviewing skills of the Aruban police officers, assisted by their far more experienced Dutch associates, and the ever present FBI looking over all their shoulders and saying, "But what about this?"
We pray for the safe return of Natalee as well as that of Amy Bradley, and for all of the families concerned.
Clint Van Zandt is an MSNBC analyst. He is the founder and president of Van Zandt Associates Inc. Van Zandt and his associates also developed LiveSecure.org, a Website dedicated "to develop, evaluate, and disseminate information to help prepare and inform individuals concerning personal and family security issues." During his 25-year career in the FBI, Van Zandt was a supervisor in the FBI's internationally renowned Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He was also the FBI's Chief Hostage Negotiator and was the leader of the analytical team tasked with identifying the "Unabomber."