Male vic­tims of sex traf­fick­ing ring ex­pe­ri­ence shame, trauma as po­lice iden­tify grow­ing prob­lem

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Dave Collins

TOLLAND — Like many vic­tims of a Con­necti­cut sex traf­fick­ing ring that preyed on trou­bled young men and teenage boys for more than 20 years, Sa­muel Marino never told his fam­ily or po­lice about be­ing co­erced into sex­ual re­la­tions with much older men.

Marino ended up car­jack­ing ve­hi­cles from two dif­fer­ent women in 2009 and lead­ing po­lice on a chase that left him dead at just 26 years old. In a hand­writ­ten note found years later in a raid on one of the sus­pected sex traf­fick­ing ring

leader’s homes, Marino wrote that he was an­gry, ashamed and dis­gusted at how he was taken ad­van­tage of.

“He couldn’t deal with the tor­ture and the shame of be­ing pros­ti­tuted and also of be­ing an ad­dict,” said his mother, Linda Marino, who found out about the sex traf­fick­ing only af­ter the ar­rests were an­nounced two years ago. “I’m sure he felt hope­less­ness and de­spair. The pain of not be­ing able to help my son Sam when he was go­ing through this is in­sur­mount­able.”

Po­lice said they have iden­ti­fied at least 15 vic­tims of the Con­necti­cut traf­fick­ing ring but be­lieve there could be dozens more. The op­er­a­tion ap­peared to date to the 1990s and was dis­cov­ered only af­ter a state pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer re­ported it to au­thor­i­ties in Jan­uary 2016, po­lice said. One of the vic­tims had told the pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer about be­ing traf­ficked, of­fi­cials said. Two men have pleaded guilty to traf­fick­ing-re­lated charges and a third is ex­pected to go on trial early next year.

The case has il­lu­mi­nated what vic­tims and ad­vo­cates call the un­der­re­ported scourge of male sex traf­fick­ing. While both male and fe­male traf­fick­ing vic­tims suf­fer trauma and other psy­cho­log­i­cal scars, data sug­gest men and boys are less likely to come for­ward, and when they do they are more likely to have dif­fi­cul­ties find­ing coun­sel­ing and other ser­vices, vic­tims and ad­vo­cates say.

The sus­pects tar­geted teenage boys and young men who were de­vel­op­men­tally disabled, men­tally ill and ad­dicted to drugs, po­lice said. One of the de­fen­dants, Robert King, found some of his vic­tims at drug re­hab cen­ters. He al­legedly would give them drugs, in­clud­ing heroin and co­caine, and take them to other men for sex acts so they could earn money to pay him back for the drugs, ac­cord­ing to ar­rest war­rants.

King, 53, of Dan­bury, pleaded guilty in Au­gust to con­spir­acy to com­mit hu­man traf­fick­ing and is ex­pected to be sen­tenced to 4½ years in prison af­ter co­op­er­at­ing in the trial of an­other de­fen­dant, wealthy Glas­ton­bury busi­ness­man Bruce Be­mer, whose lawyers said he is not guilty of the charges. A third de­fen­dant, Wil­liam Tre­fzger, 74, of West­port, pleaded guilty in Fe­bru­ary to pa­tron­iz­ing a traf­ficked per­son and was sen­tenced to a year in prison.

The traf­fick­ing ring left be­hind a trail of dev­as­ta­tion. The vic­tims suf­fer a va­ri­ety of psy­cho­log­i­cal ail­ments in­clud­ing post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der and re­peated flash­backs, ac­cord­ing to law­suits filed by sev­eral vic­tims. And their fam­i­lies con­tinue cop­ing with the trauma in the af­ter­math.

One man, known only as “Vic­tim #1” in ar­rest war­rants, suf­fers from se­vere men­tal health dis­or­ders and isn’t ca­pa­ble of liv­ing in­de­pen­dently. He was search­ing dump­sters

for re­turn­able bot­tles when he met King, he told po­lice.

An­other young man, de­scribed only as “Vic­tim #2” in ar­rest war­rants, has se­vere psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­or­ders. He told po­lice he was paid $50 to $80 for sex­ual en­coun­ters with older men. He said King threat­ened to kill him if he told any­one about the traf­fick­ing ring, which left him trau­ma­tized. He told a health care provider he was em­bar­rassed and wor­ried that peo­ple may think he was ho­mo­sex­ual when he was not, an ar­rest war­rant said.

It is not un­com­mon for male vic­tims to worry about their mas­culin­ity and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion be­ing ques­tioned, said Robert Lung, a Colorado state judge and mem­ber of the U.S. Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil on Hu­man Traf­fick­ing. And while all vic­tims of traf­fick­ing and sex­ual as­sault are of­ten hes­i­tant to come for­ward due to fear and other is­sues, Lung said there are fewer ser­vices, in­clud­ing coun­sel­ing, avail­able to men be­cause most providers fo­cus on treat­ing women.

“The per­cep­tion by so­ci­ety is boys and men are not vic­tims,” said Lung, who, like other mem­bers of the ad­vi­sory coun­cil, is a sex traf­fick­ing sur­vivor. “I can count on one hand the num­ber of or­ga­ni­za­tions that are spe­cific to boys and men in the coun­try. And that’s a pretty big prob­lem.”

He cited a 2010 study by John Mar­shall Law School pro­fes­sor Sa­muel Jones that found only two of the 222 in­sti­tu­tions and pro-

grams that re­ceived fed­eral gov­ern­ment fund­ing for anti-traf­fick­ing ef­forts were com­mit­ted to fight­ing the traf­fick­ing of men and boys.

The Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil on Hu­man Traf­fick­ing, ap­pointed by Pres­i­dent Trump in March, is ex­pected to make nu­mer­ous rec­om­men­da­tions in a re­port due early next year. Lung hopes one of them in­cludes pro­vid­ing in­cen­tives to providers to treat more male traf­fick­ing vic­tims.

Ac­cu­rate data on the sex traf­fick­ing of men and boys is lack­ing and es­ti­mates on the num­ber and gen­der of vic­tims varies widely, ad­vo­cates said.

The Na­tional Hu­man Traf­fick­ing Hot­line, run by gov­ern­ment­funded Po­laris, says 8,524 hu­man traf­fick­ing cases were re­ported in the U.S. last year, in­clud­ing both sex and la­bor traf­fick­ing. Of those, 1,124 cases, or 13 per­cent, in­volved male vic­tims. Other stud­ies and re­search have said the per­cent­age of male vic­tims is much higher, more than half in some re­ports in­clud­ing a 2008 study of the sex­ual ex­ploita­tion of chil­dren in New York City by the John Jay Col­lege of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice.

One re­port last year es­ti­mated that 4.8 mil­lion adults and chil­dren world­wide were sex traf­fick­ing vic­tims in 2016. But the re­port, by the In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Walk Free Foun­da­tion and the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion, said women and girls ac­counted for 99 per­cent of all vic­tims.


Linda Marino poses with pho­to­graphs of her son, Sa­muel, at her home in Tolland. Sa­muel died in a 2009 car crash that rel­a­tives be­lieve was in­ten­tional af­ter be­com­ing a vic­tim of a male sex traf­fick­ing ring. Ad­vo­cates are call­ing for more ser­vices for male vic­tims.


This com­bi­na­tion of book­ing pho­tos re­leased by the Dan­bury Po­lice Depart­ment shows, from left, Bruce Be­mer in 2017, Robert King in 2015, and Wil­liam Tre­fzger in 2017, all ar­rested in Dan­bury in con­nec­tion with a hu­man traf­fick­ing ring.

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