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Law Center Files First Ever Anti-Trafficking Lawsuit Against Pornography Producers on Behalf of Survivor

How Cissy Steele Groomed Jane Doe

Cissy Steele was using the internet to disguise herself as a talent agent from Royal Loyalty Management who was looking for models and actresses when she came across Jane Doe (not her real name). Steele then proceeded to prey upon Jane Doe by intentionally cultivating a sense of trust and building a false relationship. Steele reached out to Jane Doe online and offered her lucrative acting and modeling opportunities. After communicating, Steele convinced Jane Doe to take a modeling opportunity with the promise of making Doe into a successful model and actress. Steele manipulated Doe to go a step further and move into Steele’s home with the reassurance that this move would benefit Doe’s supposed new career.

Online Grooming Turns Into Sex Trafficking Situation

Once Jane Doe was ensconced in Steele’s house, Steele furthered her deception of Doe by setting up several faux modeling photoshoots. After a few months, Steele began verbally degrading Doe and telling Doe that the only way she had a chance at becoming a lucrative actress or model was through pornographic “acting.” When Jane Doe resisted this pressure, Steele began using psychological manipulation, direct coercion, intimidation, threats, and physical violence against Doe including threatening to kill Doe’s dog and harm her family. In the end Steele managed to effectively imprison Jane Doe and coerce her into commercial sex acts with men at various hotels in several states. All the money made from Jane Doe’s sexual exploitation was immediately pocketed by Steele.

From there, Steele also trafficked Jane Doe to multiple pornography production companies in California and Nevada including Diabolic Video Productions, Black Ice Ltd., Zero Tolerance Entertainment, Third Degree Films, and Elegant Angel, Inc.  All of the pornography producers directly paid Steele for Jane Doe’s participation in the videos despite clear signs that Doe was being trafficked.

Pornography Production Companies Complicit in Crime

The pornography production companies distributed the videos of Jane Doe to a multitude of internet pornography providers. As a result, the online porn providers illegally profited from the sex trafficking of Jane Doe through advertisements on their websites as well as through viewers’ subscription fees.

Eventually, with the help of a friend, Jane Doe escaped from Cissy Steele’s home and control and began a new life. Despite Jane Doe’s many efforts to have the videos taken down, her videos remain on several online sites to this day.

Legal Argument Filed on Behalf of Jane Doe

Cissy Steele, the pornography production studios, and the internet pornography websites violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) which prohibits anyone from knowingly using force, fraud, and coercion to entrap victims into commercial sex acts and profiting off of their exploitation.

Accordingly, Jane Doe has now sued Cissy Steele, the pornography production companies, and the online pornography providers which continue to show and sell videos of her sexual abuse and exploitation against her will. The case, filed on September 24, 2020, is in federal district court in San Diego.

As horrific as this case is, it is not an anomaly. Countless Jane Does are trafficked and exploited by the pornography production industry and internet pornography providers. Jane Doe repeatedly attempted to have her sex trafficking videos removed to no avail and there are websites that continue to profit off of her sexual abuse and exploitation to this day. The same is the case for myriad survivors who find their sexual abuse images and videos on internet pornography websites and are afflicted with the paralysis of not being able to remove the degrading and re-traumatizing content. As long as someone is willing to pay for this content, pornography production companies and internet pornography providers have proven more than willing to provide it—no matter how violent, dangerous, and degrading the content may be.

Jane Doe is Not the Only Victim

Take the case of Mia Khalifa as another example.

In 2015, Mia Khalifa mistakenly signed a contract with a pornography production studio and resigned after two weeks. The contract she signed gave the company control over the websites and domains that contained her stage name. Although Khalifa has been out of the pornography business for over five years, the pornography production company is still promoting her videos and creating an illusion that she is still engaged in the commercial sex industry even though she has worked hard to have her videos removed from pornography sites. This reality has made it difficult for Khalifa to find employment in other fields, which only furthers the reach and extent of the exploitation.

Like many others, Khalifa’s attempts to remove her videos have been met by indifference from the pornography companies. “Pornography companies prey on callow young women and trap them legally into contracts where they’re vulnerable,” Khalifa noted in comments published by The Guardian. She also stated that during every filmed scene she would black out, yet no one on the set seemed to notice or offer any assistance: “The abuse and exploitation of young women is normalized in pornography, and if you don’t comply, you’re threatened, beaten, and intimidated.”

Pornography Producers Are Sexual Exploiters

Whether or not there is a contract in place, the sexual exploitation and abuse that comes from pornography production studios and internet pornography providers is degrading, traumatizing, and crippling. These abusive companies know they are profiting off of the sexual exploitation of women who have been beaten down, manipulated, often drugged, and are in no condition to acquiesce to such exploitation. The pornography industry’s lack of regulation hinders many survivors from fully healing, as they are continuously haunted by the existence of videos of their abuse living on in the Internet.

The Hope Jane Doe v. Cissy Steele Gives

The Cissy Steel lawsuit is the first federal lawsuit against a pornography producer and online pornography website for federal anti-trafficking violations. We hope this lawsuit and many others like it will hold pornography producers and internet pornography providers accountable for the damage, abuse, and exploitation of the untold numbers of women and children trafficked in the pornography industry.

Read NCOSE Law’s Amended Complaint here.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center offers survivors of pornography-related abuse a way to seek justice. More information can be found at: https://sexualexploitationlawsuits.com/.

COLUMN BY

Madison Van Oss

LEGAL ASSISTANT
Madison is the Legal Assistant for the Law Center at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Madison supports the Law Center and its quest to bring justice to survivors of the sex trade industry through civil and criminal litigation. Madison brings with her a master’s degree in Homeland Security, several years of professional experience in the corporate world, as well as strong desire to protect and defend individuals against sexual abuse and exploitation.

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EDITORS NOTE: This NCOSE column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Google Allegedly Monetizing Child Erotica on YouTube

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation is calling on YouTube to remove all pornography from its platform, following yet another disturbing account of apparently monetized child erotica on YouTube. This is one of the reasons Google has been placed on NCOSE’s 2019 Dirty Dozen List which names 12 mainstream facilitators of sexual exploitation.

Prominent YouTuber MattsWhatItIs made a video on February 17th, explaining his discovery.

In the description, he writes:

Over the past 48 hours I have discovered a wormhole into a soft-core pedophilia ring on Youtube. Youtube’s recommended algorithm is facilitating pedophiles’ ability to connect with each-other, trade contact info, and link to actual CP in the comments. I can consistently get access to it from vanilla, never-before-used Youtube accounts via innocuous videos in less than ten minutes, in sometimes less than five clicks.. Additionally, I have video evidence that these videos are being monetized by Youtube, brands like McDonald’s, Lysol, Disney, Reese’s, and more… Youtube is facilitating this problem. It doesn’t matter that they flag videos and turn off the comments, these videos are still being monetized, and more importantly they are still available for users to watch.

This is not the first time YouTube has come under fire for hosting sexually exploitive content. In April 2018 it was criticized for allowing a pornographic ad to appear on a trending YouTube video, and in November 2017 it was revealed that YouTube’s flagging system to prevent child victimization on its platform was reportedly malfunctioning for a year. Even the YouTubeKids app has been infiltrated with disturbing and often sexual content.

It’s an open secret that Google’s YouTube is a hub for child erotica and is used by pedophiles to network. It’s time for YouTube to make solving this issue their number one corporate priority. Too often, YouTube waits for users or the media to flag degrading and exploitive content on its platform. And then once the media buzz dies down, YouTube reverts to its whack-a-mole approach instead of making sustained improvements.

We know that the technological solutions exist that would be able to prevent this material from being posted and it would save countless man-hours that YouTube currently uses by employing human reviewers.

For instance, Dr. Michael Holm, Chief Data Scientist at Picnix, Inc., asserts “Our team is fully capable of delivering an effective, scalable AI solution for pornographic video detection, building on our seminal patent pending Iris Program (www.meetiris.ai).”

We implore Google and YouTube to collaborate with this company, and others, to find real solutions instead of putting a bandaid on it and waiting for the next blow up.

Tweet at YouTube telling them to remove all exploitative content from their platform.

Sign the petition for YouTube to remove pornographic content from their site.

Florida Pedophile Sentenced to 885 Years in Prison

This week, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution announced the sentencing of a Seminole County sex offender to 885 years in prison for possession of massive amounts of child pornography. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation, multiple images containing child pornography were retrieved from a laptop in Shawn Ryan Thomas’ bedroom. The investigation also revealed that Thomas discussed with an informant, plans to kidnap a child, kill the parents and sexually batter the child while producing child pornography. Thankfully, FDLE quickly intercepted Thomas before he carried out his plans.

The Honorable Marlene Alva, Circuit Judge in Seminole County, sentenced Thomas to 885 years in prison on 59 counts of possession of child pornography, 15 years for each count, and 15 years of sex offender probation for one count of possession of child pornography.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi notes, “Thanks to my Office of Statewide Prosecution’s tenacious prosecution of Thomas and FDLE’s investigation, this dangerous predator should now never be released from prison.”

RELATED VIDEO: How Sexual Predators Groom. Click here to learn how predators groom. Click here to learn the warning signs. Click here to learn where to get help.

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Jared Fogle’s Rise to Infamy

jared fogle new york postMonths ago, I published an article about Indianapolis teenagers being marketed in photos posted on the Internet – months before Indianapolis native Jared Fogle‘s arrest for child pornography and sexual relations with multiple minors.  How is it that Jared, reported to be worth 15 million dollars and at the top of the national hall of fame heap as Subway’s spokesman par excellence, fell from fame into infamy in a moment’s time?

Actually, Jared Fogle, born, raised, and living in Indianapolis, Indiana – the nation’s heartland – trafficked children around the world, according to testimonies, but his sentence is remarkably slight – a maximum of five years in prison and minimal restitution to certain child-victims.  Jared’s family, whom I have known since childhood, know some of the marketed teens well, as do I.

For two years, every Saturday morning and many other times as well, I picketed against child trafficking beside the Indianapolis Jewish Community Center (JCC), where Jared’s dad is a devoted Board member.  I reported child abuse at the JCC to law enforcement, the JCC Board, and to dozens of persons and agencies, to no avail.  For reporting the child abuse I personally witnessed at the JCC – a huge 350-pound man lying on top of a child, who was pinned to the floor against a cement block wall – I was targeted by leaders in our own Jewish community, where a code of sexual abuse silence has persisted for generations, as in the Catholic church. By this code, victims are abandoned by both communities in staggering numbers.  Predators are protected in both communities by members of the hierarchy and authorities.

I repeat … Jewish teenagers that I know and Jared’s parents know are freely and openly posted in photos on the Internet with captions like “the prostitute” and “Spank me.”  No matter how many reports are made to the authorities of ongoing Indianapolis child trafficking, the fates of the child-victims are sealed by freedom from punishments for their predators.

For 10 years, according to testimonies, Jared Fogle’s depraved conversations about his exploitation of children were recorded as part of a criminal investigation.  For many years, Jared Fogle met with Russell Taylor, his best friend and fellow pornographer, at a Broad Ripple bar, near my home, in what is known as the “Little Man’s Club,” in the VIP section, boasting of their crimes against children.  In Indianapolis, who even cared?

Picketing photo 2Born, raised, and living in Indianapolis virtually my entire life, I know that it is a predator-friendly city of which I am ashamed.  It is nearby to Bloomington, Indiana, where Alfred Kinsey’s name, as the Indiana University professor who made pornographic films in his home starring his wife in sexual acts with Kinsey’s fellow professors, is revered beyond words by officialdom.

Are we naïve enough to believe that predators do not nest in safe places for their insidious crimes against children to be overlooked?  Indianapolis is a safe place for predators.  Indianapolis is unsafe for children and for mandatory reporters of childhood sexual abuse.

In my years of picketing beside the JCC, I received credible death threats, stones hurled at me, and cars veering to hit me.  I was regularly harassed by officers and staunchly protected by neighbors, who, as myself, understand that there is no more heinous evil than to defile a child.

As for my fate, since my picketing ended, both my husband and I have been targeted for our public protests against child abuse in the Jewish community.  My husband was fired by his boss for my legal actions against the JCC, and his boss, an Indianapolis lawyer, who never knew my Dad, was appointed as the executor of my Dad’s estate instead of me.

As Jared relaxes at home instead of prison, those of us on the front-lines of the war against child trafficking are harassed, intimidated, and threatened ….

Pedophile Jared Fogle and the Untold Story of his Visit to Sarasota, FL

jared fogle new york postJared Fogle, the longtime Subway spokesman, was arrested on August 19th for soliciting sex with minors. I have known about Fogle’s pedophilia for over 4 years but did not publish a story on it. I did not publish the story at the behest of Rochelle Herman-Walrond the single mother of two little girls, then under the age of 10-years old, who knew Fogle, for safety reasons.

I was approached by Rochelle and she outlined how Fogle became antiquated with her and her family. She became aware that their relationship was not on a professional level but rather he wanted to have sex with her daughters.

At one point Fogle visited Sarasota, Florida with the intent of having sex with the daughters. The Rochelle became so frightened that she called me and asked for help. I was able to put up Rochelle with her daughters in a Sarasota hotel until Fogle left. At least two little Sarasota girls were saved from this sexual predator.

Calls were made to local Sarasota law enforcement agencies but no investigation or charges were ever filed against Fogle at the time. This made things even worse for Rochelle Herman-Walrond. No law enforcement officials seemed to take her story seriously. That is the travesty of how the victims are treated in cases involving sexual predators.

I am glad that Fogle has been finally exposed for what he really is – a child sex predator. I am also glad that this reporter helped prevent at least one crime from occurring. Sometime journalists must make that choice – support the intended victims at the expense of making headlines.

Here is here story as told by the DailyMail.com:

A Florida woman says she alerted the FBI about Jared Fogle’s activities after the former Subway spokesman confided his interest in having sex with minors to her years ago.

Former journalist Rochelle Herman-Walrond revealed that she spent more than four years recording conversations she had with Fogle for authorities.

On Wednesday, Fogle agreed to plead guilty to one count of travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor involving two underage prostitutes and one count of distribution and receipt of child pornography involving 12 children.

Now, Herman-Walrond has said she did not know why Fogle would have confided in her, but said: ‘Jared Fogle is a monster.’

Read more.

As the Chicago Tribune reported:

Longtime Subway pitchman Jared Fogle agreed Wednesday to plead guilty to allegations that he paid for sex acts with minors and received child pornography in a case that destroyed his career at the sandwich-shop chain and could send him to prison for more than a decade.

Prosecutors allege that Fogle knew the pornography had been secretly produced by the former director of his charitable foundation, which sought to raise awareness about childhood obesity and arranged for Fogle to visit schools and urge children to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits.

Authorities said Fogle offered to pay adult prostitutes a finder’s fee if they could connect him with minors for sex acts, including some as young as 14 or 15 years old.

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