Trafficking ‘Under our Noses’ on the East End of LI

A red dress, a symbol of the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women and organized efforts to fight Native American women’s heightened risk of violence, hangs near the Peace Fire site on the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton. (By Paula Bess Collins via The East Hampton Star)

Paula Bess Collins, a longtime officer and activist of the Shinnecock Nation in Southampton, New York, is working to bring attention to the hidden activity of sex trafficking and labor trafficking that affects vulnerable women on the eastern end of Long Island. Johnette Howard of The East Hampton Star writes of the connections between an abandoned site, The Princess Diner, and local memorials to missing and murdered women.

“You think you know something about what’s going on in Indian country and the country in general,” Ms. Collins said last week, “but when I went to that tribal summit and heard some of these people speak, I was just blown away. Most of us think of human trafficking as something that’s happening across foreign borders. But it’s happening right here, right under our noses — sex trafficking, labor trafficking. I was told this area is supposedly one of the major areas for filming porn. I never knew that.”

Ms. Collins said people at the Princess Diner “were not being paid for their work. They were being treated like slaves. Some of them were not here legally, so who were they going to call? The police? And the red-dress movement, that was started [elsewhere] as a way to remember our missing and murdered indigenous women. There are hundreds and hundreds of indigenous women missing, not just Indian women, but Latina women and immigrant women. Often no one is even looking for them or investigating.”

“This is 2018,” Ms. Collins added, “and this is happening like it’s the 1800s or something.”

Go to The East Hampton Star to read about the symposium Collins organized, “Human Trafficking on Long Island, Identify and Respond.” The gathering’s speakers included trafficking survivors, as well as local law enforcement officials who are stepping up work to fight trafficking. Find out why one speaker, who works with Latinas and other immigrants, says “the levels of exploitation right now are very high.”

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