A nun has helped to form a coalition in the United States against child sex trafficking by putting pressure on hotels to make them keep sex traffickers off their premises.
Kimberly Ritter, who has worked in hotels for 20 years, and a nun named Sister Patty Johnson have formed a group called End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT), in an attempt to fight against the child sex industry with the help of hotels.
According to the founders of the group, the easy and widespread use of the Internet has shifted sex trade from streets to hotels.
Ritter and Johnson found several sex advertisements on the Internet which featured girls posing in hotel rooms.
“I realized that there was a website [where] you can buy a toaster, you can buy a lawn mower and you can buy a girl,” said Ritter.
The ECAPT started to ask the hotels to sign the Code of Conduct and to inform their costumers of the new policies. However, many hotels have so far refused to follow the ECAPT Code of Conduct.
"One problem we're having in our industry is some of the things they're asking the hotels to do. Putting notices in the rooms... they feel that might be an intrusion into customers thinking that maybe there is a problem at that hotel," said Joe McInerney, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
Ritter and Johnson, however, found a way to identify the hotels where the girls were photographed.
"I realized that, as I looked at these girls online, I could identify the curtains, the bed linens, the throws in the hotel room..."
In the next step, they took their evidence directly to the company managers.
"Generally the response is, 'That doesn't happen at our property. So I've learned that as I go to these hotels, I am able to say, ‘But look, this is a girl and this is your pillow case,’ and that's where the conversation ends because they're shocked, because they can't believe it happens on their property," Ritter added.
The two women also asked Katie Rhoades a social worker, also a survivor of sex trafficking, to teach the hotel staff to recognize signs of trafficking.
"The reality is if you are not looking for it, you are not going to recognize it," said Rhoades.
"There was a situation where I was taken to a hotel and left there to make money and the pimp didn't pay for the hotel room so I was being harassed by security and I was too scared to tell them," she added.
According to the United Nations, human trafficking is the second largest organized crime in the world. More than one million children are being sexually exploited each year.