Adriana Hauser is a CNN anchor and correspondent who contributes to CNN, CNN International, CNN en Español and CNNEspanol.com. Hauser worked on the Proyecto Libertad de CNN project (“Niñez Interrumpida” series), which tells the stories of human trafficking and prostitution victims based in Miami. Hauser’s special will air on Sunday, Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m. She will also be on CNNE’s primetime show “Cala” on Monday, Sept. 23 to talk about her investigative report and about the subject of human trafficking.
EXTRA: How long have you been with CNN?
Adriana Hauser: Close to five years.
You are working on the “Niñez Interrumpida” series. Why was it important to cover it?
These are problems that are everywhere and in everybody’s community and we need to be alert. I focused on South Florida because when I first moved I learned it was the third region with commercial sex trafficking. I was very surprised to hear that. That’s when I started looking into it. The stories were so different. We worked on five episode series that aired already on CNN International and Español.
What was the investigation and gathering the sources like?
I felt that there were a lot of people who wanted to help. We had no issues getting therapists and organizations to help the victims and expose the reality. It was hard to fund the survivors of trafficking. There were many great stories we couldn’t tell. Even though we had a lot of girls who didn’t want to go on camera, they understood that they were helping others. It wasn’t just to share stories but to prevent it from happening to other girls. I found the motivation to them was to expose the reality and prevent it for someone else.
Do you feel like you helped in stopping the problem with the series?
It is such a big problem. I wish I could say we are stopping it. I feel we are contributing to that cause. One thing I learned – none of them wanted to be there. I hope that I was able to change the perception that they are choosing. The majority don’t want to be prostitutes. It is the only way they know. They don’t want to be risking their lives.
What did you learn from their stories?
Each story was different. They all come from different backgrounds. One common denominator is broken families, and abusive and absent parents. You do see that it is a crime that doesn’t discriminate. There’s so little that they can do. I would say the message is more for adults, mothers, brothers and sisters. Try to keep a loving, healthy environment at home so they are not running away and choosing the company of wrong people and finding a home elsewhere that doesn’t feel safe. One of the girls ended up with the wrong crowd because she was abused by her father in a home where the mother didn’t appear. The grandfather abused her from 8 years to 14 years old. We saw that a lot of the times the recruiters are young people too. They are the friends, girls trying to convince others to participate. The more supervision and love the child has, the less that child will walk away from the home. I also found a huge link between trafficking and drugs. They were so hooked on drugs to get through the initial encounters that they would do anything for them.
Were any of the girls able to escape?
I found three very brave women who managed to escape for different reasons. One of them was so scared after she overdosed on drugs and had sex with a man with AIDS. She ran away and looked for the support of her mother and found a way out. It is easier to avoid getting in than leaving that life. If I had to say what has helped the girls was finding a support system and a way out.
Do you think the penalties are strong enough?
I think that the penalties are not strict enough. The pimps can be in jail for a maximum of five years. As long as there is a demand, there will be an offer. We have a message for our boys to respect women and to understand that women are not objects. Laws are changing and getting stronger at a federal and state level. I think there is more awareness. I think there is an effort. The law as it is could be tougher when it comes to pimps. We heard from the U.S. attorney that there is a shift from drug trafficking to human trafficking. There is less risk involved. It generates close to 32 billion worldwide. The problem is so big that efforts fall short. The authorities are doing what they can.
This post is also available in: Spanish