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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI professor comments on the victimization of the tsunami victims

Media Contact: Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500

KINGSTON, R.I. -- January 5, 2005 -- As news about the effects of the tsunami and its victims swells worldwide, some headlines are beginning to show man-made offenses.

According to University of Rhode Island Professor Donna M. Hughes, who is an internationally recognized expert on sexual exploitation and slavery, over the past few days there have been headlines about the possible abduction of a European boy by pedophiles in the wake of the tsumani.

"Predators are always looking for ways to prey on the vulnerable, so it shouldn't surprise us that a disaster that creates victims and chaos has become a prime hunting ground for predators," said Hughes who holds the Eleanor M. and Oscar M. Carlson Endowed Chair in Women's Studies. "For example, last year following the earthquake in Bam, Iran, there were reports of teen girls being abducted and auctioned off in Tehran."

Hughes said that the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in the U.S. State Department has issued a statement on measures that nongovernmental organizations and relief workers can take to prevent potential victims from being abducted by traffickers.

"These are important steps during the crisis, and recommendations that should be acted on during normal times as well," said Hughes.

"We should remember that on many of the beaches in Thailand and Sri Lanka, pedophiles and sexual predators routinely abuse and exploit thousands of boys, girls, and women every day of the year," said Hughes.

Hughes' work has directly contributed to and influenced the human rights policy statements on prostitution, sexual slavery, and trafficking that were announced in December by the U.S. State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Hughes is frequently consulted by foreign governments and international nongovernmental organizations on policy related to sex trafficking. She has testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee.

To reach Professor Hughes for comment by telephone, please contact Jhodi Redlich at the URI News Bureau, 401-874-2116 or 401-874-4500.