Slavery at West Palm

Slavery at West Palm

Women Escape Slavery at West Palm Beach Club
by Amanda Kloer

Recently, two Honduran sisters traveled to America after being promised jobs as maids for wealthy families in West Palm Beach, Florida. Instead, they were forced to dance in skimpy outfits at clubs in the area. And their story is not unusual. Human trafficking of women and girls at clubs is a serious issue all over the country.

Sisters L.M. and E.M. knew cleaning houses would not be glamorous work, but they hoped to make a decent living at it in America. They each agreed to pay $7000 to be smuggled into the country through Texas by a man named Martinez. Once arrived, however, the sisters were handed skimpy outfits and makeup and told they would have to dance at local clubs. When they initially refused and asked for house cleaning work instead, Martinez threatened their mother back in Honduras. So L.M. and E.M. worked at the club, where they were groped by customers, forced to drink alcohol, forced to sell sex behind the club, and saw every penny of their tips pocketed to repay their smuggling debt. They eventually escaped when one of them got pregnant, and was fired.

While trapped in debt bondage, the sisters where moved from club to club, all of which were owned by Anthony Genovese who owns a number of Latino-themed bars and clubs in the area. He has "hired" dozens of women to dance at those clubs to attract patrons. Giselle Rodriguez of the Florida Coalition Against Trafficking says that means L.M. and E.M. are likely not the only trafficked women to pass through Genovese's clubs usually, when one or two trafficked women are used in a club, dozens are. Matrinez is now in jail, but despite the presence of two trafficked women in one of his clubs and evidence indicating the probability of many more, Genovese is still operating bars and clubs, complete with "dancers" around West Palm Beach.

Genovese isn't the only one operating clubs that make money off trafficked women. Strip clubs around the country have been cited for enslaving adult women or girls under the legal age for stripping. I've personally worked on cases of girls who began stripping at 14 and 15. Yet for the most part, the owners and ultimate profit recipients of these clubs rarely go to jail. At most they might pay a fine, but not enough to prevent them from opening another club and stocking it with trafficked women as well. Until the owners of clubs that abuse women are held accountable for their role in human trafficking, the problem will persist.

Amanda Kloer has been a full-time abolitionist for six years. She currently develops trainings and educational materials for civil attorneys representing victims of human trafficking



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