Report by Christina Parreira —
Wednesday, fresh on the heels of serial fabricator Somaly Mam‘s resignation from her eponymous anti-sex trafficking group, we reported on the story of Chong Kim, the so-called human trafficking survivor who has been accused of being a liar, thief and fraud by the nonprofit anti-trafficking group, Breaking Out.
Chong Kim’s “life story” had been the basis of the film, Eden.
Thursday, I spoke with James Barnes, founder and president of the anti-human trafficking nonprofit, Breaking Out Corporation, via telephone.
“I’m not a ‘yes man’”, he stated, and went on to explain his background as a Private Investigator, the recent beginnings of his organization, its involvement with Chong Kim, and his thoughts on sex work.
Breaking Out Corporation is currently unfunded, and doing work using money out of the founder’s own pocket.
Self-described sex-trafficking survivor Chong Kim approached Barnes to work with his organization, telling him of her time as a “former Madam.” Given her background (if taken at face value), she seemed like a good person to send in to speak to possible victims.
Barnes says that Kim’s speaking fee is quoted as $5,000.
Chong Kim began to work with Breaking Out, and Barnes began quietly doing some background research on Kim’s story.
He explained that Kim was gaining popularity in the movement, and began to note that when other anti-trafficking groups and individuals spoke out against Kim, they were quickly “dragged through the mud.”
Barnes and I discussed the lack of external validity to Kim’s claims — why are there no news stories on her case? No arrests? These are questions that I have had since I first saw Kim speak in Las Vegas in February. This lack of evidence bothered Barnes too.
Chong Kim had told Barnes that the trafficking ring that abducted her is still operating, yet, when Barnes’ offered to help find them, she turned him down.
Keep in mind that Breaking Out is a new venture for Barnes; he has been a Private Investigator for almost 15 years and has done international rescues. Why on earth would Kim decline his offer of help? If you were trafficked and victimized, wouldn’t you want your captors to finally be apprehended? What about the other victims?
Speaking of which…where are those other victims? Has anyone ever heard a single world from them? Food for thought…
Barnes has been in contact with another journalist and there is talk of a live interview on the way. We will continue to cover the story as it develops.
For her part — Kim has gone on the attack on Facebook:
Strangely missing from her online rants, however, is a shred of objective proof of any of her wild claims…
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, Ms. Kim. Where is yours?
So, on to my favorite topic: What does Barnes, the founder of an anti-trafficking organization, think of sex work?
Barnes does not mince words: “I’ve done rescues in Costa Rica; I have worked with victims of human trafficking.”
“When you have seen the real victims, you know the difference between consenting sex workers and victims.”
On the topic of sex work and trafficking, Barnes went on to explain his views on the United States’ flawed law enforcement system; “Law enforcement needs the numbers, so they pick up a girl off the street, a prostitute, and they call her a trafficking victim. She’s one more number.” Barnes is referring to “numbers,” as in those needed as evidence by anti-trafficking groups in order to obtain millions of dollars in grant money.
Barnes and I spoke of the real problem of human trafficking internationally and in the US, and both agreed that the continued conflation of sex work and sex trafficking is of help to absolutely no one. Actually, that isn’t quite accurate; the conflation does help the anti-trafficking groups who are pocketing millions per year off of the backs of arrested sex workers.
The beauty of this brief interview with Barnes is that he vocalized ALL of this immediately without any prompting. Finally, someone on the anti-trafficking side who seems to understand the difference between consensual sex and slavery. More of this, PLEASE!
It appears that Barnes is well aware of the risk that comes with outing a potential fraud in the anti-trafficking community; the vultures are soon to strike. Watch out — here comes Polaris Project! Thankfully, Barnes decided to investigate the suspicious details (or lack thereof) in Kim’s past, all of which are certain to come to light.
Many thanks to James Barnes, who took the time to speak to me today and to validate/recognize the differences between sex work and slavery. In the vast wasteland of anti-trafficking frauds and crooks, this feels like a small light of hope.
PS – If ANYONE charges $5000 for a speaking engagement, do yourself a favor and be sure to run a thorough background check before inviting them to speak at an event. Ouch.
UPDATE: Among Ms. Kim’s most vociferous supporters on the Breaking Out Facebook page is a young woman named Morgan Stacy.
Stacy is in fact a member of Pink Cross. Talk about damning praise…