Would you know how to identify victims of sex-trafficking? What if you were inadvertently exposed to a disturbing situation; what would you do?
Such cases go largely unnoticed or unreported by people.
Sex trafficking is an issue that law enforcement and private agencies continually struggle to beat but the issue is out of control with numbers in the millions affecting mostly women and children although men, women, children, all innocent bystanders, can fall prey to it as well.
One such incident of a bystander falling prey to a trafficking incident may have happened in Mesquite in early July when Jerome Stokes was in the restroom of a local fast food place.
Stokes was using the urinal when a man with a young girl Stokes estimated to be between the ages of 6-8 entered the restroom. The restroom has only one urinal, one stall and a sink; it’s very small and the urinal, or anybody standing at it, is clearly visible the minute you step inside the door. Stokes said the girl saw him fully exposed and that more than just disturbs him.
Stokes was quite shaken up about the incident, especially since the man did nothing to try to shield the girl’s eyes from Stokes. When Stokes was finishing up and collecting himself; the two never entered the stall, they just stood there; was this a case of sex trafficking? Stokes wasn’t sure but it didn’t look good to him.
Stokes immediately reported the incident to the manager of the establishment and left it up to them to handle the situation.
Stokes is not a resident of Mesquite but was passing through that day on his way to Las Vegas; he had time to kill and sat down to read his book. Stokes did take notice that the man and the girl exited the restroom and then the restaurant without purchasing any food.
He waited and at no time did the police arrive. Stokes had a feeling that the incident was now “out of sight, out of mind,” nobody questioned him or the incident any further. The store manager never stepped in to investigate the situation at the time.
Stokes estimates that he’d been reading for about an hour when the same man and girl reentered the restaurant and again, without purchasing anything, went directly into the men’s room.
Stokes noticed that the man didn’t pause at all to check if the restroom was occupied; the very same thing that happened to him. Stokes grabbed his cell phone and started videotaping the situation.
Video shows that two men entered the restroom behind the girl and guardian and about 90 seconds later a restaurant employee entering. When the employee enters, video shows the girl in in plain view of the door. The way the restroom is laid out, she would have been standing directly behind the urinal looking at it, shadows of others were visible but no other people.
The man and girl left the restroom and subsequently the restaurant approximately 35-45 seconds after the employee entered.
Stokes is a Navy veteran; he’s been around the world. He knows that, as a whole, human trafficking is a lucrative industry and, around the globe, rakes in more money than drugs. Drugs can only be sold once; humans are a commodity that can be used/sold over and over again for little to no initial investment. He’s sickened by the trade and even more so that he may have been innocently included in something so disgusting. Stokes is a father and grandfather who can’t imagine that happening to his child, grandchild or any other child for that matter.
He took the video to the restaurant’s corporate headquarters; straight to the HR department, he expected change, maybe a sign designating the restrooms as gender specific over certain ages although they are clearly marked men’s and/or women’s now.
The restaurant is directly connected to a semi-truck parking lot; the potential for that sort of thing happening there is higher. Stokes isn’t sure what he expected them to do; but what he didn’t expect them to do was nothing.
They did have the store manager contact him but he said it felt as if it were a courtesy call and nothing more, they didn’t report the incident to the police even though Stokes had record of the suspicious activity and was willing to turn it over to the HR department. Nobody has contacted him any further about the incident or asked him for his videos. Stokes decided to take action himself; he contacted the news.
Mesquite Local News reached out to the Director of Human Resources for this company several times by phone and email or the past four weeks asking two simple questions.
- Does your company have an age policy/requirement concerning identified “gender specific” restroom use?
- Because of the high volume of reported sex trafficking along the I-15 corridor and in Las Vegas, do your employees in those areas receive any special “awareness training” on the subject?
I never received a response to the phone messages or emails.
Stokes is now taking matters into his own hands having made up a banner and flyers he’s ready to exercise his rights to peaceful protest.
Stokes wrote, “I could be absolutely wrong about this man and, if so, I have to live with it for the rest of my life but I’m not wrong about the child seeing my private parts; that’s also something I have to live with. People are in denial that this is a real problem and it’s sickening!”
Stokes is ready to go all out, bring awareness of the situation and hopefully bring about a change.