Advocates: Prostitution not rare in area; resources are available to help

MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. — The woman kidnapped from the Microtel Inn in Henrietta is receiving help from victim advocates. Two people who help crime victims like the woman rescued by police Thursday are talking about the local impact and services being offered to help victims.

Many of us have seen the horrific hotel security video showing a young woman being dragged by her hair as she kicks and fights two people charged with kidnapping her. Investigators say the woman is a victim of sex trafficking, and advocates say her story is sadly not rare.

“That victim in that moment realized she was in immediate danger and needed to get out,” said Melanie Blow, executive director of the Stop the Abuse campaign and a board member and founding member of the Rochester Regional Coalition Against Human Trafficking (RRCAT).

It’s clear watching the surveillance video that the woman is trying to get help. However, she is attacked and dragged through the lobby of the Microtel Inn in Henrietta before a man grabs her and carries her outside. She was rescued hours later by police who say she was being forced to prostitute herself.

Blow says it is difficult to quantify local victims but says it’s in the hundreds in our area.

“About 200 young people are trafficked or at risk. There’s usually a couple hundred open-air people engaged in open-air sex work, and most of it in the Lyell area and Clinton Avenue area,” she said.

Trafficking and prostitution happen throughout our area — often underground, where the crimes are more likely to go unnoticed.

“Usually there’s a lot more money involved than what you see with the open-air sex work in some of the worst parts of the city,” Blow explained.

Some of the services RRCAT provides to victims are direct cash assistance, help getting things like furnishing for apartments or the opportunity to move to another town.

Victim advocates with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office couldn’t talk about the case with the woman in the video but shared how they help victims like her.

“We’ll do a safety plan initially to make sure that if there’s any immediate concerns, we can address those. Housing may be one of them, food may be another one. Just overall safety,” Mary Delella, crime victim specialist, said.

Advocates say if you are a victim of human trafficking, call 911 for immediate help. There are services they can provide you with including a safe environment. And if you see someone who you think may be a victim ask them if they need help.

Shuntiayana Sims and Cordell Brooks remain at the Monroe County Jail on $100,000 bail for kidnapping and assault.