Hopefully, Shaniya Davis's death will not be in vain.
Robin Sax: The Shaniya Davis case is so tragic. But what I am pleased about is how quickly the prosecutors have charged the mom, at least with human trafficking. So very often, people are reluctant to see and accept the evil that lurks in women -- particularly moms -- but it does exist.
We don't hear about it often because so few people actually bring these cases forward to the media's attention. Why? In doing so, they would need to admit that they treat men and women differently. So, while this is so, so, so, so very tragic, it is a relief and an opportunity to see the very real issue of human trafficking brought to the forefront.
Shaniya had been living with Antoinette Davis, her mother, for about three weeks before her disappearance, according to her father, Bradley Lockhart. He told the Associated Press he raised his daughter for several years but last month decided to let her stay with her mother. He said he knew Davis had struggled financially over the years, but she recently obtained a job and her own place. That's when he decided to give her a chance to raise their daughter. But the mother specifically asked Lockhart if she could have the child at this time. I suspect she was planning this event all along.
I am not the only one speculating that Antoinette handed over her daughter to Mario McNeill in exchange for drugs or cash (or to forgive a debt she might have owed him). Mario McNeill, 29, admits to the kidnapping/taking of Shaniya (but then denies having anything to do with the murder). The facts are: he drove Shaniya 36 miles to Sanford, then stopped at a Comfort Inn for about an hour, and then left (officials think he probably left alone). In that case, Mario may have been "delivering" the child to a "client" at the hotel -- that's one explanation for why he left alone.
Human trafficking is not new to that area. A Charlotte FBI unit has a team that specializes in human trafficking. A Durham County department of social services report from April lists that "Baltimore police closed down a brothel that used Mexican women imported into the country through Durham County." They went on to say, "We cannot ignore this issue locally." The report also specifies that "North Carolina has been identified as among the eight most common destination states for human trafficking, due in part to its location along I-85 and I-95 highways."
North Carolina police now say that the mother of 5-year-old Shaniya Nicole Davis, who had been missing for a week until she was found dead, forced her child into sexual servitude and prostitution. Again, kudos to the prosecutors who charged Antoinette Davis for human trafficking. As many people know, prosecutors have a duty to decide what charges (if any) apply to a certain set of facts. And while one crime may work, prosecutors have a ton of discretion in deciding which charges to file. So, very often, prosecutors run from human trafficking and prefer to file charges surrounding the sex acts, the kidnapping, or the readily understandable crimes and forget the complicated amorphous issue of "human trafficking."
Human trafficking is one of the most amorphous crimes. For a plethora of reasons, the lack of understanding has encouraged many people to deny the existence and doubt the magnitude of the crime. Many still perceive human trafficking as an international issue that is rare or nonexistent in their communities.
The only way for society to understand that human trafficking is modern-day slavery is for prosecutors to charge it (where appropriate) so that jurors learn about it when cases are tried, news media reports it, and judges sentence on it.
The identification and investigation of human trafficking cases is a complex
process for local law enforcement and prosecutors. Effectively responding to human trafficking requires officers to notice and identify victims who often have been hidden from or had poor relationships with law enforcement in the past (e.g., women in prostitution, migrants). Clearly, a small child like Shaniya may have been hidden from the crime, and it is always difficult for people to wrap their minds around a woman, especially a child's own mother, selling her child for sex.
Sometimes, officers may be reluctant to intervene in sex and labor-trafficking situations due to a belief that victims were complicit with their own victimization. But there are no such worries that a 5-year-old would be complicit. Perhaps the awareness of the 5-year-old being a victim of human trafficking and the mom being the perpetrator will allow law enforcement and society to open their eyes and minds to the fact that human trafficking does exist, and not just in Cambodia or Thailand.
According to arrest records, Antoinette "knowingly provide[d] Shaniya Davis with the intent that she be held in sexual servitude [and] permitted an act of prostitution."
I feel terrible for the dad in the case. I wish he'd had a clue as to what the mother was like earlier, as his heart seems to be in the right place. But I am wondering what type of monitoring (or visitation) he had been doing to see how Shaniya was faring with her mother.
|Robin Sax is a former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney who specialized in prosecuting sex crimes against children. She is the author of six books including "Predators and Child Molesters: What Every Parent Needs to Know To Keep Kids Safe." Robin is a regular legal commentator on Larry King Live, Nancy Grace, Fox News and has a weekly radio show, "Justice Interrupted." Robin lives with her husband and three children in Los Angeles, California.|