January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month & today, January 11th is when we wear blue to raise awareness of human trafficking happening locally & globally. Today I encourage you to wear blue, read an article on human trafficking, donate to an organization actively fighting human trafficking through prevention, intervention, or with holistic aftercare for survivors. There are more slaves in the world today than ever before and they don’t walk around with a chain wrapped around their neck.
While human trafficking has reached a heightened awareness during the pandemic here are some things to know…
Local Measures to support Human Trafficking Victims
Re-Distribute local funds from over-policing to social services to enhance communities to PREVENT and INTERVENE in human trafficking before it happens, well as services and organization to help with HOLISTIC AFTERCARE those victims without jail time.
Prevention – this includes more after school programs for kids, a livable wage for single parents so children don’t feel burdened to work or sell themselves to make ends meet. Create safe places for kids to feel loved and valued in the community, many girls are trafficked because an older partner shows them affection after being told they are worthless or useless for much of their lives and will do anything to please him/her.
Intervene – those who are most at risk, low income, children in foster care, children from low income and single-parent households, Black, POC, LGBTQ, and Trans kids are at a higher risk. Here are two articles on the relationship between race & trafficking, Here & Here.
Immigrants are also at a higher risk of trafficking because in a new country they typically don’t know the language. And are often denied basic human rights by traffickers including healthcare, time off, and access to their papers and if they seek help from authorities are often arrested for being there illegally. We should be more upset at the traffickers in the US than those being trafficked.
Holistic Aftercare – fund organizations helping to restore victims and get them an education, skills training, and provide trauma support. Remove all crimes committed due to trafficking from their records so they can live a full life not burdened by the acts they had to make when being trafficked. Many young women in the US have fought back over the years against their traffickers, at times killing them, and have gone on to be imprisoned for the crime. When there is no other way out of trafficking how else do victims escape?
One of these girls is Cyontia Brown, who at the age of 14 killed her trafficker and served 15 years of a life sentence before being granted clemency by the state of Tennessee. Is it wrong to kill someone? Yes. Is it wrong to treat the victim of human trafficking as a criminal in an effort to escape her trafficker and abusive clients? Yes. Shockingly human trafficking victims don’t often have a say in who they will serve. Sources Here & Here
Another example of prosecuting victims of human trafficking in the US is the story of Chrystal Kaiser. Chrystal’s story is especially heartbreaking and shows us how systemic issues associated with poverty and single-parent households leads to trafficking. She wanted to make some money to be able to buy school supplies, she ended up shooting and killing her trafficker after a year of sexual abuse and violence. It is not easy for a trafficking victim to escape, often traffickers insert themselves deeply into their victim’s lives. Source Here
To ensure a lasting impact on human trafficking globally Dressember has identified 5 key criteria for vetting grant partners:
1) Collaboration – Partners who understand the complexity of the issue and seek to empower others and work together toward an end to this injustice
2) Cultural Sensativity – Partners who seek to understand and work with locals who understand an area’s nuances and culture on a deeper level
3) Measureable Impact – Work that is proven to protect victims, increase convictions of perpetrators, and/or prevent the spread of slavery
4) Innovation – Work that uses creativity to dismantle a shrewd and manipulative industry
5) Sustainability – Work that is structured to last, and has a long lasting impact
Dressember’s vision is a world without slavery where all people are free to live vibrant, autonomous lives. The testimonies below tell the powerful stories of Dressember’s impact. We could not be prouder to partner in the work of education, prevention, rescue, and restoration across the world.
Types of Human Trafficking
Let’s begin with sex trafficking. This is “human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.” (Human Trafficking Hotline) It is important to mention that children are often trafficked by adults they know. (Polaris) While kidnapping does happen for the purpose of sexual exploitation, it is not the primary way children or adults are trafficked for sex. A 2016 report from the United Nations reported that a majority of trafficking victims where women and 20% were girls. (United Nations Report) The International Labor Organization states that women and girls account for 99% of victims of the commercial sex industry and 58% in other sectors. (International Labor Organization) When I get asked why I am passionate about antihuman trafficking, it is because of that statistic. Because we live in a society and a world that still does not see or treat women equally. Women are still an object to take, to please men, to be sold, and to obey. This is not the world I want to see for the women of the future and will fight for justice.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail
So what are those other sectors mentioned in the International Labor Organization statistic? The most common is forced labor. “Forced labor can be understood as work that is performed involuntarily and under the menace of any penalty. It refers to situations in which persons are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation, or by more subtle means such as manipulated debt, retention of identity papers or threats of denunciation to immigration authorities.” (International Labor Organization) When we think of forced labor, consider historical slavery in the United States. A person was/is owned by another and forced to do work under the threat of punishment. Recently due to the Coronavirus, we have been seeing reports of textile and mill owners tricking women into forced labor situations, where they were promised a job but have been forced to work and live inside the mill, not being allowed to leave to see their families or even to go to the doctor. (International Justice Mission) You may look at that and think it is unrealistic and impossible in today’s world for things like that to happen. But they do, especially to folks vulnerable to the lure of a good paying job desperate to do something to help their family.
Another form of Modern Slavery is Debt Bondage. This is a common form of slavery used by traffickers of immigrants. Once the immigrants arrive in a new country, their traffickers inform them they must now work for them to pay off their passage. Debt bondage is work exchanged for a debt which, ultimately, can never be paid. Also known as bonded labor or debt slavery, workers are told they can pay off a loan of their own or of a family member by working it off. The work is often difficult and imposed under brutal circumstances. (Dressember) Since those held in this form of slavery are often denied access to any of their paperwork, and are often in a country illegally, seeking help from the authorities often results in being deported without much punishment for their traffickers.
The next two forms of Modern Slavery are less common and much less visible and yet they both happen with regularity. The first is forced marriage. In the United States, only nine states (Source) have legislation that directly address forced marriage. The U.S. State Department recognizes forced marriage as a marriage without the consent of at least one party. Duress, threat, physical abuse and death threats by family members constitute force and coercion. In the United States, forced marriage is considered to be a human rights violation and, in some cases, a form of child abuse. (End Slavery Now) While we like to imagine the United States as a modern nation, the truth is forced marriage can happen anywhere and in all faith traditions. The common saying “Mail-Order Bride” is an example of how ordinary this form of slavery can be.
Lastly, we have child soldiers. Thousands of children are serving as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world. These boys and girls, some as young as 8 years old, serve in government forces and armed opposition groups. They may fight on the front lines, participate in suicide missions, and act as spies, messengers, or lookouts. (Human Rights Watch) These children are brought into these armed conflicts and given drugs and alcohol to keep them compliant/submissive and to do the tasks asked of them by older boys and men in the regiment. Often girls are passed around as sexual rewards. These children frequently experience Stockholm Syndrome and feel a loyalty to their leaders because these men – no matter how brutal – lead these children to believe they love and care for them and that leaving will make them weak and an enemy. My entire perspective of child soldiers changed after reading “A Long Way Gone” by Ishmael Beah.
So who is most at risk of being trafficked or becoming a victim of modern slavery? According to the American Psychological Association, vulnerability factors that undermine the ability to protect oneself or disruptions to social and family support increases susceptibility of being coerced. Other variables that contribute to a person’s vulnerability include: being a member of a marginalized group (POC, LGBTQ Youth and Foster Youth), any prior victimization or trauma, disabilities, a person’s immigrant or refugee status, or a disruption in family. All these factors may be increased by poverty, political instability, war, and globalization. (American Psychological Association) All that to say, anyone is vulnerable to being trafficked even if they don’t fit any of these categories.
I am fundraising for Dressember, I set a goal of $700 for myself, as this is my seventh year participating. Thanks to my generous donors, I reached my goal and doubled it on Christmas. So I set my stretch goal of $1,800 to help provide counseling to an at risk youth.
Will you help me reach my goal? DONATE HERE