Raped and Left Naked in Berkeley

Reading this article this morning really struck a heartstring for me. I just yesterday declared my intent to register at UC Berkeley and was horrified to read about a case of human trafficking literally blocks away from the school I will be attending in the fall. One cannot be desensitized to the realities of brutal rape and manipulation of young girls… It stings every time. I can only be thankful that Vanessa Scott, foundress of Love Never Fails (the organization I intern for), was able to step forward and advocate for this girl.

Read more about this case on ABC7 East Bay News.

Sex trafficking case investigated in Berkeley

by Cornell Barnard

There was a disturbing scene in Berkeley early Wednesday morning after a young girl, was found naked and hysterical, screaming for help. And now police believe she may be the victim of sex trafficking.

The young girl remains hospitalized. She was found at Piedmont and Ashby avenues. Police say they are investigating how exactly she got there, but say they believe the case is linked to human sex trafficking.

Berkeley resident Senobar Lanigan woke to the screams of a teenage girl outside her home on Piedmont Ave. The terrified girl had been pepper sprayed.

“She just couldn’t see anything,” she said. “So we brought her a bottle of water. It was cold, it was like five in the morning, and she poured the whole thing on herself, and she was completely naked.”

The girl said she was raped. Neighbors called 911

The girl was taken to the hospital. Police believe she was the victim of human sex trafficking. Police say she may have been raped, robbed, and kidnapped, then left in Berkeley.

“The pepper spray looks to me, sounds to me like a buyer that has decided he’s going to take advantage of a minor he’s found,” said Vanessa Scott, founder of Love Never Fails.

Scott says the case sounds horribly familiar. The nonprofit she founded is dedicated to helping victims of sex trafficking. She says the Bay Area is ground zero for the underground sex trade.

“Just in the past year we’ve encountered 306 exploited women, men, and children in the Bay Area,” she said.

“I want to know what happened to her,” Senobar said. “And I wish her all the best.”

The Berkeley resident says she’ll never forget that girl standing on her street.

The police investigation continues.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

12 Years a Slave

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They talk about human trafficking as modern day slavery… They talk about it as numerically more rampant than the slavery of the transatlantic slave trade. Yet after watching 12 Years A Slave, I am shocked and nauseated by the overwhelming similarity between the slave days of the past and the slave days of the present.

We are not done with the days when a free man may become an enslaved man.

We are not done with the days when a person can be cheated, tricked, and fooled into slavery.

We are not done with the days when a person can go from absolute liberty to suppressive subjugation in the matter of days.

We are not done with the days when a whip or a board are used to keep people in line.

We are not done with the days when a woman’s body is used as a sexual object.

We are not done with the days when rape is used as a tool of power.

We are not done with the days when a person can be forced to work day in and day out in the most menial of labor.

We are not done with the days when a person is quantified by how much profit they manage to make their master.

We are not done with the days of masters.

We are not done with the days when a person without papers is utterly helpless.

We are not done with the days when a person can be bought and sold.

We are not done with the days when a person can be transported by cart or ship or tractor to a foreign place.

We are not done with the days when humans are property and may be treated as such.

We are not done with the days when people are exploitable, disposable, and manipulatable.

We are not done with the days of slavery.

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But as horrid as the slavery of the slave days was, in some senses, slavery today is even worse. Humans today are even more of a cheap commodity. In 1860, a young male agricultural worker was worth the equivalent of $40,000. Today, that same person is worth only $300. What does that say? What do we say? Slavery was never ended. Will it ever end?

Related articles:
12 Years a Slave and the Reality of Modern Slavery

12 Years a Slave Relevance to Today

12 Years a Slave: More Than A History Lesson

A Word on Sexual Abuse

I know this is not exactly human trafficking, yet in some cases, trafficking is an extreme version, an extension, of sexual abuse. Across the world, girls and women, in particular (but boys as well) are abused– made to dress, touch, suck, perform, and surrender– in ways that no one deserves to be treated. This is not an issue specific to a single population, it is not confined by race or socio-economic status or education. It is an issue that manages to transcend all boundaries.

According to RAINN (the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) every 2 minutes, someone in the US is sexually assaulted. 54% of those assaults are never reported to police, and 97% of rapists never have to step foot in a jail. They never have to spend a single day, living with the consequences of their crime. Yet the survivors of assault — they live with the consequences every day.

These girls are among us. Some of them are us.

Project Unbreakable has risen up as an outlet for pain, and a blinding light of exposure to the pervasiveness of sexual assault. Their mission is to “increase awareness of the issues surrounding sexual assault and encourage the act of healing through art.” Since the project began in 2011, over 2000 photos have been collected, featuring victims of sexual abuse holding posters of quotes from their abusers.

Labor Trafficking: A Play

Human Trafficking: A Play on Labor Exploitation in the Agricultural Sector

By: Izzy Ullmann


Overseer: What are you doing in bed, you lazy shit? Get to work. You think this is preschool– you can just take a little nappie? This is the real world. Get on it.

Boy: I’m sorry, sir, but I am very sick. I have been barfing all night and am extremely nauseous… I think I just need the day to sleep it off.

 Overseer: Day to sleep it off? Who do you think you are? The queen of England? Get out of bed. I’m not asking.

 Boy: Sir, I don’t mean to contradict you, but I really don’t think I can work today. I can barely stand to go to the bathroom.

 Overseer: Well it’s your call. Either you work today, or you don’t work at all. If I don’t see you out in the fields in five minutes, don’t even think about coming to them again. (stomps out)

 Boy: (aside) I’ve been working on this tomato plantation for a year and a half now. When I was twelve, I was working out on a tobacco plantation in Cuba. My parents had sent me to work there, practically selling me off to the owner, because they thought I would have a better life working for him then living the life of poverty I had grown up with. On the contrary, my life on the plantation was grueling– I worked to the point of fatigue every day and then spent the nights cleaning his house and feeding his children. When this guy came to the farm one day, offering me a job on a tomato plantation in Florida, I grabbed at it. He said he’d pay me more than I was being paid (which really wasn’t saying much, cuz I only got paid a few cents every few months on the tobacco plantation). I needed money. I needed an escape. So I went with him. But then he made all of these false promises:

 Trafficker: You’ll have to give me your passport so that I can arrange for your travels. I’ll give it back to you as soon as we get to the US.

 Boy: (aside) Well, I gave him my passport. It’s been a year and a half. I still haven’t gotten back my passport. Once we got to the US, I realized I was indebted to him

 Trafficker: Ok boy… I paid for your transportation, your travel documents, everything… you owe me a couple thousand. So you’re going to have to work off that amount for the first few months. Once you work off your debt, you’ll start getting paid.

 Boy: (aside) But it hasn’t worked that way. While I was working off my debt, it grew instead of shrank! Everything I do costs me money that I don’t have. He’s made me live in the “migrant housing” camp,  a cramped, dirty, roach- infested poor excuse for a thing… but even that ain’t free. Shit, nothing’s free! I take a shower and the money for the water is added to my tab. I eat a meal and that’s added too. Every time I need clothing or supplies or whatever, I am charged for it… There is this never-ending list of money I owe and I can’t work fast enough to keep up with it.

 So what my overseer is doing today, making threats about firing me… all the time. Whenever I do anything against his wishes, he just tells me I can stop coming to work. But I can’t do that man! I’m still in debt. So today, I drag myself out of bed, my stomach sloshing and groaning. It’s my only option. Either this or it’s on the streets for me.

Overseer: Someone decided to wake up! Now grab that plow and start using it.

 Boy: (aside) I work and work. I work for hours. I barf through it all, completely unable to keep it down. At one point, I sit down after a particularly violent hurl. Bent in half, I touch my head to the ground, trying to stop the spinning. My overseer comes up behind me and kicks me in the ass. He then pulls me aside.

 Overseer: You think you can stop on the job? You have such nerve you little prick. You think my time is worthless. You think this is some game. We have a business to run boy. Every second you spend wasting my time, is one less dollar in my pocket.

 Boy: (aside) And then he rapes me. Right there in the field. I howl but no one comes running. I bleed right onto that tomato field, and no one mops it up. And you can guess what he does next. He sends me right back to work. And I have no choice but to plow that damn field.

 When it’s finally dinner time, I stand in line with the other boys, completely starved. I’ve been denied a lunch break as punishment for my “tardiness” and can hardly stand up due to the hunger.

 Overseer: (scanning boys) (spots Boy and grabs him by his collar) Boy, you are going to be working tonight. The outhouse needs cleaning. And since you’ve been so disobedient today, you won’t get paid for it.

 Boy: Um sir… Yes, Sir.

 Boy (aside): I consider protesting. I really do. But what’s the point anymore? Getting paid overtime? What does that mean when you’re not really getting paid at all? When it comes down to it, I’ve just got to suck it up and work with what I’ve got. Without a passport, a single penny in my pocket, or any family within a 200 mile radius, I am quite literally stranded. So I hold onto a plow and my tears, trying to let neither of them falter.

The Seemingly Unexpected Survivor

When we think about human trafficking, our minds jump to people in the ghetto. We think of poor children in Africa and Cambodia. We think about overly sexualized women in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. We think about the kids sitting in the back of the room, with bruises and welts, who are failing out of their classes.

But we don’t think of San Jose natives. We don’t think of that girl who’s at the top of her high school class. We don’t think of the qualified student, going on to UC Berkeley. We don’t think of fathers selling their only child for sex. We don’t think of mothers taking photos of their daughter for advertising.

When we think about human trafficking, we don’t think about girls like Minh Dang. But she had to think about human trafficking her entire life.