Brainstormed Solutions

Christian Science Monitor has been working on a fascinating project to analyze best-practices in combatting human trafficking and recently put together a list of 6 innovative and effective solutions. Check them out here!

 

Human trafficking: 6 solutions that are working

By: Michael Holtz of the Christian Science Monitor

January 25, 2016

 

1. ‘Fair food’ labeling for US produce

Farm workers in Immokalee, Fla., have pushed corporations such as Walmart to submit to “clean labor” audits to cut down on the exploitation of largely Mexican, Haitian, and Guatemalan migrants. Their efforts have helped spur the use of “Fair Food” labels for produce that is grown and packed ethically.

 

“In the past three years, [the tomato fields in Immokalee] have gone from being the worst to the best” in the country, according to Susan Marquis, dean of the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, Calif.

Last fall, Giant and Stop & Shop, two grocery chains in New England, began carrying the label. Similar labels such as “Food Justice Certified,” which expands farm worker protections to organic products, are also beginning to crop up on supermarket shelves across the country.

Such sourcing clues tap directly into the portion of the US consumer base that has begun to turn once routine shopping decisions into moral guideposts. Labor experts see a lot of promise in using labels as a tool to spread the reforms seen in Immokalee to other agricultural centers around the US.

2. Empower migrant workers and trafficking victims

One of the biggest challenges human trafficking victims face is what to do once they’re back on their own.

In Thailand, the Issara Institute helps formerly enslaved migrant workers by directly giving them cash with no strings attached. The philosophy behind the program is simple: No one knows the needs of human trafficking victims better than the victims themselves. Yet they often lack the resources to address them. By giving them the ability to make their own decisions, the unconditional handouts provide a sense of autonomy that these individuals haven’t experienced in months, if not years.

Across the United States, a handful of nonprofit organizations are working to connect with isolated domestic servants to show them that help is available.

Damayan Migrant Workers Association, a grass-roots group in New York that assists Filipino trafficking victims, provides a model for how to transform a cycle of victimization. Former victims become advocates for others, demanding changes to legal and economic structures that facilitate the trafficking of domestic workers. They also formed a co-op, allowing the former victims to become their own bosses.

They have pressured embassies when diplomatic immunity was shielding traffickers from prosecution, and have helped some women win financial settlements. Damayan’s members played a key role in New York becoming the first of several states to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

3. Joint police-NGO task forces

A small antitrafficking team in Seattle is showing how legal action can be an effective tool in fighting forced labor when detectives, prosecutors, and social workers learn to collaborate.

In its first decade of operations, the task force investigated more than 140 cases of potential human trafficking and prosecuted 60 of those. Given the difficulty of bringing such cases, this is well above average for a prosecutorial district. In September, Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the task force an “extraordinary partnership.”

Experts say the force’s success stems from its ability to bridge the worlds of nongovernment organizations and diverse law enforcement agencies. Where antitrafficking efforts in some other cities have broken down, the members of this team “have come back to the table” after setbacks, says Kirsten Foot, the author of “Collaborating Against Human Trafficking.”

4. Labor trafficking lawsuits in US courts

In February 2015, a federal court awarded five Indian workers $14 million in a labor trafficking lawsuit against Signal International, a maritime construction company, for abuses they faced while repairing offshore oil and gas facilities damaged by hurricane Katrina.

Five months later, Signal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to implement a $20 million settlement with more than 200 other workers who had their own lawsuits pending. It was, lawyers say, the largest monetary penalty ever in a labor trafficking lawsuit, making it a model for how to fight labor trafficking – both in the courtroom and out.

In Mexico and the US, advocates say abuses that can add up to trafficking in the agriculture industry often go unchecked because foreign workers are required to leave the United States at the end of each season. Back home, they are far away from the US legal system that might help them push for justice against abusive or exploitive employers.

To correct this, lawyers, NGOs, government representatives, and migrant advocates have worked together pursue cross-border justice. This includes finding plaintiffs in Mexico and other countries willing to testify in US courts; many don’t know that they are entitled to legal recourse. The work is painstaking and time-consuming, but provides a path to reducing labor trafficking and migrant worker exploitation.

5. Make foreign recruiters register with the state

From Silicon Valley to the Central Valley, California industries rely on about 130,000 foreign guest workers to do everything from tech jobs to picking grapes, peaches, and almonds. Three out of four of them are hired through labor contractors, according to rough estimates. A new law has the potential to transform the way those contractors do business – and protect vulnerable workers.

The California Foreign Labor Recruitment Law, the first of its kind in the nation, requires recruiters to meet certain conditions and register with the state. Taking effect in July, it forces businesses that want to use foreign-labor contractors to work with only those that are registered, and to tell the state which contractors they are using. It provides a host of protections for workers, including a rule against charging them any fees.

“People should be able to look up in a registry who is legitimate and who isn’t,” says Kay Buck, executive director of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking in Los Angeles. “With transparency, the prevalence of modern slavery decreases.”

6. Supply chain transparency

A cluster of California class-action lawsuits against corporations such as Costco is pushing the envelope on accountability for human trafficking in supply chains. The keyword is transparency: If companies are forced to disclose when labor abuses are involved in making a product, they may be more likely to vigorously police their suppliers.

That level of disclosure would go significantly beyond the letter of a 2010 law. The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act requires large retail and manufacturing companies to disclose on their websites what, if anything, they are doing to eradicate trafficking and slavery among suppliers.

In the global cocoa industry, efforts to clean up supply chains have already helped address widespread child labor abuses. Each of the world’s top five chocolate producers – from Nestlé to Mars to Hershey’s – are developing or expanding third-party inspection systems meant to, among other goals, eliminate child trafficking and child labor by 2020 on the farms where they source cocoa.

Meanwhile, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire – together responsible for about 70 percent of global cocoa output – have responded to international pressure by passing laws prohibiting child trafficking and overwork, and mandating primary school attendance.

7. How you can help

  • Here are some of the organizations featured in our series on human trafficking:
  1. The Association of People for Practical Life Education is a Ghana-based organization that works to free trafficked children, including those in the cocoa industry.
  2. Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, the first transnational migrant workers’ rights organization based in Mexico, seeks to improve the conditions of low-wage workers in the US.
  3. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a Florida-based human rights organization that works to protect migrant farm workers and promote consumer awareness through its Fair Food Program.
  4. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking is a Los Angeles-based organization that assists labor trafficking victims and works toward ending all instances of human trafficking.
  5. The Damayan Migrant Workers Association is a grass-roots group in New York that assists Filipino domestic workers to fight for their labor, health, gender, and migration rights.
  6. Free the Slaves is a Washington-based organization that works in human trafficking hot spots across the world to liberate slaves and change the conditions that allow slavery to persist.
  7. The Global Workers Justice Alliance is a New York-based organization that aids transnational migrants through a cross-border network of worker advocates and resources.
  8. The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center is a US-based organization that leads national efforts to hold human traffickers accountable for their crimes and to raise awareness of victims’ rights.
  9. The Issara Institute is a Bangkok-based organization that aids human trafficking victims through unconditional cash transfers and other services such as legal support, medical care, and job placement.
  10. ProDESC, the Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Project, is a Mexico-based organization that works with migrants, miners, and indigenous communities to defend and advance their rights.
  11. The Southern Poverty Law Center is an Alabama-based group that uses litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy to fight human trafficking and other forms of civil and human rights abuses.
  12. The Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network is a coalition of non-governmental organizations that provide direct services to victims of human trafficking in the State of Washington.

 

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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

Action in New York

It looks like New York is standing up as a front- runner in taking action against the rampancy of Human Trafficking that is plaguing their state. Now, the rest of the country needs to take a hint and follow in their footsteps. Read the New York Times article about the targeted court system that is being implemented.

 

 

With Special Courts, State Aims to Steer Women Away From Sex Trade

Published: September 25, 2013

New York State is creating a statewide system of specialized criminal courts to handle prostitution cases and provide services to help wrest human- and sex-trafficking victims from the cycle of exploitation and arrest, the state’s chief judge announced on Wednesday. The initiative is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

Eleven new courts across the state, modeled on three narrower pilot projects in New York City and Nassau County, will bring together specially trained prosecutors, judges and defense lawyers, along with social workers and an array of other services, the chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, said in a speech to the Citizens Crime Commission in Midtown Manhattan.

“Human trafficking is a crime that inflicts terrible harm on the most vulnerable members of society: victims of abuse, the poor, children, runaways, immigrants,” Judge Lippman said. “It is in every sense a form of modern-day slavery. We cannot tolerate this practice in a civilized society, nor can we afford to let victims of trafficking slip between the cracks of our justice system.”

The new Human Trafficking Intervention Courts will handle all cases involving prostitution-related offenses that continue past arraignment, Judge Lippman said. Cases will be evaluated by the judge, defense lawyer and prosecutor, and if they agree, the court will refer defendants to services like drug treatment, shelter, immigration assistance and health care, as well as education and job training, in an effort to keep them from returning to the sex trade.

The new program is in some measure modeled after specialized courts for domestic violence and low-level drug offenses. They are intended to end the Sisyphean shuffling of victims of trafficking through the criminal justice system, a process that fails to address the underlying reasons for their landing in court — or on the streets — in the first place, the judge said.

The initiative comes at a time of growing consensus among criminal justice professionals across the country that in many cases it makes more sense to treat people charged with prostitution offenses as victims rather than defendants. It is a view that is in some measure born of an increasing focus on the widespread trafficking of under-age girls; women typically enter prostitution in the United States between ages 12 and 14, Judge Lippman said.

That consensus was reflected by some of the people who joined Judge Lippman for the announcement. There were district attorneys from across the state, including Cyrus R. Vance Jr. from Manhattan, Richard A. Brown from Queens and Daniel M. Donovan Jr. from Staten Island; Kathleen M. Rice from Nassau County, who heads the state’s District Attorneys Association; Steven Banks, the Legal Aid Society’s attorney in chief; and Lori L. Cohen, director of Sanctuary for Families’ Anti-Trafficking Initiative, a leading advocate for trafficking victims. Representatives of some of the dozen other service providers involved in the new program also attended.

The consensus was also reflected by three laws passed by the New York Legislature in recent years, including the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, which criminalizes sex and labor trafficking; the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act, under which anyone younger than 18 who is arrested on prostitution charges is treated as “a sexually exploited child”; and a law that allows trafficking victims to have their prostitution convictions vacated.

The new courts, one in each of New York City’s five boroughs and six others situated from Long Island to Buffalo, will all be functioning by the end of October, Judge Lippman said. They will handle 95 percent of the thousands of cases each year in which people are charged with prostitution and human trafficking offenses.

Other cities across the country have special trafficking courts, including Baltimore; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; and West Palm Beach, Fla. A law that took effect this month in Texas requires the largest counties to start prostitution diversion programs, and Connecticut has two courts that deal with so-called quality-of-life offenses, including prostitution.

But New York State’s new courts, Judge Lippman said, represent the first statewide system to deal with human trafficking.

He said setting up the courts would require minimal to no additional spending because the system would simply be handling the same cases in a more creative manner. He said there would be more costs to the service providers, which are financed largely by government grants and private sources, but he could not provide a dollar figure.

Mr. Banks, of the Legal Aid Society, said in an interview that the new system was “an extremely important step forward nationally” to set up courts where people accused of prostitution and prostitution-related offenses can be connected to programs that offer what he called “a pathway to change.”

“It’s certainly critical that underlying all of this is the concept of providing a helping hand rather than the back of a hand,” he said. “Survivors of trafficking are left with literally an indelible scar in the form of a criminal record that affects employment, housing, financial aid for college and government benefits and even the ability to stay in this county.”

The approach being tried in New York, he added, “can give human trafficking survivors a second chance in life.”

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 Moments After

The Freedom Exhibit– a Post- Reflection

August 3,  2013  12:00 AM

I am high off of the excitement of advocacy. There is so much power in talking to people about the things that drive me, and having them care. I felt the sparks of awareness flying tonight. I feel as if I have lowered a rope into a pit of ignorance and hoisted some people out of it. I think I may have even flung some of those people from the flat ground of awareness into the realms of action.
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 Over the last couple months, I have become more and more competent in my abilities to discuss human trafficking with people that share the same passions. I preach to the choir like a pro– I have had many a car conversation, many a dinner table education with my parents. But when I try to talk to people who don’t share my passion, I have felt tongue tied. I haven’t known how to breach the topic, and once I do, I don’t know where to start. Tonight, that changed.
I completely overwhelmed the first woman I talked to. I overloaded her with way too much information about every organization I could describe on our “Learn” table. I could see the stars coating her eyes, the confusion clouding her vision. When she stopped me and asked, “Wait… what is human trafficking?” I knew I had to take a different approach. I had spewed word vomit all over her, and really not brought her any closer to an understanding of human trafficking.
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That was when I realized that I could use the scene I had created as a presentation tool. My art piece provided me with a catapult to educate, something I had really been lacking. I brought people in, at first one on one, and then as groups and told them this:
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~ First look at this mattress, this graffiti, these papers. What do you see? What do they make you think about?
Now when people think about human trafficking, their minds immediately jump to sex. People know about brothels, about people being trafficked across borders in other nations to provide sex to customers. But human trafficking is truly a multifaceted issue. This bed could be the bed in a brothel, but it could be inhabited by so many different people.
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This is the bed of a boy, who is arisen every morning, thrown into a van with six other guys, handed a couple dozen crates of strawberries, and dropped off at a street corner. He is told he has to sell all of the strawberries or be beaten. He goes out, selling strawberries all day. You have seen this boy, sometimes outside Costco, sometimes outside Safeway. You may even have bought strawberries from this boy. In the evening, he is picked up in the van by his pimp. He has not had a lunch break. He has not been able to go to the bathroom. Today, he hasn’t even sold all of his strawberries. In punishment, after handing the money he has made to his pimp,  he is raped. This is the bed he goes back to and cries in.
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Or this is the bed of a girl whose family is abusive. Her parents are drug abusers or they beat her. Maybe she doesn’t have parents at home at all. She runs away from home, and while walking the streets is picked up by a boy. He takes her in; he gives her gifts. He tells her he loves her. He fills a gap that has been empty; he makes her feel special. She falls in love with him. He calls her his girlfriend. After a little while, though, he tells her she needs to make up her share of the income. He tells her she can’t just sit home all day. So he drops her off on the streets to pick up customers. This is the bed that she brings five, ten, fifteen men a night to, selling her body to make money for her “boyfriend”.
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Or is this is the bed of a woman who has just immigrated to America from Cambodia. She wants to start a new life in the land of opportunity. She is offered a job at a nail salon, but is told that instead of payment, they will give her a room in the back. She is not allowed to leave the salon unsupervised. The only time she is allowed out of this room, is when she is painting nails. She doesn’t know her rights. She doesn’t know she is entitled to more than this. This is the room that she spends her days and nights in.
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This bed represents the millions of people stuck in human trafficking today. And splayed across it are diary entries, prayers, poems. On the walls are cries for help, all scribbled across the oppressive graffiti that surrounds the people contained within its walls. These are written pleas for help, because so many of these people do not have the use of their voices to ask for help. They are scared. Women do not want to be arrested for prostitution. Girls are so in love with their pimps, that they do not realize that they are being manipulated. Their emotions are so toyed with, so disjointed that they do not know who to trust or where to turn for affection. Illegal immigrants trafficked in the agricultural industry don’t want to be deported. Legal immigrants do not know their rights. People who have been trafficked into the US do not realize that they have rights to trafficking visas. People are blocked by language barriers, trust barriers, emotional barriers.
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And it starts so young. The average age of a trafficking victim in the US is 12, but people are weaned into it from even earlier. Children are burdened by emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. They are neglected by their parents. They are not raised with a sense of self- worth or confidence in their abilities. They seek love anywhere they can find it.
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The system is so skewed. There are more people in slavery now, in 2013, than there were during the entire length of the transatlantic slave trade combined. And back then, slavery was legal. It was in the public eye. It was contested by some, but accepted by most. Now, it is an underground criminal industry. Not just any criminal industry, but a particularly profitable one– the 2nd most profitable criminal industry, netting about $32 billion a year. Once a person sells a gun, that gun is gone. But a person can sell a girl again and again and again and again. A person pimping four girls can make about $600,000 a year. There is a demand for it. It is consumed in mass quantities. With inflation calculated in, a slave back in the 1800s was worth about $30,000. Now, a slave can be bought for $90. Our sense of human worth seems to have plummeted by a long shot. And this is just the beginning of the story. ~
Now, I talked and people listened… really listened. People asked questions… good questions. They started recognizing the signs. People told me about situations that had before not seemed odd, but now seemed like signs of human trafficking. They disclosed information about family, neighbors, friends who had been involved in the issue. They wanted to know how to pinpoint the indicators, how to act, what to look for, and how they could get involved. They wanted to know about the children, about the laws, about the numbers, about the history; I could tell them.  I have done so much research- speaking to people, listening to stories, watching documentaries-  that I was able to truly advocate. I was able to back up my fictional  (yet completely plausible) pieces with hard numbers.

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And I was not alone in my advocacy. I was joined by two truly inspiring women. Julia Wood, the girl who had kickstarted the concept of an art exhibit and collected the art pieces, and I worked off of each other with the most collaborative chemistry. People would ask questions, and we were able to teach together, to fill in each others’ gaps in knowledge, and to combine our separate insight into a truly comprehensive understanding of human trafficking. Most notably, I was joined by Regina Evans, a survivor of the Life, who has since channeled her complex emotions into poetry and a one woman play.
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She shared her story, her passion, her pain, and her love. She lured people into the back room with the bed setup and performed a rhythmic telling of her story… She started with an almost abstract poetic description of a girl being raped, abused, sold on the streets. “She’s somebody’s baby. She’s somebody’s child,” was her haunting refrain. But as her tale escalated, the pronoun turned personal, and the audience was drawn further into her tortured eyes, and her trembling hands. “I’m somebody’s baby,” she whispered, her voice cracking, “I’m somebody’s child.” At the end of her performance, she turned to the numbers, warning of the 300,000 children at risk of trafficking in the US alone. She called people to action. She appealed to them to stand by no longer. As people walked out of that room, the reactions were chilling. Some simply stared ahead in a horrified trance. Some had red eyes, wet with teardrops. Some had hands clasped in fists of anger. I knew that we had changed these people.
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People don’t know, and quite honestly don’t WANT to know about human trafficking. The information is too hard to handle; the reality too repulsive. It is much easier to distance oneself, than to contemplate the truth. With this event, I strove to awaken people to the world around them, bit by bit, so that more people will join their voices in combatting the crime. And I feel as if we accomplished that goal.

Finish Line

“Ruth was 12 years old when her mother’s boyfriend raped her. She ran away and was picked up by a pimp who forced her to have sex for money. Today, she’s a brilliant poet and spoken word artist who dreams of one day becoming an architect and building schools for children in Africa. Here is a poem written by Ruth, detailing her painful past and her powerful ability to overcome adversity.” – Equality Now

 

FINISH LINE

You see me; I can’t let this go on any further…

So I’m going to let the finish where it starts.  

I’m going to help shed light on the places that are so-called too dark.

Oh yeah; I’ve been through some of it all:

The gang banging, the street walking & having sex in the park.

See, none of this would have happened if I had help from the start.

See, for me, it started in this place that sometimes felt like hell,

But I still had to call it home.

It even included a mother, a sister, even a niece that is only a few years old.

But even when they were home, I still felt all alone.

By alone, see, I was all alone when that light skinned 6 foot tall grown man raped me.

See, no one was in this place I was to call home where I had a bed;  

I cried inside because I was fighting a light skinned 6 foot battle all alone,

But I soon went to war when I ran away from this place

With the unbelievable name of home.

At night I was never alone, walking down pimp city road.

I was only 12 years old.

Walking up and down what we call the stroll.

See, to him it did not matter if I was cold or if I was hungry,

All he cared about was me bringing in that money.

Let me let you in on something I find real funny:  

That sex trafficking is a nonviolent felony.

But in this life, violence became my “frienamie.”

Now I’m going to shed my light on this place that is so-called too dark,

See, I was hit and beat for things that weren’t my fault

And when I would say something smart,

I was raped and called dumb.

I never thought this day would come.

See I’m not just saying this, this is coming from the heart.

Yes, maybe I want to get a new start.

But I want my voice to help others whose world has fallen apart.  

My best friend is a victim even though she is now 17.

She is a victim of our pimp, she is a victim of the streets.

She wants to be free, but she can’t do it all alone, she needs me.

And I need a team to help me finish where it starts.

If only you can feel the pain in our hearts.

To feel 2 inches tall when 5’1” is where you started.

Me and a little girl parted when all this trauma started.

See our lives are getting tough and we really don’t have time to toughen up.

And now look, I’ve reached the finish line, my time is up.

But that doesn’t mean that I give up.

 

Link

A Raid Across the Country for Child Victims of Human Trafficking

From the FBI website:
“Operation Cross Country

Recovering Victims of Child Sex Trafficking

07/29/13

Operation Cross Country—a three-day nationwide enforcement action focusing on underage victims of prostitution—has concluded with the recovery of 105 sexually exploited children and the arrests of 150 pimps and other individuals.

The sweep took place in 76 cities and was carried out by the FBI in partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) as part of the Bureau’s Innocence Lost National Initiative. It is the seventh and largest such enforcement action to date.

Strong Partnerships

Operation Cross Country is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative that was created in 2003 by the FBI in partnership with the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), to address the growing problem of domestic child sex trafficking in the United States.

The program brings state and federal law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and social service providers from around the country to NCMEC, where the groups are trained together.

“Operation Cross Country demonstrates just how many of America’s children are being sold for sex every day, many on the Internet,” said John Ryan, NCMEC CEO. “We are honored and proud to partner with the FBI, which has taken the lead in tackling this escalating problem.”

“Child prostitution remains a persistent threat to children across America,” said Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “This operation serves as a reminder that these abhorrent crimes can happen anywhere and that the FBI remains committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and holding the criminals who profit from this exploitation accountable.”

Since its creation in 2003, the Innocence Lost National Initiative has resulted in the identification and recovery of more than 2,700 children who have been sexually exploited. Behind those numbers are the stories of real victims.

Alex was one such victim. At age 15, faced with a difficult family situation at home, she decided to leave and stay with a girlfriend and then an aunt. When that didn’t work out, she found herself on the street—with an abusive boyfriend who wanted to pimp her out.

“You learn quickly that the only people who are really willing to feed you, clothe you, and shelter you are your parents,” she said. “So I had to figure something out.” (See video.)

Two years later, Alex bravely contacted the FBI, and her cooperation helped us send two pimps to prison and facilitate the recovery of other underage victims. Today, with support from the Bureau’s Office for Victim Assistance, Alex is turning her life around. She earned her high school diploma, is living on her own, and has plans to attend college. She wants to become an advocate for young victims of sexual exploitation.Alex was 16 years old and desperate. She turned to prostitution and later fell under the influence of a pimp and her family. “At first it was terrifying, and then you just kind of become numb to it,” she said. “You put on a whole different attitude—like a different person. It wasn’t me. I know that. Nothing about it was me.”

“What happened to me happened, and I can’t change it,” she said. “I can only change my future.”

Special Agent Kurt Ormberg, who helped recover Alex and put her pimp behind bars, explained that children who are most susceptible to sexual exploitation have a void in their lives. “That void might be related to family, food, or shelter, but it’s a void that needs to be filled, and pimps fill it.” And after they nurture their victims, he said, they sexually exploit them. “Too often,” Ormberg added, “these young victims don’t think they have anywhere else to turn.”

“I was very lucky to be able to walk away,” Alex said. “I never got hurt, so I’m really, really lucky. I’m one of the few that can say that.” Without the help of the FBI, she added, “I probably would have ended up dead.”

Forty-seven FBI divisions took part in Operation Cross Country VII, along with more than 3,900 local, state, and federal law enforcement officers and agents representing 230 separate agencies.”

–http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2013/july/operation-cross-country-recovering-victims-of-child-sex-trafficking/operation-cross-country-recovering-victims-of-child-sex-trafficking