You won’t want to miss a minute of the 2014 Human Trafficking In America Conference. We are finishing up going thru all the comments and feedback from the Survey and Feedback forms that were left by Attendees and almost everyone loved it and thought is was the best conference on human trafficking they had attended.
Our work is to educate, inform, and mobilize as many citizens as possible to spread the word and to protect “potential” innocent victims from predators and pimps who always need fresh offerings for their list of “clients.” A client to them is a daughter or son of an unsuspecting parent.
Please invite some friends and family over to watch the Conference Videos and share your favorite Speaker or topic and help them protect their at-risk youth from these predators.
Your investment in these videos not only educates and informs, and hopefully saves untold youth from a life of literal Hell, but also helps us keep the fight alive for rescue, restoration, and helping to make a change in a culture that not only allows this as business as usual, but often laughs at the plight of the so-called “ho’s and pimps”.
Hollywood profits from it and there is no measurable difference inside most Churches from the rampages of pornography than among the un-churched, unfortunately statistics show to include many of the pulpits of America.
Much of Law Enforcement is still catching up to understand that if a teenager is arrested for prostitution, they just may be a trafficked victim and rather than lock them up and allow the predator who bails them out the next day to walk, maybe they should look into it. I know, I know, paperwork, paperwork! But, that is the reality of what is happening daily in our Country.
Yvonne and I have participated in training Law Enforcement on how to spot trafficked victims and how to work with NGOs. We received their surprised feedback that they were not aware of this issue in their own back yards. Not all Law Enforcement, many are on the cutting edge of what is happening and we applaud them all for being willing to adjust to this “new” American crime.
Legal issues still exist in most States and there is a tremendous need to continue to Lobby the State Legislatures to implement “Model” Laws that are working in States that have implemented them with few to no unintended consequences that generally accompany the enactment of any new legislation. The Polaris Project has been out front on this and many other aspects of dealing with human trafficking and we certainly respect and appreciate all they do.
You cannot work long against human sex trafficking without coming in contact with Labor Trafficking and this issue is still not receiving the Headlines that it should, since sex is sexier to talk about and I personally think that some of the sex trafficking buzz is simply due to the curiosity from some of wanting to know more of the details for the wrong reasons.
Labor trafficking is often a mixture and sex trafficking is just a part of the package, But if not, can you imagine working 12 hours per day 6 and half days per week in the hot Florida, TX, or CA farm fields and being locked up nightly in the bed of an old UHaul truck body all night?? I was trying to share this story with an old childhood friend recently and he began to tell me that the “Mexicans” (I didn’t mention race) are so poor that they live in cardboard shacks and that the truck body and 2 or 3 meals a day might be an improvement. No, seriously, Jimmy said that. He hates laws and stated that shooting and killing the predators was the easiest and best way to solve this. It would clean it right up.
Did I mention that he is a wealthy pro-lifer? I didn’t hesitate to include this recent episode because it shows the ignorance, complacency, and racism that we are also against. There are folk who are a Big part of America’s problems because of just these attitudes of heart and head, yet who think they have all the answers. Yes, I agree, these attitudes are not exclusive to America.
So, whether you attended the 2014 Trafficking in America Conference or missed it, you know that you need the information on these videos to go over slowly, to learn on the one hand, but also listen, really listen for that still, small Voice that my have been Calling you into a deeper involvement in the many areas of the work of helping stop human trafficking and helping turn our American culture from darkness back toward the Light.
Our 2015 Conference will be focused on the parents of trafficked victims, a much overlooked aspect of this horrendous issue. Please get on our mailing list to be notified of Pre-Conference Events and other activity that you will want to know about. Thanks so much for your time and attention today.
Please share this with as many folk as you will.
All our Very Best Love and Light to you all,
Marion D. Williams, Co-Founder, Trafficking in America Task Force
Because human trafficking is on the rise, and the more we learn about it, the more we learn that it’s happening right in our own neighborhoods—not just in far-away countries where water is dirty, violence is rampant, and flesh is a commodity.
Flesh is a commodity everywhere. It always has been. And US citizens have always been quick to capitalize on a commodity. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but other times . . . not so much. To think human trafficking isn’t happening in the US is naïve.
If you want to learn about the realities of human trafficking from as many direct sources and angles as possible, theTrafficking in America Conference is the place to be. You’ll hear from survivors, law enforcement agents, activists, and countless people who have collectively put in thousands of hours of research and work on the subject.
And you’ll learn how you can best help.
Registration is open to everyone, but they’re especially targeting high school and college students, youth leaders, ministers, and parents.
This year’s topic is “Restoring Humanity from Modern Day Slavery.” They’ll be discussing topics like:
It seems as though they’re really trying to come at this issue from as many angles as possible in a three-day timeframe, and I can’t help but admire that. They’re not just focused on the problem, in all its ugly facets—they’re actively inspiring people to come up with innovative solutions, prevention strategies, and healing services.
The Trafficking in America Task Force, which has put on the event for the past four years, has a summary of the 2013 conference on their website, along with a list of “next steps” they suggest to “create a culture free from slavery.” They humbly say, “While this is a minimal attempt at such a task, it is a start.”
I would argue that almost every individual organization, agency, and action taken to combat human trafficking seems minimal, when taken alone. But together, there’s an ocean of people swelling up to educate the public, and each other, about the horrors of modern day slavery.
There are more slaves today than there ever were at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and that’s not something we hear about from the media. It falls on people making “minimal attempts” to step up and help others—even if it’s just one survivor at a time. Even one speaker, addressing one topic, at one conference, in one city is important.
I especially like this year’s conference topic—“Restoring Humanity from Modern Day Slavery.” I like the way it doesn’t only focus on victims and survivors as people who need healing. Trafficking is something that affects us all—victims, survivors, perpetrators with broken worldviews, and everyday people who may not realize what’s happening and might even be complicit in ways they don’t understand. (And when I say pimps and perpetrators need healing, that doesn’t mean I feel sorry for them because they’re children of poverty or something. Punishment and justice can play an important role in healing.)
The conference seems to be addressing trafficking as a wound humanity is inflicting on itself—one all of humanity needs to heal from. I agree with that point of view.
“As we work to educate about what human trafficking is, we must simultaneously bring healing to our minds and souls. That is the only way we will defeat human trafficking, modern day slavery.”
That’s from the conference website.
So is this: “Human trafficking affects us all, and all of us can affect human trafficking.”
L. Marrick is a fiction writer and freelance copywriter. 50% of proceeds from her book Working Girl, a memoir of her time working for a professional escort, go to sex trafficking non-profits. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @LMarrick.
© L. Marrick 2014. The content of this article, except for quoted or linked source materials, is protected by copyright. Please contact the author at the above links to request usage.
Some anti-human trafficking advocates have said that only 1 in 100 victims of human trafficking will ever be rescued. I don’t know how this was determined, but I honestly believe that this does not have to be the reality. In the past 9 months, 108 victims of sex trafficking in the United States have been rescued by the rescue shield teams of Bishop Outreach and partner organizations in conjunction with authorities. Lessons learned from those beginning rescues have been valuable and can only be enhanced if stakeholders are willing to work together.
With all of the awareness and education that has taken place in the past several years there is still somewhat of a resistance by many Americans to accept the facts that American men are purchasing Americans and enslaving them in this atrocious crime. I think primarily because they do not completely understand what human trafficking is. The United States version of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines “Severe Forms of Trafficking in Persons” as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act , in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person forced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years; or, Labor Trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.
The UN Trafficking Protocol (the Palermo Protocol of 2000, an international legal agreement attached to the UN) contains the first internationally agreed upon definition of human trafficking. The heart of the Trafficking Protocol defines human trafficking as: (a) […] the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. It is the opinion of TIATF that the US should include in its definition the terminology consistent with the UN Protocol since it further distinguishes that the trafficker use “…deception, abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability…” when seeking their victims. Traffickers look for the vulnerable knowing how to deceive and manipulate them — the worst form of abduction — by causing one to lose trust in those they should trust the most. It takes a lifetime to “re-program” someone that has been manipulated in this manner.
What is the magnitude of human trafficking in the United States?
Statistics are generally the first thing we learn when becoming educated about human trafficking, yet it is the most unreliable source for learning the truth and the magnitude of the problem. If we want stats there are plenty of them to go around, but they all differ depending on the source that is cited. Most human trafficking advocates seem to take the higher stats and send them around in video’s and articles, placing them on websites and when speaking. I suppose it makes for a better case. And, quite honestly, when Trafficking In America Task Force was a new organization we did the same thing. We took the stats that were available and without in depth knowledge of the reality, simply painted a picture based on statistical outlines. It’s just so alarming the first time you learn about it and so you begin to hear that 100,000 to 300,000 potential new victims are trafficked each year in America, or that there are 27 million slaves world-wide and 800,000 new victims are trafficked every year (one stat says this is the number of runaways reported in the US annually). Then there is the average age of a victim being 12 – 13/14. Most stats floating around today are about 7-10 years old and people still use them.
The International Labor Organization, relatively trust worthy, came out in 2013 with a new figure that human trafficking is a $34 billion dollar industry world-wide and that sex trafficking had decreased while labor trafficking had increased. Many NGO’s still use the former 32 billion – so what is a couple of billion here and there? That’s a lot of revenue being generated by traumatically abusing people (50% under the age of 18) and yes; both males and females are trafficked. We have stats on runaways and how many hours it takes for them to be coerced into the commercial sex industry (48 by some accounting while 1/3 are supposedly trafficked and 2/3 go home in a few days); stats on the number of times a victim is sold every day (10 to 40); stats on fatherless homes (95% of runaways come from fatherless homes); and on. Stats will drive you crazy if you let them. But the reality is that they do at least give us a picture that something is tragically wrong in the United States of America – so we must work to fix it.
From the Department of Education we are told that, an unknown number of U.S. citizens and legal residents are trafficked within the country for sexual servitude and forced labor. Contrary to a common assumption, human trafficking is not just a problem in other countries. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. territories. Victims of human trafficking can be children or adults, U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, male or female. Common examples of identified child trafficking cases include: Commercial sex, Stripping, Pornography, Forced begging, Magazine crews, Au pairs or nannies, Restaurant work, Hair and Nail salons, Agricultural work, and Drug sales and cultivation.
Rescue of human trafficking victims shows us the reality that no statistic can
On July 11, 2013 Testimony from Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-large, Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking In Persons He states, “Victim identification is the critical first step in stopping this crime. Yet only about 47,000 victims were brought to light in the last year, compared to up to 27 million people living in slavery. That massive gap represents the millions who toil unseen and beyond the reach of law, and it shows how far we have to go in this effort.” That is actually lower than the stated 1 in 100. According to this report, .57% (one half of one tenth of a percent) were brought to light (were these indeed all rescues?) worldwide.
So let’s get down to where the rubber meets the road as “they” say. Let’s talk rescue — I met Bishop in April 2013 when he called me to share his story. After listening for a while, I asked him to speak at our annual Trafficking in America Conference the next month. I wasn’t even home yet from the conference when I received a call from the masked man I really didn’t know that well yet, who was simply passionate about rescuing victims and needing some connections to help rescue a young woman. We’ve been working together ever since and he along with new forged partnerships of like mission have now been responsible for 108 successful rescues across the country at this writing.
Bishop uses his personal experiences to show how this multi-billion dollar a year industry works from the inside out. With his expertise as a noted gang expert, certified as a gang specialist in MSG, OMG, and STG groups, he holds a multi-state private investigator license and spent four years as an undercover agent with DOJ on Organized Crime. Bishop is able to educate how to see the warning signs, protect your loved ones, and how we can all work together to make a difference in our communities.
So — why the mask? While serving as an undercover agent for the DOJ, Bishop turned over a number of high profile gang members and human traffickers to the DOJ. The threat of retribution is real, thus he wears this mask to protect himself and family.
Cooperation from and with Law Enforcement
We had a rescue in a southern city several months ago that opened our eyes as to the denial (for whatever reason) that law enforcement and some cities have regarding human trafficking activity in their area. There can only be three (and a half) reasons for this: 1) dirty cops; 2) an image to protect so as not to lose valuable dollars from tourism and/or protect their citizens from panic mode; or 3) ignorance of the reality of what human trafficking is. In this particular case, I believe all three and a half were present. And several victims were left behind on this particular rescue. Bishop Outreach will not rescue without the support of local and/or state authorities cooperation and support. They understand the law and they work in conjunction with it for the benefit of justice for victims.
On the other hand when a good connection is made with law enforcement agencies that are completely engaged and educated on the reality of human trafficking, the magic takes place and the unexpected happens. Victims get rescued, are transported to safety to begin their restorative journey, and good data is collected for court cases. There is no room for territorial pride in this matter. We have had law enforcement tell us that they need the support of non-government organizations (NGOs) because they can’t do it all and we have had them tell us to go away. Go figure! Collaborative efforts are still the best means to a harmonious end.
NGOs as well as Department of Children and Families (DCF) and other government agencies are working with victims all across the Unites States. These are the ones that have the first hand knowledge of this issue from the inside out. They are counselors, psychologists, medical professionals, licensed educators, and simply put passionate people that spend their lives cleaning up the messes that humans make in one another’s lives. They are the ones that prepare them for their new lives and potential court cases. Law enforcement needs them. Every LE agency should have someone in the services area to work with them on rescues to not only help identify the reality of human trafficking, but to be available to begin their trek to restored dignity and honor the moment they are brought out of the clutches of traffickers and into safety.
Placement and victim services for restoration
The Defender Foundation After Care Team is committed to creating care networks of collaborating service providers who have the goal of restoring human trafficking victims; mind, body, and spirit. Volunteers in the After Care Team assess victims after they are rescued, process the necessary paperwork, keep in contact with shelters and service providers that provide care to victims, and follow up with victims over time. They also collaborate with shelters and safe houses to conduct drives to obtain food, clothing, supplies, and other resources that are needed. Volunteers will also make sure the victim’s needs are being met during the rehabilitation process at the shelter or safe house and as they are reintegrated into society. DF has a protocol in place that they do not step outside of when it comes to protecting and serving survivors on their way to wholeness. Serving as an After Care Team Volunteer requires a deep compassion for working with victims. They are especially interested in those with experience in the mental health field and licensed as well as unlicensed clinicians.
Rescue is where we will learn the truth about human trafficking – not the stats. Rescuing victims not only allows NGO’s to gain valuable insight into what a person experiences from traffickers, but how they are treated by the johns, what the living conditions are like, what their health ramifications are, and much more. A search light into this darkness reveals all that we need to know in order to address it from a societal standpoint. While data collection in numbers is good, data collection from victims and traffickers is better. It is during the rescue and restoration process that this most valuable information is gleaned and we need more research dedicated to unraveling the complexities that we now know as human trafficking.
There could never be enough time dedicated to panels. Audiences love to engage with them. Q & A could last a day! I’ve often wondered why panels seem to draw attendees into the deep wells of inner thought. And, I have concluded that it is because of the diversity that is often represented on a panel. I love it when the audience really puts their thinking cap on and rises to occasion. It lets me know they are not only listening, but that they care about the issues presented from panel members. Panels also enable us to touch on a topic from a broad perspective so that attendees will hear from various members engaged in a particular issue.
This year’s panels at the 2014 Trafficking In America Conference are going to be extremely engaging. With the rise in new safe houses across the country (a good thing but not without challenges) there is a great need for understanding what is involved in managing a home for victims of human trafficking. You just don’t decide to get a house and put victims in it. There is a strategy that must be met to not only successfully help victims of this type of trauma and abuse, but to prevent further damage. We have 4 exceptional “healers” on the survivor / healer panel: Emily Fitchpatrick, founder of On Eagles Wings Ministries and Hope House, one a America’s first homes for sex trafficked victims; Bonnie Jo Daniels, Director of Hope For Freedom, a collaborative effort that engages Law Enforcement, service-providers, NGA’s and parents in the restoration process of victims; Dr. J. DeGaglia, Ph.D., N.C.C., L.M.H.C., C.A.P., E.M.T.-P. A dedicated to the scientific inquiry and investigation for clinical healing of victims; and Dr. Yolanda Graham, board certified in general psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry. Each has a distinctive role in the over-all healing process of sex trafficking victims.
Nita Belles, moderator of the survivor / healer panel, will create a discussion between the survivors and those that work to bring restoration. The goal is to open the channels of communication between the two — like that of Doctor / patient — in effort to give attendees that work with survivors a better idea of the needs and how we need to be addressing those needs. We have 3 amazing yet different survivors on the panel: Katariina Rosenblatt of West Palm Beach; Kelley Alsobrook of Memphis, TN; and Jerome Elam of Gainesville, FL. Each of these survivors are true over comers and are now working in anti-human trafficking efforts, and each have moved from victim to victor to voice! Their experiences in moving through the restoration process will help anyone involved on the other side of the coin – the healers – to grasp more fully what a victim is experiencing when navigating the road to wholeness. I believe this will revolutionize this aspect of restoration.
On the 2nd day of the conference Lina Nealon, Director of Policy and Outreach for Demand Abolition, a program of Hunt Alternatives Fund that is committed to eradicating the illegal commercial sex industry in the United States, will lead the Legislator / Law Enforcement panel with the same format — to engage both sides in the reality of the issues at hand — in effort to create better policy for all. While law enforcement continues to struggle with the black and white aspects of human trafficking and legislators work to create policy to address the most obvious, there is plenty of room to enhance understanding on both sides of this fence. Many issues are on the rise as a result of this new social issue called human trafficking and with current advocacy has come a slate of topics that are being looked at in a new light. The internet, while it serves a greater good has brought with it those that plot and plan to do evil; corporate advertisers and how far they can go without exploiting youth; legalizing or abolishing “sex work”; rescue boundaries, protocols, and jurisdictions between local, state, federal agencies, investigators, NGO’s that rescue, etc; this law and that law; my territory – your territory. The list of issues is growing by leaps and bounds. The more we become involved in advocacy, the more Pandora’s box reveals (Today the phrase “to open Pandora’s box” means to perform an action that may seem small or innocent, but that turns out to have severely detrimental and far-reaching consequences – Wikipedia). So the need for collaboration between the many is overwhelming and must take place with the end result being the restoration of the victims on both sides of the fence.
Then there is education and prevention. On the last day of the conference, a smaller panel will consist of education curriculum providers of National Educators to Stop Trafficking. Each of the panel members will present an eye view of their curriculum and how it can aid educators in teaching their students about human trafficking. NEST is a program of the Luke 1248 Foundation and launched this month on a National Scale with the goal of getting educational curriculum into every school in America.
I hope you’ll join us for the 2014 Trafficking In America Conference. Registration covers 3 full days of speakers; access to 30 vendors; Wednesday, July 16, Evening Meet and Greet Reception (Plates and plates of fresh veggies, fruit, dips, tropical Island meats, flat breads, chips and crackers, and more) Thursday, July 17, Awards Luncheon with plated meat (Cold plated – Palm Beach Chicken Salad, dessert, coffee, hot tea and iced tea) Friday, July 18, Buffet Lunch (Executive Deli Tray consisting of deli meats, breads, soup, 3 assorted salads, fruit brownies, coffee and tea) Saturday morning NGO debrief and planning meeting.
If you need assistance in participating in a meeting or event due to a disability as defined under the ADA, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 615-815-7068 at least three (3) business days prior to the 2014 Trafficking in America Conference (July 16) to request accommodations.
Over the previous few years there have been many opportunities to share with others about how to navigate the collective work of anti-human trafficking activists while being in the trenches in the United States. These conversations generally begin with a complaint about how another organization might be doing things or what another activist’s opinion might be towards any given topic connected to this issue. And, I’ve never understood why it is so easy to negate the work of others only to enhance one’s own place in any given movement. However, it is easy to get caught up in these types of conversations if we don’t stay focused. With one question we can see the answer to this type of common debate: Can the hand say to the foot, I have no need of you?
While we all feel what we are doing might be the most important, it is not logical that any one aspect of advocacy work will rid our culture of this tragedy, nor is it any more important than another’s. When we understand this we will be able to move at a level that will be like a mighty rushing wind blowing across the lands so that in one full sweep the cultures of the world will be changed.
I believe there are many reasons for this mindset. Passion goes at the top of the list. When we are passionate about what we do, we tend to want everyone to feel our heart beat. We tend to think that what we do will be the one thing that makes all the difference and that without us no one would care about what we care about. Therefore, we become tied to our own vision, and cannot see the whole picture. So let’s look at the whole picture of the anti-human trafficking movement and see if we can glean a brighter perspective.
Ten years ago no one talked, or cared to talk, about human trafficking in the United States. There were a handful of people learning about this issue and doing great work but they had an uphill battle. So obviously the first thing we all did was to want to educate and bring awareness. The heart of the body that was being formed to end human trafficking began to beat. Every movement begins with education and awareness. It is ground floor and during this time period of building a foundation, it really is the most important aspect.
However, once people became aware and understood the gravity of human trafficking, the next thing they instinctively wanted to do was bring restoration to victims. Law enforcement, legislators, attorneys and judges, social workers, etc. were (and still are) having to transition just like the rest of the country. There was not a box in their respective fields that human trafficking fell into. And once victims began to be rescued, a hole was created that needed to be filled, so safe houses began to crop up, but without much thought as to what victims of this type of crime need in order to be made whole. “If we just love them they will heal,” right? Yet in reality, the discovery that there are many facets to healing from this type of trauma has brought the medical experts into the mix, and now curriculum is being created to treat areas such as mental and psychological isses, disassociative identity dissorder, etc. Nevertheless, people from all aspects of our society are now stepping up to the plate and moving forward to do something. So the reality is that the movement has been simply growing, expanding, being defined, and the body has been being assembled together, just as a baby is in the womb. Arms, hands, legs, and organs have come into full view.
This baby has been born (the name is anti-human trafficking) and has grown at a very rapid pace and as we all know, babies must learn the ways of life, such as how to get along with other humans. So, this movement like all others before us and all that will come after us, is experiencing some childish ideas as we work our way into adult hood. After a handful of forerunners that have been addressing demand became weary of “preaching to the choir” the message finally sparked a flame — until we stop the demand we will continue to go in circles and have more and more victims — so the next phase of growth due to education and awareness about this brought in those that now see a need to bring healing to Johns and Traffickers. People finally get it that this is one aspect of the whole, a valuable part of putting an end to human trafficking. All are not called to work in this area, but many are, and the merits of their work entail a destinct application of compassion that cannot be denied, and must be included, as well as embraced, in the mix if we are to really affect change and reduce the number of victims in the end.
All that being said, with an explosion of so many new advocates in the past two to three years, we need to find a place within ourselves to remove the egoic tendencies that are causing people to think that what they are doing is the most important. When in reality, it takes us all to be true to our visions and work together for the benefit of the whole — the end of modern day slavery in the United States of America.
Competition is a word that I removed from my vocabulary almost thirty years ago. It is a hinderance to accomplishing the highest goal that can be achieved and that is to create a culture free of exploitation so that we do not have to build safe houses in order to bring restoration to the millions of victims that are abused by yet a different kind of victim as a result of a culture that we all have built over the past several decades. Now we can understand that the hand does indeed say to the foot – I really do need you to make me whole.
At the 2014 Trafficking In America Conference we will be addressing all aspects of this issue: supply, demand, and distribution in relation to America’s culture and what can be done by all of us to change it for the better. We need your voice in order to continue building the whole.
Planning for the 4th National Trafficking In America Conference is well underway. And we are more encouraged than ever that presentations will be as powerful as those the previous few years. Education is now at our finger tips on virtually any topic connected to this issue so obtaining knowledgeable speakers is a mammoth task now that so many have taken human trafficking on as a field to become engaged in. Nevertheless, we are finding some wonderfully educated and passionate people that have dedicated their lives to ending modern day slavery — human trafficking.
My last blog post was in July 2013. After taking a break from expressing, my heart is so full it goes without saying that deciding what to write about is also a mammoth task! However, when I clear my mind of those areas that are not my real passion and focus on what is, I come to the theme of this years event — a theme that conveys where we are going at the 2014 event. Restoring Humanity From Modern Day Slavery. For years we have all been learning about human trafficking and seeking ways to end it. Creating legislation, educating law enforcement and teachers, creating campaigns to bring awareness to the general population and those in our circles of influence, etc. And, while we are seeking ways to heal survivors, there is an entire “other” population out there that is not being addressed — all of us! We need to heal our minds and re-think what our lifestyles should and could look like in order to end this atrocity! Healing is many areas is a must.
Continuing to address TIATF’s vision of creating a culture free of slavery and exploitation, we will build on last year’s conference. Every forum, every panel, and every speaker will indeed move us forward. Education on Demand Reduction will be a big part of this event — along with how complicity goes beyond what we see and accept on the surface. Two new topics that I am very excited about are: “How to Prevent Violent Criminal Behavior in the Next Generation” and “What it Means to be an Interactive Human Family Inclusive of the Least of Those Among Us”.
As I’ve mentioned many times in the past years, we must find the roots, cut them out, and replant good seed if we are going to change the face of American culture and end human trafficking. We can do this — we will do this — and time will prove that if we overcome evil with good and hate with love, then we can change the outcome of any situation. Human trafficking has challenged us to go beyond the norm and rise to a higher level of thinking and living! Traditional methods of activism to cure social ills just aren’t enough. See you in July!
Two hundred plus people from ages 11 to 70+ attended the 3rd National Trafficking In America Conference held last week in Nashville, TN. I’m still getting emails from those that were deeply affected by the 3 day event. The single thread that unites each comment is “life changing” and “overwhelming”. I agree. Even though my husband and I have worked in regard to this issue for 9 years, I was extremely moved by what I heard and what I saw take place during our time together this year. Let me explain as best I can.
While we did have some attend that were just learning about human trafficking for the first time, this was not a “Trafficking 101 Conference”. It was never intended to be that. We have seen a major shift in the past 2 years across America and know that people are ready to address root causes that are fueling modern slavery. That is why we correctly themed it, Creating a Culture Free of Slavery and promoted it as such for those that are ready to go to the next level. And, the next level we went to indeed!
We heard from speakers on various aspects of our culture that are working in their areas of expertise in order to move our culture forward for the better, and while we simply could not address all of the issues, we were able to touch on some of the more important. Poverty (we will be doing more on this in the future in relation to America specific); Fatherless Homes (where the greatest majority of the run-away population comes from); the Internet (the reality about social media’s refusal to do the right thing); Department of Defense, what they are doing to make corrections within the military (Linda Dixon pictured at right); Engaging civil society in the work to make changes; National Educators to Stop Trafficking (a new curriculum site for educators to utilize); a Clinical Curriculum (waiting for the last phase to be completed by personal data from survivors); Travel and Tourism (what they are doing to educate – and what citizens can look for when we travel); a Panel of 5 that were formerly addicted to pornography and how it affected their lives); and more. We also heard from a mom whose daughter has been trafficked; a former pimp who is now working to prevent youth from entering the life; and someone that had inner working with gangs and the cartel that shared about their dealings. In other words — we heard from the proverbial horses mouth in some of the most crucial areas and that is the best education we can get.
As a result of these presentations we now can better understand each of these areas and have some data that can be used to create specific steps in making changes. We have a better understanding of how to formulate dialogue with those that need to make some direct changes such as facebook, backpage.com, and other social media pimps (they really are if they are providing the platform for traffickers to manipulate and traffic victims).
Professional counselors were available for those survivors and others that were vulnerable for triggering incidents (and some did) and were able to offer them assistance. Thank you Sandy Pines Hospital and Dawn Worswick! You were invaluable.
And one of my favorite aspects to our conferences is our Tear Drop Awards. Each year we present several to honor people that have given beyond the norm in various areas. More times than not, service oriented people are selfless and not honored. TIATF feels that in this work especially, that we give honor to whom honor is due. Kim Benson, A Bridge of Hope; Special Agent Greg Christopher, FBI; Laura Lederer, JD (pictured at left), Global Centurion; Davina Durgana, PhD Student; and a fifth (that asked not to be mentioned) were given the 2013 Awards for courage, valor, service, and pioneering and leadership.
At the close of the conference I was asked what my favorite moment / part of the conference was by numerous attendees. It didn’t take long to answer. As a precurser to that answer I want to add that, while this was not a “Faith-based Conference”, Marion and I, as well as our board of directors, have striven to keep the main thing, the main thing. I’m getting to where I despise the phrase “faith-based” because it has created a reputation that is still dividing faiths. We have striven to burst out of boxes, tear down walls, remove the labels from all people so that we can address the issues in a unified front in this country. However, in the process, it appears that if faith is brought up by anyone connected to the conference, that we are getting labeled even worse. I think the best way to express what we are striving to achieve here is that, where many others work to silence all voices to keep the peace, TIATF will not silence anyone’s voice due to faith. We must come to respect all people of faith and allow for the freedom to express who we are — not muffle who we are. Opening Key Note Speaker, Frank Schaeffer, echoed this sentiment admonishing that, “We will fail as a movement if we become labeled as such and do not include all people . . . that human trafficking is an issue that all Americans can agree on and can serve as a uniting tool; that in some strange way can bring us back together as a nation.” I concur.
So that leads to my favorite moment at the conference — it was on Saturday morning. Derek Williams, former pimp, had just completed his presentation. While he was wrapping up I scanned the room and took note that there were people of various faiths in the room — Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Hindu, Protestant, Christian Science, Preachers, Laymen, etc. Then I noted that there were NGOs, survivors, former porn addicts, former johns, law enforcement, former pimp, doctors, educators, youth, seniors, men, women — and so forth. In other words, the room was filled with people from all walks of life who were all there for the same reason: to do their part to help end modern slavery and affect cultural change. I felt to ask everyone to stand and join hands and offer a prayer to God so I called on Kim Benson, a survivor, to share in that spontaneous instance.
For one moment in time the earth stopped spinning for me. On my left I was joining hands with a survivor. On my right I was joining hands with a former pimp who was joining hands with another survivor on his right and over 200 of the above mentioned people lifted their hearts to whoever they want to call God in unison for our hearts and minds to change and for people everywhere to be healed. For one moment no one cared whose hand they were holding, rather that we were all of the same heart. For one moment in time there were no labels, no boxes, no faith differences — and that has been the cry of my heart since we began these conferences.
When people come together under one united purpose without regard to differences, rather that we are all alike, as a part of one body, we will have no other choice but to succeed in creating a culture free of slavery. Then hatred, prejudice, superiority, jealousy, and the like, are removed from our midst, and we can truly see that we are all created from the same cloth. So, for that moment alone, the 2013 conference moved us to the next level in accomplishing our goal.
My closing remarks were simple — I issued a challenge to those that attended charging us to muster the courage to make changes in our own lives first where we can stop buying the over 130 products made from slave labor; stop watching films that promote violence and sex; and then go home to do what is in their hearts to do. The 2013 Conference was the best yet — It was good — it was very good!
Since 2004, when I first learned about human trafficking in America, my heart has been spent on creating a movement to end it. Actually my first thought was, I can go to the church with this and enlist people that understand the overwhelming love of Christ, right? Well that was an eye opener. My family of faith wasn’t ready to accept this challenge and after much knocking and more rejections than open arms, I began to look at the state of our country to see what the problems are and what is fueling this type of hatred – and that is what it is – hatred of the lowest degree.
My entire stance and belief was and still is that we can indeed end human trafficking. Will it be in my lifetime? It can be. Every other social movement for change has had to do it the hard way. We have social media now and in an instant can reach the world. We can reach it with evil and we can reach it with goodness. Light will always put darkness to flight. And good does overcome evil.
I had almost retreated to the other side after reading all of the reasons why we can’t end it, then a ray of light came shining through: “Don’t allow yourself to be convinced of this, I use to think that way until God changed my heart about this. God has given me a real passion to see this come to an end and for the victims of this horrific notrosity. I will be in this to the end.” YES!! Bravo!! I was brought back to my reality (thank you, Rick) The heart – it’s about God changing hearts. That is first and foremost in light of the most frequently stated reason why we can’t end it: We can’t legislate someone’s heart. This is true. But we can (and we must) continue to create legislation that protects the vulnerable and innocent and brings those that harm them to a place of examining their hearts for change.
The next area that stood out to me is that of our cultures mindset of male entitlement. I thought and thought about this one and have heard it also many times over the pasts several years. In the midst of our diverse population, that argument is valid because it still exists in some parts of society, but we have come a very long way in the past 50 years. We can’t use blanket statements anymore to make a stand on all aspects of an issue. There are more men out there that do respect women, but as in anything that makes the news today we only see the worst in humanity. Mass Media has done a great job at keeping the male entitlement mindset alive, but they have also instilled in our female population that they too are entitled – so, I think that the greater argument would be, why don’t we respect ourselves as the human race. Once we begin to go to the root issue, which is the human condition, then we can bring a substantial change in our culture.
When we work in anti-human trafficking we tend to indeed get jaded, as one poster said. I found myself in that place not long ago so had to get alone with my thoughts long enough to examine what is really happening in the anti-human trafficking movement. We are passing judgment onto the entire population of 313 million people in America, as opposed to the few million that we have discovered are really doing all the damage. Statistics floating around in the airways are enormous and paint a grueling picture. 50% of men in churches are struggling with pornography addiction. That is grueling in dead. And, that is what has been getting the attention for this issue. All movements paint the picture with stats at first in order to see the scope of a problem. And, while it is true that if one person is trafficked that is too many. However, I am convinced in light of all the statistics, all of the heart wrenching stories, and all of the disinterested humans that are turning a blind eye to social evils, we CAN put an end to modern slavery. We have gotten jaded. We need to heal ourselves and then continue on.
One argument was posed with the traditional sin theory that as long as people are on the earth sin will remain and we will never end it. So, guess that Christians forgot that God changed them in order for them to say they are Christians. He came to deliver us from sin, and that means no more sin. Jesus said in John 3:16 King James version (that is filled with over 25,000 errors since being passed down from the original scrolls), “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” The original phrase was, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that ALL will be saved,” that means – delivered from sin and set free from it. God is responsible for opening the hearts of mankind and waking us out of sleep and is quite capable. And it was Jesus that came to show us the Father. Our own Christian faith has become so much like the Pharisees of old that there is not much distinction these days and real faith is becoming non-existent. I venture to say that people of faith have indeed gotten jaded and lost sight of the heart of God. Did he come for only a few? No, he came for the sick — all the sick.
All of the research that has been done is invaluable, but we can’t get lost in the overwhelming atrocities of mankind to keep us from the reality, that all of humanity was created in the image and likeness of God and we must go about waking up those that are asleep to this truth.
It really is all about changing the mindset. If we do not believe we can end human trafficking we won’t. If we believe we can, we will do what is necessary to end it. I believe we can end modern slavery because I believe in the power and love of God that wants it so.
It is a terrible thing that victims of human trafficking have experienced – both sex and labor trafficking. I have had several survivors in the past couple of months question our conference in that they don’t see survivors as speakers. It is imperative that we understand the entirety of human trafficking. It is a multi-layered industry – one that has produced a product known as a “survivor”. But what lies beneath and is producing this product is not being addressed in a broad manner. The industry known as human trafficking is the result of a modern day culture that has been slowly created in America over the past 60 years. And, it may take that long to bring it down baring intervention from on high.
When I learned about human trafficking in 2004, I knew that we had to address root causes. Those that have read my blogs before know I am passionate about this. So, we set out to begin with education and coordinated our first conference in 2011. We had 4 survivors speak at that event and as a result women in the audience came to me afterwards and said, “I just learned what happened to me – I am a victim of human trafficking.” At out 2012 conference, we had 3 survivors speak and the same happened. Education is paramount in bringing healing to lives of horrendous abuse in the past several decades, some as far back as 50 years. So human trafficking is not a new phenomenon. What we are experiencing is an issue that has been occurring for decades and has in the past few years been brought to light like a mushroom cloud. I believe that as quickly as it showed its face on the horizon, it will flee in the same manner due to the work that thousands upon thousands are now doing across the world.
TIATFs role in ending human trafficking is to work to create cultural change so there are no more victims. The majority of the organizations I know are all about survivors and that is wonderful! I would much rather wrap my arms around a wounded soul and help them heal than to address issues that are fueling their pain. Victim services and restoration needs to rise yet more. It is imperative, however, there is hardly anyone working in prevention and that is the mandate we have been given in our hearts. TIATF is working on Demand Reduction and Prevention. Think about it — we can rescue all day long, but it will never stop if we don’t get to the root. That is why this year’s conference is addressing root causes as to why human trafficking is even taken place; and what is driving it in America.
I have discovered in my 9 years working on this issue that people have become desensitized to crime and violence, therefore wanting and needing more and more graphic images to move and stimulate them. Hollywood has done a good job in numbing us down. The same thing is happening in the work to end human trafficking. The Press wants the survivors, audiences want the survivors, NGO’s are creating graphic video’s. They are not causing us to CHANGE what is happening in our culture to prevent yet more victims of human trafficking. More men and women as well as youth and children are becoming addicted to pornography thus affecting how we view one another as human beings. Survivor exploitation is happening right in front of us and they are being exploited all over again because our culture demands to SEE and HEAR the dirt and violence.
The topics and speakers we have presenting at the 2013 Conference are in line with our theme of Creating a Culture Free of Slavery which is what we all want, right? We have a panel of “pornography survivors” sharing how their addictions affected their lives and their families. We have a former Pimp and one of his last girls coming to share their stories and help the attendees understand that side of the equation. I am still working to get a “John or two” to come and share with us. We have a mother of a survivor coming to share how her daughter and their family overcame. We have presenters coming to launch curriculum for educators and curriculum for the medical profession for survivor healing. And, we are having a closed meeting on Sunday morning for NGO’s and survivors that are there.
The 2013 conference was planned with victims / survivors / over-comers in mind as the driving force and basis for all of the topics. I do hope that you will come and see for yourself just how survivor driven we are. TIATF does intend to stay on track with our vision to create a culture free of slavery and to end commercial sexual exploitation of people — all people.