ORGANIZATIONS FIGHTING SEX TRAFFICKING
The Polaris Project
The Polaris Project is a non-governmental organization that offers a multidimensional approach to combatting human trafficking. Some of the services they provide are social services, raising awareness through advocacy, training, and campaigns. There is also a national hotline, proactive international programs, as well as reaching communities through online resources and media. The Polaris Project was started in 2002 by two students and has burgeoned into one of the largest anti-trafficking coalitions in the world. About half of their funds are from organizations and the other half come from corporations, private contributions, and government grants.
The only part of the mission that surprises me is how The Polaris Project implements so many different ways of aggressively fighting this issue. It is very impressive and inspiring, and I do not think that much more could be done to improve their response. I would be honored to work for this organization because of the way the address the issue through education and communication. If were offered to me I would accept immediately.
The FBI Innocence Lost Task Force
Seven years ago, the FBI joined with the Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and created thirty-nine task forces in the U.S. to address the issue of minor sex trafficking. The FBI along with the U.S. Attorney’s office, as well as federal and state law enforcement agencies actively rescue the victims and prosecute the offenders. “To date, these groups have worked successfully to rescue more than 1,200 children. Investigations have successfully led to the conviction of over 600 pimps, madams, and their associates who exploit children through prostitution. These convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including multiple 25-year-to-life sentences and the seizure of real property, vehicles, and monetary assets” (FBI.gov, 1).
What surprises me most about the mission are the results. The number of children they have rescued and the amount of perpetrators that have been convicted to the fullest extent of the law is amazing. I have a great amount of respect for their efficiency and nothing could be done to improve their response. As with the Polaris Project, I would love to work for The FBI Innocence Lost Task Force because of their stellar reputation to get results.
Grace Haven House
“To find and to free” is the mission at Grace Haven House. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, they attempt to find victims of sex trafficking under the age of eighteen, bring them back to Grace Haven House shelter and start them on the road to rehabilitation by offering counseling services and a safe place to stay. They also educate professionals in the health industry, educational systems, and social services, as well as the victims of sex trafficking.
Nothing about the mission surprised me, and I feel that their response to the issue is crucial in the road to recovery for the victims by counseling and educating them. I would work for this organization because I am intending on completing my degree in psychology to help victims of trauma and abuse, and would love to work for such an ethical coalition.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force Initiative
“To combat human trafficking, BJA’s efforts have been two-pronged: 1) to develop training for law enforcement and communities to identify trafficking in persons and rescue victims by working with federal law enforcement and victims service providers; and 2) to support and fund task forces (in coordination with OVC and HHS) based on a sound strategy of collaboration among state and local enforcement, trafficking victim services providers, federal law enforcement, and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices” (usdoj.gov). The Bureau of Justice Assistance also directly states that the organization views human trafficking as modern day slavery and offers a detailed, comprehensive explanation of the methods traffickers use in order to gain their profits. Their strategy guide is offered on their website as well as a list of other coalitions that may be contacted by victims of human trafficking, professionals that wish to be of assistance, and anyone else who wants to know more about the issue.
Their work in trafficking is aided by the legal system as well as by other organizations that work in tandem with the B.J.A. to combat human trafficking. Their mission is similar to the F.B.I. Innocence Lost Task Force’s except that a much more psychologically and socially in-depth explanation is available on the website, as well as more general information. I would work for this organization but only as a rehabilitative counselor if the position were offered.
Not For Sale
Not For Sale is a coalition that “equips and mobilizes Smart Activists to deploy innovative solutions to re-abolish slavery in their own backyards and across the globe” (notforsalecampaign.org). President of the organization, David Batstone realized the enormity of human trafficking when he went to eat at an Indian restaurant and heard that one of the employees died in her apartment due to a poor ventilation system. The truth was that the female employee was actually a trafficking victim being held against her will by human traffickers in an apartment building that was obviously not fit for people to live in. Batstone then went on to discover how prevalent human trafficking is in almost every country in the world and decided he had to do something about it. Batstone uses his own skills as a journalist to raise awareness by having written five books on the subject, and receiving two nationwide awards in journalism. Not For Sale is a proactive coalition that seeks to end modern day slavery through education beginning in our own communities, local businesses, and on college campuses.
I think that their work on trafficking is highly efficient. Not For Sale first seeks to make people aware of the issue and then ask them what they could do as individuals to help the cause. The mission calls for personal responsibility and realistic action. More than any of the other coalitions, I would choose to work for Not For Sale. I greatly respect and admire the approach to fight this issue with the philosophy that if everyone does even one thing to help, the world, as a whole, will be affected.
Interview with Mary from Rise (formerly Second Chance)
My interview was conducted via e-mail with Mary Schmidbauer from Second Chance, here in Toledo. It took a few weeks to obtain the interview, which showed me just how busy, and how much effort and time advocates put into this issue of human trafficking advocacy. After reading Mary’s responses to the questions, I was deeply moved, inspired, and humbled. Advocates of human trafficking are real-life heroes dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of victims who have been subjected to the worst that life has to offer. As Mary stated, “I am interested in working for things…not against them.” Here are the rest of her responses.
- When, why, and how did you get involved in the fight against human trafficking?
I have worked as a community organizer since 1991, in and throughout Toledo and Northern Ohio. I did not seek out the fight against human trafficking, I have worked for the empowerment of people all of my adult life. I have worked with/for/or on behalf of Second Chance since it was founded as a pilot project at the friendly center, by Dr. Celia Williamson, in 1993.
Working beside people in the north Toledo area introduced me to the complexity of issues that face people, and that contribute to the vulnerabilities that create the possibility of victimization through a variety of forms of injustice… be it human trafficking, redlining, predatory lending, …. etc.
What is critical to recognize is that Human Trafficking is a symptom of a host of problems we as a community need to address. This is a SYSTEMS failure issue…. If our global community were a computer, this would be a control/alt/Delete moment.
Also, just a quirky note—I am interested in working for things… not against them. If I define my advocacy as working against Human Trafficking (as an example)— there must be human trafficking for me to advocate against.
Therefore, I work for the empowerment of people, I work for a world that does not tolerate exploitation, in any form, I work for a world that is a wonderful place to live in….
- Discuss what your agency does.
Second Chance was founded by Dr. Williamson as a project that worked with women who were being worked in North Toledo to improve their safety, reduce their risk and evaluate what they wanted, and develop a plan to get what they wanted out of life.
Today, the organization has broadened to serve not just women of the Northend, but people, (women and youth) who have been trafficked, recruited, exposed, exploited, etc. and also to work with youth in Toledo who are struggling with homelessness, street living and runaway/risk behaviors that may make them vulnerable to exploitation or victimization.
- What work have you done and currently do to address human trafficking?
Direct services with victims, survivors, and leaders, coalition building, public awareness/education events, prevention efforts, policy and legislation work to address the issue from a victim centered perspective, fundraising, grant writing, mentoring,
- Where do you see the country or state making improvements in the area of human trafficking?
I think the level of awareness is a major success. it is important that people be educated about just how deeply exploitation and trafficking of others effects our lives.
Policy and legislative efforts have improved the opportunities for victims to receive services and treatment.
- Where do you see continued barriers?
As I said initially, this is a SYSTEMS FAILURE ISSUE. you can’t be an “abolitionist,” but not care about child welfare reform, or wealth distribution, welfare reform, social security, national defense, immigration, homeland security… or … health care. I don’t care what a person’s position on these issues are, I just think we all need to take our seat at the table and dig in …to meaningful conversation about solving our problems.
Our media and culture continues to make room for exploitation, to justify it in … some cases (college athletics, perhaps?); deny the extent of victimization, especially for young boys and men, (Penn state, Syracuse), and …. categorically stigmatize/blame those who are victimized.
- If you were to give advice on what a beginning advocate could do to appropriately address trafficking, what would you advise?
I don’t know that there is an “appropriate” way to address trafficking.
I do know people need to understand this is a symptom of a broader, larger issue.
DO NOT start your own…. __________(home, coalition, agency, group, shelter, etc.)
RESEARCH what’s going on in your community and HELP existing efforts.
Get involved to change the community, to change the policy, to create the services.
SAVE YOURSELF FIRST. Stop all the ways you participate in your own exploitation and/or contribute to the exploitation of others….
Do Not get involved to “rescue” anyone, “save” anyone…. the simple truth is… You _CAN’T_, and you’ll only be disappointed.
Adult Domestic Sex Trafficking
With numbers that range from 14, 500 to 17,500 victims every year, there is no doubt that slavery still exists in the United States. Human trafficking stands as the second largest crime in the world and its profits bring in millions of dollars annually, so the fact that human trafficking is kept relatively out of the public consciousness is a true enigma. More and more organizations in the United States are aimed at raising awareness about adult domestic sex trafficking, and finding ways to combat this issue are cropping up in the media, as well as accessible resources on the internet.
There was a noticeable rise in the amount of women trafficked into the country in the 1990’s, so the United States government began to formally address human trafficking in 1994, “when the issue began to be covered in the Department’s Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Originally, coverage focused on trafficking of women and girls for sexual purposes” (humantrafficking.org). Since then the subject of adult domestic sex trafficking has gained momentum, especially when the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 was brought to the Senate and enacted by former President George Bush. The TVPA of 2000 makes it easier for victims of trafficking to receive assistance and benefits from the government, as well as handing down harsher punishments for the traffickers. Multidimensional programs designed to educate the public have also been implemented by the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking. “These programs include disseminating information on the dangers of trafficking, strengthening the capacity of non-governmental organizations to protect those groups from abuse and violence, and outreach and economic opportunity programs for those most at risk of being trafficked” (Humantrafficking.org). The TVPA of 2000 has been revised in 2003, 2005, 2008, and came up for revision in 2011 making the legal consequences for the perpetrators more severe while increasing the protective and rehabilitative services for victims. Even international victims of trafficking found in the United States receive the same benefits as refugees. The United States is both a leader and a catalyst that has helped other countries around the world fight the issue of human trafficking in their own backyards.
Some of the ways that federal and state legislation protects victims are by establishing agencies within the government to address specific issues. Some of the agencies are as follows:
The Department of Health and Human Services/ Office of Refugee Resettlement
Some of the services provided are “certifying and determining eligible foreign national victims of human trafficking upon eligibility. Once certified/determined eligible, victims of trafficking are eligible to receive federal benefits and services to the same extent as a refugee” (Usccb.org). Other responsibilities the agency covers is by providing case management services for victims, awarding grants that fund coalitions and similar anti-human trafficking groups, raising awareness in communities through training law enforcement and mental health professionals, as well as encouraging at-risk neighborhoods to identify victims and/or traffickers.
The Department of Justice
This sector of the government aims to help foreign national through the Office of Victims of Crime by implementing victim’s services. Pursuit and prosecution of traffickers under state and federal laws are undertaken by the Civil Rights Division. The department also teams up with “FBI, the Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and local law enforcement agencies” (Usccb.org). Every year the Office of Legal Policy provides Congress with a list of all of the efforts undertaken by the U.S. government to aide in the eradication of human trafficking.
“In addition to federal efforts to combat trafficking, 33 states have passed legislation criminalizing human trafficking and directing law enforcement agencies to adopt training programs to enhance identification and interdiction efforts” (humantrafficking.neu.edu).
With every reauthorization of the Trafficking Victim Protection Act of 2000 come harsher punishments and more accountability reserved for adult domestic sex traffickers. Two years ago, the average incarceration time was almost nine years, yet there are some cases where the perpetrator receives that amount of time per victim. In September 2010, one trafficker was handed down seventeen years in prison for his role in minor sex trafficking. While there are guidelines in the TVPA that can be drawn upon, many states have created their own laws against human trafficking.
Appropriate response and treatment for victims of adult domestic sex trafficking is in-depth, comprehensive Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder therapy with mental health professionals who are trained to deal with trauma victims. There are often several levels of trauma that the victim is exposed to on a daily basis and it is not uncommon for them to experience a sense of distrust, even toward people who are attempting to rescue them. Once a sense of safety is established, psychological counseling services can be given. “Among them may be grounding techniques to help manage dissociative symptoms; desensitization therapies to help make painful images more tolerable; and certain behavioral therapies which teach skills for coping with post-trauma effects (Harris & Fallot, 2001). These therapies can be delivered individually or in groups, and are often augmented by other complimentary approaches, including culturally relevant material” (http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/07/HumanTrafficking/Treating/ib.pdf). De-programming techniques related to Stockholm Syndrome may also be useful in the rehabilitative process. Resources such as a place to stay, gynecological services, obtaining proper legal documentation, as well as life skills and job training could also be provided in order to make the transition back into a normal life easier.
Appropriate consequences for traffickers and for the people who support the traffickers should be given to the fullest, harshest, and strictest extent of the American legal system. They are responsible for the destruction of people’s lives, not by literally killing them, but by making it almost impossible for them to live a normal life. The damage done to the victims of human trafficking is one step down from death and so the punishments of the perpetrators should be handed down accordingly.
Consequences for the victims are the lives they have to attempt to salvage after what has been done to them. There should be no legal punishments for the victims of adult domestic sex trafficking, or any other form of human trafficking regardless what local, state, federal, or international laws were broken. Not only should they not be punished, but also they should be offered all of the services and resources that are available to help aide in the re-construction of their lives. They are not only victims, but also survivors of one of the worst crimes that can be committed against human nature. To survive those circumstances requires acts of heroism, and so they should be treated accordingly.
Farr, Kathryn. (2005) Sex Trafficking: The Global Market in Women and Children. New
York. Worth Publishers.
Supply, Demand and Distribution
The notion of demand is one aspect of a three part interaction in human trafficking and prostitution. There is supply which references the prostitutes or victims of trafficking who the sex is being bought from; there is demand which represents the purchasers or “johns” who seek sexual services; the third element is distribution which is the final transaction and often is facilitated by human traffickers or pimps. Distribution in the commercial industry comes in different forms such as escort services, strip clubs, street prostitution, massage parlors, storefronts, and web based transactions. There is a disproportionate level of legal accountability between the prostitutes, johns, and traffickers; often times it is the woman who is arrested while the male customer is not. Law enforcement claims many excuses for this, mostly having to do with not enough time, money, and/or manpower while vehemently denying blatant sexism and failing miserably to recognize an elementary marketing rule: in order to sell something, one must have customers to sell it to. It is the need that creates the product or service, not the other way around. Instead, the blame is placed on the woman who may or may not be willfully prostituting herself, making it impossible to initially determine if she is intentionally committing a crime, and yet, it is the prostitute who is arrested most of the time. Then there is the customer, who as Dr. Williamson stated in the lecture, is always committing a crime, yet rarely ever arrested.
Demand is addressed in different ways. The direct approach from a distribution standpoint is to provide the customers with locations that the illicit transaction can take place. Again, these are mainly in brothels, strip clubs, or other places where the act can occur out of the sight of others. How demand is addressed from a law enforcement perspective is that the vast majority of arrests and prosecutions are not of the johns. The legal system’s punishment of the demand aspect of buying sex is far less severe than that of the supply and distribution end of it. There have been recent revisions in sex trafficking laws, however that charge the buyers of a trafficking victim with being an actual human trafficker. Also, if a buyer claims to not have known the victim is under the age of eighteen, he can still be charged with soliciting a minor, whereas under the previous laws, he could avoid this.
One of the current legal system approaches to prostitution is to simply arrest the woman, and have her face a judge to hand down any variety of punishments. Another tactic is to stage sting operations where a male officer poses as a customer and pretends to solicit a prostitute. The other side of the sting operation is that a female officer poses as a prostitute, and waits for a john to approach her while other officers wait hidden in the background, ready to pounce on the john and arrest him. A more structured way the legal system deals with prostitution is how each offense is addressed and verifies the punishment given. For example, a first time offender is offered the opportunity to enter “John School”, and for a fee of two hundred fifty dollars, he can have his charge dismissed and nothing will show up on his record if he completes the class. There does not seem to be the same opportunities for first time offenders who are prostitutes (that I know or have heard of) to wipe the slate clean for their rap sheets.
For these reasons, the legal system’s approach to prostitution seems illogically biased and highly sexist. The history and the evidence prove this. Some miniscule strides have been made such as the recent law revisions on human trafficking, as well as some progressive programs that give prostitutes necessary resources to leave the profession such as the GIFT program based out of Minneapolis. Yet, there is not nearly enough done to address demand. There should be more legal accountability such as arrests, incarceration, and maybe even some sort of a public humiliation element such as having a john’s name of picture appear in a newspaper or on television. It may serve as a deterrent for a lot more men if they knew for sure that their loved ones would find out and might also be subjected to the humiliation. Not to say that innocent people should suffer for one person’s crime, but it could play a part in the prevention aspect of this issue. Overall, not enough is being done to address demand and more serious and drastic tactics must be implemented in order to make lasting changes.
Early prevention starts with education. It should start at the high school level with some of the facts of prostitution and sexually transmitted diseases being included in sex education or health classes. Speakers such as former prostitutes as well as law enforcement officials should visit schools and inform adolescents of this issue. Raising awareness in the community such as with literature, town hall meetings, organized races, or through the media are other ways to aid in early prevention. With so many resources providing prostitution services that are available on the internet, law enforcement officers can stage “sting” operations and set up the perpetrators in order to prevent a transaction from occurring. The internet, just as with cell phones and smart phones, leaves a “paper” trail. It leaves a trace, in other words, evidence that can be confiscated once an arrest takes place and a warrant is served so that the entire operation can be shut down so as to prevent future crimes of this nature. Again, to reiterate the humiliation end of it, there should be more widely known methods of public humiliation as a way to prevent potential customers of prostitution from following through on the transaction. This may be why so many men enter John School; it wipes the slate clean, no one finds out, it stays off their record, and they can essentially go on with their lives and pretend that it never happened. If there were laws in place (I would call it the “Name, Blame, and Shame Law”) that guaranteed a man would be exposed for this crime; his family, friends, employer, and complete strangers would know, it seems that there would be far less men who would partake in this. In any matter, the legal system would be wise to invest in prevention programs as well as addressing demand in prostitution and human trafficking. With so much time and money spent on the supply end of it, a newer, more progressive approach should be considered because it is obvious that by not holding the demand aspect accountable, prostitution and human trafficking will continue to plague our communities.
Shively, Michael. Jalbert, Sarah Kuck. Kling, Ryan, et al. Final Report on the
Evaluation of the First Offender Prostitution Program. Cambridge. Abt
Associates, Inc. 2005.
Williamson, C. (2011, October). The Invisible Component. Lecture conducted From Toledo, Ohio.
SEX TRAFFICKING IS NOT PROSITUTION: ABSENCE OF CHOICE AND WHAT INFLUENCES SUPPOSED CHOICE.
Many times, it is assumed that choice is, in and among itself, a single entity that burgeons from the dictum of free will. It is the notion that regardless of outside influences, we as individuals are left with the freedom and responsibility of our choices, which means we either reap the rewards, or suffer the consequences. There are choices that others make that seem highly rational, a kind of “no-brainer” decision such as wanting to choose a good school for their child to attend. Regardless of the external factors, it is usually inherent that parents want good things for their children, especially future successes. It is, on a biological or evolutionary level, a need to guarantee survival. Yet, on the topic of survival, there are other people in other life circumstances who have to make far more difficult choices about their survival, and the survival of their children.
There are innumerable cases of people who are stalked, abducted, and forced into prostitution. Choice does not exist in these situations. There are others who seemingly enter it by their own will. At first glance, all fingers point accountability to the chooser. Since choice originates from the mind, a closer inspection should be conducted into what made the mind come to that kind of decision. To put oneself in a situation where one is prostituted, exposed to brutal violence, to crime, to drugs, and to despiritualization goes against the inherent nature of most people; and it is most people who would scoff, or pronounce judgment, or cast blame upon a woman who came to that perplexing decision. While it is probably more popular and comforting to judge a person’s character based on the choices they make in their life, I believe it is more reasonable and compassionate to look beyond the actual choice at the motive for that choice. From what I have learned about prostitution, women choose it is because they feel that they are out of options, have nowhere else to go, no way else to make money, they are drug addicts and are trying to fund their habits. They have been sexually, emotionally, and physically abused as children, and/or they were raised in a home where family members were also prostitutes and so they do not know any other way to survive. Again, the issue of survival comes up. Most people are compelled to survive in their environments. When a woman who supposedly chooses to participate in sex trafficking looks her surroundings searching for cues, hints, tools, explanations or routes, and finds only pain and abuse, it becomes evident that our environment molds us before we can mold it.
It is also necessary to understand that while some victims are kidnapped and forced against their will into this crime, the word “choice” in this matter must not be held to the strictest and purest definition of the word. We must not look at, or judge by the actual choice itself, but rather, must consider all of the emotional, social, economic, psychological, environmental, behavioral, and spiritual factors that influenced that choice.
STATISTICS ON SEX TRAFFICKING
- How many human trafficking victims exist worldwide? There are approximately 12.3 million human trafficking victims worldwide.
- How many victims are estimated to be in the United States? There are between 14,500 and 17,500 victims in the United States.
- What does it mean to be “stateless”? Being “stateless” means that a person is not a citizen of any country.
- What is the difference between smuggling and trafficking? In trafficking, it doesn’t matter if victims agree, because even if they do, it means nothing to the traffickers. Physical movement of the victims is not mandatory. Trafficking is crimes against the person. The purpose of trafficking is to exploit and gain profits from victims. Smuggling is given by consent. There is always movement and breach of national borders. Smuggling is crimes against the state.
- What are the differences between Tier I, II. And III? Tier I include countries who abide by the minimum requirements of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Tier II are countries who are trying to follow the TVPA guidelines, but are not in full compliance with them. Tier II are the countries who do not conform to the TVPA and are making no efforts to follow those standards.
- Can customers be charged as human traffickers? Customers can be charged as human traffickers if their actions also fall under the technical definition of trafficking. If they are customers only they will be considered a “sexual offender or predator” and be charged accordingly.
- What are the terms we should use to describe juveniles involved in prostitution? The terms we should use to describe juveniles involved in prostitution are “commercial sexual exploitation” and “child sex trafficking.”
- What does “recruitment” and “destination” mean? Recruitment countries are poor, unstable politically, financially, and socially. Corruption runs high. Destination countries include the United States, Canada and Japan and are in need of slaves. These countries have enough money to hide their crimes.
My reaction to all of the information I have learned so far about human trafficking is a combination of anger, shock, and a drive to do something about this crime.
My anger is geared toward those in authority who allow this to happen, just as much as the traffickers themselves. From the lecture notes, I came to see that everyone except the victim benefits. The victim is not seen as a human being but as simply a way to make money. This, in my opinion, is the worst that human nature has to offer, and even that does not surmise the full extent of my hatred and anger of human traffickers and the enablers who look the other way.
These crimes against humanity rip the soul of a person in a way that makes it almost impossible for someone to recover. Even if there is rehabilitation, can the victim of human trafficking ever really go back to who they were? Once they escape, can they face themselves even though they aren’t to blame? Will they always feel ruined, or have to live in fear, or live with depression and/or anxiety the rest of their lives? No one should have to answer these kinds of questions about their existence. I see these questions as the result of the damage we as human beings cause one another, damage that is done by choice, by free will, not as a horrible accident, but willingly, knowingly, consciously executed like the charge of murder one, all for the sake of profit.