A Phone App is Fighting for Freedom in the Hotel Industry

How to Use TraffickCam in Your Abolitionist Efforts

In the day and age where selfies are abundant and most of us have smartphones on our person at any given time, what would you say to photographs that fight against human trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors?

TraffickCam has created an app that allows users to submit photos of their hotel rooms to a database. This database is accessible to officials investigating crimes such as sexual exploitation of minors and sex trafficking.

Hotels and motels are optimal locations for illegal exchanges due to access and anonymity. When someone decides to pay for sex, particularly when someone decides to pay to abuse a child, they want to keep the transaction under wraps. For example, people can pay with cash and reserve a room with a false, untraceable name. A trafficker or abuser can pose as a child’s father, uncle, or brother–speaking for the victim if questioned. In addition, traffickers often post advertisements online that include the hotel rooms in the background. Child abuse images often are made in hotels.

It’s an uncomfortable topic, but it’s one that needs to be talked about in order for solutions to develop. Next time you are in a hotel, follow these three steps: Observe, Act, Stop Human Trafficking.

  1. Observe (What to Look For):

Red Flags of Human Trafficking include: paying with cash, several men checking into the hotel with one child (or woman), denial of cleaning services for several days, or several men coming and going from one room.

In 2014, Time Magazine published an article How to Spot a Sex Trafficking Victim at a Hotel.

http://time.com/3525640/sex-trafficking-victim-prostitution-hotel/

It is a great resource for both hotel employees and hotel guests.

  1. Act (What to Do):

If you see something suspicious, contact hotel management. Do not try to confront the victim or the traffickers yourself, as this could cause them to flee or result in injury to the person you are trying to help (or injury to yourself).

  1. Stop Human Trafficking (Or Snap A Pic)

Even if you see no signs of trafficking, you can join the fight!

http://traffickcam.org/download

TraffickCam is compatible for both Apple and Android devices! Click the link above to get started!

Human trafficking is something that we can end, if we consciously put effort toward freedom for all.

 

For More information on the TraffickCam App and Trafficking:

https://allianceforworkers.org/news/traffickcam-app-fights-human-trafficking-crowdsourced-photos-hotel-rooms/

http://www.bustle.com/articles/169267-the-traffickcam-app-helps-you-stop-sex-trafficking-from-your-hotel-room

http://polarisproject.org/resources/human-trafficking-and-hotel-industry

 

Cases in Greenville, NC:

http://www.reflector.com/News/2014/12/02/Teen-safe-three-in-jail.html

http://www.witn.com/home/headlines/Ayden-man-charged-with-human-trafficking-297756341.html

 

To Report a Tip or Request Services: Call 1-888-373-7888

Visit https://traffickingresourcecenter.org/ to learn more.

 

Writing for Freedom,

 

Kari Carr

“Great acts are made of small deeds.” –Lao Tzu

Immigration and Trafficking: Looking Beyond the Controversy

Immigration is a popular topic and often times is controversial. There is much diversity in motivations and modes of immigration and the outcomes that immigrants experience.

People who migrant to the US or other countries in search of work are often times looking for a better life. They are trying to escape deplorable conditions including death, sex trafficking, other forms of violence, and poverty. Often times the stories they hear, especially from smugglers or from potential employers, differ tremendously from the harsh realities that await them on the other side of the border.

People trying to come to the United States often try to get work visas. Unfortunately, these are limited, and are often very hard to get. So, many people decide to cross the border illegally, usually with the help of a “coyote” or smuggler.

 

Smuggling vs. Trafficking

They pay or promise to pay the smuggler to get them across the border; since they consented, this is not human trafficking. However, individuals who are smuggled are at an increased likelihood of being trafficked for a variety of reasons.

The smugglers often demand more money when they reach the border and the smuggled individuals now owe a debt.

“Farm workers from third-world countries pay several thousand dollars to a recruiter in a foreign country, who helps them secure legal farm work visas to work in the United States. The workers are promised plentiful work for several years in the U.S. When they arrive, their passports are confiscated and they are kept in substandard housing under close supervision. Salary, hours, and conditions are not as they had been promised. Workers are afraid to leave the employer due to threats of arrest, lack of access to their passports, enforced isolation, lack of communication with outsiders, and the need to pay off the large debts they accrued in paying high recruiting fees.”

The North Carolina Task Force Manual

The smugglers (now traffickers) threaten to harm a family member. The traffickers are often well-known to the communities in which people pay to be transported. That is how they gain so much trust.

In addition, the threat of deportation allows the traffickers to maintain control.

Labor Trafficking

“Victims of labor trafficking are not a homogenous group of people—they are represented by all ages and both sexes. Some may enter the country undocumented, while others enter the country legally on work visas for lawful jobs in industries such as domestic services, entertainment, technology, or agricultural work. Scores of unsuspecting victims are forced to work in illegal industries such as the drug and arms trade or panhandling.”

The North Carolina Task Force Manual. A copy of the manual can be accessed here: http://humantrafficking.unc.edu/files/2011/03/NCHumanTraffickingTaskForceManual.pdf

Who is at fault?

There are businesses knowingly hiring people who are in the country illegally. These immigrants are paid low wages or no wages, subject to poor working conditions, subject to poor housing conditions, and often times are not free to leave. The anger and the passion to make changes should be directed at the business owners who willfully “employ” [exploit] immigrant workers. If not directly so, it is a branch on the tree that is labor trafficking. These actions allow businesses to make higher profits than businesses that pay workers fair wages and pay the required taxes.

Unfortunately, the general public directs their anger at the immigrants, not the exploiters.

Those of us desiring justice should direct our anger at those businesses and individuals choosing to exploit vulnerable individuals, not those who are seeking a better life for their families.

 

Migrant Workers and Trafficking

“Migrant farm workers typically move from state to state to plant and harvest crops, roughly following one of three crop “streams” that originate at the southern border of the United States…Trafficking among migrant farm workers is, at times, difficult to detect because migrant farm work in and of itself is not trafficking. Investigators need to look for indicators such as the inability of workers to come and go freely; employers keeping possession of important documents such as passports, visas, and other identification documents; debt owed by workers to crew leaders or farmers; and threats made against victims and their families. Also, victims are often held in a condition of debt bondage where they are forced to work off their smuggling fees and pay their trafficker significant amounts of money. Many farm workers live in housing owned or controlled by the employer, which can lead to a high degree of control over the workers’ movements and activities by the employer. Similar situations may occur in the construction, restaurant, factory, and other low wage industries.”

–The North Carolina Task Force Manual

 

What Can We Do?

Trafficking education could help prevent more cases and allow the public to know what signs to look for in their communities. Posting of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (http://traffickingresourcecenter.org/) in more public places could allow victims of labor trafficking to call for help. In addition, we can look for red flags and use the hotline to report tips that may lead to a case of human trafficking. Demanding that businesses be held accountable when they break the law will decrease the demand for workers that are at a higher risk of being exploited. Open discussions, without name calling, are necessary to begin seeing progress that will benefit humanity as a whole. It has been said frequently on this blog, but it will take a conscious effort from all of us to see a cultural shift that will result in the eventual, true eradication of human trafficking. Conscious consumerism will increase the demand for fairly priced goods and decrease the demands for slave labor. See previous post: https://encstophumantrafficking.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/umbrella-market-and-fair-trade/

Walk Free currently is leading some campaigns to help fight slavery.

Just a few with which you can get involved include:

Call on the Government of Your Country to Ratify C189 to Help End Domestic Slavery: https://www.walkfree.org/c189/

Pledge to Keep Your Home Slavery Free: https://www.walkfree.org/pledge-make-home-slavery-free/

Asking questions and being slow to anger are both important components of educating ourselves, and education is the first step in overcoming the horrible travesty that is human trafficking.

Learn More:

Solidarity Center: http://www.solidaritycenter.org/what-we-do/migration-and-human-trafficking/

Polaris Project: http://polarisproject.org/labor-trafficking

For more information on smuggling and trafficking, see Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective by Louise Shelley. A copy of this wonderful resource is available on Amazon.

Hotline Number to Request Help or Report a Tip: 1-888-373-7888

 

Writing for Freedom,

Kari Carr

“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” –Edward Everett

 

“He who decides a case without hearing the other side, though he decide justly, cannot be considered just.” –Seneca

Sticks and Stones . . . Can words really hurt?

“Man arrested for possessing sexually exploitative images of children–images of child abuse.”

“Man arrested for child porn.”

Based on word definitions, these two sentences say the same thing. However, they convey two different messages and invoke different reactions. “Kiddie porn” is a term we hear often. In addition, the word “porn” is often paired with other words such as “earth porn,” “poems porn,” “food porn,” to convey images that are attractive and beautiful. Using this word so often and as a synonym for “aesthetically pleasing,” we have inadvertently become desensitized to its meaning. We forget that “child porn” is images of abuse.

Word choice matters. Changing the way we talk about things changes our approach because it affects how we perceive information.

To put this in perspective, when an article reports a case involving someone with hundreds of “Images of child porn in their possession,” that means the person in question A) had pictures and/or video of hundreds of children being sexually abused and exploited or B) had pictures and/or video of one child being sexually abused hundreds of times.

The phrase “child porn” doesn’t accurately convey the severity of the crime. The new and more accurate term is “child sexual abuse images.” Please use the correct phrase when referring to this horrific crime.

Prostituted Children/Adults

“Teen Sex Workers Found during Super Bowl”

“Prostituted Children Rescued during Super Bowl”

“Child Sex Trafficking Victims Rescued during Super Bowl”

Which of these headlines is accurate?

The first is absolutely wrong. The second is correct, but the third is most accurate.

Abusers don’t buy sex with a child…they pay to abuse and sexually exploit a child. They pay to traffic the child.

There are abused children, there are prostituted children, and there are trafficked children, but there are NOT child prostitutes or teen sex workers. Children cannot legally consent to sex. Therefore, minors cannot consent to selling their bodies for sex. Using the inaccurate coinage, “child prostitute,” implies consent, which is absent in the case of minors–always.

 

Below is the legal definition of sex trafficking. Anyone under the age of 18 working in the commercial sex industry is a VICTIM, not a prostitute. And anyone 18 or older who has been induced by force, fraud, or coercion into the commercial sex industry is a VICTIM, not a prostitute. (Even if the victim does not self-identify.)

Sex Trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the victim induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age.”

Changing how we talk about human trafficking cases will change how other people talk about it. News outlets hold a lot of power because they reach so many people in a short amount of time.


These stories have influence because they affect the audience’s conceptions (or misconceptions) as well as how they will receive similar information later on.

For example, if news stories always label known human trafficking cases (especially those involving children) as prostitution, it may be harder for some viewers/readers to understand many of those prostituted people are actually victims of human trafficking.

By simply changing the wording, people can begin to understand that human trafficking does happen in our state and that it is a horrible crime against humanity.

Changing the way we talk affects the way we think, and the way we think affects our actions. Choosing to use more accurate terminology may help others think differently too.

All action results from thought, so it is thoughts that matter.” –Sai Baba

Fighting for freedom does not have to involve dramatic life changes. It simply requires small efforts and simple changes paired with an open mind.

Writing for Freedom,

Kari Carr

“[Some people] believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.” –Gandalf the Gray in “The Hobbit”

Hold Websites Accountable for Aiding and Abetting Human Trafficking

There are people all around, the mall is buzzing with shoppers all looking for different things–candles, soaps, clothes, lamps, humans. From one of the shops a man yells, “Only here for tonight! Barely legal.” A woman proclaims, “Back by popular demand. You asked for her!”

Okay, so maybe this does not happen at malls. Selling people doesn’t happen in the open, right? But it does–people are advertised and sold in public forums every day. More than that, companies in charge of these specific forums are aware that human trafficking is taking place and they do nothing to stop these crimes from happening. In fact, they choose to enable the criminal activity.

The forum in question–is the internet. One reason businesses do not take action against human trafficking is that they are making a profit from the crime. Another reason is because they will not be held liable for the crimes of others–even though they know it is happening.

Companies make money from online ads for human trafficking and they are not held responsible for making sure these ads are stopped due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996) to protect children from exposure to Internet pornography.  The act included a defense, Section 230, for Internet providers, protecting them from liability for material posted to their sites by third parties.  Therefore, if illegal pornography or other material is posted to a site by someone not associated with the site operator, the site was to be held harmless.  (This makes sense, UNLESS the site is accepting money for posting the content. In that case, they should certainly be held responsible.)

In Volume 17, Issue 1 of the Berkley Technology Law Journal, Paul Ehrlich discusses the Communications Decency Act in depth and describes the results of Section 230:

“Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (“CDA”)’ in 1996 to address the myriad problems surrounding the regulation of obscene, illegal,  or otherwise tortious  content found on the  Internet. Many of the CDA’s provisions regulating decency have been struck down by the courts as violations of the First Amendment. One of the surviving elements is a congressional grant of immunity from suit to ISPs [Internet service providers] and other interactive computer services for content originating with third parties . . . The effect of these rulings has been the emergence of a comprehensive immunity from suit for ISPs so long as the suits are based on content not authored by the ISP. Whether or not Congress intended this result, ISPs and other interactive computer services have used Section 230 as a complete defense against recent suits…”

Amending Section 230 is not an issue of free speech. This is an issue of illegal activity occurring in a public forum. Section 230 was well-intentioned, but it has been used by companies to defend its “right” to accept payment for advertising illegal conduct such as sex trafficking of women and children.  Congress likely never intended this result, yet some courts have ruled that the 230 defense provides, in effect, blanket website immunity for all material posted by third parties on the sites. (Even if the site profits from the third party content, as in the case of advertising.)  It is estimated that backpage alone makes approximately $3 million per month on ads for prostituted and trafficked women and children (Lee, 2014).

We cannot allow companies to get away with facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking simply because they stand behind the excuses provided by this law. They make millions of dollars (backpage made $39 million by facilitating prostitution with adult ads June 2012-May 2013) off of the sexual exploitation of women and children. This cannot continue in the United States of America.

Call on Congress to amend the CDA in order to protect the people whose first amendment right is merely one right being taken away. If we would not allow it in our malls or other public places, we should not allow it on the web. The National Association of Attorneys General has shown their support of Congress amending section 230 of the CDA in order to prevent trafficking of children since July of 2013. They suggested that the wording of Section 230 be altered so that State and local law enforcement agencies have the authority to arrest and prosecute companies who accept money to advertise human trafficking victims on websites.

We have to start taking responsibility and acting to end human trafficking. No more “I didn’t know.” No more “choosing not to see.” No more human trafficking.

If you support the proposal for the CDA to be amended, please follow the link below to sign our petition. In addition, please share the link for the petition/and or this post to help raise awareness and demand the eradication of human trafficking. Thank you for your time, consideration, and for your efforts in the fight for freedom.

https://www.change.org/p/hold-websites-accountable-for-aiding-and-abetting-human-trafficking?recruiter=550206659&utm_source=petitions_show_components_action_panel_wrapper&utm_medium=copylink

Writing for Freedom,

Kari Carr

“One person can make a difference. In fact, it’s not only possible for one person to make a difference, it’s essential that one person makes a difference. And believe it or not, that person is you.” ―Bob Riley

*This post is not calling for the dismantlement of any particular website. It is not encouraging the restriction of rights for anyone. This post is, however, arguing for businesses, who are profiting from crime and exploitation of people, to be held liable when they have been made aware of the issue on their pages and continue to do nothing to stop it.

Check out this video clip of Rep. Ann Wagner talking about enforcement of  JVTA and implementing SAVE. https://www.facebook.com/RepAnnWagner/videos/832005393602803

Sources:

Ehrlich, Paul. “Communications Decency Act 230.” Berkeley Technology Law Journal 17.1 (2002). web. 11 Jan. 2016.

Lee, Patrick G. “Backpage.com Accused of Helping Pimps in Child Sex Trade.” BloomburgBusiness. n.p., 16 Oct. 2004. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.

Kumez, Abigail L. “A Letter to Congress: The Communications Decency Act Promotes Human Trafficking.” Children’s Legal Right Journal 34.1: 23-58. Web. 2 Feb. 2016.

 

Yes, Human Trafficking Happens in NC

This year alone, there has been 142 human trafficking victims and survivors identified in North Carolina through the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Furthermore, 115 calls have been made to the National Trafficking Resource Center and 38 cases reported [1]. (These numbers were updated on March 31, 2016.)

Since 2007, there has been a total of 1,372 victims of human trafficking identified and 609 cases investigated [1].

These numbers are a reflection of cases identified through the NHT Hotline–other cases and victims are reported/found through law enforcement or other agencies like Social Services.

So, yes. Human Trafficking happens in North Carolina.

But what does that mean? We are starting to hear about human trafficking, but do we really understand what it is?

“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.” –United Nations

The two main categories of human trafficking are labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Debt-bondage and child labor are also examples of human trafficking [3,4].  Trafficking is happening when a person is put into situations of labor or sex trafficking through the use of “force, fraud, or coercion.” However, in the case of child sexual exploitation, it is immediately deemed exploitation–force, fraud, or coercion does not have to be proven.<sup>3 <sup> Children cannot legally consent to sex, so logically they cannot consent to sell themselves. (Thank goodness for the Child Safe Harbor Act of 2013 which made it so that children could not be charged with prostitution [5]. Find more information on this act here: http://ocrcc.org/safeharbor/ )

Trafficking happens when a parent or relative sells a child for sex. That happens in North Carolina. Trafficking happens when employees are exploited. That happens in North Carolina. Sex and labor trafficking happens in North Carolina.

_________________________________________________________________

Here are some links to articles discussing cases of human trafficking in North Carolina: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article75449692.html

http://www.wwaytv3.com/2016/05/05/man-facing-human-trafficking-charge-held-under-2m-bond/

http://www.wral.com/warrant-cary-man-held-women-in-sexual-servitude-/15377058/

http://wncn.com/2016/02/12/raleigh-man-arrested-for-human-trafficking-forced-prostitution-of-child/

http://wncn.com/2016/03/09/14-charged-in-nc-polices-prostitution-operation/

These five are just the tip of the iceberg.

Below, are two links to articles that mention the prevalence of human trafficking in the Tarheel State:

http://www.thecharlottepost.com/news/2016/01/04/local/nc-among-leaders-in-human-trafficking/

http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2016/01/human-trafficking-no-stranger-to-north-carolina

_________________________________________________________________

It’s a Lack of Choice

It is a popular notion that “trafficking is just a new term for ‘prostitution’ and it is happening between consenting adults.” A child is a victim. In a situation where a girl (or boy) is trafficked at say the age of 12, this person is considered a victim. This child is abused emotionally, physically, and sexually and is told that they are worthless and that no one could possibly love them after what they have done–How is it that after six years in this horribly abusive life, that they are no longer a victim? How is 18 a glorified turning point where a person goes from victim to criminal? Sometimes women (and men) “choose” to be in it because what else are they supposed to do? They first met their pimp when they were 12 years old. 12. For six year (or longer) they were sold for sex (or used for labor). What about people who did not get an education because it did not fit in with their trafficker’s plans? They may not have existed by society’s standards for almost a decade–no paper trail, no record. They have been told repeatedly that they are not anything worthwhile and no one could possibly love them after what they’ve done.

So, for many men and women, no it’s not a true choice–it’s a lack of choice. Had circumstances been different in their lives they would have likely never said yes to this life as an adult.

Why talk about human trafficking? Why do some people care so much?

Because it matters–because it happens on a global scale and happens in our local communities. Because it’s uncomfortable to talk about–so we often don’t.

Because we need to acknowledge and help survivors–because they need to be believed. And because there are misunderstandings and misconceptions about modern slavery that need to be addressed.

We’re finally starting to understand that victims of domestic violence do not stay in abusive relationships because they “like” being hurt. There are psychological and emotional factors at play. There are threats, and those threats are believable, which is why they are effective.

“A victim may stay in the relationship because they are scared of what the abuser will do if they leave. When an abuser calls their partner names, puts them down and plays mind games it can make the victim feel bad about themselves. Many times victims believe that the abuse is their fault or that they deserve the abuse.” –The advocacy center www.theadvocacycenter.org/adv_violencewhy.html

It is a similar situation with trafficking victims and survivors.

Trafficking survivors need help. And love–and resource for support so that they can earn an education and job skills so that they have other options and they have the power to take control of their own lives (because it’s theirs and theirs alone). And they deserve respect. They are people. And they matter.

No more accusations. No more preconceived notions and biases preventing us from growing as a community. No more hate. No more dehumanizing–that just makes it easier to ignore people who need our help, hold traffickers accountable, and fight the problem of modern slavery. Trafficking victims and survivors are people. And they deserve to be treated well–they deserve to be treated like people.

Writing for Freedom,

Kari Carr

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.” ― Margaret Wheatley

Sources referenced and links for more information:

  1. https://traffickingresourcecenter.org/state/north-carolina
  2. http://sf-hrc.org/what-human-trafficking
  3. http://www.humantraffickingsearch.net/typesoftrafficking/
  4. http://sf-hrc.org/what-human-trafficking
  5. http://ocrcc.org/safeharbor/

http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/human-trafficking/pages/welcome.aspx

 

Umbrella Market and Fair Trade

Individuals in Eastern North Carolina are encouraged to attend the Umbrella Market in Uptown Greenville. http://uptowngreenville.com/play/umbrella-market/

ENC Stop Human Trafficking will have a booth at the weekly event where we will be selling certified fair trade items that have been hand-crafted from around the world! The Umbrella Market is every Wednesday, weather permitting, from 5 to 8. The first one of the summer will be today, May 4.

Come on out to see all the local vendors and make sure to stop by our table

There’s a phrase related to the goods we buy, but do we really understand the power behind those two words? Fair Trade.

This is the definition provided by the World Fair Trade Organization:

Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that
seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by
offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.
Fair Trade organisations have a clear commitment to Fair Trade as the principal core of their mission. They, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.”

 

Fair trade provides justice in the world by dignifying workers around the world by providing them with fair compensation for their products. This in turn allows people to support and care for themselves and their families.

This label does not mean products will be too expensive for consumers. Fair trade item prices are often on par with the prices of items of similar quality. Fair trade does not mean that individuals from the developing world are paid wages that workers from the Western World are paid. It simply means that they are paid a wage that is fair–it’s based on price of production and is fair compensation for the time and materials invested in the product. This also means that fair trade is not charity–we are not over-paying workers because they are in need–we are insuring they are paid what they are owed.

Fair trade offers sustainability–people can continue to work. Without fair compensation these individuals would not be able to continue in the same work because investment would be greater than reward. Situations where individuals are worked without fair compensation–because of force, fraud, or coercion–are instances of labor trafficking. Fair trade insures trafficking is not occurring anywhere in the supply chain. Increase in the demand for fair trade will in turn decrease the demand for slavery.

What can we do to decrease labor trafficking both in our own communities and on a global scale?

  1. Buy local goods when you can. This way, you know where the items are coming from and where the revenue is going.
  2. Buy fair trade certified goods when you have the option. (Look for logo.) This in turn, shows businesses that the fair trade certification is important to consumers.
  3. When we go to our favorite stores, cafes, and restaurants ask about stocking with fair trade products.
  4. Support legislation that promotes transparency in supply chains and supports the eradication of slave labor.
  5. Change the way we speak about workers in other countries. It’s easier to dehumanize fellow inhabitants of our world than we realize, and that is dangerous.
  6. Share articles on social media and show that you support fair wages for products around the world. Believe it or not, political offices keep track of what seems to be trending topics on social media sites, because this gives insight into what is important to voters.
  7. Remind ourselves that a few dollars on clothes and other goods is not worth someone else paying with their lives. We’re in it, to end it.
  8. Continue to ask questions. The World Fair Trade Organization http://wfto.com/our-path-fair-trade and Fair Trade USA http://fairtradeusa.org/# are great resources.

http://fairtrader.coop/ Fair Trader is an online shop with items that are certified fair trade. (Who doesn’t love online shopping?)

 

 

We Can End This

A group of people enter the grand home of a man dressed in bright clothes. The man in red welcomes his guests and asks, “What would you like? Drinks, video games, girls?”

Nonchalantly, women were offered as part of a list of items and treated as objects used for entertainment. This scene is from near the end of a comedic film I recently watched. Closer to the beginning of the movie a strip club was introduced. More than that, a residence was attached to the club and it appeared that the women lived there–they possibly were not allowed to leave the club.

As the main characters were led through the residential area, at the back and up the stairs, they pass a room. In that room is about a dozen men and one, maybe two, women barely clothed. In another scene, at least half a dozen people are standing in their undergarments on a drug line. They’re not allowed to wear clothes to prevent the “workers” from stealing. Dozens of people do not elect to enter in this life. They aren’t the ones making the money–it’s their bosses that they fear. Yet, we don’t realize the biggest problem in these scenes: human trafficking.

Human trafficking was not a theme in the movie–it probably was never meant to be portrayed. These people are beautiful, and without scars. No matter how short they may be, fictional scenes like this unintentionally fuel misunderstandings–the ill conceived notions that victims want to be in this life and that they are free to come and go as they please. Hundreds of people collaborated on this movie, but no one noticed that there were characters, without names, that were being subjected to both sex and labor trafficking. I found myself heartbroken. Heartbroken because in the background, sitting unnoticed, was modern day slavery.

If project team members did not think twice, would other viewers notice?

Much like in the movie, in life human trafficking happens in the background–it occurs off to the side. Society does not see it. Even when signs are present, we often do not recognize human trafficking. We NEED to see the signs and we need to stand together and say enough is enough.

When we watch a movie and we see the main character enter in an agreement with an antagonist, and then the antagonist alters the arrangement, we can sympathize with the protagonist. He/she did not want to be there, they were threatened, they did enter a plan willingly but then the bad guy changed the game. Why then do we question people in the real world who find themselves in a bad situation such as human trafficking? Why do we approach real people in a manner that suggests that they want to be trafficked and harmed? If thirty minutes to an hour of background information is all it takes for us to understand a person’s story in a film, then we should take the time to educate ourselves on the signs of human trafficking. Make an effort to understand trafficking from the victim’s perspective. Realize that human trafficking is a different culture–survivors and victims have a specific understanding of the world and how they need to live. This is where we start in order to end human trafficking in Eastern North Carolina, the United States, and the world. Eradicating slavery requires us to start recognizing the signs and speaking up.

If we all decide that every person matters–that every person deserves to be free–free from disease, free from hatred, free from judgement, and free from slavery–and if we make the conscious effort to insure that freedom is achieved, then human trafficking will be eradicated. The only catch is that it is our responsibility–we have to choose to become abolitionists. We can do it. We can end this.

Below is a list of signs of human trafficking that the Polaris Project posted on their website. Link: https://polarisproject.org/recognize-signs This list is not all possible signs, however. To learn more please visit their website and/or www.traffickingresourcecenter.org. Both are excellent resources.

If you suspect human trafficking or need to ask for help, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888. You can also text HELP to: BeFree (233733).

“Common Work and Living Conditions: The individual(s) in question

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact

Poor Physical Health

  • Lacks health care
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)

Other

  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story”

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead

 

Writing for Freedom,

Kari Carr

 

SAAM 2016: Prevention is Possible

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and this year’s theme from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (www.nsvrc.org) is Prevention is Possible. Our aim during this campaign is to explore what sexual violence is, why it exists in our society, how to get involved in prevention efforts, and how sexual violence relates to human trafficking.

The History of SAAM

In the late 1970s, women in England marched in “Take Back the Night” protests against the violence they suffered as they walked the streets at night. The first Take Back the Night events in the U.S. were held in San Francisco and NYC in 1978. By the 1990s, advocates had established sexual violence awareness weeks in April and began pushing for a national month. On April 1st, 2001, the U.S. observed its first National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

What is sexual violence/why does it exist?

According to the CDC, “Sexual violence is any sexual activity where consent is not freely given. This includes completed or attempted sex acts that are against the victim’s will or involve a victim who is unable to consent.” <http://www.cdc.gov/features/sexualviolence/>

(Check out our previous blogs to learn more about the societal factors that encourage sexual violence, like toxic masculinity and hypersexualization)

What can you do to help?

SAAM 2016’s theme is Prevention is Possible.

Prevention is everyone’s responsibility, but what is prevention? “Prevention aims to stop sexual violence before it has a chance to happen. It is possible to create communities where everyone is treated with respect and equality. This can be done by promoting safe behaviors, thoughtful policies, and healthy relationships.” (NSVRC) Prevention strategies target the social norms that create an environment for sexual violence and oppression. Open communication about and efforts to promote safety, respect, and equality, are key in reducing the risk of sexual violence.

The NSVRC offers the following suggestions:

  • Intervene to stop problematic and disrespectful behavior
  • Promote and model healthy attitudes, behaviors, and relationships
  • Believe survivors and assist them in finding resources

 

Why does an anti-trafficking organization care?

For very obvious reasons, we care about the health and well-being of all people. Prevention of sexual violence is key to the prevention of human trafficking. Many trafficking victims previously suffered sexual violence before being forced into the trafficking trade.

Sexual violence makes the buying and selling of people for their bodies that much easier by degrading and dehumanizing the victim. Sexual violence runs rampant in our culture and is often seen as something to joke about or to ignore rather than the danger it truly is. We believe that if we all work together, prevention is possible!

 

If you are or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence, contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network: 1-800-656-HOPE.

 

Writing for Freedom,

 

Darien Smith

Be A Man

“Be a man!!”  “Man up!!” “ Don’t be such a girl!!”

 

When the worst insult a boy can receive is “Don’t run/throw/hit/act like a girl”, what is our society teaching boys about girls? They are weak, and they don’t deserve respect. When boys and girls hear this from coaches, fathers, teachers, and even girls and women, why should they believe differently?  When girls hear this insult over and over, what do they come to believe about their value?

Watch this 3 minute trailer about masculinity:

http://therepresentationproject.org/film/the-mask-you-live-in/

“As we are assigned the designation “male” at birth, thus begins the life-long process of “masculinization” in which society teaches us that if we are to be considered worthy of respect and pride, we must be athletic, independent, assertive, domineering, competitive, tough, that we must bury our emotions deep within the recesses of our souls, and, most importantly, that we must search for and destroy any signs of “femininity” — “the woman” – within, which clearly represents society’s devaluation of females.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/warren-j-blumenfeld/hypermasculinity-twin-pea_b_7417522.html

Watch this 3 minute film about being “like a girl”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs

 

“The quest for turf through hyper-masculinity literally kills.” Hyper-masculinity in our culture is a driving force behind male violence, the systematic degradation of women, and other factors that increase the demand for human trafficking. While no one aspect of society directly causes human trafficking, our society creates an environment in which human trafficking can grow and flourish, in part by glorifying male violence and hyper-masculinity. From a young age, boys are told to “Be A Man” anytime something goes wrong. This implies that men are responsible for handling or managing everything in life, and that’s a lot of pressure. Because our society so blatantly devalues women, men are forced to live up to an impossible standard in an attempt to avoid seeming weak or non-masculine and thus often resort to violence to prove their masculinity. Hyper-masculinity goes hand in hand with objectification of women, something we see every day in our society, we are just so desensitized to it that we normalize it except in extreme cases.

“Surely many social issues work together to produce the environments in which this dangerous thinking flourishes, but it seems to me that there is also a too-often unspoken link between men resorting to violence and the same hypermasculine culture that’s made shooting virtual human beings one of America’s favorite pastimes, alongside the harassment of women, and the celebration of misogyny in sports. It’s a culture which all of us, to varying degrees, participate in.” <http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/03/hypermasculinity-for-muslims/>

Toxic masculinity isn’t innate. Watch this 3 minute video about how young boys treat girls.

https://youtu.be/b2OcKQ_mbiQ

Ending the cycle of male violence is so important to abolition because it lessens the pressure on men to perform, to feel ‘manly’, allowing them to treat women with respect and as equals rather than as objects of sexual conquest. The attitude that women are objects for men allows for the buying and selling of people for use of their bodies, thus leading to human trafficking. More on this subject later, but the most important aspect to preventing trafficking is understanding how we enable it in the first place.

 

Disclaimer: Sexual assault and human trafficking know no gender, sex, age, or race. However, because a vast majority of sexually violent crimes are committed by men against women, for the sake of argument, this article only discusses hyper-masculinity and male violence in our society. This is not meant to discredit or diminish violence against men, which is a very serious issue and one that deserves equal attention and discussion in its own right.

 

Writing for Freedom,

 

Darien Smith

Rape Culture

17.7 million American women have been victims of rape

3% of American men have experienced rape

15% of all sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12

98% of rapists will never serve a single day in prison

47% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance of the victim

Rape Culture

One of the biggest hindrances to stopping human trafficking is our society’s views on women. We live in a world where women are considered second-class citizens and objects to be used, while simultaneously expected to remain ‘pure’ and ‘valuable’. These conflicting beliefs lead to the punishment, abuse, trading, and overall dehumanization of women. This phenomenon is often referred to as ‘rape culture’.

What is Rape Culture?

 “a complex of beliefs that encourages male sexual aggression and supports violence against women.”

“an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.” https://www.marshall.edu/wcenter/sexual-assault/rape-culture/

We are all aware of what ‘culture’ is, the norms in a society that bind us all together. But how can rape be a normal part of our culture?

We don’t necessarily live in a society that openly promotes rape, but we are a society that enables rape, which is almost more dangerous because people are unaware of the consequences of their seemingly innocent actions. These commonly accepted social practices are often overlooked, trivialized, or joked about, leading to higher and higher instances of rape and sexual assault.

“But I don’t make rape jokes!”

While rape jokes are the most obvious example of rape culture, they are not the only things that perpetuate rape culture. Things like :

  • Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”)
  • Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)
  • Sexually explicit jokes
  • Tolerance of sexual harassment
  • Inflating false rape report statistics
  • Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history
  • Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
  • Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
  • Pressure on men to “score”
  • Pressure on women to not appear “cold”
  • Assuming only promiscuous women get raped
  • Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped
  • Refusing to take rape accusations seriously
  • Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape

<https://www.marshall.edu/wcenter/sexual-assault/rape-culture/>

“Does rape culture exist in America today?”

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/03/examples-of-rape-culture/

http://www.rantpolitical.com/2015/06/12/15-real-life-examples-of-rape-culture-in-our-society/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/25/rape-culture-hashtag-twitter_n_5029729.html

Even a Google news search for “rape” brings 42,500,000 results in .55 seconds. Check out the second and third headlines.

rape culture

“So what can I do to prevent rape culture?”

  • Be aware. You can’t prevent something you aren’t aware of, so keep an eye and an ear out for perpetuation of rape culture.
  • If you see something, say something. Speak out against sexual assault jokes and mentions in casual conversation or media.
  • If a friend says they has been raped, take them seriously and be supportive
  • Think critically about the media’s messages about women, men, relationships, and violence
  • Be respectful of others’ physical space even in casual situations
  • Always communicate with sexual partners and do not assume consent
  • Define your own manhood or womanhood.  Do not let stereotypes shape your actions.
  • Get involved! Join a student or community group working to end sexual violence.

How does any of this relate to human trafficking?

Human trafficking is made possible by elements of our society, like rape culture, that allow for and normalize the buying and selling of people and the use of victims for their bodies. By speaking out against rape culture, we are enlightening our society and helping to end the conditions that create human trafficking.

 

Writing for Freedom,

 

Darien Smith