Taking a Stand Against Human Trafficking

USCSAHT LogoWhen Mother Theodore Guerin came to this country, she experienced human trafficking firsthand in New Orleans, where she saw persons being sold into slavery.

“The most painful sight I saw in New Orleans was the selling of slaves. Every day in the streets at appointed places, negroes and negresses in holiday attire are exposed for this shameful traffic, like the meanest animals at our fairs. This spectacle oppressed my heart. Lo! I said to myself, these Americans, so proud of their liberty, thus make game of the liberty of others. Poor negroes! I would have wished to buy them all that I might say to them, ‘Go! Bless Providence. You are free!’”

Today, we know slavery is a heartbreaking global reality impacting 27 million persons of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and particularly women and children.

In 2001 at a meeting in Rome, the International Union of Superiors General pledged their congregations to work individually and collaboratively to end human trafficking. While a number of congregations were already addressing this issue, more collaborative efforts are now in place.

Read the full story by Sister Donna Butler of Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods: Click Here

Human trafficking in the US: Sisters’ Networks and Ministries Break the Cycle One Life at a Time

Crystal was 13 years old when she met her pimp. Of course, she didn’t think of him as a pimp; he was her boyfriend, her savior, the man who doted on her and gave her the things her parents couldn’t or wouldn’t provide.

“You know how you’re a little girl and you dream of Prince Charming? Well, he was Prince Charming,” Crystal said from her home in Watertown, South Dakota. She asked that her real name not be used.

Crystal met this man through her dad’s substance abuse program. He was 10 years her senior. When they started dating, he got Crystal hooked on cocaine and the first time he sold her, it was to make good on a cocaine deal.

“He was out of coke and he asked me if I’d dance for his drug dealer,” she said. Crystal did it, and before long, she was also prostituting on the streets, dancing in clubs and working as an escort for politicians and professional athletes in order to feed the couple’s habit. Crystal hated what she was doing, but she said if she told her pimp no, he would beat her. Sometimes he would beat her even when she did what he asked. Crystal lived this way for four years — traveling across California, her home state, and Nevada — until her pimp went to prison on drug charges. She was 17.  

Looking back, Crystal, now a 44-year-old mother of two, is convinced her pimp had everything planned when he first approached her, the vulnerable teenager from a troubled home.

“He offered me lemonade and brownies. He wanted to go out and date me, told me how pretty I was,” she said dryly. “He suckered me into it, I guess.”

Crystal’s story is depressingly common. The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transfer, harboring or receipt for persons for an improper purpose — usually forced labor or sexual exploitation — and it happens all the time.

The numbers are hard to pin down but Polaris Project, a leading human trafficking advocacy group, estimates that 100,000 children are sold into sex slavery each year. And that’s just in the United States. The International Labor Union estimates that, globally, there are about 20.9 million sex and labor trafficking victims — 5.5 million of them children, and more than half of them female.

Today, from coast to coast, Catholic sisters in the U.S. do everything from staffing safe houses for survivors to teaching seminars on how to spot and report trafficking. Forty congregations of women religious belong to U.S Sisters Against Human Trafficking, a national network that provides education about trafficking, helps trafficking survivors get access to rehabilitative services and advocates for the policies and legislation that make human trafficking more difficult. But it wasn’t always that way. It actually took a long time for human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking, to become a mainstream social justice cause that anyone talked about.

To read the full story by Dawn Cherie Araujo of Global Sisters Report: Click Here

Seven Ways to End Human Trafficking

Pope Francis calls human trafficking “a crime against humanity.” In his December 2014 Declaration on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, Francis called on all people to help in ending this form of modern-day slavery. “Its victims are from all walks of life, but are most frequently among the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters,” he said. “On behalf of all of them, our communities of faith are called to reject, without exception, any systematic deprivation of individual freedom for the purposes of personal or commercial exploitation.”

Many of us don’t realize how we perpetrate these systems of slavery. And it’s even harder to know how to address this global injustice. But we have an obligation to work toward the liberation of these most marginalized people. Here are seven simple steps you can take to make a difference in the lives of trafficking victims: 

1. Educate yourself and others

Don’t let the massive scale and reach of this topic scare you away. Check out the resources at sistersagainsttrafficking.org/education. You’ll find age-appropriate curriculum for students as young as elementary school, as well as modules that focus on different aspects of human trafficking—including its root causes, how to reduce demand, and how human trafficking connects to poverty, sporting events, children, the objectification of women, and other issues.

Read the full list by Heather Grennan Gary of U.S. Catholic Faith in Real Life: Click Here

Travel Industry Warned to Look for Sex Trafficking Signs

Human trafficking happens behind locked doors in hotels across the United States. The hospitality industry is being taught to recognize the signs of abuse.

To view the original post by CNN: Click Here

Pontifical Council for Migrants Highlights Issue of Human Trafficking

Police officers take part in targeted action against illegal immigration and human trafficking – AFP

(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council of Migrant and Itinerant People’s has issued a final document following an international symposium on the Pastoral Care of the Road. The document and plan of action offers reflections and recommendations highlighting the scurge of human trafficking and calls on states and governments to “protect with all legal measures children and women earning a living or living on roads and streets, who are often victims of socio-economic inconsistencies and/or human trafficking…”

To read the full story from Vatican Radio: Click Here

Meet Nadya, A Survivor of Domestic Slavery

The good folks over at Walk Free have created this moving video to call attention to human trafficking in the form of domestic slavery.

To take action, and sign the Walk Free petition: Click Here

Out of Sight—A Former Prostitute Tries to Rescue Iraq’s Most Vulnerable Women

Islamic militias intensify the dangers of Baghdad’s sex-trafficking underworld. ILLUSTRATION BY AUDE VAN RYN

On a Saturday night in late May, I sat in the back seat of a taxi as it drove through a shantytown in Baghdad. We were not far from Firdos Square, where, in April of 2003, invading American troops famously toppled a large statue of Saddam Hussein. A highway passed overhead, its traffic thudding, and Baghdad’s tallest building, the Cristal Grand Ishtar Hotel—still widely known as the Sheraton, although the hotel chain withdrew from Iraq in 1990—rose in the distance. A forty-year-old woman whom I’ll call Layla sat in the front passenger seat; she wore a black abaya, and strands of dyed-black hair fell out from under her head scarf. Her husband, Mohammad, drove.

We were headed toward a dimly lit cinder-block shack. Children darted in and out of the shadows, and a pregnant woman in a long-sleeved, turquoise ankle-length dress stepped out to see who was approaching. She was a pimp, Layla said. In 2012, Iraq passed its first law specifically against human trafficking, but the law is routinely ignored, and sexual crimes, including rape and forced prostitution, are common, women’s-rights groups say. Statistics are hard to come by, but in 2011, according to the latest Ministry of Planning report, a survey found that more than nine per cent of respondents between the ages of fifteen and fifty-four said they had been subjected to sexual violence. The real number is likely much higher, given the shame attached to reporting such crimes in a society where a family’s honor is often tied to the chastity of its women. The victims of these crimes are often considered outcasts and can be killed for “dishonoring” their family or their community.

Since 2006, Layla, a rape victim and former prostitute, has been secretly mapping Iraq’s underworld of sex trafficking and prostitution. Through her network of contacts in the sex trade, she gathers information about who is selling whom and for how much, where the victims are from, and where they are prostituted and trafficked. She passes the information, through intermediaries, to Iraqi authorities, who usually fail to act on it. Still, her work has helped to convict several pimps, including some who kidnapped children. That Saturday night, I accompanied Layla and Mohammad on a tour of some of the places that she investigates, on the condition that I change her name, minimize details that might identify her, and not name her intermediaries.

The work is extremely dangerous. The pimps whom Layla encounters are women, but behind them is a tangled hierarchy of armed men: corrupt police, militias that profit from the sex trade, and militias that brutally oppose it. On the morning of July 13, 2014, the bullet-ridden bodies of twenty-eight women and five men were retrieved from two apartments, said to be brothels, in a building complex in Zayouna, a neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. I saw the bodies a few hours later, at the city morgue, laid out on the floor. Morgue workers blamed the religious militias, singling out the pro-Iranian Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, one of the many armed outfits proliferating in Iraq. Other groups of suspected prostitutes have been found shot dead, but the Zayouna incident was the largest killing in recent years, and it prompted at least fifteen neighborhood pimps whom Layla knew to flee with their girls to Iraqi Kurdistan. Layla often visits apartments like the ones in Zayouna, posing as a retired pimp. As a cover, she sells the madams abayas that are intricately embroidered with colored crystals and diamantés; they serve to identify women as pimps, rather than prostitutes, at night clubs.

Read the full story by Rania Abouzeid of the New Yorker: Click Here

Human Trafficking is Thriving in Nebraska

Nebraskans have yet to recognize the magnitude of human trafficking in their home state, officials said Friday at an international conference in Lincoln.

Realize that human trafficking is here,” said Stephen O’Meara, the Nebraska attorney general office’s human trafficking coordinator. This doesn’t just include Lincoln and Omaha, he said.

“It’s all across Nebraska, in all its forms,” he said.

Human trafficking experts from across the globe gathered at the Embassy Suites in downtown Lincoln on Thursday for the Annual Human Trafficking Conference.

Although various experts spoke about solving the issue on a national and international scale, there was much discussion about finding a solution to the issue right here in Nebraska.

O’Meara was hired in April and has since confirmed cases of trafficking in Auburn, Hastings, Grand Island and various other small towns in Nebraska. He recently confirmed a case in the town of Hills, Iowa.

“Hills, Iowa, has a population of 550,” O’Meara said. “That ought to make you think.”

Human trafficking is defined as the illegal transportation of people, usually for forced labor or sexual exploitation. However, human trafficking also encompasses organ trafficking and child labor, including child soldiers.

To read the full story by Maggie Lehmicke of the Nebraska News Service: Click Here

Racine Coalition Gets Grant to Combat Human Trafficking

Racine Police Chief Art Howell

RACINE, WI — Local efforts to combat human trafficking received a boost this month after the Racine Coalition Against Human Trafficking received a $25,000 grant from the Racine Community Foundation.

“The grant allows us to be a sustainable organization,” Karri Hemmig, coalition founder and president, said. “It allows us to operate at a higher level in order to help others.”

According to a report on human trafficking authored by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, there is a lack of adequate services for victims of human trafficking throughout the state, most notably in providing adequate housing, health care and advocacy.

That’s where the Racine Coalition Against Human Trafficking fits in.

The coalition is a network of local resources working together to provide advocacy and support for victims of human trafficking in addition to providing education and training to people who may come into contact with victims.

Racine Police Chief Art Howell said the department’s partnership with the coalition stands in contrast to other areas of the country where human trafficking initiatives predominantly involve law enforcement.

“We have civilian advocates go along on human trafficking operations,” he said. “They can quickly diagnose whether a person is a victim or has been exploited.”

Howell said the coalition is an important part of the department’s triage effort: officers focus on apprehending human traffickers and the coalition provides the support network necessary to help victims.

To read the full story by Scott Anderson in The Journal Times: Click Here

Palo Alto Tackles Human Trafficking Ahead of Super Bowl 50

Some City Council members want Palo Alto to join a regional push against human trafficking ahead of Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara next year.

“We all recognize this is a serious problem,” said Councilwoman Liz Kniss. “We know it goes on all the time, but given that the Super Bowl is coming and hundreds of thousands of people will be here, we think it’s really important not only to raise visibility but put resources toward the issue.”

A resolution proposed by Kniss, Mayor Karen Holman and council members Greg Scharff and Marc Berman also calls for training staff to identify and help vulnerable populations and victims.

In addition, the resolution says Palo Alto would work with other cities and agencies to raise public awareness on the issue and would back anti-trafficking legislative measures.

The City Council is to consider the resolution on Monday.

Kniss said she wants to hear from public safety officials whether it’s necessary to hire more employees to fight human trafficking.

All police personnel were trained last fiscal year to identify and investigate such trafficking, and they learned about resources available for victims, according to Lt. Zach Perron, a spokesman for the Police Department.

This summer, Police Chief Dennis Burns and other officers attended a Santa Clara County-sponsored workshop on the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

Two of the city’s detectives are members of the county’s human trafficking task force.

Berman said he wants the city to explore ways to work together.

To read the full story by By Jacqueline Lee on The San Jose Mercury News: Click Here