Fort Bragg Summit Focuses On Prevention Of Human Trafficking

Shamere McKenzie had big plans for her life.

She was going to be the next Marion Jones. An Olympian. The fastest woman alive.

A high school track star, McKenzie earned a full college scholarship. But then, her dreams fell a part.

When McKenzie shared her story to more than 400 people at Fort Bragg on Monday, she had no stories of Olympic glory.

In spite of her bright future, life dealt McKenzie a rough hand.

Instead of racing around the track, McKenzie was one of countless women who was forced to work the track, a nickname for anywhere victims are sexually exploited.

For more than a year a decade ago, McKenzie was held against her will as a prostitute.

Sometimes the bonds were physical – a hand around her throat, a fist to her face or a boot to her side.

But mostly, the bonds were psychological – formed by a fear not only for her own life, but for her family’s.

“Human trafficking was my life for 18 months,” McKenzie said at Fort Bragg’s Special Victims Summit. “That’s 18 months of what I describe as severe torture. Torture in every sense of the word torture.”

McKenzie, who now runs the nonprofit Sun Gate Foundation dedicated to helping survivors of human trafficking, told her story as part of an annual event that brings Fort Bragg and surrounding partners together under a common goal of helping the most vulnerable.

This year’s event had a focus on human trafficking and a goal of bringing community and military leaders together to tackle the issue, said officials from Womack Army Medical Center who organized the event.

Dr. Sharon Cooper, a staff forensic and developmental pediatrician at Womack, said that in military communities in particular, officials must keep their eyes open for sometimes subtle signs of the horrible crimes.

“The research shows that wherever you have a military community, you will have businesses that foster labor and human trafficking,” Cooper said.

To read the full story by Drew Brooks at the Fay Observer: Click Here

For Trafficking Victims, Leaving Is Never Easy

Anti-trafficking advocates say “normal” becomes “abnormal” for victims of sex trafficking.

OSHKOSH – Oshkosh Police detective Paul Frey paints an ominous picture of the sex trafficking trade in the Fox Valley.

“The pimps are predators. They are literally human sharks,” Frey told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. “There’s a ton of money to be made in this so they actively recruit young girls and women. Some just get tricked or sucked into that and before they know it, they’re in over their head.”

Often, victims of sex trafficking had been sexually abused, said Lyn Beyer, executive director of Reach Counseling, a Winnebago County agency that provides an array of services for victims of sexual abuse.

Others are runaways who are targeted by traffickers who know what it takes to get them into “the life.”

Since the average age of entry into sex trafficking is 13, victims are deprived basic life experiences, and girls who want to get out of prostitution typically don’t have the necessary job skills, education or family support, counselors say.

“How can we expect them to just make that leap without any help?” Beyer said.

Trauma’s twist on the mind

Those who lack a complete understanding of the world of sex trafficking tend to wonder, Why don’t victims just leave their pimps?

The short answer? Trauma.

“The most significant injuries sex trafficking victims have are often not visible,” said Nancy Irizarry, social services director at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and chair of the Prevention and Public Awareness Workgroup for the Wisconsin Human Trafficking Task Force.

Trauma physically alters the brain, she said, citing a video from the Manasseh Project Trauma Recovery Center in Michigan, which works to end sexual exploitation of children.

The video depicts how trauma affects the brain. Scans of a brain that has experienced trauma show it has been injured. The injury causes short-term memory loss and it can lead to a “fight or flight” response.

Sex trafficking victims are constantly in that state of mind, which makes “normal” feel “abnormal,” said Nicole Tynan, a trafficking survivor who now advocates for sex trafficking victims with Reach Counseling.

To read the full story by Noell Dickmann, on USA TODAY NETWORK: Click Here

New USAID Program Aims to Protect Victims of Human Trafficking

new-usaid-program-aims-to-protect-victims-of-human-trafficking“To support this stronger focus on human trafficking and irregular migration challenges, President [Barack] Obama announced USAID’s comprehensive, five-year plan of action,” White House officials said in a statement.

The U.S. Agency for International Development plan will commit $12 million in the first year to protect and compensate victims of human trafficking — an issue that experts and workers say is often overlooked when authorities focus on prosecution.

Matthew Smith, co-founder of the human rights organization Fortify Rights, says Thailand in particular lacks policies that ensure protection for victims.

To read the full story from Big News Network: Click Here

UN Report Proposes Action by Security Council, Private Sector on Human Trafficking in Conflict

NEW YORK, 8 SEPTEMBER 2016 – A report detailing ideas for action by the Security Council and the financial, technology and recruitment sectors to fight human trafficking in conflict was published today by the United Nations University (UNU), a United Nations think tank, and supported by the governments of the United Kingdom and Liechtenstein. The report, Fighting Human Trafficking in Conflict: 10 Ideas for Security Council Action, also identifies steps by which UN personnel in conflict zones could increase protection for potential victims, especially those displaced by conflict.

“With an estimated 45.8 million slaves alive today, modern slavery is one of the most significant human rights tragedies of our time. Conflict makes people especially vulnerable to exploitation and enslavement by groups like Da’esh/ISIL, and Boko Haram,” says Matthew Rycroft, CBE, UK Permanent Representative to the UN. “The United Kingdom is committed to working with international partners, including tech companies and other private sector actors, to address this scourge. We welcome the 10 concrete ideas for action proposed in this report and look forward to discussing them with our fellow members of the Security Council in the months ahead.”

Security Council members first took up the issue of human trafficking in conflict in December 2015 at the prompting of the United States and after hearing the heart-wrenching testimony of Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a Yazidi survivor of sexual enslavement by ISIL. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will release a report on this topic, which is expected to be formally debated in the Security Council in December. The UN University report provides ideas for consideration by UN member states prior to that debate.

To read or print the full press release: Click Here

U.S., Asian Nations Step Up Human Trafficking Fight

President Obama and leaders of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed a new declaration Thursday to combat modern-day human slavery throughout the region. (AP Photo/S. Yulinnas, File)
President Obama and leaders of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed a new declaration Thursday to combat modern-day human slavery throughout the region. (AP Photo/S. Yulinnas, File)

The U.S. and several Asian countries are boosting their efforts to fight human trafficking and the exploitation of immigrants and refugees.

President Obama and leaders of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed a new declaration Thursday to combat modern-day human slavery throughout the region.

Obama said the leaders at the summit have “laid out a common vision for the region,” namely “an open, dynamic, economically competitive Asia Pacific that respects human rights and upholds a rule-based order.”

To support the effort, Obama announced that the U.S., through its Agency of International Development, would launch a five-year plan of action to fight human trafficking in the region that includes strengthening cross-border collaboration between “source, transit and destination countries.”

To read the full story by Susan Crabtree at The Washington Examiner: Click Here

Hawaiian Seafood Caught By Low-Paid Foreign Crews Confined To Boats

Pier 17 doesn’t even show up on most Honolulu maps. Cars whiz past it on their way to Waikiki’s famous white sand beaches. Yet passing tourists, let alone locals, are unaware that just behind a guarded gate, another world exists: foreign fishermen confined to American boats for years at a time.

Hundreds of undocumented men are employed in this unique U.S. fishing fleet, due to a federal loophole that allows them to work but exempts them from most basic labor protections. Many come from impoverished Southeast Asian and Pacific nations to take the dangerous jobs, which can pay as little as 70 cents an hour.

With no legal standing on U.S. soil, the men are at the mercy of their American captains on American-flagged, American-owned vessels, catching prized swordfish and ahi tuna. Since they don’t have visas, they are not allowed to set foot on shore. The entire system, which contradicts other state and federal laws, operates with the blessing of high-ranking U.S. lawmakers and officials, an Associated Press investigation found.

The fleet of around 140 boats docks about once every three weeks, occasionally at ports along the West Coast, including Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, but mainly at Piers 17 and 38 in Honolulu. Their catch ends up at restaurants and premium seafood counters across the country, from Whole Foods to Costco, and is touted by celebrity chefs such as Roy Yamaguchi and Masaharu Morimoto.

Americans buying seafood from Hawaii are almost certainly eating fish caught by one of these workers, who account for nearly all the fleet’s crew.

A single yellowfin tuna can fetch more than $1,000, and vendors market the catch as “sustainable seafood produced by Hawaii’s hard-working fishermen.”

But workers such as Indonesian Syamsul Maarif aren’t protected or compensated like locals. He was sent home to Indonesia after nearly dying when his boat sank 160 miles off Hawaii. He lost everything, and said it took four months to get his pay.

“We want the same standards as the other workers in America, but we are just small people working there based on the contract that we signed,” he said. “We don’t have any visa. We are illegal, so we cannot demand more.”

Over six months, the AP obtained confidential contracts, reviewed dozens of business records and interviewed boat owners, brokers and more than 50 fishermen in Hawaii, Indonesia and San Francisco. The investigation found men living in squalor on some boats, forced to use buckets instead of toilets, suffering running sores from bed bugs and sometimes lacking sufficient food. It also revealed instances of human trafficking.

 

To read the full story by Martha Mendoza & Margie Mason of the Associated Press on Honolulu Star Advertiser: Click Here

Polaris and Clear Channel Outdoor Americas Launch Anti-Human Trafficking Digital Billboard Campaign Across Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Polaris and Clear Channel Outdoor Americas (CCOA), a division of Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CCO), together with Congressman Erik Paulsen, today unveiled an anti-human trafficking awareness campaign to run on 53 digital billboards throughout Minnesota. The new campaign, launching today and running for three weeks, will alert victims how to reach out for help through the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) (1-888-373-7888), as well as raise awareness about the true nature of modern slavery.

A collaborative effort between Polaris and CCOA, the Out-of-Home (OOH) media campaign, which is estimated to deliver approximately 6.5 million impressions, is designed to reach trafficking victims who may be unaware that resources exist to help them and residents who can help identify suspicious activity with raised awareness that human trafficking is a major problem in Minnesota and throughout the U.S. 365 days a year. CCOA is donating ad space across its digital OOH media platform in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan areas for the campaign.

The estimated $150 billion a year trafficking industry forces approximately 20.9 million people worldwide to live in modern day slavery. In just the first six months of 2016, human trafficking was reported in all 50 states, with 37 cases of human trafficking reported to the NHTRC from Minnesota, already a 12% increase over all of 2015. The top cities that received reports in Minnesota include Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, St. Cloud, Blaine and Moorhead. In total, the NHTRC has received reports of over 265 cases of human trafficking from Minnesota since 2007.

In a news conference earlier today held at the Minnesota State Fair, Congressman Erik Paulsen, Ramsey District Attorney John Choi, Kyle Loven, Chief Division Counsel, FBI – Minneapolis, Washington County Attorney Imran Ali, Executive Director Patina Park of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, Polaris National Hotlines Director Caroline Diemar and the President of CCOA-Minneapolis/St. Paul Susan Adams Loyd joined local and state law enforcement officials to speak with an audience of reporters and supporters to underscore the need for preventing and combatting human trafficking across Minnesota and the country. Also in attendance to endorse the campaign in solidarity were representatives from Uber, Mysister.org and the Hennepin County – No Wrong Door Initiative and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.

“We must do all that we can to eliminate the scourge of human trafficking – too many young girls and boys, and their families are affected by this heinous practice,” said Congressman Erik Paulsen (MN-03). “This awareness campaign is an important and meaningful step in accomplishing that goal. By coming together, educating our communities about available resources, and empowering others to play a role in combating human trafficking, we can all contribute in this fight.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar, who could not attend today’s event said, “Raising awareness is critical in the fight against human trafficking. This campaign, which educates and empowers people to join the fight against trafficking, has the power to help prevent children from being victimized and help those who have fallen victim to this heinous crime get the support they need to get their lives back on track. I was proud to lead the effort to pass the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act that is helping law enforcement further crack down on human traffickers in communities across the country while bringing about greater restitution and justice for victims. We must continue to ensure that children who are sold for sex are treated as victims, not criminals.”

“People exploited in forms of modern slavery are receiving help and services to rebuild their lives every day in America, including here in Minnesota. From the domestic worker provided with her visa, to the young girl sold online for sex who now has counseling and therapy support, survivors are reaching out to the national human trafficking hotline more than ever,” said Caroline Diemar, Polaris’s National Hotline Director. “Too often, though, survivors aren’t aware the national hotline exists or that they can be connected to a network of support across the country. Minnesota’s awareness campaign is critical to ensuring survivors of sex and labor trafficking get the help they need.”

To read the full story on Business Wire: Click Here

International Conference On Human Trafficking Within And From Africa

One Human Family, One Voice, No Human Trafficking

Caritas is committed to fighting against the sale and trafficking of men, women and children into slavery as beggars, prostitutes and forced labourers.

Sixty million people were either refugees or forcibly displaced in 2015. In Africa thousands of adults and children are being forced to flee conflict, poverty and persecution and are particularly susceptible to traffickers.

Driven by a desperate need to survive and desire to build a better life, they are particularly vulnerable to both sexual and labour exploitation.

Skit about child rights and child protection
Students at the Karima Primary School Peace club in Kenya participating in a skit about child rights and child protection. Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS

Caritas is part of the COATNET network —Christian Organisations Against Trafficking in Human Beings—which works across borders to raise awareness about trafficking and to assist victims.  COATNET fights the root causes of trafficking, such as poverty and lack of opportunity, while pressing for laws to protect victims, punish perpetrators and secure decent working conditions.

Caritas Internationalis (within the framework of its network against trafficking COATNET) and the Pontifical Council of Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant People, are co-organising an international conference, hosted by Caritas Nigeria. from September 5 -7 in Abuja, Nigeria to raise awareness, give hope and combat human trafficking in Africa.

To read the full story from Caritas International: Click Here

USCSAHT Members Attend the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum

by Jeanne Christensen, RSM

Jeanne Christensen, RSM
Jeanne Christensen, RSM

The 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum took place the first week of June in Minneapolis, MN. The theme was Globalizing Compassion and its goal was Inspiring Peacemaking. The conference was under the auspices of the Norwegian Nobel Institute in collaboration with Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota.

This year’s keynote speaker was Kailash Satyarthi, one of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in 2014. In his acceptance speech, he said: “Friends! We live in an age of rapid globalization. We are connected through high-speed internet. We exchange our goods and services in one single global market, thousands of flights connect us from one corner to another corner of the globe. But there is one serious disconnect, and that is a lack of compassion.

Let us inculcate and transform this individuals’ compassion into a global compassion. Let us globalize compassion.

Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘If we are to teach real peace in this world . . . we shall have to begin with the children.’ I humbly add, let us unite the world through the compassion for our children.

I ask: Whose children are they who stitch footballs, yet have never played with one?

Whose children are they who harvest cocoa, yet have never tasted chocolate? Whose children are they who are kidnapped and held hostage? They are all our children.

I remember an eight-year-old girl we rescued from intergenerational forced labor from stone quarries. And she was sitting in my car right after her rescue she asked: ‘Why didn’t you come earlier?’

Her angry question still shakes me—and has the power to shake the whole world. Her question is for all of us. What are we doing? What are we waiting for? How many girls will we allow to go without rescue?

Children are questioning our inaction and watching our actions. We need collective actions with a sense of urgency. Every single minute matters, every single child matters, every single childhood matters.

Therefore, I challenge the passivity and pessimism surrounding our children.

I challenge this culture of silence, this culture of neutrality. I call upon all the governments, intergovernmental agencies, businesses, faith leaders, workers, teachers and NGOs, and each one of us, to put an end to all forms of violence against children. Slavery, trafficking, child marriages, child labor, sexual abuse, and illiteracy: these things have no place in any civilized society.

Friends, we can do this.”

He repeated much of this speech in his first presentation, leaving me and other participants with much to reflect on, including how we are compassionate, how we might work to end all forms of violence against children and — in awe, asking ourselves, “how does he do all he does?”

Laureate Kailash Satyarthi (2014 Nobel Laureate) has dedicated more than thirty-six years of his life to ending child human trafficking. This humble man has rescued more than 85,000 children in India and championed their freedom and education through his organization, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Children Movement). His list of accomplishments is long and impressive. He builds global and consumer awareness, advocates for child protection laws and policies to protect and educate all children and has established a foundation to ensure sustainability of his life’s work.  His foundation has built child-friendly villages in India where there is no child labor, child marriages and no child left out of school.

Impressive? Oh yes! Also impressive were the national and international speakers who informed and challenged all of us. Topics ranged from The Global Reach of Sex Trafficking to Community-led Rural Development and Empowerment to Children and Armed Conflict to Tobacco’s Children: Child Labor in Tobacco Farming in the United States and Beyond to Islam & Environmental Sustainability: The Study Quran On Nature, Ecology & Stewardship to Globalizing Genius. Other topics included safe harbor laws, hunger, interfaith understanding and cooperation, shifting alliances in the Middle East, inequality, product brand responsibility. There was no way you could participate in every dialogue session! The content of the ones I attended was rich and often challenging. They especially brought an enhanced understanding of international human trafficking. Since I focus primarily on domestic (U.S.) trafficking, it was an invaluable learning experience. I have not participated in such an extraordinary conference in a very long time.

Sally Ann Brickner, OSF
Sally Ann Brickner, OSF

When participants weren’t attending sessions, we viewed films related to human trafficking, such as SOLD, and engaged in informal conversations with other participants. There were over 300 there. A month later at retreat, I met Franciscan Sister Sally Ann Brickner, who is the Justice Coordinator for the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Her response to the conference was the same as mine – outstanding!

One of the sessions was provided by Dear World. The two young founders said: “We aren’t changing the world, but we take pictures of people who are.” They also photograph persons who shared their hopes and fears, their losses and joy — regardless of their religion, race or language. “We learned that you can never lose your voice…We ask people to share one meaningful message with family, friends and strangers.

Dear World is part business/art project/social experiment. They explore stories of hope, struggle, and of a brighter day. They’re working towards a beautiful, wonderful world “where people get that we’re connected and that you can build something fast alone, but to build anything great you have to go together.”

”I am representing here … the face of invisibility … I have held their injured bodies and felt their broken spirits …” Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, Oslo 2014

September Monthly Reflection

Who Is God For Victims And Survivors Of Human Trafficking?

By Jeanne Christensen, RSM

As persons of faith, our prayer calls us to respond to the needs of the world and our response in ministry leads us back to God. We are called to integrate contemplation and action. Who is God for each of us?

Who is God for victims and survivors of human trafficking? How does their endurance of daily repeated physical, emotional, and sexual abuses shape their image of God?   The trauma which trafficking survivors experience is very complex and complicated. How do we help victims understand the love of God and that they are spiritual beings worthy of being loved by God?

Ponder these questions for a few moments.

Here is what some of the exploited women served through The Justice Project’s Willow Tree in Kansas City said about God:

  • God is my protector
  • God is good all of the time
  • God is REAL love…not fake love
  • God always found me when I was lost
  • God is a spirit who always loves me when nobody did
  • I used to think God was punishing me but now I know I just didn’t let him help me
  • Without God, I would be dead

Which of these descriptions of God most strikes you? Why?

Prayer handsConversation with the women also brought out that they don’t like the God-name “higher power” because it’s too abusive. They might consider “deeper power.” Their Native American transgendered person talked about the native belief that God is everywhere, takes all forms, has many names and is in all of us. The belief that God is always with them, but that they have the choice of what to do was voiced by almost everyone. The overall belief is that God is a loving God, but that God is very capable of, in their term, “kickin’ your ass”.

What do these women’s reflections about God say to you?

As so often happens, these victims and survivors amaze us and we receive more than we ever give. We have no idea or experience of the horrendous treatment they survive, so we are amazed at their courage in making the transition out.   To fully respond to our calling for ministry with them, we must simply walk with them until we understand. It is a slow and arduous journey – let us begin!

And, let us pray:

Compassionate, tender God, you desire that all might have fullness of life and you invite us to care for all persons you have created.  God, we know you are present and we are in awe of your grace which strengthens us as we hear the call to confront the tragic reality of human trafficking. May we respond as You would. AMEN.

Source: Sister Jeanne Christensen, RSM (Justice Advocate – Human Trafficking, Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community, North Kansas City, MO) and the women of The Justice Project’s Willow Tree in Kansas City, Missouri USA. To learn more, visit http://www.thejusticeprojectkc.org.