Dignity Health Leads in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Dignity Health, one of the nation’s largest health systems, announced today it has published online information about its successful Human Trafficking Response (HTR) Program, including internal victim response procedures to encourage other health systems and hospitals to implement similar programs to protect and support trafficked persons identified in the health care setting.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline recently reported 7,500 tips of human trafficking in 2016 — up from approximately 5,500 in the previous year, and the U.S. Department of Defense calls the activity the world’s fastest-growing crime. Studies have shown that health care providers can play an important role in intervention. Nearly 88 percent of sex trafficking survivors reported having some kind of contact with the health care system while they were trafficked, according to a study in the Annals of Health Law.

“Trafficked persons are often overlooked even though most survivors report that they have visited a health care setting at least once while being trafficked,” said Holly Gibbs, Director of the Dignity Health HTR Program and human trafficking survivor. “Dignity Health has developed a victim-centered, trauma-informed program based on actual cases because we believe that health care providers can provide a critical step in identifying and supporting trafficked persons. Our goal is to share our best practices with other systems so that one day human trafficking response programs like ours will be a standard offering at all hospitals and health care facilities across the country.”

Dignity Health hopes its guidelines will make it easier for more hospitals and health care systems to identify and support trafficked persons. The health system launched its HTR Program in 2014 across its system to educate staff, implement protocols, and strengthen communities against human trafficking. It created educational modules and victim response procedures that engage not only hospital staff and physicians, but also first responders and the community to build a strong multi-agency resource network to prevent exploitation, support trafficked persons, and empower survivors. Another key component to Dignity Health’s HTR program is addressing underlying issues that contribute to vulnerability, including identifying and supporting vetted programs, advocates, and service providers in the community that help support survivors. In Fiscal Year 2016 alone, Dignity Health staff identified at least 31 persons with high or moderate indicator levels of human trafficking victimization.

To read the full release from Dignity Health on Business Wire: Click Here

Sex Trafficking, Child Marriages Linked, Study of Mexico Finds

FILE - Members of the Club Owners Against Sex Trafficking learn how to spot sex traffickers in Burbank, Calif., Jan. 12, 2016. Mexico City has begun a similar program, teaching hotel staffs to recognize and report possible human trafficking.
FILE – Members of the Club Owners Against Sex Trafficking learn how to spot sex traffickers in Burbank, Calif., Jan. 12, 2016. Mexico City has begun a similar program, teaching hotel staffs to recognize and report possible human trafficking.

NEW YORK —Girls being trafficked for sex in northern Mexico often have been forced into exploitation as under-age child brides by their husbands, a study showed on Thursday.

Three out of four girls trafficked in the region were married at a young age, mostly before age 16, according to Mexican and U.S. researchers in a yet-unpublished study.

Human trafficking is believed to be the fastest-growing criminal industry in Mexico, and three-quarters of its victims are sexually exploited women and girls, according to Women United Against Trafficking, an activist group.

Under a 2012 anti-trafficking law, those convicted of the crime can spend up to 30 years in prison.

380,000 people believed enslaved

Nevertheless, nearly 380,000 people are believed to be enslaved in Mexico, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index published by rights group Walk Free Foundation.

The researchers interviewed 603 women working in the sex industry in the Mexican cities of Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, both along the border with the United States.

Most said they had been trafficked as under-age brides, often by their husbands, said Jay Silverman, the study’s lead author and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego.

In about half the cases, the brides were pregnant, so healthcare workers could play a critical role in thwarting sex trafficking, the researchers said.

“Within being provided pregnancy-related care, there’s the opportunity of interviewing that girl to understand her situation,” Silverman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We can support and assist those girls to reduce the likelihood that they will become trafficked,” he said.

Parents can allow young marriages

To read the full story from Reuters on VOAN: Click Here

Missouri Attorney General To Investigate Backpage With New Human Trafficking Unit

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announces new initiatives to crack down on human trafficking at a safehouse near St. Louis on Monday, April 3, 2017.

 

JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has begun the process of investigating the online advertising website Backpage, using a new unit in his office tasked with prosecuting human traffickers under the state’s consumer protection laws.

Hawley told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday that evidence already points to Backpage and its affiliates knowingly participating in illegal trafficking activity and concealing it, including findings from a U.S. Senate committee, which examined 1.1 million pages of documents supplied by the company.

Spearheaded by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the probe culminated in a scathing report in January that alleges the site automatically filters out any words in ads that indicate the site was offering sex with minors.

 
Critics of the site’s practices say that it’s become a hub for commercial sex exploitation, with traffickers using it to sell sex through the “adult” sections, which once allowed users to advertise escort services, strip clubs, and “adult jobs.”

To read the full story by Celeste Bott on St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Click Here

To Fight Human Trafficking, The Budget Must Protect Homeless Kids

With the news from two major studies released last month that one in five homeless youth has been trafficked, it is now clear that safe, affordable housing has become an essential front in the war against human trafficking. There’s good news ― and looming bad news – from the battlefield, and the safety of youth experiencing homelessness lies in the balance.

The good news is Congress reached agreement on its budget for the rest of Fiscal Year 2017, avoiding a government shutdown, and it has raised some homelessness-related funding levels, and kept others level, through September.

There was an increase of $10 million for Youth Homelessness Demonstration Projects, which are designed to focus resources in select communities across the country to achieve rapid and sustainable reductions in youth homelessness. Congress enacted a small (0.06 percent) increase in homeless assistance programs generally and education for Homeless Children and Youth saw an increase of $7 million. Those are positive steps.

But the 2018 budget could be another story. In March, President Donald Trump’s preliminary budget called for a $6.2 billion, 13.2 percent decrease in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

There was talk of cutting $600 million from the operating funds of public housing, and $1.3 billion from the public housing capital fund, even though there are tens of billions in repairs needed in public housing, as of 2010. As the number of habitable subsidized housing units decreases, kids like the ones we care for at Covenant House will have fewer options when they try to find their own apartments.

The proposed cuts will be devastating.

To read the full story by Kevin M. Ryan on Huffington Post: Click Here

‘Frederick Douglass’ Bill Introduced in Congress to Curb Human Trafficking

Members of Congress have introduced a bipartisan bill named for American abolitionist Frederick Douglass that would seek to curb human trafficking.

The new legislation, titled the “Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Act of 2017,” is co-sponsored by New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith and California Democrat Rep. Karen Bass.

Seven other sponsors have put their support behind the bill, which would reauthorize $130 million in funding to stop human trafficking and provide aid to victims.

“It is an honor to commemorate Frederick Douglass with this legislation, highlighting his unending dedication to the prevention and eradication of slavery,” Smith said in a statement.

Ken Morris, the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and co-founder of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiative — co-founded in 2007 by descendants of Douglass and Booker T. Washington with the intention of ending modern day slavery — told NBC News this bill has come about at the perfect time.

“Douglass’ bicentennial is in 2018 and as our current president said on February 1, Frederick Douglass has done amazing things,” Morris said. “And whether that’s past tense or present tense we agree because the spirit of Frederick Douglass is with us today, and we are so honored this act is named for him.”

To read the full story by Kalhan Rosenblatt and Chandelis R. Duster on NBC NEWS: Click Here

Immigration Expert Predicts Human Trafficking Will Surge Under Trump

The U.S.’s anti-immigration policies and building a US/Mexico wall are set to hinder the fight against human trafficking

WASHINGTON, April 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Under tougher anti-immigration policies in the United States under President Donald Trump, human trafficking will “skyrocket,” a top expert warned at a conference on Tuesday.

Fear of being deported by U.S. authorities stops people from speaking up about their own or other trafficking cases, said Denise Brennan, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Georgetown University.

“Policies that push migrants to live and work in the shadows make the perfect prey for abusive employers,” said Brennan, a keynote speaker at the Trust Conference/America Forum, a one-day Thomson Reuters Foundation event on the fight against slavery and trafficking.

“We cannot effectively fight trafficking when migrants fear reporting exploitation and abuse.”

Anti-immigrant rhetoric, violence and policies are on the rise around the world, in particular in the United States under Trump, who has vowed to fight illegal immigration and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, she said.

“Trafficking will skyrocket under President Trump,” she said. “Anti-immigrant policies make trafficking possible.”

Since becoming president, Trump has issued a temporary visa ban against seven Muslim-majority countries that was later blocked by federal courts, suspended a refugee program and initiated tougher deportation procedures.

LITTLE POLITICAL WILL

Up to 12 million people are estimated to be living illegally without documents in the United States.

While there are no official law enforcement statistics, in the United States nearly 32,000 cases of human trafficking have been reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the last decade.

“These individuals have no place to turn,” said Brennan, author of “Life Interrupted: Trafficking into Forced Labor in the United States.”

“Isolation and threat of deportation are just as powerful as locking someone behind closed doors,” she said.

 

To read the full story by Ellen Wulfhorst on Thomson Reuters Foundation News: Click Here

The Trauma of Human Trafficking Often Goes Unrecognized

Trauma has been the 2017 focus of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking, and the devastating effects of PTSD along with other health issues will be discussed at an all-day event at the Middlesex County Fire Academy on Friday, May 5.

Speaker Barbara Amaya was just 12 when she was first trafficked; she spent 10 years being sold for sex in Washington DC and New York, and the long-term health effects have been devastating. When she was still a child, she would visit the ER frequently with stab wounds and bruises, but no one ever asked her what was going on. Amaya, who was 12 when she was first sex trafficked, will tell her story

To help medical professionals better identify potential victims and community members understand the suffering faced by survivors, speaker Dr. Hanni Stoklosa, ER doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and co-founder of HEAL Trafficking, will offer trauma-informed care advice and training.  Dr. Stoklosa will speak to New Jersey to train medical professionals and community members.

To read the full press release from the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking on Tap into Edison: Click Here

Caught In Modern-Day Slavery, She Thought She’d Die. Could This Idea Help Others?

Shame Johns To Fight Trafficking

In the fight against human trafficking, it is time to confront a very ugly reality — customers who buy sex from trafficking victims are supporting a form of human slavery.

And there are a lot of these customers. They need to be confronted.

Human trafficking is forced labor. Those trafficked are kidnapped and compelled against their will to be sex workers. When kidnapped, most are usually under the age of 18. Trafficking is as purely evil as evil can be.

Greater Toledo’s understanding of trafficking has progressed, thanks in large part to a local crusading advocate and researcher at the University of Toledo. Her name is Celia Williamson. She has taught us some basic realities. For example: Victims of human trafficking are victims — slaves — they are not criminals.

We have only just begun, as a society, to address the social issues that make people vulnerable to being trafficked. This, too, is thanks to educators like Ms. Williamson.

In Congress, Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) is leading the fight to amend our laws so that the Internet platform on which trafficking victims are usually sold can be dismantled.

But what about addressing the demand for trafficking victims? As long as people are willing to pay for sex with trafficked women and children, the problem will persist.

Ms. Williamson last week joined Mr. Portman to host a screening of the film I Am Jane Doe, which depicts the legal fight to shut down Backpage.com, the site that facilitates about 80 percent of human-trafficking commerce.

 

To read the full story on The Blade: Click Here

May Monthly Reflection

What Does It Mean to be Safe?

by Sister Kathleen Bryant, RSC

Neurologists say that our brains are always scanning for information, for danger, for distraction like a vacuum cleaner! The stressful lives that we lead are not healthy for our brains. We all need time and space to just be, and to awaken to our safety and well-being. One of the meditations designed by Dr. Rick Hanson, helps us to rewire our brains so that we can be more mindful and contemplative. I use this meditation with a diverse population and ask them for an image that makes them feel safe. In silence and as one of the steps they sit still with that image and it has effects on the body and their wellbeing. You can view powerpoint slides of his meditations and neuroplasticity of the brain here.

What does this have to do with human trafficking? After rescue and during rehabilitation, how do we help our survivors experience safety?  How safe can they be if they are living in the same city as their trafficker? How do we help with their healing process by creating safety “zones” in their lives? I have used this meditation practice with women and it helps cultivate a sense of safety and peace.

One of the most effective programs for trauma healing that I have ever experienced provides protocols for helping people get to a safety zone. Pat Cane, Founder and CEO of Capacitar trains people to use these healing protocols with survivors of trauma and violence. Using a rich menu of tai chi, fingerholding meditation, acupressure, pal dan gum, tapping, and more, the survivor is equipped and empowered to be part of her or his own healing process.  All you need is your breath and your body.  You can view the emergency kit at on capacitar.org  in several different languages. Look at the home page for stories of work with trauma survivors globally as well as efforts to nurture peace is some very violent parts of the world.

Safety has been foremost on my mind because of a recent tragedy in which three girls were shot, or executed, on Easter Sunday night at an orphanage in a nearby country by a cartel. They had been victims of trafficking and the cartels controlled the market. No photos or places can be disclosed with reverence and protection of those who loved them. However, this story will give you an understanding of the total control and lack of any safety these girls experience here.

At a FADICA gathering in February this year, a few of us were asked to speak about human trafficking and the border between California and Mexico.  Little did we know at the time that some of the stories we shared of escape, healing and support would have such a brutal ending.  The most recent girl was rescued was one year old. Did the traffickers want her for child porn or for her organs? This is the reality we deal with and pray for an end to this unspeakable exploitation. 

I thought of all the effort that went into helping these young girls with rehabilitation—medical and emotional—surgeries and therapy, and yet one shot ended it all.  We wrestle with systemic change when we work for justice. We advocate, meet with government officials, march, educate and try to prevent.  How can we imagine possible ways to go to the source of this trafficking enterprise and find ways to diffuse their power? There is no true healing if the survivor does not feel safe. These executions sent a clear message about who is in control. 

As people of faith we believe that good does defeat evil, that Light can penetrate any darkness. In this Easter season, how can we nurture faith in the transformative power of suffering and death that ends in new life? I struggle as I see their faces and know their stories. It impels us into further action with the powers that be. Our contemplative lives, if authentic, impel us into social action. Otherwise, we sit in impotent silence.