MnDOT Initiative Raises Awareness For Human Trafficking

The Minnesota Department of Transportation will begin installing posters in 41 rest areas across the state this week to educate the traveling public about human trafficking and to encourage them to report suspicious activity.

The posters include guidelines on how to recognize signs of human trafficking and potential victims as well as a toll-free hotline to report any suspicious activity.

Human trafficking often involves the transport of victims from a base of operations to locations of exploitation.

“Minnesota has the third highest number of human trafficking cases in the nation,” said MnDot commissioner Charlie Zelle. “MnDOT’s responsible for maintaining the quality and safety of multiple modes of transportation, including highways, airports, rail lines, transit systems and commercial vehicles, provides unique opportunities to see—and stop—human trafficking activities.”

To read the full story by Claire Colby on Post Bulletin: Click Here

We Can’t Stop Now: Fight For Human Rights And Renew Trafficking Protection Law

Human trafficking is a gross violation of human rights. Traffickers victimize immigrants and U.S. citizens across every race, gender, religion and culture. Men, women and children of all ages are exploited. And many of these violations occur right here in the United States.

With the proposed reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), we have an opportunity to set a new standard that strengthens critical programs and protections for survivors.

Originally introduced in 2000, the TVPA established the U.S. as a world leader in the fight against human trafficking through emphasis on what we call the “3 Ps” — prosecution, protection and prevention. This approach introduced measures to ensure survivors are identified and supported, traffickers are punished and that root causes are addressed to reduce vulnerabilities for both victims and communities.

The law defines human trafficking, provides funding and programs for survivors, establishes criminal sentences for traffickers and outlines the responsibilities of the federal government. It also authorizes funding for law enforcement investigations, social and legal services for survivors, prosecution and training.

To date, the TVPA has been reauthorized four times — each with revised parameters to further strengthen prevention strategies, increase victim protections and expand investigative measures to address human trafficking.

But despite this progress, we have seen setbacks. For example, the number of labor prosecutions in the U.S. has steadily declined from 60 percent of trafficking cases in 2010 to 27 percent in 2014. Victims are often arrested for the crimes they are forced to commit. More is needed to hold traffickers accountable and to protect victims and survivors. 

With TVPA reauthorization once again on the horizon, we are at a key turning point, and we must move the needle. 

The legislation proposes multiple new measures. It adds important direction to federal agencies to broaden training efforts that will expand recognition of human trafficking by law enforcement and support a victim-centered response. Current law enforcement techniques — such as interviewing victims at the scene, requiring multiple interviews, and refusing referrals to services without victims’ cooperation — often lead to victim re-traumatization and refusal to cooperate with further investigations.

The legislation focuses on a victim-centered approach that addresses these issues, and includes new requirements for law enforcement to screen for victimization in populations likely to be victims of trafficking.

In addition, it directs law enforcement to avoid arresting and prosecuting victims for crimes they were forced to commit. Local and state law enforcement continue to arrest labor trafficking victims who are forced to commit crimes such as transporting drugs and panhandling, as well as sex workers on ‘prostitution’ grounds, including minors who are eligible for victim services under federal law.

These legislative improvements are worthy of support. But our work must go further to prevent these heinous crimes. Namely, we must address the underlying issues that make people vulnerable to trafficking — poverty, violence, discrimination, weak worker protections, insufficient child welfare protections and lack of affordable housing.

To read the full story by Jean Bruggeman on The Hill: Click Here

Bishop Lauds Bill To Fight Human Trafficking

Washington D.C., Jul 13, 2017 / 04:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An upgrade to a key anti-trafficking bill passed the U.S. House on Wednesday, and has been praised by one U.S. bishop as “an important step” in the fight to abolish modern-day slavery.

Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, called H.R. 2200 “an important step Congress can take to help prevent human trafficking and protect victims as it provides important service provisions that will aid victims.”

The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention, Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2017 makes upgrades to existing legislation, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The new bill is named after Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave in 1818 but escaped to freedom and who spent his time thereafter fighting to abolish the institution of slavery in the U.S.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chair of the House global human rights subcommittee, is the author of the act, with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), ranking member on the committee, being the bill’s lead sponsor.

The proposed legislation would increase funding for existing anti-trafficking programs in the U.S. and abroad by over $500 million.

Grants will be given to educational programs for students and teachers on how to detect and avoid the trafficking of young people for work or sex. Also, the U.S. government is encouraged under the bill to have employees stay at hotels that have taken concrete steps to prevent trafficking on their property.

To read the full story by Matt Hadro of Catholic News Agency: Click Here

Joining Forces To Fight Human Trafficking

Members of the ACRATH-SVHA anti-trafficking working party

ACRATH and SVHA have launched the Human Trafficking Project, thought to be a first in Australia’s health care sector.

The project will look at how trafficked people – who may present at any of SVHA’s hospitals Australia-wide – can be identified and receive necessary treatment, support, referrals and access to services. This includes women who have been sexually exploited, people facing forced marriage and people who have experienced forced labour.

The project will also look at how to make sure the goods and services procured by St Vincent’s are slavery-free. This means investigating supply chains to make sure a diverse range of goods – everything from medical equipment through to cotton sheets and gowns, and chocolates sold for hospital fundraising – have been produced without the use of enslaved or forced labour.

ACRATH’s executive officer Christine Carolan said work around the long-term project had already begun by developing new supply chain policies for SVHA’s procurement department.

“Slavery proofing supply chains also extends to the employment of people providing services. One example would be ensuring all staff working for third-party cleaning contractors engaged by St Vincent’s are employed under Australian labour regulations,” Ms Carolan said.

To read the full story on CathNews: Click Here

Brownback Lauds New Law Aiding Fight Against Human Trafficking

Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday signed legislation strengthening laws against child exploitation and sex trafficking. (Katie Moore/The Capital-Journal)

Gov. Sam Brownback described human trafficking as a modern iteration of slavery Monday, affirming his justification for signing legislation to strengthen interdiction and prosecution of people who exploit children in Kansas.

The House and Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 40 to create new crimes of promoting travel for child exploitation and of internet trading in child pornography. Under the law, human trafficking suspects wouldn’t be able to use as a defense lack of knowledge about a victim’s age or that a victim had consented to be oppressed.

“Trafficking victims take many forms — forced labor, sex trafficking, child soldiers and involuntary domestic servitude,” the governor said.

“Trafficking is modern-day slavery. Kansas has rich history of fighting such evils.”

Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, said the 40-0 vote in the Senate and 120-0 vote in the House on the bill demonstrated government reform didn’t have to be affixed to political labels.

To read the full story by Tim Carpenter on The Topeka Capital-Journal: Click Here

DMST Chart Offers Visual Tool to Explain Community Response Needed to Combat Trafficking

by Emily Anderson

A chart has been developed to offer an overview of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST) in the U.S., depicting the infrastructure needed for an effective response network to rescue victims and rehabilitate survivors successfully.

Stories of survivors of sex trafficking contain many similar components which led to their escape/rescue and healing. The vast majority of survivors had the best chance of successfully leaving “the life” when there was a multi-tiered, collaborative response network in place to help them once they were able to leave their traffickers.

From left to right, the chart outlines the influencers surrounding at-risk youth; what the public can do in terms of awareness and prevention; how an exploited victim could have a crisis event and cross over into the service system and those potential points of interaction; and the elements needed to provide for a successful recovery and re-entry into the community.

Begin at the orange circle that says “At-Risk Youth” on the left and follow the arrows from there. You can see what the general public can do to help at-risk youth and victims in the large gray circle on the left.

For the exploited victim, it is extremely difficult to get out of the life. Trapped by fear, bound by their trauma bond, and powerless over their situations, it will usually take some sort of crisis event for them to break through the boundaries their trafficker has instilled and come into contact with the service system.

They can come into contact at various points, such as law enforcement, medical professionals, the child welfare system, social service organizations, a teacher or counselor, or possibly a family member or friend. Wherever they are in a position where they may be able to seek help, it’s critical to have immediate crisis counseling, and then a route to a safe house, in order to help them.

Immediate crisis counseling is needed because of the extreme trauma they have endured. They sometimes do not even think they are victims, and have not escaped their attacker willingly; often, they have been brought into the service system due to a medical emergency or an arrest. Ideally, this crisis counseling would happen before any extensive interviews are done, as early interviews can result in retraumatization, and the victim may shut down completely and/or run right back into the hands of their traffickers. In fact, a victim will come into contact with the service system and/or try to escape their situation
 times (meaning they return to their traffickers six times), before they actually successfully are able to finally leave the life.

After immediate crisis counseling, the second biggest need of a victim is a safe place to stay, where they are protected from their traffickers. Victims often end up in juvenile detention programs which are too rigid and unforgiving, and/or foster homes which are not prepared for traumatized victims. Sexual assault crisis centers and homeless shelters for youth also can offer temporary safe housing to victims, but they are not always equipped to meet the complex needs of a human trafficking survivor.

An ideal safe house location is one in which they will be provided a wide range of services that are individualized, trauma-informed, culturally sensitive and age appropriate. They also need the option to stay long term, as their healing process is complex.

In addition to their basic needs of shelter, food, and clothing, many need medical attention, in particular for past abuse, STDs and possible pregnancies. Mental health consequences of the life often include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, eating disorders, chronic pain, and other physical and emotional manifestations of significant and extended trauma. Counseling by a therapist trained in helping victims of trafficking is imperative to the healing process.

Mentoring is a huge part of the recovery process as well. Victims need to develop a relationship with someone they can trust; someone who can convince them that they truly care about them. Mentoring is even more successful if a survivor can be involved. Having those shared experiences helps victims realize that what happened is not their fault, and that they do have worth and value, and can live a happy, productive life.

In addition, they will likely need legal counsel and advocacy; drug/alcohol rehabilitation, spiritual guidance, child care and skills training to prepare them to re-enter the community.

There are a handful of safe houses in the U.S. to address this need. However, they have minimal capacity. The positive news is that as awareness of human trafficking continues to rise, more organizations which serve these survivors are able to raise funding needed to set up safe houses in their areas.

As more victims are able to leave the life and more survivors share their stories, we will be able to use their input and feedback to enhance and expand tools like this chart—to create even stronger, more prepared response networks to end human trafficking.

New York State Set To Ban Child Marriages

Gov. Cuomo called the child marriage ban a priority. (HANS PENNINK/AP)

ALBANY — New York will soon outlaw child marriages.

As lawmakers head into the final three weeks of the legislative session, the Assembly is expected to pass a bill as soon as this week raising the legal age at which a person in New York can marry.

Under current law, the age of consent in New York for marriage is 18. But someone as young as 14 can wed as long as they have parental and judicial consent.

The bill set to pass the Assembly would prohibit the marriage of minors under 17 years of age and require those 17 and 18 to get court and parental approval to wed.

The Senate passed the measure in March but will have to act again after the Assembly sought some tweaks. Gov. Cuomo has called the issue called it a priority.

The Assembly Democrats twice discussed the measure behind closed doors — including right before beginning a 12-day break that encompassed Memorial Day — and agreed to bring it to the floor for a vote.

“Children who are 14 should be worrying about their math test; they should not be married with marriage responsibilities,” said Assembly bill sponsor Amy Paulin (D-Westchester County). “They are too young. And for girls who are married to much older men, it’s abuse. It is time to change the law.”

To read the full story by Kenneth Lovett on The New York Daily News: Click Here

2017 Trafficking in Persons Report

“Human trafficking is one of the most tragic human rights issues of our time. It splinters families, distorts global markets, undermines the rule of law, and spurs other transnational criminal activity. It threatens public safety and national security.

“But worst of all, the crime robs human beings of their freedom and their dignity. That’s why we must pursue an end to the scourge of human trafficking.

“Today we take another key step towards that goal. The 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report highlights the successes achieved and the remaining challenges before us on this important global issue.” – Rex W. Tillerson, Secretary of State

How Do You Honor And Cherish Freedom?

By Sister Carol Davis, OP

On the 4th of July in the United States we celebrate Independence Day. In 1776 John Adams wrote an historic letter to his wife Abigail telling her that from one end of this continent to the other there would be future annual celebrations, shows and parades celebrating what he called a “Day of Deliverance.” He recognized the blood and toil of beginning this new nation and he also saw light and glory in the forward movement.

We have much to rejoice about and also much toil ahead because there are millions awaiting their personal day of deliverance from the trauma of human trafficking. Future generations are counting on us too. Each one of us can make a difference.

In her book Stolen, Katariina (Kat) Rosenblatt, Phd, http://www.thereishopeforme.org/ writes about her personal experience of being a survivor of sex trafficking, her escape and subsequent work with American children. She notes some of the significant vulnerability factors that lead to recruitment of American children.

  • abuse at home normalizes maltreatment
  • economic disadvantages – single parent home being of higher risk
  • alcohol and drug abuse in home normalizes that experience/lifestyle
  • seeking a father figure to fill a “daddy hole”

Kat said to me one time when I asked her what I should tell people who want to help prevent human trafficking, “If you see something, say something.”

I am part of a coalition working against human trafficking in my local region and we are noting which kids in schools are “couch surfing” because of some of the reasons that Kat lists in her book. I would add that gay and lesbian kids are sometimes kicked out of their home when they identify their sexual orientation and disclose to family. All of these kids are just one extended family member, neighbor, friend, couch away from homelessness. Within 72 hours of being on the streets, they will be approached by a pimp and are therefore at high risk for survival sex or being trafficked. Those who buy commercial sex are committing a crime. By definition, no one under age can consent to sex with an adult.

Is there a child in your life who needs safe love and care, can you offer it? For example, check out Girls, Inc. When you refer someone to Alcoholics Anonymous or help a woman call a shelter so that she might leave a domestic violence situation, you could be providing a barrier to human trafficking. The more you pay attention, the more you will see the connections and realize that you can make a difference.

Consciousness grows. And we need to grow it worldwide. To that end, in 2013 the United Nations adopted a resolution declaring July 30th the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. What will you do to increase awareness? Check out the prayer service on our website: Click Here

Let us celebrate where we can and continue to respond to the call to hope and freedom. Let us continue to carry the light from the Source of all love and light.

The Spirit of God is upon me,
for the Exalted One has anointed me:
God has sent me to bring good news to those who are poor;
to heal broken hearts;
to proclaim release to those held captive.

-Isaiah 61:1