Sisters’ Collaborative Rack Card Effort Raises Awareness at Tourist Destinations in Wisconsin

by Emily Anderson

 

Five congregations of women religious collaborated to develop a rack card to spread awareness about human trafficking in Wisconsin. 10,000 rack cards were printed and are being distributed to 825+ rack locations at travel stops such as convenience stores, truck plazas, and other tourism destinations across Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

The rack card, which measures 4” x 9” and is printed in color front and back, shares the fact that human trafficking happens everywhere, and asks tourists to help end this crime in Wisconsin by becoming aware, learning more, and reporting suspicious activity as they travel, through two smartphone apps, Redlight Traffic and TraffickCam. It also shares the “red flag” signs of human trafficking in potential victims and shares significant statistics about human trafficking.

The Congregations of women religious who participated include the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother (Oshkosh, Wis.), the Holy Cross Sisters (Merrill, Wis.), the Servants of Mary (Ladysmith, Wis.), the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis (Stevens Point, Wis.) and the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross (Green Bay, Wis.). With 5 Congregations participating, the cost to each was approximately $300 for this initiative.

The rack locations are serviced every other week, and the cards will be replenished by drivers for one year, beginning in June, 2017. If all 10,000 cards are distributed prior to the year-end date, the Congregations will consider printing more rack cards.

Design of the card was done by the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and printing and distribution were handled through 5 Star Marketing, Tomahawk, Wis.

 

New Task Force Formed to Fight Human Trafficking in Northeast Ohio

(CLEVELAND)— Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkney, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations Acting Special Agent in Charge Steve Francis, and Independence Police Chief Michael Kilbane today announced the formation of a new task force that will work to fight human trafficking in northeast Ohio.

The Cuyahoga County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, which is part of the Ohio Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, is being led by the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department and includes representatives from each of the aforementioned local and federal agencies.

The task force, which recently began operations, will investigate incidents of human trafficking primarily in Cuyahoga County.

Investigators have already opened a number of investigations, and the task force has rescued nine human trafficking victims since its formation. An additional 56 victims have been identified as possibly being involved in sex trafficking.

Among those rescued by the task force include a 14-year-old girl who investigators found was being advertised on the internet for sex. Three suspects are now facing felony human trafficking charges related to that case, and dozens of other suspects face possible felony charges as the task force continues their open investigations.

“Human trafficking is a vile crime, and I’m confident that this task force will make a difference in the lives of many more victims who are currently enslaved by traffickers in northeast Ohio,” said Attorney General DeWine.  “Human traffickers may think that their crimes will go unnoticed, but through this partnership of state, local, and federal authorities, traffickers will be exposed and held accountable for their actions.”

“Our mission in setting up the Cuyahoga County Regional Human Trafficking Task Force is to identify and recover victims, to prosecute those who perpetrate this crime, and to put an end to this crime,” said Sheriff Pinkney.

To read the full story on Huntington News: Click Here

Fruit Cart Vendors Falling Victim To Human Trafficking Network

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Eyewitness News discovered fruit cart vendors around town are part of a labor-trafficking network that originates in Los Angeles.

“Any time you see a vendor on the side of the road, there is a chance that person is being trafficked or debt bondage or peonage,” said Michael Fagans, coordinator for the Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

Fruit cart workers are usually brought into the country by “coyotajes.” All the vendors Eyewitness News talked to were immigrants from Mexico who were offered $50 a day plus free housing in exchange for work.

“A coyote is someone who brings them across the border, usually for exuberant amounts of money … they know the techniques, they have certain strategies, and so they do this on a fairly regular basis,” said Fagans.

These coyotajes operate to a pretty strategic system. Once the immigrants are brought into the country, they live in homes, which are owned by their boss. One fruit cart worker said he lived with 10 others under one roof. Immigrants who work under one boss call themselves a team.

Every morning, fruit cart vendors wake up, prepare their carts and are dropped off at a location outside of Los Angeles. Vendors have been reported in numerous locations all across the state, including San Bernardino, Pasadena and Coalinga Park.

“The I-5 corridor literally goes all the way to Tijuana and to Vancouver, so every city up and down the I-5 is potentially on a labor trafficking route. Same thing with the 99,” said Fagans.

To read the full story by Kahtia Hall, on Bakersfield Now: Click Here

Tributes Paid To Former Sex Slave Jennifer Kempton Whose Charity Helped Other Survivors Turn Brandings Into Flower Tattoos

Jennifer Kempton (second R) at Trust Conference/Americas Forum in Washington DC, April 25, 2017. REUTERS

NEW YORK, May 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Jennifer Kempton, a former sex slavery victim who founded the U.S.-based charity Survivor’s Ink to help other trafficked women, died on Thursday, an associate said, prompting a series on tributes on social media.

Kempton used tattoos to cover up those branded on her by sex traffickers and she founded her non-profit group in 2014 to provide grants so others could do the same.

Kempton, who lived in Columbus, Ohio, died on Thursday morning, according to Paula Haines, executive director of Freedom a la Cart, a catering and box lunch company that trains and employs trafficking survivors.

Kempton previously worked at Freedom a la Cart, and both organizations often worked with the same survivors, Haines said.

Local police said they received a report of an accidental drug overdose and took Kempton, unconscious and unresponsive, to an area hospital late on Wednesday night.

Police did not have official confirmation that Kempton died, and the hospital, Mount Carmel West, did not respond to a request for information.

Kempton, who often spoke publicly about her experiences, aimed to help survivors whose traffickers had tattooed or branded them to show ownership and control.

Globally some 4.5 million people are trapped in sexual exploitation, according to the United Nation’s International Labour Organization, generating an estimated $99 billion in illegal profits a year.

“It’s always amazing to see the look on their face when they no longer have to look at this dehumanizing mark of ownership and violence,” Kempton told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview last year.

“Sometimes I’ll get a call a few days later with someone just bawling their eyes out saying ‘Oh my gosh, I can actually look at my body. It’s my own again.'”

To read the full article by Ellen Wulfhorst on Thompson Reuters Foundation: Click Here

Alaskans Walk Barefoot Through Anchorage To Raise Awareness About Human Trafficking

Breanna Rutledge stood barefoot in downtown Anchorage on Saturday afternoon, joining her husband, young daughter and roughly 300 others who walked a mile around the city to raise awareness about human trafficking.

For 25-year-old Rutledge, the walk was personal. Rutledge said she was kidnapped as a toddler in Kansas and sexually exploited for three years, until she was rescued by law enforcement at age 6. She said Saturday’s walk gave her hope.

“It just shows me that it can be done, that our task to end trafficking here in Alaska isn’t too large,” Rutledge said in an interview Saturday after she and two other survivors of human trafficking had addressed the crowd in Town Square Park.

Daisy, Gina, Rhiannon and Bonnie Forstner wait for The Barefoot Mile walk to start in downtown Anchorage on Saturday. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

Cities across the countries have held similar 1-mile walks, called “The Barefoot Mile,” to raise awareness about human trafficking and to walk in solidarity with impoverished children who are most vulnerable to trafficking, according to Jeff Brodsky, the Colorado-based founder of Joy International and The Barefoot Mile. He attended Saturday’s walk.

Brodsky said he has gone without shoes for about seven years, since he went to a garbage dump in Cambodia to feed the children who gathered there and he noticed all of the children were barefoot.

To read the full story by Tegan Hanlon, on Alaska Dispatch News: Click Here

June, 2017 Monthly Reflection

Are We Living Too Fast?

By Sister Jean Schafer SDS

Summer time! For some of us around the country that season is long in coming and often too short. For most of us we want to make the most of summer: enjoy a bit more leisure, travel, read a good book, wear those new summer clothes we bought during the spring sale – our ‘summer wish list’ goes on.

What we probably do not include in that list, however, is a growing consciousness of our role in stopping or furthering the ‘fast fashion’ industry’s exploitation of both the producers and consumers of cheap clothing. To become conscious of our role in this global web of overproduction, human trafficking and environmental pollution is a challenging learning curve. Caring and courageous people are taking up that challenge. By reading further you may sense an invitation to get involved, as well!

What Is ‘Fast Fashion’?

A brief definition: “Fast fashion is the quick turnover of trendy, cheaply-made clothing that often ends up in landfill.” The tradition of introducing new fashion lines on a seasonal basis is eroding as some fast-fashion retailers introduce new products multiple times in a single week.

Three major components link us into that reality and its exploitative outcomes.

  • Trendy clothing: The retail industry has convinced the consumer through slick advertising that a new fashion is on the shelves and s/he has to buy it before it goes out of style. Thus, consumers are conditioned to visit retail stores often and succumb to purchase something trendy, whether needed or not.
  • Quick and cheaply made: Those who sew the clothing are forced to work long hours for very low wages under unhealthy conditions, so the retailer can offer us the cheap price that satisfies our expectation of ‘affordable’. Workers have few or no rights and most are caught in labor trafficking because they lack voice or options for better jobs.
  • Landfill destinations: Because cheaply-made clothing does not last and because we did not pay much to own them, it is easy to toss out the ‘outmoded’ and buy the ‘new trendy’ replacement. Yes, we recycle, but thrift stores eventually resort to landfills to keep their racks full of ‘trendy’ clothes.

If you are ready for the challenge, let’s explore more deeply a few of the real facts and trends behind these components of the ‘fast fashion’ phenomenon.

The world now consumes about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year. Clothing consumption has increased 500% in the US in just the last couple of decades. Roughly 98% of clothing sold in America are actually made overseas, compared to 5% in 1960. Meanwhile, the global fashion industry earns about $3 trillion per year.

What the ‘Fast Fashion’ industry won’t tell you:

  • The fashion industry is designed to make you feel “out of trend” after one week.
  • ‘Discounts’ aren’t really discounts.
  • There are hazardous chemicals, including lead in your clothing.
  • Clothing is designed to fall apart.
  • Beading and sequins may be an indication of child labor.

There are about 40 million garment workers in the world today; 85% of them are women. On average, only 0.5 to 3% of the cost of production for the average item of clothing goes to the worker who made it – i.e., 30 cents of a shirt costing $10 to make. Then there are also workplace abuses: wage theft (not paying overtime, violating minimum wage laws), lack of building safety, and underage employees, some as young as 11 years old.

The average hourly wage for garment workers:

Bangladesh  $0.24

Cambodia      $0.45

Pakistan        $0.52

Vietnam         $0.53

China              $1.26

What ‘Fast Fashion’ Retailers Earn:

  • GAP’s CEO Arthur Peck’s annual compensation: $3,510,000; Reported accumulated compensation: $30,468,880
  • Hennes & Mauritz is Europe’s largest fashion retailer. H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson’s net worth: $3,000,000,000. He is grandson of H&M’s founder. The Persson family’s worth: $26,000,000,000. (They own 36% shares in H&M.)

What Does ‘Fast’ Look Like?

Farfetch.com announced that it would now be delivering Gucci in 90 minutes in 10 major cities around the world. *F90 delivery is available from store to door in the following cities: London, Paris, Madrid, Milan, New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Dubai, Tokyo, São Paulo.

Environmental Impact of ‘Fast Fashion’

  • Apparel accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil.
  • It takes up to 700 gallons of water to produce the cotton needed to make a single t­-shirt.
  • Cotton production is now responsible for 18% of worldwide pesticide use and 25% of total insecticide use.
  • We churn out clothes at an alarming rate — Americans now buy five ­times as much clothing as they did in 1980.
  • Pesticide-infused cotton fields in Texas and India coincide with high incidences of cancer deaths of farmers.
  • Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world’s polyester fiber, which is now the most commonly used fiber in our clothing. But it takes more than 200 years to decompose.
  • In the US alone, 12.8 million tons of clothing are sent to landfills each year (about 87 lbs of clothing per person every year). Massive landfills in developing countries, such as Haiti, give off poisonous gases and seep deadly chemicals into the waterways and oceans, as the synthetic materials rot.
  • Textiles use 25% of chemicals produced worldwide, many of which are dumped into the environment after use. This water pollution coincides with a massive rise in local cancer and birth defects, especially among children.
  • In 2014, the US produced 35.4 million tons of containerboard, a large proportion of which becomes disposable packaging used in e­-commerce.

Global Response to Tragedy

On April 24, 2013, 1,134 people were killed and over 2,500 were injured when the 8-storey Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Workers said the building was unsafe. Yet managers forced them in and locked the doors.

Rana Plaza
Nne victim’s future.

 

This date was also when a Fashion Revolution was born and many people rallied to do something to right this terrible wrong.

“The old notion of a ‘good buy’ is that it is cheap and makes you look thin. A renewed notion: a ‘good buy’ for us as Catholics has ethical content. How was it sourced? How does it care for creation? How were the workers treated in the making of this garment? How were they paid?” (The Human Thread Campaign.org: Five Reasons)

What Can We Do?

View the documentary: The True Cost.

This 2015 documentary film directed by Andrew Morgan focuses on fast fashion. Morgan examines the garment industry and links it to consumerism, mass media, globalization, capitalism, structural poverty, oppression, and human trafficking. The documentary is a collage of several interviews with environmentalists, garment workers, factory owners, and people organizing fair trade companies or promoting sustainable clothing production. (True Cost Movie Website)

Take the Pledge to become a responsible consumer and educate yourself on the true cost of fashion:

  • I pledge to be a responsible consumer and remain aware of the environmental and human effects of the fast fashion industry.
  • Buy clothes made with sustainable fibers (recycled polyester, organic cotton).
  • Ask the brands you buy from how their clothes are made—tweet at them or ask retailers when you are in stores about where, how, and who makes their clothing.
  • Recycle clothes at thrift stores, vintage stores, or donation locations.
  • Participate in clothing-swap meet-ups—it’s fun.
  • Buy what you need, not always what you want.
  • Participate in “slow fashion.”
  • Buy clothes you love, that last, and that have an exceptional warranty policy to help you mend them over time.
  • Wash your jeans less.

Search the Internet for information on the harms of ‘fast fashion’:

Search the Internet for information on ways people and companies are working to counter ‘fast fashion’:

General Resources:

In his Message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Pope Francis wrote: “As individuals, we have grown comfortable with certain lifestyles shaped by a distorted culture of prosperity and a ‘disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary’ (Laudato Si’, 123), and we are participants in a system that ‘has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature.’ Let us repent of the harm we are doing to our common home.”

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

Kentucky Derby Season Draws Warnings Of Human Trafficking

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s attorney general is urging people to pay attention to more than horses and parties during the springtime celebrations leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

Warning of the unsavory side of Derby season, authorities are asking for the public’s help in cracking down on sex traffickers trying to cash in on the crowds expected for the world’s most famous horse race.

“This is our Derby, which is supposed to be a celebration,” Attorney General Andy Beshear said Thursday. “And we should not allow criminals to mar it, especially through a crime that so victimizes our children and other vulnerable individuals. So be our eyes and ears.”

More than 160,000 fans are expected to pack into Churchill Downs for the May 6 race, capping two weeks of festivities across Louisville that kick off Saturday night with a huge fireworks show.

Last Derby season, Beshear’s office worked with local law enforcement in trying to root out trafficking operations. He said that effort led to multiple arrests and the rescue of a 14-year-old girl.

Authorities can point to other successes in their efforts.

A Kalamazoo, Michigan, man ensnared in a prostitution sting operation during a prior Derby season was sentenced recently to nearly 20 years in prison. David Q. Givhan was convicted of one count of sex trafficking and three counts of interstate transportation for prostitution.

To read the full story from the Associated Press: Click Here

Study Shows 1 In 5 Homeless Detroit Youths Victims Of Human Trafficking

ruth ellis center.JPG
A study shows that 1 in homeless Detroit youths are victims of human trafficking. The Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park is a youth social service that helps homeless and at-risk gay, bi-attractional, transgender, and questioning youth. (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive.com) (Tanya Moutzalias | MLive.com)

A study of homeless youth in the U.S. and Canada indicates that one in five are victims of human trafficking. 

Among those surveyed were Detroit youths, with 21 percent of the 60 respondents reporting that they had been trafficked for sex, labor or both.

The survey was conducted by The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice and Research at the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola University.

Researchers interviewed 911 people between ages 17 and 24 across 13 cities between February 2014 and March 2017.

In 12 of the 13 cities, researchers interviewed people from Covenant House, which offers services for homeless youth across the nation.

LGBTQ youth accounted for 10 percent of the interviews, and 56 percent were victims of sex trafficking.

About 21 percent were women and 13 percent were men. About five percent reported being trafficked for labor.

“Youth homelessness is like a disease that over time builds up a stubborn resistance and becomes immune to almost any intervention that we can provide,” said Gerald J. Piro, Covenant House Michigan executive director.

“I am greatly disturbed that so many of the youth we serve in Detroit have been victims of trafficking.

To read the full story by Dana Afana on MLive: Click Here