Pathfinder Center Opens Doors To Human Trafficking Victims

CENTRAL SOUTH DAKOTA — In the least likely of places, Lisa Heth found the place where she could finally provide refuge for human trafficking survivors.
What was formerly a run-down motel, is now a brightly decorated, long-term shelter for women and children — and the first of its kind in South Dakota.

The Pathfinder Center, which formally opened its doors early last week, has 13 bedrooms uniquely decorated by a variety of organizations and individuals who provided sponsorship.

One bedroom has a queen-sized canopy bed covered in a delicate, white-ruffled comforter, while another is brightly painted pink and yellow with affirmations written on the wall. And another bedroom, Heth designed herself, has hand-painted blue feathers outlining the ceiling.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” said Heth, executive director of the Pathfinder Center. “Every room is different, specifically for each woman’s various needs. What works for one may not work for everyone.”

The center is located in central South Dakota, but the specific city and location are being withheld from the public for the safety of the women.

Heth, who is executive director of Wiconi Wawokiya, has been working with trafficking and domestic violence victims for the past 25 years. Wiconi Wawokiya is a nonprofit victim services organization located on the Crow Creek Reservation in central South Dakota.

She first got the idea to open the center in 2015. A seemingly random phone call from a motel owner led Heth to the bank to ask for a loan to turn the motel into a shelter. Almost two years later, Heth is ready to open the shelter for services.

“These women should come into these rooms and feel the love that went into decorating them. To know that someone out there cares about them,” Heth said.

To read the full article and watch the video by Libby Leyden on The Daily Republic: Click Here

What Happens to Foreign Human Trafficking Victims in the United States?

At age 19, Indira Karimova became a victim of human trafficking after she was married off to her second cousin and brought to the United States.

After their arranged marriage in Kyrgyzstan, Karimova and her husband moved to America before settling in Tyler, Texas, where she alleges she was subjected to years of abuse.

Living in America and unable to speak English, Karimova said she was in hell with no lifeline to escape.

“It was a horrible experience. I was thinking it’s like a dream,” Karimova said in a phone interview. “I’m going to wake up one day, and I’ll be out of this.”

NBC News does not typically identify victims of sexual abuse, but Karimova agreed to share her story in the hopes it will help other victims come forward.

The United Nations recognizes 21 million people across the globe, like Karimova, are victims of trafficking as it raises awareness on Sunday for World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

Smith County arrest records show Karimova’s now ex-husband was taken into custody three times — once in 2013 and twice in 2014 — for assaulting a family member. Karimova’s ex-husband was never convicted of assaulting her. The assault charges were dropped after he pleaded guilty to violating the protective order in 2015, court records show.

To read the full story and watch the videos by Kalhan Rosenblatt on NBC: Click Here

‘Am I About To Be Sold?’: Human Trafficking in Alamance County

 

Editor’s note: In the process of reporting on prostitution and human trafficking in Alamance County, as well as the cycle of poverty, homelessness and drug use that often accompanies it, the Times-News spoke with a woman who was forced into prostitution this year at a Burlington hotel. Law enforcement has confirmed the woman’s story of being victimized as part of a sex trafficking operation. The Times-News has changed her name in this story for her protection.

As she sat waiting for her name to be called in Alamance County Superior Court, Ashley had no choice but to listen to the plea that was unfolding at the front of the courtroom.

She had been in court before, undoubtedly hearing attorneys and prosecutors talk about other defendants’ cases as she waited. Ashley didn’t remember those, but the facts of this case would stick with her.

She would remember the appearance of the man pleading guilty to having sex with an underage girl who was, as it turned out, being forced into prostitution as a victim of human trafficking.

She would remember that the john pleading guilty had formerly been a police officer, and that he had filmed the encounter with the girl.

To read the full story by Natalie Allison Janico of Times-News, Burlington , N.C.: 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

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.

Human Trafficking: A Survivor’s Perspective

MILWAUKEE — Nancy Yarbrough grew up in a good home, with rules, morals and even a pastor father. Nonetheless, at the age of 16, she was lured into the dark work of human trafficking, working truck stops and doing drugs.
“I got involved with trafficking because I was vulnerable at the time,” Yarbrough said. “I had a lot of things that happened to me as a youth. My first sexual experience was rape. I had a lot of inappropriate touches from people that were close to me and I didn’t know how to process that.”
Yarbrough began hanging out with people 10 to 15 years her senior, smoking marijuana and drinking, when her then-best friend introduced her to her brother — a pimp.

“Her brother was talking to me about how to get in the game,” she said. “How to be able to get money and things like that.” Yarbrough responded that she was interested. “And he showed me.”

After that, Yarbrough was shown the ropes and taught to work truck stops. Her first and second time working, she was financially successful.
“That was the beginning of my lure into sex trafficking,” she said. “There was nothing in my home life that would have prevented me from having a good life. I had parents who loved me. We had a solid foundation, we had moral standards. I would not have been a candidate for it except my vulnerability, curiosity and need to feel loved and accepted.”

According to Karri Hemmig — founder and executive director of Fight to End Exploitation, who has worked with Yarbrough — a human trafficking victim is involved with a pimp or trafficker who keep the money and/or controls the victim, sometimes offering them protection in exchange for money, whereas a prostitute works independently, keeping their own money.

“Typically, this (the trafficker) begins as a boyfriend, but it can begin in other ways as well,” Hemmig said. “Sometimes, the victim starts in prostitution and ends in trafficking or the other way around. So the line gets very blurry.”

Yarbrough and her trafficker shared a drug addiction, him using cocaine and her using crack cocaine and drinking heavily. At 17, Yarbrough had her first child, a son.

At 20, she entered rehab and met a man who eventually became abusive, putting Yarbrough back on the streets.
“I started learning how to be able to use what I got to get what I want,” she said. She said she didn’t forget the “tricks of the trade,” and began manipulating women the same way she had been manipulated.

“My whole mantra was always I was never groomed by women, I was groomed by men, meaning that I learned the tricks of what to do from a male perspective,” Yarbrough said. “I felt like a man and I was able to now have women succumb under my grooming process.”

Needing a fresh start, at 21, Yarbrough enlisted in the Army National Guard and transferred to Fort Jackson, S.C., to study business administration.
“I was desperate for change,” she said. “I really enjoyed it. I cried when I had to come back home.”

She returned to her abusive ex-boyfriend, became pregnant with her second child, a daughter, and received an honorable discharge from the National Guard. When the abuse began again, she relapsed on drugs and alcohol and began prostituting.

“It was just a vicious cycle for many years,” she said. “It was a long period of time in and out of the game. For 20 years of my life, in and out of stints of sobriety and stints of being trafficked, prostituting, prostituting others.”

To read the full story by Alyssa Mauk no The Journal Times: Click Here

Houston Coffee Shop Provides Culinary Training For Human Trafficking Survivors

A 2nd Cup serves coffee with a mission to raise awareness about human trafficking.

Kaylen Simpson is the executive chef.

She helps with an aftercare training program that teaches trafficking survivors culinary skills to transition into a career in the food industry.

“There has been a lot of abuse associated with the food service industry, so getting the food service industry involved in something it’s had its hand in is really exciting to me; so kind of combating it at different ways,” Simpson says.

Simpson says the program involves a three tiered approach starting with employee skills like writing a resume and interviewing. The next tier is more hands on.

To read the full story by Marissa Cummings at Houston Public Media: 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

Dominican Sister Of Peace Brings Hope To Trafficked Women

Sister Nadine Buchanan, OP, provides comfort, dignity and love

Columbus, OH – “Honey, are you hungry?” These words are often heard by a teenage girl on the streets of Columbus, OH. She is dirty and hungry, and despite the fact that she will be with as many as 10 men today, she is alone and unloved. But to Sister Nadine Buchanan, OP, this girl is an angel in disguise – and those simple words open a door to hope and love.

Sr. Nadine began her mission to the victims of human trafficking in Columbus, OH in 2009. It was a way to, as she says, “put flesh” to one of her Congregation’s commitments: to promote justice for the marginalized, especially women and children. Over eight years, her ministry has moved from cooking meals with and for survivors, to the courtroom to help those in recovery, to the streets. Today, she works with women who are still in the grip of a life of sexual slavery.

“I started this part of my work with human trafficking about two years ago, when I offered to help my friend and mentor, April Thacker,” Sr. Nadine says. “April was trafficked for 15 years, and now works to help others survive and leave that life. She was taking food and personal items to women on the street during the holiday season. From the very first time I went out with April, I was taken by the sadness and suffering on their faces – and now, I can’t do enough for these women.”

Sr. Nadine has grown her street ministry from holiday visits to several trips a week to the lower west side of Columbus. Driving slowly past boarded up storefronts and homes she calls out to the women that she meets, “Are you hungry, honey?” Once the conversation has started, Sr. Nadine opens her trunk to offer coats, clothing, blankets and hygiene items, accompanied by a caring smile and a warm hug.

She returns to the Congregation’s Motherhouse with an empty car and a dogged determination to go out again. “My heart is heavy with what my eyes have seen. It keeps me close to God because I need His grace and the prayers of my Sisters and friends to continue this ministry. It’s not easy – this work draws me out of my comfort zone. But these young ladies need to know someone cares and has compassion for them. In the name of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, this ministry brings that to them.”

“These girls have nothing,” Sr. Nadine continues. “No food, no home, no fresh clothes– not one person that they can trust. I just want to sow hope and trust – to be a friendly face that they can count on, and the person that they can always believe.”

Sr. Nadine’s ministry began in a therapeutic justice program in Franklin County, OH. CATCH Court, which stands for Changing Actions To Change Habits, was founded by the Honorable Judge Paul Herbert. CATCH Court is a treatment-oriented, non-adversarial program for re-arrested prostitutes who are victims of human trafficking. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, and drug addiction. The program helps them to escape the sex trade and heal the emotional scars left behind.

Sr. Nadine is often the first face a woman sees when she enters the CATCH Court program, since she is one of several volunteers who pick up women at Franklin County Jail. She drives the woman to a rehabilitation center or supervised housing; each woman will also attend weekly sessions of CATCH Court, where Sr. Nadine sits in to provide support. During her transport, Sr. Nadine gives each woman clean clothes, a meal, and a bag of personal items to help her start her new life.

“They are so touched by this act of kindness… it’s something they don’t experience very often! I’ve made it my mission to make them feel welcome and comfortable during the time they are with me. They open up and ask me if they can tell me their story – which is very liberating for them,” Sr. Nadine says.

More than 70% of the women who complete the CATCH program do not offend again. One reason for that success is the opportunity for meaningful work after graduating from CATCH. Freedom A la Carte is a Columbus catering firm that provides supportive services and dignified jobs to survivors of human trafficking. Sr. Nadine volunteers at Freedom Ala Carte, where she acts as an extra pair of hands and offers support and love to these women who need it desperately.

Sr. Nadine’s ministry is unique because of its depth – she serves women at every stage of the trafficking cycle, from the streets to survivor. Because of this, she sees the true breadth of the human trafficking crisis in Columbus.

“There are so many homeless and trafficked young ladies out there – I rarely see the same once twice. I can’t help but feel compassion and love for them. They ARE God’s precious ones, and they are precious to me,” Sr. Nadine says. “These young ladies help me find God’s strength, and give me courage to keep going out to help them.”

“These young ladies are very grateful for everything they receive – and I am so grateful to God and to my Congregation for allowing me to work in a Ministry that promotes justice for the marginalized, helps change oppressive systems, and creates a place of welcome and love.”

 

USCSAHT is grateful to Dee Holleran, the Dominican Sisters of Peace, and Dominican Life for sharing this article with us.

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