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

Virginia Ranks 15th In US In Reported Cases Of Human Trafficking

RICHMOND, Va. (VCU CNS) — Virginia ranked 15th in the United States for the most reported cases of human trafficking in 2016. Last year, the state reported 148 cases with 59 involving minors, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

In response to the issue, Virginia is enacting a new law to decrease crimes of this nature and help its youngest victims.

House Bill 2282, which will take effect July 1, requires the Virginia Board of Education to develop guidelines for training school counselors, school nurses and other relevant school staff on the prevention of trafficking of children.

Groups fighting human trafficking applauded the move. Creating awareness through education is a tactic many of these advocates have found effective in combating trafficking.

Image courtesy of VCU CNS

“We are grateful for any new legislation that helps this issue,” said Patrick McKenna, co-founder of the Virginia Beach Justice Initiative. “Having the Department of Education require it helps push the effort forward.”

Virginia is home to several nonprofits that fight human trafficking. Many of these groups and individuals were instrumental in persuading the General Assembly to adopt the legislation. McKenna, an attorney, worked with Del. James Leftwich of Chesapeake to draft the bill.

“We are willing to help with extra manpower and extra information for no cost,” said McKenna, whose group works to prevent human trafficking and to identify and assist victims in Hampton Roads.

HB 2282 is essentially an extension of a 2012 law, Senate Bill 259. That legislation required the state Board of Education, with assistance from the Department of Social Services, to provide awareness and training materials for local school division staff on human trafficking. The new law specifies which school professionals must be trained and creates an actual training program, not just materials.

Image courtesy of VCU CNS

HB 2282 is only a small step, however. McKenna noted that the bill does not set a timeframe for developing the guidelines or explain what the training must cover.

“How the law is implemented is just as important as it being passed,” said Jessica Willis, executive director of the Richmond Justice Initiative, a group related to McKenna’s.

To read the full story by Carolanne Wilson, VCU Capital News Service, on ABC 8 WRIC: Click Here

Interview – Adidas’ Slavery Buster Hopes Apps Can Help Give Workers A Voice

LONDON, May 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Adidas executive Aditi Wanchoo is on a mission – to wipe out any slavery in the German sportswear company’s supply chain, and she hopes giving workers the technology to speak out will help.

With a background in corporate social responsibility at consultancy firm Accenture, Wanchoo was hired 18 months ago in a new position created by Adidas, one of the first companies to set up a role dedicated to fighting slavery.

In recent years modern-day slavery has increasingly come under the spotlight, putting regulatory and consumer pressure on companies to ensure their supply chains are free of forced labour, child labour and other forms of slavery.

As apparel and footwear industries rely heavily on outsourcing, sportswear companies have faced growing scrutiny.

Wanchoo said Adidas had been actively working on this issue since it was revealed at the 1998 World Cup that footballs were produced by child labourers in India and companies realised they did not have control over their suppliers.

Governments are now trying to tackle the problem with new legislation, such as the UK’s 2015 law requiring companies to disclose how they are ensuring supply chains are slavery free.

To read the full story by Belinda Goldsmith on Thomson 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.

Governor Wolf Announces PennDOT Effort to Help Combat Human Trafficking

Harrisburg, PA – In an effort to help combat human trafficking, Governor Wolf announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is training its front line Driver License Center staff to notice signs of a potential trafficking situation. PennDOT is working with the Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association to help arrange this training for their operators as well, and is sharing trafficking awareness information with commercial drivers who visit Driver License Centers.

“I applaud Secretary Richards and PennDOT for their work to combat human trafficking,” said Governor Wolf. “Spreading awareness and training PennDOT employees on how to identify possible human trafficking victims is an important step in fighting this horrific issue.”

“Human trafficking has sadly become a worldwide problem and developed into a $32 billion a year trade,” said PennDOT Leslie S. Richards. “We at PennDOT are doing our part to help spot victims and get them assistance.”

The training, developed by PennDOT in partnership with the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, and Truckers against Trafficking, defines trafficking and how victims are forced and coerced into it. The training also instructs employees how to call the appropriate authorities and what information to collect if they see potential trafficking.

As of Jan. 13, every transit agency director across Pennsylvania has been trained, and PennDOT expects its Driver License Center and transit agency staff to be trained by summer 2017.

Additionally, PennDOT is now distributing wallet cards to CDL holders and applicants at its Driver License Centers, which contain information regarding how to report a tip to law enforcement when suspecting human trafficking activities.

Pennsylvania enacted Act 105 in 2014 to define human trafficking and give law enforcement tools needed to go after traffickers.

Here are links to information about human trafficking:

Instances of human trafficking can also be reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, 1-888-373-7888.

 

Press release originally found on the Pennsylvania Governor’s Website: Click Here

Reps. Cohen, Kinzinger, Cárdenas and Wagner Introduce Bipartisan Human Trafficking Bill

January 31, 2017 Press Release

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN), Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) and Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) today introduced the Stop, Observe, Ask and Respond (SOAR) to Health and Wellness Act. This bipartisan legislation would provide health care professionals at all levels training on how to identify and appropriately treat human trafficking victims. It is a companion to a Senate bill also introduced today by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Susan Collins (R-ME). January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

“Human trafficking is a hidden crime that impacts hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S., and many of these victims end up in a health care setting while being exploited,” said Congressman Cohen. “Our bill aims to ensure health care professionals are trained to identify victims of human trafficking and provide them with critical, victim-centered health care.  Our bill also enables health care providers to implement protocols and procedures to work with victims, service organizations, and law enforcement so that victims can get proper support and perpetrators of human trafficking are brought to justice. I would like to thank Reps. Kinzinger, Cárdenas and Wagner for joining me in introducing this bill in the House and Senators Heitkamp and Collins for introducing this bill in the Senate as we recognize National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.”

“It’s critical that healthcare providers are trained to recognize human trafficking cases and have the proper procedures in place to help those most vulnerable,” said Congressman Kinzinger. “I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of the SOAR Act, which I believe will have a significant impact towards identifying cases of human trafficking and helping assist more individuals across the country from falling victim to this heinous crime.”

“In the last decade, Los Angeles has become one of the top three hubs for human trafficking,” said Rep. Cardenas. “While we’re making strides in dismantling this industry, we must do more. Ensuring that health professionals are able to address and recognize human trafficking is crucial in our fight. This legislation will help meet that goal, and I’m proud to join my colleagues in this effort.”

“Education and awareness are critical in the fight to end human trafficking. That is why I spent time with both trafficking survivors and healthcare providers in St. Louis this fall to discuss how they can better identify trafficking victims. The SOAR Act will provide healthcare providers on all levels with the appropriate training and tools necessary to identify and report potential cases of human trafficking,”said Congresswoman Wagner. “With tens of thousands of victims being trafficked in the United States each year, I am happy to work with my colleagues across the aisle to introduce and quickly pass this legislation.”

“This month when I spoke with a mother whose young daughter was terrorized on a near daily basis after being trafficked for sex, I asked her what she thought needed to change going forward. Her answer was simple – health care professionals need the training and the tools to recognize and protect victims of sex trafficking, especially children like her daughter,” said Senator Heitkamp. “Today, Senator Collins and I are reintroducing our bipartisan bill to make sure health providers – sometimes some of the only people victims interact without their trafficker in the room – can identify and get help for victims of sex trafficking. Our nation recognizes Human Trafficking Awareness this month – and by training health professionals to spot potential victims – we can expand awareness in the medical community so they are prepared to intervene and have a clear process on handling the situation. By building on the success of pilot training programs of about 60 doctors, nurses and others in Williston and New Town, we can strengthen our community and nationwide network that unmasks and effectively combats human trafficking, protects victims, and prevents these crimes from proliferating in our towns.”

“Every state in America is affected by the evils of sex trafficking. Human traffickers prey upon the most vulnerable, often homeless or runaway children. Identification is the first, and frequently missed, step in helping victims and stopping these atrocities,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan legislation would bolster the current success of the U.S. Health and Human Services pilot program by expanding it and greatly increasing the number of our health care providers who will have the training to protect victims and expose these heinous crimes.”

The Stop, Observe, Ask and Respond (SOAR) to Health and Wellness Act directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a pilot program to combat human trafficking to be known as ‘Stop, Observe, Ask and Respond to Health and Wellness Training.’ While human trafficking victims are often difficult to identify, a reported 68 percent of trafficking victims end up in a health care setting at some point while being exploited, including in clinics, emergency rooms and doctor’s offices.  Despite this, out of more than 5,680 hospitals in the country, only 60 have been identified as having a plan for treating patients who are victims of trafficking and 95 percent of emergency room personnel are not trained to treat trafficking victims. The SOAR Act will help close the gap in health care settings without plans for treating human trafficking victims.

Press release originally found on the website of Representative Steve Cohen: Click Here

The Human Cost of Trafficking

The holiday season brings the hope that every child will experience the magic and excitement of the season. Yet the enjoyment of such scenes is very far from reality for the world’s most vulnerable kids. Every year, an estimated 2 million children worldwide are exploited in sex trafficking. Also, the number of child victims of labor trafficking is expected to escalate due to the current global economic crisis. And whether we are ready to believe the stark reality or not, some kids in America will be exploited in sex or labor trafficking during the holidays.

While the hidden nature of human trafficking reduces the availability of reliable data on the number of child victims in the United States, we now have a clearer depiction of the childhood circumstances that lead certain children down a treacherous pathway into the dark and exploitive crime of human trafficking. Child advocates have warned that our most vulnerable girls and boys are at risk for the unthinkable — victimization in sex or labor trafficking. However, large scale studies on human trafficking are almost impossible to conduct, leaving many questions about which children are at highest risk. But that has recently started to change.

In a study published this week in the American Journal of Public Health, we and our colleagues compared the level and type of childhood adversity experienced by boys and girls exploited in human trafficking to the childhood adversity experienced by similar boys and girls of the same race/ethnicity, household income level, and from the same locality. This study was the first to examine the childhood histories of over 900 girls and boys detained by the Florida juvenile justice system who had each been the subject of an official abuse report and child protective investigation related to human trafficking.

We found that girls and boys exploited in human trafficking experienced more childhood adversity — including childhood sexual abuse, emotional abuse, emotional and physical neglect and family violence — than the matched sample of similar youth.

Most disturbing, we found that boys who had experienced childhood sexual abuse were 8.2 times more likely to be exploited in human trafficking than boys without a history of sexual abuse. Similarly, sexually abused girls were 2.5 times more likely to be exploited in human trafficking than similar girls who did not report childhood sexual abuse.

To read the full story by Alex R. Piquero and Joan A. Reid on Dallas News: Click Here

Every 7 Seconds, A Young Girl Becomes A Bride, Report Says

Tamrea, seen here with her 5-year-old daughter, was married when she was 12.
Tamrea, seen here with her 5-year-old daughter, was married when she was 12.

(CNN) The statistics are startling: Around the world, every seven seconds, a girl under 15 is married.
Becoming a child bride is one factor that greatly affects the future of women and girls around the world, according to a report by Save the Children released Tuesday.
“Child marriage starts a cycle of disadvantage that denies girls the most basic rights to learn, develop and be children,” said Save the Children International CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt.
“Girls who marry too early often can’t attend school, and are more likely to face domestic violence, abuse and rape… They also bear children before their bodies are fully prepared, which can have devastating consequences on their and their baby’s health.”

The report, called “Every Last Girl,” ranked 144 countries from the best to the worst in which to be a girl. The listing was based on child marriage, schooling, teen pregnancy, maternal deaths and the number of female lawmakers.
The stories of the child brides are harrowing and heartbreaking. Girls as young as 10 are being married off, in many cases with much older men, the global charity reports.

To read the full article by Chandrika Narayan, and view the accompanying videos at CNN: Click Here

April Monthly Reflection

Can environmentalists end human trafficking?
by Sister Ann Oestreich, IHM

Finally, it’s April. In northern Indiana, where I live, April’s arrival means that the grey, cold, snowy days of winter give way to the tender greens of spring, daffodils and flowering trees. People are outside, walking and biking again, and tilling the soil for their gardens. Creation is coming back to life! On April 22 we celebrate the grandeur, beauty and fragility of our planet on Earth Day, and re-commit ourselves to reverencing and preserving what Pope Francis calls “our common home.”

In his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Sí, Pope Francis challenged us all to recognize that care for our Earth and care for people who are poor and vulnerable are not separate concerns. They are interconnected, inter-related, in what he calls an “integral ecology.” When we think about the elegance of creation and human trafficking, a horrific abuse of human dignity and human rights, where do we see that interconnection?

Kevin Bales, co-founder of the organization, Free the Slaves, makes this connection convincingly in his latest book entitled “Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide and the Secret to Saving the World.” As Bales traveled the world documenting and working to end human trafficking, he noticed that where slavery existed, so did “massive, unchecked environmental destruction.”1.

We’ve known for a long time that environmental change and human trafficking/slavery are linked. Whether it’s the slow desertification of sub-Saharan Africa or the devastating force of a southeast Asian tsunami, both cause people to migrate away from their homelands, and people on the move are vulnerable to traffickers. Once captured, they may be forced into mining gold or coltan, cutting down forests or working on brutally demanding shrimping/fishing boats for months or years at a time.

But Bales goes beyond pointing out the mutually reinforcing evils of slavery and ecocide. He posits that “slavery is at the root of much of the natural world’s destruction.”2. How can that be, given that there are an estimated 35 million slaves, a horrific number, but still a small fraction of our global population?

Bales argues: “Slaveholders are criminals, operating firmly outside of any law or regulation. When they mine gold they saturate thousands of acres with toxic mercury. When they cut timber, they clear-cut and burn…leaving behind a dead ecosystem. Laws and treaties may control law-abiding individuals, corporations, and governments, but not the criminal slaveholders who flout the gravest of laws.”

He continues, “When it comes to global warming, these slaveholders outpace all but the very biggest polluters. Adding together their slave-based deforestation and other CO2-producing crimes leads to a sobering conclusion. If slavery were an American state it would have the population of California and the economic output of the District of Columbia, but it would be the world’s third largest producer of CO2, after China and the United States. It’s no wonder that we struggle and often fail to stop climate change and reduce the atmospheric carbon count. Slavery, one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas producers, is hidden from us. Environmentalists are right to call for laws and treaties that will apply to the community of nations, but that is not enough. We also have to understand that slavers–who don’t adhere to those laws and treaties–are a leading cause of the natural world’s destruction. And to stop them…we need to end slavery.”3.

In Laudato Sí, Pope Francis reminds us that “the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation.”4. It seems that Bales and Pope Francis are of the same mind. Modern day slavery and environmental destruction are both increasing. We need to be aware of the connections between these sins against humanity and creation, and work to root them out. To save our planet, we have to end human trafficking. To end human trafficking, we must reverence and protect Earth, our common home.

I close with some recommendations for reading and reflection. For every environmentalist, please consider reading “Blood and Earth” by Kevin Bales. For everyone who works to end human trafficking, ponder the words of Pope Francis in Laudato Sí. (You can find it online at https://laudatosi.com/watch)

And for every person who has ever experienced the indignity, despair and unspeakable abuse of human trafficking/modern-day slavery, I wish you the rebirth of April, the new life of Resurrection.

  1. Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World by Kevin Bales. Random House:      New York, 2016. Quote from the inside book jacket.
  2. Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World, p. 9.
  3. Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World, p. 9-10.
  4. On Care for Our Common Home – Laudato Sí. Chapter 1, #48.

 

We post reflections monthly on the website: Click Here

For past reflections: Click Here

Human Trafficking a Concern as Truckers Get Trained to Help Stop Growing Crisis in America

Human trafficking is the second highest revenue generating criminal activity in the world. Each year it generates over $32 billion for those who are involved in enslaving others. The toll is actually much higher though, as 99 percent of those who are sold into the modern day slavery will never escape. Although some of those who are sold end up as laborers, more than half are women and girls who end up in the sex slave trade. Now the nation’s truckers are getting involved to stop the problem, while state governments are taking action to put an end to this modern day slavery.
Yahoo News reported that the trucking industry is getting involved in trying to stop human trafficking in the United States. Ohio State Highway Patrol Captain Mike Crispen said that those traveling on our nation’s highways see things all the time that others don’t.

“People driving down the road see stuff all the time that the rest of us aren’t seeing.”

Read the full article by by Jinger Jarrett of the Inquisitr: Click Here