Commentary: A Phila. Haven For Women When Evils Of Trafficking Hit Close To Home

The woman’s twin daughters were 8 months old when her pimp took them away. “Kidnapped them,” she told me.

Human trafficking is all about control, according to Sister Terry Shields, one of the cofounders of Dawn’s Place, a Philadelphia-based safe haven where those prostituted can reclaim their lives and voices.

The woman told me she came from a dysfunctional home where no one ever listened to her. “I was always screaming but never heard,” she said.

That’s what it means to have no voice. That’s the vulnerability that makes women and girls prey for savvy predators running the second-most lucrative criminal enterprise in the world, officially named commercial sexual exploitation, and known as CSE.

The engine of CSE, the pimps, they listen. They stake out malls and streets where the prospects – often girls who have recently run away from home – hang out. Sister Kathleen Coll, executive director of Dawn’s Place, described the grooming process.

The pimp, in a pleasant and kindly manner, approaches the girl, compliments her on her lovely hair or jeans. It may take a few encounters, but the pimp is patient. Eventually, he wins her confidence.

For him, it’s worth the effort. After all, one prostituted child can eventually turn a number of tricks in one day and do it day after day. You acquire a kilo of cocaine, says Sister Kathleen, and you can sell it only once. Our daughters (and sons, too) can be sold over and over.

To read the full story by Orlando R. Barone at Click Here

The Holy See At The United Nations: Eliminating The Trafficking Of Children And Young People

Vatican City, 19 July 2016 – Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Holy See Permanent Observer at the United Nations, gave a speech on 13 July dedicated to the elimination of trafficking in children and young people, in the context of the current debate in the assembly on this theme.

“The Holy See has long spoken out against the evil of human trafficking, forced labour and all forms of modern slavery. And through the dedicated work of so many Catholic religious institutes, national and diocesan programs, and groups of faithful the Catholic Church has sought to fight to address its various causes, care for those it victimises, wake people up to the scourge, and work with anyone and everyone to try to eliminate it”.

He went on to note that Pope Francis had dedicated his Message for World Day of Peace 2015 to this theme, making it a priority of international diplomacy for the Holy See. He has spoken about it to newly accredited diplomats, to international religious leaders, to an alliance of international police chiefs and Church leaders, to social scientists and scholars, to mayors from across the globe, to judges and to various conferences throughout the world. “He hasn’t merely been talking”, the nuncio added. “He has been taking action, catalysing the Holy See’s hosting conferences, spearheading the 2014 Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery and willed the creation of the Santa Marta Group, named after his residence in the Vatican, which brings together Catholic leaders and international law enforcement officials to battle this scourge”.

The Holy Father’s essential message is that human trafficking is an “open wound on the body of contemporary society”, “a crime against humanity”, and an “atrocious scourge that is occurring in many of our own neighbourhoods”. “When he was here at the UN last September, he called for concrete steps and immediate measures for … putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of … human trafficking, … the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, [and] slave labour, including prostitution, stressing, ‘We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges'”. Archbishop Auza emphasised that to this end, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was an important sign of hope, insofar as it focused, in three different targets, on the world’s attention and commitment to confronting this plague.

To read the full bulletin from The Holy See Press Office: Click Here

Prayer Service for the World Day Against Trafficking (July 30)

July 30th is World Day Against Trafficking. The Sisters of the Incarnate Word Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office have prepared a prayer to help focus our intentions and strengthen our resolve to end human trafficking.

Please pray with us, and share this resource with your friends and loved ones so we may be unified in prayer and in our labors to create a world where everyone’s dignity is upheld.

To read or print the prayer: Click Here

Sisters Of St. Joseph Celebrate 50 Years Of Human Rights Advocacy

Sister Kathleen Power, a Sister of St. Joseph and assistant vocations director for the Diocese of Orlando, Fla., talks with other speakers July 9 during the 2016 conference of the U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Orlando. (CNS photo/Andrea Navarro, Florida Catholic)

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) — The U.S. Federation of the Sisters of St. Joseph celebrated 50 years of advocating for the dignity of the human person, made in the image of God, with a July 9-12 conference in Orlando.

Over 700 individuals participated in the four-day conference, including college students who attend schools operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph, lay ministers, volunteers, and members and associates of the 16 communities of sisters.

The federation includes the sisters in all the Sisters of St. Joseph congregations in the United States who claim a common origin in the foundation of the religious order at Le Puy, France, in 1650. In the U.S. there are 4,465 sisters, 2,919 associates and 16 congregations.

Officials of the federation say it seeks to be an influence for positive change in the world while the sisters live out their vocation in their everyday ministries. A major commitment of the Sisters of St. Joseph is to improve the lives of survivors of human trafficking — a work that began five years ago in St Louis.

Florida is listed as third in the United States in human trafficking, behind New York and California.

The theme for this year’s conference was, “Our Emerging Story of Being ONE … God’s Love Unfolding,” reflecting the sisters’ charism: to love God and to love their “dear neighbor.”

Presentations focused on raising awareness of labor trafficking and the exploitation of farmworkers. The presentations also showed the participants how to advocate for victims.

Conference leaders gave attendees a call to action: to urge the Wendy’s restaurant chain to join the Fair Food Program launched by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in 2011.

The Fair Food Program is a partnership among farmers, farmworkers and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions as basic as shade and water for workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms. It gives farmworkers a voice in the decisions that affect their lives and helps eliminate abuses.

To read the full story by Glenda Meekins from Catholic News Service: Click Here

New Awareness Campaign Stresses that “Human Trafficking Happens Here Too”

CLEVELAND)— Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today joined Karen Walsh, Director of the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, and members of Greater Cleveland’s Coordinated Response to Human Trafficking, to unveil a new human trafficking awareness campaign in northeast Ohio.

The campaign, entitled “Human Trafficking Happens Here Too,” will launch on July 1, and continue during and after the Republican National Convention (RNC).  The main goals of the campaign are to raise public awareness and increase recognition of the signs of human trafficking in Ohio and across the United States.

“Many people believe that human trafficking only happens in foreign countries far away from here, but human trafficking is happening in Ohio, it’s happening in Cleveland, and it’s happening all across the United States,” said Attorney General DeWine.  “By launching this campaign to coincide with the Republican National Convention, there will be thousands of people from Ohio and all over the country seeing this message, and we hope it will help them be better aware of human trafficking, no matter where they live.”

The campaign message will be displayed in several concourses at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, on Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority buses, and on a number of billboards throughout the Cleveland area.  The campaign also includes a new website – – which will include more information on the crime, signs of human trafficking, and how to get help.

According to RNC organizers, approximately 50,000 visitors are expected in Cleveland during the convention, which runs July 18-21. The awareness campaign will continue after the conclusion of the event.

“The nearly 30 organizations in Greater Cleveland’s Coordinated Response to Human Trafficking are committed to working together as a multi-disciplinary network to address the complexities of the crime and to provide victims with a safety net,” said Karen Walsh of the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking.

To read the full story from Huffington News: Click Here

Why human trafficking is a public health problem

Trafficking survivor and advocate Margeaux Gray with her guide dog, Junebug.


(CNN)You might think that when a trafficking victim escapes, their life is saved. In reality, though, survival is much more complicated.

My journey of survival began nearly 20 years ago, and continues to this day.
It is marked by hurdles, as well as by surprising gifts like losing my sight, discovering art and receiving life-changing, holistic, trauma-informed care. It has also been marked by our nation’s failure to call trafficking what it is: a public health problem.

Road to recovery

Just last week, the State Department released the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which ranks countries based on whether and how well they are addressing modern slavery. While now is a prime time to talk about the survivor’s journey to recover from the horror of being held captive physically and emotionally, this key issue will likely be left out of most conversations.
Instead, most discussions will focus on law enforcement issues like how well countries, including the United States, track down and prosecute traffickers, and how to use threat of prosecution as a deterrent.

While law enforcement is important, so is providing adequate support for trafficking victims’ recovery. And, in that regard, we are failing. We are failing because we have not identified human trafficking as the public health issue it is. You see, trafficking is not a short-term affliction—it affects a survivor’s whole life, families and even entire communities.

That failure has negatively affected my life (and the lives of countless others) time and again, while I was repeatedly trafficked as a young child, and in the years since becoming physically free from trauma. The primary failure occurred during my ordeal. Though I often visited the doctor for numerous unexplained, very grown-up health problems, not one asked whether I was being abused.

Later, I struggled with the physical and psychological wounds resulting from more than a decade of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of my trafficker.

Blindness was just one of the costs. I have also struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an eating disorder, peripheral neuropathy and adrenal insufficiency. While I eventually received beneficial health services, it was largely because of my blindness.

Reemerging into the world

For example, blindness brought me Junebug, my guide dog for the blind. Even after I was technically “free” from my trafficking situation, PTSD left me feeling incredibly anxious and unsafe in public.

After losing my eyesight, I felt even more vulnerable, and didn’t want to leave my house. The trusting bond I developed with Junebug changed my life, and allowed me to reemerge into the world.

My blindness also brought me to Louisville, Kentucky, where I could access tremendous health and psychological services that the government provides for vision-impaired people. I didn’t realize until recently how truly fortunate I am to have ended up here.

I have been receiving therapy from a professional trained in trauma-informed care for the first time. Trauma-informed caregivers are trained to understand, recognize and respond to the effects of all types of trauma and help survivors heal physical, psychological and emotional wounds, and rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.

To read the full story by Margaux Gray and watch the video on CNN: Click Here

Women Religious Unite to Eradicate Trafficking

By: Sr. Anne Victory, HM, RN, MSN and Sr. Ann Oestreich, IHM

Jon Lezinsky
 The history of women’s religious congregations is a history of addressing unmet needs. The founders and foundresses of our communities read the signs of their times and gathered women together to serve God and God’s most vulnerable people. When the Second Vatican Council invited us to re-examine our founding charisms in light of the needs of our times, we rediscovered our own preferential option for those who are poor, often with a special care for women and children. While we continued to engage in traditional ministries serving the people of God without distinction, we expanded our outreach through social services, pastoral ministries and work for social justice and systemic change.As sisters, our constant challenge — to remain open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and faithfully live out our charisms — has led us to engage many of the most difficult issues in contemporary society: poverty, climate change, nuclear disarmament, human rights for LGBTQ people, affordable health care for all, comprehensive immigration reform and human trafficking. At the root of all these issues, alienation from one another and a culture of violence are the common threads.

Amid the many horrific stories of violence reported daily in the media, one particularly heinous crime — human trafficking — is gaining more attention. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. Its complexity and scope create challenges for understanding the issue; for believing that it is really happening because it often is hidden; and for determining effective ways to raise awareness, prevent the crime and serve victims globally as well as locally.

Human trafficking affects women, men and children, U.S. citizens as well as people who are foreign born. The crime involves commercial sex acts and forced labor. It occurs in every city, town and neighborhood. The traffickers’ methods of force, fraud and coercion trap those who are victimized. Victims experience rapes, beatings, confinement, drug addiction, gun violence and other forms of abuse and torture; often they are frightened into silence and held captive by psychological chains much stronger than any physical bonds.

Human trafficking is a global industry in which unscrupulous individuals and organizations prey upon victims for financial gain. The International Labour Organization estimates trafficking generates $150 billion annually and affects more than 20.9 million people.1 It is not a faceless form of violence; in fact, most of those exploited throughout the world are women and children, many of whom are suffering the effects of poverty, discrimination and other vulnerabilities.

Until very recently, especially in the United States, much human trafficking has gone unnoticed, making it possible for victims to be hidden in plain sight because people never dreamed trafficking could be happening right next door or down the street. As more information — and news of arrests — has become available, public health and community organizations and law enforcement have circulated descriptions of “red flags” that might indicate someone is a trafficking victim, along with toll-free numbers to call for help.

Forced labor is particularly challenging to identify and address due to the diverse forms it can take in a variety of industries. Labor traffickers, including recruiters, contractors and employers, use lies, threats, violence, debt bondage and other forms of coercion to exploit people to work against their will. Trafficked workers may be men, women or children; U.S. citizens or foreign born. They may have been recruited with the promise of an educational opportunity or a good job, only to find they are forced to work long hours for little to no pay. Often they are threatened and abused, told they must work to repay a debt, or have had their identity documents and money taken away. Victims feel trapped and helpless — some don’t speak English.

Common forms of labor trafficking in the United States include people forced to work in homes as domestic servants, in factories under inhumane conditions, in restaurants, door-to-door sales, construction, agriculture and nail salons, among many others. Ordinary citizens may encounter labor trafficking victims but never recognize their plight, lacking knowledge of the crime and its prevalence in our country.2

Fortunately for “Adele,” a young woman who thought she was coming to the U.S. for an education but who was trafficked for six years as a domestic servant, a neighbor did recognize the signs of labor trafficking. Adele was confined to her trafficker’s house and required to do all of the housekeeping and child care, working from 5 a.m. through midnight each day. She was required to eat her meals on the floor, not at a table like the family members she served.

One day, a small boy she cared for ran out of the house, and Adele ran outside after him. A neighbor happened to see her and spoke to her very briefly. The neighbor had been observing the house for a while because she felt that something there was not quite right.

On subsequent, rare occasions when Adele was briefly outdoors, the neighbor again spoke to her, very deliberately and carefully gaining Adele’s confidence. Eventually she gave Adele her phone number and a cell phone to use if an opportunity arose to escape.

Adele’s trafficker began to feel that something might be going on, and he moved Adele to another location, away from the concerned neighbor. One day, however, Adele was left alone, and she used the cell phone to call her former neighbor. The woman got in touch with an anti-trafficking organization, and Adele was rescued and taken to a short-term safe house provided by Catholic sisters. From there, Adele was moved to a long-term safe house provided by LifeWay Network, an organization based in New York that provides safe housing for women who are trafficking victims and that works to educate the public about trafficking.3 Adele lived in the safe house for a year, receiving the services and support she needed to resume a life of dignity and freedom.

Sr. Joan Dawber, SC, executive director of LifeWay Network, reports that Adele worked to prosecute her trafficker and now reconnects with her friends at LifeWay Network each year at Thanksgiving.

For those working in health care ministries, it is especially important to recognize signs that a patient may be a trafficking victim and under someone else’s control. We in health care must be prepared to respond to the deep wounds —
physical, psychological, social and spiritual — that the violence of human trafficking inflicts on those who come to our hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care facilities and offices every day. Yet a 2014 study published in the journal Annals of Health Law revealed that among approximately 100 women and girls who were survivors of sex trafficking in the United States, 88 percent had interacted with health care providers and were not identified as sex trafficking victims.4

How are health care professionals, including those in Catholic-sponsored health systems, addressing this enormous challenge? To raise awareness among clinicians, administrators and support staff, many health care systems across the U.S. are implementing guidelines to address the complex needs of suspected victims of both commercial sex and labor trafficking. For example, Via Christi Health System, based in Wichita, Kansas, Dignity Health, headquartered in San Francisco and Catholic Health Initiatives, based in Englewood, Colorado, all have instituted protocols within their respective systems to better identify and serve suspected victims. Other health systems are working collaboratively with local health providers, social service agencies and law enforcement to address these needs.

In many cases, Catholic sisters are intimately involved in efforts to address the violence that is trafficking. In fact, 15 women religious from across the United States who work on the issue decided in 2013 to connect their individual congregations’ anti-trafficking efforts and become a united, national voice addressing the complexities of human trafficking.

The membership of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking now includes more than 80 congregations and coalitions of sisters, along with several individual partners who share in and support this work. This new, not-for-profit organization’s mission is to help people recognize the faces of human trafficking and to develop education and advocacy strategies to eradicate it. Central to the organization’s work is linking members’ actions to the church’s call to affirm the dignity of every human person. The group also is a member of Talitha Kum, based in Rome and formed in 2009 as an international “network of networks” of women and men religious in 70 countries who are working on the issue around the world.5

None of the apostolic works of women religious ever has been done in isolation. Sisters always have relied on the generosity of the wider community for support, advice and the sharing of expertise for the sake of the mission in education, health care, social services and other endeavors. The same is true as we address the complex issue of human trafficking. Sisters are building upon skills learned from our founders’ and foundresses’ vision, courage, scope of influence and networking strategies as we create and expand partnerships with those who share a common vision of eradicating trafficking. The focus is the mission, the concern for upholding the dignity of each individual who may be victimized, providing comprehensive, holistic, trauma-informed care, ongoing support services and prevention of the crime.

Sisters are partnering with others throughout the U.S. and around the world to provide such care and services. A few of the many examples within the United States: Dawn’s Place in Philadelphia, Lifeway Network in New York City, Sisters in Shelter located in Tiffin, Ohio, and CAST-LA in Los Angeles.

Those of us who are professionals in the fields of social work and counseling are using our skills to offer compassionate, trauma-based interventions to support victims at all stages of their recovery. We also are using our influence to explore ways for universities to offer educational grants for victims as they recover from the trauma of having been trafficked. Some religious congregations are offering employment opportunities for survivors at their sponsored ministries.

Since many of our sisters spent their lives educating young people, a number of us are now engaged in creating values-based educational materials to be used by teachers in both elementary grades and high school classrooms. Many are working to integrate the topic of human trafficking into the curricula of such disciplines as nursing, medicine, social work and law. Still others of us are collaborating with retreat and spiritual directors to offer retreat experiences for survivors and for those who care for survivors.

A number of our sisters with backgrounds in the health professions are actively involved in the creation of guidelines to help professional colleagues recognize and address the needs of victims they may encounter in the course of their daily work. This endeavor relies on strong relationships and the creation and nurturing of alliances beyond the walls of the health system with social service providers, alcohol and drug treatment services and the law enforcement community.

Some of our sisters with degrees in law are navigating the complexities of immigration issues, criminal concerns because of convictions for crimes committed while being trafficked, and advocacy for victims of the crime that often leaves them feeling voiceless and abandoned. Still others of our sisters counsel victims prior to court appearances and may accompany them as advocates.

Many of our sisters are engaged in advocacy for the needs of human trafficking victims and for creation and enforcement of laws that address both forced labor and commercial sex trafficking at national, state and local levels. We engage with members of Congress and with our state and local officials to educate them about the importance of the issue and petition for their support of legislation addressing various aspects of the crime.

Ever faithful to the mandate of Vatican II, women religious continue to respond wholeheartedly to the needs of these times. Learning from the past and relying on the wisdom and grace of our charisms, we forge ahead with many others to heal the violence exacted on victims of human trafficking and strengthen the systems with whom we work, making the vision of a slave-free world a reality.

SR. ANN OESTREICH, IHM, is board member/secretary, U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (

SR. ANNE VICTORY, HM, president, U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking and education coordinator, Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, Cleveland.


  1. International Labour Organization, Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour (Geneva: International Labour Office, 2014).
  2. The Polaris Project website,
  3. LifeWay Network website,
  4. Laura J. Lederer and Christopher A. Wetzel, “Health Care Consequences of Sex Trafficking and Their Implications for Identifying Victims in Healthcare Facilities,”Annals of Health Law 23, no. 1 (2014): 61-91.
  5. Talitha Kum website,

Originally published by Women Religious Unite to Eradicate Trafficking.

Judge Story Calls Vatican Summit, Audience with Pope ‘Amazing’

Talk on sex trafficking attended by Pope Francis

U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story shared a harrowing story of sex trafficking in Georgia last month with an audience in Vatican City and one particularly notable guest: Pope Francis.

Story was one of more than 60 judges and prosecutors from around the globe invited to share insights with the pope June 3-4 at the Judges’ Summit on Human Trafficking and Organized Crime. The summit was hosted by the Pontifical Academy on Social Studies in Vatican City.

“This particular summit involved judges and prosecutors from 26 countries, and it focused on human sex trafficking, forced labor and organ trafficking, as well as organized crime,” Story said. “The United States was requested to participate, and I was asked by the ambassador at-large on human trafficking to be part of a team that went.”

Atlanta is an identified major human trafficking area, according to Story, because of the international airport and convention center in the city. Convention business, he said, is often linked to sex trafficking.

To read the full story by Kristen Oliver of the Gainesville Times: Click Here

Anti-Human Trafficking Educational Toolkits Distributed to Wisconsin Parishes

by Emily Anderson

Toolkit components-2 copy

The LCWR Region 9 Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force has prepared educational toolkits about human trafficking and distributed them to every Catholic parish in Wisconsin.

The goals of the task force are to raise awareness of the issue of human trafficking in Wisconsin and to promote the National Human Trafficking Hotline to encourage people to report tips and encourage victims to call for help.

The LCWR Region 9 Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force consists of Sister and layperson representatives from multiple Congregations including the Racine Dominicans, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross, Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes, Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, and also the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. The group is working with all five Wisconsin Diocesan offices and their social justice representatives to promote and encourage usage of the toolkits. Toolkit production and distribution was funded by a grant by one of the participating Congregations.

The toolkits, which were mailed directly to each parish in Wisconsin in February, consist of the following:

  • A cover letter from LCWR-Wisconsin Region 9 President Sister Pat Cormack;
  • A letter of support signed by Wisconsin’s five bishops;
  • A Wisconsin Resources sheet listing anti-human trafficking speakers, advocacy groups, web sites, videos and more;
  • Infographics explaining Wisconsin statistics on labor trafficking and sex trafficking;
  • A Power Point presentation which defines human trafficking, its prevalence in Wisconsin and resources;
  • Business-card sized cards featuring the National Human Trafficking Hotline to be distributed to parishioners;
  • The DVD “Chosen,” a 20-minute documentary created by Shared Hope International;
  • The DVD “What Does Human Trafficking Look Like in Wisconsin,” a presentation by Sister Celine Goessl, SCSC, with a facilitator’s guide; and
  • A flash drive containing all the toolkit components.

Digital copies of the information contained in the toolkit, with the exception of the DVDs, can be downloaded here:

The task force will be doing a follow-up survey with all parishes this summer to determine how the toolkits were used. Components of the toolkit are available to be tailored to other state’s statistics. For more information about the toolkit components, please contact Emily Anderson, Communications Director for the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, at

Toolkit-3 copy

Used with permission, Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, June 2016