Attorney General’s Office Wants To Teach More People How To ID Human Trafficking

AUSTIN — It was a neighbor who saved Tonya Stafford’s life, she said.

The Dallas native, who spent about a decade trafficked for sex, shared her dark story and the key to her survival in a new training video released Thursday. State officials hope the video will educate and mobilize people across the state to spot potential cases of sex and labor trafficking.

“Human trafficking is very hard to detect,” said Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office funded and unveiled the video before hundreds of people at the Austin Independent School District Performing Arts Center. “The evil of human trafficking is significant, but if it cannot endure under the might of Texans united behind one another.”

Paxton is requiring all 4,000 of his agency’s employees to watch the 52-minute video, titled “Be the One in the Fight Against Human Trafficking.”

The video features stories of two women who were trafficked as minors, as well as a group of neighbors in The Woodlands who noticed a constant stream of cars visiting a home down the block on a cul-de-sac where women were being trafficked for sex. Throughout the video are tips about how to identify potential sex and labor trafficking and urged viewers to report it.

To read the full story by Andrea Zelinski on Chron: Click Here

Truckstop Group Highlights Efforts To Combat Human Trafficking

Move comes as legislation develops to give federal and state law enforcement more tools to fight trafficking.

Truckstop and travel center operators this detailed the efforts they are undertaking to help fight human trafficking across the country on Capitol Hill, as Congress seeks to pass legislation that would provide state and federal law enforcement agencies with more “tools” to fight this crime.

In testimony before the House of Representative’s Committee on Homeland Security, Lisa Mullings, president of the NATSO Foundation – formerly known as the National Association of Truck Stop Operators – said truckstops and travel plazas play a “vital role” in combating human trafficking.

Specifically, Mullings cited the NATSO Foundation’s partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its “Blue Campaign” to distribute public awareness materials truckstops can post in their locations.

As an industry that caters to millions of travelers every year, truckstops and travel plazas and their employees are in a key position to help identify and report suspected incidents of human trafficking, Mullings stressed in her testimony.

“Although there is no official estimate for the total number of U.S. human trafficking victims, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of adults and minors are victims of human trafficking each year – many of whom are moved from state to state along our interstate highway system,” she said.

The NATSO Foundation provides online education courses to help truckstops and travel plazas train their staff in recognizing and responding to suspected incidents of human trafficking, Mullings noted.

To read the full story on American Trucker: Click Here

How To Identify Human Trafficking Victims Often ‘Hidden In Plain Sight’

Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, created by Congress in 2007 to “raise awareness of and opposition to human trafficking

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and may involve, force, fraud or coercion in exchange for labor or commercial sex acts. There are over 20 million victims worldwide in the $32 billion-a-year global human trafficking industry, according to the U.S. State Department.

Victims are often “hidden in plain sight,” and can be any age, race, gender or nationality, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Here are some questions to consider when identifying possible human trafficking, provided by the department’s Blue Campaign:

  • “Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations or houses of worship?
  • Has a child stopped attending school?
  • Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
  • Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
  • Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
  • Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?

To read the full story by Lindsey Jacobson on ABC NEWS: Click Here

Franciscans Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Co-Sponsor Video Series On Human Trafficking

The La Crosse Task Force to End Modern Slavery, founded by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, is co-sponsoring an online video series titled “The Faces of Human Trafficking.”

The FSPAs partnered with Minnesota’s Breaking Free, one of the nation’s leading organizations for working with victims and survivors of sex trafficking to create the series, which is being launched this month in connection with Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

“Our goal was to create an online resource to educate human trafficking support workers and the general public and give voice to the survivors,” said FSPA Sister Corrina Thomas, who serves in the human trafficking field.

The series features stories of survivors, pimps and johns, she said.

For example, Jenny, a survivor who was featured in the series debut Friday, said in her video, “It’s a brainwashing that happens. There’s a reason traffickers go after children.

“I want people to know that women don’t choose this. This is something that happens to them — they’re victims,” said Jenny, who, like other survivors in the series, talk about their childhoods, their time in “the life,” how they survived and what they would like everyone to know about the billion-dollar industry.

Introducing each video is FSPA Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, who founded the task force.

The FSPAs will release the videos at noon on the following dates, with specified ones followed by Twitter Chat via @fspatweets using the hashtag #HumanTraffickingFaces:

  • Jan. 10 — “Meet Laurie”
  • Jan. 12 — “Meet Anne,” followed by Twitter Chat
  • Jan. 17 — “Meet Jessica”
  • Jan. 19 — “Meet Maya,” followed by Twitter Chat
  • Jan. 24 — “Meet Ms. R”

All videos and additional resources will be available at the FSPA web site.

Also this month and into early February, near the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of human trafficking, the series also will feature “Flora,” “Mr. J” and “Mr. P.”

Bakhita, who was born in the Darfur region of southern Sudan in the 19th century, was kidnapped at the age of 7, sold into slavery and given the name Bakhita, which means “fortunate.” She was resold five times, and her owners brutalized her, including branding, beating and cutting her. In one incident, one of her owners rubbed salt into the 114 cuts he had made on her body.

Freed through a series of unusual circumstances, she became attracted to the Catholic faith and became a Canossian nun, assisting her religious community through cooking, sewing, embroidery and welcoming visitors. Her canonization as a saint in 2000 resulted in part from the affection of children attending the sisters’ school and local citizens.

The FSPAs also will host a public human trafficking awareness prayer service on at 4 p.m. Feb. 6 in Mary of the Angels Chapel at 901 Franciscan Way in La Crosse.

To view the story by Mike Tighe as it originally appears on The La Crosse Tribune: Click Here

Illinois To Include Human Trafficking Materials In CDL Curriculum

QUAD CITIES (KWQC) – A new year brings new laws. In Illinois, one of those laws is aimed at cracking down on human trafficking.

The secretary of state will now be required to include information on human trafficking in its commercial driver’s license curriculum and study guide information.

According to the organization Truckers Against Trafficking, seven million truck drivers are on U.S. highways. They say the more people who are trained at recognizing signs of human trafficking, the better.

“There’s 40 million people enslaved in the world today,” said Kaylla Lanier, deputy director of Truckers Against Trafficking.

Lanier two others decided they wanted to do something about human trafficking in the United States.

“And we thought what group of people could make a difference what is a key strategic group and we thought truck drivers, right,” Lanier.

The deputy director says there are seven million people in the trucking industry, and these people are the eyes and ears of our nation’s highways.

To read the full article by Shelby Shepherd on KWQC: Click Here

Religious Anti-Human Trafficking Group ‘Gaining Muscle’

Sr. Mary Adel Abamo, Talitha Kum Philippine coordinator, at their office in Quezon City

MANILA – A group comprising different congregations has grown more muscles in the past 8 years while combating human trafficking in the country as well as in its Asian neighbors.
“The more anti-human trafficking advocates, the better,” said Sr. Mary Adel Abamo, the group’s Philippine coordinator. “More can blow the whistle to crackdown this crime.”

Established in 2009, the Talitha Kum has grown from 10 partner congregation to 40 as of November 2017,

Prevention better than cure

“About 90 percent of the group’s religious advocates are sisters from different congregations, and only 10 percent priests. Lay people are also on board,” she noted.

The group seeks to stop human trafficking through preventive programs like awareness drives since they believe prevention is better than cure.

They plan to identify and form more advocates in schools, dormitories, and communities to broaden the campaign of educating people on the whys and hows of human trafficking.

According to Abamo, the number of documented trafficked children in the Philippines a year or two ago has reached 60,000 to 100,000, while the number of men and women 300,000 to 400,000.

The nun also expressed alarm over the rising figure of Filipino children forced by their own parents to pose naked online, which she explained, is also considered human trafficking.

To read the full story by Oliver Samson on CBCP News: Click Here

Hotline Focuses Awareness Of Human Trafficking In Latino Communities

The National Human Trafficking Hotline has reportedly received 2,200 calls concerning sex trafficking with connections to Mexico or Latin America since it was set up in  2007. 

Polaris, the organization that operates the hotline, plans to target these demographics, with emphasis on the Houston area, in its latest anti-trafficking campaign, according to a news release from the group.

In partnership with Hispanic Communications Network, a social media marketing company serving U.S. Hispanic communities, Polaris will be releasing all-Spanish public service announcements, social media strategies, celebrity endorsements and survivor testimonies throughout the next few months, geared toward raising awareness in the Hispanic community nationwide, according to the Polaris news release.

“When communities are equipped to recognize the signs of sex trafficking and know there’s a trusted resource available to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they can play a critical role in the fight against this crime,” said My Lo Cook, Polaris’ strategic initiatives director for Mexico, in the release.

To read the full story by Jasmine Davis on Chron: Click Here

Four Dangerous Assumptions About Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is subject to complicated legal definitions, but the essence of this crime is straightforward: a person who is trapped in a situation of economic exploitation from which they cannot escape is very likely a victim of trafficking. Someone involved in moving that person into exploitation, or keeping them there against their will, is very likely a trafficker.

The forms it takes are as varied as the potential for profit. Women, men and children are trapped on farms, fishing boats and construction sites; in factories, mines, restaurant kitchens and private households. They are coerced into fighting wars, giving up their organs, marrying into servitude, or acting as commercial surrogates.

Long banished to the outer edges of the human rights agenda, trafficking (or “modern slavery” as advocates prefer) has emerged as a major issue of concern. Each of the past four US presidents, right up to the incumbent, has loudly proclaimed his personal commitment to ending this scourge – as have religious leaderscelebrities and some of the world’s wealthiest individuals. In a radical shift of the legal landscape, the overwhelming majority of countries have, over the past decade, criminalised trafficking. Funding for programmes aimed at fighting trafficking has never been more abundant. At the international level, the issue has been taken up by the UN General Assembly and Security Council. The Sustainable Development Goals commit states to “take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking”.

But progress against human exploitation has been painfully slow, despite the vast investment of political capital, resources and expertise. In trying to work out what has gone wrong – and what we could be doing differently – it is useful to critically examine some of the basic assumptions on which the anti-trafficking movement is built.

Assumption 1: We’ve got the numbers

Wrong

The hunger for hard data – especially around the number of victims and the profits being generated – is intense and increasing. That is understandable. In our metrics-obsessed world, Bill Gates’ assertion, ”If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist”, rings unsettlingly true. Without being able to paint a clear picture of the size of the trafficking problem, it is difficult to attract attention, to solicit money, to show how well we are doing. Few public figures speaking on this issue have resisted the temptation to cite trafficking statistics that are at best unverifiable and at worst demonstrably false. The anti-trafficking community as a whole has been unconscionably silent about the shoddy research methodologies that regularly produce the wildly varying numbers on which it so heavily relies.

To read the full story by Anne Gallagher on World Economic Forum: Click Here

Follow The Bitcoin To Find Victims Of Human Trafficking

 

bitcoin
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A team of university researchers has devised the first automated techniques to identify ads potentially tied to human trafficking rings and link them to public information from Bitcoin – the primary payment method for online sex ads.

This is the first step toward developing a suite of freely available tools to help police and nonprofit institutions identify victims of sexual exploitation, explained the computer scientists from the New York University Tandon School of Engineering; University of California, Berkeley; and University of California, San Diego.

Human trafficking is a widespread social problem, with an estimated 4.5 million people forced into sexual exploitation, according to the International Labor Organization. In 2016, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported to the group were probably sex-trafficking victims.

The Internet has enabled and emboldened human traffickers to advertise sexual services. Law enforcement efforts to trace and disband human trafficking rings are often confounded by the pseudonymous nature of adult ads and the tendency of ring leaders to employ multiple phone numbers and email addresses to avoid detection. Adding to the difficulty: Determining which online ads reflect willing participants in the sex trade and which reflect victims forced into prostitution.

To read the full story on Tech Xplore: Click Here

Is Your Teen At Risk For Human Trafficking?

Watch out and slow down isn’t the only warning from law enforcement as kids return to classes for the start of the school year.

The Modesto Police Department also advises families to be alert to a different kind of “traffic” risk: human trafficking.

The department joined with the Modesto-based nonprofit organization Without Permission to produce a video that notes a rise in high school-age victims and provides parents with “tools and advice” to protect their children.

The video, posted on MPD’s Facebook page, comes on the heels of a presentation to Modesto City Schools junior high and high school teachers by Detective Steve Anderson of the department’s Special Victims Unit and Debbie Johnson, founder of Without Permission.

To read the full article by Deke Farrow on The Modesto Bee: Click Here