Lighting up the darkness of trafficking

by Sister Michele Morek

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking pray outside of the White House in Washington, D.C., Oct. 9. (Michele Morek)

Trafficking victims live among us. They may grow our food, make our clothes, serve us in a restaurant, do our hair or nails, or build our electronic devices.

Trafficking occurs in every state in every nation. The number of networks of sisters working against trafficking around the world is an impressive force, but the problem of trafficking is getting worse: In the United States alone, there was a 35 percent increase in sex trafficking reported in 2016, according to Polaris, while labor trafficking reports rose by 47 percent.

Catholic sisters all over the world have been increasing their efforts to fight trafficking. One effective anti-trafficking group is the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking (USCSAHT). It was my good fortune to be a charter member of the first board of directors, since I was doing anti-trafficking advocacy at the United Nations at the time.

The 15 sisters on the board are from different congregations and from all over the country, but they do have one thing in common: They are engaged in a wide variety of ministries that involve work against human trafficking.

Some of the board members offer services for survivors of trafficking: rescue, protection, education, rehabilitation. Others create newsletters, maintain websites, act as the justice representative for their congregations, or do advocacy in Washington, D.C., in their state capitals, or with local officials. All have created prayer services and educational resources for their congregations or other organizations they belong to; many of these resources and prayer services can be found on the organization’s website.

The organization was legally incorporated within the past year, so the original informal board is now the first official board. We met Oct. 8-10 at the Washington Retreat Center, a ministry of the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement. The meeting was devoted to planning, capacity-building and setting the vision for the next three years in leadership, membership, program and services.

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking board meeting in October (Michele Morek)

The second night of the meeting, we board members gathered in front of the White House for a prayer service. Holding candles and posters, we prayed for homeless youth. (In March, a month after vowing to end human trafficking, President Donald Trump proposed through his budget to eliminate the Interagency Council on Homelessness.) We also prayed for people on the move, especially the 22 million refugees. The president wants to wall them out, deport them, ban then and turn them away.

As we prayed, other people would slip in, indicating their support by whispered word or expression. A Hasidic Jewish family, a tourist couple and several others hovered quietly around the edges of our group. An evangelical minister walked into the middle of the circle and with extravagant gestures to heaven loudly called down the blessing of God, to which we all enthusiastically agreed, “Amen!”

Many religious congregationsindividuals and coalitions are members of our anti-trafficking coalition, but everyone has access to anti-trafficking resources on the website: curriculum, teaching modules, faith resources, newsletters, video, information about slave-free goods and services, and suggested actions.

Besides providing a networking tool for members and a source of education for everyone, U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking was founded to be the official U.S. representative of a global network of sisters working against human trafficking. The global umbrella group, Talitha Kum (from Jesus’ Aramaic words, “little girl, get up”), works with its director and with national and regional coalitions of sisters around the world that are engaged in anti-trafficking work.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently mentioned our group in its anti-trafficking newsletter, noting, “U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking utilizes social media to showcase positive efforts and victories of women and men working tirelessly to combat trafficking.”

Work against trafficking is not a single-issue ministry for the sisters, as trafficking has many root causes:

  • Poverty and lack of decent work drive men and women to seek work to support themselves and their families. Desperate parents may sell their children. Most trafficked people work in commercial sex trades or forced labor. They are also exploited through involuntary domestic servitude, bonded or debt labor, child soldiering, begging, crimes, forced marriage and organ removal.
  • Migration puts refugees and other people on the move into harm’s way, making them vulnerable to traffickers. According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, there are more than 65 million people currently displaced worldwide, more than at any time since World War II.
  • Political upheaval is a major cause of forced migration as desperate people flee from persecution or violence. Trafficking is the end result of complex interconnected social factors.
  • Climate change disasters and other natural disasters can be causal factors for all the issues above, increasing poverty, migration and political instability.
Sisters from U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking pose in front of the White House during a prayer service outside Oct. 9. (Provided photo)

The logo of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking is particularly apt: It shows a green shoot growing out of the darkness from behind prison bars. It is coming out crooked at first, but as it leaves the cage, it straightens and grows up toward the light. All sisters who have worked with survivors of trafficking can see the victims’ journey in that little shoot. We are all doing what we can to light up the darkness and take away the bars.

 

This story first appeared on Global Sisters Report

 

November Monthly Reflection

Hope is a Way of Life

by Anne Victory, HM

With all of the recent crises—multiple hurricanes leaving millions without the basics of life, earthquakes killing thousands, devastating forest fires, senseless gun violence, reckless political maneuvering—I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, drained, exhausted. Add to that the fact that these disasters are likely to make the vulnerable more susceptible to human trafficking, and I truly feel almost paralyzed. Can I—and others who work for justice—make any difference in the face of such chaos? Is this what is meant by compassion fatigue? I suppose it could be.

As I was pondering these things, I was challenged last Saturday when I attended a Walk for Freedom event on Public Square in Cleveland where I staffed my organization’s (Collaborative to End Human Trafficking) informational display. A passerby came up and asked what the display was all about. When I told him, he responded that it’s really hopeless, that slavery has been going on for centuries, and essentially that I have no business trying to change things. “That’s just how things are. Rape is a fact of life, and forced labor is woven into the economy. While it’s probably wrong, it’s also hopeless to try to change things! You don’t really expect to make a difference, do you?”

I was a bit taken aback, since so many others who were present that day expressed gratitude for our efforts to raise awareness of the crime of human trafficking and to connect services on behalf of victims. After a moment, I responded, “Of course, we can make a difference! I believe that things can change. I think it’s worth the effort. I may never know how my presence, my words, or my actions help another person. That doesn’t mean that I should not try. If I –and so many of my colleagues—don’t speak out for the voiceless, that’s when we fail.” Sadly, he walked away unconvinced. Perhaps that was his way of letting himself off the hook, or maybe he is just too discouraged.

As I pondered this encounter, I also recalled the opportunity I had to speak about human trafficking with some refugee women recently at Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services. They came from Somalia, Swaziland, Congo, Iran, Nepal, and other countries. They spoke Swahili, Somali, Nepalese, Arabic and some small amount of English. They are eager to get settled in this new land and want to provide a new life for their children. They expected that they would now be safe from harm now that they are in the United States.

As I slowly presented information on human trafficking with the help of interpreters, I watched as their eager faces began to show concern and even fear. It seems that every one of these women knew well that this crime happened routinely in their countries of origin, but they never expected to find it here. In their effort to become self-sufficient, they want to gain employment, but now they hear that some employers may not be reputable. What can they do? Who can help? They expressed fear, especially for their children, who learn so much more quickly and assume, like all teenagers, that they are invincible! My short presentation offered them clues regarding the “red flags,” and local phone numbers to call for help. I left these sessions hoping that, while I had instilled a level of fear, I had also empowered them with tools and resources that will help keep them and their families safe in their new country.

I also left inspired by the courage of these strong women who have already endured so much—war, years in refugee camps, mistreatment, and unspeakable abuse. I respect their resiliency, their willingness to start over in a new land with nothing but the clothes on their backs and their immense hope for their families. So is there any reason why I should not continue trying to make a difference on this important issue in the face of other crises that may indeed cause even more people to become vulnerable? I can’t think of any legitimate excuse!

I feel compelled to continue speaking out for those with no voice, no power. Like the stories of the Old Testament prophets, I am reminded that a prophet’s role is not to be successful but to be faithful. How can I, so very blessed with freedom, faith, education, the support of a loving family and community, turn away in despair over the condition of our world? What about those who really suffer every day of their lives because they lack the basics? Who will speak for them if I don’t?

I recall that the Constitutions of my congregation, the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, challenge me to demonstrate that “hope is a way of life . . .” (Art. 17). Standing on the shoulders of so many people of good will who have gone before me and now stand in solidarity with me, I pray that I and we will overcome our compassion fatigue and be ones who offer hope in these most challenging times.

 

October Monthly Reflection, 2017

Breaking the Cycle of Violence

by Sister Kathleen Coll, SSJ

The month of October is a favorite one of mine. Usually, the weather here in the mid-Atlantic is mild with cool evenings. The burst of color surrounding us is amazing! Everywhere you look the trees adorn themselves with beautiful shades of red, orange, brown and yellow. Under the canopy of this beauty exists the reality of what one human being can do to exploit another in order to enrich themselves.

One means of the exploitation is commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) or sex trafficking. It is a serious form of modern day slavery that does not discriminate based on age, class or race. Along with labor trafficking, sex trafficking happens to children, women and men. Pope Francis said, “It is not possible to be indifferent before the knowledge that human beings are bought and sold.” He calls it “a global economic system dominated by profit.” The Pope strongly condemns this new form of slavery urging people of all religions and cultures to denounce and combat it.

As director of Dawn’s Place, a house for women victims of CSE or sex trafficking, I see them struggle daily to heal from the trauma caused by the extreme poverty, neglect and abuse they have experienced. As young children, none of the women ever thought they would grow up to be drug addicts and victims of prostitution. Their stories vary but most share the same experience of being sexually abused as children with no adult in their lives willing to help. As soon as they can, they run away to escape the abusive situation. They are not long on the streets when they are picked up by man who promises to take care of them. After a little while of “caring for them,” or romancing them, their “boyfriend” sends them out to make money for him by coercing them to sell themselves over and over. If they try to escape, threats of or actual beatings become a reality for them. I remember a woman telling me that the man she thought of as her “boyfriend” after a few weeks, put a gun to her head and told her what she had to do. Many times, their pimp or “trafficker” addicts them to drugs as a means of control if they are not already addicted and are frequently sold by their pimps to other pimps. The women become a commodity to be bought and sold in a society which criminalizes them for being victims of prostitution. Does it sound familiar? Yes, it is modern day slavery, it happens to American women and it happens every day just under our noses!

By the time, the women come to Dawn’s Place, they are convinced that they are what society calls them. They have been incarcerated and carry with them criminal records. Their human dignity has been stripped from them and they have no voice. They speak of going down a path of destruction and depression with long years of abuse and mistreating themselves. One woman expressed it this way, “I was lost for so many years, feeling like I was destined for a life of drugs, abuse and self-loath. I just accepted that I deserved that way of life. Now, I’m a survivor of abuse and sex trafficking. I’m proud of me and how far I have come.”

Another woman who graduated from our program, tells of running away from her family because of he addiction that led her to being prostituted – she knew no other way to survive. She lived for years on the streets or in abandoned buildings, controlled by a pimp. She then was sold to a man who beat her so badly she was in intensive care for three months. After being hospitalized, she was determined to work a program and get clean. To get help for the next step on her journey off the streets, she was referred to Dawn’s Place. She has a job now and an apartment with a future and is earning her own way.

Our desire for every woman who comes to Dawn’s Place is that she will find the courage to break the cycle of violence, recover from trauma, reclaim her dignity and go on to live as a healed, independent and productive member of society. Do we succeed with every woman who comes to Dawn’s Place – no, but we try!

Environmental Refugees and Human Trafficking

September 2017

By Jeanne Christensen, RSM

Board Member, U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking

U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking is a collaborative, faith-based network that offers educational programs and materials, supports access to survivor services, and engages in legislative advocacy to eradicate modern-day slavery. 

Following recent climate disasters, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the earthquake in Mexico, members of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking believed it would be helpful to share a module entitled “Human Trafficking and Environmental Refugees” for reflection and discussion.  The module can be found here. 

A brief excerpt from the module states: “In June 2014, the number of refugees worldwide exceeded 50 million children, women and men.  Half of these refugees are children, many travelling alone or in groups.  Millions of these refugees are people displaced because of environmental disasters.   Moreover, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that in the coming years millions of people will be forced to relocate due to effects of climate change, including shoreline erosion, coastal flooding or disruption of normal farming practices. Today analysts predict that this crisis in the making will affect 150-200 million men, women and children by 2050, or roughly one in every 45 persons on earth…

Women and children are especially vulnerable during any forced displacement, and they are at risk for gender-based violence and human trafficking.  Many children are separated from their families during an environmental disaster. According to the UNHCR, children alone represent more than half of the people of concern. These children, unaccompanied by any adult or caregiver, are targets for traffickers. Two months after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, aid agencies warned that up to two million children were at risk of abuse or trafficking.

After Superstorm Sandy, the state of New Jersey allotted more than $1.5 million to bolster human trafficking prevention and treatment services for homeless youth.  Unfortunately, the areas of the world that are most affected by disasters related to climate change are the least likely to have the resources to protect their citizens.”

Sources for the module’s content are:

A second resource was provided in early September by Polaris Project.  The article follows.

Natural Disasters and the Increased Risk for Human Trafficking

September 1, 2017

Brandon Bouchard, Director of Media Relations – Polaris Project

While every human trafficking victim is different, a common thread they share is the presence of a vulnerability that traffickers exploit. Those types of vulnerabilities are rampant in the aftermath of natural disasters. Homelessness is one of the top risk factors reported by survivors to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, and we often learn that survivors were recruited by traffickers near shelters or centers helping people in need.

In fact, one of the largest labor trafficking cases in United States history resulted from human trafficking that occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. You can read more about that case from the Southern Poverty Law Center here.

As people throughout the United States continue to deal with the horrific hardships stemming from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it is critical that a response to potential human trafficking is part of long-term recovery efforts. Local service providers and the organizations in the fight against human trafficking throughout Texas, Louisiana, and Florida need help more than ever as they provide aid to people affected by these natural disasters.

Below are a few organizations partnered with the National Human Trafficking Hotline that we encourage you to donate to, and you can search for more in the Human Trafficking Referral Directory.

  • YMCA of Greater Houston
  • Houston Area Women’s Center
  • United Against Human Trafficking
  • Freedom Place
  • Kristi House
  • International Rescue Committee (IRC) – Miami
  • Catholic Charities – Diocese of Palm Beach
  • More Too Life
  • Selah Freedom

To learn more about the impact climate change is having on human trafficking throughout the world, read this important report from our friends at the International Organization for Migration: The Climate Change-Human Trafficking Nexus”: here

Excerpts from this document note: “Climate change increases the risk of natural disasters and places a strain on livelihoods; it exacerbates poverty and can potentially cause situations of conflict and instability. These conditions, when combined with a mismatch between demand for labour and supply and the proliferation of unscrupulous recruitment agencies, increase high-risk behaviours and other negative coping strategies among affected populations. This may include resorting to migrant smugglers, which in turn makes them vulnerable to trafficking in persons (TiP) and associated forms of exploitation and abuse. The impact of climate change, however, is rarely considered as a potential contributor to human trafficking in global discussions or national level policy frameworks,1 and the nexus remains relatively underexplored.”  (p. 3)

“These incidents of human trafficking in the wake of sudden- and slow-onset disasters demonstrate the necessity of a planned response to address this cross-cutting issue. In general, there needs to be an acknowledgement that human trafficking can be an unintended but direct consequence when migration occurs in the absence of government support and management, after disasters or in the face of slow-onset events.” (p. 9)

September Monthly Reflection

A prayer for the ones left behind

By Michele Morek, OSU

On May 25, International Missing Children’s Day, I was reading a Prayer for Missing Children by Jane Deren (Education for Justice) when I was struck by a thunderbolt of conscience.

It was a lovely prayer, praying for missing children, including those kidnapped, trafficked, lost as refugees, or lost in conflicts. But it did not only pray for the children. It remembered the suffering parents or other loved ones, comparing their anguish to the suffering of Mary and Joseph when they lost their son on a trip to Jerusalem. (Luke 2:42)

It made me realize—with some shock and shame—that while I often think of and pray for people who are trafficked or kidnapped, I rarely go deeper and think of the others affected: the parents, spouses, friends, and wider community.

I had reason to feel guilty, because I should know better. My friend and sister in religious life was kidnapped, and I know firsthand the sorrow and panic of those left behind: community, friends, classmates and family. Not only the immediate worry and pain, but the pain which persists for years as we witness the continuing suffering of our loved one—manifest in PTSD, nightmares and flashbacks—or if they are still missing, imagine what they might be going through and wonder if they are still alive.

A doctor with expertise in dealing with kidnapping and torture victims came for a healing session with my religious congregation, and explained that a kidnapper / trafficker / torturer does not only hurt a single victim, but victimizes the whole community of family, friends, or religious congregation.

Think of a mother’s anguish, fleeing from war and violence, as she suddenly realizes that a child is no longer with her. Think of a father’s pain when a child is kidnapped or trafficked, as he takes on an additional burden of guilt.

Now imagine the silent suffering of a family living in extreme poverty, who may have sold the child to traffickers in order to feed the rest of the family, or so that the child’s life would be “improved.”

When we pray for trafficked persons, let us remember to pray for those left behind, and to pray that somehow the world might learn how to address the extreme inequality that leads to poverty and violence.

Further Study:

Read Luke 2:42 and imagine how it would look in modern-day headlines.

Check this resource for nonprofit organizations seeking to provide support services for families with missing members. In addition, many states have their own agencies providing support services for such families.

Michele Morek OSU

 

Racine Dominicans Continue To Fight Human Trafficking

RACINE COUNTY — Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a series of bills in support of efforts to combat human trafficking.
But anti-trafficking efforts have been active for years in Racine County, and much of its history starts with Racine’s very own Dominican sisters.
“The Racine Dominicans were instrumental in shining a spotlight on human trafficking early on in Racine when many of us, including myself, were not even aware of the issue,” said Karri Hemmig, founder and executive director of Fight to End Exploitation.

Sixteen years in the making

In 2001, 1 million Catholic sisters from around the world gathered in Rome and vowed to address “insistently, and at every level, the abuse and sexual exploitation of women and children, with particular attention to human trafficking.”
The Dominicans took the declaration to heart, helping to spur human trafficking efforts in Racine County.
“This (human trafficking) kept coming up like a bad penny,” said Sister Ruth Schaaf, who was working as a parish nurse and had an office at St. Luke’s Hospital at the time. She also chaired the Racine Dominicans’ society focus group.
“Somebody said, ‘How do we know we haven’t seen a victim?’” Schaaf said. “That was an eye opener because we began to say, ‘Yeah, what would be some red flags?’”

Seeking knowledge

The sisters read a “Look Beneath the Surface” pamphlet issued by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Rescue & Restore Victims of Human Trafficking campaign, which informed them of the red flags to look for in potential trafficking victims.

To read the full story by Alyssa Mauk on The Journal Times: Click Here

The Worldwide Debate About Sex Work: Morality Meets Reality

The streets of Pattaya, Thailand, one of the centers of sex tourism (GSR photo / Gail DeGeorge)
 

Public debate on prostitution can be tough, passionate, even angry.

Advocates for differing views cannot even agree on shared language: Those who defend their way of making a living as sex workers embrace their identity, while those, like Catholic sisters, who decry the term “sex work” as demeaning, argue that there can be no dignity in a relationship where sex is exchanged for money.

“I think all prostitution represents violence against women,” said Sr. Winifred Doherty, who represents the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd at the United Nations.

The passion Doherty and others bring to the topic has been on display during the last year at the U.N., where space for debate about social topics is frequently honored. The topic of prostitution was addressed at several U.N. forums during the March meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women.

And inevitably, the U.N.’s upcoming World Day against Trafficking in Persons on July 30 may prompt debate. The commemoration was designated by U.N. member states beginning in 2013 as necessary to “raise awareness of the situation of victims of human trafficking and for the promotion and protection of their rights.”

To read the full story by Chris on Global Sisters Report: Click Here

August Monthly Reflection

Traffik 2017: A New Art Exhibit about Human Trafficking

Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA

On May 11-12, 2017 Mayo Clinic-Franciscan Healthcare in La Crosse, WI held its 20th annual conference on Child Maltreatment with support from the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, Coulee Region Child Abuse Prevention Task Force, Family & Children’s Center – Stepping Stones, the La Crosse Task Force to End Modern Slavery, and Viterbo University Art Department. This nationally recognized conference addresses strategies that multidisciplinary teams can use to intervene when child maltreatment is reported, collaborate with community and family to protect children, and ensure justice for child victims of abuse/neglect.

This year the conference devoted a full day to human trafficking. Speakers addressed national and state legislation, human trafficking in a globalized context, assisting victims, and suppression of demand on the part of law enforcement. A special feature of the conference was a nationally juried art exhibit organized and presented by the Viterbo University Art Department, entitled Traffik 2017. The goal was to create a space for artists to express themselves, and for others to dwell among works that have been highly considered, in the context of this issue. The call to artists invited submission of works with an implication for introspection on the theme, the issues that surround it or its effects, and to explore broader interpretations of issues that it raises, such as oppression, illicit economies, invisibility, innocence, social justice and others. (http://www.viterbo.edu/art-department/traffik-2017-call-artists)

Image by Margaret Miller, Viterbo Art Alumni 2014

Viterbo University received some 50 entries from artists all over the United States and one from Austria. Since the call was open to anyone 18 years of age and older, entries represented the full spectrum of working artists, from high school and college students, to university professors, to professional and amateur working artists. The jury selected 28 pieces for the show.

A sampling from the exhibit is shown here with the permission of the artists. Their own words describe their creations.

Barbed Wire with Butterfly #2

By Daniel Stokes

Terra Cotta

I have chosen to describe the theme by illustrating the contrast embodied by my subject matter, butterflies and barbed wire. The butterfly representing the fragile, the harmless, the beautiful. All those precious things of this world that are vulnerable by their very nature including men, women, and children.

Barbed wire, whose sole purpose for existence is to inflict pain, as a symbol of the methods and attitudes of those who in service of greed would control, imprison, even enslave the weak and innocent through threats of violence, to whom human beings are nothing more than mere property to be bought, sold, and ultimately destroyed.

Dark Cities

by Anna Lucille Strunk (Lucy)

Acrylic

The top half of the painting shows Americans going about their everyday lives. The blue background reflects a calm and cool world, where there is nothing to be concerned about. The white figures are the everyday people, going about their lives in the cities and towns. The small size and white color represents how most people don’t think outside of their little worlds, and how they believe everything is right and pure.

The lower portion portrays the suffering of people and children taken by the calamity of human trafficking. The red background represents the burning pain and suffering experienced by these individuals. The hunched, black figures are those who have been taken and sold into slavery. They are a larger size than the white figures above because the problem of human trafficking is larger than we think it is. The bent over posture is for the treacherous work they are put through, and how they are sold to people who make things that we use every day, being put in a position that, in an unfortunate way, supports our country.

The black city and Empire State Building that rests over the bottom half of the painting represent the United States being ignorant or ignoring the issue. Our “perfect” little world has horrible and tragic happenings occurring beneath it.

Selling

Rick Carraway

Acrylic on canvas

In painting Selling, I wanted to capture the commerce of selling oneself to survive, and probably not by choice. The Swedish government has found that much of the vast profit generated by the global prostitution industry goes into the pockets of human traffickers. The Swedish government said, “International trafficking in human beings could not flourish but for the existence of local prostitution markets where men are willing and able to buy and sell women and children for sexual exploitation.”

 

This image was not submitted to the exhibit, but represents in a survivor’s own efforts how art can be helpful in the struggle toward healing and freedom.

Survivor Woman

By KN (survivor)

Acrylic mixed with other mediums

Most of the symbolism is in the side where the face is dark or shaded. It represents either the side of us we don’t know or the side we want to be unknown. The side that makes it look as if the wind is blowing to me represents how we are constantly changing. I also think the earthy colors are grounding.

“KN” affirms that art is another way to convey the message from the survivor. Art therapy opens up areas that have been blocked and helps the individual get at the pain from another angle. It functions like a castle with different doors where one can enter the memories and work with them. The doors can be closed again and issues can be put away when the survivor is not working on them. For her, the castle concept is a way to contain the reality so that it cannot have a continuously destructive influence on her life.

Art is frequently used in healing modalities for survivors of human trafficking. It also provides an entry for understanding more clearly the reality of this criminal activity which engulfs our world. Viewers at the Traffik 2017 art exhibit found it profoundly meaningful.

The obvious benefit of the Mayo Clinic-Franciscan Healthcare Child Maltreatment Conference was not only the knowledge conveyed in a variety of ways, but the collaboration among social institutions that is essential to making a contribution to ending modern slavery in the 21st century. Mayo Clinic-Franciscan Healthcare and Viterbo University are sponsored ministries of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse. The author of this article convened and continues to chair the La Crosse Task Force to End Modern Slavery.

Traffik 2017 will be on display at the Viterbo University Art Gallery from August 30-September 29, 2017. For more information, Department Chairwoman Sherri Lisota, can be contacted at sjlisota@viterbo.edu.

 

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.

How Do You Honor And Cherish Freedom?

By Sister Carol Davis, OP

On the 4th of July in the United States we celebrate Independence Day. In 1776 John Adams wrote an historic letter to his wife Abigail telling her that from one end of this continent to the other there would be future annual celebrations, shows and parades celebrating what he called a “Day of Deliverance.” He recognized the blood and toil of beginning this new nation and he also saw light and glory in the forward movement.

We have much to rejoice about and also much toil ahead because there are millions awaiting their personal day of deliverance from the trauma of human trafficking. Future generations are counting on us too. Each one of us can make a difference.

In her book Stolen, Katariina (Kat) Rosenblatt, Phd, http://www.thereishopeforme.org/ writes about her personal experience of being a survivor of sex trafficking, her escape and subsequent work with American children. She notes some of the significant vulnerability factors that lead to recruitment of American children.

  • abuse at home normalizes maltreatment
  • economic disadvantages – single parent home being of higher risk
  • alcohol and drug abuse in home normalizes that experience/lifestyle
  • seeking a father figure to fill a “daddy hole”

Kat said to me one time when I asked her what I should tell people who want to help prevent human trafficking, “If you see something, say something.”

I am part of a coalition working against human trafficking in my local region and we are noting which kids in schools are “couch surfing” because of some of the reasons that Kat lists in her book. I would add that gay and lesbian kids are sometimes kicked out of their home when they identify their sexual orientation and disclose to family. All of these kids are just one extended family member, neighbor, friend, couch away from homelessness. Within 72 hours of being on the streets, they will be approached by a pimp and are therefore at high risk for survival sex or being trafficked. Those who buy commercial sex are committing a crime. By definition, no one under age can consent to sex with an adult.

Is there a child in your life who needs safe love and care, can you offer it? For example, check out Girls, Inc. When you refer someone to Alcoholics Anonymous or help a woman call a shelter so that she might leave a domestic violence situation, you could be providing a barrier to human trafficking. The more you pay attention, the more you will see the connections and realize that you can make a difference.

Consciousness grows. And we need to grow it worldwide. To that end, in 2013 the United Nations adopted a resolution declaring July 30th the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. What will you do to increase awareness? Check out the prayer service on our website: Click Here

Let us celebrate where we can and continue to respond to the call to hope and freedom. Let us continue to carry the light from the Source of all love and light.

The Spirit of God is upon me,
for the Exalted One has anointed me:
God has sent me to bring good news to those who are poor;
to heal broken hearts;
to proclaim release to those held captive.

-Isaiah 61:1