For the Forgotten Men and Boys who Suffer in Silence

The Good Men Project Magazine, nonprofit organization that provides support for men and boys at risk, recently featured an article by Tom Matlack about sex slavery in the United States. Matlack interviewed an agent from Homeland Security. It was a good column that offered a lot of information about sex slavery and what the victims go through. It did have one flaw: there was no mention of male victims at all.

Sexual violence against males is taboo subject. Most male victims do not report their abuse, there are fewer services available to them, and virtually no concern for them either socially or from government-run organizations. This lack of concern renders male victims invisible, and quite often what cannot be seen gets treated as if it does not exist.

In contrast, many groups focus on the issue of the sex trafficking of women, resulting in a lot of — albeit questionable — information, studies, and estimates. Matlack’s column focuses on that greater concern for female victims, which also plays into the political lean of the magazine. To fill the absence of information about male victim of sex trafficking in Matlack’s column, I will provide the information here. Unfortunately, I cannot be as regionally specific as Matlack because there is less information available about male victims of sex trafficking.

But I can start with some general information about human trafficking in the United States.According to a 2009 Houston Chonicle article:

          According to the latest U.S. State Department report on human trafficking, some 45 percent of the 286 certified adult victims in fiscal year 2008 were male, a significant increase from the 6 percent certified in 2006.

          Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which certifies victims of human trafficking, said the increase in the percentage of male victims is due mainly to an uptick in labor-trafficking cases. Seventy-six percent of all human-trafficking victims certified in 2008 were victims of labor trafficking, he said, while sex trafficking accounted for 17 percent. Five percent of victims were subject to both forms of trafficking.

The article goes on to state that in 2006 the U.S. State Department reported that only 6 percent of human trafficking victims were males. By 2009 the number rose to 45 percent of the total victims. Maria Trujillo, executive director of Houston Rescue & Restore Coalition, stated that the trafficking of male victims is underreported, so it is possible the rate is much higher.

One of the many problems that renders male victims invisible is that abuse occurs secretly, making it difficult to document and track. Another problem is the lack of services and attention given to male victims. They have nowhere to go and no one to turn to, and since no one thinks boys can be victims, their abuse goes unnoticed.

There are also the bacha bereesh, the dancing boys, in Afghanistan who get kidnapped, raped, and traded amongst the warlords. There are boys abused abroad as part of sex tourism. There are also cases involving adult men trafficked for sex. A Canadian study found that sexually exploited boys were exploited at younger ages than girls, remained in their situation longer, and abused more and a greater variety of drugs. Most of them had a history of abuse, had run away, and had been involved at some point with child welfare services.

I think the reason why people think boys and men are not victims of sex trafficking is because no one bothers to look for them, to ask about them or reach out to them. And because no one reaches out to male victims, trafficked boys and men will not reach out for help. They live under the same threats that female victims do, and the only way to break fear’s grip on them is to offer them the acknowledgment and support they need to break free.

 

Ferrero Chocolate Company to be Slave-Free

This article is about something that I value immensely, and I have been waiting all semester to find an article  like this so I can write about it. As the semester winds down, I think it’s the best for last kind of thing. This article explains how Ferrero, the Italian chocolate company who makes Ferrero Rocher chocolates among other things, has committed to have all of their cocoa farms child-slave free by the end of 2020.

However, the supply chains chocolate manufacturers get their cocoa from are, for the most part, self-regulated and it generally takes a long time to get things like this accomplished.

The driving factor that I believe is causing this chocolate company, as well as a handful of others, is the amount of profit that is to be had with being a fair trade chocolate company.

Fair trade chocolate is always more expensive than your regular chocolates that you buy in the candy section at the grocery store. Even your already expensive chocolate candies generally cost less than fair trade chocolates.

At the end of 2009, fair trade chocolates had a revenue of 48.4 million euros for farmers*, or approximately $61,661,628. In 2011, however, Ferrero chocolate suffered a decline to 2.4 million euros in pre-tax profits.**

The means to become a fair trade certified company (pledging not to utilize any kind of child or labor trafficking for production) are definitely apparent in the numbers, but it also makes people like me happy that big time chocolate manufacturers are doing a humane thing, even if it may be out of greed.

URL:

http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/20/ferrero-sets-date-to-end-cocoa-slavery/

* http://www.fairtradeafrica.net/market-info/fairtrade-growth-facts-figures/

** http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/finance/2012/0612/1224317753081.html

Look Beneath the Surface

“Most of our cases are not ‘black and white.’ They fall into gray areas that are not always easy to prove.” – Houston Law Enforcement Officer

The most common and perhaps obvious challenge to identifying victims of human trafficking for those in the field is the hidden nature of the crime. Many international victims are brought into the country illegally with traffickers using their illegal entry as a form of control. Such victims are usually unaware of their rights as victims. Meaning, they don’t understand United States laws or the English language. All these factors (among others) help to control the victim and keep the crime (and the victim) hidden. Both international and domestic victims are often kept isolated with no freedom of movement. Contact with the outside world is controlled by the trafficker and often limited to those working for the trafficker, other victims, and in the case of sex trafficking, the johns. Victims become dependent on the trafficker and may not even consider themselves to be victims; another factor making identification difficult.

While difficult to identify because of the hidden nature of the crime, many sectors of our community have the potential to come in contact with a victim of human trafficking. For example, we know victims of sex trafficking are at risk for the same types of injuries as victims of domestic violence and rape. They frequently contract sexually transmitted infections or become pregnant.

So it’s not surprising that law enforcement often ask clinics and emergency room personnel for help in identifying victims. Good citizens are also a great resource in identifying victims if they are little observant of their surroundings. Here are some questions to help identify a victim of human trafficking, created by the Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition (an non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims rebuild their lives):

  • What type of work do you do?
  • Are you being paid?
  • Can you leave your job?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you or your family been threatened?
  • What is your working and living condition like?
  • Where do you sleep and eat?
  • Do you have to ask permission to eat/sleep/go to the bathroom
  • Are there locks on your doors/windows that you cannot unlock?
  • Has your identification or documentation been taken from you?

People are encouraged to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) to report any information about human trafficking; 1-888-3737-888. 24 Hours a day, 7 days a week.

Alright, not exactly possible to directly ask the questions above. So girls, next time you get your nails done, just pay attention to how the manager treats the employees when they think no one’s looking. Then, maybe ask that person (the employee helping you) if they like living in our city or if they get to visit their family back in their country; really pay attention to how they answer and their body language. Guys, y’all do the same when you get a haircut. Who knows what you might find out?

Ever wonder what fuels the fire?….Advertisement.

For the column we had to do for class this week, I focused on what is probably the biggest factor promoting human trafficking: Prostitution Advertisement.

The managers (I guess you could call ’em that) post pictures of these girls with an inappropriate message and include some contact information. Some of these ads women posted themselves but whatever. Yeah I went to one of these websites and saw it for myself, it is unbelievable!

The premier website for such ads is backpage.com, which is hugely supported by Village Voice Media, a privately-run corporation based in Phoenix, AZ. Interestingly enough, Village Voice Media also owns the reputable newspaper, Village Voice, which is “dedicated to the power of the truth.”

I’ve read some of their articles and this newspaper produces excellent journalism, but it’s sad to see they would accept ads from pimps who sell girls like pizza. I don’t know about you guys but, to me, if you publish it, you support it.

There are many other websites like backpage.com that are (sadly) running successfully. So this begs the question: Will the human trafficking be solved if these websites were removed? No. But generally speaking, I’m sure the demand for such services would decrease if there were no means of obtaining it, y’know?

We’ve already established that the problem of human trafficking is expansive. However, doing little things like signing the petition (which I mentioned in an earlier post), supporting victims so they are willing to testify against their abductors without fear, and eliminating websites like backpage.com will weaken the entire criminal network that these people have made.

The best part is that average people like us can do these things. 🙂

Jewelry from [Made by Survivors]

Check out this website and buy the beautiful jewelry that was handmade by victims of poverty, abuse, and human trafficking.

Go to this website –> http://www.madebysurvivors.com/handmade-jewelry — Some of these are really pretty!! 🙂

Supporting women who are working to rebuild their lives after being oppressed is an excellent strategy  to help turn the tide against slavery.

1. Reduce Supply – Sustainable economic development to help prevent people in poverty from becoming victims of slavery (or become victims again)

2. Reduce Demand – Responsible, knowledgeable consumers who reduce demand for slave labor by insisting on transparent, verifiably free-labor supply chains (shop carefully, knowledgeably, and compassionately for things like gold)

3. Reduce Demand – Men not buying women and children for sex (train young men not to treat women and children that way, and enforce laws against men who do)

4. Reduce Supply – investigate and prosecute people who exploit and enslave other

5. Reduce Supply – rescue and rehabilitate slaves in every country (child soldiers, slave brick makers, enslaved sex workers, debt bondage victims, tomato pickers, cotton farmers, children maimed for the purpose of begging, slave brides, and so on)

Not to mention governments passing and enforcing anti-slavery laws, people reading books and watching movies to educate themselve and others, researching human trafficking solutions, fighting international criminal networks that traffic people, and being alert to human trafficking in our own communities.

Slavery and human trafficking are not going away any time soon, but this generation can at least turn the tide, and attempt to hand the next generation a world that is more slavery free than today. Supporting groups like Made By Survivors is one good way to support the fight.

Congress’ Anti-Slavery Reauthorization in Danger

I was surprised to discover the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act is in danger of dying without a floor vote in Congress.  The best chance of passing the TVPRA this year is probably the Senate version of the bill.  S 1301, the bipartisan Senate version of the TVPRA, authored by Senator Leahy and co-sponsored by dozens of senators from both parties, has been approved by committee, but not scheduled for a floor vote in the Senate.

When the TVPA was first passed in 2000, it was probably the best thing the US government has done to fight slavery since Reconstruction.  It has been reauthorized several times since then, but the current reauthorization bill is at risk of going away.   The bills must be approved before the end of this session of Congress at the end of the year, or they’ll have to start over at the next Congress.

We can help give momentum to this cause and make it a national priority by signing the petition. Please do it guys and support the many women who are waiting to be saved.

Trade of Innocents: Justice Needs a Hero – a new movie with Mira Sorvino and Dermot Mulroney.

Academy Award-winner Mira Sorvino and Dermot Mulroney star in a new film about children in sex slavery and the complications of real people fighting an overwhelming crime. This movie revolves around a sect of human trafficking that involves girls as young as 10 years old!

From the movie press kit –

In the back streets of a tourist town in present-day Southeast Asia, we find a filthy cinder block room; a bed with soiled sheets; a little girl waits for the next man to use her.  Alex, a human trafficking investigator plays the role of her next customer as he negotiates with the pimp for the use of the child.
          Claire, Alex’s wife, is caught up in the flow of her new life in Southeast Asia and her role as a volunteer in an aftercare shelter for rescued girls.  She, and Alex both still are dealing with their grief of losing a child years earlier.  As both of them struggle in their own way to overcome the pain of their past and realities of child exploitation where they now live and work, they find themselves being pulled together in to the lives of local neighborhood girls, whose freedom and dignity are threatened.  Parallel story lines intertwine and twists unfold against the backdrop of the dangerous human trafficking world, in a story of struggle, life hope and redemption in the “Trade of Innocents.”

I was actually quite surprised to find SOO many books and movies about human trafficking because I didn’t think there would be many. I know of just one, Price of Sex, which was my inspiration to learn more about this issue. Now that I know there’s more to discover I’ll be including them in my posts as I find them.

Unfortunately, this movie only releases in one theatre in the entire state of Texas. Just one! I don’t know if I should be happy that a movie is made to increase awareness or be sad that this movie is only available  in one theatre.

Please watch the trailer guys and I’m sure you’ll want to want to entire movie.

Should prostitution be legalized?

The biggest debate that government officials have is whether or not to decriminalize human trafficking, namely prostitution. And how will that effect this industry?

Of course we all want it to end but obviously, it’s not that simple. Operators of these businesses have amazing connections that ensure their secrecy and that they keep running. So you can’t help but wonder if legalizing this industry could help the victims somehow? Here are five of the main reasons why it should and should not be legalized:

Pro:

– If legalized, the women could be protected through their bosses (or whatever the CEO of a company of this kind would be called). The women could go seek legal aid when dealing with abusive clients or managers.

– If legalized, the supply of prostitutes would probably increase thus prices would naturally lower. This reduction in prices might even reduce this practice, eventually eliminating it.

– Prostitution should be legal to prevent even worse crimes against humanity. People are given the right to do all kinds of immoral things because it’s their choice – their body. Prostitution shouldn’t be any different. If legalizing it will help prevent far more serious crimes against humanity, then it’s for the best all around.

– Legalization would make it easier for the government to require that all women in that industry to be tested for various STDs so as to prevent the spread of those diseases, as in several European countries.

– Prostitution as a business will continue whether or not it is legalized.

Con:

– Legalization does not control the human trafficking industry. It expands it. Take the Netherlands for instance. When trafficking was decriminalized in 2000, it actually increased by 25%. In addition to the government endorsing prostitution, associations of sex businesses were created who consulted and collaborated with the government to further their interests. (I personally couldn’t believe this statistics when I first read it but it’s true.)

– Legalization does not protect the women. In a study done by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) which included 146 victims of trafficking in five countries, 80% of the women interviewed had suffered physical violence from buyers and bosses. Apparently the clubs have surveillance cameras but they’re there to protect the buyer rather than the women.

– Legalization would bring it the status of a moral profession. Since lawmakers would have to give their approval for it, it would show everyone that the “world’s oldest profession” is now an acceptable way of living.

– People involved in this industry would also encourage drug abuse among victims, giving leverage to another big problem.

– Women in systems of human trafficking do not want the industry to be legalized or decriminalized. These women are the ones facing this horror. They know what’s it like. If they say it shouldn’t be legalized, then it shouldn’t be legalized. Enough said. (Can you tell which side I’m on? Lol.)

So now you guys decide what you think about this issue. Should human trafficking, namely prostitution, be legalized or not?

What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery is human trafficking. It comes in many forms. There is forced prostitution, bonded debt labor, child labor, and domestic bondage. It’s hard to believe it’s still around, right? Actually, it’s more prevalent today than ever before.

It’s difficult to explain why it is that way. The ease with which people can be transported across borders, the complex criminal networks, rising poverty and disenfranchisement of potential victims, the need for cheap services combined with the inconsiderate spending by the wealthy. These are the major social and economic factors fueling the fire.

Honestly, modern slavery couldn’t exist if it weren’t for the amazing ability of a human to completely disregard another human being.

As we speak right now, a girl is probably at the mercy of man she’s never met. Modern slavery is happening. Let’s do something to fight it.