March 23, 2023
(OSV News) — While teaching in a Louisiana public elementary school several years ago, Janice Henry was haunted by one particular student.
“The child was so tired that she kept falling asleep. She was unable to keep herself awake in class,” Henry, a retired educator and member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Peter Claver, told OSV News.
When Henry visited the school’s cafeteria, her unease deepened.
“She’d kind of get herself together by lunchtime, and then I would overhear her conversations,” Henry said. “She would talk about staying at a hotel and being able to swim in the pool.”
The experienced teacher said she also was alarmed by changes in the girl’s appearance: professionally braided hair, designer nails, “coming to class having a little lip gloss on.”
“I had seen the child all through the years,” said Henry. “She had not been able to afford those things previously. It just didn’t feel right in my spirit.”
Henry shared her concerns with school administrators, but “they just kind of brushed it off,” she said. “I guess they thought I was being overly (cautious), or seeing things.”
But “God just wouldn’t let me leave it alone,” said Henry, who suspected the girl was being trafficked for sex.
Henry consulted a relative working for the Department of Homeland Security, who was able to look into the case and confirm Henry’s worst fears: The student had been recruited by an older girl into a dance troupe that was a front for the sexual exploitation of minors.
“I don’t believe the (girl’s) parents knew at all” about the trafficking, Henry told OSV News. “They were working a lot, and just out of the loop.”
Read the full story by Gina Christian on Catholic News.
March 21, 2023
Sr. Margaret Nacke of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia, Kansas, is one the individuals and organizations that The SOAP Project will honor with Liberator Awards on March 25 for their anti-trafficking work.
Nacke will receive the group’s 2023 Radical Abolitionist Award for her work over the past 11 years. Nacke chairs the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking‘s Survivor Services Working Group, and her Liberator Awards blurb notes that she “has been instrumental in creating programs that advance education about trafficking.”
SOAP — Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution — was founded by U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking’s program director, Theresa Flores, who is an author, advocate and survivor of human trafficking. The group has distributed more than 2 million bars of soap with the national human trafficking hotline number to thousands of hotels around the country.
Read the full story on Global Sisters Report.
March 19, 2023
It was almost midnight in Grand Rapids, Mich., but inside the factory everything was bright. A conveyor belt carried bags of Cheerios past a cluster of young workers. One was 15-year-old Carolina Yoc, who came to the United States on her own last year to live with a relative she had never met.
About every 10 seconds, she stuffed a sealed plastic bag of cereal into a passing yellow carton. It could be dangerous work, with fast-moving pulleys and gears that had torn off fingers and ripped open a woman’s scalp.
The factory was full of underage workers like Carolina, who had crossed the Southern border by themselves and were now spending late hours bent over hazardous machinery, in violation of child labor laws. At nearby plants, other children were tending giant ovens to make Chewy and Nature Valley granola bars and packing bags of Lucky Charms and Cheetos — all of them working for the processing giant Hearthside Food Solutions, which would ship these products around the country.
“Sometimes I get tired and feel sick,” Carolina said after a shift in November. Her stomach often hurt, and she was unsure if that was because of the lack of sleep, the stress from the incessant roar of the machines, or the worries she had for herself and her family in Guatemala. “But I’m getting used to it.”
These workers are part of a new economy of exploitation: Migrant children, who have been coming into the United States without their parents in record numbers, are ending up in some of the most punishing jobs in the country, a New York Times investigation found. This shadow work force extends across industries in every state, flouting child labor laws that have been in place for nearly a century. Twelve-year-old roofers in Florida and Tennessee. Underage slaughterhouse workers in Delaware, Mississippi and North Carolina. Children sawing planks of wood on overnight shifts in South Dakota.
Read the full story by Hannah Dreier on the New York Times.
March 14, 2023
Pope Francis has launched an appeal to combat “the shameful scourge” of human trafficking, decrying that it “disfigures dignity.”
The Pope’s cry came in a video message for the ninth World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking, released Wednesday, 8 February, the feast of St Josephine Bakhita.
The Catholic Church’s annual observance was first introduced by Pope Francis in 2015 when he invited women and men religious of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and the Union of Superiors General (USG) to mark the day on the liturgical memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, patron saint for victims of human trafficking.
The United Nations separately marks its own World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on 30 July.
‘Journeying in dignity’
The Pope began by recalling this year’s theme “Journeying in dignity,” which involves young people as protagonists.
The Holy Father addressed young people in a special way, encouraging them “to care for dignity, yours and of every person you meet.”
Being committed to protecting human dignity and against human trafficking, he said, “you can contribute to keeping hope alive, and I would also add joy, which I invite you to preserve in your hearts, along with the Word of God, because the true joy is Christ!”
Read the full article by Deborah Castellano Lubov on Vatican News.
March 3, 2023
Columbus OH — Sister Margaret Nacke will be honored along with other leading abolitionists from around the country who are fighting to end modern-day slavery on March 25th at the Greek Annunciation Banquet Center in Columbus Ohio.
Sister Margaret Nacke, Sister of St. Joseph, Concordia, Kansas, has been involved with anti-human trafficking initiatives for the past 11 years. She has engaged in ventures that involve Adult Life Transitions with persons in the U.S. and abroad. As chair of the Survivor Services Working Group Committee of U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, she has been instrumental in creating programs that advance education about trafficking.
The Liberator Awards will be presented in the following categories: Individual, Volunteer, Organization, Law Enforcement/Public Servant, female and male Survivor of the Year, the Liberator of the Year, and the Radical Abolitionist Award. All proceeds from the evening will benefit future S.O.A.P. outreach initiatives that help rescue missing children from being trafficked, as well as hold survivor retreats for both male and female survivors of human trafficking to heal and recover.
S.O.A.P. was founded by USCSAHT Program Director Theresa Flores, who is an author, advocate, and survivor of human trafficking. On her worst night, after being auctioned off to nearly two dozen men in a dingy, dirty, inner-city Detroit motel, Theresa recalled the only item that would have reached out to her was a bar of soap. With that in mind, she created S.O.A.P. — Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution — to help reach out to other victims. S.O.A.P. has distributed more than two million bars of soap with the national human trafficking hotline number to thousands of hotels around the country.
Download a PDF of this press release.
March 1, 2023
How many slaves work for us?
By Maria Elena Perales
Do we, as consumers, know how we contribute to forced labor? For example, the clothes we wear, the coffee we drink, and the fish and chocolate we consume all contribute to our slavery footprint. Have we ever considered how many slaves work for us?
Find out at slaveryfootprint.org by simply answering a few questions about our lifestyle, it gives us a glimpse of how we, as individuals contribute to the demand for forced labor. Whether we like it or not, forced labor becomes personal when we purchase goods and services from industries that rely on forced labor because we create a profit incentive for those benefitting from forced labor.
Traffickers are estimated to exploit over 40 million victims; 25 million are victims of forced labor. Because forced labor can occur at multiple points through the supply chain, from harvesting raw materials to the point where products are sold, the collaboration between corporations, policymakers, and consumers plays a crucial role in eradicating this insidious crime against our vulnerable brothers and sisters.
There is reason to be optimistic since consumers’ awareness of forced labor is increasing. We, as consumers, want to purchase with the purpose of not only speaking up against forced labor but also bringing awareness about corporate social responsibility. We must use our purchasing power to eradicate slave labor in the supply chain. How about inquiring which corporations are implementing guidelines to hold their suppliers responsible? Buying fair trade chocolate to provide a sustainable future for those harvesting cocoa/making the product or researching the best place to purchase forced labor-free clothes and making corporations accountable is a good step forward. If we see an inexpensive garment for sale, we should know that the item is most likely cheap because someone else has paid the full price.
Some guides and lists are provided to us to make ourselves aware and keep updated on ways to make a difference. We know the U.S. Department of Labor published a list of goods produced by child labor or forced labor by country. A buying guide also offers a list of slave-free products supplied by companies ranked on their antislavery policies, supply chain transparency, and third-party certification. Going through these lists and figuring out what to purchase can be overwhelming, especially if we are on a fixed budget. What is one to do? Perhaps we become more involved in our parish, community, or with USCSAHT and share anything we learn amongst our friends, family, and colleagues. Getting together and sharing our frustrations and challenges and finding one thing in which we can all engage can empower us as ONE.
Maria Elena Perales, Director of the St. Joseph Justice Center for Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, is a member of the USCSAHT Board of Directors.
February 19, 2023
It began with a request from the Sisters of St. Joseph Federation, who wanted to ensure their 2008 national gathering was at a hotel that worked to stop human trafficking.
Kimberly Ritter, senior account manager at Nix Conference & Meeting Management, laughed at the idea. “I said, ‘Well, we’re not in India, Sister.’ ”
But the sister explained that human trafficking happens everywhere, even in the United States, and at rates that would shock most people: The U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline reports 10,360 cases of identified trafficking in 2021 involving nearly 17,000 victims.
“Then we researched the details and found that the average age of entry into sex trafficking is 12 to 13, and [Nix owner] Molly Hackett and I both had daughters that age. We couldn’t believe it,” Ritter said. “And it’s happening in hotels, where we spend millions of the sisters’ money. We knew we had to do something.”
So the St. Louis-based Nix worked with the hotel hosting the Sisters of St. Joseph Federation to sign ECPAT-USA’s Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, a voluntary set of business principles that travel and tour companies can implement to prevent sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.
Nix employees then wondered why they should stop with just one hotel, since they have the buying power to demand every hotel they contract with sign the code of conduct. In 2012, Nix became the first non-hotel company to adopt the code.
At the time, Backpage.com was notorious for running advertisements selling sex, and many ads featured women and girls who had been trafficked. Nix employees, who see hundreds of hotels every year, found they could identify the locations of those women and girls based on the pictures that Backpage.com posted with these ads. But when there were photos of hotels they didn’t recognize, “we realized an office of meeting planners wasn’t enough,” Ritter said.
Read the full story by Dan Stockman on Global Sisters Report.
February 12, 2023
ALBANY — As Valentine’s Day approaches, the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection is warning New Yorkers about romance and sextortion scams.
Officials are offering information and tools to help identify and outsmart scammers who prey on people’s emotions and trust.
Romance scams occur when a criminal lies about their identity and uses romantic interest to manipulate or steal from the victim. Thieves use different variations of these scams to deceive unsuspecting daters.
One common variation used is “sextortion,” in which scammers encourage victims to send intimate images of themselves then demand money to keep it a secret and threaten to expose the victim to their contacts, family, friends and colleagues if payment isn’t sent.”
Although almost any age group can be lured into romance scams, but those most frequently targeted include teens, especially boys; college students; men and women over 40 years old; and senior citizens, especially widows, widowers and recent divorcees.
COMMON SCAM TECHNIQUES
- Fake profile pictures — Scammers create the illusion of someone you would be attracted to and trust. They seek opportunities to meet someone online and create profiles on a wide range of online platforms including social media, dating sites, messaging apps and porn sites. They often use pictures from the internet for their profile and may disguise their voice on the phone.
- Building trust — Scammers are patient and will communicate for weeks or months until they’ve earned your trust.
- Unavailable to meet in person — Scammers may propose an in-person meeting, claiming they will travel to see you, but there will be a last-minute emergency preventing it from happening. Be suspicious of anyone who says they want to meet but then always makes excuses for why they can’t.
Read the full story on The Daily News
February 8, 2023
DATE: Jan. 31, 2023
CONTACT: Christine Commerce, Communications Director, Christine@sistersagainsttrafficking.org
International Day of Prayer Brings Awareness to Human Trafficking Worldwide
U.S. Catholic Sisters participate in webinars to shed light on the darkness that surrounds this crime
Brighton MI — U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking plans to participate in the International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking along with two webinars to further educate and bring awareness to this affront to human dignity on Feb. 7-8.
This year’s theme, “Journeying in Dignity,” coordinated by Talitha Kum, will feature sister-led networks around the world that will share how they are tackling human trafficking in their countries and the importance of getting youth involved along with time for prayer, reflection and renowned speakers from national organizations dedicated for their efforts to address human trafficking. Talitha Kum is an international network of consecrated life working to end human trafficking.
The number of both at-risk groups and people suffering from trafficking violence has increased in 2022. This can be explained by the exploitation of vulnerabilities caused by instability due to armed conflicts, violence, and climate and economic crises.
Those attempting to flee in hope of safety or employment find themselves at the mercy of inadequate laws to protect migrants and asylum seekers. They find themselves easily entangled in the webs woven by traffickers. In addition, traffickers have increased their use of information technology for recruitment and exploitation, luring victims on social media and posting fake jobs on the internet.
Human trafficking is the process by which people are forced or lured by false prospects, recruited, relocated, and forced to work and live in exploitative or abusive conditions. It is a complex reality, often linked to migration. Human traffickers use violence, which includes physical, psychological, or spiritual. People are reduced to objects to be used and exploited for profit.
Victims of trafficking may be forced into sexual exploitation, child, early and forced marriages, or labor exploitation in various industries such as domestics, agriculture, hospitality, mining and manufacturing, construction, or fishing.
“It’s important to highlight the connection between migration and human trafficking. Catholic sisters
work in both the social service and public policy arenas on these issues and we see how they intersect,” said USCSAHT President Sister Ann Oestreich, Talitha Kum’s North America representative. “Passing and enforcing just and comprehensive immigration reform is a key element in addressing human trafficking, which always preys on the most vulnerable people in every society.”
The time for the North America’s block is set: 9:35 a.m. – 10:20 a.m. Eastern. Canada will be first, and the U.S. presentation will follow. The presentation is 21:40 minutes. Following the US presentation, there will be a 10-minute closing prayer. For more information on the International Day of Prayer, visit: preghieracontrotratta.org/ or www.prayagainsttrafficking.net/ or view live here: preghieracontrotratta.org/yt/en or on Talitha Kum’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/talithakum.uisg/
Other opportunities for human trafficking awareness will include:
Webinar: St. Josephine Bakhita – A Saint for Victims and Survivors of Human Trafficking
Feb. 7 at 2 PM EST/1 PM CST
This webinar will feature:
- Joanna Okereke HHCJ, US Conference of Catholic Bishops/Cultural Diversity
- Katie Boller Gosewisch, US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking Executive Director
- Marsha Forson, USCCB/Migration Refugee Services
Webinar: Celebrating St. Bakht Josephine (The patron saint of human trafficking survivors)
Wednesday, February 8th at 3-4 p.m. EST
Come celebrate St. Bakhita Feast day and learn why she is an important person in the crusade against human trafficking.
Hear from Executive Director Anne Haines of the St. Bakhita Catholic Worker House about their program in Milwaukee Wisconsin that helps survivors heal.
Webinar: Catholic Sisters Impact on Helping Trafficking Survivors Thrive
Feb. 8 at 7:30 EST/6:30 CST:
This webinar features an overview of the history of Catholic Sisters working to end trafficking and support survivors, the current work of USCSAHT, reflections from a house serving survivors, reflections for a scholarship recipient, and survivor retreats that sisters have been involved in. Panelists include Theresa Flores; Jean Schafer, SDS; Kathlyn Mulcahy, OP; and Dawn Schiller
Please join the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Office of Justice Community Organizer on the Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita for Part Three: National Human Trafficking Awareness Advocacy/Networking,
Movie Discussion: “A Story to Stop Sex Trafficking”
Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.
Ever wonder what goes into making a movie about human trafficking? Join USCSAHT for a candid view from the Producer Paula Gluck and Survivor Consultant Barbara Freeman on what went into making the film. This film is an excellent look into familial trafficking in the U.S. Watch the movie for a nominal fee at: The Turn Out ahead of time, then join us for the discussion on Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. EST.
Watch our discussion about the film
The Book Club is Back
Meet the Author: March 29th at 7 p.m. EST.
Join us for a rare look into a book about the sex trafficking of males. Male survivor and thriver, John Michael Lander shares his story about being an Olympic-bound athlete and the vulnerabilities which led him to become sexually abused and trafficked. This book will open your eyes to the evil underbelly of sexual abuse and trafficking of athletes! After reading the book, Meet the Author and have time to ask him questions! Purchase book Here: Surface Tension
“The fact that human trafficking is the 2nd leading crime in the US needs to be shouted from the highest mountain top,” said Program Director Theresa Flores. “We need more awareness that this is happening to vulnerable boys and girls in every zip code!”
USCSAHT was founded in 2013 by a group of Catholic Sisters committed to ending human trafficking and supporting survivors. They dreamed of creating a national network of resources and support made up of many different congregations and other mission-aligned partners. Today, this member-based organization has grown to include more than 110 congregations of women religious and another 70+ individuals and groups spread throughout the United States. USCSAHT is also the U.S. member of Talitha Kum, an international network of consecrated life working to end human trafficking.
Download a PDF of this press release
February 1, 2023
The SOAP Project founder Theresa Flores joined ‘America’s Newroom’ to discuss what action she is taking to prevent additional children from falling victim to sex trafficking.
Watch the video on Fox News.