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Pope Says ‘Slaughters and Atrocities’ Committed Daily in Ukraine

March 27, 2022

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis, continuing his implicit criticism of Russia, called the conflict in Ukraine an unjustified “senseless massacre” and urged leaders to stop “this repugnant war”.

“The violent aggression against Ukraine is unfortunately not slowing down,” he told about 30,000 people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly Sunday address and blessing.

“It is a senseless massacre where every day slaughters and atrocities are being repeated,” Francis said in his latest strong condemnation of the war, which has so far avoided mentioning Russia by name.

“There is no justification for this,” he added.

Moscow says the action it launched on Feb. 24 is a “special military operation” designed not to occupy territory but to demilitarise its neighbour and purge it what it sees as dangerous nationalists. Francis has already rejected that terminology.

“I beg all the players in the international community to truly commit themselves to stopping this repugnant war,” the pope said, drawing loud cheers and applause from the crowd.
Read the full story by Philip Pullella on U.S.News & World Report.

Ukraine: Increasing Concerns Over Human Trafficking

March 24, 2022

No sooner had the first missiles been fired over the skies in Ukraine and thousands of people began to flee, than there was evidence that criminal gangs linked to human trafficking were on the move along border routes.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM ) around 1.5 million children, who are especially vulnerable to human trafficking, have fled Ukraine.

In a statement, the agency said: “Instances of sexual violence have already been reported and among the individuals promising onward transportation or services, there have been indications of potential exploitation.”

Aid agencies like Caritas Ukraine are supporting women and children crossing the border into neighbouring countries like Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary, to try to prevent human trafficking.

“Right now, there is a very high risk that people might become a human slave,” said Vladyslav Shelokov, Caritas Ukraine’s Resource Mobilisation Director.

Risks to refugees

Sr Imelda Poole, IBVM, is President of RENATE, a network of women religious combatting human trafficking, and is based in Albania. Speaking to Vatican Radio, she said there have been accounts of transnational criminal gangs working in vans along these routes.

“Women and children are really vulnerable, and also we do know from our sisters and colleagues working in Ukraine itself that sadly even in the basements where refugees are trying to keep safe there seemed to be some risks there too, and there have been some known rapes of women in the basements.”

Read the full article by Lydia O’Kane on Vatican News.

Ugandan Boarding School Rescues Young Teen Girls From Forced Marriage

March 22, 2022

AMUDAT, UGANDA — Sitting at her desk in a classroom at Kalas Girls Primary School in this remote town of northern Uganda, 15-year-old Susan Cherotich narrated through tears how she had fled her parents’ home some six weeks earlier following pressure from her uncles and elders to marry before she completes her education.

The eighth-grade student said her parents were opposed to the idea, but the decision by the majority of her clan members to start a home with a man was more binding, a common practice in her Pokot tribe.

Susan said her uncles and elders wanted to sell her against her will into marriage for dozens of cows to an older man she had never met.

“I heard that the man had several wives, and he was willing to give out many cows,” she said.

“I left at night after realizing they were coming to marry me off.”

She took refuge at a police station before religious sisters took her to Kalas Girls Primary School in Amudat parish, run by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Reparatrix-Ggogonya. “My father pleaded with his brothers and elders to let me finish school, but they objected, saying it was the right time for me to be married off since schools were taking a long time to resume due to the COVID-19 lockdown.”

Susan is among thousands of girls in northern Uganda who have been rescued from marriages they did not want and taken to Kalas Girls Primary School, which is also sponsored by UN WomenUNICEF and the World Food Program. The boarding school provides hope and a haven for girls who have escaped genital mutilation and child marriage. At the school, the girls receive counseling and psychosocial support.

The East African nation is one of the countries with the highest rates of early and forced marriage, according to a 2019 report by UNICEF: The country of more than 45 million people is home to 5 million child brides. Of these, 1.3 million married before age 15, UNICEF reports.

The report also notes that child marriage results in teenage pregnancy, which contributes to high maternal deaths and health complications like obstetric fistula, premature births, and sexually transmitted diseases. It is also the leading cause of girls dropping out of school.

Read the full story by Gerald Matembu and Doreen Ajiambo on Global Sisters Report.

New Details Revealed On Visas Given To Victims Of Human Trafficking

March 20, 2022

Three years ago, while fact-checking what we described as “fantastical human-trafficking claims” by President Donald Trump, we discovered that the federal government did not publish a breakdown by nationality of visas given to victims of human trafficking, which are known as T visas.

It was a strange gap in the data. The best information we could provide was to note that 40 percent of T-derivative visas, for family members, were issued by the U.S. Embassy in Manila. We were frustrated enough by this issue that we even sent a note to staff members for key congressional committees urging that this data be made public.

With little public notice, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, recently released a breakdown on 14 years of human-trafficking visas in a fact sheet.

T visas, created in 2000 when Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, are available only to victims of human trafficking and require that the applicant be in the United States or at a port of entry “on account of” trafficking. Visa applicants also are expected to assist in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking. (There’s also another type of visa, the U Visa, for victims of serious crime who assist law enforcement.)

“This report was created as a tool for the general public to understand and recognize the characteristics of T Visa applicants and was published in January 2022 as part of USCIS’s commitment to supporting and protecting victims of human trafficking and other serious crimes,” said Anita Rios Moore, a USCIS spokeswoman, in a statement to the Fact Checker.

We’re publishing some highlights to draw attention to the new data. We’ve noted before the paucity of reliable data on sex trafficking — and how what numbers are available indicate that many politicians rely on exaggerated figures.

Read the full story by Glen Kessler on The Washington Post.

3 Accused Of Trafficking Teens At Orlando Hotels; Police Believe There May Be More Victims

March 18, 2022

ORLANDO, Fla. – Police with the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation announced on Wednesday the arrests of two women and a man who are accused of trafficking at least three teens for sex acts at several hotels in Orlando.

Officers arrested Tracy Koger, 34, and Tyrell San Juan Ponds, 46, in January and both are locked up in Orange County. Shana Marie Lee Bryant, 36, was arrested in December 2021 in Seminole County.

“They would offer (the victims) places to stay — offered to take care of them,” Ron Stucker, director of the MBI said during a news conference Wednesday. “Of course, once they had control over them, then what would happen is they would begin to exploit them and manipulate them.”

The investigation into the trio began in July 2021 when a 15-year-old runaway turned up at Dr. Phillips Hospital saying she had been battered, according to a news release. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office turned the case over to the MBI when it was revealed she was a victim of human trafficking.

Read the full story by Thomas Mates on Click Orlando.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Announces Justice Department Strategy To Combat Human Trafficking

March 16, 2022

ATLANTA – U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today released the Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking pursuant to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

“Human trafficking is an insidious crime,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.  “Traffickers exploit and endanger some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cause their victims unimaginable harm. The Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking will bring the full force of the Department to this fight.”

“Our team is proud to work alongside our many committed law enforcement and community partners – including federal and state law enforcement agencies, non-profit organizations, and community leaders – to combat the scourge of human trafficking,” said U.S Attorney Kurt R. Erskine.  “We continue to draw on these critical resources to vigorously prosecute those who commit these crimes, as well as to mobilize resources to aid, support, and help trafficking victims in our district.”

Rooted in the foundational pillars and priorities of the interagency National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, which President Biden released on Dec. 3, 2021, the Justice Department’s National Strategy is expansive in scope.  It aims to enhance the department’s capacity to prevent human trafficking; to prosecute human trafficking cases; and to support and protect human trafficking victims and survivors.

Among other things, the Justice Department’s multi-year strategy to combat all forms of human trafficking will:

  • Strengthen engagement, coordination and joint efforts to combat human trafficking by prosecutors in all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and by federal law enforcement agents nationwide.
  • Establish federally-funded, locally-led anti-human trafficking task forces that support sustained state law enforcement leadership and comprehensive victim assistance.
  • Step up departmental efforts to end forced labor by increasing attention, resources and coordination in labor trafficking investigations and prosecutions.
  • Enhance initiatives to reduce vulnerability of American Indians and Alaska Natives to violent crime, including human trafficking, and to locate missing children.
  • Develop and implement new victim screening protocols to identify potential human trafficking victims during law enforcement operations and encourage victims to share important information.
  • Increase capacity to provide victim-centered assistance to trafficking survivors, including by supporting efforts to deliver financial restoration to victims.
  • Expand dissemination of federal human trafficking training, guidance and expertise.
  • Advance innovative demand-reduction strategies.

The department’s strategy will be implemented under the direction of the National Human Trafficking Coordinator designated by the Attorney General in accordance with the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017.

If you believe that you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at   1-888-373-7888, or Text 233733.

To read the National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking click here.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.

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Press release originally found on United States Department of Justice.

Secretary Becerra Announces New HHS Task Force to Prevent Human Trafficking

March 13, 2022

Today, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra publicly announced the formation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Task Force to Prevent Human Trafficking (the Task Force). The Task Force will facilitate implementation of the priority actions HHS has committed to in President Biden’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, as well as strengthen HHS’ human trafficking prevention and intervention efforts with a focus on partnerships, equity, and open data.

Secretary Becerra first announced the Task Force at a January 25th meeting of President Biden’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons – a cabinet-level entity of 20 federal agencies responsible for coordinating U.S. government-wide efforts to combat human trafficking. The Administration for Children and Families and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health will lead the Task Force at HHS, which will be made up of experts from across the Department.

“There is no place for human trafficking in our world. Our Task Force will work to ensure health and human services providers are adequately equipped to support survivors,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “On top of determining new ways to support survivors, our Task Force will work to elevate national awareness about human trafficking to encourage more people to come forward and help stop it. Together, government, community, and businesses can prevent human trafficking in neighborhoods across the country.”

Human trafficking disproportionally affects many of the communities HHS serves. These communities include—but are not limited to—youth and adults experiencing homelessness and domestic violence, persons in eldercare systems, unaccompanied children and refugees, Indigenous communities, individuals with a prior history of substance abuse and other populations that have been systemically marginalized. Part of the work of the Task Force will be to figure out how to better reach affected communities where they are.

“Gender, racial, and other forms of inequity are some of the major underlying factors that contribute to risks for human trafficking,” added Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine. “Our unified public health response to human trafficking will strengthen our national understanding of the diverse manifestations of human trafficking and work towards the short- and long-term wellbeing of historically underserved communities.”

Together, with federal, state, local, and public-private partners, the Task Force will work to scale innovative models to prevent human trafficking – particularly in the high-need areas of housing, mental health and substance use, and economic mobility. In addition, the Task Force will integrate an equity lens into new public awareness strategies to better reach populations at disproportionate risk for human trafficking. Finally, the Task Force will partner with the research and business communities to analyze data on human trafficking and prevent human trafficking in healthcare supply chains.

“Each instance of human trafficking we learn about through the HHS National Human Trafficking Hotline or through local grant-receiving organizations represents an opportunity for us to make a pivotal connection,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families JooYeun Chang. “We need to look at multi-generational solutions to disrupt the cycles of trauma and strengthen resiliency at individual, family, and community levels.”

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Documentary Made In Metro Detroit Focuses On Demand Of Human Trafficking

March 10, 2022

DETROIT (WXYZ) — A new movie about human trafficking made right here in metro Detroit has now been released to the public.

The movie called “Men Who Buy Sex” was made by the Wayne County Medical Society Foundation and Digital Media Works. It focuses on the demand side of human trafficking, hoping to bring an end to the epidemic.

The film may be new, but the problem is not. Sex trafficking has existed in metro Detroit for decades, and experts say it’s still happening every day.

“Absolutely, human trafficking is something that is happening every day,” said Amy Allen, a forensic interview specialist with Homeland Security Investigations. “We know there are lots of youth and women being trafficked every day here in the metro Detroit area.”

Allen is based out in metro Detroit and works with sex trafficking victims in the region. She says many of them report being trafficked up to 12 or 13 times a day to paying customers.

“The demand side of trafficking has really been something that hasn’t been talked about that much,” Allen said.

Read the full article by Brett Kast on WXYZ Detroit.

A Colorado Springs Home Where Sex Trafficking Survivors Decide What Help They Need

March 3, 2022

When Sister Rose Ann Barman gave a seminar on sex trafficking to community members in Colorado Springs in 2014, one of the people in attendence asked, “‘Well, what are we going to do about this?’” The Benedictine nun at Benet Hill Monastery wanted to do more than raise awareness; she wanted to provide support for survivors.

Eight years later, Barman partnered with Liz Kosofsky to open Bakhita Mountain House, a non-denominational home, which will be one of the few places in Colorado for adult women who are victims of sex trafficking.

Human traffickers compel victims to participate in labor or commecial sex. While exact numbers are difficult to calculate, the National Human Trafficking Hotline recorded over 10,000 cases in the United States in 2020 (the last year for which data is available). Colorado had 137 reported cases that year, making it among the top 20 states with the highest number of reported cases. A majority of those cases were for sex trafficking.

The Bakhita Mountain House is a two-year program where the six female participants will determine what resources they most need to recover.

The goal is to give the women a place for healing, said Kosofsky, program director for Bakhita. “What we’re hoping to offer at Bakhita is a place for people to stop and take a deep breath. To reflect and to look at what they want. Not, ‘What needs to happen right now?’ but, ‘What do I see for myself moving forward?’”

Read the full story by Hayley Sanchez on CPR News.

March, 2022 Monthly Reflection

March 1, 2022

A Century Later Human Trafficking Activists Continue Her Work

By Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

Women’s History Month was first observed in Sonoma, California, in 1978 as Women’s History Week. Nine years later, after petitioning from the National Women’s Project, Congress extended the observance of Women’s History to a month. Today, Women’s History Month has evolved from simply celebrating the accomplishments of women to recognizing the struggles of all women.

Almost 100 years ago, Doctor Katharine Bushnell was a prominent anti-trafficking activist in the United States and abroad. She was born one of nine children in Illinois in 1855.

Bushnell graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Chicago (today, the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University) and then worked as a physician in China for three years. Then, she became ill, returned to the United States, and worked with prostituted girls and women in Denver’s red-light district. She dedicated the rest of her life to working against human trafficking.

While creating a home for survivors in Chicago, Katharine learned of a girl burned to death for refusing a man in an Ashland, Wisconsin brothel. This incident brought to light how perpetrators colluded with elected officials, lawmakers, and police and were never convicted of their crimes. Forced prostitution was promoted in Wisconsin’s logging camps and mining communities, and many victims were trafficked from neighboring states.   Katharine presented information to the Wisconsin State officials and repeatedly lobbied for laws to punish the perpetrators and help the victims.

Once, while meeting with Wisconsin State officials, a mob of angry men attempted to block her way. However, her efforts led to the “Kate Bushnell Bill” (SB 46), titled: “An act for the prevention of crime and to prevent the abducting of unmarried women.” This legislation sent perpetrators to prison for enslaving girls throughout Wisconsin. For more than thirty years, she was a prominent anti-trafficking activist in the United States, England, China, and India. Katharine Bushnell died in California on Jan. 23, 1946.

To learn more about Katharine Bushnell and the work she did, please see her autobiography, Katharine C. Bushnell: A Brief Sketch of her Life and Work (KCB; Hertford, 1930)

She also published a comprehensive study of women in Scripture. More than 800 studies exposed a patriarchal reading of Scripture entitled God’s Word to Women: 100 Bible Studies on Woman’s Place in The Divine Economy.