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Trafficking Calls For Action From Us All

February 7, 2019

In 2004, for the first time, I met prostituted women who had survived and were moving successfully into recovery. I was awed by their stories, but more so by their strength, courage and resilience. How could anyone survive what they had experienced and still have hope? One told me, “God reached into hell and pulled me out.” I wanted to say, “Yes, but give yourself credit.”  She now operates a nonprofit, helping other victims and survivors. Another told me her buyer left her for dead in a motel. She has since earned an associate’s degree in nursing and secured employment. 

How did I meet them? At the time, I was responsible for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development grants, and one of our pastors asked if the nonprofit mentioned above would qualify for a grant. It did — every year for the next three, the maximum allowed by CCHD. I became a board member for the nonprofit, assisting them for five years and facilitating their receiving other grants.

When younger, these women were among those at great risk — runaway youth. The National Conference of State Legislature cites studies showing that “youth age 12 to 17 are more at risk of homelessness than adults”; “one in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away”; and “75 percent of runaways are female.” If runaways or homeless youth are on the streets without a safe place to go, their abduction is likely within 48 hours, according to public safety officials. They often run from or are forced out of terrible home situations. Many believe nothing could be worse. Unfortunately, they are usually wrong.    

While states may be failing exploited children and adults, local nonprofits, organizations, agencies, education and health care facilities and systems, faith communities, anti-trafficking advocates and law enforcement are working together to address human trafficking. One example here in Missouri is a county health department whose director established a task force consisting of representatives from all these groups. Their primary goal is prevention through education, intervention and collaboration. I am on this task force, and I learn every time I participate. I also contribute from my experience and expertise, and am grateful for the colleagues who share my passion to end the tragedy of human trafficking.

While not downplaying the importance of serving victims and survivors and working for legislative changes, I focus primarily on education. One key element in education is serious discussions with parents, grandparents, guardians and/or youth about the dangers of social media. Youth often unknowingly put themselves at risk for exploitation by what they post on social media. A police officer, sheriff and district attorney on the county task force talked about how predators prowl social media platforms and apps, looking for attractive young individuals’ photos and information, to use in their ads and promotional information. They are selling a lie, but the innocent are publically exposed. Predators may also engage in sextortion, the practice of extorting money or sexual favors from someone by threatening to reveal evidence of their sexual activity. 

To read the full article by Sister Jean Christensen on Global Sisters Report: Click Here

Not in our Neighborhood: Emergency Nurses Respond to Human Trafficking

February 4, 2019

Can a blanket question about personal safety be effective in identifying cases of human trafficking or domestic violence?

Renea Wilson, MSN, RN, CEN, director of the emergency department (ED) at Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka, Kan., didn’t think so. She believed her hospital was treating patients who were being trafficked and felt her department could do more to intervene.

Wilson’s instincts proved correct. Polaris, a Washington, D.C.- area nonprofit dedicated to the global eradication of human slavery, has identified Topeka as a hotspot for human trafficking.

The U.S. Department of Defense reports that human trafficking — transporting people across state or international lines, typically for forced labor or sexual exploitation — is one of the world’s fastest growing crimes, and the health care community is moving to respond. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June released new diagnostic codesfor designating suspected and confirmed cases of trafficking, and the American Hospital Association has made human trafficking one of the four pillars of its Hospitals Against Violence campaign.

Aware of this kind of nationwide attention, and motivated by the needs of her community, Wilson spearheaded an effort in 2015 to do a better job of identifying and responding to victims of human trafficking and of domestic violence as well. Elements of the initiative included staff education, coalition building, and development of a personal safety screening tool.

To read the full story on Campaign for Action: Click Here

A conglomeration of words relating to racism and human trafficking.

February, 2019 Monthly Reflection

February 1, 2019

A Reflection On The Intersection Of Racism And Human Trafficking

By Sister Maryann Mueller, NA 

As we celebrate Black History Month, it seems appropriate to reflect on the intersection of racism with human trafficking.  Almost anywhere in the world, victims of trafficking are disproportionately racial and ethnic minorities.African-Americans make up about 12.7 of the total population in the United States,2 however it is estimated that 40 percent of victims of human trafficking are African-Americans, while 77 percent of child sex trafficking victims are non-white.4   Many of these victims live in poverty and have a history of exploitation, substance or sexual abuse, learning disabilities and inadequate support systems.5  

Advocates and researchers have suggested several reasons why African Americans are overrepresented as victims of human trafficking.   Many live in poverty which increases their vulnerability.  Shared Hope International reports that a majority of identified victims in Texas cities are racial minorities and come from households with vulnerable socioeconomic status.Traffickers report that they operate more easily in low-income African American communities.Ina recent study that looked at the economics of human trafficking, a majority of the traffickers interviewed believed that trafficking black women would result in less prison time if caught.8

Non-white trafficking victims are often further victimized by a system that is less likely to see them as victims, and instead is more likely to view them as criminals.  Early anti-trafficking legislation, such as the Mann Act and the “white slavery” campaign, not only excluded people of color from legal protection but often was used to persecute, rather than protect them.9   In a recent Trafficking in Persons Report, the State Department determined that the failure to properly identify victims of modern day slavery is a major barrier to addressing the crime itself in the United States and worldwide.10

In the United States, misidentification of victims normally occurs when law enforcement officers stereotype trafficking victims as criminals rather than victims. Our news has been replete with stories of how biases against people of color have undermined the ability of police to respond properly. When law enforcement fail to identify victims, or misjudge them as criminals, the victims lose access to justice.   Many of these victims are then subjected to arrest or prosecution. These failures reinforce what traffickers notably threaten their victims, that law enforcement will incarcerate them if they seek help.11

Racial biases also influence whether males are identified as victims. Men and boys of color are rarely perceived as victims of human trafficking. 12

What can we do to help advocate for all our brothers and sisters? Advocacy always begins by recognizing the signs of human trafficking. There is no doubt that race is a factor in trafficking. Call upon legislators and advocates to address some of the unique vulnerabilities that people of color face with respect to both sex and labor trafficking. 

Policies adopted during the Obama administration stressed the need for an increased role of minority youth as leaders in the anti-trafficking movement.9 Recent legislation passed by the House and signed by the president,  the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 2200), authorizes programs to educate children on the dangers of trafficking while offering victim services grants which may be used for programs that provide trauma-informed care or long-term housing for women or girls in underserved populations.

More attention must be given to the racial disparity of trafficking victims, both in the United States and globally, and ensure that it not remain unknown—or ignored.


SITE Continues To Support ECPAT-USA to Help End Human Trafficking

January 28, 2019

As January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, SITE has renewed its commitment to support ECPAT-USA by using its channels of communication and events to inform and educate members, suppliers and customers about this critical issue of identifying and stopping human trafficking and encouraging their support for ECPAT’s work around the globe.

To that end, SITE will help get the word out about ECPAT-USA’s specialized training for those in the travel industry in how to identify and stop human trafficking.

The specialized training entitled, Preventing & Responding to Human Trafficking and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children – An E-Learning by ECPAT-USA will reinforce ECPAT-USA’s continuing commitment to the mission of protecting every child’s right to grow up free from the fear of exploitation.

The 25-minute online training developed by ECPAT-USA, with the input of a committee of travel professionals, addresses the issue of human trafficking and discusses the intersections between human trafficking and the travel industry. It is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French. 


To read the full announcement on site: Click Here

4 Ways The Us Can Take The Lead In The Fight Against Human Trafficking

January 14, 2019

The US Senate recently endorsed the nomination of long-standing civil rights prosecutor, John Cotton Richmond, as new Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. This statutory post, created under the Clinton administration, has been critical in shaping the outsize role that the US has occupied in pushing the rest of the world to do something about what is now commonly termed ‘modern slavery’. But the position comes with heavy baggage. As the ambassador takes the helm, he should not underestimate the formidable task ahead of him.

The office of the ambassador was established in 2000 under the same federal lawthat also requires the State Department to produce an annual report documenting and assessing the response of every country (including its own, since 2010) to trafficking. Countries that receive a fail or near-fail grade are liable to a range of political and economic sanctions. While the report is subject to the approval of the Secretary of State, the ambassador is its author and public face.

Not surprisingly, this unilateral appraisal has been a source of great irritation to many countries. But few doubt its contribution to the global transformation that has taken place in our understanding of, and response to, trafficking. Put simply, the leverage created by the report has led to drastic changes in laws, policies and practices in every region of the world.

It has also helped improve our information position. Today it is would be impossible for any country or corporation to deny the epic scale of human exploitation, from abused Asian construction workers in the Gulf to forced labourers on Thai fishing boats and Greek strawberry farms, forced marriage in the UK and forced prostitution in Italy. Estimates on modern slavery are notoriously unreliable. But there can be no doubt that millions of men, women and children are trapped in situations of exploitation from which they cannot escape.

The incoming ambassador faces multiple challenges. Here are the big four.


To read the full article by Anne Gallagher and Luis C. deBaca on World Economic Forum: Click Here

Sex Sells, But In Dallas, Police Are Relaunching The Vice Unit With A New Approach To Human Trafficking

January 7, 2019

A law enforcement official recently told us, in stark terms, what the reality is for victims of human trafficking here in Dallas. A person trapped into “the life,” the official said, is forced to engage in sex acts for money and is left with little hope and no sense of what it means to trust another person, experience joy, or even know friendship.

It is gratifying then to know that this week the Dallas Police Department will make news by unveiling part of a new strategy developed under Chief U. Renee Hall’s direction to curb the scourge of human sex trafficking in our community.

That approach will involve several elements. On November 28, the department is relaunching its vice unit, which was disbanded last year amid an internal investigation. It will also train officers on how to combat trafficking with new tools and a new philosophy. Put simply, that philosophy will focus on serving the victims of this crime — the people who are being trafficked, who are being viciously exploited and then cast aside.

The overarching philosophy has several important implications. Rather than simply engaging in a sting operation, arresting a woman who offers sex for money, and then charging and convicting her, the police department will pursue a strategy that has a good chance of moving that woman and others like her out of the life.

That strategy will involve working with local non-profit organizations as well as local, state and federal agencies to create a unified front against trafficking. The aim is to help those who are being trafficked regain control over their lives and build a better future for themselves. In some cases, this will mean those who have been trafficked will face prosecution. But in most cases, the approach is intended to ensure an interaction with law enforcement is an opportunity for a trafficked person to get out of a world of exploitation, degradation and, often, addiction.

To read the full story on Dallas News: Click Here

January, 2019 Monthly Reflection

January 1, 2019

Study, Pray, Act

By Carol Davis OP

“Everybody knows about human trafficking, you don’t need to do so much education.” She said.

“Really,” I responded. “Then why do we still have millions still victimized? Why are there so many innocents lured into the commercial sex exploitation and trapped into endless labor?”

The conversation was unfinished. I’ve been thinking about my friend’s comment.

I have the privilege of walking with sexual abuse survivors for thousands of hours over 28 years in the context of counseling, spiritual direction and leading retreats throughout the United States. Many of those survivors told me about the trauma of being sold, kidnapped or coerced into commercial sex industry by strangers and by people they trusted including family members. They have also shared experiences of medical care practitioners, teachers, law enforcement, guidance counselors, hairdressers, family members and neighbors who missed the signs. That’s why we educate. These signs are worth reviewing. Print them out and post them at your church, in your office, in your classroom, at your neighborhood bank’s bulletin board. Here it is on my office bulletin board.

On the other hand, perhaps my friend has an underlying point. Some of you may remember the old poster that said, “If being a Christian was a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” In other words, would there be evidence in the way we live, spend time, care about each other near and far, and how we care about our earth. Would there be signs in the way we grow and evolve in following the Gospel? Our education, our knowledge ought to lead to some action. James put it this way, “Faith without works is dead.” Review the second chapter of the Letter of James. Some survivors I know have shared stories of an act of kindness that gave them hope, a helping hand that led the way to freedom, a trained nurse practitioner who recognized what she saw leading to an eventual arrest of a trafficker. Education needs to be applied.

At the same time, we must maintain prayer, for that is at the heart of our loving relationship with the One Beyond All Names. It is at the heart of transformation, individually and collectively. Perhaps some variation of this prayer of the faithful could be used in a service at your church.



Introduction: Gracious One, You understand and share our deepest suffering, we thank You for the privilege of gathering here today because we want to be your people of compassion and healing, as well as Your agents of change. We trust that You hear us as we pray:

Response: Lord hear our prayer.

For Pope Francis and all church leaders, that they call themselves and everyone to work diligently to remove all stumbling blocks that keep people in slavery. We pray to the Lord.

For all Christian communities that we honor each person as son and daughter of God truly believing that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. We pray to the Lord.

For all nations that they grow in the courage, spiritually and politically, to reach beyond constructed borders to free hearts and bodies from the tyranny of human trafficking. We pray to the Lord.

For survivors of all trafficking including commercial sex trafficking, labor trafficking, debt bondage and those whose organs have been stolen, that they will find freedom, healing and compassionate love, we pray to the Lord.

For all those children, adolescents and adults who have died at the hands of traffickers, that they will find ultimate healing in God, we pray to the Lord.

For traffickers who are lost to their own humanity, that they encounter the Divine and remember who they are, we pray to the Lord.

Conclusion: Gracious God, remember too, the deepest prayer that we hold in the silence of our hearts……  You are the One who can bring New Life from death. You raise us up. Receive our prayer and sustain Your people in the Spirit of love and peace. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our brother.


Health System Gets $1.5 Million to Combat Human Trafficking

December 6, 2018

Dignity Health, one of the country’s largest health systems, has been granted $1.5 million by the U.S. Department of Justice to shore up its efforts to combat human trafficking and evaluate the effectiveness of its initiatives.

Research indicates a large share of sex and labor trafficking victims interact with a health care provider at some point while they are being exploited, and much of the progress around treating such patients in recent years has come from small clinics with strong community ties.

Dignity Health – with more than three dozen hospitals across Arizona, California and Nevada – will seek to bring its best practices to more patients, funded by the pair of Justice Department grants announced Thursday.

The two grants will fund training on how to provide trauma-informed care for human trafficking survivors, evaluate Dignity’s processes and expand its “safe haven” model – which integrates physical and mental health care into long-term support for survivors – to three sites from one.

While the health care field has boosted its efforts to identify trafficking survivors in recent years, Dignity’s model provides both immediate care and referrals to community services, as well as long-term follow-up care, a component that often doesn’t account for survivors’ complex mental health needs or is missing altogether in other models.

“Most health care systems promote a patient-centered approach, but I think what’s lacking is concrete education on trauma,” says Holly Gibbs, a sex trafficking survivor and director of Dignity Health’s Human Trafficking Response Program. “If you’re educated on trauma … you’re better able to understand your patient’s wishes, and respect your patient.”

Through the response program, Dignity identified at least 31 patients who exhibited “high or moderate indicators of sex or labor trafficking victimization” in fiscal 2016, Gibbs says. They are still finalizing fiscal 2017 and 2018 totals, but Gibbs says the preliminary figures have risen with each year. Combined, these patients have visited the health system’s initial safe haven clinic in Sacramento hundreds of times for primary and follow-up care, according to Dignity.

All three safe haven sites will be in clinics staffed by medical residents, which is one key to spreading the model beyond Dignity itself, says Dr. Ron Chambers, director of the family medicine residency program at Methodist Hospital of Sacramento.

To read the full story by Gaby Galvin on U.S. News & World Report: Click Here

December, 2018 Monthly Reflection

December 3, 2018

Passionate and Alive

by Kathleen Bryant, RSC

Borders were definitely not barriers to communication, sharing of passion and collaboration when we came together in Cleveland.  Imagine throwing a party and inviting people you had never met from a variety of cultures, languages, countries and backgrounds. What would make that gathering a success?   We have the recipe! 

After months of planning for the Hemispheric Meeting which took place in Cleveland OH Oct. 24-27thwe were enlivened by what happened among us and between us.  There is a vivid account of our gathering on Global Sisters Report.

In our planning we made sure that we included survivors or thrivers who had experienced human trafficking personally.  We also made huge efforts to ensure that everything we did was inclusive.  The rituals and liturgy were designed to hear different voices, to include different cultural expressions and to make everyone feel at home in the sacred space.  We chose a skilled facilitator and a global woman religious, Veronica Brand RSHM, well schooled in the issue of human trafficking to guide us through these days.  Veronica was key to our cohesiveness and movement forward.

What were the surprises of grace? What were the 4 takeaways from the experience of the hemispheric meeting? 

  1. Although we had never met most participants before the meeting, there was an instant bond, even at the airport, created by the common mission and passion that we shared.  I met sisters who had just arrived at the airport around the same time I did and language was not obstacle to the affection and warmth we exchanged.
  2. We are people of faith. There was a deep grounding of belief that fueled our songs, rituals and liturgy.  We believe that we are partners with God  whose will is that each person be free.  We began our Welcoming Ritual with the song, Somos El Cuerpo de Cristo!People were invited to pick up one of the percussion instruments and we had quite a lively rendition that immediately sparked a spirit of joy and enthusiasm.
  3. We were there because of others. Gabriella Bottani, director of Talitha Kum, suggested this hemispheric meeting. It was a Spirit- inspired initiative and so was the ensuing process.  We were there because of generous benefactors who helped fund airfares, room and board, and all the other expenses that go into such a meeting. We are grateful for those organizations and religious communities that supported us and we felt their presence in spirit.
  4. We were deeply moved in our hearts by the stories of two incredible Thrivers/Survivors of human trafficking. The impact of this experience was evident in the shared collective empathy and heartfelt gratitude for these strong advocate leaders, Flor Molina  and Marlene Carson.  We were determined as a network to be survivor- in Flor and Marlene began the Liturgy, as they broke open the Word, with the stories of their lives, and then we processed to the chapel.  We received gratefully their wisdom coming from their leadership and lived experience. 

We knew we would hear 8 reports one day about how the different networks were trying to end HT.  We hoped that our coming together would create new partnerships and collaboration among us in this hemisphere.  We planned and we hoped and all that unfolded went far beyond those plans and hopes.

The energy, joy and bond among us was remarkable.  Yes, we had translators and equipment.  But we soon discovered sitting at meals and socializing together that there was so much more to communication than language facility.  At the evening socials, we experienced song and dance from each culture. Several brought elaborate traditional dress to make the dances vivid and engaging.  We reverenced the diverse expressions among us. 

The ease with which all of this unfolded was sign of our shared solidarity, deep faith and joy in the expressions we shared.  We, the planning committee, wondered if this meeting would work!  When every attendee received her visa months previous, it was surely God’s confirmation that all would be well.  And we can enthusiastically affirm that all went well, thanks to our donors, teamwork, the spirit of the participants and God’s providence.

Sister Kathleen Bryant RSC is a member of the USCSAHT Board of Directors and served as a member of the Planning Committee for the “Borders Are Not Barriers” meeting.

Women Religious Vow Solidarity In Fight Against Human Trafficking

November 12, 2018

Comboni Sister Gabriella Bottani, coordinator of Talitha Kum International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking in Persons, listens at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Parma, Ohio, during an Oct. 26 meeting of women religious from throughout the Western Hemisphere who are working to stop human trafficking. (Credit: Dennis Sadowski/CNS.)

PARMA, Ohio  – There was a time years ago when Flor Molina was working in a Southern California sewing factory, earning a scant wage and sleeping at night in a storage room not far from the factory floor.

On top of that, her bosses forbid her from talking with the other employees.

It was not the life she imagined when she accepted an offer 16 years ago from a factory recruiter in her native Mexico who promised good pay and decent housing.

Molina had made the difficult decision to leave her mother and children behind in Mexico for six months so she could save the $5,000 she needed to start her own sewing business. She had been sewing clothes and gained a decent customer base; she dreamed of taking the next step as an entrepreneur.

After 40 days in the factory, Molina escaped and found help. She realized she had become a victim of unscrupulous human traffickers and her only value to them was her labor.

Now 46 and living in Los Angeles, Molina told her story Oct. 26 to 60 participants in the Borders Are not Barriers conference of women religious, a handful of priests and justice ministry workers from throughout the Western Hemisphere working to stop human trafficking.

To read the full story by Dennis Sadowski on CRUX: Click Here