Categories for Survivor Support

Stations Of The Cross For Sex Trafficking Survivors Takes The Burden From Victims

April 29, 2019

[Episcopal News Service] On the morning of April 6, the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City became more than a transit hub – it became a site of prayer and activism that connected the Stations of the Cross to the plight of sex trafficking victims.

“The cross is a metaphor for sex trafficking,” said the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, associate rector at Manhattan’s Church of the Incarnation and chair of the Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking. Sex trafficking victims often face continued violence, social stigma and a loss of agency in an unsupportive system.

Dannhauser and a group of some 30 faith-based activists – many of whom wore various hues of purple in support of sex trafficking victims and in recognition of Lent – gathered for a traveling model of the Lenten tradition, which connected the Stations of the Cross to elements of sex trafficking throughout New York City.

Praying the Stations of the Cross during Lent is a centuries-old tradition that focuses Christians on the path of suffering that Jesus followed to his ultimate sacrifice on the cross, and for many Christians, that story is retold in solemn tones inside the walls of a church or chapel.

Organized by the Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking, Stations of the Cross for Sex Trafficking Survivors followed seven stations, abbreviated from the usual 14, across three of the city’s boroughs. Each stop reflected Jesus’ journey on Good Friday and the burden of commercial sexual exploitation, featuring opening devotion and liturgy from faith leaders, as well as speeches from trafficking survivors. Attendees visited a shelter and service provider for homeless youth, a strip club, an area of the Bronx known for street prostitution, a human trafficking intervention court in Queens, John F. Kennedy International Airport and a hotel in Brooklyn known for commercial sex.

Fittingly, the Port Authority Bus Terminal served as the first station. Located just blocks from Times Square, the Port Authority is the nation’s largest and busiest bus terminal. It’s open 24 hours a day and, because of its location in a tourist district and its nearly 200,000 daily visitors, the terminal has long been a hot spot for traffickers, pimps and others who scout for vulnerable women to coerce into prostitution.

To read the full story on Episcopal News Service: Click Here

Maryland Is An Unforgiving State For Sex-Trafficking Victims, Study Finds

April 22, 2019

Donna Bruce stood before a beauty class in Baltimore in 2011. She was in her late 30s and teaching around 20 students the physiology of hair, a passion of hers since she was young. What they didn’t know, or she didn’t think they knew, was her past. When she was a teenager, her mom trafficked her for drugs and money.

“She would set things up and call it a party,” Bruce said. “She was collecting drugs and dispensing me.” Later, the men from the parties took over, coercing her to have sex with others in return for drugs or money. So went her life for years, as she accumulated a criminal record — prostitution, drug possession, theft, indecent exposure.

One day in the beauty classroom two decades later, as she tried to make another life for herself, one of her students opened up Maryland’s criminal records database and began reading Bruce’s long list of charges and convictions.

“The student said I was a crackhead who has prostitution on her record out loud in front of everybody,” Bruce said. “It was the most humiliating thing.”

Bruce relapsed to her old addictions. She lost her job.

Although her mother had died and she had escaped her other traffickers, Bruce was learning that she would never really escape. Not while her criminal records were public for all to see.

Maryland is among the worst in the nation when it comes to criminal records relief for sex-trafficking survivors, according to a new study. One of its authors is Jessica Emerson, director of the Human Trafficking Prevention Project at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Out of 40 states and the District with some sex-trafficking statutes for adult survivors, Maryland ranks dead last. The other 10 states were not ranked because they either had no criminal records relief laws for sex-trafficking survivors or only laws for minor victims.

To read the full story by Catherine Rentz on The Washington Post: Click Here

Help Victims Of Sex Trafficking Start New Lives

March 18, 2019

(CNN)About 4.8 million people worldwide — roughly the population of Ireland — became victims of sex trafficking in 2016, according to the International Labour Organization.

Sex trafficking is commercial sex induced by force, fraud or coercion or performed by a minor.

Though US figures can be hard to pin down, 7,255 sex trafficking victims were identified in 2017by the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Countless victims simply can’t reach out. But you can help.

Help victims escape

Learn to recognize the signs of trafficking. If you suspect someone is a victim, call 1-888-373-7888 or text “help” to BeFree, 233733. This call center is operated by the nonprofit Polaris and provides immediate support and local and national resources, 24 hours a day. You can submit anonymous tips online here.

Aid their transition to a new life

When victims can escape a trafficker, they don’t have many options. Some only have their clothes and limited job skills. They often lack social or family support and have nowhere to go.

Compounding that, experience in the commercial sex industry leaves some victims with alcohol and drug addictions and some with criminal records.

 

To read the full story by Christopher Dawson on CNN: Click Here

Nurse Practitioner Student Creates Screening To Identify Human Trafficking Victims

February 14, 2019

At the moment, Michigan might be best known for the extreme cold temperatures, snow, and ice it is facing, but to Danielle Jordan Bastein, an ER nurse at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan is also known for something far more dangerous:

Human trafficking. 

But now, thanks to a new screening protocol that she implemented while a student at Wayne State University, Bastein is fighting back — and working to help trafficked individuals before it’s too late. 

What Does Human Trafficking Have to Do with Hospitals? 

In an article with Fox 2 News Detroit, Bastein explained that a large majority of trafficked individuals come into contact with health care workers at some point during their trafficking, but shockingly, very few of them are actually identified by healthcare staff. One study found that approximately half of all trafficked individuals (mostly women and female children) do see a healthcare worker at some point during their exploitation. In fact, healthcare workers are the most likely of any profession to come into initial contact with a trafficked girl or woman, so even the National Conference of State Legislatures has identified healthcare workers as a key first-line defense against trafficking. 

So, what are we missing here? 

Well, in Bastein’s eyes, we are missing out on crucial screening protocol and training that would ensure that emergency room triage nurses are able to routinely ask the right questions and do the right assessment that would flag a potential trafficking victim for further follow-up. Her screening tool looks for patterns of inconsistencies in the patient’s story, abuse, torture, or neglect signs, and other behaviors consistent with trafficking victims, such as if they aren’t holding their own ID or money, or if the person they are with is answering questions for them and refuses to leave or let them be alone.

To read the full story by Chaunie Brusie on Nurse.org: 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.

Human Trafficking Survivor Describes Forced Labor Ordeal In U.S.

October 24, 2018

Evelyn Chumbow of Cameroon says she was only nine years old when she was trafficked into forced labor in the Washington, D.C., area.

Chumbow, who’s now in her mid-30s, says she was sold by her uncle to a woman from her home country of Cameroon who had a home and a business in the United States. She said she came to the United States with the expectation that a better life awaited her.

“The image that I had of the U.S. is completely from what I saw on television — you know, ‘[The] Cosby Show’ and ‘[The] Fresh Prince of Belair,’ ‘[Beverly Hills], 90210’ — and so when I was told that I was going to come to the U.S. and be adopted and get a better education, I was excited,” Chumbow said in an interview with Hill.TV that aired Monday.

But she said that as soon as she arrived she was forced into domestic labor, working for eight years before she was able to escape with the help of Catholic groups. She said her captor is now in prison.

As many as 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, according to the U.S. State Department.

Human trafficking has become a rare bipartisan issue on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) warned during a Sept. 26 congressional hearing that trafficking is even taking place in the U.S.

 

To read the full story by Alison Spann and watch the video on The Hill: Click Here

October, 2018 Monthly Reflection

October 1, 2018

A Second Chance For Alexis: A Call To Action For Women’s Religious Communities In Ohio

by Sally Duffy, SC

A recent legislative victory in Ohio will allow survivors of trafficking to expunge their records of most crimes that can be linked back to trafficking. This clarifies opportunities the Safe Harbor Act intended to grant survivors when it was enacted six years ago.

 Survivors are often forced to participate in a broad range of illegal activity—from drug offenses to theft—for traffickers’ financial gain. This can result in hundreds of convictions.

Now, survivors will be able to avoid some of the barriers created by lengthy criminal records. They’ll be able to find meaningful employment, suitable housing and opportunities for furthering education.

The Ohio Justice & Policy Center (OJPC) worked for three years on legislation to clarify the opportunities for survivors of human trafficking to expunge and seal criminal records

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Now, our Safe Harbor clients can finally have a true second chance. They can reclaim their lives and become full members of the community.
[/perfectpullquote]

OJPC Deputy Director Sasha Naiman works directly with survivors of human trafficking through the Safe Harbor program.  “Now, our Safe Harbor clients can finally have a true second chance,” Naiman said. “They can reclaim their lives and become full members of the community. They can remove the shackles of human trafficking.”

Another advocacy effort in Ohio is a clemency application for a trafficking survivor named Alexis Martin. The Clemency application for Alexis asks Governor John Kasich to commute her sentence and issue a pardon, in the spirit and intent of Safe Harbor. Unfortunately there was and is an extraordinary miscarriage of justice when children get imprisoned for trying to escape violent, abusive traffickers.

Alexis was arrested at age 15 and sentenced to 21-years-to-life in adult prison, in connection with the murder of her pimp.

Alexis’s early childhood was marked by neglect, abuse, and trauma. By age 14, it is well-documented that Alexis was trafficked by violent, controlling pimps. Alexis was kidnapped, raped, starved, drugged, and beaten by these pimps; forced to dance at strip clubs; and forced to have sex with strangers. The pimps took all of the money Alexis made. She tried to get help from a juvenile probation officer, DYS, and her parents, but no one helped. At age 15, Alexis reached out to an ex-boyfriend and another female trafficking victim (who were both adults in their 20s) for help – to get some of her money back and to escape far away. Alexis thought that her ex-boyfriend would come to her pimp’s house, get the money, and get Alexis out. In the process of this “robbery,” the ex-boyfriend ended up killing Alexis’ pimp and hurting that pimps’ brother (another pimp, who was raping Alexis at that moment of the “robbery”). Alexis did not know that anyone would get hurt, and she is deeply sorry for the loss of life.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Because her attorney did not know about Ohio’s Safe Harbor law, he never fully explained how the robbery, assault, and homicide were related to the trafficking [/perfectpullquote]

Alexis was arrested in connection with the robbery and murder. The juvenile court recognized that she was a victim of human trafficking based on the clear underlying facts. Because her attorney did not know about Ohio’s Safe Harbor law, he never fully explained how the robbery, assault, and homicide were related to the trafficking – and he never asked the court to appoint a guardian ad litem, as required by Safe Harbor law. If the court had understood that this was an escape attempt, Alexis should have been granted a guardian ad litem under Ohio’s Safe Harbor Law. A guardian ad litem gives recommendations about a juvenile’s best interests and the most effective responses from the court, like addiction treatment and mental health services. Then, the court can put all charges on hold, place the juvenile in appropriate diversion activities, and – when the diversion is complete — dismiss and expunge all records of the case. However, Alexis never received a guardian ad litem; she also didn’t know she was entitled this type of advocate.

Instead, Alexis’ case was moved to adult court and she was convicted, at age 16, of robbery and murder. The court sentenced her to 21 years to life in adult prison. Alexis willingly talked to the FBI, and helped them catch some of the people involved in trafficking girls; she did this risking danger to herself. Then, Alexis, with a new attorney, appealed her case all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court. The Ohio Supreme Court recognized that Alexis was clearly a victim of trafficking and noted specific, troubling details about the trafficker’s control and exploitation of Alexis. “There is also evidence that Kerney trafficked Martin,” the ruling said. “According to Martin, Kerney had her perform exotic dances, sell drugs for him, prepare about eight other girls for prostitution, and collect money from them. Martin used the name Alexis Love and referred to Kerney as ‘Dad.’” Despite these facts, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled against Alexis – because her trial attorney did not bring evidence that her offenses were related tothe sex slavery, abuse and violence she endured.

Today, Alexis is 20 years and incarcerated at the Dayton Correctional Institution. During her 6 years behind bars, Alexis has gotten her GED, is getting an HVAC certification, and is creating new prison programs to help other sex trafficking survivors heal.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]child-victims of sex traffickers should not spend 21-to-life in prison.[/perfectpullquote]

If women’s religious communities in Ohio would be willing to write a letter of support for Alexis Martin, please contact me. We need letters of support for Alexis’ application because child-victims of sex traffickers should not spend 21-to-life in prison.

 

Sally Duffy, SC {sduffy@srcharitycinti.org} serves on the board of U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking and the Ohio Justice & Policy Center.

Sex In The Shadows: Traffickers Exact A Human Toll From Major Sporting Events

August 13, 2018

As high-profile​​ sports figures descend on Northeast Ohio this week, an 83-year-old nun arrived at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Monday advocating for victims who walk among us hidden in plain sight.

Sister Barbara Catalano, a Dominican Sister of Peace, did not resemble many other visitors clad in shirts and jerseys of their favorite NFL teams. The diminutive woman was dressed casually in white pants and a shirt accented with a purple short-sleeved jacket. She also wore a look of determination, toting a satchel containing anti-human trafficking literature and a bag filled with bars of specially wrapped soap to the Canton football shrine.

“I want to talk with someone important,” said the Akron resident, who had not called ahead to make an appointment with a Hall of Fame executive.

Parked in an auxiliary lot a quarter-mile from the front door, Catalano eschewed a free shuttle ride and walked along a narrow backstreet as cars and golf carts transporting HOF workers zipped past. The nun moved with such pace, bounding down a steep flight of concrete steps, a freelance photographer assigned to chronicle her visit had difficulty keeping up.

She was eager to discuss the evils of the world’s fastest-growing industry. Human trafficking, according to the United Nations’ International Labour Organization, generated about $99 billion in profits in 2016. And it thrives on the peripheries of major multiday events like the ones being hosted in Canton and Akron this weekend, say some anti-trafficking advocacy groups and law enforcement.

From foreign-born laborers erecting scaffolding for pennies on the dollar to underage girls being forced into prostitution at nearby hotels, human trafficking takes different forms. In the past month, several survivors have told The Athletic nightmarish tales of beatings, gang rape, threats to family members and years of mental anguish associated with a life of sex slavery. Two women began being trafficked at age 15.

To read the full story by Tom Reed on The Athletic Ink: Click Here 

August, 2018 Monthly Reflection

August 1, 2018

Developing Survivor Advocacy Training for Trafficked Persons

by Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA

After more than a hundred presentations designed to raise awareness about human trafficking in western Wisconsin, various professionals and community organizations are now pondering how to develop a survivor advocate training program that is solely focused on the needs of trafficked persons. A natural progression has been through outreach toward like-minded groups to find ways in which to collaborate. This appears to be motivated by a desire and need to become learning communities together.

In western Wisconsin, the La Crosse Task Force to End Modern Slavery (TFEMS) has fielded inquiries from law enforcement, health care providers, community agencies and faith-based groups about preparing advocates who could be available on a 24/7 basis to assist survivors of human trafficking. The need arises out of several factors including an increasing recognition of victims in service areas, a lack of volunteer advocates available at critical times of need, and an acknowledged necessity to prepare advocates to interact appropriately with trafficked persons.

A local law enforcement officer emphasizes a need to not only to apprehend the criminal perpetrator but also to help the victim of human trafficking. Her interest and goal is to develop a core of survivor advocates who could be on call 24/7 to respond if a victim is open to receiving help at the time of the arrest/rescue. There is no such resource available to law enforcement in western Wisconsin at present. Her critical questions focused on what kind of training a survivor advocate should receive and how such training could be provided.

New Horizons, a local shelter for victims of domestic and sexual abuse, currently answers part of this need with night time volunteers who can meet victims at the county line and take them to the hospital or a shelter. A one-year commitment is required of the volunteers who work in this capacity. While a twelve-hour training module is provided for them, it focuses primarily on domestic and sexual violence and only minimally on trafficked persons. Limited follow-up case management is provided to the victims. Likewise, this is also true of a 40-hour advocate training program provided by a local health care system.

In searching for a means to respond to the various inquiries, TFEMS is partnering with New Horizons and The Women’s Fund of Greater La Crosse (a partnership of donors, grantees and volunteers working to support programs for women and girls) to effectively create a human trafficking survivor advocate training program. Because Wisconsin does not have specific legal requirements for training of advocates for trafficked persons, we are prompted to seek out training modules and resources specifically related to human trafficking. Our neighbor state of Minnesota provides an exemplary model in its 40-hour training requirement for anyone who serves survivors of human trafficking.

So far, many ideas have been brought forward. All agree that a model for training must articulate core competencies, be sustainable, and be appropriate for both professionals and volunteers. Human trafficking advocates must be able to interact with a victim, establish and sustain relationships, and if possible, be compensated.

Continuing the conversations around survivor advocate training will take place in a Survivor Safe and Free Round Table event which will invite participants to reflect on possibilities for further collaboration and inquire if their agencies/organizations would send their professionals and volunteers to participate in a training program. Content will also be explored which must be multidisciplinary, survivor-informed and guided by the experience of professionals working with trafficked persons.

There is an indication that we may be breaking new ground in an attempt to create a program specific to survivor advocates in the human trafficking arena and in the potential creation of a workable protocol for response in western Wisconsin.

 

September, 2016 Monthly Reflection

September 2, 2016

Who Is God For Victims And Survivors Of Human Trafficking?

By Jeanne Christensen, RSM

As persons of faith, our prayer calls us to respond to the needs of the world and our response in ministry leads us back to God. We are called to integrate contemplation and action. Who is God for each of us?

Who is God for victims and survivors of human trafficking? How does their endurance of daily repeated physical, emotional, and sexual abuses shape their image of God?   The trauma which trafficking survivors experience is very complex and complicated. How do we help victims understand the love of God and that they are spiritual beings worthy of being loved by God?

Ponder these questions for a few moments.

Here is what some of the exploited women served through The Justice Project’s Willow Tree in Kansas City said about God:

  • God is my protector
  • God is good all of the time
  • God is REAL love…not fake love
  • God always found me when I was lost
  • God is a spirit who always loves me when nobody did
  • I used to think God was punishing me but now I know I just didn’t let him help me
  • Without God, I would be dead

Which of these descriptions of God most strikes you? Why?

Prayer handsConversation with the women also brought out that they don’t like the God-name “higher power” because it’s too abusive. They might consider “deeper power.” Their Native American transgendered person talked about the native belief that God is everywhere, takes all forms, has many names and is in all of us. The belief that God is always with them, but that they have the choice of what to do was voiced by almost everyone. The overall belief is that God is a loving God, but that God is very capable of, in their term, “kickin’ your ass”.

What do these women’s reflections about God say to you?

As so often happens, these victims and survivors amaze us and we receive more than we ever give. We have no idea or experience of the horrendous treatment they survive, so we are amazed at their courage in making the transition out.   To fully respond to our calling for ministry with them, we must simply walk with them until we understand. It is a slow and arduous journey – let us begin!

And, let us pray:

Compassionate, tender God, you desire that all might have fullness of life and you invite us to care for all persons you have created.  God, we know you are present and we are in awe of your grace which strengthens us as we hear the call to confront the tragic reality of human trafficking. May we respond as You would. AMEN.

Source: Sister Jeanne Christensen, RSM (Justice Advocate – Human Trafficking, Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community, North Kansas City, MO) and the women of The Justice Project’s Willow Tree in Kansas City, Missouri USA. To learn more, visit http://www.thejusticeprojectkc.org.