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Written by SLC Admin

Sep 28

2017

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Natural Disasters Impact Human Trafficking

Written by Mitchell Waters, SLC Volunteer

Saying that our country has had a difficult time lately would be an understatement. Hurricanes Irma and Harvey severely damaged much of Florida and Houston, wild fires have burned nearly a million acres of the forest in Montana. California, Washington, and wildfires have consumed precious pieces of land in Idaho as well.

With these tragedies and natural disasters occurring in our own back yard, it is important to understand how they impact human trafficking. Often times, in the aftermath of war, natural disasters, or major economic transitions, human traffickers can more easily exploit victims. They take advantage of shattered lives, ruined homes and broken economies. Joshua Finn, an analyst at the Canadian Department of Transportation wrote, “The added shock of a natural disaster to an already vulnerable population can lead to an environment where human traffickers are more likely to be profitable. This is important to be aware of as our nation begins to clean up the aftermath of these disasters.” (2016)

Second Life Chattanooga’s mission is to “create awareness that drives action through collaborative relationships with like-minded organizations and individuals in order to end human sex trafficking in Greater Chattanooga/Southeast Tennessee.” By raising awareness about how traffickers exploit already vulnerable areas after a natural disaster, we aim to shore up our defenses in Tennessee.

Sources:

http://www.iar-gwu.org/sites/default/files/articlepdfs/IAR%202016%20-%2004%20Human%20Trafficking%20-%20Joshua%20Finn.pdf

 

Sep 01

2017

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Labor Day

Written by Mitchell Waters, SLC Volunteer

As we are coming up on Labor Day weekend, many of us are making plans about what we will be doing with our family or friends. Maybe we are going to the mountains or beach on holiday. Or maybe we are having a “staycation” where we get to sleep in. Maybe we have done some extra work this week just so we can truly relax on Monday.

Labor Day became an American holiday in 1894 to acknowledge the hard work of the American labor industry. Labor has always been highly valued and it is one of the most valuable commodities in our world. There is a strong sense of value and meaning we can derive from our work. Now imagine being forced to work as a commodity void of any true meaningful purpose. You are just a commodity to be bought and sold for the sole purpose of someone else’s gain. Our history has a very dark and unfortunate history with slavery. This has not changed much today. One of the darkest times in our American history still continues today, however, it has been made more covert.

Making an estimated $30 billion dollars a year and enslaving up to 293,000 Americans under 18 for commercial slave trade, human trafficking is an epidemic. If you are moved by these numbers and the inhumanity of the past that haunts us still today, eliminating this epidemic may feel like a daunting or impossible task.  I would encourage all of you to, on this Labor Day, take some time to research and learn about what you can do to join us in this fight. As you have a relaxing day off of work, pull up your computer and look for ways to contribute. Second Life Chattanooga is on the forefront of this fight in our community. Take some time to donate, learn about volunteering or talk to your friends and family about this issue.

Also, don’t forget to mark your calendars for the Chattanooga Coalition Against Human Trafficking General Meeting happening on September 27 at 11:30 at the Development Resource Center, 1250 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN! This is a free event open to the public and it will be a great opportunity to learn more about human trafficking and how to get involved!

[1] http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/labor-day

[2] Estes Weiner report, Univ. of Penn, 2001

Jan 18

2017

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New Beginnings

Written by Eryn Hawks, SLC Volunteer

 

Last week, my friend and I sat down at the beginning of the New Year and wrote out our “2017 Bucket List.” Some of the things on our lists were silly and others were more serious goals and aspirations…but when we were done, we found ourselves excited and hopeful for what 2017 may bring. We felt rejuvenated and motivated.

Most of us can relate with this feeling of hopefulness of a New Year. January marks the time when we hit the gym again or start eating better (however long it lasts). But it occurs to me as I write this that not everyone is able to hope for new beginnings.

I am blessed to have the freedom to dream, hope, and create aspirations for my year. Even if I fall off the bandwagon with some of my resolutions, (Let’s be honest…I have yet to hit the gym!) it is because I made the decision not to continue. I have the freedom of choice.

I am struck by the fact that National Human Trafficking Awareness month lands in the month of new beginnings. What better time for us to bring awareness and take action for those who don’t have the hope or freedom of choice that we often take for granted?

In recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness month, Second Life is holding its 6th annual “Unite. Wear White.” event. We invite you to join us and hear the story of Margeaux Gray, a survivor of trafficking who has experienced this second life firsthand, and is now an advocate and speaker. This event will be held at 9:45 a.m. on January 27, at the Double Tree in downtown Chattanooga.

As you continue to make decisions about what you want for yourself in 2017, take a moment to come out and celebrate one survivor’s story. You may leave with a new resolve to help others find their own freedom this year.

We hope to see you there! And don’t forget to wear something white!

Apr 13

2016

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Chattanooga: Top City

Coffee_blog

 

Over the past couple years, Chattanooga has received different accolades claiming it as a top city for many things:

• Outdoor Magazine’s Best City [1]
• First U.S. city to have a community-wide fiber optic network: “Gig City” [2]
• Best city for startup companies [3]
• #1 for social well being [4]

It’s no doubt that Chattanooga is a wonderful city. We are innovative; we have beautiful scenery, hiking, climbing, and let’s be real…we have fantastic coffee shops. As a whole, we are forward thinkers and we love our city.

Although Chattanooga has countless outdoor opportunities, yoga studios, amazing coffee shops, technology, and startup companies, there is also a darker side to Chattanooga of which many are unaware, or choose to ignore. No matter where your activities take you in Chattanooga, it’s possible that you are only blocks away from women who don’t have the same opportunities to enjoy this city. Day after day, these women – and children – are being unwillingly bought and sold for sex by their traffickers. They are modern-day slaves.

This is not a distant issue happening only in some third-world country. This is happening right here – in Chattanooga – in our backyard.

How is that possible?

Most of these transactions are set up online. In February, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation teamed up to conduct an operation aimed at catching those purchasing illicit sex from women and minors being exploited online. Of the 168 men who made contact, 35 were arrested. [5] Where there is demand, there will be supply. It has been shown that there is a demand for these services in Chattanooga and the surrounding areas.

So what can you do? For one, speak up. Second Life Chattanooga aims to raise awareness that will drive action. In order to tackle this issue, we must be aware that this is happening in our community. Educate yourself, and from there decide how you can be involved. Maybe you’re willing to give through your time, or monetarily. Or maybe you can simply help educate others through conversations about this issue. Please, don’t make silence an option.

I am proud that my city is known for so many wonderful things. But my hope is that Chattanooga will soon become known as a top city joining the fight against human trafficking. I hope that we, as a city, will come together as individuals from various organizations, faith communities, and businesses to say as one voice that these injustices will not continue here.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

[1]http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2015/jun/05/chattanooga-wins-outside-magazines-best-town-title/308038/
[2]https://www.chattanoogachamber.com/news-media/news/2015/10/chattanooga-implements-worlds
[3]http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8432-cheapest-expensive-cities.html
[4] http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2015/apr/09/chattanoogranks-no-1-social-well-being/297718/
[5]https://www.tn.gov/tbi/news/24063

Apr 22

2015

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Danger in Paradise?

Written by Kim Ford, Intern, Second Life Chattanooga

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Over spring break I had the opportunity to go on a cruise with my best friend. We were to leave on Monday afternoon and return on Friday morning. Sailing from Miami Florida through two Bahaman Islands almost sounded too good to be true. As my friend and I explored the ship after we had set sail, we noticed that most of the staff was from different countries and their work seemed endless. There were also some questionable people who made me feel uneasy and I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why.

My friend and I could not help but wonder what kinds of things occurred on cruise ships in regard to human trafficking. Could something so devastatingly evil have a place in paradise? In situations like this it is easy to second-guess ourselves when we witness scenes or behaviors that make us feel uncomfortable or that seem to look out of place. Questioning our thoughts can cause us to never voice our concerns, which could cause more harm than good. Once I arrived back in the States and had access to the Internet I began to search for stories that would answer the questions I had been struggling with. I was somewhat shocked to see how prevalent this issue was.

The most popular story is that of Amy Bradley, a 24 year-old woman who went missing while vacationing with her family on the Royal Caribbean cruise line in 1998. Although her family searched relentlessly for years, Amy was never found. Many believed that human trafficking may have played a role in her disappearance, but it was never confirmed. Unfortunately, the cruise line did not provide much help to the family and the little help they did offer seemed to be designed to protect the cruise line’s image and legal interests.[1]

Since this unfortunate occurrence, followed by many others, the security on these cruise ships has become more efficient. Airlines have also increased their security and awareness regarding this issue.[2]  This does not mean, however, that the problem has disappeared. While vacationing, whether it is on a cruise ship, airplane, or somewhere on land, it is important to maintain awareness of your surroundings and never venture off alone. It is important to take care of your own well being, but it is also important to look out for the well being of others.

Signs to watch for may include; evidence of being controlled, signs of drug addiction, unfamiliar with surroundings, substance abuse, submissive or fearful behavior, avoidance of eye contact, emotional distress, brandings or tattoos, etc. [3] If you see any of these signs or have concerns, please call the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733). You can also call the Tennessee Trafficking Hotline at 1-855-558-6484.

 

[1] http://www.cruiselawnews.com/2011/01/articles/disappearances-1/mystery-of-missing-royal-caribbean-passenger-amy-bradley-returns-to-the-news/

[2] http://inpublicsafety.com/2014/12/airline-trafficking-signs-for-spotting-human-trafficking-in-transportation/

[3] Rescue & Restore

Feb 17

2015

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Stronger Together

Written by Brittni Bryan, Intern, Second Life Chattanooga

 

Stack of hands

 

Many big-hearted activists interested in the issue of human trafficking, though they have the best of intentions, often fail to see the need for a multifaceted approach to abolitionist work. We shout from the mountain tops in order to create awareness or brave the streets and the trenches in daring attempts to rescue victims, but we don’t often consider that the nature of this hideous problem is more complex than any one of us can fully address. I myself am indeed guilty of this single-track mindedness as I was reminded afresh recently.

I had the opportunity to attend a presentation given by an expert leader in the anti-trafficking field. The presentation was geared towards domestic minor sex trafficking and clearly highlighted the need for carefully designed and targeted prevention work at three encompassing levels: primary, secondary, and tertiary. The way the information was presented really struck a chord with me as it reminded me that we cannot be expecting to end human trafficking simply by helping our communities understand that it exists or by only saving victims from the clutches of pimps. No, instead we must focus substantial energies on creating positive and productive partnerships to better meet our adversaries at all stages of the fight: before, during, and after trafficking occurs.

This inspiring presenter likened the different types of prevention work to how they would look in health care situations. So, primary prevention would naturally be what we think of as typical preventive measures such as getting enough sleep, eating healthy, or exercising. When related to the anti-trafficking work, this would be general awareness efforts such as educating kids in schools, parents at PTA meetings, and community members at office or church group presentations, as well as efforts such as bill boards, posters, flyers, and hotline information cards. As the average age of entry into trafficking for a child victim is 13-14 (US Dept. of Justice, 2010), it is crucial that we start educating all sectors of our communities so that we can truly know how to respond to warning signs.

When considering secondary prevention, we can liken this to focusing our efforts on someone who shows many or all the risk factors of a certain disease. In relation to anti-trafficking work, effective secondary prevention would focus efforts on at-risk youth populations such as kids coming from dysfunctional families or those in poverty, runaways, homeless youth, and children in the foster care system. These characteristics generate at-risk situations because they create an environment where there is often a lack of basic resources and prior abuse (National Human Trafficking Resource Center, 2015). Thus, kids coming from these situations are easier for the traffickers to target and recruit. Consequently, prevention in this case would need to focus on identifying these at-risk kids and getting them connected with resources and services such as counseling in order to avoid them slipping any further toward the precipice of sexual-exploitation.

Finally, we look at tertiary prevention which would be similar to treating a disease after it has been diagnosed. When we consider what this looks like in relation to human trafficking, this would be the actual rescuing of, and services to, victims. In this case, there is a need for trained professionals such as law enforcement to be the ones doing the “rescuing” as well as carefully crafted and staffed services for the survivors. These services must consider a survivor’s physical, psychological, and emotional needs (Stotts & Ramey, 2009). Often one of the reasons people are recruited into the trade is because they have basic survival needs that must be met such as housing and food. So when providing victim services, there must be a consideration for long-term needs such as housing, education, income, job skills, and social supports. If these most basic of needs are not being met, the chance of the victim returning to ‘the life’ is all too high (Stotts & Ramey, 2009). These services must also be ‘trauma-informed’ by recognizing that the way in which these victims function very often connects to a long history of abuse and traumatic events which have lead them to believe they cannot trust anyone (Johnson, 2012).

Of course, creating these partnerships and working to address each of these prevention areas will come at a high cost and this is where the final and arguably most crucial piece of the puzzle comes into play. We could certainly conjecture all day long about what approaches to this work will be most effective, but if we, as community members and US citizens are not willing to back our views with funding, then we are fatally crippling our best intentions. Human trafficking presents a 9.5 billion dollar (United Nations) problem annually, so we cannot sit back and expect our government to take care of keeping our nation’s anti-trafficking programs afloat. In fact, right now there are only about 525 beds for minor trafficking victims in this country (Reichert & Sylwestrzak, 2013), where there are over 300,000 children at risk of being trafficked for sex annually (US Dept. of Justice, 2010).

These are our children, our brothers, and our sisters. Trafficking in America is our problem. If we are really honest with ourselves about this issues, we must first realize that we need each other. We need each other’s areas of expertise. We need each other’s financial and in-kind resources. We need to embrace the benefits of partnership and not get lost of the sensationalism of issue or the desire to stand alone in making a difference. We will only succeed in truly addressing all needed areas in the fight to end human trafficking when we recognize that we can accomplish more through combining our efforts than we ever could on our own; when we recognize that we are indeed, stronger together.

 

Johnson, B. C. (2012). Aftercare for Survivors of Human Trafficking. Social Work & Christianity, 39(4), 370-389

National Human Trafficking Resource Center (2015) Retrieved from: http://www.traffickingresourcecenter.org/what-human-trafficking/human-trafficking/victims

Reichert, J. & Sylwestrzak, A. (2013) National survey of residential programs for victims of sex trafficking. Retrieved from: http://www.icjia.state.il.us/public/pdf/ResearchReports/NSRHVST_101813.pdf

Stotts Jr., E. L., & Ramey, L. (2009). Human trafficking: A call for counselor awareness and action. Journal Of Humanistic Counseling, Education & Development, 48(1), 36-47.

United Nations (2007). UN and partners launch initiative to end ‘modern slavery’ of human trafficking Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=22009#.VNvvmC5SmSo

U.S. Department of Justice (2010) Effects of Federal Legislation on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. Retrieved: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/228631.pdf

 

Feb 14

2015

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Love Gives

Written by Kimberly Ford, Second Life Chattanooga Volunteer

women-sunsets_00342827

 

“And so I have come to understand that strength, inner strength, comes from receiving love as much as it comes from giving it.” –Donald Miller

As Valentines Day, the “love” day, draws closer, people begin to reflect more on the presence of love in their lives. Most of the love comes from significant others, while some comes from family and friends. For human trafficking victims, love can be hard to find. Friends are almost nonexistent and love may sometimes be a feeling that is nothing more than a distant memory, if even a memory at all.

During this month of love it is also Second Life’s birthday, completing our 8th year of anti-trafficking work. Our survivor services are expanding, as we move towards opening our area’s first long-term, residentially-based recovery center for victims of trafficking. All of this work requires the financial resources to make this happen.

We’re asking you to help us “Celebrate 8” by making a financial gift of love to Second Life that has an 8 in the amount, whether it’s $8, $28, or $88.

Love does not have to be confined to personal friendships and relationships. If we have love to give, why not give it?  If we have the opportunity to strengthen a heart that has been broken, why not seize it?

If you would like to give the gift of love you can go to Secondlifechattanooga.org/donate/.

Jan 15

2015

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The Beauty of Community

Written by Eileen Knowles, Second Life of Chattanooga Volunteer

JANFlyer 8_5x11

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched-they must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month and, last Friday, the Chattanooga Coalition Against Human Trafficking and Second Life hosted their annual event: Unite. Wear White. The guest speaker this year was Becca Stevens from Thistle Farms and Magdalene.

I was first introduced to Thistle Farms and Magdalene when I heard Becca give a talk a year and a half ago in Nashville. This beautiful ministry helps to give women who have been out on the streets and trapped in a life of prostitution and human trafficking a second chance.  At Thistle Farms, survivors are employed and create fabulous all natural candles and also bath and body products.

On Friday, I heard a survivor and past resident of Magdalene share a little bit of her journey. Sheila’s story was a powerful story of redemption. After she spoke, the audience gave her a standing ovation. I had goose bumps and chills as I stood there clapping for Sheila.

When Becca took the stage she said something that stuck with me:  “If you mention the word home (at Magdalene and Thistle Farms) women will weep. A home is what these women have longed for because community heals.”

Becca shared another story of a lady who came to Magdalene house after serving time in prison. She began her journey of healing  and also began making candles. Because of charges still being processed through the legal system, this lady ended up having to go back to jail for 3 1/2  more years. Upon her release, she came right back to Thistle Farms and began making candles again. Becca asked her how she was able to remain hopeful after tasting freedom and healing and then having to go back to confinement. The lady told Becca that it was the first time in her life when she was behind bars and had a community of people supporting her, encouraging her, and believing in her.

As I thought more about this, I realized that the women of Magdalene weep at the word “home” because community, when done well, is a beautiful thing.  Like Helen Keller’s quote, home isn’t necessarily a place you can see and touch, its beauty is so much bigger than that. Home means you feel loved and accepted and cared for. A true home is a place of hope. It touches your heart and your soul and you can carry it with you.  That’s what I love about beauty that touches our heart…it’s portable.

Listening to the ladies from Thistle Farms share their stories at Unite. Wear White, reminded me of an important truth: Community, done well, is powerful. It touches lives in ways we can’t even fathom. It offers us beauty that most of the time goes so much deeper than the visible eye can see.

Be that to someone today.

The fight against human trafficking both here in Chattanooga and around the world is a collaborative effort. The help you provide makes a HUGE difference!

Nov 25

2014

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Giving Tuesday, The New Black Friday

On December 2nd, choose to give HOPE!

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She’s been given more than anyone should have to bear. Beatings, rapes, deprivation, humiliation. Followed by more of the same.

And she lived through it all. Hers is a story that’s almost impossible to tell. And it’s one that should be impossible for us to ignore. Having had so much taken from her, she still found a way to hold on to hope. Miraculously her hope was realized and her nightmare of sex trafficking finally ended, but her process of recovery has just begun. Having been rescued, she now begins the journey of rebuilding her life. She has dared to hope. She dreams of the day she can give that same hope to others.

This year on December 2 for “Giving Tuesday,” we ask you to do the same. Give hope to a sex trafficking survivor.

Your financial gift to Second Life of Chattanooga will help survivors of sex trafficking recover their hope, humanity, and future.

Hers is a story of hope restored. This is the business of Second Life of Chattanooga, the business of giving hope. Please join with us on December 2 for this year’s “Giving Tuesday” and give hope to someone whose greatest wish for this holiday season is the gift of hope that brings her freedom and a new life.

DONATE

Nov 18

2014

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Green Socks

Written by Brittni Bryan, Second Life of Chattanooga Intern

 

green socks 3

 

In any battle fought, there are multiple tactics that must be employed in order to achieve a victory. Should we try a full frontal assault or maybe send half our troops around behind the enemy and attack from the rear? Such questions are certainly crucial to the fight to end human sex trafficking! This booming business relies on both a steady customer demand as well as a steady stream of commodities, or shall we say, victims.

Naturally then, in trying to overcome the monster of human trafficking, abolitionists need to focus their efforts on both reducing the demand and decreasing the supply. Here in Chattanooga we have strong partners such as Forgiven Much Ministries and the Chattanooga Coalition Against Human Trafficking who are working hard at addressing the demand side of things. However, what can be done right now, today, to start building a dam blocking that steady stream of victims?

Well, November is National Runaway Prevention Month. All around the country community advocates are pushing initiatives to raise awareness about this issue. You may ask, “how does this issue connect to human sex trafficking”? Well, the Polaris Project recently published a statistic estimating that “1 in 7 endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims” (2014). With approximately 300,000 children at risk of becoming trafficked in the U.S. (The Covering House, 2014), the number of runaways …resides somewhere around 42,900. This number certainly poses a large contribution to the ‘supply’ side of this business of slavery.

As abolitionists in this fight to end the buying and selling of human beings, we also need to be aware of how social issues in our society often connect, interweave, and reinforce each other. As such, we need to be concerned about societal concerns such as poverty rates, youth transitions out of foster care, abuse within families, and certainly runaway rates, as all these contribute heavily to the steady stream of trafficking victims.

So what can you do this month to focus on decreasing the supply of human trafficking victims? Well, you can start by wearing green socks…

Yes, green socks. According to the Family & Youth Services Bureau (FSB), community minded individuals interested in spreading awareness about runaway prevention can decide to wear lime green socks on any day of November they choose (2011)! If you are looking for a simple but effective way to create crucial conversation surrounding runaway prevention, human sex trafficking abolition, or even the complex interrelated nature of the many concerns facing our society today, this tactic is especially designed for you!

Simply put on a pair of green socks, step out your front door, and be ready to speak to the people you meet on behalf of our country’s vulnerable, hurting children!

 

FSB, (2011). National runaway prevention month celebrates ten years of ‘making the

connection’. Retrieved from: http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/news/2011/11/national-runaway-prevention-month-celebrates-ten-years-making-connection

Polaris, (2014). Sex Trafficking in the U.S. Retrieved from:

http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/sex-trafficking-in-the-us

The Covering House, (2014). Rerieved from: http://thecoveringhouse.org/act/resources-2/sex-trafficking-statistics-source-documentation/