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Feb 17

2015

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Stronger Together

Written by Brittni Bryan, Intern, Second Life Chattanooga

 

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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

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“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

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“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!