‘Behind all those big words are human beings’

How about a bevy of links for your weekend? These are all what I deem “Well said!”

-I probably say this a lot, but this is why we fight…for justice that is. The title for this post comes from this inspiring video.

How are we doing on the current Millenium Development Goals?

-Are you the parent of a tween? The aunt of one? Or an uncle/cousin/relative/friend/teacher/pastor/acquaintance  of a tween? Basically if you are alive and know anyone else who is currently a child, you totally need to read this:

People will actually vote for who they think is the least attractive in the comments, and whichever girl’s name is written the most will be awarded a big fat X drawn across her face.

Do you want me to repeat that last part?

Of course you don’t, but I’m going to anyway.

Whichever girl’s name is written the most will be awarded with a big fat X drawn across her face. [read the rest] (H/T Todd Query)

-Worlds collide when my friends Adam Ericksen (a UMC’er) and Tripp Hudgins (an American Baptist) have a fantastic 8 part blogalogue regarding Rob Bell’s new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God. The fun begins here.

-United Methodist uber-blogger, Morgan Guyton, is back at it after a Lenten break. He’s whip smart and engages with a wide range of topics.

-Our friends at CAASE and End Demand IL just launched a new campaign: The Ugly Truth.

“The Ugly Truth” is a multi-media communications campaign that was created by The Voices and Faces Project, an End Demand Illinois partner, to challenge myths about prostitution and remind the public of the harm endured by those in the sex trade. We’ve created our campaign to reach millions of Illinois citizens, calling them to better understand – and work to end – sexual exploitation.

Check it and add your voice to their campaign. 

Your turn! What are you reading and writing and doing for justice?

Trafficking jam

It has been a very busy day in the anti-human trafficking world!

Most notably, President Obama used his time at the Clinton Global Initiative to deliver remarks about human trafficking, including new initiatives to engage the fight. As the President rightly stated, this issue is important to all of us:

It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity.  It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric.  It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets.  It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime.  I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery. []

It’s a really good speech, worth your time to read in full. The President includes many stories of modern-day slavery and introduced a few survivors present at CGI today. UPDATE: I haven’t yet found a video of the full remarks, but here’s a snippet finally found video of the whole thing (h/t Holly Boardman):

Our friends at IJM responded with pleasure…and a reminder that our work continues.

Then I got a message from the good folks at CAASE. An opinion piece in Sunday’s New York Times by Noy Thrupkaew called into question the validity of the end demand movements. So CAASE responded:

Last year, Ms. Thrupakew [sic] spent time with us, and we shared with her End Demand Illinois’ multi-dimensional, survivor-informed approach to the issue. By omitting this information from her piece, Ms. Thrupakew [sic] has left readers with a distorted view of demand-suppression efforts. […]

As you may know, CAASE does great work here in IL and I’m proud to support them.

As if all that weren’t enough for one day, I’ve also discovered some push back against the anti-trafficking movement. Over at her blog, Rogue Reverend, I’ve had some enlightening conversation with Lia Scholl. I encourage you to read her stuff too. I look forward to learning more from her as our dialogue continues.

Learn more about human trafficking (aka modern-day slavery) through any of my Abolitionists links.

Celebrating Freedom

Happy Independence Day to all my USAmerican readers!

It’s been a while since my last post on human trafficking, so what better day to rectify that than today, the national holiday celebrating freedom? Ok, sure, most of us just use today as an excuse to blow stuff up. Doesn’t mean we can’t try to redeem ourselves a little, right?

English: Photograph of an FBI agent leading aw...
English: Photograph of an FBI agent leading away an adult suspect arrested in the “Operation Cross Country II”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most exciting developments in the fight against modern-day slavery came on June 25 when the story of Operation Cross Country broke. The nationwide FBI sting netted two results worth celebrating: 104 pimps arrested and 79 children rescued from sex slavery. Though my friends at CAASE rightly point out that both of those stories I linked to (MSNBC and Chicago Tribune/Reuters) have a language problem: There is no such thing as a child prostitute or a teen prostitute.

There are only prostituted children, victims of sex trafficking. Legally that’s the case here in Illinois. But even in states whose laws haven’t yet caught up with reality, it’s still clear morally. Consider this from the Tribune article:

The teenagers, aged from 13 to 17 years old, were being held in custody until they could be placed with child welfare organizations. They were all U.S. citizens and included 77 girls and two boys, the FBI said. One of the minors recovered in the sweep reported being involved in prostitution from the age of 11, according to Kevin Perkins, acting executive assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services Branch.

Or this from the MSNBC article:

The average age of a child targeted for prostitution in the United States is between 11 and 14 years old, FBI assistant director Kevin L. Perkins told the Senate Judiciary Committee in March.

If an adult were found having sex with an 11 or 13 year old, would you arrest the child?? Of course not! Because we know that, legally and morally, children can’t consent to sex. So why in the hell would we treat that same child differently just because some pimp is making money off of her?? Clearly our country is still in need of a lot of education about this.

“We asked men in our survey, ‘What would you tell men under 18?'” Durchslag said. “They said, ‘That (buying sex) will change forever how you relate to women. You will never look at a woman as a full human being again.'”

My town of Naperville make for a good example. It seems Naperville was involved in Operation Cross Country, but here it only resulted in the arrest of four prostituted women. No children rescued, no pimps arrested. I hope that means there just weren’t any children here to find. But it seems highly unlikely that there were no pimps involved with those four women. Why were there no arrests of pimps here? Why were there no johns, no customers arrested here? I wish I knew, but nobody seems to be saying.

How about a little good news? Some education is happening. And it is working. I was thrilled a couple of weeks ago when the Tribune’s Barbara Brotman wrote a column on CAASE’s prevention curriculum. Last year I participated in a training Caleb led on this curriculum. He is an engaging teacher and it is terrific material. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to share this curriculum in schools out here in the western suburbs, but I still hope to do so. But I have taught it to the teenage boys at my church. Why start that young?

The program arose from its 2008 study of men who had purchased sex in Chicago. More than half of them had started doing so between the ages of 18 and 23.

“So if most of them were purchasing sex in their college years, we couldn’t do a prevention curriculum in college; it would be too late,” Durchslag said. “We had to reach them in high school.”

I don’t have data for the impact on my church kids, but in the schools where CAASE has taught, boys are changing their attitudes.

Probst hears from teachers. After he spoke at one school, a social worker there told him she overheard a boy saying he was planning to wear a “wife-beater” to an upcoming social engagement.

Another boy stopped him. “You mean a tank top, man,” he said.

“It makes you think about those young girls and how bad they have it,” Alejandro Barragan, one of the Rauner Prep students, said after the last session. “I don’t even like joking around anymore. I don’t even think it’s funny.”

How about one more piece of good news? Nestlé did something right.

“Our investigation of Nestlé’s cocoa supply chain represents the first time a multinational chocolate producer has allowed its procurement system to be completely traced and assessed. For too long child labor in cocoa production has been everybody’s problem and therefore nobody’s responsibility,” said Fair Labor Association President Auret van Heerden.

It means Nestlé is the first chocolate-maker to comprehensively map its cocoa supply chain – and can work on identifying problems areas, training and educating workers and taking action against child labor violations.

Read the rest on CNN’s excellent Freedom Project blog.

It’s still about supply and demand. #EndDemand #EndSlavery

You’ve heard the River Story, right? I first heard it from Jim Wallis, but it seems to be a popular parable. I heard it invoked again at the meeting of Bread for the World activists last week.

It occurs to me that is the context within which I have heard it used: ending poverty.

But ever since we screened Call + Response, I’ve been thinking about something Kevin Bales says in it:

This is an economic crime. People do not enslave people to be mean to them. They do it to make a profit.

They do it to make a profit.
In other words, human trafficking/modern-day slavery follows that most basic of economic principles: supply and demand. Traffickers make money because people are willing to pay for the supply they offer. In this case, people. People sold for labor or for sex.

Rescuing trafficking victims and supplying them with much-needed care is, obviously, vital work. Work that requires a dedicated long-term, interdisciplinary approach. The best example of which I am aware is Anne’s House.

But, as the River Story reminds us, while that good, vital work of providing care for victims happens, we must simultaneously send people up the river to find out who and/or what is pushing them into the river – and stop it!

International Justice Mission does a good job of this by prosecuting traffickers.

But even that isn’t quite all the way up the river, is it? It seems to me that source problem is people who seek to buy people. If we end the demand for people (for sex and for labor) we will end slavery.

End. Slavery. That’s really what this is all about.

Those best doing that work, at least here in the Chicago area, are CAASE and their companion effort, End Demand IL. I hope you’ll check out their work and support them.

CAASE Executive Director, Rachel Durchslag, was featured in Huffington Post last week. Here’s a taste:

Most johns (men who buy sex) know that they cause harm when they support the sex trade, but they continue to buy sex because they face very few consequences. I know this because I conducted a study that interviewed 113 johns in Chicago, and only 7 percent of those interviewed had ever been arrested for buying sex. When men are targeted by law enforcement it’s called a “reverse sting.” Why is it a reversal to arrest purchasers?

It’s a reversal for our culture because purchasers are men, and as a society we have always blamed women for prostitution. This needs to change. If there were no demand, there would be no prostitution.

Their work is producing good results, making a real difference. Here’s more from Huff Post:

One Chicago study revealed that, on average, women entered prostitution at the age of 16. Girls are often recruited by someone they have come to trust, even by a boyfriend or family member. Until our Illinois Safe Children Act passed in 2010, minors in prostitution were treated as criminals. Now, no minors in Illinois can be prosecuted for prostitution, the term “juvenile prostitute” has been removed from the books, and there are increased penalties in Illinois for pimps and johns.

Our law enforcement partners are also stepping up. Just this summer, we saw a huge bust in Cook County that brought down nine traffickers who were selling women and girls. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Sheriff Tom Dart said that new wiretapping capabilities from the Illinois Safe Children Act were crucial to building the case. It wasn’t largely publicized as part of the sting, but more than 50 johns were also arrested.

One way Woodridge UMC is attempting to end demand is by talking honestly with our young men about how our culture objectifies women and how that objectification denies their basic humanity. We hope our young men will be part of the generation that changes that!

How about you? What are some ways you are ending demand for slavery?

#EndDemand in order to #EndSlavery

“I’m not seeing a lot of cases where there’s not coercion,” she added. “The average age where a girl is forced into prostitution is 12 to 14. And most of these 16- or 17 year-olds are being run by pretty vicious pimps.”

National Human Trafficking Prevention Month is winding down, but the actual work of preventing human trafficking continues. Two terrific posts yesterday – one national, one local – demonstrate the need for action and offer ways to meet that need.

Abolitionist and New York Times columnist, Nick Kristof, calls out Backpage.com for helping pimps trafficking girls. That’s not a euphemism, I mean girls. As the quote above from Lauren Hersh, “the ace prosecutor in Brooklyn who leads the sex-trafficking unit there,” demonstrates.

Kristof tells the story of a 13 year-old, whom he calls Babyface, who managed to escape from her pimp (read: trafficker). But not before “she was bleeding vaginally…her pimp had recently kicked her down a stairwell for trying to flee.”

Why does Backpage need to shut down its adult services section?

Babyface had run away from home in September. Kendale Judge [the man who became her pimp] allegedly found her on the street, bought food for her and told her that she was beautiful. Within a few days, he had posted her photo on Backpage and was selling her five to nine times a day, prosecutors say. When she didn’t earn enough money, he beat her with a belt, they add. (emphasis added)

Further Kristof writes, Backpage “is a godsend to pimps, allowing customers to order a girl online as if she were a pizza.”

It was that line that caught Kristin Claes’ attention over at the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE):

That’s not the first time we’ve heard that comparison, and [Kristof’s] sadly very right: When Rachel Durchslag, CAASE’s executive director, interviewed 113 johns in Chicago, one purchaser said: “I usually call for a girl, you know, like a pizza.” There are so many disturbing things happening there–a girl being a commodity, available to order–it’s important to know that johns are a driving force as much as pimps are.

I know it’s easier to avert our eyes from this sort of atrocity. But we must not. Girls like Babyface aren’t just in New York or Mumbai. They are here too. Fortunately, the news isn’t all bad:

we [in the Chicago area] are fortunate locally that Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Sheriff Tom Dart are embracing the End Demand approach. We’ve seen signs of progress in Illinois, with local stings that led to the arrests of more than 10 traffickers and 27 johns.

Please read Kristof’s and Claes’ full posts. Then pick an action they suggest and take it.

Want a different option? Come to Woodridge United Methodist Church on Wednesday, February 15 at 7:00pm as we screen and discuss the anti-trafficking documentary Call + Response. The event is free, we have plenty of parking, we’ll provide some snacks, and child care is available.

Whatever else you do, be a modern-day abolitionist.

IL Forum to Combat Human Trafficking

I was quite encouraged by the crowd present for Monday’s Illinois Forum to Combat Human Trafficking. There were several hundred people there of diverse ages and races. The speakers were passionate and informative. Opportunities to take action to combat trafficking were offered, actions that could be taken right then and there.

International Justice Mission was the main sponsor of the event, in partnership with five Chicago-based anti-trafficking organizations: Traffick Free, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), Salvation Army PROMISE Initiative, STOP-IT Initiative Against Human Trafficking, and The Dreamcatcher Foundation. Representatives from each were present to talk about the work they are doing.

So the forum was very well done. I really don’t know how it could have been better. I am proud to say that of the six forum sponsors, my church has partnered with five of them! (Dreamcatchers is the only one we haven’t connected with…yet!)

By far the most powerful part of the evening was hearing Amanda’s story.

When she was 15, Amanda was trafficked into the Chicago-area sex trade. She was held captive and abused for over two years. Hearing her describe the manner and frequency with which she was abused was truly gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. Her story is a stark and horrific reminder that modern-day slavery is all too real and all too local.

But Amanda’s story also reminds us that there is hope in the midst of this ugly evil. Amanda eventually escaped her captors. She is receiving care for the physical, sexual and emotional trauma she endured. And she is not remaining silent. Working with Dreamcatchers, Amanda is bravely telling her story, shining a light in some very dark places, inspiring people to join (or continue) the fight against human trafficking.

Ready to act?

Here (again) is a simple way to make a difference: tell your members of Congress to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA). This legislation authorizes assistance programs for victims, establishes key components of the U.S. government’s efforts to stop trafficking, including the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Passing the TVPRA will extend this law for another three years.

All you have to do is click here. Or here. Or here. Just pick one and raise your voice. Together we can demonstrate to our policy-makers that their constituents care about ending human trafficking at home and around the world.

One thing did disturb me though. If I understood him correctly, U.S. Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL), the Keynote Speaker at the Forum, said that the TVPRA likely will end up on a calendar of bills that are non-controversial.

Which makes sense, right? Who could possibly be for human trafficking?!?

So far, so good. Here’s the disturbing part: Rep. Roskam also said that funding for TVPRA will be hard to come by. It will have to fight for very limited funds just like every other bill. It sounded to me like Rep. Roskam doesn’t expect to find that funding. In fact, it even sounded to me like he didn’t think it should be funded.

I admit that I don’t know a lot about Rep. Roskam. I don’t live in his district so I haven’t encountered him or paid attention to him before. I do know he spoke passionately in support of IJM and in encouraging everyone at the Forum to engage in the fight against modern-day slavery. But if I heard and understood him correctly, my serious question is this:

What does it mean to be in favor of passing TVPRA but not in favor of funding it?

Maybe I’m wrong about that. Maybe I misunderstood. I hope so. Because that seems to me like a distinction without meaning. It seems to me that the only way to truly be in favor of TVPRA is to be in favor of funding it. Maybe we need to add a line about funding to those petitions.

It does no good to reauthorize the act without also funding it.

Reach globally, gather locally, end slavery

“Jesus said, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me… He sent me to liberate those held down by oppression.’” – Luke 4:18

Now is the time, the time is now…We need to get the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) passed through Congress and signed into law.

This week, it’s back to anti-trafficking work. Why? We are under a time crunch. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act expires September 30. Fortunately, a multi-organizational push to get Congress to pass the TVPRA is in full-court-press mode.

What will the TVPRA do? As International Justice Mission (IJM) writes:

In particular, this legislation supports the State Department‘s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP)–our government’s most important asset for combating modern-day slavery internationally. TIP’s skilled diplomats monitor slavery and press governments around the world to confront it. By providing grant funding to organizations like International Justice Mission, the TIP Office has enabled the rescue and rehabilitation of thousands of survivors of sex trafficking and forced labor slavery, and the prosecution and conviction of hundreds of trafficking perpetrators.

IJM does great work all over the globe. And they are not alone. Change.org, World Vision, and Polaris Project, just to name a few, are all helping to get this legislation passed.

Polaris Project seems to have the most detailed information on the TVPRA. Here’s a taste:

Both the House and Senate versions of the TVPRA include language that strength the following efforts:

  • Encouraging the distribution and posting of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center within Federal Agencies as well as by states;
  • Requiring stricter regulations for contractor employees abroad to work within the U.S.;
  • Strengthening enforcement of child exploitation laws against U.S. citizens living abroad; and
  • Providing assistance for minor victims of trafficking. {Read more}

The wording may differ a bit among the organizations, but each of them encourages you to let your voice be heard. I certainly hope you will! It doesn’t really matter to me which one you pick, but, please, pick one and let your members of Congress know that this is important to you. With just a few clicks you can make a difference for people enslaved all over the world. (Ok, I know that’s corny. But being corny doesn’t make it untrue.)

Digitally signing a letter is important and a good, quick, easy way to help. But sometimes a more tangible way to respond is desired. This Monday, September 19, is the Illinois Town Hall Meeting to Combat Human Trafficking. It’s 7:00pm at Park Community Church (1001 N. Crosby, Chicago).

This is a joint effort of IJM, CAASE (Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation), Traffick Free, and more. Featured speakers are:

  • U.S. Rep., Peter Roskam, IL District 6
  • Lynne Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church
  • Holly Burkhalter, IJM’s VP of Government Relations

This is a time “to demonstrate to our policy-makers that their constituents care about ending human trafficking at home and around the world.”

I’ll be there. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll join us.