Final Blog: Policy Recommendation

As my final blog post, I wanted to communicate the results of my policy research on modern slavery. Although many states have advanced in legislation and resources combating human trafficking, are victims being identified and acquainted to these resources? In my  research the most startling finding is lack of victim identification.  Victim identification continues to be a large aspect in eliminating modern slavery in the United States. I believe that training and education for first responders is critical. Without the proper training and education human trafficking victims are at risk of not being identified or worse being treated as criminals.

To exemplify my findings, I researched the 2010 Texas Supreme Court case of B.W. B.W. was a young girl, age 13, who was arrested for prostitution in Harris County. Formal charges were brought against B.W. only to be later overturned on the basis that a person under 14 years of age could not consent to sex or consent to commit an act of prostitution. Although the criminal charges against this young girl were dismissed, the 32 year old man whom B.W. lived with and forced her into prostitution had no criminal charges brought against him. This is only one instance of human trafficking, more cases like B.W. are happening around the country. Worse, many human trafficking victims are prosecuted as criminals. If only law enforcement and first responders were educated on identifying human trafficking, it’s victims, and the emotional cycle of violence would human trafficking be so prevalent in society?

All of my policy research has been devoted to increasing training for law enforcement officers, judicial officials, and other first responders. For the state of Texas, I recommend re-introduction of House Bill 2393, a bill for increased training protocols for personnel most likely to come in contact with victims and survivors. Many initiatives like House Bill 2393 are being introduced in other states. For my blog followers outside of Texas, I suggest writing officials to increase human trafficking training and education requirements for first responders, specifically law enforcement. Like any social injustice of society, awareness of the injustice is the first step in combating human trafficking.

Fair Tuesday not Black Friday

buy her shirt

Happy thanksgiving to all! Black Friday is upon us; currently there are thousands of people beating the clock to get the biggest and best deals of the holiday season. American consumers will spend an estimated $50 billion holiday shopping this weekend. In response to the madness of Black Friday and the modern slavery associated with many of those discounted sale items, the fair trade community has begun a more ethical tradition: Fair Tuesday, held on December 3. Supporters and markets of Fair Tuesday promote fair trade and ethically produced gifts, while also helping the artisans who made the products. I’ve scanned the fair trade holiday ads and there are a lot of great gift options for your loved ones. Feel free to splurge on these guilt-free, fair trade, no slavery associated, holiday gifts:

  • Made by Survivors: This company employs and educates the survivors of modern slavery and other human rights abuses. It trains and employs survivors of modern slavery, providing workers with fair wages. Made by Survivors supports 250 girls by providing them with an education. They offer jewelry, bags, wallets and children toys. I personally love their unique earrings.
  • Stop Traffick Fashion:This company employs modern slavery victims and at-risk youth. It provides sustainable income, so these survivors can live in freedom from slavery. StopTraffickFashion includes T-Shirts and bags.
  • Nomi Network: Nomi Network creates economic opportunities for youth and women in rural Cambodia. Rural Cambodia is home to millions of women who are vulnerable to sex trafficking due to the extreme poverty that exists there. Nomi Network offers many potential holiday gifts: tech accessory, bags and totes and organic clothing for kids and adults. My personal favorite is above. #BuyHerShirtNotHerBody
  • Good Weave: This company specializes in eliminating child labor in the weaving industry. They facilitated the freeing of 3,600 children working in weaving looms. Good Weave continues to advocate for the prevention of child labor and healthy development of weaving communities. They have a great website with a ton of information regarding modern slavery and tips for buying slave-free products. You can find their products at Amazon.com, Macy’s and The Rug Company.
  • Senda:  Senda seeks to eliminate slavery in the supply chain for sports equipment. They make all products based on ethical standards including: fair working conditions, no child labor and fair wages. They offer soccer balls, t-shirts and athletic clothing.

Media Portrayal of Human Trafficking Victims

During my work in human trafficking I came in contact with a colleague of mine, Rebecca Larsen. Rebecca is a fellow student in the School of Social work and is also dedicating her work to the anti-human trafficking movement. Interestingly, we are both focusing on the issue of victim identification in the United States, however we are taking very different approaches to the topic. After listening to Rebecca’s presentation in class, I asked her permission to use some of here information for my blog. Her view on the mis-identification of human trafficking victims stems from the Social Construction theory and is based on the media portrayal of a human trafficking victim. Below is a graph and breakdown of sex trafficking victims by race, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

Rebecca Graph

Black women and girls make up the majority of human trafficking victims, however this majority is not represented in media portrayals of a victim. Below is a collage of images from human trafficking advocacy groups.

Media Collage

The above photos show mostly all young white women. Due to the media portrayal and social construction of human trafficking, law enforcement officers have been predisposed to inaccurate images of what a human trafficking victim looks like. This misrepresentation is added to by the media’s portrayal of minority women: black women being portrayed as sex workers or prostitutes and Hispanic women being portrayed as undocumented immigrants. I firmly believe that all of these factors play into the issue of law enforcement misidentifying human trafficking victims.

Special thanks to Rebecca for her data and work in combating human trafficking.

Facts and Figures

During my research on human trafficking, I have been astonished at the statistical data of human trafficking and modern slavery. Throughout my research on human trafficking, I compiled some of the most startling statistics of human trafficking.

  • According to the United States Department of State in 2010, the number of human trafficking victims identified reflects only 0.4% of the victims in existence in the United States.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Justice 62% of labor trafficking victims are age 25 or older, compared to 13% of confirmed sex trafficking survivors.
  • The Department of Justice also reports that 83% of victims in confirmed sex trafficking incidents were identified as U.S. citizens, while 67% of labor trafficking victims were undocumented immigrants.
  • The National Human Trafficking Resource Center estimates human trafficking to be a $32 billion industry, surpassing the illegal sale of arms and expected to surpass the illegal sale of drugs within the next few years.
  • The Committee on Foreign Affairs estimates that 100,000 American-citizen children are victims of human trafficking.
  • The National Human Trafficking Resource Center estimates 1 in 3 teens are lured into prostitution or human trafficking within two days of leaving home.
  • The U.S. Department of State estimates the global ratio of sex trafficking victim to labor trafficking victims to be 1:9.
  • A study completed by The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work suggests that 75% of women engaged in formal street prostitution are controlled by pimps.

 

 

State-wide Anti-Human Trafficking Initiatives

Map 2After posting about the federal tools being used to combat human trafficking and modern slavery, I thought I would focus on the state-wide initiatives.  Within the last 10 years, human trafficking and modern slavery has picked up a lot of media attention and public outrage. After the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed, the federal government pushed states to begin combating human trafficking on a state-wide level.

Interestingly, every state has passed some type of legislation to combat human trafficking. Today every state but Wyoming has a criminal statute regarding human trafficking or modern slavery. Although there has been some cohesiveness in these laws and statutes, there is a lot of variety of state legislation. In general, states have varying definitions of human trafficking. Some states only include sex trafficking in their definition, while others include labor trafficking. A few states established laws only protecting minor human trafficking victims. Unfortunately, many state laws do not include victim assistance.  There is also variety of laws regarding smuggling and trafficking, some differentiating the two acts.

As mentioned above, some states have failed to pass victims assistance for human trafficking survivors. However, other states have established some really great resources. Texas, for example, has created a state-wide task force to oversee human trafficking cases. The state also established a toll-free hotline. Some individual cities have taken the initiative to establish city-wide tasks force.

Want to know your state’s rating on human trafficking laws? Check out the Polaris Project, a leader in the anti-human trafficking movement.

Want to let your legislators know that human trafficking legislation is important! Find your legislator’s contact information here.

Federal Actions Combatting Modern Slavery

Legislation regarding human trafficking and modern slavery has made great gains within the last ten years. Here’s a list of some of the most recent legislative actions to ending modern slavery:

  •  The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) was created and passed as a response to human trafficking.  TVPA is a three-pronged approach addressing human trafficking prevention, protection and prosecution.
  • The Customs and Facilitations and Trade Enforcement Act of 2009 prohibited importing goods made through the use of coercion or by victims of modern slavery.
  • The PROTECT Act or Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act of 2003 created punishments for individuals engaging in sex tourism with children, whether in the United States or internationally.
  • Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 established the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center. This center works to achieve effectiveness in the U.S.’ response to trafficking as well as collaborating internationally to address human trafficking throughout international travel and smuggling.

Another tool mandated by the Federal government is the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. This tool was created by the TVPA in 2000. The office heads the 3 strategies for ending human trafficking: prevention, protection and prosecution. Its primary function is to engage foreign governments to fight human trafficking collectively. The task force is also a liaison to Congress for the media, non-governmental agencies and the general public regarding human trafficking issues.

The Federal government has also established a non-governmental national hotline for human trafficking tips, questions and anti-trafficking resources. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center provides emergency assistance 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.  Contact information for the hotline is: 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree.

National Human Trafficking Resource Center

President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

La Cantinera – The Cantina Girl

Liliana

During the Allies Against Slavery Free Summit, I attended a film screening of “La Cantinera”. The documentary “La Cantinera” was filmed in Texas, specifically in Houston and Austin. La Cantinera followed a woman named Liliana, who lives in Houston. Liliana was a victim of human trafficking. Liliana and her mom immigrated to the United States when Liliana was only 12 years old. As a payment for their transportation into the U.S., Liliana and her mom were forced to live and work as prostitutes in a nightclub in Houston. These women were expected to converse and entertain men at the bar, sometimes drinking more than 40 beers a night, then lead them through secret doors to a back building where they would perform sex acts for money. Liliana recalls receiving only a small portion of her funds, giving the rest to pay her “debt” to the bar owner.  Liliana was a victim of human trafficking for almost 30 years until her escape from control.

The film also starred a “human trafficking fighting warrior”, Cat French. Cat is a sociology professor from Houston. She is an advocate for human trafficking, devoting hours of her time invading bars known for human trafficking, reaching out to victims and reporting illegal fractions of the bar, in hopes law enforcement will investigate and ultimately remove the bar’s alcohol license, forcing it to shut down. With the help of Cat, numerous bars and nightclub businesses have been shut down. Recently, Cat moved her anti-trafficking ministry, Elijah Rising, to a previously ran sex trafficking massage parlor.

Dotti Laster, another advocate featured in the film, explains that human trafficking happens “in plain sight” and often will go unnoticed even by law enforcement. She suggests the most effective responses to human trafficking are community education and community advocacy. Dotti also spoke about the need for Human Trafficking tasks force in collaboration with law enforcement and policy reforms to protect victims.

La Cantinera Movie Trailer

Check out Cat and Elijah Rising