Saturday, November 26, 2011

Preemptive Strike: Educating Our Police

For years traffickers have been getting away with their shenanigans because of a police force and court system that are uneducated about the issue.  Commercially exploited women and children are poorly treated, being arrested repeatedly while their pimp goes free, or being let off if they do a little "favor" for the arresting officer.  One of my friends was trafficked as a 14-year-old, and when she was finally able to call the police she was arrested, charged, and sexually abused by her probation officer.  This, unfortunately, is not an uncommon story.

Yet even in this depressing scenario, there is hope.  International Justice Mission (IJM), in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, conducted a study in the Philippines called Project Lantern.  Over the course of 4 years they focused on educating and training the police force and judiciary system for anti-trafficking in Cebu.  The result?  After only 4 years there has been a 79% decrease in the number of children available for commercial sex in Metro Cebu!

This ought to be a strong call to us in the United States, where women are supposedly "equal".  If a patriarchal country like the Philippines can see such a dramatic decrease in sexually exploited children in only 4 years simply by educating those in law, then let's educate our law enforcement too.   California Against Slavery is trying to put a measure on the 2012 ballot that would make it mandatory to train law enforcement against sex trafficking.  I believe this would be the first law of its kind in the U.S. If you're in California I urge you to sign the petition for the initiative and vote in the upcoming election.  If you're in another state, consider organizing a coalition and talking to law makers about enacting a similar law.   If anyone complains that it would cause the state to spend more money than they have, just point out how much money will be saved by jailing the perpetrator instead of having a revolving door of trafficked children going through the system...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I Am a Human Being

This is not a personal blog so my desire is that it be semi-professional, devastatingly informative, and not too chatty.  But sometimes my heart gets so wound up into the issue that I just want to burst.  Right now is one of those times.

I am a woman.  And I am sick to my core of women being viewed as objects, as lesser than, as easy prey.  I am a human being.   I have thoughts in my head, desires in my heart, skills in my hands.  I have the intrinsic right to protect my body, as far as I am able, from disease and abuse.  No one - no one, no one, NO ONE - has the intrinsic right to take that from me.  Anyone who desires to use me, manipulate me, physically hurt me, or willingly and unfeelingly subject me to emotional or physical harm or disease for his or her own benefit is acting outside the bounds of his or her rights.  

I am a human being.
It is not okay to use human beings.
It is not okay to misuse human beings.
It is not okay to abuse human beings.
The attitude of these men toward human beings is not okay.
It is not okay,
it is not okay,
it is not okay.

We throw around the word objectification a lot, but that's exactly what people who rape and traffick or knowingly use those who might be trafficked have done.  They have taken a human life - this bottle of experience and creativity and emotion and potential and life - and reduced it to any common object found lying around the house.  And less, even, because I bet every single one of the men interviewed in the article above has a smart phone or a laptop or a car or a favorite beer mug on which he places higher value than he has placed on the prostitute he's shagging.   

How can this be?  
How is it possible to think this way?

Oh God, change the heartbeat of the world, please.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Freedom Gifts for Christmas

Hey friends! Though this blog mainly address trafficking within the United States, we all know that it's a global problem and there are several international organizations that offer unique ways to give gifts to survivors of trafficking during Christmastime. My favorite is IJM, as they work in all areas of trafficking and are really big on training and utilizing local law enforcement.  Their 2011 Gifts of Freedom Catalogue can be found here.  So do something different for your loved ones this year and change the world in the process.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Initiate: Californians Against Sexual Exploitation

California Against Slavery (CAS) is beginning a signature gathering campaign for the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act for the 2012 ballot.  The initiative would increase prison terms and fines for traffickers, require them to register as sex offenders*, strengthen Megan's Law so that sexual predators would have to register their online accounts, mandate human trafficking training for law enforcement, prohibit the use of sexual history to prove criminal liability of trafficked victims, and remove the need to prove force when trafficking of a minor.  The campaign begins whenever the attorney general has approved the wording of initiative, but CAS thinks it will be sometime around December 1st.  If you live in California and are registered to vote here (or are willing to be registered in Cali), then please consider signing up to gather signatures.   We need 750,000 signatures to see this put on the ballot!  Even if you can't commit to collecting signatures or if you're out of state, let your California friends know about the initiative and encourage them to be involved.

*More on the importance of this in an upcoming post!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Changing Our Minds: The Problem with Blacks and Whores

Blacks are not fully evolved, and thus, not fully human.
Blacks are lazy and need someone to keep after them or they won't work.
Blacks are like lost children without their masters; they need to be taken care of.
Blacks are from the line of Cain and biblically deserve to be enslaved.
Blacks aren't smart enough to read...hold a free. 
Blacks exist for whites.
Blacks like being slaves. 

I shudder as I type these sentences, as you probably do reading them.  Yet this was once the mentality of thousands of people throughout the United States.  These were all lies people told themselves to feel better about their greed and oppressive actions. And the whites who believed these lies so many years ago really believed them - to their core. I wanted to use the "N" word in those sentences, to make them powerful and punch you in the face while you read this post, but 150 years of fighting for the dignity and equality of a once dehumanized portion of our population has been bred into my bones until it is impossible for me to use such an offense word.  Because I really believe Blacks are fully human, they are not intrinsically lazy, they are not biblically mandated to be slaves, and they are equal in intelligence, skill, and worth.  For me, a 21st century white person, it is incomprehensible that people once saw the world differently.  The fight has been worth it.*

But now we face a new foe (or, rather, an old that has yet to be conquered).  That of The Whore.

Whores are dirty girls who like sex and deserve what they get.
Whores don't mind being used by 50 men a day - hell, they're whores.
Whores (as women) biblically must submit to men in all things, including sex.
Whores (as women) are like emotional children who need to be led by a non-emotional man.
Whores aren't smart enough to hold a job other than whoring. 
Whores are the problem; they tempted the men in the first place.
Whores (as women) exist for men.
Whores like prostituting.

If you don't believe that the above-listed mentalities exist - and strongly - then we're not gonna get far in this fight against sex trafficking.  Trafficking begins as a mentality.  A girl is a whore before she is ever forced into prostitution.  She's a whore in the eyes of the mother who blames her when her dad rapes her.   She's a whore in the eyes of her classmates when she becomes promiscuous at school.  She's a whore in the eyes of the woman whose husband chooses to look at her...hit on her...sleep with her.  It is my strong belief that any girl roped into trafficking (not kidnapped and physically forced as some are, but rather coerced and manipulated) has some extreme brokenness in her past.  Rape by an older brother.  Rape by a neighbor.  Physical abuse by her parents.  There is something disconnecting in her that allows her to stay in a place where she's used 50 times a day - because no healthy woman wants to have sex 50 times a day with potentially disease-ridden, often physically abusive men.

If I have not convinced you that our collective prejudice against "The Whore" is one of the bonds holding her in captivity, then why is a girl picked up by the cops 100 times and her pimp not once?  Because she's the problem.  She's the one giving her body to the john.  Forget the father who raped her, the trafficker who addicted her to drugs, or the pimp who threatens her with death if she tries to escape.  Or why when I went to an anti-trafficking fundraising dinner did they only raise $7,000 for a recovery home, when I've been to pro-life dinners that have raised $20,000?  Because we're still not sure these girls are worth saving...after all, they got themselves into this in the first place, right? **

Need more of an argument?  I went to a signature-gathering training this weekend for an initiative strengthening laws against traffickers.  Someone raised the question of why the initiative would only strengthen laws against traffickers and not against the johns.  Our speaker said she'd fought to have something written in about johns, but all of her legal counsel told her not to.  Why?  "Because as a society we're still not ready for that.  The john is still not seen as a bad guy and the girl is still seen as a whore.  Were we to write harsher laws for johns into our initiative, it would not be passed."  Whoa. Yes, in a way most of the U.S. doesn't understand, our problem is The Whore.  Earlier I said I couldn't even type the "N" word, because it is so offensive. Yet 150 years ago people would have thought that impossible.  My hope - my sometimes shy, wavering, timid hope - is that 150 years from now, "whore" will be an equally offensive word because of how it once meant the dehumanization of half our population.  Let's start changing our minds.  Let's start seeing "The Whore "as the victimized girl she really is and get her the proper aid she needs to live a healthy and fulfilled life.  Let's erase "whore" from our vocabulary and our mindset and start treating all people with respect and dignity.


*This is not negating that racism still exists in our world.  It does.  Yet how far we've come from those days!

**Why, if we're going to turn our backs on them 13 years down the road, bother being pro-life when we know many of the children "saved" are going to be born into potentially abusive situations that will make them vulnerable to trafficking in the first place?  Why are we so shortsighted? At the risk of making all my conservative friends angry, if we are unwilling to change our minds about "The Whore" then I would almost rather see the poor things killed in the womb before they are later rejected by us noble folk who've worked so hard to give them a chance at "life". If we're going to be pro-life, we need to be willing to go all the way.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011