30 July 2010

One pair at a time

Soles4Souls - a charity that distributes shoe donations to the world's most desperate - has launched a new division. But this time, instead of collecting and giving away shoes, it's clothes. Clothes4Souls.

29 July 2010

The US$434,000 solution

Someone at the University of Central Florida might have the right idea. Teaching middle schoolers about abstinence with a video game sounds ingenious. If it works. With the average age around 13 for girls and boys entering the sex trade, there's room for change. But is this even close?

28 July 2010

100X worse than terrorism

Whats worse than 911? Since 2001 America's Homeland Security has been a hot topic. And calling the world's response paranoia is probably an understatement. But even with the extra security, there was still something we missed.

27 July 2010

Rapist held accountable, 200 yrs

This weekend I came across two articles. One was about an investigative reporter criticizing Virginia's laws on human trafficking. The reporter, and others, say they need newer, tougher laws.

26 July 2010

Operation FLICKer

Using the office computer for personal use is old news. Atleast as old as 2002. Thats when an investigation, code name Operation Flicker, started exposing government workers that were buying and/or subscribing to child porn sites.

22 July 2010

Positive identification

Taryn Simon says that positive identification doesn't always work. With photos she points out how positive identification has incarcerated many innocent people. After being chosen in a line up or photo comparison, the accused would spend the next decade in prison.

21 July 2010

Questioning photographs

Questioning the status quo is something thats necessary. Questioning sexual exploitation and human trafficking (or parts of it) drive me to publish week after week. Taryn Simon's photographs do the same.

Taryn Simon photographs secret sites | Video on TED.com

20 July 2010

Justice in Guatemala

For two years Cristofer was sexually abused by his father. Now he's four and his father won't be out of prison until Christofer is an adult.

To know about human trafficking...

Isn't enough anymore.

19 July 2010

The power of journalism

Last week Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, head of the U.S. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons was one of two officials on a first-ever United Nations panel discussion about how the news media is exposing and explaining modern slavery and human trafficking -- and how to do it better.


Something happened when outreach pastor Brad Pellish of Phoenix heard International Justice Mission (IJM) founder Gary Haugen speak. While getting an email about child rape and watching a documentary called Branded (not about tattoos), all within ten days, he was forced to rethink his entire ministry. The church couldn't make a huge financial impact then. So Pellish started with his local vice squad officers.

15 July 2010

Reporting on the report

Earlier this month an evaluation of the Swedish Sex Purchase Law, a law making the purchase of sex illegal, was distributed. For the last decade Sweden has earned the reputation as a model country in the fight against prostitution and sex trafficking, which I believe could be true, but how well is the law actually working?

14 July 2010

Corrupted young minds

Children starting or becoming involved in prostitution at such an early age, leave themselves little hope of having a normal life. The easily corrupted young minds of Thailand children usually result in most becoming career prostitutes. Western cultures expect this from Thailand, but how much different is it in America?

13 July 2010

Rape suspect released by mistake [update]

Ernest Clark, charged
with first-degree rape,
but released by
34 year old, Ernest Clark was serving a four year prison sentence earlier this year when evidence from a cold case investigation linked him to a first degree rape charge, and 10 other related assaults. Instead of holding him in custody once his prison term was up, Baltimore County Sheriff's dupties released him. Why - they lost his paperwork.

12 July 2010

Ateba Crocker - email interview

By now most of us realize how common sexual exploitation is in America. But what most of us don't realize is how hard it is to cope once its over.

This weekend I had a chance to correspond with Ateba Crocker, founder of Shoe Revolt. In an email interview she shared parts of her life that make it clear why she's in the position she is today. She's educated and well connected. But the important part of Ateba's story, she thinks, is what almost stopped her from telling it. Below is Ateba Crocker's interview with The Un-Protection blog.

I heard somewhere you said, as a young mother, to support your family you signed up for a job in an escort service. Later you found out it was a prostitution ring, but what made you stick around?
Yes - I was desperate. I didn't think I was a prostitute, prostitutes stood out on street corners I was a high class somebody (how silly, I know). But it made me feel important until I realized what it was really about and what was expected of me. Everything changed — I felt dirty and worth nothing but just a piece of meat. I didn't care about myself enough to stop- I stuck around because I was numb and didn't really know how to do anything different.

09 July 2010

Abuse doesn't have to leave stains

August 1st, the highly anticipated Shoe Revolt will launch it's fund raising enterprise to fight against domestic child trafficking.

The Shoe Revolt collects women's new and used shoes to be sold for a profit. The funds raised will go to benefit girls in need of rehabilitation from the sex trade.

The founder, Ateba Crocker, has a tender spot in her heart for these girls. She knows about the stains of abuse all too well. Her own story starts with abuse from her father starting at the age of 10. She later became a prostitute herself to support a young family.

But after growing up in an abusive environment, Ateba still has a light in her eye. She has her sights set on making sure as many girls get rehabilitated as possible. And she understands exactly what that means.

Ateba says, "this care is expensive, and often girls need to stay in programs for years until they are able to support themselves," ... "Our goal is to help provide safe places for victims to recover from their horrifying experiences. The fight doesn't stop when a victim is rescued – it stops when she is healing and living a life free of sexual exploitation."

ShoeRevolt.com is an online shoe boutique that raises awareness, inspires, and empowers women to donate high-end shoes to eradicate human trafficking in the United States with every donated shoe sold. Celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker, Emily West and Zöe Bell have donated shoes from their collections, as have executives, lawyers, politicians and stay-at-home moms.

Watch Ateba or visit ShoeRevolt.com.

08 July 2010

Loose the labels

The next time you run across someone with a title or label, ask yourself a question. How do I feel about this person's label? Does their label, somehow, bring us together, or create a gap?

Jacqueline Novogratz said, "what you call people distances us from them, and makes them little". That came after meeting a hard working African mother. The young mother was single, had three kids, and ran a sowing business. She saved up enough money to meet a match loan, making her a first time home owner.

The label Jacqueline was talking about was prostitute, because after her husband left, thats how the young African mother provided for her family. Thats how she survived.

What popular labels are keeping from making the greatest impact on the greatest need? How are you going to confront these labels?

Because the real truth is, for some people, all they need is for you to offer a choice... and that makes all the difference.

07 July 2010

Time isn't your only resource

So, you like the cause. You want to help victims of the sex trade, and as a matter a fact, you have this urge to run out and rescue a child every time it comes up. And then you start to think... "man, my life's got problems. Plus, I'm just too busy for this sort of thing". Let me add a suggestion - sponsor.

Emily Fitchpatrick says, "sponsorship is a GREAT idea!! For us, it takes $125 a week to provide shelter, clothing, hygiene products and feed a resident. We also have a 17-year old resident in the process of raising $5,000 for Esthetic School in September. This would be a great opportunity for her."

So, is it possible for a church, organization, or person to know a set amount needed to sponsor a child, or would it be better to set up sponsorship arrangements once they leave a program, such as supply tuition for classes and/or job training?

It would've taken you longer to ask that question and wait for a response than to support them both. Not that asking questions isn't what you should do.

I know I made this sound really simple and quick. But thats how we see it when our emotions kick in.

The next time someone mentions volunteering, you can give a confident, "no, I don't have time". But keep asking questions to see how your situation can work with theres. Maybe you only help out during a project or an event. But a one time gift of such and such is what everyone else does. Lets try to change it up this time around.

06 July 2010

When churches fight

In a recent phone interview with actor/writer/film maker Michael Cory Davis, I got a chance to hear him express an interesting equation. Churches plus unity equales zero domestic child trafficking.

In other words, the local churches in America commit to take action, partner with other churches, hold each other accountable, and fight - all at the same time. Michael says the numbers are real. Theres 100,000 kids, mostly American, on the streets right now - and thats a low estimate. But in a country with unlimited resources, how is this possible?

So, instead of relying on the government for programs and policies, I want to go with the idea of the church being a solution. Here are some things a church can do in the fight against domestic child trafficking:

1. Sponsor - how much $$ to shelter and feed a victim for a week? Ask someone whose doing it and give.
2. Outreach/Missionary events (motel outreach, truck stop outreach, a street corner or even a whole community)
3. Awareness events (a 50 church spirit walk, poster exhibits, host a film, bring in experts to speak)
4. Special Offerings to give where you see fit
5. Tuition Assistance - also apart of sponsorship (this could also be for girls over 18) and don't forget...
6. Pray

Feel free to add to the list. Get specific. Get a niche. Its only when a large number of churches commit to fight, that people will start to see this crime in a different light.

The list above in no way says [some] churches aren't already doing their part. The purpose of the information given is to point out that maybe we could do something different this fiscal year. Because overall, last year's action plan didn't come close.

Michael Cory Davis | Tuition Assistance | 100,000 minors

05 July 2010

Decoding your teen's digital courage

Recently, Mark Gregston pointed out that one third of teens are known to be sending each other inappropriate photos or comments. Nothing new because we've all heard sext or sexting. But how much do we know about it? What does it look like? Would we know a sext if we saw one?

Now, since just about every kid has a cell phone, its EASY for parents to be oblivious to their kid's secret social life. It used to be, if a girl or boy called the home, parents could at least be filters. Now its more like taxis and ATMs. But what is happening is kids are connecting to the rest of the world with high tech smart.phones. A tool that allows teens and tweens a chance to communicate with strangers like never before, and in ways that were never intended.

Anyone know code?
Whether its text, twitter, flickr or chat, theres a code that makes everything easier to get across. By using numbers or just the first letter of each word, you now have a code. Add a kid to this equation and... yeah, its madness.

Think back for a second... have you noticed the word POS on your kid's phone lately? What about the number 8? POS means Parent Over Shoulder, and the number 8 means oral sex. 1174 means nude club, as in joining one. DUM means, Do You Masturbate? IMEZRU means, I Am Easy, Are You? And LMIRL means, Let's Meet In Real Life.

Theres plenty more, but the good news is you can crack the code. Theres sites you can visit that give a clear understanding of the short hand and slang your kids might use.

Mark, whose the founder and director of Heartlight Ministries, doesn't recommend taking a teen's cell phone away - its just too big a part of a teen's social life, plus it helps you keep track of your kids. Mark says give your kids another tool... one that overrides the others.
"you’d do well to teach your teen discernment, since they can access all the good and the bad in the world from just about anywhere by their cell phone."

Sexting | Mark Gregston | Decoding sext

02 July 2010

Beat the market - [updated link]

Swanee Hunt said this: Yes, it's crucial to help rescue victims of trafficking. However, unless we deal with the market, trafficking will continue to grow. It's more likely that we can curb the demand for commercial sex and labor before we solve the social inequities that contribute to the supply.

In America alone its been almost impossible to arrest johns, forget about prosecution. Almost impossible to expose it for what it really is. Its not like theres been a formula, or some sort of checklist to follow. And with nothing solid to stand on, it seems impossible to stand, atleast until now.

When I think of the market I think of the john. The supply is represented by some sort of teen prostitute - atleast in my mind. Thats just the way I envision it. And you have your image, the general public have their image, and the police have their's. But the result is this:

Theres only one that gets arrested, the other one goes home. One gets a criminal record, while the other appears to have never existed. And if the 'other' does get arrested... they STILL go home.

Not because its right, not because its fair. Not because it works... but because its allowed. You didn't know that? Yeah, theres an unwritten rule in this world that says a thing is allowed the moment you ignore it. Kinda hard to beat something you're busy pretending hasn't happened.

So, here's a quick list on a few ways to beat the market:
  • Understand it
  • Challenge people's words (jokes, conversations, casual comments, etc...)
  • Stop patronizing it
  • Write a letter when Editors victim blame
  • Raise awareness with posters
  • Host a film screening
  • Volunteer your time
  • Encourage males to think different
  • Encourage schools to educate different
  • Point out businesses that profit from trafficking
  • Use the Community Response Toolkit by CAASE
  • Talk to your Chief of Police about arresting johns
  • Keep learning
  • Stay up to date
  • Become an expert
  • Share your ideas
For those that are curious, the market isn't the only flaw. Theres problems with all sorts of issues around trafficking someone into a sex trade. You've got a wide range to learn about and confront. Like for instance, if you only want to learn about demand and take action against another end of the process, thats cool. Theres only one question you have to answer really... when are you going to start?

01 July 2010

Adults overcoming childhood sex baggage

For a lot of adults the past of childhood sexual abuse is a well kept secret, and part of life. But today I want to share how to completely let it go, and move on. The first step ... talking about it.

In the fight to end sexual exploitation, I've always believed that the root of the problem will always lead you to some form of a solution. For adults with baggage this could mean looking to the past for problems in a specific area, or realizing a negative reaction to intimacy. Once you take that look the side effects of childhood sexual abuse (or having sex too early) are probably obvious.

If you've been following this blog for a bit then this next thing is a known fact. Theres a good chance that abused kids will runaway to what they think is a safer environment, the streets. But there are others who are abused who might tough it out; the adults I'm referring to.

They might make it to graduation; go to college; get a good job and attempt to live a normal life despite the odds. They become successful in their career and have great friendships, but never let anyone get too close romantically. So they miss out on everything a long term relationship has to offer.

In the movie Precious, based on the novel Push, by Sapphire, comedian/actress Mo'Nique played a mentally ill mother who allowed her daughter to be molested. Around the time the movie was made, Mo'Nique spoke out about being molested by her brother at the age of seven. Lasting four years while her parents stood by in disbelief.

You then theres Queen Latifah's confession about childhood abuse. In an interview with Essence Magazine the Queen revealed being abused as a child by a teenage baby sitter that was trusted by the family. She said this:
"He violated me," ... "I never told anybody; I just buried it as deeply as I could and kept people at an arm's distance. I never really let a person get too close to me. I could have been married years ago, but I had a commitment issue." ... "When I was 22, my brother died, and I knew that I couldn't carry his death and THAT SECRET," ... "I had to get it off my chest."
Queen Latifah on the cover of Essence
Now Queen Latifah's over that hump. She's in a healthy, committed relationship with her boyfriend and his young son. Shes also looking to make a family of her own one day.

The trauma attached to sexual abuse - childhood sex abuse, just plain abuse or having sex too early - can be one of the most shameful, but how does dealing with it work? How does it affect everyone around you? How does it affect your expectations of new relationships? Who can you talk to?
"I celebrate this award with all the Precious, with all the Marys. I celebrate this award with every person thats ever been touched. Its now time to TELL, and its okay." - Mo'Nique, Golden Globe Awards, 2010