By Megan Richardson, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
Human Trafficking has become a much publicized topic within the past few years, and while many people are starting to know more about it, it’s hard to know exactly how to engage in the movement other than by donating to an organization that helps survivors. Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission is quoted as saying “Nothing happens just because we are aware of modern slavery, but nothing will EVER happen until we are.” Knowledge is power, and just like with the dynamics of domestic violence and sexual assault, the more you know the more capable you are to help survivors walking through your doors.
If you work at a domestic violence/sexual assault shelter, you may have worked with a “trafficking” survivor without even knowing it. Trafficking survivors are experiencing sexual assault and domestic violence regularly, so how are they any different? There are many complicating factors to keep in mind when working with survivors of trafficking including the following: identifying survivors, challenges to rehabilitation, understanding complex trauma and utilizing trauma informed care.
Because of the covert nature of human trafficking, it is rare for a victim to self-identify. This is mostly because victims blame themselves, thinking they have consented to doing this type of work. Traffickers target vulnerabilities, and frequently use a victim's history of sexual abuse or neglect by convincing them that they can take back control of their trauma by making money off of sex – an act that has previously caused them so much pain. By targeting vulnerable populations, victims then take ownership of the decisions being made and believe what is happening to them is an empowering choice. Once a victim is initiated into “the Life,” it becomes very difficult to get out. Pimps can earn up to $632,000 per year by selling four young women or children, meaning they have a lot to lose if someone leaves. Therefore, clients also do not self-identify out of fear due to threats of deportation, violence, or attempts at keeping their family safe from retribution.
Survivors also often view their situation as temporary, and have been taught to mistrust law enforcement or other agencies that are in place to keep them safe. Identifying survivors can be complicated, but not impossible. Red flags that might arise in working with a client could consist of any involvement in sex work, underpayment in promised work, confiscation of legal documents, different work than promised, and working to pay off a debt. It can also be important to keep in mind that women can be traffickers too! Within the trafficking culture, there is room to move up in ranks, so it possible a woman who is a trafficker now has been in the business and has her own experience of abuse from an early age.
Because the issue of trafficking has become so sensationalized, many people are quick to take action, but just as quickly surprised at certain challenges to rehabilitation that arise. We like to think that once someone is rescued from their pimp, they will resume a normal lifestyle without complications, and fail to think victims could possibly return to such a violent and life threatening lifestyle, much like in cases involving domestic violence. Many survivors have gone through a “turning out” period with their trafficker involving intermittent violence and mixed message that create trauma bonds similar to the Stockholm Syndrome, where victims experience empathy and sympathy towards their perpetrators. Through this established loyalty, they may have been conditioned to believe that everyone else is against them. Relapse is high and likely due to the psychological control exerted over them, and reflects the traumatic bonds established early on in the relationship. Other challenges typically presented in a clinical setting include problems engaging in a trusting relationship, sexual confusion, resistance, and difficulty adhering to rules and structure.
For survivors of Human Trafficking, a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) just is not enough. Trafficking survivors have often experienced complex trauma including early childhood abuse and then continued interpersonal trauma for prolonged periods of time. The difference between someone in a shelter for domestic violence is that they may be seeking safety from one person in the community, while a survivor of trafficking is likely to have been violated by many. It’s probable that a trafficking survivor has been perpetrated by their pimp, their buyers or “johns,” and/or people appointed by the pimp to help inflict punishment. Even if a pimp is incarcerated, there are often additional networks of people that are likely and capable of causing significant harm to the client, therefore, causing experiences of poly-trauma, from multiple abusers. Having been exposed to such complex trauma, clients can present in a state of either hyperarousal or hypoarousal, and might seek services for a variety of psychological disorders including, but not limited to Substance Abuse Disorders, Attachment Disorder, Somatic Disorders, Dissociative Disorders, Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, and more.
When working with survivors, just as with other clients, it is important to be non-judgmental and respectful, recognizing the strengths within them that have helped them to survive. Trauma informed questioning can assist in establishing a safe and trusting relationship. What would it mean to say something like “every couple has problems – what are some things in your relationship you don’t like.” versus “have you ever been abused?” Particularly with trafficking clients, it can help to address emergency and basic needs first, and present opportunities for choice, such as “would you like something to drink?” Be up front about who you are and your goals for speaking with them, while asking for permission for things like taking notes or closing the door. Setting appropriate boundaries for the client will become necessary, while also making sure to take care of yourself, as this can be very difficult work.
There are immigration remedies available for survivors of trafficking and many organizations ready to take action and offer support to service providers. For additional resources and information, I recommend you contact The Polaris Project, your state-level Coalition Against Human Trafficking, World Relief, and/or Shared Hope International.
Megan Richardson currently works as a Crisis Intervention Therapist and Advocate. In this role, she mostly works with survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking, offering individual and family counseling, group treatment, and advocacy services including 50b restraining order and immigration remedy assistance, safety planning, and ongoing support. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) with her Master’s and Educational Specialist Degree in couples and family counseling. After graduating from UNCG, she worked with a non-profit organization in the Philippines assisting survivors of human trafficking, and offering training opportunities to those working closely with survivors.
By Sara Forcella, See the Triumph Contributor
The term “sex trafficking” may resonate differently with us all--for some of us this term is completely unfamiliar and unknown, and for others this term may remind you of a scene in a dramatic movie or book. Whether you are completely unaware of sex trafficking, or you believe that it only happens in some far off land, I urge you to consider that sex trafficking is a very real concern which affects thousands of Americans every year.
These statistics show just how much sex trafficking affects our nation.
Sex trafficking does not only happen in far off nations or non-fiction novels, it may be happening right in your backyard. In fact, victims of sex trafficking have been found in all 50 US states in areas ranging from cities, suburbs and rural areas (Polaris Project). No community in the US is left unaffected. Sex trafficking is not something that is always hidden, in some instances, the industry relies on various legal and legitimate business settings all around the US to traffic their victims. Victims of sex trafficking may be forced to work in brothels, online escort services, fake massage business, strip clubs and as prostitutes (Polaris Project).
Whether you have been directly affected by this or indirectly affected, sex trafficking affects us all in some way or another. Therefore, it’s important for all of us to take a stand and help end its existence. This may seem like a daunting and unreasonable task, but there are small and simple steps that you can take to help victims and possible future victims of sex trafficking.
If you have any information, tips or questions related to sex trafficking, call The National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s toll-free hotline, at 1-888-373-7888
By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
Although attention to the issue of human trafficking has increased, in many communities, specific services to support survivors of trafficking have yet to be developed. In some areas, agencies that typically serve survivors of intimate partner violence and/or sexual assault are leading the way to ensure that survivors of trafficking also can receive the support and resources they need.
There are many potential overlaps between trafficking and intimate partner violence, including the following:
According to Futures Without Violence, some of the services that survivors of trafficking need include physical and mental healthcare, legal services, assistance with immigration issues, and tangible resources, such as housing.
Across the country, many agencies are collaborating with others in their community to ensure that survivors of trafficking have access to these resources. For example, in New York, Sanctuary for Families has a comprehensive Anti-Trafficking Initiative. In New York City, Safe Horizon has an Anti-Trafficking Program, which both provides services to victims and works to educate the community about this issue. In Dallas, Mosaic Family Services offers support, such as legal representation and counseling, to survivors of both trafficking and domestic violence. Other organizations, such as the Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence in Corvallis, Oregon, help raise awareness about trafficking by providing information on their web-site.
Other resources exist to help agencies who wish to provide competent services to survivors of trafficking. These include a manual for domestic violence service provider agencies from the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a set of recommendations from the Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, and an assessment guide from the Polaris Project.
There’s a lot of work to be done to continue to educate the public about trafficking and to ensure that there are adequate services for survivors in every community. We’re thankful to those who are leading the way in communities across the country to both prevent and respond to this important issue.
Human trafficking, including sex trafficking, is recently gaining greater public recognition and media attention. If you’re looking for resources to learn more about trafficking, we’ve pulled together some of the sites we’d recommend for credible, useful information.
Here’s our list:
This list is just an introduction to the many resources available for learning about trafficking and ways to help. For even more ideas of ways you can get involved in anti-human trafficking efforts, the U.S. Department of State offers a great list of 20 ways you can get involved.
Also, be sure to check if your own state or community has coalitions or organizations working to address trafficking in your area. Three listings of these organizations can be found through Humantrafficking.org, the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, and Wikipedia.
Have you ever heard of social problems--like human trafficking--and wanted to take action, but you didn't know where to begin? If so, we hope you'll be inspired by our Q & A today with Angela Moran, who is one of the founders of Change Purse. Through Change Purse, Angela and her colleagues collect donated purses, sell them, and use the profits to benefit organizations that are working to support survivors of sex trafficking. We were inspired when we heard her story, and we invited her to share some reflections with our See the Triumph community. Her story is an amazing example of how everyone can take action to help provide support to survivors of abuse!
Q: What is Change Purse?
Angela Moran: Change Purse encourages hope through raising awareness and by investing into the lives of victims and survivors of sex-trafficking. We are a 501(c)(3) non profit organization that collects donated purses and resells them and uses the profits to fulfill our mission statement. We do not have any employees so 100% of the funds raised go towards the ministry of Change Purse.
Q: How did you first get the idea to create Change Purse?
Angela Moran: I heard about sex-trafficking in October of 2006 and knew I needed to do something about it. Being a stay at home mom, I had every excuse in the world to not do something but God was calling my heart to action. The only thing I could think that I had to offer was my love of Jesus and my love of purses so I prayed a wild and crazy prayer that went something like this "Jesus, I love you and I love purses and so if I could use my love of you and my love of purses to change the world, that would be awesome." The ideas just came flooding in after that. I called my best friend and told her I was thinking about selling my purses to fight sex-trafficking. We never expected this to take off like it did, but it has just been amazing! People want to help and Change Purse is just an easy way to do that.
Q: Why purses?
Angela Moran: I have always had a love of purses. I collected them for every occasion and always found myself looking for that "perfect" next purse. I realize now that it was God stirring this in me -- and when you surrender even your "weakness", He makes it perfect!
Q: Why should people care about sex trafficking?
Angela Moran: Because it's somebody's daughter... sister... what if it were your family member? It's so easy for us to think of Sex-Trafficking as a faceless crime, but people who are being sold for sex did not choose this. There are no young girls who want to grow up and sell themselves for sex. It's a crime against vulnerability and we have a responsibility to care for those involved. This includes the men. The saddest part for me is not that women are selling themselves for sex, but rather that people are buying sex. People are not for sale. Sex is not for sale. Sex was created by God to be an intimate union between a husband and wife. It has been distorted by our society and we have lost sight of it's original plan!
Q: How is sex trafficking related to intimate partner violence/domestic violence?
Angela Moran: Sex used to leverage power is the basis of sex-trafficking. The PIMPS sell the victims because they have convinced them that they are owned. The men or women (yes both do it) who purchase sex of the victims (both girls, boys, men and women - no one is excluded) do this to exert power over the victims. Victims of intimate partner / domestic violence are often forced to have sex with their abusive partner despite how they feel, or sex is used to be a "peace making" act in hopes that the victim will forget the abuse. Regardless, it's about power and control. Sex is not about power or control. Sex is a consensual loving act between a husband and wife who want to give themselves fully to the other person out of love and adoration, not fear, control or shame.
Q: How can people get involved in the work that Change Purse is doing?
Angela Moran: There are many ways. Set up a collection site at your church, local business or agency. Once the box is full, sort the purses for the new/like new ones and mail them to us! You can also request a Freedom Kit that will walk you through how you can host your own event. After collecting the purses, you set up a time/place for people to come shop (such as a Women's breakfast, a group of friends, or a monthly event at your social organization). Before the event, you clean out the purses, put price tags on them (which we provide!) and then sell the purses. Send us the money you raise! It's a simple, practical strategy anyone can do to help fight sex-trafficking.
Q: Your full-time job is being a stay-at-home mom. What unique insights does that role offer you in your work to address sex trafficking?
Angela Moran: My #1 job is to raise my boys to know 3 things. 1. They are a child of God and He has a great plan for their lives. 2. They are not for sale, from anyone. No one should offer them money, goods, or services with an expectation that they will do something for them. This is not ok. 3. Women, and their bodies, are to be held in high esteem, respected, loved and cherished. They are not for sale. I always hope that being a stay-at-home Mom doesn't make me less credible, but simply more personable. I'm in this fight with everyone else. I want my children to be safe and for everyone else in my sphere of influcence to be safe too. We encourage people to take a NIMBY stance... Not In My Back Yard. Tell everyone you come in contact with about sex-trafficking. Let them know they are valuable (because if you don't tell them, someone else will... and more than likely their motives are not pure). And tell them they are not for sale. Make sure NO ONE that you know is a victim or buyer of sex-trafficking. We outnumber the bad guys -- together we can make a difference!
Note: You can learn more about the work that Angela is doing through Change Purse in this news story: http://myfox8.com/2012/01/12/inspired-living-change-purse/.