Human Trafficking: Slavery yet to be abolished Part 3

images

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Elie Wiesel, Professor, Holocaust Survivor, Nobel Laureate

And sometimes protesting an issue involves taking huge steps and lots of concentrated action. Combating Human Trafficking is an issue that requires collaborative and concentrated action.

Here are some statistics from the first part of this three part blog.

  1. Every 60 seconds a person is bought, sold or forced into slavery. (U.S. Department of health and Human Services)
  2. Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. (U.S. Department of State)
  3. Human Traffickers make an estimated $32 billion dollars annually. (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC)
  4. An estimated 20.9 million children, women and men worldwide are trafficked for commercial sex or forced labor. (UNODC)
  5. As many as 17,500 foreign nationals are believed to be trafficked into the United States each year, with almost 9,000 (50%) of those victims being children. (U.S. Department of Justice)
  6. An estimated 100,000 children, who are U.S. citizens, are victims of trafficking within the United States (U.S. Department of Justice).
  7. An estimated 82% of human trafficking cases are classified as sex trafficking (U.S. Department of Justice).
  8. An estimated 12,000 (83%) of sex trafficking involves U.S. citizens and almost 5,000 (40%) of those cases involved the sexual exploitation or prostitution of a child. (Congressional Research Service
  9. The average age of entry into prostitution by a trafficker is 13. (U.S. Department of Justice)
  10. Approximately 300,00 children nationwide are at risk of sexual exploitation; and of the close to 1.5 million runaway children, about 500,000 (1/3) will have some experience with prostitution. (U.S. News and world report)
  11. An estimated 70% child trafficking victims are sold online (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime)

Since 2011, in response to this enormous problem, a nationwide sex-trafficking sting was developed called “National Day of Johns.” This yearly operation surrounds heavily attended events like the Super Bowl. It’s really about supply and demand. As the amount of sex buyers or “Johns” increase so do the amount of sex trafficking victims. While several studies examining online sex purchasing indicate the market is driven more by local demand, in every city, every day, the Super Bowl draws so many spectators that some have called it the largest trafficking event in the country. Each year, more arrests are made and more victims, many that are underage, are rescued. Last year, from January 15 to February 1, culminating on the day of the Super Bowl, nearly 70 law enforcement agencies in 17 states arrested 570 would be sex buyers (johns), 23 men, commonly called sex traffickers, and rescued 68 victims of human trafficking.

In addition to sex trafficking stings, most states have developed human trafficking task forces to:  Help law enforcement fully understand the scope of the problem, develop laws that hold traffickers and sex buyers of trafficked victims accountable through prosecution, mobilize communities to care for victims and develop campaigns for public awareness and advocacy.

Finally, there are individuals, many who are survivors of human trafficking, who are protesting this problem by making a difference. One such individual is Theresa Flores. She was a high school sophomore from an affluent family in Birmingham, Michigan in the 1980’s. Theresa was trafficked, physical tortured and emotional abused for two years.

As a survivor she recently started a program called S.O.A.P. (save our adolescents from prostitution). Bars of soap are wrapped in labels That feature the National Human Trafficking Hotline number and asks “Are you being forced to do anything you don’t want to do?”. Her program volunteers then take these bars of soap to motels (many that rent by the hour), strip clubs and other spots where trafficking victims may taken. She hopes that the toll free number and message on the soap bars may help make a difference.

Here is Theresa Flores’s story

Sometimes even the smallest protest can help prevent injustice. As Physicist and Nobel Laureate, Albert Einstein said.

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”

If you like this post please share it.

 

 

Hell is for Children

Stop-child-abuse-stop-child-abuse-31299664-600-927

In 1980, after being impacted by a series of articles in the New York Times on child abuse in America, rock artist Pat Benatar, co-wrote and recorded Hell is For Children.  Pat later shared during an interview that she was stunned that this problem even existed. And while Pat had never heard of, or experienced the intense pain and anguish associated with, child abuse, she tried to communicate those intense feelings in her song.

Thirty-six years later, with national, documented child victimization rates higher than they have been in 5 years, many of us wonder what kind of impact we have had on child abuse and neglect. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) of 2010 defines child abuse and neglect (Child Maltreatment) as, at a minimum:

Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm. (United States Department of Health and Human Services).

In 2015, President Obama signed into law the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 (P.L. 114–22). This new law requires each state to report the number of children, determined to the best of their ability, identified as victims of sex trafficking. All states are allowed to define a child as any person under the age of 24.

Listed below is some of the most recent data, from October 1, 2013-September 30, 2014, of substantiated cases of child maltreatment (investigations that determine that there was sufficient evidence under state law to conclude or suspect that the child was maltreated or at-risk of being maltreated). The data was collected by the Department of Health and Human Services from 50 states along with the District of Columbia and Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This data shows that:

Every 60 seconds a child is abused or neglected

  • There were an estimated 702,000 victims of child abuse and neglect.

A number large enough to fill 10 NFL football stadiums

  • Over 25% (27.4%) of these victims were younger than 3 years of age and the victimization rate was highest for children younger than 1 year.

Every day, between 4 and 5 five child die from child abuse and neglect

  • An estimated 1,580 children died as a result of abuse and neglect.

Greater than the enrollment in many public, urban high schools

  • Nearly 71% (1,122) of all child fatalities were younger than 3 years of age.
  • Almost 45% (44.2%) of all children who died were under 1 year of age.
  • Almost 80% (79.3%) of child fatalities involved parents acting alone, together, or with other individuals.

And, as if these numbers are not staggering enough, they do not include children who would now (since 2015) be reported as sex trafficking victims. Nor do they include victims who’s abuse goes unreported.

Many of you may ask if the numbers of child abuse and neglect victims are higher simply because agencies are better at collecting/compiling data? Or, because there are now more mandated reporters (62% of the reports came from professionals).

Or, perhaps, we are simply paying better attention as we come in contact with child abuse victims or adults who were abused as children. Research suggests that victims of child maltreatment are more likely to experience cognitive (difficulty in school), behavioral (delinquency, violent crime, early sexual activity, drug and alcohol use) and psychological problems (Child Welfare Information Gateway, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control). In addition, results of these studies also show that 80% of 21 year olds who reported that they had been abused as children met the criteria for at least one psychological disorder including: anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder and conduct disorder.

Further, the financial burden of child abuse impacts every segment of society. Research suggests that the total lifetime economic cost of new child maltreatment cases in the United States in just one year is $124 Billion (Child Welfare Information Gateway, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control).

So, what are we doing to help combat child abuse and neglect? At the federal and state levels, laws are being introduced and enacted to increase awareness of different types of abuse (such as the new sex trafficking law) and of those convicted of felony child abuse. In Michigan, one mother is trying to garner support for a new statewide registry called Wyatt’s Law. The law is named after her son, Wyatt, who in 2013 at 6 months of age was put in a medically induced coma and on life support after his father’s girlfriend severely shook Wyatt causing a massive brain hemorrhage, a fractured skull, bilateral retinal hemorrhaging and broken ribs. This same woman had been convicted twice before, in 2011 and 2013 of child abuse charges. However, as there was no public record of the abuse, Wyatt’s mother is attempting to create one through a statewide registry.

Individually, there are countless ways that we can help make a difference. As Elie Wiesel said:

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

As an undergraduate at Michigan State University, a Sociology professor named Cy Stewart challenged our class to take sides when it came to child abuse. To stand up for those who cannot do so themselves and to not allow injustice to occur without becoming involved.

Thirty five years later, I still rise to that challenge and surround myself with those who do so as well. What about all of you? Even the smallest of actions can make a difference in the life of a child. So today, perhaps you can ask yourself “what role can I play in preventing child abuse and neglect?”  

If you like this post Please Share

 

 

After the love is gone: How to tell the children about divorce

 

o-kids-divorced-parents-facebook

My parents’ divorce would have screwed me up a lot less if they’d bothered telling me about it.

Crystal, age 50

When most of you made the commitment to marry, you believed that you would be married for life. Sure there would be some difficulties along the way. However, you would get through those rough times and still be together. Unfortunately, that is not how your marriage worked out and now you are making one of the most difficult and heart wrenching decisions of your life.

You are going to divorce.

Now comes the next hardest part. How do you explain this to those who are going to be affected by this decision. In particular, how do you tell your children. Here are a few strategies that may help make these difficult conversations a little easier.

 

  • Do the least harm. Ask yourself, If I share this detail, how will it help my child feel more safe, secure, loved or make this experience easier? If you cannot answer those questions positively, then do not share something that is not in their best interest.
  • Is it real? Make absolutely sure that you really are divorcing. If you are struggling yet trying to work on the relationship, do not tell your children that you are considering divorce.
  • Plan it out, write it down and schedule it. This isn’t the time for a spontaneous conversation. Decide on what will be said and how it will be presented and write it down so you don’t forget as you deal with the children’s emotions during your conversation. While you may not know how much time you need, expect at least an hour or so for the first conversation (yes, there may very well be more than one). Stay away from bed times, car rides, before work, school or your children’s extra curricular activities.
  • Tell them as a team. Regardless of who wanted or initiated the divorce, or the factors precipitating it, the children need to hear this news from the two of you, together. If for some very convincing reason, one of you is physically unable to discuss this with the children as a team (including incarceration, permanently living in another continent where Skype is unavailable); or truly cannot stand to be in the same room with one another even if it is in your children’s best interest, then the two of you need to agree what you both will say and how it will be said during your separate conversations.
  • Avoid blaming: It takes two people to make a marriage and two people to break it. With that said, avoiding the blame game can be especially difficult when one of you feels that the other has caused irreparable damage. Remember that the children’s need for security and reassurance are more important than your own need for retribution.
  • Always tell the truth. Now this can be very tricky. The truth might be that only one of you wants the divorce, that you are devastated and scared or that one or both of you cheated. While these may all be true, is telling your children these things doing the least harm? Perhaps some form of the following is a safer, more protective truth for them to hear.

“Sometimes adults do things to one other, their feelings change, they fall out of love and they can’t get it back. However, adults loving each other is completely different than parents loving their children. There is never, ever anything you could do that would change our feelings for you or make us stop loving you.”

  • Think like your child. Most children think that they are very powerful. After all, they can walk in a room as a youngster and adults will stop what they are doing and give them their undivided attention. Therefore, they may believe that the divorce is their fault. Deal with that issue as soon as you can. let them know that there is nothing that they did or could do to cause your divorce. It is an adult decision. For children, the biggest issue and unknown is how the divorce will affect them. So be honest in discussing the changes that may occur, such as: Living arrangements, school, time they will spend with each of you or pick ups and drop offs. Assure them that you will be there to help with any changes that occur.
  • Stability, stability, stability. There will be so much tumult during the divorce that you need to balance it with what will stay the same. Things like school, friends, activities, visits with relatives or babysitters.  Perhaps if they like, their bedroom in the new house could look similar to there bedroom now. Remember that your love for them will always stay the same.
  • Feelings are real. It is okay to let the children know that you are sad. Assure them that they can always talk about their feelings with you or someone they trust. Do not allow your feelings to overpower their needs. They should never be put in a position to take care of you. It is your job to comfort them.
  • Use your support system. There are people in your lives who need to know about the divorce. Teachers, coaches, instructors, babysitters, friends’ parents should be informed and asked to be mindful of any clear behavior changes.
  • Find a family therapist. Know when to ask for help for you and/or your children. Marriage and family therapists are specifically educated and trained to help families deal affectively with the challenges inherent in the divorce process. Make sure to look for licensed marriage and family therapists that are at least clinical fellows with The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. They have a “find a therapist” area on their website: www.aamft.org

Divorce isn’t just the person, it’s everything that goes with it – your kids, the adjustment, everything.

Peter Andre, Singer/songwriter

 

If you like this post, please share it.

 

 

images

Human Trafficking: Slavery yet to be abolished, Part 2

“What they did to me was evil. They ripped away all my dignity and all my last bit of self-esteem. By the end of it I had no emotion whatsoever.”

Human Trafficking Survivor, Girl A

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, defines human trafficking as an “act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of  force, fraud or coercion or for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, debt bondage or slavery” (U.S. Department of State). Human trafficking is considered modern day slavery and is the second largest and fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world (U.S. Department of State). “Whereas a drug can be sold once, a person can be sold over and over again” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources).

Research on identifying victims of human trafficking find that they suffer from high levels of violence, including:

Physical violence (broken bones, burns, bruises, brandings and scarring), sexual violence (rape, sexual assault injuries, forced abortions, sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS, pelvic pain and urinary tract infections), psychological violence (threats of violence to self and loved ones, humiliation and intimidation, restricting access to funds, confiscating earnings and passport). 

Stories and first hand accounts from survivors of sex trafficking often describe the intense violence they have been forced to endure. One such story, comes from a brave 16 year old, Shauna Newell.Shauna Newell’s Story

Trafficked children like Shauna, who experience the depth and magnitude of this type of trauma, often show signs of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD involves “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence, experienced directly or indirectly with repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event” (American Psychological Association).

Signs of PTSD may include: Anxiety and mood disorders, recurrent recollections and nightmares, physical/psychological reactions to cues that resemble an aspect of the trauma, avoidance of thoughts, feelings, conversations, people, places and things associated with the trauma, lack of interest or participation in activities in daily life, inability to recall important memories associated with the trauma, irritability, startle response, difficulty concentrating and falling or staying asleep.

It can take years to help a victim of human trafficking heal from the trauma, restore their dignity and find the resilience to take back control of their life. Control that should have never been stolen in the first place. Stolen by perpetrators who would treat children like a commodity.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said it best during a White House Forum on Combating Human Trafficking:

“Money may be able to buy a lot of things, but it should never, ever be able to buy another human being.”

Watch for the next blog: Human Trafficking Part 3 and please share this post

 

 

 

 

 

 

images

Human Trafficking: Slavery yet to be abolished

images
Lisa Kristine, photographer of modern day slavery, recently shared:

“When people think of slavery, they think of an era from the distant past. Grainy photographs from Civil War times. And yet it goes on.”

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. It is the illegal trade of children, women and men for exploitation or commercial gain; typically for the purposes of forced labor (labor trafficking) or commercial sexual exploitation (sex trafficking) using force, fraud or coercion. Michigan Human Trafficking law and definitions

Here are some appalling statistics:

  1. Every 60 seconds a person is bought, sold or forced into slavery. (U.S. Department of health and Human Services)
  2. Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. (U.S. Department of State)
  3. Human Traffickers make an estimated $32 billion dollars annually. (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC)
  4. An estimated 20.9 million children, women and men worldwide are trafficked for commercial sex or forced labor. (UNODC)
  5. As many as 17,500 foreign nationals are believed to be trafficked into the United States each year, with almost 9,000 (50%) of those victims being children. (U.S. Department of Justice)
  6. An estimated 100,000 children, who are U.S. citizens, are victims of trafficking within the United States (U.S. Department of Justice).
  7. An estimated 82% of human trafficking cases are classified as sex trafficking (U.S. Department of Justice).
  8. An estimated 12,000 (83%) of sex trafficking involves U.S. citizens and almost 5,000 (40%) of those cases involved the sexual exploitation or prostitution of a child. (Congressional Research Service)
  9. The average age of entry into prostitution by a trafficker is 13. (U.S. Department of Justice)
  10. Approximately 300,00 children nationwide are at risk of sexual exploitation; and of the close to 1.5 million runaway children, about 500,000 (1/3) will have some experience with prostitution. (U.S. News and world report)

Are you surprised or sickened?  Perhaps you are wondering how 150 years after the 13th amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery, there could be even more slaves then when slavery was legal.

Starting in 2011, the president proclaimed that each January be designated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Following that, National Human Trafficking Prevention Day was created and is observed annually on January 11th.

The following is an excerpt from the presidential proclamation. National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, 2014

“As we work to dismantle trafficking networks and help survivors rebuild their lives, we must also address the underlying forces that push so many into bondage. We must develop economies that create legitimate jobs, build a global sense of justice that says no child should ever be exploited, and empower our daughters and sons with the same chances to pursue their dreams. This month, I call on every nation, every community, and every individual to fight human trafficking wherever it exists. Let us declare as one that slavery has no place in our world, and let us finally restore to all people the most basic rights of freedom, dignity, and justice.”

Watch for the next blog: Human Trafficking Part 2 and please share this post.

1459161_473605482752003_496444879_n

A mensch and an elf walk into a bar…

Well, perhaps not a bar, but into a home. Actually, lots and lots of homes according to various websites that report yearly sales of the “Mensch on the bench” and the “Elf on the shelf.”. The purpose of both the mensch (Yiddish for a person of integrity or honor) and the elf is to remind children that their behavior towards others is being watched and remembered. If they behave well and treat others with kindness, they belong on the mensch’s or elf’s “good list” and will then receive holiday presents.  Parents teach their children to take the mensch or the elf very seriously if they expect gifts during Chanukah or Christmas.

So that brings about some questions. One, how many times must a child behave poorly before they get taken off the good list and lose presents? Are you really going to follow through and not get your child gifts because of poor behavior? If you are not going to follow through, do not make the promise in the first place, because your words may cease to matter and you may then lose respect.

What about adult behavior? If parents are to show integrity, then perhaps they should also participate. Shouldn’t the mensch or the elf watch over the adults as well? If so, then based on the types of behaviors clients’ discuss with their family therapists, there would be a lot of adults that would receive nothing for the holidays.

Finally, what about the rest of the year? Isn’t the idea of both the mensch and the elf to give back to others. How do you instill that meaning during the other 11 months? Perhaps this holiday season could provide a basis for change and an opportunity to learn the true meaning of giving to others year round. Then both the mensch and the elf will really have done the job for which they were originally created.

Happy Holidays

If you likes this post please share it.1459161_473605482752003_496444879_n

 

 

 

Truth and Consequenses

In the book This is how you lose her, Dominican American author Junot Diaz wrote, “You are free to choose. But you are not free from the consequences of your choices.” Seldom has a statement been more true than in cases of infidelity.

Marriage and family therapists often work with couples where one or both partners have chosen to cheat. And yes, it is a choice. You could have taken a different path to deal with the relationship issues, including a demand for therapy if the relationship was to continue.

Let’s be honest. Almost everyone, at some point while they are in a committed relationship, will be approached by someone other than their partner. It is extremely flattering to be noticed, to be given undivided attention. If you are happy with yourself and satisfied with the state of your relationship, being approached is a compliment. If, on the other hand, you are not, then it becomes an opportunity. An opportunity in which far too many engage.

For those couples who choose to stay together and try to work through the affair, here are a couple things that you should expect.

  • Healing will take time.

The affair wreaks havoc on the fabric of the relationship, your self-worth, confidence in remaining a couple or family, your ability to trust and be trusted, your willingness to be vulnerable and to love. After all, the only time you can be hurt is if you are vulnerable. And what is more vulnerable than being in love.

Many partners share that there is an expectation to “just get over it”, after some positive changes in the relationship have been made. If you cheated, expect that your partner may have moments where unexpected and painful memory surfaces. These moments may become less frequent over time, but they may still be present. All you can do is allow them the opportunity to talk it out and once again tell them you are sorry. You cannot change the past, you can work on the present. If were cheated on, try very hard not to take positive memories and redefine them into something negative and ugly.

  • Both partners need to make changes. 

The problems that were inherent in the relationship before the infidelity, are still there. You have the opportunity to work through those issues and make your relationship stronger than it has ever been.

Many partners share that they don’t feel they have the right to ask for changes in the relationship because they were the one who cheated. Both partners have needs and wants that have for too long gone unfulfilled and that were evolving before the cheating started. Now is not the time to hold back.

If you cheated, you absolutely have an obligation to share what needs to change. It is never an excuse or explanation for the infidelity, but it gives you and your partner the chance to create a relationship that is new and powerful. If you were cheated on, your anger and hurt over the infidelity is understandable and should be expected. How you handle your feelings defines your willingness to make changes. Were you really that satisfied with how your partner was treating you? If not, now is the time to make sure that your needs will be met.

After all, It would be a shame if either one of you looked in the mirror down the road and said “I wish that I had tried harder.” The truth is, that  having and keeping a great relationship, of being loved and in love, is a consequence of your hard work to make it so.

If you like this post, please feel free to share it.