Forced Into Prostitution — and Denied a Lifeline by Florrie Burke, Chair Emeritus of the Freedom Network
I’m an advocate for victims of human trafficking, and I’ve witnessed a lot of pain and suffering. But I’ll never forget the day I met two teenage girls at a District Attorney’s office the day after they escaped a brothel. As the girls sat there clutching the teddy bears that are usually given to children, they told me they had been forced to have sex with multiple men without condoms. One of the girls described a painful, burning vaginal infection that became so severe that the trafficker took her to the clinic. While she was there, she and her friend made an escape plan. When they returned the following day for follow up they ran out of the building and asked for help from a passer-by, who took them to the police.
Thankfully, this girl had a treatable infection. But many sex trafficking victims are not so lucky…to read more go here:
At the White House Forum to Combat Human Trafficking yesterday, Freedom Network founder and Chair Emeritus Florrie Burke was presented with the first ever Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons. The award is for her “sustained dedication and unparalleled leadership in combating modern slavery through the development and delivery of comprehensive services and the empowerment of survivors to move from slavery to independence, and the transformation of policy to eradicate all forms of human trafficking.” It is signed by President Barack Obama.
The award was presented by Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State. Congratulations Florrie!
Confronting Human Trafficking: Defining Priorities in 2013
April 17 & 18, 2013
The 11th Freedom Network Annual Conference “Confronting Human Trafficking: Defining Priorities in 2013″, is being held in the Washington DC area, April 17 and 18, 2013.
DETAILED AGENDA NOW AVAILABLE! CLICK HERE!
This year’s conference includes a specific law enforcement track as well as tracks generally dedicated to legal services and social services, and the Freedom Network Training Institute. Plenaries include: one with the Trafficking divisions of the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security; another “New Federal Initiatives to Combat Human Trafficking”; and a third by the Department of Defense on their efforts to combat human trafficking.
Conference keynote speakers are:
Tonya T. Robinson
Special Assistant to the President for Justice & Regulatory Policy
Domestic Policy Council│The White House
Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
U.S. Department of State
A great deal of information about all aspects of human trafficking is conveyed at this annual conference by experts with years of experience working in the field, such as case managers, researchers, legal advocates, counselors, prosecutors, enforcement agents, etc.
The conference is being held at the Doubletree Crystal City, a short shuttle from the airport and from the Pentagon City Metro stop, with a special rate for conference attendees.
The latest agenda is available here.
The conference will be held at:
300 Army Navy Dr.
Arlington, VA 22202
A special rate of $224 per night for the Freedom Network conference attendees is available. To reserve a room for the conference, please click here.
The U.S. Department of State reports that as many as 27 million individuals are trafficked worldwide,and estimates show that more than half of victims subjected to forced economic exploitation are female and 98% of sexually exploited victims are female. A significant number of individuals are born in the United States and trafficked domestically, many of whom are girls and women.
Individuals trafficked into any form of labor are at high risk of sexual assault, STD transmission, HIV transmission, and sometimes irreparable damage to their reproductive health. Trafficked women are also in danger for unwanted pregnancy. Survivors of trafficking into the sex industry, servile marriage, and domestic work are particularly vulnerable. To read our new paper please click here.
The Freedom Network Applauds the Senate for Passing VAWA
The Freedom Network applauds the senate for passing the Violence Against Women Act including protections for survivors of human trafficking. Thank you to Senator Patrick Leahy for including amendment 93-5 to allow survivors of trafficking to continue on the road to recovery. We look forward to the House taking up the same version of the bill that includes these important protections so that this bill finally becomes law.
The Freedom Network (USA) commends President Obama and the bipartisan group of senators for their efforts to engage in comprehensive immigration reform. As a coalition of experts on the scourge of human trafficking, we believe that a proposal to overhaul immigration laws deeply impacts the clients we serve. Creating a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants outright will provide immigrant workers with more economic security and make them less vulnerable to labor exploitation and human trafficking. Promoting family reunification and reducing family visa backlogs will protect the families of trafficked and exploited workers from retaliation from criminal perpetrators in their home country. Furthermore, we welcome a framework that includes protecting immigrant victims of crime and domestic violence through humanitarian relief.
It is our experience that increased enforcement efforts can lead to a chilling effect among the most exploited immigrants. Enhanced security may reverse the course of the government’s efforts to raise awareness in identifying potential trafficked persons. Additionally, temporary workers, regardless of industry, should have a path to legalization to reduce their susceptibility to exploitation and abuse. We look forward to collaborating with the administration and members of Congress in outlining this proposed legislation. See our policy recommendations on “Human Trafficking and Immigrant Rights.”
FN member Sienna Baskin, Esq., co-director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, will speak about “Sex Work and Human Trafficking: The Difference and Why It Matters” on Thursday, February 7th at Fordham Law School. For more information, click here.
The Freedom Network Applauds President Obama’s Anti-Trafficking Announcement
“But for all the progress that we’ve made, the bitter truth is that trafficking also goes on right here, in the United States. It’s the migrant worker unable to pay off the debt to his trafficker. The man, lured here with the promise of a job, his documents then taken, and forced to work endless hours in a kitchen. The teenage girl, beaten, forced to walk the streets. This should not be happening in the United States of America.” – President Barack Obama
NEW YORK – September 26, 2012 – The Freedom Network (USA), a network of 30 anti-trafficking direct service organizations and advocates founded in 2001, applauds President Barack Obama’s speech on human trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative event on September 26th. We are excited to hear more about how the Administration will expand anti-trafficking efforts in the United States.
President Obama is the first U.S. president to offer a significant speech solely about human trafficking, so we were pleased that he offered a global perspective and described human trafficking inclusively, noting that it can involve people of any gender, occupation, or nationality. The case examples he used were reflective of the exploitation we have observed in our direct work with survivors in the U.S. We were honored that representatives from at least two member organizations — including a survivor-advocate — were invited to attend.
“I was pleased that the President acknowledged all the forms of trafficking that can occur and treated the survivors in the room with dignity, not with alarmist rhetoric or exploitive language.” - Florrie Burke, Freedom Network Chair Emeritus
One of President Obama’s action steps involves increased training of law enforcement, investigators and others. We salute this effort: the Freedom Network Training Institute has been providing a comprehensive training on the response to human trafficking to tens of thousands of multi-disciplinary audiences since 2003. We have learned how critical training is to maximizing the capacity of law enforcement agencies to identify all types of trafficking they might encounter.
It is important for advocates and policymakers to remember that human trafficking survivors are more than “victims” in need of liberation, but rather the experts on their own life experiences, with ideas on how policies and programs can be improved. We were happy to hear President Obama honor that idea, and to express his intention to look at root causes and the conditions that make people vulnerable.
While “rescue” is a hot buzzword and there is strong temptation to spend most of our energy on prosecutions and punishment, focusing on survivor empowerment, respecting self-determination, and building strong, comprehensive social services are critical to a rights-based approach to combating human trafficking. In our experience as direct service providers, these factors often matter more to survivors than a criminal prosecution.
We look forward to the roll-out of the new effort by Humanity United and their multi-million dollar challenge to local communities to find new ways to care for trafficked persons. In particular, we were happy to see a focus on housing for all types of survivors. Safe, culturally appropriate, and affordable long- and short-term housing has been one of the most common barriers we’ve had to address in case management, especially in large metro areas.
The President’s speech addressed many of the principles we care about as a network, and we hope that his announcement will reflect a new energy and commitment to combating human trafficking and assisting survivors, but he may have a difficult road ahead. He noted that one of the Administration’s action steps will be to “help victims recover and rebuild their lives.” Yet only a few blocks away from the White House, our Congress has allowed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to expire with no hope for a vote on reauthorization this year. The TVPA provides for much of the prevention programs and social service funding that need to be expanded. We thank the President for his attention to this issue and look forward to his leadership and activism to ensure that this critical federal legislation continues to be authorized and improved.
About The Freedom Network
The Freedom Network (USA) is a national coalition of direct service providers and advocates who are committed to a rights-based approach to addressing human trafficking. Established in 2001, our member organizations work with a full spectrum of human trafficking survivors, and approach the issue from diverse perspectives, including immigrant women and children’s rights, victim and social services, migrant farm worker advocacy, and human rights activism. The Freedom Network recognizes that human trafficking is fueled by complex and interconnected factors, including poverty and economic injustice, racism, gender-based discrimination, and political strife. At its core, the crime of trafficking is a violation of an individual’s basic human rights and personal freedom. Thus, we believe that a rights-based approach is fundamental to combating human trafficking and ensuring justice for trafficked persons.
Below is a press release from the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, a member of the Freedom Network.
New Report Reveals Causes of Human Trafficking Pipeline from Mexico to NYC
Mexican Survivors of Human Trafficking Speak About Forced Prostitution in New York City Report Says More Must be Done, both in Mexico and U.S., to Combat Human Trafficking Scourge
New York, NY – For generations, women have been trafficked from the small town of San Miguel Tenancingo, Tlaxcala in Mexico, and hundreds of them end up forced into prostitution in New York City. A new report from the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center offers an in-depth analysis of this pipeline and the wider phenomenon of trafficking from Mexico. As re-authorization of theTrafficking Victims Protection Act flounders in Congress, this report shows that trafficking is an egregious problem, and offers policy recommendations to NGOs and governmentagencies in both countries who must take steps to combat this epidemic.
The report, The Road North: The Role of Gender, Poverty and Violence in Trafficking from Mexico to the U.S., highlightsthe experiences of 37 individuals who were trafficked from Mexico to the U.S. Data was collected from affidavits and interviews between 2005-2012. The Road North identifies root causes of this trafficking pipeline, alongside first-hand accounts that illustrate the findings:
§ Victims are most often introduced to their trafficker through a family member or friend. A minority of victims were trafficked by strangers, despite popular belief – in fact, nearly 70% of victims met the person who trafficked them through a family member, friend or neighbor, contributing to their initial trust of the trafficker.
“I met [trafficker] when he was 17 years old and I was 14 years old. There was a carnival in my hometown and my friend, who is [trafficker’s] aunt, introduced us there. [Trafficker’s] aunt lived nearby and I was familiar with her because she was a friend of my mother’s,” said Inez, a survivor of trafficking who met her trafficker through a family friend near her hometown.
§ Experiences with violence prior to trafficking increase vulnerability to trafficking. 54% of affiants described a violent experience prior to trafficking, including witnessing domestic violence, being a victim of physical or sexual abuse, or witnessing a murder. For many victims, violence in their homes influenced their desire to leave and go with the trafficker. Transgender victims experienced the highest rates of violence.
“I was 16 to 18 and I needed to leave there because I was suffering a lot of trauma based on the way they were treating me…I didn’t feel well there, I didn’t feel calm, my uncle kept bothering me and I couldn’t say anything cause I was afraid…And [then] this man appeared, an acquaintance of my aunt, I went out with him and left the house with him. He said I’m going to take you to my aunt’s and she can give you a job and you can live there. I thought that was a really good idea, but it wasn’t like that,” saidMeena, a trafficking survivor who experienced sexual abuse in her home.
§ Poverty is likely to contribute to trafficking vulnerability. 75% of victims describe serious fiscal hardship during their childhood, and almost all victims had limited schooling due to financial reasons. Poverty in Mexico, the report claims, has been exacerbated by U.S. policy.
“My family was very poor, even compared to other families in the village. My parents worked as farmers on other people’s lands. They traveled to other states to find work, and they took us with them. I worked alongside my parents starting when I was eight yearsold. I tried to also go to school, but had to stop after 6th grade because I missed so much school in order to work,” said Camilla, a survivor of trafficking who had to stop school to help her family earn money.
The report makes specific policy recommendations for the Mexican and U.S. governments, who must engage in bi-national efforts to combat the trafficking epidemic. It also recommends action steps for Mexican NGOs, who should use the report’s findings to inform their work on trafficking prevention and providing survivor resources. Among the recommendations are:
§ The U.S. government should discontinue the requirement that survivors of trafficking cooperate with law enforcement in order to lawfully remain in the United States. Victims face ongoing danger from traffickers if they cooperate with law enforcement, because of common familial relationships with traffickers and manipulation of children by traffickers. The requirement puts victims at great risk and deters them from seeking help.
§ The U.S. government should offer accessible routes to immigration status for survivors of human trafficking. The majority of victims of trafficking cannot return to their country of origin because they have no supportive family or community to return to, and because of real danger of re-trafficking, violence, or persecution.
§ The Mexican government should take action to address violence, including violence against women, and to investigate human trafficking. Few prosecutions have been undertaken against traffickers in Mexico using pre-existing statutes or the new anti-trafficking law.
§ The Mexican government should support organizations to provide services for trafficked persons in Mexico, including women and children who are alienated from their marital families and families of origin. They should provide support to organizations to developcampaigns for awareness within families about trafficking and domestic violence, including child abuse and child sexual abuse, particularly in impoverished and isolated communities.
§ NGOs in Mexico should provide counseling and safety services for people who have suffered violence, which may help individuals recover from trauma, and become more resistant to future trafficking situations. They should promote discussion of trafficking and abuse within families, as recommended by survivors of trafficking as one thing that could have helped them avoid being trafficked.
The report was released today at an event in Mexico City, Mexico done in conjunction with Mexican NGO, El Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración (IMUMI). Speakers included Mexican activists working to prevent human trafficking in high-risk regions, as well as survivors of human trafficking. Read the full report HERE.
“The Sex Workers Project’s goal is to share the information we’ve gathered in The Road North with NGOs doing prevention work on the ground in Mexico, so we can help stop this abuse before it happens, and to share it with Mexican and American government officials, so that they can advocate for policy change that benefits survivors and prevents future trafficking,” said Sienna Baskin, Co-Director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center.
“The report identifies factors that made the victims more vulnerable to human trafficking, and provides information regarding prevention needs in Mexico that will be useful to both government and civil society,” said Gretchen Kuhner, El Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración, (IMUMI)
ABOUT THE SEX WORKERS PROJECT:
The Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center provides client-centered legal and social services to individuals who engage in sex work, regardless of whether they do so by choice, circumstance, or coercion. One of the first programs in the nation to assist survivors of human trafficking, the Sex Workers Project has pioneered an approach to service grounded in human rights, harm reduction and in the real life experiences of our clients. Their professional service providers are multi-lingual, non-judgmental and bring more than ten years of experience.
As the only US organization meeting the needs of both sex workers and trafficking victims, the Sex Workers Project serves a marginalized community that few others reach. SWP engages in policy and media advocacy, community education and human rights documentation, working to create a world that is safe for sex workers and where human trafficking does not exist.
The Freedom Network policy committee was hard at work last week visiting members of the Senate, urging them to co-sponsor the Trafficking Victims Protection Reathorization Act (specifically the Senate version, S. 1301). The bill was due for reauthorization last year and despite strong leadership from Senator Leahy (D-VT) who was leading the charge for reauthorization, this is the first time the law has been allowed to expire. While important political topics like budgets and elections have taken up most of the airspace in Congress, it is still critically important for advocates and activists ensure that our elected leaders take action on behalf of survivors of trafficking by reauthorizing this bill.
Drawing from our members’ experiences working with all types of survivors in all types of industries, during our visits we shared with Senate staffers the critical need for reauthorization from the direct service perspective. Not only does a reauthorization ensure that Appropriations can be sufficient to meet needs of survivors, but it also reinforces our government’s stance that trafficking needs to be addressed at the Federal level. Through prevention programs, effective protection for survivors, and stronger prosecution that gives law enforcement the tools and legitimacy they need to pursue justice for survivors, the TVPA is the most important piece of legislation we have to fight human trafficking in the US. Furthermore, while many new State “trafficking” bills are being introduced, many of them do not cover all forms of human trafficking and/or lack sufficient social services components.
We are proud to report that there are currently 52 Co-Sponsors for S. 1301, and we believe there will be more to come! In the last week alone, we have confirmed 3 more co-sponsors, and the bill has received bi-partisan support. For a full list of co-sponsors, see this list on THOMAS. Here is the list in alphabetical order along with the date the Senator signed on:
Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] – 9/22/2011
Sen Ayotte, Kelly [NH] – 6/7/2012
Sen Begich, Mark [AK] – 6/29/2012
Sen Bennet, Michael F. [CO] – 10/31/2011
Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] – 9/10/2012
Sen Blumenthal, Richard [CT] – 12/5/2011
Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] – 6/29/2011
Sen Brown, Scott P. [MA] – 6/29/2011
Sen Brown, Sherrod [OH] – 9/15/2011
Sen Burr, Richard [NC] – 9/15/2011
Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA] – 3/7/2012
Sen Cardin, Benjamin L. [MD] – 6/29/2011
Sen Casey, Robert P., Jr. [PA] – 10/17/2011
Sen Chambliss, Saxby [GA] – 11/7/2011
Sen Cochran, Thad [MS] – 7/19/2011
Sen Collins, Susan M. [ME] – 9/10/2012
Sen Conrad, Kent [ND] – 9/20/2012
Sen Coons, Christopher A. [DE] – 9/20/2011
Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] – 10/13/2011
Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] – 7/7/2011
Sen Franken, Al [MN] – 10/17/2011
Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY] – 7/20/2011
Sen Hagan, Kay [NC] – 10/12/2011
Sen Harkin, Tom [IA] – 9/13/2012
Sen Heller, Dean [NV] – 10/4/2011
Sen Hutchison, Kay Bailey [TX] – 6/27/2012
Sen Isakson, Johnny [GA] – 10/11/2011
Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] – 6/29/2011
Sen Kirk, Mark Steven [IL] – 9/20/2012
Sen Klobuchar, Amy [MN] – 10/11/2011
Sen Landrieu, Mary L. [LA] – 9/12/2011
Sen Lautenberg, Frank R. [NJ] – 1/24/2012
Sen Lieberman, Joseph I. [CT] – 3/19/2012
Sen Menendez, Robert [NJ] – 3/7/2012
Sen Merkley, Jeff [OR] – 10/18/2011
Sen Mikulski, Barbara A. [MD] – 10/3/2011
Sen Murkowski, Lisa [AK] – 9/21/2012
Sen Murray, Patty [WA] – 3/8/2012
Sen Nelson, Bill [FL] – 10/13/2011
Sen Portman, Rob [OH] – 10/17/2011
Sen Pryor, Mark L. [AR] – 3/27/2012
Sen Reed, Jack [RI] – 4/26/2012
Sen Rubio, Marco [FL] – 7/14/2011
Sen Sanders, Bernard [VT] – 3/5/2012
Sen Schumer, Charles E. [NY] – 9/13/2011
Sen Shaheen, Jeanne [NH] – 6/6/2012
Sen Stabenow, Debbie [MI] – 10/13/2011
Sen Tester, Jon [MT] – 11/2/2011
Sen Udall, Mark [CO] – 9/26/2011
Sen Whitehouse, Sheldon [RI] – 4/26/2012
Sen Wicker, Roger F. [MS] – 5/10/2012
Sen Wyden, Ron [OR] – 6/29/2011
Is your Senator on the list? We encourage you to call and thank them!
Don’t see your Senator? Please call and ask them to join their fellow Senators and co-sponsor S. 1301!
It is important to remain active on this issue, even if it does not come to a vote this year, as the momentum gained now will not be lost.