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Rescuing Sex Trafficked Victims Is the Most Accurate Education
Some anti-trafficking advocates have said that only 1 in 100 victims of human trafficking will ever be rescued. I don’t know how that was determined, but I honestly believe that it doesn’t have to be reality. In the past 9 months, 108 victims of sex trafficking in the United States have been rescued by Bishop Outreach’s rescue shield teams and partner organizations in cooperation with the authorities. The lessons learned from those initial rescues were valuable and can only be improved if stakeholders are willing to work together. The outcome of cooperation between law enforcement and NGOs will only result in more rescues and more cases going to trial. And we’ll see that 1 in 100 statistic grow progressively over the next few years.
Sex Trafficking in the United States
With all the awareness and education that has happened over the past few years, there is still some resistance by many Americans to accept the fact that American men are buying up Americans and enslaving them in this heinous crime. I think primarily because they don’t fully understand what human trafficking is. The US version of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines “aggravated trafficking” as recruiting, harboring, transporting, securing or obtaining a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person compelled to perform such act is under 18 years of age; or, Labor trafficking as recruiting, harboring, transporting, securing or obtaining a person for labor or services, by force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjecting them to involuntary servitude, penance, indentured servitude or servitude.
The UN Protocol on Trafficking in Persons (Palermo Protocol of 2000, an international legal agreement annexed to the UN) contains the first internationally agreed definition of trafficking in persons. The core of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol defines trafficking in persons as: (a) [… ] recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving persons, by threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, kidnapping, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerable position or giving or receiving payments or benefits to obtain the consent of a person who has control over another person, in purpose of exploitation. It is TIATF’s opinion that the US should include in its definition terminology consistent with the UN Protocol as it further distinguishes that traffickers use “…deception, abuse of power or a vulnerable position…” when seeking their victims. Traffickers look for the vulnerable knowing how to deceive and manipulate them – the worst form of kidnapping – causing them to lose trust in those they should trust the most. It takes a lifetime to “reprogram” someone who has been manipulated in this way.
How big is human trafficking in the United States?
Statistics are generally the first thing we learn when educating ourselves about human trafficking, yet they are the most unreliable source for knowing the truth and magnitude of the problem. If we want statistics, there are plenty of them, but they all differ depending on the source cited. Most human trafficking advocates seem to take the higher statistics and send them out in videos and articles, posting them on websites and when they speak. I guess that’s the better case. And quite frankly, when the Human Trafficking in America Task Force was a new organization, we did the same thing. We took statistical data that were available and without a deeper knowledge of reality, we simply painted based on statistical outlines. It’s so alarming when you first learn about it and start hearing that 100,000 to 300,000 potential new victims are trafficked in America every year, or that there are 27 million slaves worldwide and 800,000 new victims of human trafficking every year (one statistic says that this is the number of refugees who report to the US annually). Then the average age of the victim is 12 – 13/14. Most of the stats floating around today have been around for 7-10 years and people are still using them.
The relatively reliable International Labor Organization announced in 2013 with a new figure that human trafficking is a $34 billion industry worldwide and that the trade in sex services has decreased while the trade in labor has increased. Many non-governmental organizations still use the former 32 billion – so what’s a few billion here and there? That’s a lot of income made from the traumatic abuse of people (50% under the age of 18) and yes; both men and women are victims of human trafficking. We have statistics on runaways and how many hours it takes to be forced into the commercial sex industry (48 according to some accounts, while 1/3 are allegedly trafficked and 2/3 go home within days); statistics on how many times a victim is sold each day (10 to 40); statistics on fatherless homes (95% of runaways come from fatherless homes); and further. Statistics will drive you crazy if you let them. But the reality is that they at least give us the impression that something is tragically wrong in the United States of America – so we must work to fix it.
The Department of Education told us that an unknown number of US citizens and legal residents are being trafficked within the country for sexual slavery and forced labor. Contrary to popular belief, human trafficking is not only a problem in other countries. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states, Washington DC and US territories. Trafficking victims can be children or adults, US citizens or foreign nationals, men or women. Common examples of identified cases of child trafficking include: commercial sex, striptease, pornography, forced begging, magazine crews, au pairs or babysitters, working in restaurants, hair salons, working in agriculture, and selling and growing drugs.
Saving victims of human trafficking shows us a reality that no statistics can
On July 11, 2013 Testimony of Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador for Great Personal Needs, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Human Beings He says: “Victim identification is a crucial first step in stopping this crime. Yet only about 47,000 victims were identified last year , compared to up to 27 million people living in slavery. That huge gap represents millions working invisibly and beyond the reach of the law, and shows how far we have to go in this effort.” That’s actually lower than the quoted 1 in 100. According to this report, 57% (one-half of one-tenth of a percent) have been brought to light (is that really all rescues?) worldwide.
So let’s get down to where the rubber meets the road as “they” say. Let’s Talk Rescue — I met Bishop in April 2013 when he called me to share his story. After listening for a while, I asked him to speak at our annual Human Trafficking in America conference next month. I wasn’t home from the conference yet when I got a call from a masked man I didn’t really know well yet, who was simply passionate about saving victims and needed some connection to help save a young woman. We have been working together ever since and he along with newly forged partnerships of a similar mission has now been responsible for 108 successful rescues across the country as of this writing.
Bishop uses his personal experiences to show how this multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry works from the inside out. With his expertise as a preeminent gang expert, certified as a gang expert in the MSG, OMG and STG groups, he holds a multi-state private investigator license and spent four years as an undercover DOJ organized crime agent. Bishop is able to educate on how to see the warning signs, protect your loved ones, and how we can all work together to make a difference in our communities.
So — why the mask? While serving as an undercover agent for the DOJ, Bishop turned over numerous prominent gang members and traffickers to the DOJ. The threat of retribution is real, so he wears this mask to protect himself and his family.
Cooperation from and with law enforcement
We had a rescue in a southern city a few months ago that opened our eyes to the denial (for whatever reason) that some law enforcement and some cities have about human trafficking activities in their area. There can be only three (and a half) reasons for that: 1) dirty policemen; 2) an image that needs to be protected in order not to lose valuable tourism dollars and/or to protect its citizens from panic; or 3) ignorance of the reality of human trafficking. In this particular case I believe all three and a half were present. And several victims were left behind in this particular rescue. Bishop Outreach will not save without local and/or state government support, cooperation and support. They understand the law and work in conjunction with it to bring justice to victims.
On the other hand, when a good relationship is established with law enforcement agencies that are fully engaged and educated about the reality of human trafficking, magic happens and the unexpected happens. Victims are rescued, transported to safety to begin their recovery, and good data is collected for court cases. There is no room for territorial pride in this matter. The police told us that they need the support of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) because they can’t do everything, and we told them to go. Go figure it out! Joint efforts are still the best means to a harmonious end.
Non-governmental organizations, as well as the Department for Children and Families (DCF) and other government agencies work with victims across the United States. These are the ones who know this issue from the inside first hand. They are counselors, psychologists, medical professionals, licensed educators, and simply put, passionate people who spend their lives cleaning up the mess people make in each other’s lives. They are the ones preparing them for new lives and potential court cases. The police need them. Every LE agency should have someone in the service area to work with them on the rescue to not only help identify the reality of human trafficking, but to be available to begin their journey to restored dignity and honor the moment they are recovered out of the clutches of human traffickers and into safety.
Victim accommodation and rehabilitation services
The Defender Foundation is a partner with Bishop Outreach. Their aftercare team is dedicated to creating networks of care from collaborating service providers aimed at rebuilding victims of human trafficking; mind, body and spirit. Volunteers on the aftercare team assess victims after they are rescued, process the necessary paperwork, maintain contact with shelters and providers providing care to victims, and follow up with victims over time. They also work with shelters and safe houses to conduct drives to obtain food, clothing, supplies and other resources that are needed. Volunteers will also ensure that the victim’s needs are met during the rehabilitation process at the shelter or safe house and as they reintegrate into society. The Defender Foundation has an established protocol that they do not deviate from when it comes to protecting and serving survivors on their journey to wholeness. Serving as an aftercare team volunteer requires a deep compassion for working with victims. They are particularly interested in those with mental health experience as both licensed and unlicensed clinicians.
Spas is where we will learn the truth about human trafficking – not the statistics. Victim Rescue not only allows NGOs to gain valuable insight into what a person experiences from traffickers, but also how they are treated, what their living conditions are like, what their health consequences are, and much more. A searchlight in this darkness reveals all we need to know to deal with it from a social point of view. While collecting data in numbers is good, collecting data from victims and traffickers is better. This most valuable information is collected during the rescue and restoration process and we need more research dedicated to unraveling the complexities of what we know today as human trafficking.
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