modern slavery

Step 1: Education

Guest blogger: Stephanie Swick -  Short Term Team Member with ESTN 

Lately, I’ve been entertaining the idea of becoming a nurse midwife. I’m an English major. The hardest science class I took in college was Geography of the Oceans. But there’s a huge need, especially in other countries, for women to be educated and to have care during pregnancy. I think it would be interesting to try to make myself available to offer help to women who get pregnant as a result of enslavement. Could it be possible?

But the thing is, legislation is a huge part of fighting human trafficking, especially in the U.S. I could become a lawyer and make this stuff happen. There’s an organization called Polaris that has put out a list of 10 trafficking laws every state should have. I could help make those laws. That would be cool.

Still, there are women and children who are being rescued from their captors every day with no shelters to run to. There are not enough resources for recovering victims from such a traumatic experience. There are counselors and therapists needed to help these women deal with drug addiction, over-sexualization, kidnapping, and physical, psychological and sexual abuse. I could do that.

At the beginning of my End Slavery internship, I thought I would begin to figure out which path to pursue – nursing school, law school or social work.

Yet I’m finding that more than anything, I just want people to know that slavery still happens. I don’t think enough people know. If they did, I have to believe this issue would start to shrink and instead of growing. At the end of this school year, I had coffee with an old friend who I hadn’t talked to in a long time. When he heard the name of this organization, End Slavery, he misunderstood it as a mental or societal slavery. “You’re going there to fight the man,” he said, “Our society is enslaved by consumerism. That’s great!” This is an intelligent guy who prides himself on being educated. And he’s clueless.

The students on the campus of my Alma Mater – an institution blazing trails in education – have no idea that in our world, Human Trafficking and Slavery is the 2nd largest crime. They don’t know that in our country, roughly 300,000 people are enslaved and many of these people are American citizens. They have no idea that it’s happening in their towns – in the hotels and restaurants they drive past.

I feel a burning desire to drive my car down the street yelling these facts into a megaphone. “This is what’s happening and here’s what you can do about it!”

One thing this internship has shown me is that just about anyone can use their abilities to fight trafficking. It’s not that I want everyone to become social workers and lawyers. But if the future politicians, doctors, business people, broadcasters, celebrities, artists, teachers, engineers, etc… know what to look for, they could save millions of lives and generations of repetition.

So now I’m left exploring a whole new path. How can we get this information into the hands of 60,000 students? More importantly, how can we get them to pay attention? I am no speech-maker, I don’t know how to lead a movement. I just know that this is something people need to know about.

So career-wise, I keep coming back to education. During college, most people assumed I wanted to be a teacher. I was hesitant, but maybe that’s where I’ll end up.

Slavery is real. It’s everywhere. And it’s growing.

And every single person has the power to do something about it.

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To find YOUR niche, please visit www.endslaverytn.org

For info to share with the youth in your life, see http://www.bethejam.org/

Helping Hands

Guest writer: Channing Salava

The story of a person easily translates into the lines in their hands. The wrinkles tell of a lifetime of labor and effort. Each line represents a moment or an action that maintains a special significance only their owner can understand. As the days progress, the moments pass and lines of life attained, we learn and grow. The acquisition of age is a cherished event but there is something to say about the hands of a child. Their smoothness calmly whispers youth, inspiration and hope. The way a child grasps your hand, with total security and total faith is undeniably beautiful.  In a way, we all maintain qualities of a child (though we may not choose to admit it). As children we live with our hands open. Open to the world, open to ideals, creativity, faith, trust. It is when we start to accept the world for what it is, instead of what we want it to be, that our hands begin to close. Slowly our palms tighten, getting harder and harder. We may begin to live with fists in place of where our open hands once were. So I ask myself, I ask you, when you look down what do you see?

Are your hands closed? Are they open? What do they say about you? Are your hands helping, are they reaching out to another? Regardless of their condition, it's your choice whether they are open or closed. 

You can make a difference; you can be the one to reach out to another. Touch someone's life, restore that hope and love that slowly slips out of grasp. God gives us our own talents because He knows we can touch and change lives. The power of an open hand cannot be explained in mere words. Whatever your talents may be: speaking, writing, building community, photography, poetry, math, or listening, I urge you to explore the potential that each can offer. 

Let us restore our view to the time of our childhood. Let's see the world for the way we want it to be instead of accepting it for what it is. Open your hand and your heart is sure to follow.

Note: Channing is a Belmont student currently using her photography skills to create materials to prevent trafficking among young people. Come join her, and hundreds of others, in using your talents to end slavery. Join a volunteer group in Nashville, Hendersonville, Franklin or (soon to be) Murfreesboro.

Christmas JOY!

As my family and I enjoy the lovely traditions and celebrations of the Christmas season, my mind turns to people I know, or who are known by people I know:

  • The young woman in Europe who escaped her trafficker this week and is now sitting in a temporary shelter, nursing wounds from her last brutal beating, penniless and contemplating her next steps.
  • A young woman in her twenties – a US citizen- trafficked since kindergarten, for whom Christmas was just another day of degradation and fear, and who had never received a Christmas gift until last year.
  • Trafficked and brutalized women in the Middle East anxiously waiting for their name to rise to the top of a waiting list for a safe place to stay.
  • The children who sit in Mumbai brothels waiting for the next stranger to exploit them, on Christmas, as on every other day.

Do you feel any outrage at the injustices these people face? I do. They haunt my dreams. But nothing close to the outrage felt by the God who lovingly formed each one and who enters into their pain, 24/7.

We don’t have to guess what the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas would like for His birthday; He tells us what He wants: Lay off the religious stuff, and let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! * 

And as befits God’s nature, when we give to Him, we get gifts in return: 

“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous …“*

Thankfully, I know people all over the world who experience that joy and continually give God the gifts He really wants.

  • The team members who love and serve that escaped victim in Europe as she walks through this frightening transition.
  •  The End Slavery in Tennessee supporters who gave that US survivor her very first Christmas gifts ever.
  • The volunteers who sell jewelry made by those Middle Eastern women to raise funds so more beds can be made available.
  •  A brave Indian national who risks his life daily to rescue those children in Mumbai brothels.

Want some Christmas joy? Want to give the perfect Christmas gift this year?  Be part of getting justice done. Volunteer, give, speak up, sacrifice, get your hands dirty, and don’t hide your head in the sand. Come join our band of ordinary people audacious enough to take God at His word and to do our part in letting justice roll!

I hope to see you in 2011.

Derri

*Amos 5:24, Proverbs 21:15

So What Is It You Do, Anyway?

When people think of anti-human trafficking work, they typically think of rescue and shelters. Rescues are exciting and shelters are needed and everyone easily understands why they are essential. But neither really does anything about ending slavery. If a victim is rescued, a trafficker brings in two more. And shelters are for after the fact. They are needed, like emergency medical workers are needed in an epidemic. But at some point, we need to cure the illness itself as well as identify those who have it; or leaving our analogy behind, to address the systemic causes that allow slavery to flourish, as well as identify victims so they CAN be rescued and restored. And that’s just what we at End Slavery do. Here’s an overview of our current and "in the works" initiatives:

  • IDENTIFY THE VICTIMS:  Distribution of posters, bookmarks, bumper stickers and other materials that help people identify victims/ web page with victim ID red flags

Community Watch type programs to enable neighbors to spot trafficking in their own neighborhood. Speaking to community groups. Fielding calls, e-mail, and Facebook messages and advising community members who suspect trafficking and are unsure what to do about it.

  • PROTECT OUR YOUTH: Presentation and materials for schools, inner city and immigrant service providers and other youth venues, warning youth, and those who care for them, of the tactics of traffickers.

Teen oriented web site warning of trafficking tactics with ways to share info easily with friends and to report, anonymously if desired, what is happening within peer group.

  • OPEN PROFESSIONAL’S EYES:  Training for professions likely to make first contact with victims (teachers, pastors, medical workers, social workers, legislators, apt. managers, maintenance workers etc.) 
  • SUPPORT THE SURVIVORS: We work with the FBI to provide help as needed for rescued victims and we hold events and home parties to increase venues for sale of goods made by rescued victims.
  • SLOW THE DEMAND: We teach at each session of the local John school (a school for men arrested for soliciting prostitutes), educating the attendees on how their choices feed human trafficking and slavery. Other initiatives are currently under consideration such as billboards, ads, flyers and/or other media targeted to the people buying the slave’s services or goods
  • LOOK TO THE FUTURE:  We teach in numerous college classes each semester so the next generation, the leaders of tomorrow, will not be ignorant of human trafficking and modern slavery.

We hold regular events on college campuses, spreading awareness and encouraging/equipping student involvement in ending slavery while they are still in school.

We have interns each semester who learn deeply about the issue and ways to work to end it.  In every case thus far, students continue to work with us after their internship is over and make career choices focused on ending slavery/aiding victims.

  • EDUCATE:    Through a monthly newsletter, blog, twitter, Facebook cause, and regular speaking engagements. This not only leads to victim identification, it is our belief that we can create a groundswell of outrage that will affect change makers in the media, legislators etc.
  • REPLICATE:  We were instrumental in connecting people who started a coalition in Knoxville and an anti-slavery group in Memphis and look to spreading anti-slavery work throughout Tennessee. We also train churches, and other groups, in Tennessee and other parts of the country, how to engage in ending slavery in their own communities.

This is a grassroots movement using ordinary people in all walks of life. We have two monthly volunteer groups, one in Nashville and one in Franklin. These groups further educate themselves on the issue and break into action groups focusing on various initiatives.

Additional notes:

In March 2010, an organization working among oppressed people in over 60 countries, asked End Slavery in Tennessee’s Director, Derri Smith, to help them establish teams around the world focused specifically on slavery and human trafficking. While taking on that non-paid director’s position with International Teams (ITeams), she remains committed to the work in Tennessee, as well. In fact, she is working on establishing ITeams’ first full-time domestic anti-slavery team in Nashville, which will serve as a training base for other teams in the US and around the world.

  • Derri is also currently engaged in starting/ expanding/considering anti-slavery teams in Uganda, Brazil, Thailand, Bulgaria, Ecuador, Australia, Cambodia, India and Russia.

Doing Great Things for God?

Periodically a fellow abolitionist, or a kind supporter, will speak of doing great things for God. While I appreciate the sentiment behind the words, the picture that comes to mind is of a house I pass often in our Tennessee countryside with a huge sign in the yard reading “House of Righteous Endeavor.” I don’t know what actually goes on in that house, but every time I drive by, my stress level rises a bit as I envision sour faced people grunting and straining under the heavy weight of endeavoring to be ever righteous.

I love the verse in Psalm138:8 that says, in part, depending on the translation:

  • The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me…
  • The LORD will work out his plans for my life…
  • The LORD will accomplish what concerns me…
  • The LORD will do everything for me….

Ahhh. I can feel the tension roll off my shoulders just reading those words. Now I picture an apple tree, soaking in the sun and rain and bearing apples because, well, that is what apple trees do.

No mere matter of semantics, depending on God to carry out his work makes a real day-to-day difference as I pursue a calling to end slavery and aid its victims.

  • Only God is big enough to bear such a load. Victim’s tales of hellish existence, complex causes and seemingly irreparable damage could crush me under their weight. It is a relief to know that this task is God’s to accomplish and that, even as I take my small part in the struggle, it is He who does the heavy lifting.
  • My priorities shift. When I am “doing great things for God,”  I work feverishly and joylessly. The very One I serve too often gets relegated to a dark recess of my life, living primarily in empty words spoken by a barren soul. When I look to God to accomplish his purpose in my life, I spend time sitting at His feet, hungry for His word and for revelation, not just of His will, but of His majesty. I still enter into pain, but with it comes the joy of knowing God’s heart a little better. My eyes more clearly see the lengths to which His vast love will go for one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters.
  • In the “doing things for God” mode, I tend to operate from a place of self-satisfaction. The work feeds my ego or need for significance through all the good things I do for those needy slaves. In truth, much is expected of me, because I have been given so much. But righteous endeavor leading to a sense of self importance is not a fruit of the Spirit. When I sit at God’s feet, I remember when He walked the earth robed in flesh, and how delighted He was to hang out with prostitutes and sinners, and they with Him. He didn’t hold much store with self-satisfied religious do-gooders. Like those people surrounding Jesus long ago, victims of human trafficking and slavery are very likely to recognize how desperately bankrupt they are. There is little room for pride, self-sufficiency or even dogmatism. As He lifts my head, God floods my soul with overwhelming gratitude that I was spared the same fate as these, and I cry out for mercy lest I forget how much I have need of Him.

Any work that remains after passing through the Refiner’s fire comes only when I step away from the striving and the noise and enter into the Holy of Holies. In that place, I do not do anything great for God. But a great God, the master craftsman, accomplishes  lasting works of righteousness

What YOU Can Do to End Slavery: An Abolitionist’s Dozen

  • Host a prayer vigil. Sept. 24-26 is the 5th Annual International Weekend of Prayer and Fasting for victims of sex slavery. Find resources here.
  • Have a fair trade chocolate and coffee tasting party.
  • Show “Faces of Slavery” to your church, home group, professional org or family and friends in your home. Write for free DVD.
  • Write letters of encouragement to rescued victims in shelters. Write for info.
  • Donate books and media on human trafficking to libraries—school, public, church etc. Write for recommendations and to let us know where you gave.
  • Show a movie about human trafficking and discuss modern slavery with your friends. Suggestions: Cargo , Human Trafficking, or commercial films like Taken  or Slumdog Millionaire.   Invite us to lead the discussion if you don’t feel ready.
  • Retweet our tweets. 
  • Hold an awareness/benefit event, a Chinese auction, battle of the bands, or an outdoor movie night. We have lots of ideas. You probably do too!
  • Distribute media that helps identify victims and how to help them. (Write  for bookmarks, postcards, posters, bumper stickers. )
  • Love to read? Have a readathon to raise funds. Get friends to sponsor you per book read. Or recommend a book on human trafficking to your book club.
  • Devote your Facebook status to human trafficking information once a week. Our newsletter is a good source of information. Sign up here.
  • BEST way to engage for most people: Join one of our monthly Volunteer Action Groups: Nashville or Franklin

And…

Pass this list on to your friends!

Learning the Lingo

Awhile back, some of us with End Slavery TN got a lesson in terminology from a survivor of sex trafficking.  We learned a lot more than words in the process; we learned a lot about the world of a victim. Read it, and weep. Then, for heaven’s sake, DO something to help.

  • Bottom, or Bottom Bitch: A person appointed by the pimp/trafficker to recruit potential victims, report violation of rules, and often to help punish.
  • Branded: A tattoo on a victim indicating ownership by a trafficker/pimp.
  • Daddy: A term a male trafficker /pimp requires his victims to call him.
  • Family or Folks: A group of victims under the control of a trafficker/pimp. The term is an attempt to recreate the family environment.
  • Gorilla Pimp: A violent trafficker/pimp
  • Lot Lizard: Derogatory term for prostituted women and children at truck stops.
  • Pimp Circle: Describes a situation where pimps circle around a victim to intimidate and discipline them, using verbal and physical threats/action, i.e.beating with wire coat hangers, defecating and urinating on victims
  • Quota: The amount of money a victim must give to their trafficker/pimp each night. If a quota is not met, the victim may be made to work until it is, or may be beaten or otherwise disciplined.
  • Seasoning: The process of breaking a victim’s spirit and gaining control over her, using rapes, beatings, manipulation and intimidation. There is actually a manual for pimps on how to season victims.
  • Stable: A group of victims under the control of a pimp.
  • Trade Up/Trade Down: The act of buying or selling a person for a pimp’s stable.
  • Turn Out: To be forced into prostitution; also a person newly involved
  • "Wifey" or Wife-in-law: A term prostituted women and children are required to call the other females in the “stable.”
  • Kiddie Track or Runaway Track - Just what it sounds like it means.  

Wanna Save Some Kids from Hell on Earth?

It’s a whole lot better to actually prevent someone from being trafficked than it is to rescue them after the fact, and it’s one of the most effective ways we can work in our communities.

Let’s think about the ways people get trafficked and what types of preventative measures might be useful.

In the case of sex slavery, sometimes girls* are recruited by a cute boy who acts like he has a romantic interest in them, a man who serves as a father figure, a girl who acts like a girlfriend or a woman who seems safe.  Did you see the movie Taken?  Remember the boy at the airport who shared a taxi cab with the two girls when they arrived from America for a European holiday?  That boy was a recruiter. 

 There are cases in which a “girlfriend” invited the victim to her home for a sleepover, then the man who was allegedly her father (but really wasn’t) popped a drug into her drink.  She wakes to find herself being raped by a succession of men. 

Often kids from abusive homes are befriended by a charmer who poses as a boyfriend.  He “loves” this girl and makes her feel special.  Over time, he says that if she loves him, she will sell herself for sex to make the money they need to buy a house and live happily ever after.  He becomes increasingly violent.  He follows tried and true methods for breaking a girl into sex slavery.  (There’s actually a manual to tell him how.  For real.) 

What if these young people—and their parents and teachers—had seen a presentation in school about the tactics and dangers of traffickers?  If we simply opened some naïve eyes, how much heartache might be avoided?

My dream is to create a presentation to do just that, and bring it to schools, youth clubs, inner city and immigrant service providers and the like.  It would take so little, to do so much good.

This project is very do-able, very affordable, and can be very effective.  Like the idea of a slave-free community?  Me too. Let’s make it happen! 

Here‘s what you can do:

  • Act in a short drama portraying the tactics of traffickers
  • Direct this drama or write the script.
  • Use your musical skills to write and/or perform a song that will stay in kids’ minds after the presentation, causing them to think twice if they encounter red flags.
  • Once polished, video the presentation so we can distribute it more broadly.
  • Take leadership. Organize and oversee this project.
  • Donate toward the cause, to "work of Derri Smith for prevention."

Contact us here

* Boys and men are trafficked too.  Because 80% of victims are female, I choose to use the feminine nouns and pronouns for victims.

Wedding Ceremony or Marriage?

“I had no idea! What can be done? Get those slaves out of there!” No doubt about it—the horror of slavery stirs within us the urgency to rescue a victim. That is exactly what International Justice Mission and others do so well. Exciting moments indeed, BUT hardly the entire story. Ending slavery and aiding victims is so much more complex than that. Focusing only on the rescue is like focusing only on the wedding ceremony when we think of marriage, without regard to all the relationship building that led to that moment or the lifetime partnership that follows. 

Rescuing victims – snatching them away from the trafficker or slave master --is an important step in the process of freedom, and someone does need to do that. But, frankly, this is not an effective strategy to end slavery. When one victim is rescued, traffickers bring in 2 more.  Rescue is vital in the same way that emergency medical workers are vital in an epidemic. And I’d say that the #2 and fastest growing crime on the planet is indeed an epidemic, wouldn’t you? 

To truly make a long term, effective difference, we must step back and think past the exciting media sound bite moment. Slavery is a complex issue requiring multi-faceted action. We must hack at the roots of poverty and empower those without social clout; those most vulnerable to enslavement. We can prevent slavery by warning of trafficker’s tactics and finding ways to dry up the demand that makes this business, like any business, thrive. We need to train those likely to encounter victims, so they recognize the suspicious signs for what they are AND know how to help. We need to make good people everywhere aware of the atrocities in such a powerful way that they cannot go on with life as usual and, consequently, develop such a groundswell of outrage that, by sheer numbers, they influence politicians, media, companies that use slave labor and other change makers. And more.

So let’s keep cheering and supporting the rescues, just as we celebrate a wedding ceremony, all the while rolling up our sleeves and doing or supporting the long term hard work it takes for the marriage of justice and mercy in our world.