victims

The Most Powerful Weapon

In the fight against trafficking the most powerful weapon we have is prayer!! In fact, it's the most powerful weapon we can use against any form of evil.

I must admit, though, that there are times I get so overwhelmed by the idea of young children being used as sex slaves that I just don't know what to pray. That is when I remember Romans 8:26-27...

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. (NIV)

During my prayers for the victims (or as I call them, "innocents"), I also pray for those who work to set the prisoners free. I pray they will have wisdom and discernment. I pray for their safety. I thank the Lord for their willingness to go into potentially dangerous places to rescue the women and children.

I also include in my prayers those who work with the innocents after they are rescued. I thank the Lord for their abilities to help these dear ones to be restored to wholeness.

There are others involved in trafficking I pray for sometimes, but they are the hardest ones of all for whom to find the words...the perpetrators. I'll be honest; I do not want to or like to pray for them and I don't pray for them as often as I pray for their victims. But, maybe to some extent, they are the ones who need the most prayer. If the Lord changes their hearts and attitudes, then there will be fewer women and children who become victims of this horrendous evil.

I believe with all my heart that prayer can and does change things! Sometimes not as fast as we like, but everything is in God's timing! So, pray, pray, pray!! It's a powerful weapon!

 

This post was originally published at Nana's Notes

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

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.

In Her Own Words...Part 3

Karen:  Most people who are involved with the abolition of human trafficking and slavery know the horrors of this crime from books, movies, videos, on-line accounts, etc.  However, on one night in January, some of the volunteers with End Slavery TN met these atrocities face to face.  We were invited to spend a few hours with a victim of human trafficking. We sat mesmerized for two hours listening to a beautiful, courageous young woman, whom I shall call “Carrie” and what have been the horrors of her life.    She talked about her drug addicted mother and alcoholic father, and how at the early age of six, her mother told her to go into a bedroom with drug suppliers and “play doctor” with them.  “Carrie” had never been taught the values that most of us are brought up with, the value of one’s body and soul. She was a very bright, pretty girl and by the time she was twelve or thirteen, after having lived with other relatives in various places, been raped by her older brother, and abused by others, she became involved with a pimp and a life of prostitution.  Over the next five-six years she was forced to have sex with “more men than she could hope to remember.”  She was moved from city to city, was branded on her body and face, had both feet broken when thrown out of a moving car, had her teeth broken, and was beaten repeatedly for “not making her quota” or disobeying her pimp!   From the time she was sixteen, she tried to break away from this destructive life.  After being arrested and treated like a criminal, however, she would call her pimp to bail her out.  After all, who else would help her? Until one day, she encountered a woman from law enforcement who offered to help her escape.  In an agreement for testifying against several pimps, she was placed several times in foster homes or half-way houses where she was mistreated, eventually retreating to her pimp, because “at least he would feed her.”    “Carrie” has, in her early twenties, finally escaped, but at a cost.  She has been placed here in TN where she knew no one, can never go back home, can never contact her family, and fears that she will be found and killed.  She is courageously trying to begin a new life as a college student and working to help other victims.  However, it is hard!  She feels alienated from most people because of her past, feels she may never have a normal relationship with a man and has difficulty with trust.  Despite everything, she is upbeat and hopeful.   I personally came away heartbroken for “Carrie” and all the “Carries” of this world.  Most of us will never know the realities of trafficking, can never fully understand the dynamics that land victims in this path, or fully comprehend the consequences.  We can, however, learn from these victims, share their stories, come to their assistance, continue to educate others, and do everything in our power to end human trafficking.  There are laws in place against this crime.  WE have to work to ensure these laws are enforced!  Thank you “Carrie” for sharing your story and for your courage to escape and help prosecute these criminals!

In Her Own Words...Continued...

April:  At the special meeting in January of 2010, many abolitionists with End Slavery TN gathered to hear a devastating recounting of a sex trafficking victim’s testimony. Her story emphasized a common trafficking scenario that occurs here in the United States: young girls that grow up in physically and sexually abusive homes who are forced, coerced, and tricked into prostitution at a very young age (around 13 or 14 years old).    In this particular victim’s case, she was told the message very early on in life that no one is trustworthy, especially your family. Introduced to her first sexual encounter at age 6, she continued to be abused by the help of her own mother. At 14, she left home only to experience continual sexual abuse from other members of her family, and finally found herself working the streets of prostitution. She traveled across state borders as she battled between being trafficked and trying to flee. Hoping to seek refuge with her father, she was turned out and sold back into the life she longed to leave. Throughout her time in bondage, she experienced continual sexual and physical abuse from her pimps, including daily rapes and branding on her body.   Her story was insightful about the lifestyle victims are forced to have. Many women would live in the same house or apartment, either going out at night to work the streets or waiting for a customer in their home. They suffered daily abuse and threats from their pimp, succumbed to living in fear. They are taken from everything they know and are cut off from society, feeling alone and without hope. This victim was finally able to flee and is doing her part in helping educate people about sex trafficking. It was a special opportunity for the NFSTN staff, one that continues to spur our efforts in the fight against slavery. 

To Be Continued...

In Her Own Words

Members of the Nashville Volunteer group had the rare privilege of hearing, in her own words, the horrific story of a rescued victim of human trafficking, and to be inspired by her courage. Below are the accounts and reactions of a few of those present that day:

-----------

Beth: 

At first I was sure there was some mistake.

The young woman I’d just met was a vivacious, energetic college student.  She was very much like every other college student I knew, though perhaps even more passionate about life.

Could she really have been held as a slave for all of her teenage years, trafficked across multiple states, her body sold to the highest bidders, night after night?

I had the privilege – and heartbreak - of hearing her story personally, and now I have the responsibility to share her story with the hope of preventing other tragedies like this one…

****

Angel* had the misfortune of being born to a mom who was a drug addict and a dad who was an alcoholic.  She was raped at 13 by a family “friend” and later by her own brother.  When she was forced to leave home because she couldn’t pay the rent demanded by her father, she was enslaved by countless pimps, some “meaner” than others.  They at least kept her fed and clothed… as long as she followed their every command. 

Pimps became her “daddy”… sex a commodity.

She worked the “track” every night (every city has one), not able to rest until she’d earned the minimum required by her master.  Then she showered and was raped by her pimp (to make sure she wasn’t hiding any of “his” money).  If she didn’t toe the line (in any real or imagined way), she was brutally abused.  Among the physical assaults she described were: 

  • Her face and body were “branded” by one pimp leaving deep scars.
  • Her jaw and front teeth were broken from repeated kicking by pointed boots
  • She was beaten until she nearly bled to death, miscarrying her baby
  • Unspeakable things were done to her with a hairbrush.

And, perhaps saddest of all, some of her girlfriends, trapped in this hell on earth with her, just disappeared without notice, never to be seen or heard from again.  Angel knows what happened to them, though she doesn’t want to think about it. But for the grace of God, she too may have ended up in a shallow grave.

Now in her early twenties, Angel has a passion to help others.  She’s in college, majoring in social work.  And she’s pursuing speaking opportunities, as painful as it is to relive her past.  In addition to speaking to our Not For Sale community activist group, she’s also spoken to groups of young people, warning them about how easy it is to become trapped in this vicious underground world where one human being “owns” another.

Angel is out to save other girls from the nightmare she’s endured.

* Angel is not her real name. 

...To Be Continued