Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem

The McCain Institute Trafficking Event

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mccain-institute-eventA few weeks ago I was able to attend another trafficking event, but in DC this time. So, I’m certainly making headway on my goal for attending more human trafficking and slavery events in 2017!

And this one was definitely unlike any other I’ve attended before. I actually didn’t quite realize to what degree until I showed up. My friend, Becca, is on the email list for The McCain Institute, founded by Cindy and John McCain. I kinda feel like I knew they had a foundation or institute or something, but I didn’t realize it had such a strong trafficking focus. Evidently, it is a real hot-button issue for Cindy McCain. I don’t really align myself with any political party, but I’m willing to listen to anyone who is passionate about this issue. Plus, there were a lot of interesting people on the roster.

Anywho . . . Becca forwarded me the info for this event at the end of December. Once I saw it was in DC, I kinda ignored it for a while. But several weeks later, I was sorting through my emails and looked closer, after I’d made the decision to start attending more trafficking events in 2017. I then realized it was free! So, it quickly moved up my list. 🙂

Plane tickets to DC were incredibly cheap at that time, since early February is not a popular time to visit, and I had hotel points to use, so we jumped on the opportunity. Less than two weeks later, we were headed to DC.

And, of course, you can’t go to DC and not go to any museums, so I decided to fly in the day before to enjoy the city. It’s such a  beautiful place, and there are so many cool things to see. Since I was trying to keep the trip as cheap as possible, I chose a free Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of American History, which was fantastic! It was also a good fit for my hotel choice, The Hamilton Hotel by Crowne Plaza, which I totally recommend. And I was finally able to visit one of the Founding Farmers restaurants that I’d wanted to try since my last visit. I chose Farmers & Distillers because I could use the $20 OpenTable.com certificate that I’d earned. Bonus—it was delicious! So, besides cheap, are you noticing a theme? Yes, I’ve been pretty constantly listening to the Hamilton soundtrack! 😉 In fact, I’m headed to NYC in about two weeks to finally see it after trying to get tickets for almost a year. I’m a little obsessed, and DC allowed me to indulge a bit more.

Ok, back to the event!

I mentioned it was unlike any other event I’ve been to, trafficking or otherwise, and that’s because of not only the people onstage but the people in the audience. There were only about 200 people in attendance, so it was smaller that I thought it’d be, which was actually great. But my friend and I seemed to be two of the only people who didn’t work for a huge government agency or nonprofit, or that even came from out of town to be there. That was also the case for the event I attended in January, but to a much larger degree.

These people were from places like the Department of Homeland Security, Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Office, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Polaris, GEMS, Thorn, etc. So, these are all people I read about pretty often, subscribe to their newsletter, follow on social media, and look to as experts on this issue. And I got to be in the same room (and table) with them—and talk to them! Cindy McCain even stopped by to shake my hand and thank me for being there. I totally felt like everyone was going to find out who I was and ask me to leave, ha! But it was really cool to meet the people on the front lines of this issue, and that have big voices in the fight, even setting some of the policy and legislation. Ashton Kutcher even pre-recorded a message for our audience since he couldn’t be there. I did sit in on the breakout done by the CEO of the organization he and Demi Moore co-founded when they were married, Thorn, and to hear what they are doing is simply remarkable. (BTW, they are both still on the board, and Ashton is very active. You can see his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from last week here.) What a cool day!

Here are my notes:

  • The use the hashtag #endtrafficking.
  • Panel of survivors
    • Tina Frudnt, founder of Courtney’s House, and former trafficking victim
      • Faith-based and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are key in helping victims. It can’t just be the government that we rely on.
      • We have to educate people at all levels. It effects everyone, and takes people everywhere to invest in the cause.
      • Embassies need to be trained.
      • We need more awareness and victim services.
    • Chicago survivor
      •  Grew up in poor area, and would’ve have trusted calling the police or information on a poster. Taught to be skeptical.
      • Big believer in changing policies and not prosecuting victims.
      • Its hard to provide services when the laws don’t line up! (YES!!!)
    • Shandra Woworuntun, founder of Mentari, former trafficking victim from Asia
      • We need to provide victim empowerment for lasting change. They need to feel like they can have a different life.
      • We need more funding for programs.
      • We need to leave the ego at the door in favor of victims. It has to be everyone working together, and not about the person or organization that did the rescuing.
      • We should wait five years before the victim gets involved due to treatment and some mental/physical distance.
      • We need to have more training and awareness for school-age children. She is using a comic book in Indonesia for this purpose. Lots of hurdles to addressing this group in the US. She is petitioning the Department of Education for this reason. But we can educate teachers and counselors. It takes a multi-prong approach.
    • Victims need to sit on committees and be actively involved because they offer an invaluable perspective, and can say what victims actually need or want.
    • We need more consistency in training. – SOAR: Health and Human Services Training
    • We also need more mental health services and training. Most survivors deal with these issues growing up as well.
    • HEAL network
    • Caring for Victims Handbook
  • Mary Mazzio, Filmmaker
    • Made a documentary, I am Jane Doe, after she saw a Boston Globe article about “Jane Doe’s” going after Backpage.com. #iamjanedoe
    • Backpage.com was formerly the Village Voice, and is one of the largest online perpetrators of sex ads.
    • Section 230 of the law is usually why survivor cases lose against places like Backpage.com because it was written after the birth of the internet saying that sites aren’t responsible for third-party content.
    • She is still hearing from lots of journalists who didn’t know this was an issue, so we still need awareness.
    • They are just starting to show screenings around the country of the documentary.
  • Technology and Trafficking Breakout by Julie Cordua at Thorn
    • There are an estimated 21 million victims, and there were only 6600 convictions in 2016.
    • Their org brings the engineers, creators, power of tech to the issue. Created tech task force to combat this issue rather than just having lawyers and policy advisors do it. The latter is needed, but it usually stops there or takes too much time.
    • Many of the girls actually write their own online ads.
      • Thorn’s algorithm (Spotlight) can detect their approximate age when this happens by reading their emails and keywords. All of our writing creates a pattern that helps identify things like your age through the words you use.
      • The data also looks at their physical movement, and is 90% accurate. Meaning, they posted an ad in Dallas, and later posted one in Maryland, so you can “see” that girls are being trafficked.
      • Currently over 4,000 officers around the US using Spotlight. It’s expanding to Canada and Europe this year.
      • Partnerships are critical.
      • Over 350 million escort images are in their database, and they are now building facial recognition.
    • Business lessons:
      • It’s usually a good idea to pay for things so that funding can move more quickly and not be held up, or dictated by others.
      • It also helps to have your own team to not rely on others for getting the work done.
      • Additionally, fail quickly and move on.
      • Think narrow to begin. Start by solving a problem, even a small one. Then figure out how to expand and scale. If you have a large goal in mind for the end, you may get stuck. Think about what you can do, rather than throwing your hands up. They started by thinking about how a small group of local cops could find just a few girls through their digital footprint.
      • Understand your work and parameters thoroughly before expanding, which is why its been a few years before they move outside of the US. Things don’t translate 100% culturally or systematically. They had field office partners and data to work with.
      • They commit to testing, not implementation, as to not use funding for non-productive projects.
      • When meeting with a tech company, make the meeting small and include engineers.
      • When making the case for companies to get involved, use risk management and corporate responsibility angles, not shame.
      • Don’t try to build a system. Try to solve a problem. And define your problem completely, and on a human level.
    • Women Seeking Men and City Vibes are where Backpage’s escort ads have largely moved to. Also dating apps/sites like Plenty of Fish, because they have less requirements than other sites.
    • Dark web is less prevalent because it relies on anonymity whereas trafficking relies on face-to-face.
    • Now moving more into legislation.
    • On the East Coast, the I-95 corridor is a hot spot.
    • Check out the Money Now App which promotes transparency for workers. The Labor Voices App is for employees to report anonymously about their employers.
  • International Trafficking Breakout Recap
    • Global awareness is spreading.
    • Policies are developing and changing.
    • More resources are now invested, leading to more success.
    • 3,000 orgs working on the issue report to the Global Slavery Index.
    • Still an infant movement in a lot of ways.
    • Collective action is needed (public, government, NGO)
  • Labor Trafficking Breakout Recap
    • Department of Labor report from September 2016 offers a lot of comprehensive info.
    • Public needs to pressure companies for better standards and reporting.
    • Need more data and resources to act on.
    • Labor trafficking laws and statues are needed to expand and find ways to compound on each other than what we have currently.
  • Domestic Trafficking Breakout Recap
    • Foster care desperately needs to be revamped. There are too many victims and perpetrators in this system.
    • Systems of care need to be better linked and cooperative.
    • 16-18 year-olds are at a gap in resources. There is less available to them, and we need therapeutic foster care centers.
    • More preventative services are needed.
    • Need more effective response to demand.
  • Lunch program – Cindy McCain and Emanuel Medeiros, CEO of International Center for Sports Security (ICSS) Europe
    • The trafficking/slavery issue is no different in the world of international sports. Victims are promised a new life, and they are then trafficked, usually for labor.
    • We need to create a mindset of transparency, accountability and responsibility.
    • This is the moment to do what’s right!
    • To acknowledge that this issue happens in sports is to give it validity.
    • We need to build toolkits for action and also bridges.
    • We can all make a different through small, humble acts, but we must keep moving the issue forward.
    • Name and fame, but also name and shame.
  • Molly Gochman, Red Sand Project
    • Vulnerabilities are all around us. We just have to take the time to recognize it.
    • Vulnerabilities can lead to exploitation.
    • People are trying to take care of themselves and their families, and sometimes they find themselves exploited over a lack of basic access.
    • Her project uses red sand to fill in cracks. People take pictures and upload them to represent this issue.
  • 2 pm panel: Bradley Myles of Polaris, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Malika Saada Saar of Google and Carol Smolenski of ECPAT-USA
    • We must name the violence for what it is. Then we must enforce (or create) laws that punish. Rape is rape, whether its paid for or not.
    • Norms have to be changed, as well as laws.
    • We need a roadmap for how to prosecute using existing laws to better ensure success. also, we need all states to adopt the Washington laws that actually prosecute commercial exploitation and trafficking.
    • Most people who purchase sex are upper middle-class white men with an average income of $110,000.
    • Racial justice needs to be a bigger part of the issue as these girls are often asked to grow up earlier than white girls. They are “not afforded a lengthy childhood.”
    • Black and brown girls are often looked at more as prostitutes than white girls, even when underage.
    • One survivor said her phone was most active on Monday mornings, often after the man has spent the weekend with his family.
    • Bradley Myles – Use the privilege you’re afforded to support and educate others who don’t have the same ability.
  • Panel: Senator Bob Corker (TN), Senator Amy Klobauchar (MN), Congressman Ted Poe (TX)
    • Corker is working on international combatting efforts.
    • Klobuchar worked on bill for flight attendants training, Safe Harbor bill in MN, and working with Truckers AgainstTrafficking and also in the hospitality industry. It is also try to urge more public pressure.
    • Poe helped legislate laws that target demand (ex: Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act)
    • Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) is up for reauthorization again this year, but shouldn’t have any problems.
    • Poe: Government needs to zero in on faith-based orgs to work together. And fathers need to be role models for their sons.
    • We must continue to inform and have relationships with ambassadors who have relationships with other countries to help spread the message.
    • TIP (Trafficking in Persons) Report does carry weight and is helping to bring about change.

I do really wish that more people like me would’ve been there. It was amazing to meet the people there, as I mentioned, but I hope more and more citizens, small businesses and nonprofits, and those interested in the issue will be able to take part in the future. It will take us all, at all levels, to fight this issue. The McCain Institute has some other pretty cool events coming up, so I hope to be able to join them again in the future. Sometimes they even live stream their events. I’d encourage you all to find an organization you can learn from and get behind!

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Author: kristiporter

I’m a creator, leader, writer, Christian, multi-tasker, filmie, foodie, abolitionist, environmentalist, daydreamer, traveler and entrepreneur, to name a few.

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