Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


Leave a comment

International Women’s Day

alice-donovan-rouse-195456Today is International Women’s Day! If you aren’t familiar with this unofficial holiday, the website dedicated to it defines it as “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”

There are all kinds of ways that people are observing it today, like posting on social media and wearing red. There are also numerous events of all kinds around the country, including marches and rallies, and also some online chats and broadcasts. Some people are also staying home today, #ADayWithoutWomen, in an effort to show what kind of gaps are left to fill without women in the workplace. (HINT: It’d be catastrophic.)

I decided to celebrate by highlighting 10 of my favorite organizations that were founded, and currently run, by women. They are pretty spectacular, in my opinion.

Head over to my business blog to read all about them.


Leave a comment

The McCain Institute Trafficking Event

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!


1 Comment

Tapestri Human Trafficking Event

tapestri-trafficking-evenJanuary was National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, so there were a number of local and national events in which to attend. It was a goal of mine to be at more slavery and trafficking events in 2017, since I feel that has been lacking from my schedule over the past couple of years. It is a subject near and dear to my heart, and was my first, formal introduction to social justice in 2006.

I was privileged to attend my first event by the local organization, Tapestri. They do outstanding work here in Atlanta, and while I’ve heard of them for a number of years, I’ve never actually participated in any of their events or programs.

This turned out to be rather different than things I’ve attended in the past because I was one of the few people there that wasn’t with the government or other nonprofit. That made it really fun and interesting as I got to know the people around me.

Outside of Tapestri, most of the presenters were with the FBI, so it was also incredible to hear about their involvement. There were also several lawyers speaking, so we were able to hear about their work and the state and national legal system as it pertains to this issue. So, there was a huge focus on the legal and law sectors, and how all those worked together and separately to combat this issue. Those weren’t topics I get to hear a lot, so it made for a really fascinating day.

Here are my notes:

FBI

  • The FBI has 122 victim specialists in 56 field offices, and works with 41 Indian reservations, across the US.
  • The Trafficking Victims in Persons Act (TVPA) passed it 2000. It provides protection, prevention and prosecution. It also includes both sex and labor trafficking.
  • One of the new trends is that victims could be the kind of kids that you see selling candy in public places. This is another form of revenue.
  • Exploiting transgender kids and adults is also a new trend.
  • The T-Visa (trafficking visa) is only one year to start. Their the victim’s lawyers and reps petition for them to stay.
  • Proactive: federal, state and local partners working together.
    • Task forces and working groups
    • Non-governmental meetings
    • Events and partnerships
  • The FBI has special people trained to work with youth and get their testimony so they don’t have to be in court.
  • The FBI has to follow the legal definition rather than how a victim self-identifies with the issue. (Sometimes they don’t even see themselves as victims.)

Homeland Security Investigations

  • They fall under ICE.
  • They are an investigative department of Homeland Security.
  • They are similar to the FBI but it involves immigration as well.
  • Trafficking effects every people group.
  • HSI also puts victims in touch with resources like Tapestri.
  • Referrals come from raids, partners, civilians and professionals like doctors who come in contact with victims, schools, other NGOs, and hotlines like Polaris.
  • There are not enough beds, so sometimes HSI has to rely on domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters, especially for men. There are no places for men or labor trafficking victims, in particular.
  • They also provide training for law enforcement at all levels.

US Department of Labor

  • Enforces legal compliance for welfare of citizens, and includes some immigration. (ex: migrant workers)
  • Priorities include agriculture workers, food services, hospitality industry, construction, etc.
  • Doesn’t investigate but protects and refers to other agencies and service providers.
  • Also provides back wages owed to victims.
  • Participates in task forces.
  • Can also issue U (abuse victims) and T (trafficking victims) Visas.
  • Usually dealing with labor victims (including seasonal workers) that are recruited under fraudulent circumstances.
  • Often the victim’s families are threatened to keep them in line.
  • Provides training for industry groups like hospitality, nurses, etc.

Breakout: FBI Advanced Training for Working with Victims

  • Mostly works with sex trafficking girls from other countries.
  • First case study is in Suwanee, GA, a suburb about an hour north of Atlanta.
    • The woman perpetrator was wealthy and connected.
    • She was from Nigeria, and went back there to find a girl to come back with her. The pretense was as a nanny, and she said she’d also put the girl in school.
    • The girl was mistreated every day: beaten, made to cut the grass with scissors, bleach the fence. Wasn’t given a proper bathroom, just a bucket to go to the bathroom in, despite the large house.
    • The first girl ran away, and the woman did the same thing to a second girl.
    • The woman told her friends the girls were her slave and she could do whatever she wanted with them. The friends sometimes gave the girls gifts behind the woman’s back. Neighbors sometimes saw the girls being mistreated, and so did people, including government officials, who attended her parties. Finally, her best friend turned her in because she couldn’t take it anymore. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE!!!
  • Second case study is an international sex trafficking victim.
    • Started in Tenancingo, Mexico, which is notorious for this crime. Families are raised to be victims and perpetrators. Kids even aspire to run these types of businesses because they see that money can be made.
    • A guy made a girl (“Tere”) believe that he was her boyfriend. Bought her things she’d never had, acted innocent for her, and convinced her to come to the US with him on a fun trip. There, he trapped her in a brothel.
    • The perp family had brothels in Marietta and Norcross, Georgia, suburbs outside of Atlanta..
    • Typically girls work in the brothel or are driven to the John.
    • Charged $30 for 15 minutes with the girls, and they may see up to 50 Johns per day.
    • Tere worked for two years and was forced into almost 1,700 sex acts.
    • She was beaten, threatened, put into deprivation, etc.
  • Sometimes victims families are brought to the US and protected if it looks like the family in another country will be threatened or harmed.
  • They return to a lot of the same places. Gwinnett County is big and growing.

Prosecuting Trafficking Cases

  • Federal case study:
    • Found girls with similar tattoos on Backpage.com
    • These girls were recruited by pimps because they already had Backpage profiles.
    • The pimps also recruited  girls that were down on their luck. (ex: abused, poor, bad home life, addiction – all teens and young adults, various races)
    • Guy said he was a party promoter.
    • Bought things for them, and then later said they owed him for these things, and that he owned them.
    • Also recruited girls on Instagram and Facebook through long-term cons.
  • Sex trafficking of a minor is one of the easiest charges to prove, and it carries a 10-year minimum sentence.
  • Second federal case study is international:
    • Mexican men recruited women to come to the US.
    • Only the main guy was tried and sentenced to 40 years.
  • Third case study pertains to the state:
    • Georgia doesn’t have to prove knowledge of age. A perp doesn’t have to know she/he is underaged. If she/he is, then that punishment is carried.
    • Prosecuting pimps: 10-year minimum for adult victims and 20-year minimum if victims are juvenile
    • Georgia has good prosecuting laws. Teams try to work together to see if state or federal has the strongest conviction changes, and the one with the harshest convictions takes the lead.
  • Had another case of a pimp who got life + life + 114 years. Sadly, this is rare.
  • There are apps that allow pimps to track ALL phone usage on his account without the girls’ knowledge so they are tightly monitored.
  • Victims stay with them out of shame, personal threat, violence, family issues, threats to families, they don’t feel like they have other options, money, “love,” legal threats, drugs, blackmail, and loss of freedom. And younger victims just have less knowledge about the world and legal systems to understand how things work.
  • Victims are usually young, come from a dysfunctional family, have a history of abuse, etc.
  • Trauma victims often form bonds like Stockholm Syndrome.
  • Georgia also has an added mental disability clause for harsher sentences.
  • There are international treaties for gathering evidence and seizing assets abroad.

Legal Remedies

  • Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network (GAIN) referrals come from law enforcement, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and sometimes people inform them directly.
    • Free for clients.
    • Represent immigrants and trafficking victims who have little ties to their current location or families.
    • Work in partnership with others to make sure all services are covered.
  • Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) works for the rights of vulnerable populations, mostly hate crimes.
    • Distributes free education and literature.
    • Fights for justice in legal system.
    • Have now worked with a number of trafficked victims.
    • Civil litigation can also prosecute for pain and suffering, unlike criminal law, for higher victim payouts. Restitution is tax-free money.
  • Visas are non-immigrant status that allow you to stay in the US. They can also sometimes apply to families.
  • T-Visa: Only 5,000 per year allowed
  • U-Visa: Only 10,000 per year allowed
  • Trafficking victims must be willing to cooperate with the law/investigators.
  • U victims must also be helpful to law enforcement during cases and suffered in some way.
  • No statue of limitations on trafficking crimes, but not enough people come forward.
  • People coming from other countries, especially third-world countries, often mistrust law enforcement and don’t come for them for help because their own legal systems are corrupt.
  • Can take up to five years to obtain a T- or U-Visa. But victims can apply for work authorization in the meantime, but that can also take one or two years. Minors, however, can work regardless.

 


2 Comments

My Word for 2017

vertical-logo-w-taglinelargeThis year’s word was easy, peasy! I saw it coming from miles—actually, months—away, and I’ve been very excited to share it with you. But it took way more prep work than usual.

The word, you ask? SIGNIFY.

And that is because it’s my new business name! If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember that I left my full-time job last May to start my own company. Now, I serve cause-focused organizations through writing, consulting and strategy. I want to help these purpose-driven companies improve their marketing and business communications so they can focus and shine. And I especially love helping small businesses get noticed and grow. You can read more about the background of my business here.

Since I’ve been practicing a word for the year tradition for a number of years, I used the same criteria to choose my business name: I like single words with multiple meanings in the form of a verb. It took me several months to figure out my organization’s name, but I’m very happy with it. And the website just launched yesterday, which is the prep work I mentioned. It’s been quite the adventure so far, and I’m sure that will continue!

So, basically, even though I had this business the latter half of 2016, this means that 2017 will be focused on getting this business off the ground and running. I have been very blessed to have spent the first seven months working for friends, and that sustained me. But I knew that wasn’t realistic for the long-haul, so that meant building a website and all the bells and whistles that came with it.

My verse for the year is one I hold very near to my heart. It’s one that continues to inspire me, has influenced my business, and especially seems like a good motto to live by these days.

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

There you go! That’s it. My word for the year. As always, I can’t wait to see what the year has in store, and how I’ll view it through the lens of SIGNIFY.

You can read about last year’s word, RENEW, right here, if you’d like.

Did you choose a word for 2017? If so, I’d love to hear it!

___________________________________________________

If you’re new to this whole word for the year thing, it is basically a way to take a proactive stance to the year. Instead of just arriving in December and taking stock of what happened, having a word of the year is a way to be proactive. We all have goals, wishes and hopes for our year, and sometimes those happen, and sometimes life gets in the way. Having a word for the year helps me to be intentional with my days and my time, and sometimes it also helps me make decisions that help to define outcomes. It’s a practice that some of my friends and I have done for probably almost 10 years now, and it is always a highlight of my year, especially when we’re able to discuss them together.

If you haven’t done this before, and want a little more guidance, here are a couple of resources to help you out:

One Word That Will Change Your Life

My One Word

Wishing you a joyful and productive 2017!

 

(Amazon links are affiliate links.)


Leave a comment

My 2016 Reading List Recap

pexels-photo-46274If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably realize how important acquiring knowledge is to me. I love learning! And up until June, I did most of that through Audible books on my commute. However, now that I work from home, I didn’t make it through as many books as I normally would during a year. That was probably the only bummer about losing my commute. But I made a big attempt during the first half of the year to compensate, and I’ll certainly squeeze in another one or two during my holiday travels.

Here’s my recap:

If you need more suggestions, here are my previous lists:

And if you’re in a short or no commute situation like me, but you still want to learn, try podcasts. I began substituting more podcasts for books since they are shorter, but still convey a lot of information. Here are the ones that top my list:

Interested in trying Audible? Click the image below.

*30 days of membership free, plus two free audiobooks to keep.
*1 credit a month after trial, good for any book regardless of price.
*Exclusive members savings. Get 30% off any additional audiobooks.
*Easy exchanges. Don’t love a book? Swap it for free, anytime. Seriously.

HAPPY LEARNING!

(Note: Amazon/Audible links are affiliate links.)