Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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Tapestri Human Trafficking Forum 2018

IMG_8831Ok, so this is WAY overdue. Like almost six months overdue. This event was actually held at the end of January, which is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. I kept meaning to type these notes and post them, but it just kept getting moved to the back burner.

However, that is in no way a reflection of Tapestri‘s event. This is the second year I’ve attended, and I absolutely plan to go back if they offer it again in 2019. This organization is doing tremendous work here in Atlanta, and throughout Georgia, and I’m grateful for them. And, it’s hard to believe, but this is actually a FREE event!

If you’re in the Atlanta area and care about this issue, be sure to join Tapestri’s email list so you can find out about any future events!

And, now, here are my notes:

  • Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) overview by Alpa Amin of GAIN, Ambassador Susan Coppedge, Alia El-Sawi of ICE and HSI
    • They’re now trying to get moe steep penalties and victim services.
    • It’s up for reauthorization again this year.
    • 14 government agencies deal with the issue of trafficking.
    • There is a Survivor Advisory Council that was appointed by Obama.
    • New laws are trying to keep products made with slave labor out of the country.
  • Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network (GAIN) info presented by Alpa Amin
    • GAIN helps people get T-Visas and legal help for foreign-born people.
    • T-Visa requirements:
      • Victim of severe harm
      • Present in US due to trafficking
      • Would suffer if returned home
    • Age requirement for T-Visa has increased, which is a good thing
    • Less evidence is now needed to prove status, which is also good
    • Transportation is not required, though it is called “trafficking”
    • Continued presence: If someone is VIEWED (meaning potential) as a victim, this is a form of parole that lasts for two years.
      • Allows them to live and work here
      • Helps establish rapport with victim
      • Victim-centered approach
      • Stepping stone to receive T-Visa
      • Gets person a driver’s license and social security card
      • Allows for access to resources
      • Don’t need a successful court case for continued presence or T-Visa, only cooperation
  • Tapestri presentation by Gabriela Leon of Tapestri
    • Works with foreign-born victims
    • Most people do not self-identify as victims, and foreign-born people may not even know that term.
    • Our stricter laws and rhetoric toward victims and immigrants only serves to reinforce traffickers words to victims.
    • Most cases are domestic, but they are also more likely to report because they likely know their rights better.
    • Here in Georgia, most foreign-born victims are from Mexico and Central America.
    • There should be a PR campaign to fight the perception that victims of crimes will be punished.
  • Additional resources:
  • Health Consequences of Trafficking presentation by Dr. Jordan Greenbaum of the Stephanie Blank Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
    • Risk factors:
      • Child
      • Female
      • Missing
      • No skills
      • Prior victimization
      • Marginalized
      • Cognitive delays
      • Homeless
      • Drug/alcohol abuse
      • Family secrecy
      • Violence/abuse
      • Poor
      • Corrupt legal system
      • High tourism area
      • Social intolerance
      • Economic disparity
      • Migration
      • Cultural beliefs
      • Social upheaval
      • Stigma
    • Labor trafficking in the US often involves these industries/professions:
      • Agriculture
      • Hospitality (ex: hotel or restaurant worker)
      • Manufacturing
      • Domestic service
      • Janatorial
      • Construction
      • Landscaping
      • Nail salons
      • Massage parlor
      • Textiles
      • Fishing
      • Most reported cases are foreigners being brought into the US, which is the opposite of sex trafficking.
    • Health consequences of labor trafficking:
      • Untreated chronic medical consitions
      • Work-related injuries
      • Exposure to chemicals
      • Weight loss
      • Infection
      • Breathing
      • Consequences of sexual assault (47% of victims had STD’s)
      • Violence
      • PTSD
      • Mental issues
      • Headaches
      • Fatigue
      • Victims are also often forced to commit crimes for compliance.
    • Consequences of sex trafficking:
      • Drug and alcohol abuse
      • Chronic pain
      • Mental issues (depression, PTSD, suicidal)
      • Malnutrition
      • Work-related injuries
      • Sexual violence
      • Pregnancy, abortion
      • 88% of domestic victims saw health care professionals while this was happening!
    • Challenges to identifying:
      • Don’t self-identify
      • Reluctant to disclose
      • Few clinically-validated quick screening tools
      • Threats
    • Speak using “trauma-informed” care approach
      • Minimizes re-trauma
      • Ensures safety (in all forms)
      • Treat victim with respect (explain what you want to do)
      • Only ask questions you need to know
      • Ask about mental health
      • Respect authonomy
      • Be transparent
      • Listen, explain, negotiate
      • Make appropriate referrals
      • Ask their opinions
  • FBI presentation by Mary Jo Mangrum and Jennifer Towns
    • Has seen an increase in cases in the last decade, but likely because more people are reporting.
  • Polaris presentation on illicit massage parlors by Eliza Carmen
    • New 2018 report
      • Over 9,000 known in the US
      • $2.5 BILLION business
      • Majority of victims are from Southeast Asia
      • Average age is 35-55
      • 37-45% of ads for massage parlor work were illegal
    • Why don’t victims leave?
      • Fear of law enforcement
      • Debt
      • Fear of deportation (may be unsafe to return home)
      • Shame
      • Threats to themselves or family
      • Cultural coercion
    • Only 12% of cities have laws to enforce against illegal massage parlors
      • Usually licenses for therapists only, not the business itself
      • If you see a ILM, report to Polaris via phone, email, or online. Reports can be anonymous.
  • Working with Foreign National Minors presentation by Mersada Mujkanovic of Tapestri, Yamile Morales of Tapestri, and Christina Iturralde Thomas of KIND
    • Much the same tactics as adults, but kids are more naive and vulnerable.
      • Sports are also used as a tactic. Recruiting for traveling teams or initial building of relationships.
    • Victims under 18 do not have to comply or be helpful to gain status or benefits.
    • There is a specific refugee foster care program.
    • The designation of unaccompanied minor affords some protection, but they must also soon after defend themselves from deportation.
    • Common asylum fact patterns for children:
      • Severe child abuse
      • Resistance to or witness to gang activity
      • Family claims (ex: land disputes)
      • Domestic violence (including gang-related)
    • You do not get a court-appointed lawyer for immigration court, unlike criminal law, which again is harmful in them not knowing and understanding their rights.
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The Red X

Curious about the red X you see everyone on social media today? Today, February 25th, is the day thousands of us all over the world will “Shine A Light on Slavery.”

Yes, slavery still exists. And yes, so do modern-day abolitionists!

Here are a few facts from Not For Sale:

  • What is it? Modern-day slavery is the acquisition of people using force, deception or coercion with the intent to exploit. Slavery is wrapped up in almost every industry’s supply chain, tainting the food we eat, the clothes we buy and the electronics we use. After the international drug trade, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second-largest criminal industry in the world.
  • How many people are currently enslaved? There are 30 million slaves in the world today, more than at any point in history.
  • What kinds of slavery exist today? Labor trafficking and debt bondage are the most common forms of slavery today. Using coercion, violence and deception, labor traffickers force victims to work against their will in industries that range from small mom-and-pop shops to enormous mineral extraction camps.

    Sex trafficking is also extremely widespread, generating $99 billion in illegal profits annually. Victims of sex trafficking are predominantly women and girls who are forced to work in the commercial sex trade against their will. Physical and emotional violence is an intrinsic part of this industry, which preys on those in conditions of physical, economic and psychological vulnerability.

  • Why does slavery occur? Trafficking exists because there is skyrocketing demand for cheap products, labor and services. For traffickers, there is also abundant money to be made and little risk of discovery because the crime is so difficult to identify.
  • Where does slavery occur? Slavery and human trafficking occur in virtually every corner of the world, with hundreds of thousands of victims in the United States alone. Victims of trafficking have been found in all 50 states and in cities, rural areas and suburbs.
  • Men, women, and children are sold into a $150 billion annual market for sex and labor. After the international drug trade, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second- largest criminal industry in the world.
  • Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (C.S.E.C.) is the sexual abuse of a minor for economic gain. The majority of child victims come from environments of extreme instability, and most have suffered sexual abuse prior to their commercial exploitation. Homeless and street youth, or those facing food and shelter insecurities are also easy targets.
  • There are an estimated 2 million children exploited in the commercial sex industry worldwide. And 12 to 14 is the age in which a girl is sexually exploited in the commercial sex industry in the US.

 

“Shine a Light on Slavery Day” was instituted by the END IT MOVEMENT as a way to unify the cause so many of us fight year round and in our own spaces.

So, this is it. This is our day to let the world know that SLAVERY STILL EXISTS and we won’t stand for it! We want to own the conversation on February 25th. Join us and raise your voice for the men, women and children trapped in slavery around the world today. Draw a RED X on your hand, snap a selfie and post it using #enditmovement. Awareness isn’t everything, but without it, slavery will never end.

About the END IT MOVEMENT:

END IT is a coalition of the leading organizations in the world in the fight for FREEDOM. Each of their amazing 16 coalition partners are doing the work, on the ground, everyday, to bring AWARENESS, PREVENTION, RESCUE, and RESTORATION.

 

If you see something you need report, or if you need help, please call 911 or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. You can also text “BeFree” to 233733, or submit a tip online at PolarisProject.org.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela


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I Have A Dream

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech.”

I just can’t listen to this speech without tearing up, but the last several years, I’ve tried to watch it every Martin Luther King Day. It’s so moving, and so eloquent. It’s the picture of dedication and compassion. It’s a manifestation of God at work in His people. I totally understand when people compare MLK to a modern-day Moses.

Sadly though, I didn’t realize this milestone was approaching until just a few days ago. (Thank you, Twitter!) If I had, I might’ve tried to go to D.C. for the occasion, or at least The King Center here in Atlanta. It is certainly worthy of celebration. We’ve come a long way in 50 years, but there’s more work to be done. We pause to remember and honor, but we also make plans to press forward.

I think King’s speech ignites something deep inside many of us. It gives us a longing for justice. Freedom may have rung for some, but not all, and I think his speech reminds us of that as well.

So, I also have a dream.

I want everyone to be able to say, “Free at last. Free at last. Great God Almighty, we’re free at last.” There are approximately 27 million people around the world who can’t yet make that declaration. They are children, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, family and friends. They are enslaved to someone else. Literally, a slave. They need someone to fight for their rights. As it did 50 years ago, it will take people from all walks of life, working hard, banding together and changing mindsets, saying that we won’t stand for this any longer. This is an injustice. It is a threat to society. It must stop. I will help.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if, in another 50 years, we marked the end of slavery around the world? We would look around and not see perfect people, but people who have progressed. People who realize that another’s suffering and civil liberties are worth their time and effort. We must understand that if one of us is hurting, we all carry that with us. We are connected, whether we want it or not. The products you buy, the image you project, the compassion or lack thereof that you show, the attitudes that you pass on to your children, the way you speak, and on and on. It affects us all as a society.

I don’t think my dream is too audacious. 50 years? It’s possible. The abolitionist movement is swelling around the globe, as it has done in the past. All it takes is one person telling another, and then passing it on. And soon, those people are a movement. They are a force. Change can happen. Change is happening. Don’t you want to be a part of it? Wouldn’t want to look back and say you were there?

Even if this isn’t your cause or dream, you can still make small choices that can improve someone else’s way of life. “I know that I am not the only person who does not want to wear people’s tragedy. I do not want to consume their suffering with my morning cup of coffee.” – Dave Batstone, founder of Not For Sale

Everyone deserves freedom. Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Help me give others the opportunity to make their own choices. Let’s end slavery in our lifetime.

I have a dream. What’s yours?

 


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Happy Birthday Doesn’t Even Come Close

131630375Happy 100th post to me! While that is a celebration in itself, I wanted to tell you about something even more special that I was able to be a part of recently. It’s really something worth honoring.

A few weeks ago I attended a birthday party. While at first that may not sound all that exciting, it was unlike any birthday party I’ve ever attended.

It was for a survivor of sex trafficking. And it was her first birthday party ever.

She’s older than I am (I’m a very young 36.), and I’ve never seen such joy at a birthday party. Sure, there’s the six year-old who is super excited to open his new Angry Birds t-shirt, or the teenage girl who squeals while waving around her first iPhone, or the twenty-something who over-shares on Facebook about her birthday cruise. But this experience was pure, unfiltered, full-on thrill. It was one of the greatest days of her life. And it was pretty darn amazing for the rest of us too.

We had the usual—streamers, balloons, flowers, party hats, cake and gifts. But to her, we hosted the Oscars. Everything we did during the party or gave her was like an answer to prayer. There was gratefulness displayed like I’ve rarely seen over such simple things most of us take for grated like a cute watch or a pretty handbag or sweet-smelling lotion or a nice pair of jeans. But for someone who went from having nothing, to personally owning a few lovely things, it was a milestone. She held up her new clothes excitedly saying she would wear them to her very first church service in the morning. Nothing was taken for granted, and everything opened a new conversation full of hope and a different future.

Funny enough, one of her favorite things was the balloons. She said she loved balloons and always wanted one of her own, so she was excited to take them to her room afterward along with her gifts. And she didn’t open our cards in public, but instead tucked them neatly inside her pretty little purse and told us she would read them when she was feeling lost or scared or alone. She said they would comfort her in desperate times when her past would creep back into her thoughts. Our words would communicate love when our arms couldn’t be there to embrace her. It was so ordinary and so extraordinary all at the same time.

We laughed with her and cried with her, and drank in every second of her. She couldn’t believe we would do anything like this for her. She’s been used and abused her whole life, and in many ways still showed the scars.  She animatedly talked about her brand new faith, and asked questions and shed tears when she remembered God would always be there to listen to her. She said if she’d only known that before, she would’ve started talking to him long ago.

Before we all left, we prayed with her because this was a birthday in so many ways. It was a landmark occasion. It was a symbol of a new future. It was a party for leaving “the life” behind and entering a new one. It was a day just for her.

“Happy” birthday just didn’t do it justice, and I’m not sure any words ever would. But I know I’ll never quite look at birthdays the same way again, and I certainly hope I get to attend a few more like that. I also hope I can make mine more meaningful. I plan to make my birthday as much of a happy day for me as those around me, and those I can help like her. And that would certainly be worth celebrating.


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We sit.

113723895Today was my first time volunteering over at Solomon House. What did I do? I sat. I watched a movie with the newest resident, a sweet girl in need of love, care and a fresh start. I’m really good at watching movies, so I fit right in. And turns out we both like Will Smith.

It wasn’t glamorous or full of deep life-changing conversation. We exchanged a few words, but not much. After a little time passes, she might not even remember I was the one there with her. And all that’s ok. She is beginning her time of restoration, and it’s a slow process. She needs to take baby steps, and if that means sleeping in and getting up to a movie, that’s totally fine. It sounds a lot like my Saturday mornings, in fact, so I highly recommend. For her, it’s a move toward normalcy and there’s a lot to be said for that, especially coming out of prostitution.

As we were sitting there, a scene from the movie Lars and the Real Girl came to mind. If you’ve never seen it, you must do so immediately. It’s a darling of a movie, and more people should know about it. There are probably easily 100 lessons that could be learned from that film, but this one has popped into my head on a number of occasions.

In the scene, it’s a time of mourning for Lars. A few women from his church come over to bring him some food and be of comfort to him. To be honest, it’s not a big part of the movie. Most people probably wouldn’t remember it. It’s this tiny, little conversation before and after bigger incidents. but it’s the one that stuck with me the most for some reason.

Sally: We brought casseroles.

Lars: Thank you.

Lars: [Lars looks around the sewing circle. The three ladies are knitting and doing needlepoint] Um, is there something I should be doing right now?

Mrs. Gruner: No, dear. You eat.

Sally: We came over to sit.

Hazel: That’s what people do when tragedy strikes.

Sally: They come over, and sit.

On the way over to the house this morning, I prayed that God would give me the words to speak that would encourage and comfort her. It turns out, all I needed to do was sit. I wasn’t at a loss for words, they just weren’t needed. I only needed to be present. She’s been lonely, and needs to know people care about her and believe she can make it through this difficult transition. I think sometimes we try too hard to come up with the right things to say when people are hurting, but mostly, the best thing we can do is be there for them. Sometimes our intentions can make the most difference.

Other women will be visiting her throughout the upcoming week. I imagine every visit will be a little different. Some of those may very well be the deep, life-changing conversations. They may be encounters that she remembers for the rest of her life. They may be done by women who will stay in her life for years to come. But this morning she wanted to watch a movie, so that’s what I did.

I was there. I was present. I was there if she wanted to talk, and I was there if she didn’t. And I’m really looking forward to going back and doing it all over again. If needed, I’ll sit again.

(By the way, if you care to donate to Solomon House, the items most needed at the moment are: PJs, bras, Celebrate Recovery Bibles, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, His Princess by Sheri Rose Shepherd, and gift cards to things like grocery stores, movies, restaurants, etc.)