Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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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.

 

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Justice Conference: Pre-Conference Highlights

photoLast week I attended The Justice Conference in Los Angeles. It was my first time attending this conference, and I was super excited. I’ve attended a lot of conferences, but this was really my first big one on social justice issues, which is such a huge part of my heart. The speakers did not disappoint. Really good stuff. I wanted to share some of my favorite thoughts with you. Hopefully they’ll inspire you as well, as you pursue the work of justice.

 

Innovation and Creativity in the Church

Ken Wytsma, Founder of The Justice Conference and author of Pursing Justice

Charles Lee, author of Great Idea, Now What and founder of Ideation Camp

Jeremy Courtney, Preemptive Love Coalition Co-Founder

  • Innovation is problem-solving. Creativity is how you get there.
  • The idea you start with is rarely the idea you end with.
  • Sometimes you just push through the work even if you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Ideas are impotent without action.
  • Talking about something tricks your brain into thinking you’re actually doing something.
  • Get out of your own circles to get new ideas.
  • Being in the right place at the right time is most important. (Be present)
  • Unplug and reflect regularly.
  • “We need to be a tangible expression of good to the world.” – Charles Lee
  • We make time for things we value.
  • How do we make time? 1. Prioritize. 2. Let others participate. 3. Incremental execution. 4. Resist the urge to listen to irrational voice. 5. Take your own advice. 6. We veil our laziness with too many meetings and coffees; just get moving. 7. Be prepared to fail gloriously.

 

Justice and The Gospel

Ken Wystma, Founder of The Justice Conference and author of Pursing Justice

  • The gospel and justice aren’t two separate conversations.
  • Justice and “good works” aren’t the same thing.
  • The dictionary defines justice as: a right relationship with God, self, others and creation.
  • Justice structures a society. Justice and righteousness used to be synonyms, but justice has taken on new meaning.
  • Truth corresponds to what is. Justice corresponds to what ought to be.
  • Restorative Justice tries to bring things back to alignment. Helping put things back into alignment is part of being a Christian. It is tied to our flourishing.
  • Justice becomes a theological necessity. We learn about God through justice.
  • Jesus’ coming was Restorative Justice. That’s the Gospel.
  • Restorative Justice is a means to the end—the relationship.
  • We can’t understand the Gospel without justice.
  • It’s not Jesus or justice. It’s both. They are the same.
  • Jesus IS the justice of God come down to earth.
    • Justice is a defining characteristic of Jesus.
    • There has never been a time when you had Jesus and not justice.

 

Justice and Consumerism

Hans Tokke, Eastern University

  • The essence of America is the economy. It’s the freedom to shop. People want to keep the money in their pockets and use it how they see fit. It is rooted in individualism. 70% of economy in the buying and selling of goods.
  • The most important shift in suburban society with washing machine. It went from 8 hours to 4 hours of cleaning clothes from start to finish. Advertising soon followed with wants versus needs.
  • Paradox of Choice – a book that demonstrates when we have an over abundance of choice, we don’t even choose. We are overwhelmed.
  • Biblical concept of benevolence (Mark 14:7) ,”The poor you will always have with you,and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.”
  • How do we treat the widow, orphan or sojourner? That answer is a reflection of a society.
  • Us vs. Them. The way you treat your budgets are a reflection of your values.
  • A lot of people will not be with you. They will support you at a distance.
  • Is caring for the poor an add-on to your life or part of who you are?

 

Unfinished: The Pursuit of Justice Around the World

World Vision Panel: Rich Sterns, Mae Cannon and Romanita Hairston

  • Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
  • “There are many things that can only been seen by the eyes of those who have cried.” – Oscar Romero
  • Jesus didn’t tie up everything with a bow when he left. He gave us the Great Commission.
  • The Great Commission and the Greatest Command pretty much sum up our mission. Jesus hasn’t come back because the mission isn’t finished.
  • 40% of the world hasn’t heard the Gospel.
  • 1 in 5 children live below the poverty line in the US.
  • NGOs and governments’s are mostly caring for the justice efforts. The Church needs to step up to the plate. There are 340K churches in the US.
  • Think not about programs but people.
  • To decide how you feel about immigration, meet an immigrant. To decide how you feel about Title 1 schools, meet families and teachers there. Don’t just stand at a distance or take the word of someone else, even the news.
  • “Talk to me about Jesus because you love me; not because you need me.” – Jewish lady in Israel
  • Palestinians see Americans as people who make weapons against them.
  • Palestinian Christians wish US Christians would remember them. They exist.
  • Lead with love. It’s attractive.
  • Church should be a verb as well.
  • Our solution is often in the places that we don’t go, or are hard for us to go. Be in the difficult places. We are challenged there, and forced to ask ourselves hard questions.
  • Justice is the job of the church.

 

Putting Flesh to Your Vision

Eugene Cho, Founder of Quest Church and charity One Day’s Wages

  • Nehemiah 1
  • God is still speaking to the world today. Do we have the discipline and courage to hear and obey?
  • Everyone has a theology. Our theology informs and drives our calling.
  • 1. Shut Up and Pray. Our culture elevates acting quickly. Jesus withdraws, even at the height of His popularity, when He needed to. Nehemiah did this for several months, probably 4-6 months. We tend to speak and act from an emotional response only.
  • 2. Ask the Hard Questions. Have people who can do this and be trusted. Do this for yourself. We sometimes are tempted to start things for the wrong motivation. We tend to elevate entrepreneurs. Check your motivation.
  • 3. Get Smart. You need to be committed to being an expert in your calling. Your emotional conviction can’t be enough. Intelligence isn’t the antithesis of faith.
  • 4. Discern Your Passion, Mission and Vision. Passion is important, but not everything. Your Mission asks WHAT do you want to accomplish. Your Vision asks HOW do you want to accomplish your mission.
  • 5. Identify Who’s On Your Team. God never speaks His vision in isolation. Get excited about the prospect of who you might work with. Collaboration should be your best friend. You need a support network for the hard times.
  • 6. Have a Strategic Plan. Strategy is not the enemy of faith. If it has value to you, do the work. Be flexible because your plans will change.
  • 7. Funding. Social capital is your greatest resource.

 

So, that was the Pre-Conference. Pretty awesome, huh? Stay tuned for notes from the main event!


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Trauma Training Notes

Out of Darkness Trauma 186930690Training

These notes are from a seminar I attended last summer on trauma. It is part of the on-going education I receive because I volunteer at Solomon House, a short-term recovery center for women who have been trafficked or prostituted. Bethany Blanco of Manna Treatment was the presenter. Just thought I’d share in case anyone else finds it helpful.

PERPETRATOR STRATEGY

  • Emotional and mental strategies make the most sense because they can’t be seen.
  • Exploitation of a victim’s vulnerabilities: take them out of their environment, isolation, fear law enforcement, insult, question them/raise questions, lies, hone in and emphasize vulnerabilities
  • Threats: violence, threat of harm is just as strong as harm, threats of harm to family or things/people they love, surrounding them with other scared women
  • Reward/punishment: showing some kindness to keep them coming back, the possibility of better, relationships form, fear keeps a dutiful slave, occasional violence
  • Praying on commitment: contract, commitment to family (as in they are providing for the victim), providing or caring for the victim’s children

VICTIM RESPONSE

  • Acceptance or dependence
  • Believe they aren’t good enough for anything else, undeserving
  • A lot of eating disorder victims have sexual abuse history
  • The chains are mental.
  • Learned helplessness
  • Reactive stance (How can I minimize the pain best, knowing this will be my situation?)
  • Identify with perpetrators and sympathize (gives them a weird sense of responsibility and control), genuine feelings of guilt, responsibility makes them feel like they could’ve prevented it, integrates into sense of self (Guilt is I did something wrong. Shame says I am wrong.)
  • Semblance of honor by fulfilling commitment
  • Destroys sense of self

RELATIONAL LESSONS

  • Am I worth loving? Are people safe? – These two questions give people a working model for relationships, starting when they are young. Mothers provide first model for this idea. Can be altered based on healthy or unhealthy relationships. This all forms how we relate to others. Social and biological components. Failure to thrive.
  • The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog—book
  • Parts of the brain: reptilian (flight/flight, survival, instinct), mammalian (emotional center), human (logic, last to develop) — Trauma makes you live in reptilian center. It’s only based on response.
  • Be careful with touch until you have a trusting relationship because touch has not been positive for victims.
  • Be safe and consistent.
  • Logic is not very useful in the beginning because they can’t process it.
  • The person of the therapist brings the most success.
  • Being a safe person: know yourself, evaluate motives, examine your own story and find acceptance, learn to be nonreactive, allow them to be who they are without judging, understand that everything makes sense given the circumstance/history/experience/etc, trust the process and give it the time needed
  • After someone shares trauma, ask them how they’re feeling about it. Stay calm to keep them calm.
  • Be careful asking questions before they’re ready to share, and don’t let them share too much too fast.
  • “Grounding” helps people with severe flashbacks focus on the present.
  • Give them a vision for the future. Give them small tasks to build their self worth. Help them see new options. Add life skills.
  • Show them what healthy weakness looks like.


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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.)


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Donations Needed for Solomon House

148166849Recently I’ve started working with a second organization on a volunteer basis called Solomon House, a division of Out of Darkness Atlanta. Because I’ve spent so much time with past abolitionist organizations working on outreach and education, I wanted to round out my experience on the other side of the issue, including rescue, recovery and rehabilitation. Solomon House is a short-term transitional facility for women leaving prostitution. (Note: Prostitutes have often been prosecuted for their actions, however, this is changing. A more aggressive legal approach is being made to prosecute pimps rather than prostitutes as many of them did not enter it willingly. They are often trafficked or enslaved through force or coercion.) Once rescued from the streets, which is done of their own free will in deciding they are ready to leave “the business” and enter into recovery, the Out of Darkness team takes them to Solomon House. There they wait to be placed into a long-term recovery program.

Because my schedule is pretty hectic leading up to The Orange Conference, my efforts are minimal right now. But one of the things I can easily do for them is to collect items they need. These women often come off the streets with nothing, and are just learning a routine of normalcy. You and I can create a more stable environment for them with just a few things from our everyday life.

Here is a list of items I’m continually collecting, so if you’ve got anything to donate, please let me know. And if you aren’t in the Atlanta area, I have no doubt there are places like this near you that need help.

  • Gently used women’s clothes, accessories, bras, shoes
  • Small suitcases
  • Baskets, like small laundry baskets
  • Totes for carrying their things into long-term recovery
  • Note cards and stationary
  • Journals
  • Life Recovery Bibles
  • Devotional books
  • Books: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers or Captivating by John & Tracey Eldridge
  • Pens
  • Full-sized toiletry items like toothpaste, deodorant, body wash, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush/toothpaste, face moisturizer, razors, sanitary pads and tampons
  • Hair brush/comb
  • Socks
  • New underwear
  • Bedroom slippers
  • Full sized towels, hand towels and wash cloths
  • Pillows
  • PJ’s
  • Twin sheets and blankets
  • Treats: hard candy, tea, chocolate, etc.
  • Gift cards for Solomon House groceries

It takes approximately $5,400 to put one woman through this process of recovery. With just a little help from each of us, we can make a big difference. One woman’s life is worth it.