posted by Community Admin on Mar 03, 2014
This is a guest post from Chris Hnin, of the Tufts Task Force which went out to talk to hotel and motel owners in Boston about how to identify and report child sex trafficking.
“Hi, would you like to hear about how you can help fight sex trafficking in your hotel?”
It was quite the perfect morning; the sun painted the sky clear blue and Boston was waking up to a beautiful Saturday. It was the day of an outreach effort to hotels and motels for us here at Love146 Tufts Chapter. In groups of no more than four, we headed to Downtown Boston, Alewife, and Fenway.
Prior to this date, we had put together a Hospitality Packet and some posters from Love146 to be distributed to each hotel/motel. In this neatly bound folder, you could find essential guidelines and hotlines for hospitality professionals – i.e: How to identify potential trafficking activity? How to provide aid? What are the available resources? We then generated a list of 2-3 stars hotels from Yelp.com and contacted them in advance.
As we made our way to the hotels we had successfully contacted before this date, our little box of folders and posters became lighter and lighter. And so did the weight of our initial worries.
We had been wary about how these hotels would respond to a bunch of college students. Would they take us seriously? Would they be apprehensive about our intents? Much to our relief, the managers and staff we met with were mostly receptive, and gave us the confidence that they were on our side.
There was an instance where a manager shared enthusiasm and knowledge about anti-trafficking efforts. It was heartening to hear that the hotel already includes some abolitionist education in their staff training. The manager further assures us that he was aware of the same hotlines. This was a great morale-boost for the team, and what we took away was the importance of increased efforts in upper management to actually integrate anti-trafficking education in its training curriculum.
While most of us had pleasant experiences, task force member Kenia Estevez recounts a particularly interesting interaction. According to Ms. Estevez, a manager at one of the more inexpensive hotels reacted quite adamantly to her explanations of the material, insisting that it was in the better and more luxurious hotels that the sex trade flourished. Though a bold (and ungrounded) claim, it definitely made us wonder whether our efforts were directed correctly at the lower tier hotels.
Perhaps this manager knew better; perhaps the sex trade was immune to the differing standards of hotels.
We ended the day with a high. Knowing that we had brought attention to the issue to hospitality staff in the hotels we visited was a rewarding experience for all of us. Knowing that this attention – even if for a moment, even if for a day – could translate to further actions is what gives us hope and keeps us going. Moving forward, what we think will be even more effective is to consider targeting outreach to hospitality executives in the Greater Boston area; to pass a kind reminder that they are the people who are more able to make or break an environment that welcomes the sex trade.
Want to talk to hotel owners in YOUR city? We've got everything you need: www.146taskforce.org/community-empowerment-initiatives
In Cambodia, few people are reaching out to transgender youth, leaving them vulnerable to isolation and exploitation. Often, their only community consists of fellow transgender youth. For many, this increases their vulnerability and risk of sexual exploitation. That’s why outreach is such an important part of our work in protecting children.
It was well past midnight in an area of Phnom Penh (the capital of Cambodia) where a number of transgender youth (sometimes known as lady-boys) wait for clients, that we met one person who was getting off the back of a motorbike and holding a brick. We asked her why? She said that she’d just been with a client and needed it in case he got violent with her. I was stunned. This is the reality of being a transgender person in Phnom Penh.
Violence, prejudice, and discrimination are a normal part of life for transgender youth in Phnom Penh. In a recent study of 50 transgender people, we asked from whom they experienced prejudice the most.
Their response? Police and parents — the two groups you would hope should be protecting them.
When describing the way that police treat them, one said, “I really hate the police. They chase us like dogs.” Of the 45% who said that they had been physically assaulted in the past year, 40% of those said it had been by the police! One even described how a policeman had forced her to have sex at gunpoint.
Cambodia is a mainly Buddhist country and the transgender youth here often believe in re-incarnation. When asked, “What do you hope to come back as in your next Incarnation?” the response was sometimes, “A woman”. However, several said something to the effect of, “I don’t really care what gender I am, as long as it is definite.” It was so sad to feel the pain of their uncertainty. Transgender people sometimes can’t even feel free to worship in the temple. “People stop me from going to the pagoda because they’re afraid I will go to have sex with the monks,” said one transgender person to us.
Very few people want anything much to do with transgender individuals. Occasionally they are “lucky” enough to draw the attention of the bars where they can perform in “lady-boys shows” but these shows are infrequent and are not something every lady-boy feels drawn to. The shows can attract predators who want to use the transgender person for sex afterwards. The majority of lady-boys are not able or equipped to work elsewhere. They believe their only option to earn money is sex work, which is replete with stories of gang rape and other high-risk sexual behavior.
When we first started doing outreach, the transgender youth we encountered looked hesitant. What were we doing? But as we spoke to them, they realized that we respected them as people and we realized just how much these individuals appreciated having their stories heard by those who treated them with dignity.
The research we did led to the formation of an outreach on Friday evenings, when we go to the areas frequented by those looking for clients. They don’t mind speaking to us for a while between clients and, if they are open to hear it, we offer information on alternative work as well as legal and health assistance.
The best time to do outreach is between midnight and 4 a.m., yet this is one of the favorite parts to my job. Since we began a few months ago, we are getting to know these amazingly resilient youth and we have seen some of these transgender individuals exploring alternative work opportunities that are being created specifically for them. But the best thing is seeing them smile as they relax and enjoy speaking to others who simply value them as a person rather than a body.
posted by Community Admin on Jan 30, 2014
Here's a Google+ Hangout hosted by UNICEF yesterday about Strenghthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking, specifically talking about bill H.R. 1732 / S. 1823.
Recent reports have shown that the majority of child trafficking victims in the United States have had contact, often multiple times, with the child welfare system. Child welfare professionals can play a critical role in identifying and protecting youth who are targeted by human traffickers.
In the U.S. Congress, a bipartisan bill, the Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act (H.R. 1732 / S.1823), would help improve state child welfare systems in order to better protect children.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF was joined by special guests from Representative Karen Bass' office, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST), the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST-LA) and End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA) to discuss how important legislation could change that.
No one knows exactly how many people trafficking affects — some say 20.9 million, others say 29.8 million — and frankly, no one will ever know for sure. But behind every disputable estimate is a real person that cannot be dismissed, and their stories are what fuels me and my co-workers at Love146.
As someone who spends their day talking to people all over the country about trafficking, I get asked all the time: “What can I do?”
It’s not a difficult question to answer… it’s more about how many times someone is willing to ask. Trafficking is a complex injustice and there’s no blanket solution that will get rid of it once and for all. The end of child trafficking and exploitation will come from people asking that same question over and over again.
So what can you do? The answer for right now is that you can get involved with advocating for legislation that protects children and fights vulnerabilities.
The Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2013 (learn more about it here) is a critical piece of legislation that works to ensure that child victims of human trafficking are being properly identified and receiving the services they need. It’s currently being considered by committees in both the House and Senate, and we can show our government that we want it to become a law.
Runaways from group homes, children in foster care, homeless teens… victims and children at risk of trafficking in the United States often come into contact with child welfare systems. For example, a 2007 study conducted in New York State, showed that more than 85% of identified commercially sexually exploited children in New York had prior involvement with child welfare systems.
Vulnerable children are already coming into the system and if The Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2013 became law, child welfare systems would be equipped to use existing resources to serve youth better. It would establish training programs so child welfare agencies can better detect and respond to youth who have been sexually trafficked or exploited.
Here’s where you come in.
We’ve partnered with Polaris Project to make it easy for you to tell your local representative that you want The Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2013 (or H.R. 1732 and S. 1823) to become law.
First, click here to tweet to Senators Tom Harkin and Marco Rubio, who have the power to get the bill up for vote in the U.S. Senate.
- then -
Sign this letter and protect children today!
And after you’ve done that, make sure you ask yourself: “What’s next?”
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