Beyond HT 101: Success!

Last Saturday about 50 of us gathered at the beautiful Elon Global Commons facility to go deeper in learning how to respond to human trafficking victims in a trauma-informed, victim-centered manner in the medical community. 

Our guests, mostly health care professionals, were welcomed to our conference with a table full of breakfast foods and coffee (thanks Starbucks!) prepared by our AMAZING team of volunteers who always serve with willing and joyful hearts. The conference was intended as a follow-up event to the several "HT 101" awareness presentations given by our Medical Outreach Team at their 1-hour "Lunch & Learn's" at Kernodle Clinic in Burlington. 

The first speaker, Courtney Dunkerton, shared the services Alamance For Freedom offers and how the medical community can engage those services. She also highlighted trends in human trafficking in North Carolina and the types of cases AFF is seeing in the community. 

“You all take this issue very seriously...you have no idea how empowering that is to me as a survivor.”

Tanya Street , survivor, advocate and international speaker shared with us her own powerful story of recruitment into "the life."  She highlighted the pimp's strategy of using her own history to his advantage, thereby creating formidable trauma bonds and a desperate felt need of obligation to him. She educated us on how she, as an advocate, engages victims who are in the process of leaving their traffickers. Most powerful to many of us was how she turned her own experience into helping other victims see and understand their own exploitive relationship with their pimps.

Shannon Harty LCSW spoke to us about the Effects of Trauma on the Brain, especially how to see past the patients' "bad" behavior and to dig deeper with the intent to reach the real underlying problems.  Next, Megan Johnson, Chief Operating Officer of Carter's Circle of Care in Greensboro, NC, talked to us about positive, tolerable and toxic stress: how to distinguish between them, how it relates to patients and care givers. She also talked about dealing with compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and burnout in working with clients and patients. She pressed the importance of institutions practicing Trauma Informed Care.

Ms. Street was invited to jump in during this last segment with commentary on how a trafficked victim may present in a health care setting and how her trauma played a part in her own story. This was a great application of TIC to victim service practice. 

Afterwards, Tanya and I chatted about the event and she gave me some feedback about the  presentations and the services AFF provides. She made a comment that I found very powerful and one I had not heard before. She said "You take this issue very seriously and there are a lot of groups dealing with this topic that don't--but you all are and you have no idea how empowering that is to me as a survivor."

For us at Alamance For Freedom, that was all the feedback we needed to hear.

 

A Music Teacher

"Broken Piano" Image by John Dunkerton

"Broken Piano" Image by John Dunkerton

A popular music teacher, father, husband, founder of the Long Island City Academy of Music, and loved by many, was charged this week with sex trafficking of minors, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, attempted sex traffickings of minors and attempted inducement of minors to engage in sexual activity.

Notice the word minors--that’s anyone under 18 and in this case, way under 18—as young as 8. What were you doing when you were 8 years old? I was building tree forts and playing freeze tag. I wasn’t getting rented out to 52 year old men. 

This story is noteworthy in that 1) it exposes the ugly truth that in these United States there is a market for young children sold for sex and 2) it gives us insight into WHO is buying these children.

People who knew him, according to the stories, hadn’t a clue. He was familiar, friendly, even “renown” in his community. He had access to young children. He had access to a pimp who readily provided him with the product he demanded.

As a mother, aunt, youth mentor and victim advocate, those numbers haunt me: 8, 13, 17. Who are the faces and souls that go with these ages? How were they brought into this market? Sold by a heroin-addicted mother? “Throwaway” kids that are not even on NCMEC’s radar? Birthed by other victims and entrapped in the pimp’s “stable?” 

It is very good that this man will no longer be able to pay to rape children. But there are others who will buy to keep this horrid market alive. There are people who obtain these children to make money: "...the pimp said he could give Sohngen the 8-year-old and a 13-year-old for $1,600."* Such things shouldn't be.

Is it thinkable, is it plausible that this is going on in your community? If it were, would you know?

Sources:

 http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/05/16/sex-trafficking-music-teacher/ 

*http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/renowned-queens-music-teacher-busted-sex-trafficking-charges-article-1.3170253

New Research Study About Homeless Youth

We are excited about this new piece of research just published. Many of us have benefitted from the research study published in 2013. (See below) 

"This community-based research project, conducted by Loyola University New Orleans in conjunction with Covenant House New Orleans, is a replication and extension of a study conducted by a Fordham University research team in 2013 at Covenant House New York. Their report, “Homelessness, Survival Sex, and Human Trafficking: As Experienced by the Youth of Covenant House New York,” concluded that among the youth interviewed, approximately one in four had engaged in commercial sex, 14.9% of respondents had experienced some form of trafficking victimization by the time they arrived at Covenant House, and at least an additional 8% had engaged in survival sex. "

An excerpt from some of the key findings:

Human Trafficking

  • 14% of respondents were identified as victims of some form of trafficking, following the legal definition outlined by the 2000 U.S. Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.

  • 11% of the total population had been tracked for sex, 5% for other forced labor. (Two respondents were trafficked for both sex and labor.)

  • Based on the number of youth aged 16–23 that Covenant House New Orleans cares for over the course of a year (approximately 615), the findings indicate that approximately 86 residents a year are likely to be victims of human trafficking.