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When A Man You Love Is A Sexual Predator

The following is a re-post from www.huffingtonpost.com

We spoke to women who have grappled with their affection for men accused of sexual misconduct.

DAMON DAHLEN/HUFFPOST PHOTOS: GETTY

DAMON DAHLEN/HUFFPOST PHOTOS: GETTY

When Vanda was 20, her parents called her into the living room to deliver some bad news. Her mother proceeded to tell her, very matter-of-factly, that her father had been arrested on charges of sexual assault. Her dad, who ran a prison pharmacy in Southeast England and was home awaiting his trial, sat there stone-faced while Vanda, a music student at a Manchester college, sank into the family’s green couch in shock.

“I just couldn’t add it up in my head that this person had done this thing,” the now-50-year-old librarian who lives in Ohio told HuffPost. “He was an authority in the local church and a respected person. Nothing in his life gave any clue to him being someone who could possibly go to jail for anything.”

Even though her dad was later found guilty of forcing a nurse at the prison to give him oral sex twice ― and eventually sentenced to two and a half years in prison as a result ― Vanda, who asked that her last name be withheld to protect her privacy, desperately clung to her parents’ initial claim: that her father’s accuser was a liar. Even when his case appeared in the local news, she didn’t want to process the reality that the man she was raised to trust was capable of such disgusting behavior.

Behind the many high-profile men who have been accused of sexual misconduct in the past few months are spouses, family members, colleagues and friends struggling to make sense of how the people they love could commit such heinous acts. Last week on the “Today” show, Savannah Guthrie shakily asked, “How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?” hours after learning that her co-host, Matt Lauer, had been fired over allegations of sexual harassment. Gayle King asked a similar question after Charlie Rose, her former co-host from “CBS This Morning” was accused by eight women of sexual misconduct. Sarah Silverman said about the allegations against comedian Louis C.K., “Can you love someone who did bad things?”

In cases of sexual misconduct, a victim’s trauma is always the most intense. In many cases, they have been preyed on by people they know and trust. But because sexual offenses often produce a ripple effect, trauma can also land on an offender’s closest friends and family (and in some celebrity cases, even their fans). These loved ones, commonly referred to as “secondary victims,” must grapple with whether to continue a relationship that now feels duplicitous.

In 2000, when Maureen Farrell Garcia found out her then-husband had been sexually abusing her preteen relative, she felt a mix of emotions. “I was enraged at and also terrified by the man who was my husband at the time,” said the 47-year-old, who teaches writing at a New York college. “I was also grieving because I recognized that everything I had believed was now in question and my whole life was going to be different after that point.”

A church pastor convinced Farrell Garcia’s ex-husband to turn himself in to the police. She says the officers were sympathetic toward him ― he avoided jail time by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to probation and group therapy ― but he moved out of the house they shared with their 8- and 10-year-old daughters. Even though Farrell Garcia despised what he did, through it all she felt conflicted about the man she’d met as a teenager ― the man with whom she’d shared decades of good memories.

“You can’t just turn off having cared for someone for so long,” she said. “You’re in this place where you’re feeling two opposing emotions at the same time and it’s a horrible place to be.” Part of Farrell Garcia wondered if therapy could help rehabilitate her ex, but the other part of her thought, “I don’t feel like he can be fixed. I’m done.”

You can’t just turn off having cared for someone for so long. You’re in this place where you’re feeling two opposing emotions at the same time and it’s a horrible place to be. Maureen Farrell Garcia

Experts say it’s common for an offender’s loved ones to feel torn between love and disdain. “If your brother was accused of sexual assault or sexual abuse, how would you feel?” asked Brian Pacheco, the director of communications at Safe Horizon, a New York City-based organization that provides resources for victims of domestic and sexual violence. “It’s really normal in the short term for people to be confused and go back and forth between, ‘Oh they [are] a terrible person for doing this,’ and, ‘I want to continue the relationship.’ It’s important for people to sit with that and process. They don’t have to make a decision right away.”

Ultimately, Pacheco says, a person’s emotions can change over time, a reality many psychologists and counselors would address in therapy. People might shift from feeling defensive of offenders to feeling anger and betrayal toward them. Frequently, a perpetrator’s loved ones go through an intense period of mourning their relationship with the accused.

“It [was] like discovering that the person I knew didn’t exist at all,” Farrell Garcia said. “I found myself in a place where everything I believed felt like a lie. My whole life ... felt shattered.”

Spouses, family and friends also often feel complicit in their loved one’s offenses. In 2015, when Suzanna Quintana left her husband, whom she now describes as a sexual predator, she worried about her role as an enabler. When she found out he was fired as a restaurant manager for sexual harassment before they met, Quintana believed the colleague accusing him had lied. She accepted his apologies after he flirted with their 16-year-old babysitter and commented on the size of a young family friend’s breasts. When their 19-year-old tenant said she felt uncomfortable after he entered her apartment without asking, Quintana downplayed the incident.

“I clinged to the man that I knew and made excuses for that other man who would show up half the time,” she said. “We had this history and this love. The threat of that being taken away was sometimes too overwhelming.”

She filed for divorce in 2015, after her husband’s too-close relationship with a group of 19- and 20-year-old women made Quintana question his pattern of sexually predatory behavior. She remembers thinking, “I need to connect a lot of dots right now. How do I fit into this? Do I have blame and did I enable? I think that’s a natural reaction for women to be like, ‘How am I at fault here?’ Even though we’re not.”

 

Al Pereira/WireImage via Getty Images Hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie on the set of NBC’s “Today” show at Rockefeller Plaza on Nov. 17. Lauer was fired last week over sexual misconduct allegations.

Al Pereira/WireImage via Getty Images

Hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie on the set of NBC’s “Today” show at Rockefeller Plaza on Nov. 17. Lauer was fired last week over sexual misconduct allegations.

Critics have denounced women like Guthrie and Silverman for not calling out their colleagues’ harassment sooner, accusing them of staying silent to protect their careers. While Pacheco maintains that a predator’s inner circle should condemn abusive behavior when they become aware of it, doing so can be a difficult process.

“We really have to put the onus on the person who committed the act,” he said. “[People] feel powerless that they couldn’t step in and couldn’t change what happened ... but part of it is knowing that it wasn’t your fault.”  

Members of the entertainment world described the sexual misconduct of prominent predators like Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K. as open industry secrets. But, often, offenders are very skilled at hiding their crimes.

“Many of these guys are super charming and likable,” said Alexandra Katehakis, a Los Angeles-based sex therapist. “Everybody loves them and they are the life of the party.” 

Though it might be more reassuring to think of sex offenders as monsters we can spot in plain sight, the reality is much more complex. Predators are also people who sit around family dinner tables with their children, celebrate anniversaries with their spouses and have close relationships with their siblings. As a result, partners and family members who feel attached to perpetrators might choose to stay in their lives despite criminal behavior.

Ottawa-based psychiatrist Paul Fedoroff runs support groups for spouses and loved ones who want to have ongoing relationships with sex offenders. He tells them it’s possible to compartmentalize feelings of love and hate.

“[They] have a right to feel different about the person than [they] do about the crime,” he said. “Being in love with your husband doesn’t mean that you are not acknowledging the crime he did is reprehensible.”

Fedoroff says some perpetrators can attempt to reform their behavior and maintain healthy connections with proper treatment. “It’s a myth that sex offenders are unchangeable,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with loving a man who has changed and who is no longer offending. [But] that doesn’t mean they have to forgive the past offense or excuse it in any way.”

In fact, Katehakis notes that it is helpful for perpetrators to have a support system in place when they seek treatment. Not every loved one, however, will want to stay in an offender’s life. As a therapist, she says her job is to “restore [a spouse or family member’s] self-esteem” so that “they can decide whether to stay or go.”

Both options are valid, but Pacheco believes the process of reconciling your love for a person with your contempt for their behavior largely hinges on the offender’s willingness to hold themselves accountable.

“[It] starts with an abuser saying, ‘I did something wrong and [I] need to change my behavior,’” he said. “It’s hard to move forward if someone [is] not taking responsibility for their actions.”

Vanda has not been able to look past her father’s crime because he has never admitted his guilt. After going to therapy for the past five years, she came to believe his accuser, but when she tried to broach the subject with her dad over the phone, he shut her down.

“He had no remorse for anything,” she said. “We were to see him as a victim and that was the end of the story.” Vanda no longer wants her father in her life, but says that “had he showed repentance at all, that would have been a conversation we could have had.”

Farrell Garcia also decided to leave her husband after he abused her relative; they no longer speak. Being in counseling made her realize she could never trust him again, but it also helped her reach a place where she can see him for more than his crimes.

“I do love him in the best capacity that I am able to, knowing everything that he did,” she said, adding that her version of love meant holding him accountable for his behavior rather than showing him affection and staying in the marriage.

“It’s easier to think he is horrible, and he is horrible. But if he wasn’t also human and funny and charming and intelligent, he wouldn’t have been be able to get away with what he was doing. So we have to recognize that those are qualities of people who are abusive. He just used those qualities for bad things.”

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What You Need to Know About the Cyntoia Brown Case

   By now you may have heard about Cyntoia Brown, a young woman who is serving a life sentence for the murder of a Nashville man in 2004. In 2004, Brown was only 16 years-old, and living not with a parent, relative, or even a friend but her pimp. Cyntoia Brown was a child sex-trafficking victim, and this case is not new.

Cyntoia’s story plays out like many other sex trafficked victims. Brown was a runaway, but rather than find love with the 24-year-old boyfriend she moved in with, she was abused, raped, and forced into sex work.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Photo by www.bustle.com Cyntoia Brown  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Photo by www.bustle.com

Cyntoia Brown  

“He would explain to me that some people were born whores, and that I was one, and I was a slut, and nobody’d want me but him, and the best thing I could do was just learn to be a good whore,” Brown testified at a 2012 hearing.

In 2004, Cyntoia killed Johnny Mitchell Allen, in self-defense, after he paid her for sex. When Allen reached for what she believed to be a firearm, she grabbed a gun from her purse and shot Allen in the back of the head.

Brown was tried as an adult, and convicted of first-degree murder in 2006, receiving a life sentence for her defending herself. Although she has been in jail for over ten years, her case is only just receiving media attention, despite a 2011 documentary that aired on PBS exploring the injustices surrounding her case.

Sadly, Cyntoia is not the first victim in her family—her mother, Gina Mitchell, became pregnant at 16. By this age, she had already been raped. Gina used alcohol to cope with her past abuse—during, and after her pregnancy. Cyntoia only lived with Gina for two years before she was given up for adoption to a family friend, Ellenette Brown. It wasn’t long before Gina turned to crack cocaine and then prostitution after giving up Cyntoia for adoption. Cyntoia’s grandmother, also, was victim of sexual abuse and assault, having had Gina out of rape.

Systemic oppression and trauma is a reality and heartbreakingly Cyntoia Brown is one of many young women who become victims of sex trafficking, only to also become trapped by injustice.

Brown is hopeful for change, and since her sentence has received an Associate’s Degree and is also working on her Bachelor’s Degree.

Thanks to renewed attention to her case and the advocacy of some major celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Rihanna, the chances of Cyntoia Brown’s release are looking much better.

You can sign and share Cyntoia’s campaign for release by going here.

 

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“Doing good-looking great” charity event by Womenlikeus Foundation in LA

A repost from Live In Style.

November 9th 2017

Women Like Us Foundation organized an event to collect funds to help #sextraffickingvictims on the path to recovery. The event took place at Ben Talei, MD – Beverly Hills Center for Plastic & Laser Surgery ‘s office in Beverly Hills.

Dr. Nancy O’Reilly Author, speaker and philanthropist was one of the speakers as well as the LAPD Task Force.

LINDA RENDLEMAN, PRESIDENT/CEO inrtoduced the event giving an amazing speech.

Linda is an award-winning writer, speaker, and business woman. She is the author of the book series, Women Like Us: Real Stories and Strategies for Living Your Best Life; Women Like Us Illuminating the World  and her newest book Women Like Us:  Together Changing the World. In 2009, she created the Women Like Us Foundation. 

CATT SADLER, INTERNATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, Ambassador leader attended the event together with most of the LA’s Ambassadors of the Womenlikeus Foundation.

To know more about the organization and to donate please visit

www.womenlikeusfoundation.org

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Missing Teen Feared Abducted For Sex Trafficking

A repost from Huffington Post by David Lohr.

It’s been almost two months since a Pennsylvania teen who’d recently moved to New York City disappeared.

Since Sept. 20, no one has seen or heard from 19-year-old Corinna Slusser, an aspiring cosmetologist who grew up in Bloomsburg.

According to family, Slusser traveled to New York City in March after meeting a Harlem man her relatives suspect of being a pimp.

“She wanted out from this small town that she was living in and this guy gave her that out,” Slusser’s aunt, Julie Anne Becker-Calfa, told News 12 The Bronx. “And it just developed and the psychology behind human trafficking is insane. They know exactly what they’re doing to break these girls down.”

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Slusser’s family reported her missing on Sept. 12, when she failed to show up at her grandfather’s funeral in Florida.

After alerting authorities, Slusser’s mother, Sabina Tuorto, turned to Facebook, pleading for her daughter’s return.

“My daughter was a great student, [and] a cheerleader. She had many friends and lived her life as a normal teenager. I need her home and I can’t bare anymore days like this,” Tuorto wrote on Oct. 10.

A New York City Police Department spokesperson told HuffPost the last confirmed sighting of Slusser was at the Haven Motel in Queens on Sept. 20. No one has heard from Slusser, who turned 19 on Oct. 6, since then.

The teen, an avid social media user, last posted in early September.

On Sept. 7, Slusser tweeted photos of a Bronx apartment.

Slusser’s last Facebook post ― a selfie ― was dated Sept. 8, and she has not shared anything on Instagram since Sept. 10, when she posted a photo with a Bronx location tag.

The teen’s disappearance came on the heels of a complaint she filed in Manhattan on Aug. 25 against a 32-year-old man she accused of assaulting her, The New York Daily News reported.

Slusser said the man stole her money and then grabbed her by the throat and “slammed her against the wall, making it difficult for [her] to breathe,” according to court papers obtained by the Daily News. The man was reportedly arrested, and Slusser was granted a temporary order of protection.

Authorities fear the teen is a sex trafficking victim.

HuffPost could not reach Slusser’s family for comment on Monday.

“I fear the worst, but I pray for the best and her to return home,” her mother wrote in her Oct. 10 Facebook post.

Police described Slusser as a white female with blond hair and blue eyes, weighing 140 pounds and standing approximately 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a large black flower-type tattoo in the middle of her chest.

Anyone with information about Slusser should call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-8477.

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Women Making a Difference: The Evolista’s Transformative Journey

Helene Bry, left; Jenifer Byington, right

Helene Bry, left; Jenifer Byington, right

       There is no shortage of amazing achievements being made by women all over the world. From new businesses, to nonprofit organizations to movements like “#metoo,” which highlighted the prevalence of sexual harassment, it’s clear that women are unstoppable.

What else is clear? Women’s ages play no role in their impact. Although society still has an antiquated view of what women can accomplish past a certain age (or what they can’t accomplish before a certain age, for that matter), women prove time and time again that age, truly, is just a number.

For Jenifer Byington and Helene Bry, age is something to embrace—especially when getting older simply means becoming wiser (and a whole lot more fabulous). Jenifer and Helene, best friends who could be sisters with their beautiful blue eyes, blonde hair, and fit physiques, recently founded The Evolista—a lifestyle blog tailored to women in their late 30s to early 50s.

We sat down with Byington and Bry to learn more about they’re shaking up the blog world with The Evolista.

What was the motivation behind starting Evolista?

We saw the lack of blogs out there for women our age. Twenty/Thirty somethings have these beautiful lifestyle blogs for single girls, married, and small kids. Travel blogs have gorgeous trip inspiration posts. We wanted something that would have that same beautiful feel but talk about the things women in their 40s+ would find interesting.

Tell us how you both met!

Helene loves to tell this story because she thinks it has shock value - we met in bible study. Somehow people want to console us for the fact that we may be interested in faith.

What type of content can we expect to see on your platform?

We hope to fill the niche of doing something for yourself whether it’s about fitness, beauty, health, fashion, travel or entertaining. We want to show women what fun things are available for them.

How does your brand make an impact for women?

Women have a tendency to take care of everyone and everything else, sometimes at the expense of themselves. Getting older opens a world of possibilities for us. We see that as an opportunity to evolve into the best, most interesting versions of ourselves. We want to create a community where women have an opportunity to share their wisdom and fun ideas so we can all evolve together.

What are your favorite women’s causes?

Truly all causes that are geared towards women are our favorites but if we are naming names, we love that the Women Like Us Foundation focuses on women who are essentially being abused. These women need a champion and WLUF humbly serves them. Glamour Project is another one. It was started by Kara Fox and Evvy Shapero as a way to give women a happy moment. They go into shelters, put makeup on the ladies and take glamour photographs. It’s amazing to see the transformation that happens in the course of an hour. The women are very guarded at the beginning of the process and they gradually open up and actually start having fun just like we all did playing dress up or getting ready for a big night out now. I believe it reminds them of the person that has been hidden inside of them that they thought was gone forever.

Why is gender equality an important issue for you?

There is absolutely a bias in the workplace towards women and beyond that, inequity towards women in the world, especially in 3rd world countries. With respect to the workplace, it’s important for women to view their potential to rise as limitless and to work hard to achieve their goals. If you believe in a glass ceiling, you can bet you will find it. There are many women who faced obstacles, crashed right through that glass ceiling and did things their own way. Any of us who have kids know that the reason they get what they want is they don’t accept “no” for an answer. On a world level, it’s so hard to watch what women go through. Women around the world are in abusive situations just because they are female. We are so thankful for women (even girls like Malala) who stand up and do something. Everytime we see a profile on 60 minutes or read a news story about one of these women, we are so inspired. The Women Like Us Foundation is doing amazing work on behalf of women domestically and abroad that are suffering terrible abuse.

If you could name three women leaders that inspire you the most, who would they be and why?

It’s hard to pick just three female leaders because there are so many inspirational women out there, but here goes…

  • Oprah is the ultimate inspirational leader. The fact that she suffered abuse, dealt with discrimination, worked her butt off for years on end to be the trailblazer that she is, championed people that needed a champion and showed us insight into the world on so many levels is what makes her one of our favorites. Oprah did a series on India where she profiled women from various income levels to show, not only gender inequality but the plight of women in India at the poverty level. It was shocking.

 

  • Sara Blakely is such an incredible role model. After a lackluster Xerox sales job, she created a disruption to the pantyhose industry and made Spanx a household name. Her example as a young female entrepreneur and self-made billionaire is a game changer for so many. We heard her speak about embracing failure as an opportunity to take risks and grow from the experience. Whether you apply that in your work or personal life, it can have amazing effects.

 

  • Coco Chanel started from nothing and became one of the most influential fashion icons of all time. She created an empire in a world ruled by men. She was responsible for getting women out of corsets and gave them the freedom of dressing in things that were formally just for a male wardrobe like pants and suits. It might not sound like a big deal but she literally gave women the freedom to move comfortably. She refused to follow trends and many of her designs are as relevant today as they were back then like the little black dress. She was the first designer to have a fragrance, which is one of the biggest channels of income for the fashion industry today.

What’s next for Evolista?

Our journey has really just begun. We will continue posting content on the blog about fitness, health, beauty and travel. We will be adding fashion into the mix. Also, keep an eye out for fun video content that will probably make you laugh but you also may garner some valuable tips. Ask us this question again in six months and we will definitely have a lot more to say.

Learn more about Evolista here.

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In Reversal, Tech Companies Back Sex Trafficking Bill

This is a repost from The New York Times.

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WASHINGTON — After a bruising week before lawmakers, big internet companies including Facebook and Google relented to pressure in Washington on Friday and agreed to support a sex trafficking bill they had vehemently opposed for months.

The bill would allow victims to sue websites that knowingly support and assist sex trafficking on their site. State attorneys general would also be able to go after the websites that support sex trafficking content.

The companies had argued that they had worked hard to combat sex trafficking on their services, but that the bill would jeopardize a free and open internet, as well as subject them to many potential lawsuits for the actions of users.

But companies have come under increasingly harsh scrutiny in recent weeks, particularly for their role helping to spread Russia propaganda during the 2016 presidential election. This week, executives at Facebook, Twitter and Google faced tough questions from lawmakers in three congressional hearings.

Under those conditions, the bill, called the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act, became an unpopular lobbying battle for the tech companies. Rivals such as the Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, Oracle and HP joined civil rights groups like National Urban League in support of the Senate bill.

After weeks of negotiating over details, an internet lobbying group announced on Friday that it had ended its battle to squash the bill.

The bill “will grant victims the ability to secure the justice they deserve, allow internet platforms to continue their work combating human trafficking, and protect good actors in the ecosystem,” said Michael Beckerman, president of the Internet Association.

Congressional aides said the internet companies had been invited to weigh in on the bill before it was introduced in August, but they declined. The companies then forcefully came out in opposition, warning that it would expose web companies to numerous lawsuits because the actions of users were hard to police.

Lawmakers said the new bill contained modest changes that clarified that state law enforcement officials would have to use federal law as their basis of suits, one of the final sticking points for the companies. And the new draft contained language that only websites that knowingly assisted and supported sex trafficking would be targeted.

“This important bill will hold online sex traffickers accountable and help give trafficking survivors the justice they deserve,” said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, who was a co-author of the bill with Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut.

The bill amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, established in 1996, that protects online companies from liability over content they hosted on their sites. Companies say that law has allowed internet services like Google and Facebook to thrive.

But with broad support, legislators said some smaller companies had hidden behind Section 230.

“Removing the unwarranted shield from legal responsibility will save countless children from horrific tragedy, both physical and emotional,” Mr. Blumenthal said.

Consumer advocates said that the law put the big companies on notice as well.

“This is a chink in the Teflon of Google and Facebook’s shield of immunity,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.

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This is #LMxCATT

This is a repost from Daisi Jo Reviews.

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This was a pretty busy weekend! I recently became an Ambassador to the Women Like Us Foundation and it’s been so intense that I haven’t been able to give it a formal announcement on any of my sites but stay tuned - it’s coming! On Saturday, I attended the LMxCATT launch party for the Jacki bag created by Catt Sadler and Lulu Eschelman benefiting the Women Like Us Foundation. It was a beautiful event hosted at the La Piazza Ristorante at The Grove. I was joined by a few other Ambassadors @jessicarossofficial, @pamelaquinzi and @nadyarousseau

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The Jacki bags are custom, one of a kind exclusive bags made from luxuriously soft peddled leather, gunmetal hardware and lined with soft black microsuede. The special edition Jacki bag was designed  in memory of  Jackline Korinko, a victim of female genital mutilation.

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Fifty percent of all purchases of the Jacki bag will go to support the Women Like Us Foundation. Each Jacki bag features a unique beaded design on each strap that was hand beaded by the girls at The Olmalaika Home in Kenya. With each purchase of this special edition Jacki bag, the funds will go to building a new and improved washroom, new utility sinks and new shower stalls.

 

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Swarens: Only 12, and bought for sex in Indiana

This is a repost from Tim Swarens' story.

The pleas to help a wounded child came in one after the other. 

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First one 12-year-old girl who'd been purchased for sex in Indiana was identified. Then a second. And a third. And a fourth.

In the past two months, Ascent 121, a Carmel-based nonprofit that provides treatment and other services for child trafficking victims, has been asked to aid four girls entering their first weeks of middle school. 

Dozens of adults had paid to sexually abuse these children. And yet, according to Ascent 121's Chief Operating Officer Megan Jessup, none of the buyers were arrested or prosecuted for raping the girls.

It's an outrage and a breach of justice that I've seen repeatedly as I've examined child trafficking cases across the nation in the past year. Buyers are rarely held accountable.

“If we walked into a hotel room and saw a grown man having sex with a child, that would be rape, that would be assault," said Tracy McDaniel, founder of Restored Inc., another local nonprofit that aids trafficking victims. "But if we walk into the same hotel and there’s $20 on the nightstand, now she’s a child prostitute? That doesn’t make any sense to me." 

McDaniel handled a Hamilton County case last year involving an 11-year-old victim who was advertised on a dating website called Plenty of Fish. "Her mom needed rent money so (the child) met someone at a park and exchanged sex for money," McDaniel said. "It led to her meeting other men online.” 

None of the buyers were prosecuted in that case either.

In Hamilton County, 10 trafficking victims had been identified by Sept. 30; up from nine in all of 2016. Ascent 121 had served 120 young trafficking victims by Sept. 30; it helped 110 girls last year. And Restored Inc. had handled 72 cases in the first nine months of this year; last year, the organization assisted more than 100 victims.

Let's pause to think about this: Young children — 11- and 12-years-old, for goodness sake — are being exploited in some of the worst ways imaginable in our community. And the buyers who abuse these kids are allowed to do so without consequence.

How can that happen?

"Our society tends to normalize buyers' behavior," Jessup said. "There's a tendency to blame the victim."

Anti-trafficking advocates describe it as a "culture of impunity." It involves a cultural stew that includes the lack of political will to aggressively enforce laws that criminalize the purchase of children; the benefit of the doubt given to buyers when they claim they didn't know their victims were underage; and the belief that sex workers are to blame at least in part for their own exploitation.

Prosecutors also argue that asking a child to testify against buyers can further traumatize a victim who's already suffered horribly.  It's better, they say, to offer survivors treatment and to go hard after the pimps and traffickers who profit from exploitation.

And that is true in some cases. But McDaniel said she's worked with survivors who wanted justice and couldn't get it.

“It’s heartbreaking. These are children, and at the end of the day, a child cannot be a prostitute," McDaniel said. "For them it’s daunting. For them, it’s like, ‘Why should I even tell? Why should I listen to you? Why should I trust you because nothing is happening?' The lesson I’ve learned is that our justice system doesn’t always work, and it doesn’t always work in the favor of a child.”

Questions about how to address the demand side of the child sex trade are being raised with increasing urgency. In part, that's because the number of identified victims is on the rise. But more so, because the enormous scale of the demand has become increasingly evident.

A recent example out of Delaware County illustrates the point.

In September, I sat down with two undercover officers whose primary responsibility is to fight against the exploding drug trade that's devastated so many lives in our state. During their investigations, they started seeing a disturbing number of child trafficking victims, and so they went to Sheriff Ray Dudley to ask permission to pursue trafficking cases in their spare time.

In August, one of the officers posted a fake ad on Backpage.com in which he posed as a 15-year-old runaway girl.  He received 98 text messages and calls from potential buyers in the first 12 hours the ad was online.

Eventually, one man — 41-year-old Anthony Ralph Kapp from St. Joe, Ind. — was arrested and charged with attempted sexual misconduct with a minor and child solicitation.

Let's pause again to think about those numbers: One ad; 98 potential buyers; one arrest.

With that level of demand, as McDaniel noted, traffickers have strong financial incentive to recruit, groom, manipulate and coerce young victims. Which means we won't reduce the scale of the child sex trade until we get serious about attacking demand.

“We can recover them all day long," McDaniel said. "But if we don’t have proper services for them and if we don’t go after demand, if people aren’t being prosecuted, then it becomes a gerbil wheel. The trafficker is looking for another child to exploit."

 

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The Story Behind the Jacki Handbag

This is a repost from Catt Sadler's website.

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I discovered LumillaMingus earlier this year and fell in love with my first few bags.  There was this super luxurious but very wearable feel to them.  I was an instant fan.  Then I learned of Lulu's collaboration with Goop and Gwyneth Paltrow and was super impressed.  I knew I had to work with her.

With a similar aesthetic and taste, Lulu suggested a collaboration and I knew right away it was a fit! When she suggested the charity component, I couldn't refuse.  

If you decide to purchase a bag - and I hope you do - fifty percent of the proceeds go to a cause near and dear to my heart.  My mother who founded the Women Like Us Foundation, took me to Kenya a few summers ago to show me several of the schools and organizations the charity supported there.  One of them was the Olmalaika Home.  It is a space that rescues girls who are victims of FGM.  I was so moved by this place, the girls, and the woman who started Olmalaika, Kim Dewitt.  I met several young girls while I was there, but one had such an impact on me.  Jacki.  She was tall and beautiful and quiet.  She had big dreams.  Devastatingly, she fell ill earlier this year and tragically lost her life way too young.  She was only 17.  

We named our bag the Jacki bag in her memory.  There are many girls there with such bright futures and my hope is the proceeds from the sales of this bag go to sustaining the school - all made possible by my mom's work through the Women Like Us Foundation. 

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5 Women-Led Non-Profits Making a Major Impact

The number of women-led non-profit organizations are increasing every year as more and more women realize the massive need for change. These female leaders have taken the initiative to start their own organizations in the hope of helping alleviate poverty, lack of education, and sex trafficking among others. Some of these organizations include the following:

 1.      Women for Women International

The focus of this organization is to help women in countries affected by war and conflict. They have been in this non-profit organization for over 20 years. The organization recorded over 462,000 women from war-stricken countries who have been helped since 1993. They are taught skills they can use to generate income for their needs.

 2.      Movemeant

At first glance, you would think this is simply a fitness business. But Movemeant’s mission is to help women of all sizes to accept who they are and how they look. This organization helps women become more confident of themselves so they can reach their full potentials. Women are taught good, healthy habits from diet to exercise.

3.      Malala Fund

It is an organization that focuses on fighting for the futures of women and girls through education. Malala is the founder of this organization and she is from Pakistan, now traveling the world to serve others. She is an education activist who, at an early age of 11, started to speak about education for girls in her country and was almost assassinated at the age of 15. She later founded Malala Fund with her father. She now lives in the UK with her family.

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4.      Hand of Hope “ProjectGrl” of Joyce Meyer Ministries

Joyce Meyer started this project under the initiative of Hand of Hope, a Joyce Meyer Ministries World Missions, with a goal to help get women and girls off the streets and away from prostitution. The project realizes that about 80% of human and sex trafficking are composed of women and girls. The organization hopes to help lower that number because it believes that “every girl deserves the chance to blossom.”

5.      Courtney’s House

Courtney’s House was founded by Tina Frundt, a fighter for the rights of children against sex trafficking and prostitution. Tina was a sex trafficking victim herself and she understands the devastation this experience can bring to a child’s self-image, personal, and social life. Courtney’s House is a non-profit organization that is fearless in rescuing children being forced into prostitution. This nonprofit helps victims start new lives and brings awareness to the community about these issues.

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Human Slavery Makes Me Angry

A repost from Dr. Nancy O'Reilly

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It’s time for all of us to wake up and come together to end the worst of our society’s crimes against human beings. I’m talking about sex trafficking. In my conversation with Linda Rendleman, founder of Women Like Us foundation and one of my amazing Leading Women Co-authors, I was shocked to find out the sheer numbers of children here in the United States and world-wide who become victims of this horrendous crime every single year.

1.2 million girls and boys are trafficked every year. Sex trafficking is the second most profitable business in the world, taking in over a billion dollars in business every year.

This problem is at the core of our society and needs ALL of us to step up to end it. This is not a woman’s issue; it’s a human issue. It’s estimated that 30% of the children who are trafficked are boys, but that figure is probably low. Approximately 99% of the users (those who pay to have sex with these children) are men. We must all be outraged and use that anger to really make a difference.

All of us can do something. Click here to access Women Like Us crowd funding page. This campaign is working to raise money to help the women’s organizations rescue children from the streets, house them in safe places and help them become valued members of society. Any small amount will help, especially if we all help. The organizations cannot be sustainable and continue their important work without help. The need us; they need YOU in whatever small way you can contribute.

Want to report sex trafficking? Need to call for help? National Hotline is 1-888-373-7888

Each generation of children who are stolen and sold in the streets creates a new generation of prostitutes. Our children believe what they are told. If they lack self-esteem because they are not empowered with positive language and told they are amazing and can do amazing things, they look for it in potentially harmful places—online in relationships that are false and manipulative, in older boys who profess romantic love to trap immature girls into doing what they want, and with others who only want to entrap and abuse them. We must reach out to protect them with positive environments and a belief in their own precious value as free, self-reliant young women and men.

Our judicial system makes these vulnerable victims criminals and punishes them rather than the men who pay to use them and the pimps who stole them away in the first place. We must work from both ends of the problem. Linda Smith founded Shared Hope International after being introduced to sex trafficking in India, then finding out that it was so prevalent in the United States. Most shocking is that the primary victims in our country are middle-class middle school kids. And the younger the children, the more the men will pay.  Linda’s organization is working on the judicial system in every state and recruiting men to come forward in the fight and recruit others to get everyone involved in, not only legislating for and rescuing victims, but eradicating the unhealthy demand for sex with children.

I am convinced that every person we help, helps three more people. Imagine if each of us helps just one of these victims, how that will spread to make a difference in the world. Every person only wants to be loved. Reach out with your love to help end this cycle of modern-day slavery today. It is at the heart of social justice in our world and will do more for raising us all up than any other single action you can take. Help Women Like Us exceed their funding goal and support these organizations working every day to free a new generation of children.

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4 Benefits of Hosting a Salon for Awareness Building

If you think only non-profit organizations can bring awareness to the community about human and sex trafficking, various health issues, family planning, and everything in between, then it is time you understand that fighting against crimes and maintaining a healthy community is not the work of a select few but of every concerned citizen. The benefits of hosting a salon can spread out to not just the community but also to your entire city, and even farther. But what is a salon?

‘Salon’ is a term used to describe the gathering of people in one venue to listen to life-changing, motivating, eye-opening, and informative details of what is happening around you. It may be safe to say it is like a ‘support group’. A support group or salon has a goal of bringing awareness to individuals about a prevalent issue going on in a community or the world as a whole. It has the objective of helping people reach their potentials as well as keep them safe and sound wherever they are.

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Here are at least four benefits of hosting a salon for awareness building in your community, church, school, organization, or even your home.

1.      The people you care about are the first to know and you will do the favor of informing them about some issues in the community and the world that can happen to anyone. It could be a prevalent crime, sickness, or an individual situation. By hosting a salon for awareness building, you encourage individuals to be alert for their own safety as well as others’.

2.      The second benefit is you provide a support group for victims, either of a crime or a situation. You can help them stay off the streets. The support group may be the first contact they need when they fall prey to an instance of human trafficking, for example.

3.      By hosting a salon, you also open up a social and educational group where everyone can learn and contribute their ideas on fighting against human and sex trafficking, sickness, poverty, or the lack of education among others. It can mean getting outside connections to conduct seminars on “identifying sex trafficking victims”, for instance, or educational programs for war-stricken countries.

4.      Your salon can attract like-minded professionals. Those in the business sectors may offer to employ people who are part of your salon. Some schools may offer their help to educate young boys and girls who can’t afford a formal education, and so forth.

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Hope's Testimony- A Trafficked Victim's Success Story

Women Like Us Foundation supports women-led initiatives through creating awareness of their work, funding and volunteering.  The Dream Center is one of the women-led initiatives we are happy to be involved with...

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“Hope” is in her early 20’s, and has a one year old baby girl.  She came to the Dream Center Human Trafficking Program with a lot of hate towards God and severe anxiety.  She felt like God abandoned her and didn’t care.  A few years ago, she came to Los Angeles to meet up with her boyfriend.  She took the greyhound bus to Los Angeles, but when she got off, her boyfriend wasn’t there.  She started walking to a McDonalds to wait and get some food when a car drove up and pulled her into the vehicle.  Everyone’s worst nightmare became her reality.  She had been kidnapped and had no idea what the next few months would look like.  She was forced to work on the streets for about 7 months.   She had to see 8-10 dates per day and bring in a quota of $1500.  If she needed or wanted anything, she had to go through her pimp to get it.  There was no room for trying to escape from her pimp because she was constantly being watched.  She knew the consequences if she ever tried to talk back to him, express herself, or run away.  One night, a Vice Cop was working and told her he could help her get out.  They staged an arrest and were able to safely remove her from the situation.

The anxieties that she experienced from this situation lead her to paranoia and a feeling of constantly being watched.  She also suffered from the Stockholm syndrome because her perpetrators main objective was to instill in her that he was the only source of protection she would ever have.  Her fear was harsh enough that she felt her only protection was to go back.  She went back several times, and each time, this same Vice Cop would rescue her.   She was finally able to get out and stay out, but was left with some legal cases.  After two years, she was arrested on an old warrant, and her daughter was taken away from her while she completed the jail time.  A case was opened against her through DCFS, and she knew it was time to work through everything she had been through.  She heard about the Dream Center through the Vice Cop, and came without knowing what to expect. 

Since coming, she knows she has given her life back to Christ, and understands that he never left her after all.  The pain she suffered caused him pain as well, and she has never felt more connect to him than she does now.  She feels the Dream Center has given her the tools she needed to get her hope back.  Her main goal is to complete the program and get her daughter back.  She’d like to go to the family floor so she can maintain the same support she has had through the Dream Center and begin to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. 

 

                                      

 

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How to take (and reject) criticism of your views

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For most socially aware and active individuals, it can be tough to maintain relationships with those who don’t support their ideals or viewpoints. You learn to desensitize yourself to actions that upset you, stay silent when you sense that something’s wrong, restraining yourself so that others don’t feel judged and so on. In the process, you end up suppressing who you are.

Being an activist in a world that may not always support your views isn’t always easy. So it becomes all the more important that you keep the company of supportive people. You can also limit your interactions with those who make you feel like you have to change.

You can choose to tune out your family, disagree with friends, get into arguments with your partner and so on. However, what you need to keep in mind is that while you should never suppress your views, you shouldn’t do it in a manner that prevents engagement and discussion.

You can acknowledge your weaknesses and also consider what others perceive as “weaknesses” may actually be strengths. Every individual owns the right to decide their goals and digest feedback accordingly. It’s you who have to decide that which is valuable. Ignoring others’ feedback doesn’t mean you’re bad at taking criticism. How to go about that?

It’s impossible to take everyone’s feedback. You need to be judicious about the criticism to absorb and which to reject. One should develop enough self-awareness and objectivity to know the difference.

Remember that all this applies to people who espouse viewpoints unlike yours as well. There’s a difference between imposing your beliefs on others and refusing to let others impose theirs on you. You should never judge yourself based on anyone else’s ideals, just as they don’t have to judge themselves based on yours.

There are ways of objecting to others’ choices. In this respect, just because certain people find issue with your behavior, it doesn’t mean that you have to change it, as long you respect their boundaries. But no matter how problematic someone’s actions are, pointing out such issues may not always be productive. You’ve to learn to choose your battles.

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You have to know exactly when to quit. The fine line between educating somebody and forcing them against their will is hard to spot. While you can clearly and confidently state your view of someone else’s actions, it’s for them to react in way they choose. You shouldn’t try to push them to agree with you.

While you may choose to express yourself in an aggressive manner, accusations of being adversarial are very often mere tone policing, especially when directed toward women or the underserved. We shouldn’t hesitate to call out others’ actions while acknowledging their autonomy. And we definitely shouldn’t let anyone undermine our own.

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Human Trafficking and the role that the media has to play

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The media is the window for the public to many issues that we may not normally encounter, and has the ability to shape our understanding of critical topics such as human trafficking. To avoid sensationalism or bias, journalism on such issues must be balanced and well-executed. However, many modern news outlets prioritize sensationalism over fact-based coverage of trafficking.

Sex trafficking stories dealing with the victimization of women and girls disproportionately dominate news outlets and often use stylized images of women and girls in bondage as illustrations for stories. This narrative perpetuates stereotypes and misconceptions, especially the one that trafficking always involves the use of physical force or restraint. This is only likely to do more to empower traffickers than to protect would-be victims of this horrible crime.

Those concerned with human trafficking must understand the various intersecting conditions that can lead to this crime. Poverty, domestic turbulence, political unrest, natural disasters and more can all increase the likelihood of trafficking. However, very often stories are reduced to the attribution of modern slavery to a single, underlying cause. This results in failure to represent the ground realities of trafficking and the public’s awareness of its true nature.

Exploitation can assume many forms, not just the one of forcing victims into prostitution. Most victims in the U.S. are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children. Other vulnerable segments include migrant laborers, undocumented workers, young children in the welfare system or even those who travel unaccompanied.

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As with all reporting, it is essential to prioritize the privacy and safety of subjects involved. Victims of trafficking in particular remain vulnerable even after being freed from direct oppression. Discretion should always be exercised in regard to personal information about victims. Their anonymity should be prioritized as their reintegration into society can be difficult and the possibility of re-victimization is ever present.

A major challenge in the coverage of trafficking stories is a lack of corroboration. Many cases go undocumented for this reason. By showing the undeniable connection between our daily lives and modern day slavery, media can not only hold the perpetrators accountable, but also expose the role that society, consumers and governments play unknowingly in perpetuating the atrocity.

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The best hope we have of slowing this criminal enterprise is to do a better job of making people less vulnerable to traffickers.

Done well, journalism can help create an informed society, promote awareness and transparency and catalyze social pressure. All these are necessary objectives to aspire for when covering the issue of human trafficking. Only through heightened exposure in the media can modern slavery receive the visibility and traction it deserves in public discourse.

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What These Girls Want is Love-Learn more from a Sex Trafficking Prosecutor

The following is an excerpt from the latest in the Women LIke Us Book Series, Women Like Us.  Together...Changing the World.  To get the book,    purchase here

Or purchase on Amazon.

SHAUNESTTE TERRELL

What These Girls Want is Love

“I haven’t yet met one prostitute that didn’t start out as a victim of sexual abuse”

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Prostitutes Start Out as Victims

Sometimes people are under the impression that prostitution is different from sex trafficking of a minor. But I have not met one prostitute who didn’t start out as a victim of sexual abuse in some way. And, if they are older, they have just been in the system longer. They are probably more damaged, more addicted. If we confront them and they will talk to us, and give us information, we either don’t charge them or will dismiss their cases. We have to try.

It’s very rare that we have a victim immediately say “yes” to prosecution. They come from dire circumstances. They are missing something at home or they wouldn’t be so easy to exploit; no money, no dad, mom is working three jobs and is an addict, lack of supervision at home. The trafficker knows that what these girls want more than anything else in the world is love, stability, loyalty…and he coerces them into believing that he will give it to them, that he will fill the voids in their life. There was a saying I heard once that went something like, “Once you own the mind, you own the body.” This is what victimizers do. They know their victims’ vulnerabilities, they get into their victims’ minds, and they eventually control their bodies. They sell them love, sell them dreams, then they are like putty in their hands. They give them a sense of family. It doesn’t start out where it ends up.

When we rescue a victim, she is typically not cooperative at first. In the beginning, we create as much distance between the victim and the trafficker as we can. We allow them to take their time, to take time away from the situation so they can start processing what has happened to them. As time passes, they begin to realize that what they have been subjected to is wrong…what was done to them was wrong. Yet some have been through so many struggles, even outside of trafficking, they are very hardened and don’t know or can’t comprehend that they have been victimized. Their sense of self-worth doesn’t exist. This is why it is crucial to have the cooperation between local police, the U.S. Attorney, the FBI and service organizations, which solely work with sex trafficking. It is important for us to partner with facilities for at-risk youth, like a group home, where everyone understands these girls are victims, not criminals. We do not arrest them, they are not charged. Our goal is to try to help them.

People Need to Be More Aware

In my opinion the biggest problem we face in this country is lack of awareness. People don’t believe that sex trafficking takes place here: in our neighborhoods, in our communities, in our cities, in our schools, in our families, in our lives. Kids are recruited through social media, they are recruited walking down the street, at bus stops, in malls, even at the playground. I have to craft my plea negotiations to look different depending on what court my case lands in. Each court has a different amount of understanding of the situation and I craft my plea agreements accordingly.

The legislation in Indiana is getting better. In fact, it’s pretty good. If a person gets charged with promotion of human trafficking of a minor in Indiana, this means under the age of 18, whether there is consent or not, most can get anywhere from 3-16 years. But the same crime in the federal system is 30 years to life. That’s why, of course, we try to get the feds involved as much as we can. I love when cases are filed federally.

Cases are also difficult to investigate and try in front of a jury due to lack of awareness. Many times the jurors are not sympathetic to the victim because the victim doesn’t fit into a nice little box. Many victims don’t have a clean background. Or they are not a part of the community, but rather are transient. Sometimes they have been involved in sexual abuse their whole lives; they have tattoos, facial piercings, they look like “losers.” And, we only get approximately 20 minutes to educate the jurors during the selection process before we start the case. Asking jurors what they know about sex trafficking in 20 minutes doesn’t allow much understanding of this topic. In the questioning, the place I have to start is asking, “What do you think of when you hear the term ‘Human Trafficking’?” 

The way the law reads in Indiana, sex trafficking is Human Trafficking. It’s a bit of a misnomer. When you say this to a jury, many think of a girl from overseas locked in a truck against her will. And that is the way it needs to be presented in the courts. But most of my cases are sex trafficked teenage girls from our own back yard who are vulnerable in many different ways and from many different situations.

The media is so important for spreading awareness. Organizations creating awareness at a grass-roots level is important. Educating our children in our schools is important. It’s all a part of protecting our kids and prosecuting the bad guys. Yet we struggle with the lack of understanding and lack of awareness in the general population. And the problem is increasing. My case load keeps growing. I have three more traffickers to charge within the next week.

Finding the Victims

We find the girls through several ways, but mostly through Backstage.com, a website that the pimps use to market the girls. For the trafficked, under-age girls, they use words like:  young, new, fresh. If they state, “no black guys,” that can be a signal they have a pimp. We look for these buzz words, look for girls who look young, set up equipment in hotels, and do as they do with adults. Then an overnight sting is set up. One of our team sets an appointment and will follow the trail. Sometimes the pimps are found parked nearby. Sometimes he signs her into a hotel and is on the registry. Once we get the agreement, that is the act. The crime of prostitution is in the agreement, not the actual act. An arrest can take place right away or sometimes it takes months.

Other resources for finding victims include 800 numbers, but honestly, since I’ve been in my position, we have not had one call on our 800 cell line. We do get referrals from Child Protective Services and we get a lot of mothers who know their daughter is at a hotel and the name of a boyfriend who took her there. We also get referrals when a social worker suspects a child is being trafficked.

I met a girl last December who was 20, on a night we picked up street walkers. They all were so messed up. They were all addicted to drugs. One girl said she had a pimp, but her mother took the pimp away from her, saying, “I’m a better hooker than you.” I hope we can stop a 13- or 14-year-old from becoming that girl I met.

Shaunestte TerrellDeputy Prosecutor Human Trafficking Division

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Why Non-Profits Need More Self Promotion

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In spite of the fact that most non profits understand the role of self-promotion in advancement of their objectives, they do not use it much. We all know we should do more of self-promotion and that we should be better at it. But at the same time, it’s much more comfortable to simply focus on doing our work. We are more or less conditioned to take the back seat and wait for recognition to come to us.

Common wisdom dictates that self-promotion is self-serving, and evendistasteful. Even when we attempt to talk of our achievements and take the deserved credit for success, doing so with confidence and conviction can be challenging.

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It is important to understand that self-promotion is a key leadership skill. It is upon you to talk about your achievements, not only for your personal benefit, but more importantly for your cause. It’s how you can create an impact and how to sell your ideas to a larger audience. It’s a way of building working relationships and gaining access to people who matter.

Self-promotion serves the purpose of letting others know of your accomplishments and objectives, and the effort you are putting in to benefit the larger cause. As much as your cause benefits from your promotional efforts, it also receives the exposure needed for further efforts and success. The organization can use previous accomplishments to initiate other projects or pursue other causes.

Realize that self-promotion is not always just about you. It’s more about your organization and the cause you believe in.

Most of us waste considerable time scrolling through social media that could be more productive in promoting our cause. In a world ruled by social media, all of us have turned into brands and we can communicate to others what we’re all about via social channels. This can be both a blessing and a curse, in that you have to be aware that everything you say, tweet, post, like, pin or follow will reflect on you.

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One of the best ways to stir up awareness and publicity for your nonprofit is to generate some favorable buzz. The most desirable mode is through word of mouth marketing that can be free (or cheap) and highly effective. In addition it’s a valid currency that spans both the online and the offline worlds, and which can put your organization clearly on the radars of a wider audience in a very positive manner.

There are quite a few things you can do to build a strong, credible personal brand. Above all, be approachable and likeable. People do not like or tolerate showoffs, preachiness or spammers, so the key is to be humble and do everything in moderation.

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How to form a network of like-minded women

As women, we do not advocate for ourselves as often as we should. However, when you work with people who have similar experiences, perspective and objectives it motivates you. With enough people cheering you on and offering you guidance, you are definitely likely to succeed. Such organizations inspire us to advocate for ourselves and support each other in that process.

There are many benefits to being in a women’s networking group. It can be a great way of building connections within your chosen field, help you gain confidence and encourage others to participate, collaborate and innovate.

It need not be too large in scale to begin with. You can start off with 10 or less members, discussing topics that concern you – handling family, progressing at work, etc. In addition to encouraging discussion and spreading awareness such initiatives can serve in developing effective skills.

The world is increasingly becoming aware of the importance of developing well rounded women leadership and close the gender gap in positions of influence. A key tool for this is networking and organization of women. The goal of such programs should be to give women the tools and resources they need while also boosting leadership skills.

Several professional organizations now conduct mentoring programs offering participants a chance to work with and build long-term relationships with mentors and help them devise goals for professional development. With support from mentors, women employees can join group members to discuss current challenges and brainstorm solutions on topics ranging from professional growth to work-life balance issues.

If you are interested in starting a networking or social program for women in your community, workplace or among friends and relations, these are the steps you need to follow:

  • Identify and form an association of like minded individuals or those with similar interests.

  • Identify and decide your common desired goals and communicate it well within the group.

  • Look to examples of other similar groups and use it to outline what your group can do, how participants can contribute meaningfully, how to balance any initiative with their individual and personal schedules, plan budgetary requirements and initiatives.

  • In choosing people to lead the group or head its initiatives, it’d be good to appoint someone with experience who can bring the needed discipline, organization and direction your group will need.

  • Ensure that the group constantly reviews their plan and goals.

  • The groups can also hold social events to raise awareness for local women’s non-profit and charity organizations.

Share the progress and instances of success within the group and encourage members to spread the word. By popularizing and promoting such initiatives you will be contributing to raising awareness and encouraging others to participate.

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The Internet Vs. Sex Trafficking - What’s at stake?

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 has been introduced in the U.S. Senate, with the support of several prominent Republican and Democratic senators. The act increases sites’ responsibility for user content, potentially expanding criminal liability for websites.

The bill proposes a significant amendment to Section 230 (1996) of the federal Communications Decency Act. This decades-old regulation functions as the internet’s liability shield providing websites with legal immunity for their users’ posts. For instance, a social platform like Facebook or Twitter cannot be held responsible for its users’ activity.

The bill’s stated goals let state law enforcement officials prosecute companies engaged in conduct that breaks federal sex trafficking laws. This is in addition to allowing victims of sex trafficking to seek compensation from websites that enabled their victimization and also criminalize any commercial conduct that enables a violation of federal sex trafficking laws.

In short, this legislation would make it easier for the federal and state governments to punish online service providers when criminals make use of their services.

Sex trafficking or prostituting of children are horrific crimes. Most people would abhor such practices and welcome such a step. This reprehensible practice and its perpetrators deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

But why are the tech companies against such a landmark legislation?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation refers to CDA 230 as “the most valuable tool for protecting freedom of expression and innovation on the Internet.” Without this protection, most of the web would no longer exist in its current form.

The most infamous misuse of this provision has been Backpage, the classifieds portal that hosted ads from sex traffickers on its adult services section. After a raid of its offices and the arrest of its CEO by the California Department of Justice in October 2016, the charges were dismissed citing CDA 230. However Backpage eventually shut down its adult services ads, citing overwhelming pressure from the government and public.

This proposed legislation may have some unintended consequences both for tech companies and the people. The proposed act can affect bloggers, news organizations and any platform that allows for public comments. If Facebook, Twitter or Google are held responsible for what users post, they would have to monitor our content and potentially even refuse to allow us to express ourselves or even remove our posts altogether. A new age of censorship.

The proposed law potentially implicates every online service that deals with user-generated content and could hit websites hard. It would directly impact the fundamental right to free speech. The tech industry and internet-rights advocates are rightly concerned about protections of free-speech platforms.

All this points to the need for the framework to evolve from its current form, but as the first step to tackling such a serious issue, it is a very much welcome one.

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Fighting human trafficking while you shop

Thanks to the increased social awareness in recent years, sex-trafficking is at the forefront of our conscience and omnipresent in the news. A dark and scary term which fails to fully represent the horror of human beings who are treated as objects for sale.

When confronted with this scenario it is easy to fall into despair or denial while tending to ask, “How can one person make a difference to a problem so huge?”

However, there is no need to despair, and there are actually a lot of ways anyone can help. The problem is really big but not insurmountable. And you can even start today, simply and easily at your own time and convenience!

Social organizations and nonprofits are stepping up their activities across the world, imparting awareness, providing skill-sets and means of income for the survivors of human trafficking, as also for the young who are at high-risk for trafficking. Some of these organizations raise funds through merchandise.

Your contribution to making a difference can start off by simply choosing to shop differently. It can be as simple as going to your big-box discount store or retailer. Instead, opt for one of the numerous organizations offering many of the same things, being made by women who are striving to support themselves with dignity.

Purchasing products from such organizations may mean some who can go to bed safely tonight and wake up in order to earn a living for themselves, the honorable way. These women will now be able to support themselves with a trade and thus less likely to become victims of trafficking. Beneficiaries of your actions will now be able to support themselves with dignity.

Several major global companies have committed to the Global Business Coalition Against Human Trafficking (gBCAT) and are determined to take a proactive approach to end human trafficking, which remains widespread and difficult to uncover.

The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act requires certain companies to report on their specific actions to eradicate slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains. In addition, the NGO KnowTheChain encourages greater corporate understanding of the said act. It benchmarks companies in a variety of industries to help inform investor's decisions and it also provides tools and resources to help companies be in compliance with both this act and the UK Modern Slavery Act.

All this makes sound business sense as well — With increased demand supply too has to keep up. There are more and more ethical shopping options out that go ABOVE and BEYOND by playing a part in the fight to end modern day slavery. It’s time to vote with your dollars!

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