Introducing: Female Perpetrators of Human Trafficking

female perpetrators doodle-4

Female perpetrators consist of women pimps, madams, managers, handlers, head-girls, and mamasans (a Japanese term) who were most likely former prostitutes and/or human trafficking victims who stepped up into managerial roles alongside their male pimp to earn money. Male perpetrators are the norm in society, while “female pimps” are unacknowledged and continue to perpetuate the cycle of human trafficking and the violence involved with that. The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes states, “in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world, women trafficking is the norm.”

My intellectual fascination with female perpetrators began in the spring semester of my sophomore year when I took a course titled, “Advanced International Relations.” The writing assignments for that class had us pick one topic to write about for the whole semester; naturally, I examined topics related to human trafficking. At that point I noticed there was a plethora of information on victims and male perpetrators of human trafficking, while female perpetrators were mentioned in a sentence or two. This lack of information on female perpetrators piqued my curiosity and solidified my decision to make it the topic I would research and write about for that class and eventually turn into my research project.

Anti-trafficking advocates focus mostly on male perpetrators, but that is a problematic assumption that does not convey an accurate view of the problem. Analyzing human trafficking from a female perpetrator perspective may provide information that might help countries understand how and why human trafficking prospers, especially since the steps for females to become perpetrators are cyclical in that most were former victims of abuse and domestic violence. Threats, force, fraud, and coercion – the same tactics used to recruit these women – were applied by pimps to have them become perpetrators.

A woman is most often used as a male’s front to recruit other women since they are not perceived to be predatory. Female traffickers have said to the girls they recruited, “‘that it was better working for them as opposed to male pimps because they would not get beat up’” (Jones 163). This has victims look up to their female perpetrators as mother figures, which ironically fulfills the expectation of the women being viewed as “caretakers” by mainstream American culture. Jones’ female victim-male culprit reasoning is the popular public perception the American public has towards female traffickers that is also supported by Patricia Pearson’s influential work: When She Was Bad: How and Why Women Get Away with Murder, “American culture is obsessed with constantly ‘seek[ing] a preemptive cause [or exonerative excuse] for female transgressions that preserves an emphasis on [female] victimization’” (Jones 153).

Limited literature on American female perpetrators of human trafficking stems from the fact that notions of femininity and masculinity influence public perception on female perpetrators based on gendered expectations of stereotypical female roles. The femininity of female perpetrators is manipulated to earn the trust of victims, especially since a woman’s socially constructed role presents her as a “primary caregiver.”

It’s difficult to process the information above without concrete cases to prove that female perpetrators of trafficking exist. There are a few documented American female perpetrator cases in which human trafficking was initiated or conducted by a person or a set of people someone may know. In February 2014, a mother from South Florida brought her 15 year old daughter to New York City to “pimp her out as a prostitute” during the Super Bowl. Though this news article does not specifically call the mother a female perpetrator, the conditions that led her to do it are the same conditions that had her act as her daughter’s “pimp”: the mother was aware of what she was doing when she took her daughter out of state to sell her body and forced her daughter to do her bidding to earn money.

Another account from February 2009 shares how a 30 year old Florida pimp first used the Internet to recruit a 14 year old Ohio girl, and then one of his senior prostitutes convinced the young girl to trust them so she could become a model. Luckily, the girl escaped and the pimp and his prostitute “pled guilty to federal sex trafficking charges.” While this account does not have a female perpetrator managing the girls to be sold or exchanged for services, it shows how a male pimp uses one of his female pimps to recruit other girls into his business. Recruitment is especially important for the pimp since customers want “fresh faces” from different races, ages, and gender; the trafficker would earn more money based on how “exotic” a girl looked.

While there are no definitive statistics on how many American females lead American human trafficking operations, it signals how focused research on female run trafficking operations is needed to break through the gendered and racial barriers which prevent that research from being conducted. It would be interesting to see how adding race and ethnicity as factors to analyze female perpetrators of human trafficking would diversify the individual experiences given and add to the complexity of the issue.

Samuel Vincent Jones, The Invisible Women: Have Conceptions About Femininity Led to the Global Dominance of the Female Human Trafficker?, 7 Alb. Gov’t L. Rev. 143 (2014)

January is Anti-Trafficking Awareness Month

Happy new year, folks! January is recognized as “Human Trafficking Awareness Month”, and Elan and I advocate for it with our own personal twist on the name. It makes sense that the first month of the year, symbolic of new beginnings, is also symbolic of how we need to educate ourselves on issues such as sexual violence that require more people-power in its awareness efforts. Human trafficking tends to be perceived as an issue with a gendered lens that limits people’s understanding of it and their ability to help. While it is statistically true that most victims of human trafficking are female, males and LGBT individuals tend not to be mentioned and are then disregarded in the research. This unequal attention cannot be taken lightly because in order to instigate practical change to combat sexual violence, our efforts must be unified and take an intersectional approach to see how certain facets of a person’s life affect him/her/hir.

While the focus of this blog’s past entries has been on male victims of human trafficking, it will soon feature posts on female perpetrators of human trafficking. This shift in gender perspective does not mean complete abandonment of interest in male victims of trafficking, but it is just a prioritized focus in my personal research. There’s no better way for me to hold myself accountable to blogging deadlines than by publicly declaring I shall update this blog once a week with progress on my research project. I’ll look like Dee Dee (below), typing away furiously and with determination. And you, dear reader, are always free to challenge the opinions expressed on this blog.

 TONIGHT at 8pm: Join anti-trafficking organization Restore One for their first Twitter chat, #4BoysChat. Tonight’s topic is on the question of, “Why is there a lack of awareness for male sex trafficking?”

Guest Post on Restore One’s Blog

Nelli wrote a guest blog post for anti-trafficking organization Restore One, “a ministry that seeks to open shelters that offer faith-based residential recovery programs, free of cost to American boys who are survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking.” Nelli writes about how she became involved with anti-trafficking initiatives and what keeps her inspired.

Click the link below to be redirected to Nelli’s blog post, and be sure to leave a comment and/or share the post!

Nelli’s Restore One Guest Blog Post 

Experiencing the 3 “As” – Advocacy, Activism, and Antagonism from People in relation to my Anti-Trafficking “Take Action” Project

It’s been a long semester.

While this blog was originally created a month before I took my International Activist Politics class, it entered into full force when I decided to use it as part of my final project for that class. I had originally planned to work on it over the summer; but working on it this semester as my final project allowed me to “kill two birds with one stone.” Weekly updates and specific times set aside to bolster the blog’s social media presence has had it come a long way compared to four months ago.

Besides the creation and maintaining of this blog, part of my final project also has a “take   action” project. This “take action” project can be in the form of anything as long as it involves me, the blogger, fostering action outside the online world. I decided to do something that I’ve always thought about but never acted upon – flyering for anti-human trafficking awareness. A rather old school method compared to this century’s savvy social media ways, but I chose to do it for that precise reason. I have plenty of experience in managing various social media accounts and providing consultation for the public relations company I work at; but when it comes to flyering, I have no experience. I think that makes it great since no one really needs experience when it comes to flyering anyway. But what I learned about flyering this semester is that while the act of putting up pieces of paper around the school may look extremely easy (albeit time consuming), the thought and strategy behind it takes a bit of time.

I performed two flyering cases this semester at separate times, and recorded some people’s reactions to it and showcased where I put the flyers on the Instagram account I made for the blog ( As an avid Instagram user, I could not not think of making an Instagram account – it had to be done. I also think it was an effective way to document the action project, as it easily provided visual evidence that I put the flyers all over the school and the online community can engage with the photos by “liking” them. All my photos received multiple likes, and some people even commented!

boys are not for sale flyerI did two cases of flyering because I originally thought I would be able to do a mobile art piece, but personal circumstances changed and I was unable to do that. I started with the first case of flyering (which I fondly call my “litmus test”) about a month ago. I thought that I would start putting flyers up about human trafficking to “alert” people and spread awareness of it, kind of like a pre-activity thing to set the foundation for putting the mobile art piece up. The design of my flyer came to me quite randomly, but was nonetheless inspired by one of my blog topics, male human trafficking. Male human trafficking is quite under-explored as a subset of human trafficking, particularly since the gender bias and construction in society presents it as almost being taboo or non-existent, since males are typically recognized to be perpetrators. The first few posts on the blog deal extensively with male human trafficking, and since I was wrapped around that mindset and during that time frame I kept sharing those blog posts all over social media (Facebook, Twitter, and even my LinkedIn account), it made sense for me to create a flyer based on that. For the design of my flyer, I wanted something with a minimalist look yet striking; so I went with the black and white color scheme and used simple fonts to make it easy for the reader to read. Going along with the idea of simplicity and fully aware of people’s short attention spans when it comes to reading flyers on bulletin boards, I decided to stick with straightforward yet attention-grabbing facts to get people’s attention. I made “BOYS ARE NOT FOR SALE” as my headline, and then included a fact underneath it so that people would learn something new and be a bit informed about the issue. Obviously, a flyer cannot contain too much information as it will overwhelm the reader and pull the person away. Therefore, I included a link to my blog post as well as the hash tag “#endtrafficking” for people to look for more posts and information at their leisure.

The “BOYS ARE NOT FOR SALE” flyers were posted all over the school, specifically on the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth floors of 1 Pace Plaza. The flyers were posted on bulletin boards, above water fountains, above recycling bins, outside elevators, outside classrooms, on bathroom doors, and in bathroom waiting spaces. For some odd reason, I didn’t think about taking pictures of the places I had put these flyers up. I think my thought process behind it was to stay “anonymous” and have the flyers appear as this mysterious phenomenon that took over the school in one night. Luckily, when I actually started taking photos of these flyers around the school, not all of them were taken down and I was able to document them then. I was aware that security would take down the flyers, and I’m surprised that some of them survived their postdate.

The few reactions I got from these flyers were all positive. Then again, the reactions came from people I knew so the reactions are somewhat biased. Two people took a picture of the flyer and posted them on their personal Instagram accounts; these two people were my friend Channell Williams and Pace University’s Center for Community Action and Research (CCAR). There are two screenshots on antitraffickip’s Instagram page that show Channell’s and CCAR’s comments towards the flyers. Channell’s comment was “The things you find outside math classrooms”, and CCAR told people to check out the flyers. Ashley Kuenneke, CCAR’s Program Coordinator, later sent me an email a few weeks later saying, “I saw the #endtrafficking posters around campus a few weeks ago – super creative!”. Seeing and hearing these reactions to my first flyering session was a big surprise, since I didn’t think people would actually comment or respond. A few of my friends also saw the flyers posted around the school; and when I asked them what they thought about it, they all smiled and said “It’s so you.” That wasn’t substantive feedback, but at least I know the flyers were seen and noticed. Hearing people’s feedback and comments were definitely encouraging, and a confidence booster in terms of repeating the same event. Around the same time I started posting these flyers, I also noticed a spike increase in terms of my blog views. One of the difficult things about seeing an increase in blog exposure is that unless comments are given, the blogger never really knows what people think about the blog. Just because I had an increase views doesn’t mean that all of them could have been “positive” ones – for all I know, some people could have reacted negatively or some people may have merely visited the link out of interest but then stayed uninterested once they saw it was posted. I consider an effective and legitimate blog view to be one where besides visiting the blog and reading a few posts, the reader also either “likes” the post, leaves a comment, and/or shares the post and blog link on social media. Some of my blog entries have gained likes, but those likes are from other anti-trafficking organizations that have WordPress blogs. This isn’t to say that I’m not pleased that these organizations/people are reading and visiting my blog; it’s just me saying that there isn’t as much public interaction on my blog as I wish there would be, but I think that is something that would probably take more time.

My second flyering session took place a week ago, but almost aspect of it had a complete makeover. After posting the “BOYS ARE NOT FOR SALE” flyer, I was at first content with its design, but then I started to feel a bit uncomfortable looking at it from a distance and pretending I was a random person reading it. While I’m content with its design and the information on it, I was put-off by the fact that I just focused on the male human trafficking. To the everyday viewer, their perception of the flyer would be that only male human trafficking mattered since I just said “Boys are not for sale” and I didn’t mention anything about females and transgender individuals who are trafficked as well. And while I know that when I was making that flyer I didn’t purposely make it to be exclusive, I was thrown off by what I did and proceeded to fix it immediately. I didn’t think it would be good to take down the remaining “Boys are not for sale” flyers since I wanted people to be exposed to them; so to mend the situation, I made another flyer to put next to the “Boys are not for sale” flyer. This flyer was also simple in design and said,

“The Anti-Trafficking Independence Project is not stating that the trafficking of girls is acceptable. We wish to see equal attention and resources spent on boys who are being trafficked. It must be made known that boys are trafficked here in the United States and around the world as well.”

Hopefully, the inclusion of this statement was noticed and thoughtfully remarked upon after I pinned it under or next to the “Boys are not for sale” flyers. Scrolling through the hashtag “#endtrafficking”, no one had posted a photo of my “Boys are not for sale” flyer with its updated note. I know security seems to be out to get me since they’ve been taking my flyers down; but I hope before they do that, they at least read the information on it.

After I went around updating the flyers, I felt inclined to design a new flyer that would have a broader and encompassing definition of all the people affected by human trafficking. My thought process behind making this flyer was to explicitly state in the definition that girls, boys, and transgender individuals are all subject to being trafficked; and I wanted to make that especially prominent in display. In the end, I decided to put on the flyer, “Human trafficking happens to girls, but it also happens to boys and transgender individuals in America and the world. #endtrafficking.” Creating this flyer made me feel more at peace with myself now that all other affected individuals were mentioned. Since I had run out of printer money printing my “boys are not for sale” flyers, I was lucky to enlist the help (also known as “printer money access”) of friends who were more than happy to let me use all of their printing money. With so much printer money at my disposal, I was able to print so many flyers and be equally strategic about their placement around the school.

Since I had an unlimited number of flyers at my disposal, putting the flyers around the school was much more fun. This time, I targeted all floors of 1 Pace Plaza (including the cafeteria, which was an interesting and nerve-wracking experience), the second to fifteenth floors of 41 Park Row, and Pace Seidenberg headquarters. My second set of flyers infiltrated Seidenberg with help from my friend Lola, who is a student aide there and who was more than happy to post the flyers on Seidenberg’s bulletin boards. As with the first time I put my “boys are not for sale” flyers up, I pinned flyers to all Pace Post bulletin boards (which are the only bulletin boards my flyers were allowed on; that didn’t prevent me from not posting on the other bulletin boards, though, since life is short and exposure is exposure), on bathroom doors, in elevators, by elevator buttons, along hallways, in the honors lounge, and on the CCAR office door. Two new locations I included in my flyering adventures were the cafeteria and a few classrooms that I knew were used often.

Flyering the cafeteria was an interesting experience for me and the one that probably gave me the most anxiety. I flyered the cafeteria in the morning once it opened at 7:30am, so that I wouldn’t run into people I know and have too many people stare at me. There were just a handful of people in the cafeteria when I went, and some people did take interest in what I was doing. No one commented or said anything, probably because they were more interested in their breakfast. I taped flyers on the walls next to the booth, on all sides of the pillar close to the café windows but also somewhat in the middle, above the microwaves, and on the wall near the utensil dispensers. I put a total of ten flyers in the cafeteria; and I was surprised to see they lasted for two days before some people thought some of the flyers on the booth walls needed to be ripped in half while others were taken down. Though I wasn’t pleased that some of my flyers got ripped (so much antagonism, why?!), I still had this feeling of contentment knowing that the flyers were noticed and were just negatively reacted to. Also, there is also the faint possibility that since my blog link is on the second half of the paper that was ripped, maybe the person ripped that part of the flyer out because he or she didn’t have a piece of paper and wanted to remember it so they took that half of the flyer as a souvenir. (That could just be me being overly optimistic.) Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of my ripped flyers in the cafeteria since whenever I went down to get food and/or drinks, I went during rush hour when there were so many people and taking a pic of the flyers would have been obvious.

Flyering 41 Park Row was a spontaneous decision. I remembered and decided to include it when Bill asked me to put flyers of his summer I and II online classes in the Park Row building. It wasn’t difficult or nerve-wracking to put the flyers up since luckily for me, the Pace Post bulletin boards were right next to the elevators; all I had to do was go up to each floor, stick my flyer(s) wherever there was empty space (I sometimes took down old flyers to make room for mine), and then leave to go up or down another level. I’m not sure how effective putting my flyers up in 41 Park Row was, since I didn’t encounter anyone when I went to put them up in the afternoon. I do know that the last time I checked (about three to four days ago) the flyers were still there. Interestingly, no one posted photos of my second set of flyers. I searched the hash tag I put on the flyer “#endtafficking” and other human trafficking related hash tags (such as #sextrafficking, #childtrafficking, #labortrafficking, #organtrafficking, and #humantrafficking), but only the photos I had posted showed up. I think that maybe because it’s finals season that people might be zoned out more than usual to even pay attention to flyers or their surroundings.

Executing this action project was one of the highlights of this semester. This might be the millionth time I’m saying this, but I honestly feel that all the assignments we’ve done in our International Activist Politics class has better prepared me for what a future career in the non-profit sector, and I’m really excited to continue exploring all the opportunities to do that at Pace and in New York. The Anti-Trafficking Independence blog is something I’ve wanted to happen ever since my senior year of high school when I first read articles by Nicholas Kristof on human trafficking, and taking this class has pushed me to make the blog happen. Besides posting as often as I could on the blog, I decided to take it a step further by finally creating the social media accounts I always imagined the blog having – namely Instagram and Twitter (I would like to branch out into an official Facebook page, Tumblr, and Pinterest one day). Even Brysk mentions in her book on page 190, “Effective use of media also helped by provoking interest, raising awareness, and shifting attitudes through repetition.” Repetition, visibility, and distribution of information was clearly evident through the blog’s application of social media. As I mentioned earlier, Instagram was created to document my take action project. That was particularly useful for the visual aids provided as evidence that the action project happened. Twitter was useful in the fact that I linked my Instagram account to the @antitraffickip Twitter account so that whenever a photo was posted on Instagram, it was automatically shared on Twitter as well. I also shared links of my blog posts on my personal Twitter (@heynells), and then eventually moved the sharing of blog posts to @antitraffickip for professional purposes. Unfortunately, it was not until a few days ago that Twitter finally produced weekly emails sent to users that showed how much traffic each Tweet got and what Tweets were marked as favorites. I have yet to see an email from them regarding @antitraffickip’s statistics. My Instagram and Twitter feeds have a fairly small audience (less than 100 followers on both accounts); but considering how they were made a month ago, I’m happy with the progress and attention they’ve received. One of my favorite things about social media is its storytelling aspect, and how the things shared (besides those viral animal videos) contribute to a person or organization’s story and/or advocates awareness for something. The Anti-Trafficking Independence Project’s social media accounts will document the growth of the blog and activism experiences, and it will hopefully become a recognized platform for anti-trafficking awareness initiatives.

In the future, I will be continuing these flyering activities as part of the anti-trafficking advocacy I will be doing in the future. I’m still deciding whether or not I want to stick with using the same flyers, or if I should design a new ones. The flyers I used for this final project were only up for at most two months, and I wonder if that’s enough time for proper exposure or if I should launch a new set of flyers for each month of next semester. I will be working with CCAR over the summer to plan some anti-trafficking awareness events for next school year, besides having speakers come in and hosting another petition event. Lately I’ve been thinking about using art as a means of activism, and that’s something I will be looking into over the summer. Is “artivism” a thing, or is it waiting to be discovered? Overall, I am so excited for this semester to be over so that I can fully dedicate myself to growing the blog, its social media presence, and to volunteer with anti-trafficking organizations and network with other people. Cheers to an amazing semester, and to reading this super long blog post.

I would like to give a special thank you to Bianca, Lolita, and the Center for Community Action and Research for all the help they gave me in executing and spreading word of my final project. I cannot thank you enough for all your support (and to you, Bianca, for your printer money!). 

#FlashbackFriday: Take Action! To End Human Trafficking Event

the twitter convo that started it all

It was this Twitter conversation with Pace University’s Center for Community Action and Research (CCAR) that started it all.

The “Take Action! To End Human Trafficking Event” hosted by CCAR was the first petition event I semi-organized and actively participated in. I’m usually the person who signs petitions and talks to friends about it; and there was that one time in my freshman year I sat behind CCAR’s petition table and asked people to sign the petition to raise awareness on the illegal use of coltan (a mineral used in the production of electronics) in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I can’t remember how I felt about that experience since that was early into my first semester of freshman year. That experience must have had a positive impact, though, since I came back a year later to work with CCAR to make this event happen. CCAR and I decided to use the International Justice Mission’s (IJM) “100 Postcard Challenge” as the petition, since each postcard asks Congress to be accountable in making efforts to end human trafficking in the USA and other nations. Additional petition sheets were made and addressed to Senator Gillibrand; those were titled “Take Action to Help Strengthen Child Welfare Response to Trafficking.” That second petition specifically asked Senator Gillibrand to cosponsor the relevant bipartisan version of the “Strengthening Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2013” (H.R. 1732 and S. 1823), as many state and local agencies need to improve their ability to protect children from trafficking and exploitation.

1551780_10152143676225606_710230365_n(1)When I think back on the day of the event, the first thing that comes to mind is the people who did not listen to me and/or who did not want to sign the petition.  When I approached people, some walked away (whenever that happened, I told myself that they must have been so affected by what I said they needed a moment to recover), others listened for a bit but felt uncomfortable signing the petition, and others came up with excuses to not sign the petition. Excuses ranged from admitted laziness to “having an appointment” (yes, eye-rolling to friends while saying that to me is very mature and honest), and to saying “I really don’t care. Human trafficking doesn’t affect me at all.” That last excuse was the most offensive thing said during that one hour of petitioning, and it took a lot of will in me to not react negatively. It was a male who had said the “I really don’t care” quote to me; therefore, taking inspiration from his sandwich, I launched into an appeal as to how the tomatoes in his sandwich could have been harvested by trafficked labor workers from Mexico. However, I didn’t finish explaining the full scenario as the guy abruptly turned around and left. At that point I was completely infuriated with him, since he wasted 10 precious minutes which I could have used in getting other signatures. (I complained about that guy for about a week to my friends; at that point, they were completely over this guy and felt bad for him and annoyed at me. It wasn’t until Professor Nayak gave us a paper of “Some lessons about activism” excerpted  from “Karachi feminist” that I realized I had been doing the wrong thing. As stated in point 11, “Stop bitching about people. Bitch about the positions they take. Stop overpowering the debate by problematizing everything and everyone.”)

On a positive note, I remember excitement in having three friends sign up to table the event; two of them went to the library and cafeteria to ask people to sign the petition, while my other friend manned the table with CCAR. I covered the front lobby, the honors lounge, and school hallways (starting from the second floor all the way to the sixth floor), talking to people who were loitering and eating lunch. Since this was my first time going up to people and asking them to sign the petition, I was extremely nervous the first few times and embarrassingly stumbled upon my words. But after talking to people after a few minutes, the words came out easier and I was more fired up than ever to not get shut down.

One of the many responsibilities as an activist is to advocate for causes in a way that IJM postcardsdoesn’t demonize people or insult their intelligence. The issue also has to be presented in a way that is relatable to people for them to make connections to their personal life. That is one of the hardest things you have to do as an activist, especially if you were not personally affected by the issue. It has me question my role as an activist and wonder if there is any validity to what I am advocating for. After all, “The privilege of continued visibility and having a voice is immense, but also tyrannical as you get older. Embrace responsibility with wisdom.  Don’t be a dinosaur who won’t shut up.” (“Some lessons about activism.”) My friends and I walked into this event not knowing what to expect since this was our first time doing active petition work; we just approached this thinking “What happens, happens.” We were fueled by our passion for anti-trafficking initiatives and excitement in having this event come to life. I found it interesting that my two friends who asked people in the library and cafeteria didn’t meet so much resistance as I did while I walked around the front lobby and school hallways; though of course, the library and cafeteria environments foster a more dynamic “academic” group setting compared to the school hallways and front lobby.

I don’t think there is a quick way to measure the impact petitions have on enforcing policy changes, since it usually takes awhile to accumulate the number of petitions required to get the government’s attention. But petitions are a great way to bring attention to issues that are otherwise ignored or stay under researched. Of course, one can’t help but wonder if the person who signed the petition will remain interested in pursuing the issue. I think that the success of a petition event stems from the amount of people power put into it, especially the proactive measures taken to ensure a large amount of acquired signatures. If my friends and I had not approached people, we would not have gotten our total result of 150 signatures – and while that may seem small in quantity, that is actually the highest number of signatures CCAR received for a petition event. I feel as if I’ve been through some “right of passage” or “initiation” having participated in my first petition event for anti-trafficking measures, and I’m excited to do similar events in the future.

take action to end human trafficking ccar event

CCAR’s Take Action! To End Human Trafficking Event was covered in the March 2014 issue of Pace University’s Pforzheimer Honors College newsletter. The article was written by petition volunteer Victoria Gonzalez, and it can be accessed here on pages 4 and 5.

Some lessons about activism.” Oil is Opium. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 May 2014.

UPDATE: Anti-Trafficking Reads for Summer 2014

I shared the previous blog post below in the anti-trafficking LinkedIn groups I am a member of, as well as on my personal Twitter account. On Twitter, I tweeted several organizations and people involved in the anti-trafficking movement; I was a bit hesitant to do so since I wasn’t sure if people or organizations would get back to me, but they did! I’ve received an overwhelming amount of responses from people (anti-trafficking campaigners and non-profit/non-governmental representatives) commenting on my LinkedIn group post or replying to me on Twitter. I am literally shaking in excitement just thinking about the books and movies I’ll be accessing this summer!

A screenshot of one of my LinkedIn group discussions:

LinkedIn antitrafficking literature responses

If you have any recommendations for anti-trafficking literature, please leave a comment. I would love to start my library on anti-trafficking resources and build it as a community since it will be a lengthy process.

Anti-Trafficking Reads for Summer 2014

The last week of April hints at the dreaded final exam week in May. But after that comes summer, which is always pleasant to think about. While I am still unsure as to how I will be spending my summer, one of the things on my Summer 2014 bucket list is to immerse myself in anti-trafficking literature. Below are books that will be my starting point.

Note: Since I have never read the books and I discovered them by chance, their book summary comes directly from

Walking Prey: How America’s Youth Are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery

Walking-Prey-Cover2“In Walking Prey, advocate and former victim Holly Austin Smith shows how middle class suburban communities are fast becoming the new epicenter of sex trafficking in America. Smith speaks from experience: Without consistent positive guidance or engagement, Holly was ripe for exploitation at age fourteen. A chance encounter with an older man led her to run away from home, and she soon found herself on the streets of Atlantic City. Her experience led her, two decades later, to become one of the foremost advocates for trafficking victims. Smith argues that these young women should be treated as victims by law enforcement, but that too often the criminal justice system lacks the resources and training to prevent the vicious cycle of prostitution. This is a clarion call to take a sharp look at one of the most striking human rights abuses, and one that is going on in our own backyard.”

I follow Holly Smith on Twitter, as she responded to me a few times during a Don’t Sell Bodies Twitter chat hosted last summer. She is very active on social media and is a frequent “Tweeter”;I often find out the latest news and reports on anti-trafficking efforts from her Twitter feed. I am quite excited to read her book as she has been promoting at least a few months before it was released in March 2014.

The Destiny of Zoe Carpenter 

“The Destiny of Zoe Carpenter follows the invincible Zoe Carpenter and morphing sidekick Carl as they2940148880455_p0_v2_s260x420 each discover their purpose in life and fight crime, including human trafficking.  Book aims to teach and start a conversation about human trafficking, real facts about the subject are included in the book.” 

This is the first time I’ve ever heard of an illustrated book to educate readers on human trafficking, and I’m hoping it won’t have too much or any sensationalized information as a way to keep readers interested.

Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale: A Memoir

GLU_flatimage“With the power and verity of First They Killed My Father and A Long Way Gone, Rachel Lloyd’s riveting survivor story is the true tale of her hard-won escape from the commercial sex industry and her bold founding of GEMS, New York City’s Girls Education and Mentoring Service, to help countless other young girls escape ‘the life.’ Lloyd’s unflinchingly honest memoir is a powerful and unforgettable story of inhuman abuse, enduring hope, and the promise of redemption.”

I actually read Lloyd’s book two years ago for the final project for my Introduction to International Relations class. However, it made it to this list as several details of the book remain vague and I would like a refresher. It was The New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof and Lloyd who sparked my passion for anti-trafficking initiatives; I am honestly waiting for the day I get to meet them and tell them how much their work has inspired me. I’m going to purchase my own copy of the book since I think I’ve borrowed (and extended the borrowing time) enough times from my university’s library to know that I need my own copy of the book.

Besides starting summer off by reading the three books mentioned above, I’ll also be reading Professor Donna M. Hughes‘ research papers on human trafficking and anti-trafficking efforts. Professor Nayak recommended her when we talked about sources for me to consult while writing my policy brief on female perpetrators in human trafficking. If all goes well with my policy brief, concept paper, and briefing memo I wrote for Professor Nayak’s Advanced International Relations class, I might email Professor Hughes to ask her a few questions about female perpetrators and their role in human trafficking.

Do you have any suggested book titles to add to my summer 2014 reading list? If so, please let me know. I won’t be taking any classes this summer because I want to focus on writing weekly for this blog and expanding its presence.  Summer will grant me almost unlimited time to read as many anti-trafficking materials as possible, and I want to take advantage of that before the 2014-2015 school year begins.

“Forum Theater” to Combat Human Trafficking

When it comes to advocating for anti-trafficking awareness, theater is the last thing that comes to my mind. I can envision online campaigns, petitions, tabling events, and any other type of public outreach happening on a day to day basis. Theater, for me, was reserved for one room spaces with big crowds dressed up for the night’s performance and sitting rather stiffly. That is an old-school way of looking at theater influenced by my love for classic black and white films from the 90s. So, I was rather surprised to see the above video from Moldova  as one of my Google search results when I typed in “human trafficking theater.”

This video focuses on a new type of theater called “forum theater”, which is a  “method of participatory theater, where spectators are asked to change the outcome of the play.” (Presse) In the video, audience members participate by raising their hands to answer questions and/or are given the chance to join the actors on stage and reenact a scene to provide an alternate ending and a solution.  This is a refreshing way for viewers to get educated about an issue, especially for a nuanced topic that can be difficult to portray. I think that storytelling through theater and having the audience engage with actors and actresses during the performance brings a level of realism to the issue which thus convinces the audience of the issue’s seriousness.

Brysk states in her book, Speaking Rights to Power: 

“The politics of persuasion have an affinity to theater. Theater has been a privilege of human rights critique since Antigone, while the key ‘secular’ human rights vehicles of trials, truth commissions, and public protest all take theatrical forms. Theatrical treatments of human rights include documentary or historical theater, participatory ‘street’ or community theater, allegories and politicized restagings of classical tales, and psychodramas like Death and Maiden (Rae 2009).”

It’s funny because now that I’ve finished writing this blog post, I’ve realized that I’ve actually heard about and talked to someone (quite briefly though, in my defense) about human trafficking in theater – specifically with Ashley Marinaccio of Girl Be Heard. We didn’t delve extensively into that conversation, however, as I had just met her in passing through a mutual friend. I am a HUGE fan of Girl Be Heard, especially how they utilize public space to act out their scenes and monologues. Pace University’s GENERATION WHY does an excellent job in doing that as well, though I’m not sure if they’ve done a performance piece on human trafficking. Either way, social justice issues being portrayed through theatrical means provides whole new level of understanding for actors and actresses since they have to personate their character’s experiences while learning about the specific issue assigned them. It’s not an act of simply memorizing lines, but channeling the behavior and attitude of their character while making sure to separate themselves (particularly their opinion) from the issue. I think the understanding gained from doing this gives the actor or actress a unique perspective of the issue that develops one’s understanding of it and how it began.

Presse, Agence Frances-. “To fight human trafficking, Moldova troupe rewrites own tragic endings.” globalpost. N.p., 17 Oct. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.

Vatican Against Human Trafficking

It’s perfect timing to share the articles linked below, as Easter just occurred and this event happened a few days ago. With support from the U.S. government, the Vatican has declared human trafficking as a “crime against humanity”. Usage of the term “crime against humanity” reminded me of the International Law & Human Rights class I took last semester, and how the sound of it elevated the importance of human trafficking. The Vatican has recognized the international influence of human trafficking and its connection to other global issues; it has partnered with  a leading Muslim institution and the Anglican Communion to end trafficking by 2020. Creation of that agreement produced the Global Freedom Network, which is an “open association” of various religious leaders who wish to eradicate human trafficking.

I have yet to delve deeper into the history and mission of the Global Freedom Network; but so far, I’m liking the involvement of the Catholic Church and other faith groups to fight the injustices of human trafficking. Human trafficking is an international issue, but I think that now with the involvement of religious/faith groups, people and organizations around the world will be more united and have a more streamlined approach to tackling human trafficking. Furthermore, the involvement of Pope Francis not only sheds light 0n the issue, but also popularity and endorsement since he is an internationally acclaimed and well-liked person around the world.  I am quite pleased with USA’s Secretary of State John Kerry’s round-about mention of male trafficking in his Boston Globe piece: “a boy forced to sell himself on the street, or a man abused on a fishing boat.” Kerry should have made the distinction that trafficking explicitly occurs when victims are taken across borders, since he only focused on the aspect of modern slavery. A much clearer explanation could have been made in his article to connect slavery with human trafficking; but I’ll save that rant for another blog post.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s Boston Globe Op-Ed

Catholic News Service