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


“Human trafficking terrifies me. I think it’s the scariest thing to be kidnapped and not know the language and place.”

The above words from a friend were said to me while I took a break from doing homework.

Fear is a negative form of power that induces shame. We can never truly understand one’s fear unless we go through the same experience they go through. Even then, do we really know how that person felt in that situation? We assume we know, or we can admit that we have no clue. There seems to be a certain type of privilege that comes with acknowledging the issue, expressing concern over it, and producing research and solutions that supposedly solve and make someone an expert on it. It makes you stop and think, “Do we know what we’re talking about?

Something to ponder on tonight.

Victims are people, too.

Those lines from Star Wars get me every time.

While the mission of this blog is to educate and foster awareness on human trafficking in the United States, one thing that needs to be emphasized is how to be a good anti-trafficking advocate. Most people assume that talking about the issue is enough to generate awareness. It is a fundamental part of the process, but in many ways it can be also be a misleading type of advocating. The way we speak about issues needs to be framed in a way that doesn’t sensationalize survivors and their story, but rather treats them as a fellow human being.

“There seems to be a pervasive belief that if you are interested in fighting human trafficking then you have the carte blanche to be as sensational as you like (FYI, you don’t). There also seems to be an incessant demand to ‘hear your story’ despite the fact that for people already working in the movement the benefit of repeated listening to graphic details is at best questionable and at worst voyeuristic. When allies are questioned or critiqued for their tactics, the ‘but we’re just trying to raise awareness’ defense is frequently invoked.  In fact, it’s often seen as poor form to voice these concerns , especially to do so publicly, even if the hurt or humiliation we experienced was public.  Critiquing actions of individuals and organizations within the movement  we’re often shamed by those same people for somehow not being grateful, that are responses are only because we’re still struggling with our own trauma, or laughably as if our commitment to raising awareness or fighting the issue is somehow far less valid than the organization that’s ‘just trying to help’.  Our concerns are frequently dismissed with comments about how ‘serious’ this issue is, as if hurting survivors isn’t serious, or that we’re wasting energy when we should be focusing on the ‘real’ problems. All of these responses simply minimize the damage that’s done and survivors are left feeling guilty, ‘over-sensitive’ or questioning their own healing and recovery.” (GEMS Founder, Rachel Lloyd)

To read Lloyd’s full piece on the above, click here.

Tomorrow in my International Activist Politics class, we’ll be doing a “campaign practice” on a sex trafficking case study. I haven’t read tomorrow’s class readings yet, but they all seem to present fascinating views on feminism and anti-trafficking movement. I’m challenging myself to think outside the box during tomorrow’s class and to keep Lloyd’s words in mind while we brainstorm ways on how to create awareness for victims of sex trafficking without “demonizing/pitying” them.

A Boy On The Streets

I make up 50% of child sex trafficking victims.

I’m not looked for or included in the statistics of anti-trafficking groups. The lack of publicity for my issue makes boy sex trafficking attractive to criminal networks, because they know law enforcement won’t hunt them down. We are the unspoken statistics that fill the pages of sex and pornography magazines.

I am only 13 years old. I know others who start at 11 or 12 years old.

Resources aren’t allocated towards us. We aren’t considered as a “high risk group” to be included in research, outreach, and rehabilitation services. I’m forgotten. I think I actually feel alone. I hate admitting to this vulnerability, and I don’t know if I should feel this way. I’m a man. I’m supposed to be tough. I’m supposed to practice this ideal that the media expects me to abide by. There are too many “I”s in this statement that make me feel there is no one here for me to talk to.

I have a “mama”. She’s my grandma. She tells me I need to work and make money for the household. There’s violence at home, but I’m used to it. I get hit from time to time, but I know how to position myself so the blows won’t hurt as much. Mama doesn’t pay much attention to me unless it has to do with work.  I contribute, so I get a place to stay; and when I’m referred to buyers, I get a substantial share of earnings. It’s somewhat “curious” and “fascinating”, but still strange. Is that what boys my age are supposed to do? I don’t know a life other than this. Some boys have told me about the “fee-for-service drive-by-pimp” which has a guy drive his car, ask a boy if he wants to make money for the evening, and then “pimp” him out. I’ve also heard of cases where families “pimp out their boys to support their drug addiction”. It’s a common occurrence to have boys in their late 20s continue to have pimps, and rent an apartment with other boys who work for them in exchange for them to get shelter.

Some of us enter the system as runaways or to escape the criminal justice system. Not a lot of us speak about the past, but brief moments of eye contact show a guarded expression. We’re broken spirits with tales to tell, but with no incentive to tell them.

I am a child. I am boy. One day, I will be a man.


The above was an attempt monologue to share the “day in the life” account of a typical male sex trafficking victim. Boys generally start at a young age; and eventually, there is the high possibility that they will become pimps themselves. This is mostly due to the fact that the “pimp” lifestyle is the only one they’ve known, and one that has influenced their masculinity. These males adopt the same behaviors that influence the cycle that continues through generations.

Male trafficking victims only get attention if the news breaks out as a local or national scandal. Other than that, the attention paid to them is scant. There seems to be a “gender construction” in being a victim. And while Hillary Clinton has famously dubbed “Women’s rights are human rights”, I can’t help but wonder what the public reaction would be if someone said “Men’s rights are human rights”. Public perception pictures girls as victim turned survivor turned leader; in other words, girls have hope for a better future. Boys, on the other hand, aren’t openly received as victims. They are only known to be the perpetrator, and their “normal male behavior” is to purchase sexual acts because that is deemed socially acceptable in terms of masculinity and peer pressure (Yen). Also, they aren’t encouraged to speak out when something happens; they are shunned to the side because of the belief they are more self-efficient and take better care of themselves. Men are put under the cloak of invisibility regarding topics on male sexual exploitation that has them as victims – such as male rape, domestic violence, and trafficking. There are countless of research materials on how to deal with female trafficking victims; but when it comes to male trafficking, the results don’t event count to half the results of female trafficking. When were these gender divisions put into place? What does it mean to have equality and justice when we practice this obvious gender bias in victim-hood?

While the image to the left does not pertain to male trafficking, the reaction a male trafficking victim would get would be the same if someone knew a man had been raped. Photos courtesy of Buzzfeed:

While the image to the left does not pertain to male trafficking, the reaction a male trafficking victim would get would be the same if someone knew a man had been raped. Photos courtesy of Buzzfeed:

It’s imperative to have stories of male trafficking on the news and show support. Male survivors can be supported by diminishing the shame factor and telling them that it is not their fault. We shouldn’t approach these men with pity, because that degrades their masculinity and leads into gay baiting. Mental health services should be provided to people who experienced trauma so that they can re-purpose their lives and not pass it down. That way, survivors can step up and become leaders. Survivor led and ran programs are the best as they understand the complexity involved in male trafficking; not only will they be given the confidence boost, but also the initiative for themselves to know and to teach others how to obtain long-term stable housing, education, job-placement, and compassionate behavioral health and medical care.

Gummow, Jodie. “Demystifying the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Boys – Our Forgotten Victims.”AlterNet. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.
Yen, Iris. “Of Vice and Men: A New Approach to Eradicating Sex Trafficking by Redusing Male Demand through Educational Programs and Abolitionist Legislation.” The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973-) 98.2 (2008): 653-86. Print.

Hey World!

The blog has been quiet for awhile, and Eli and I apologize for its lack of activity. We’ve been going crazy over school and other responsibilities that we haven’t had time to even sit down and talk about the blog and its future. We’re in the second half of our spring semester, so school activities are picking up for us – and so will A.T.I.P.! There is a lot to update you on, it’s unbelievable that so much has happened since we started A.T.I.P two months ago.

A.T.I.P.’s past blog posts focused on male victims of human trafficking; and while I consider it important to highlight them, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m disregarding female victims. They are equally important as male victims, but they receive more support and attention. The above video (shared with me by my dear friend Alvi) focuses on female victims of human trafficking from the non-profit organization LOVE146.

If you are familiar with famous YouTubers, then the mention of make-up guru Michelle Phan should ring a bell. Michelle is teaming up with LOVE146 to support victims of human trafficking in the Philippines, and she created this beautiful animation to show her support and provide background on LOVE146’s origins. Phan did a wonderful job with her animation in explaining why she is involved with LOVE146; it had a personal touch that wasn’t overly sensationalized. However, one thing that sparked my attention (as well as Alvi’s) was Phan’s use of the word “fragile”. Alvi and I thought that a much more empowering word could have used, since “fragile” suggests that the object it is referring to can be easily broken. We thought the word “delicate” would have been better to use since it presents alternative meanings of “gentle” and “exquisite”, which dispels the stereotype of girls as weaklings.

Towards the end of her video, Phan says, “This salute is to remember the girl. … Love the girl inside of you, the girl who’s waiting for you.” It’s great that Phan finished her video with the idea that we (the privileged viewers) can help the children of LOVE146 get a better life by supporting them with our donations. But it made me slightly uncomfortable that at no point throughout her video, Phan didn’t mention the victims having their own sense of agency in overcoming what they’ve been through. I am by no means bashing Phan’s video since I sincerely enjoyed it, but I’m just providing a critical lens to analyze her video. It’s easy to be captivated by the fantasy and beauty of videos that are just as compelling as Phan’s; but that shouldn’t take away from understanding the messages that come across through media outlets. So, while we “#RememberTheGirl”, we should also “#RememberTheMessage.”

LOVE 146 – #RememberTheGirl