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?”

“What about the boys?”

Nelli wrote a second guest post for anti-trafficking organization, Restore One. Her second post discusses male human trafficking stereotypes and briefly discusses the masculinity aspect.

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

Nelli’s Restore One Guest Blog Post 2: What About the Boys? 

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 (http://instagram.com/antitraffickip). 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!). 

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 Amazon.com.

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.

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.

/End.

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: http://bzfd.it/1bCDbYF.

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: http://bzfd.it/1bCDbYF.

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.

Sources:
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.

LOVE 146 – #RememberTheGirl

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.”

Hello from Nelli & Eli!

Welcome to The Anti-Trafficking Independence Project – A.T.I.P. for short. This is Nelli and Eli, your resident bloggers.

We started this blog due to our mutual passion on human trafficking and the desire to create a non-profit organization in the future. We are currently college students attending Pace University in New York City, though we both have different majors. Eli is an Accounting Major, while Nelli is a Political Science & Women’s Gender Studies Major. Though we study completely different things, what we’re learning now will help us create our future non-profit organization.

Why the interest in human trafficking? Unknown to many, human trafficking is one of the world’s most complex and misunderstood issues. It is slavery that still happens in the United States where its history textbooks claim that “slavery was abolished”. Obviously, textbook writers need to double check their facts. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking has become the second fastest growing criminal industry (just behind drug trafficking). Incidentally, the United States is the third largest destination country in the world for human trafficking (Jones). Women, children, and men are treated inhumanely and sold between borders to fulfill their handler’s money deals. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center estimates it’s a $32 billion industry, with half coming from industrialized countries.

We were just as shocked as you were upon discovering those basic facts. From there, we were prompted to learn more and discover the injustices and myths that plagued human trafficking.

And that’s where this blog comes in – as an outlet to share information with you and to foster awareness on human trafficking. Our focus is human trafficking in the United States. We don’t identify ourselves as experts on human trafficking, but rather as anti-trafficking advocates. Moreover, we are not affiliated with any organizations; hence the “independence” component of our blog name.

We hope you’ll stick with us for the journey, or that you’ll check in from time to time. Let us know what you think by commenting on our blog posts – we would be love to hear from you.

– Nelli & Eli

Sources:
Jones, Samuel Vincent. “The Invisible Man: The Conscious Neglect Of Men And Boys In The War On Human Trafficking.” Utah Law Review 2010.4 (2010): 1143-1188. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.