Technological Advances Help Trafficking Victims

Written by Shannon Rosedale, an intern at Break The Chain Campaign

A few years ago Polaris Project launched the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC). This is a national, toll-free hotline that is available to anyone to report trafficking. They can answer calls and emails from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, any day of the year. As of yesterday, Thursday March 28th, the hotline can now officially accept text messages as well.  It may now mean the difference between staying quiet and getting help.

Deputy Director of Polaris Project, Sarah Jakiel explained that “Victims of trafficking are often heavily controlled, and in this kind of environment being able to send a silent text message could be their primary access to getting help.” Now by texting “Help” to 233733 (or BeFree) a person can make a report or request help.

The text message will appear on the screen of a NHTRC computer where the client will receive direct access to a specialist who can respond and address the individual’s needs. This could include immediate response, urgent care, non-urgent referrals, planning and support.

A professor at the University of Michigan Law School, Bridgette Carr, stated in an interview with USA Today that she ” can definitely think of clients who eventually made the call for help but if they had the option to text would have done it sooner,” she said, adding that at least one woman had to wait for her traffickers to leave the home where she was held captive as a domestic servant before calling for help.”

With developments in technology, trafficking has been made easier for offenders, NHTRC is hopeful that with this new upgrade they can help combat those forces. Anyone can still report a suspicion or ask for help by calling 1-888-373-7888 or by submitting a tip online here.

-Shannon R.

Quick News Round Up: Trafficking of Men, VAWA Reauthorization

Our focus at BTCC has always been migrant women workers (particularly household workers), but it’s important to remember that men and boys can be trafficked (for both sex and labor). Here are just a couple of recent stories that caught our attention:

47 Men Trafficked in South Africa

Trafficking by Overseas Military Contractors

In other news, the House is debating the Violence Against Women Act today- with an extremely harmful version of the Bill called the “Adams Bill” (H.R. 4970) which would strip away protections that we have had since the Bill was first passed in 1994. Below is a message from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, urging action TODAY:

Your help is MOST needed if you live in: AZ, AK, CA, CO, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, MI, NV, NY, NC, OH, PA, PR, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI!

At 10am EST TODAY, May 8th, the House Judiciary Committee will mark up and vote on H.R. 4970, a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) introduced by Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fl, 24th).

H.R. 4970 is an anti-victim bill strongly opposed by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.  H.R. 4970 weakens vital improvements contained in the recently passed Senate VAWA bill (S. 1925), including provisions designed to increase the safety of Native women and the needs of the LGBT community.  In addition, H.R. 4970 includes damaging provisions that roll back years of progress to protect the safety of immigrant victims. While there are portions of H.R. 4970 that mirror the bi-partisan Senate bill and are supported by the field, we remain opposed to this bill.

We must tell our legislators that we oppose H.R. 4970 and want to see a bipartisan bill that helps ALL victims.  Time is of the essence, we must take action BEFORE 10am EST TODAY!

ACTION: Call/Write/Tweet your Representative on House Judiciary Committee and tell them:

 

We strongly oppose H.R. 4970 and urge you to oppose it.  We support a bill that is closer to H.R. 4271 with improvements, including those provisions in the bi-partisan Senate bill that protects Tribal victims, immigrant victims, LGBTQ victims and other marginalized communities.”

[ORGANIZATIONAL LETTERHEAD]

[May X, 2012]

Dear Representative [Last Name]:

The [organization name], located in [city] which serves more than [X] victims of domestic and/or sexual violence, expresses its strong opposition to H.R. 4970, the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), introduced by Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL). We stand behind the opinion of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence that this bill will do more to further victimize and disempower people who have experienced these devastating crimes.

H.R. 4970 is an anti-victim bill that weakens vital improvements contained in the recently passed Senate VAWA bill (S. 1925), including provisions designed to increase the safety of Native women and the needs of the LGBT community.  In addition, H.R. 4970 includes damaging provisions that roll back years of progress to protect the safety of immigrant victims.  Consequently, H.R. 4970 will create obstacles for immigrant victims seeking to report crimes, increase danger for immigrant victims by eliminating important confidentiality protections, and will undermine effective anti-fraud protections. While there are portions of H.R. 4970 that mirror the bipartisan Senate bill and are supported by the field, we remain opposed to the bill.

For the past 18 years, VAWA and its subsequent reauthorizations has served as a beacon of hope for victims of domestic and sexual violence.  VAWA is one of the few policies unfettered by partisanship and divided government.  Now is not the time to abandon victims and subject them to re-victimization by making them war casualties.  The House has the opportunity to pass a victim-centered VAWA reauthorization bill that will allocate sufficient resources to hold perpetrators accountable and expand services and protections to all victims.

We strongly oppose H.R. 4970 and urge you to oppose it.  We support a bill that is closer to H.R. 4271 with improvements, including those provisions in the bipartisan Senate bill that protects Tribal victims, immigrant victims, LGBTQ victims and other marginalized communities.  Thank you for your consideration and please do not hesitate to contact me or Tralonne Shorter, Public Policy Advisor for NCADV at (202) 744-8455 if you have any questions or want additional information.

Sincerely,

[Name]

[Title]

cc: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)

Advocacy and Social Media

If you need more information please visit the National Task Force website for fact sheets, press coverage, support letters and updates at: www.4vawa.org.  The site has been visited more than 25,000 times! For toolkit and other action information please visit and “like” the National Task Force Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/NTF_Facebook_page.

Don’t forget to tweet about VAWA using the hashtags #ReauthorizeVAWA and #VAWA.

If you aren’t on one of the VAWA email lists or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mailing list, send names and contact information including email to Sean Black, sblack@icasa.org.

If you have additional questions, please contact publicpolicy@ncadv.org.

Thank you for everything you do!

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HHS: Don’t Lose Sight of What Matters

By Kaitlin Owen, BTCC Human Trafficking Advocacy Intern

In October 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement declined the renewal of a grant to the United States Conferences of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), an organization that distributes aid to organizations whose clients are victims of human trafficking.  Instead, the grant was divided and given to four organizations, the largest of which is the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI).

In a statement, HHS explained their decision:

“Victims of trafficking have significant health care needs. Based on these needs, our Office of Refugee Resettlement included an explicit preference for organizations that would ensure that victims had access to information and referrals for the full range of health care services in the funding announcement for these grants…The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops indicated it could not meet that standard.”

In essence, that “standard” to which HHS is referring is providing abortion, sterilization or contraceptive services- case managers commonly refer to these as family planning services.  In accordance with Catholic Church teaching, USCCB “won’t facilitate taking innocent life, sterilization and artificial contraception.” In 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union brought a suit against the U.S. District Court in Boston for not requiring USCCB to provide these services as a part of MRS’s anti-trafficking programs.

Due to controversy concerning the grant dispersal, The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform began an investigation into HHS’s grant dispersal process: whether or not HHS did so justly and within the correct parameters, or if they should have refused USCCB from submitting an application from the beginning. The first hearing was held on December 1st, 2011.  This hearing dealt only with the concerns surrounding HHS and the justness of their dispersal The second hearing was held on December 14th, at the request of Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

The focus of the second hearing was to educate the Committee on the services needed by and available to victims, in contrast to the first hearing, which dealt exclusively with the actions of HHS.  ”To conduct a responsible review of the process used to award these grants,” said Cummings, “we need to understand who these victims are, what they have gone through, and why they need reproductive health services.” Service providers and survivors of trafficking were represented by a panel of two human rights activists: Florrie Burke, a psychologist and well-respected expert on anti-human trafficking efforts and Chair Emeritus of Freedom Network USA, and Andrea Powell, the Executive Director and Co-Founder of FAIR Girls in Washington D.C. Throughout the hour, they emphasized that returning agency to a client is essential to the healing process, as it is agency that was taken from themby their traffickers.  By restoring agency, the client service providers restore the dignity of their clients, and by restricting access to reproductive health services, the USCCB is denying survivors of human trafficking the agency to choose their health care for themselves.

Break the Chain Campaign strongly believes in the concept of restoring the rights of the survivors through restoring agency and self-determination.  Survivors of trafficking deserve immediate and full access to the entire range of healthcare services, including family planning and reproductive services. We are concerned that anti-choice politics will distort what really matters in anti-trafficking service provision: the human rights of survivors.