Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Human Trafficking Awareness Month

January is Human Trafficking Awareness month and believe it or not, it’s a bigger problem than you may think.

Around the world sex traffickers make more illegal profit a year than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. People are enslaved through the use of fear, violence, drugs and psychological control.

Often when we see people walking the streets or online selling their bodies we assume that they are willing participants, but more often than not, they are being forced into prostitution. The sad part is that half of the victims of human sex trafficking are children with an average age of 11 to 14 when they are first forced into sex trafficking. Many of them are runaways or looking to escape abusive and neglectful homes.

And while the face of a sex trafficking victim in the United States is usually a young White girl, young Black girls make up 40% of sex trafficking victims.

Many sex trafficking victims are looking for love, attention or even just food and shelter when they are targeted. He or she may pose as a caring figure and seduce the young girl (or rarely boy) and then turn on them using lies, manipulation, drugs, threats and violence to force the person into prostitution.

Before the victim realizes it they are sleeping with multiple people a day with all of the money going towards their sex trafficker/pimp who may give them what they need as far as bare essentials or drugs like heroin to keep them addicted.

Often they threaten to abandon them, hurt them, and kill them or their family if they leave or don’t do what they tell them to. Some even often to embarrass them by telling their family. They will use whatever they think it takes to control the person.

On the Netflix Documentary Tricked, one girl explains how she ran away with a guy she met on the internet expecting to have a great getaway only to be seduced for two days and then on day three she was told through the threat of violence that she was now his whore, was going to call her family and let them know she was somewhere safe and happy and that her life now depended on him. She went on to be forced to have sex with men for money that went directly to her sex trafficker.

One young girl I worked with was 12 when she met her sex trafficker. She was from a very bad home and ran away. She met an older man who became her boyfriend and introduced her to drugs and alcohol. He started having her have sex with his friends to support his drug habit and then he started having her have sex with strangers and even taking her to different cities and counties across the state before she got arrested and rescued.

When I met with her she was 14, had already contracted HIV and was so emotionally broken that she appeared more like a thirty something year old woman than a teenager. Still, she didn’t see herself as being victimized other than when she contracted HIV which says came from her being raped. She still didn’t see her sex trafficker as the bad guy.

Sadly, too many people see their sex trafficker/pimp that way and society doesn’t help. Often times we don’t see pimps as criminals as much as we demonize and criminalize the women who work for them. Often times the sex trafficker is never arrested while the victim is arrested multiple times.

Even their customers or “Johns” are often given a pass while the law and society comes down hard on these young women who are often just trying to do what they feel like they have to do in order to survive another day.

Many victims of sex trafficking are physically and psychologically abused, on a regular basis. One girl in the documentary Tricked was forced to douche with bleach when her pimp found out she was pregnant. When that didn’t work he beat her until she had a miscarriage. She ended up having to have a full hysterectomy.

They are used until they are broken and then they are discarded. That’s if they are not killed by their sex trafficker or a customer first.

Only recently as sex trafficking has exploded, especially online, are the victims starting to be seen as victims and being offered the appropriate help and support.

Sex traffickers present a major danger to vulnerable and unsuspecting young people. Sex trafficking is a crime against humanity. It is modern day slavery where slaves are being sold for on average $90.

So as this is Sex Trafficking Awareness month, let’s remember that anyone that is being exploited to have sex is a victim first, not a criminal. They deserve to be offered help and support and not just thrown into the legal system or treated like they’re nothing. After all, like sex trafficking, most victims have been treated as if they were invisible for far too long.

Adrian Peterson and Whipping: A Tradition That Goes Back To Slavery For Black Children

Livermore215This is not a post about corporal punishment although it could be. However, with all the buzz going on about Adrian Peterson being charged with reckless and negligent injury after whipping his 4-year-old son with a “switch” that left severe welts and broken skin on the child’s legs, it had me thinking about why do so many Black parents whip their children.

To be a little technical, there is a difference between a spanking (usually done with an open hand), a beating (usually done with a belt), a paddling (usually done with a wooden paddle) and a whipping (usually done with a small branch or twig). These are all forms of corporal punishment, but we are focusing on whipping since that is what Adrian Peterson is facing abuse charges for.

Parents of many different races, culture and ethnicities whip their children, but as a Black man I was really curious to why do Black parents whip their children since to me, even the term “whip” reminds me of the history of slavery when slaves would get whipped by their slave masters. Seeing welts on a child’s legs, back or arms are subtle reminders of much worse whippings inflicted on those slaves.

So why then would a Black parent choose to whip their child?

I know this is a hot debate and many people believe that whippings keep children in line. Many people will say they are successful and not in jail today because their parents whipped them. I also know that many people are in jail or are troubled individuals not necessarily because of being whipped, but whipping didn’t seem to have the desired behavior modification it was supposed to and may have had adverse effects.

Some of the most violent and aggressive teens I have worked with were whipped regularly. Not whipping a child in some people’s views may make the child spoiled, but I have never seen any real evidence that not whipping a child is more likely to make that child more physically aggressive later in life.

Each child is different and while one child may respond positively to whippings, another may become more violent, hostile, fearful and detached from their parents. I’m not shying away from punishment. There are a number of different nonviolent ways to punish a child.

I personally don’t believe in whippings. Growing up I may have been whipped two or three times, but I was never whipped as a default form of punishment, therefore I was never afraid of whippings. I was more motivated by not disappointing my parents and by rewards for good behavior, than punishment for bad behavior. I know that each child is different so I am not debating that.

However, I am here to educate. What many Black parents don’t know is that whipping our children is a direct syndrome of slavery.

An old classic picture of a slave showing healed scars from multiple whippings.
An old classic picture of a slave showing healed scars from multiple whippings.
Injuries left on Adrian Peterson 4-year-old son after the whipping that has him facing charges.
Injuries left on Adrian Peterson 4-year-old son after the whipping that has him facing charges.

Black people were unfortunately treated like beasts of the fields and whipped to discourage undesired behaviors. Black slaves were also used to whip and punish other Black slaves as a form of emotional and psychological warfare. Black slaves would be so afraid of the slave masters whipping their children for inappropriate behavior that they often would whip them first, hoping to save them from a much more severe whipping from the slave master.

This violent model became the only form of discipline that the Black slaves had to follow and therefore it was handed down throughout history.

During slavery, Black children had to learn very quickly the do’s and don’ts of being a slave on the plantation, or they would be beat severely or even killed by Whites, so Black parents whipped their own children to prevent this.

After slavery, the tradition continued. Blacks were usually punished more severely for committing social infractions than whites by teachers, people on the street, police and courts. Blacks were more likely to be beaten, thrown in jail or even lynched for minor transgressions so Black parents would punish their children severely through whippings in order to keep them from being punished by White society.

This was not down out of malice (although many parents have whipped their children out of anger), but out of love. The Black community felt a strong need to use corporeal punishment in order to keep their children from suffering potentially worst punishment from White society. Adrian Peterson was no doubt doing what was done to him by his mother and grandmother, and what was done to them by their parents, all the way back to slavery. He was doing what he thought would teach his son to stay out of trouble.

A lot of people will disagree with me about corporal punishment and I do believe that for Black people it served its purpose back in the day, but times are different. It’s time that we evolve and start looking for nonviolent ways to correct bad behavior.

There is enough violence in this world that we don’t have to subject our children to it in their own homes on a regularly basis. Stopping the violence in our communities is much more complicated if we don’t stop the violence in our own homes.

For more information, check out the article Punishment or Child Abuse?

I Want To Have A Light-Skinned Baby: The Affects Of Colorism On Black Adolescent Females

ts-134028063-african-american-girl-school-istock-14259556-dean-mitchellToday in a small group of teenage girls that consisted of one Asian-Haitian-American female, one Haitian-American female and one African-American female, seemingly out of nowhere, the Haitian-American (a chestnut complected girl) blurted out, “I date White boys because I want to have a light-skinned baby.”

She didn’t say that she wants to marry a loving man and have healthy children, but that she wants to have a light-skinned baby.

Before I could comment, the African-American girl in the group (she’s about copper complected) quickly agreed with her (although her current boyfriend is deep chestnut complected), that she too wanted light-skinned babies.

I then turned to the the Asian-Haitian-American girl and asked her if she too wanted to have light-skinned children. She replied with the sensible answer, that she didn’t care how her kids came out. The other two girls quickly jumped in and said, “That’s because she is already light-skinned.”

I was shocked by their statements. Not because it was the first time I had ever heard Black teens make that comment, but because just on Sunday night I had watched CNN’s Who is Black in America with Soledad O’Brien, which explored colorism and identity in the Black community.

Some of the things that stuck out to me during the show, was how some darker skinned Blacks often did not like their skin tone and wanted lighter skin and how some lighter skinned Blacks didn’t want to identify with being Black at all.

These were more the exception than the rule, but a common enough trend to cause deep contemplating for not only Black people, but other people of color and those who teach, counsel or mentor people of color.

After watching that thought provoking show, I was a bit alarmed to have two of my teenage students basically say, “I don’t like my complexion and don’t want to have kids that look like me.”

I could go into the many different theories behind this sort of thinking, including brainwashing by the media, European standards of beauty and what is called Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, but those are all too extensive topics to cover here.

My main concern, is the affects this type of thinking has on these teenage girls self-esteem, self-value and self-worth.getty_rm_photo_of_africanamerican_teen_girl_in_mirror

When Black girls make comments like, “I want to have a light-skinned baby”, they are basically consciously or subconsciously rejecting vital parts of their self and their identity.

What they are saying at the most basic level is, “I don’t like my skin color, it is undesirable. I don’t like my hair, it is ugly. I want to make sure that my child comes out with lighter skin so that they will be prettier and better than I am.”

There is no way that a person with this type of latent thinking, can truly feel good about herself, her family or those that look like her.

This is a form of self-hate that she probably isn’t even aware she is influenced by, yet it shows up daily in her life through automatic thoughts, the way she feels about herself and the way she interacts with her world.

Black males are also affected by this.

Many Black males, especially athletes, entertainers and rappers quickly gravitate to and praise lighter skinned Black women, White women or women of other races. This sends a message to both young Black boys and girls.

To young Black boys it says that you have to have a light-skinned Black, Hispanic, White or other woman on your arm to truly show you are successful or have “made it”. To darker skinned Black girls, it says that you are ugly and undesirable. It says to light-skinned girls that you are coveted, not for your uniqueness, personality or intelligence, but for your appearance.

It’s sickening to me because most of these people are operating subconsciously under the influences of our countries painful history of racism. They have been brainwashed and don’t even know it.

It is hard for a people to feel good about themselves collectively, succeed collectively and grow collectively when there are so many of us that don’t feel comfortable in our own skin.

I believe this causes an increase in a multitude of issues including academic problems, violence, substance abuse and mental illness. stock-footage-an-angry-sad-girl-shows-her-frustration-black-and-white

Colorism doesn’t only affect Black people, but most people of color around the world who are influenced by European standards.

There have been many studies on the length some Hispanic cultures have gone through to guarantee that darker genes don’t enter (contaminate) their gene pool, so much so, that some families insisted on cousins marrying cousins.

In Brazil, before the rise of a pro Afro-Brazilian movement, many Black Brazilians didn’t identify as Black, and preferred to be identified as mulatto. Brazil even went through a period of “White washing” a few decades ago where the government was afraid that Brazilians were too African/dark-skinned and aggressively urged Europeans to migrate to the country to help lighten the face of Brazil.

Being identified as Black, around the world, has a very negative connotation behind it and many people try to escape that by denying they are Black all together if possible, preferring to be called Latino, Dominican, Puerto Rican, or whatever their nationality, despite their obvious African heritage.

I am not an expert on this subject from the Latino point of view, but I would refer you to the actress Zoe Saldaña, who is a Dominican-American and proudly calls herself a Black woman. And the Dominican-American author Junot Diaz who talks frequently about colorism in the Dominican community in his works.

In America, at least in the Black community, we seem to have to face and deal with colorism more often, most likely because we are only about 13% of the population and have such a long history of racism and prejudice.

I told these young girls not to date a guy because of the color of his skin or his potential to help her have lighter-skinned children with “good hair”, but to date a guy because he respects her, loves her and treats her like a queen.

This post is not about race, but it’s about how this type of thinking negatively affects many aspects of these girls lives.

These girls are all in counseling because of anger, self-esteem and depression issues. If I didn’t like my skin complexion, the texture of my hair or my self, I would have problems with anger, self-esteem and depression too.

I will continue working with these girls on accepting and loving themselves and plan on showing them this video (below) during our next group session, in hopes that it will help open up their eyes to some of the subliminal messages they have been receiving about themselves.

The video is only about ten minutes, if you have the time, take a look at it and tell me what you think. It talks about the Clark Doll Experiment, but it goes deeper with a personal touch.

Sex Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery

Watching the local news last night I saw where two separate sex trafficking stings saved two teenage girls who had ran away from home and then found themselves forced into sex trafficking by men who controlled them through threats, physical violence and drug use.

One girl was 17 years old and was scared to leave the guy who took her from hotel to hotel advertising her over the internet. The other girl was a 14 year old runaway who was found drugged in the passenger seat of the sex traffickers car.

Both of these operations weren’t done in some shady part of town, but in a tourist area where hotels are often cheap and it’s easy for the sex traffickers to blend in with the multitude of tourists visiting our city.

Whenever I hear the word sex and trafficking put together I get an uneasy feeling in my stomach. Sex trafficking is a form of modern day slavery.

Victims of sex trafficking are usually female, are often under the age of 18 and coerced through force, fraud or coercion to perform sexual acts for money, drugs, favors, etc.,.

Often psychological coercion such as “No one loves you but me”, “Your family doesn’t want you”, “You’re nothing without me”, etc. are used and/or physical coercion such as violence, threats of violence and even physical bondage are used.

Sex traffickers use a number of ways of getting their victims. In foreign countries they are often lured by:

• A promise of a good job in another country
• A false marriage proposal turned into a bondage situation
• Being sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands, boyfriends
• Being kidnapped by traffickers

(Human Trafficking Resource Center)

Here in the United States, sex traffickers often lure runaway teenagers with the promise of love, protection, money and/or drugs.

Sex traffickers frequently subject their victims to debt-bondage, an illegal practice in which the traffickers tell their victims that they owe money (often relating to the victims’ living expenses and transport into the country) and that they must pledge their personal services to repay the debt.

In the United States sex traffickers often tell their victims that they owe them money for drugs, protection or housing.

Sex traffickers often “condition” their victims through confinement, rape, gang rape, beatings, starvation, physical abuse, forced drug use and threats of harm to their families or to shame them by making their family and loved ones aware of their activities.

Physical and Mental Risks

Some of the risks victims face are health risks, mental risk and alcohol and drug addiction.

Physical risks can include concussions, vaginal/anal tearing, broken bones, traumatic brain injury, sexually transmitted diseases, sterility, miscarriages, and forced abortions.

Mental risks include dissociation, depression, anxiety, shame, self-hatred, suicide, suicidal thoughts, distrust, fear, hatred towards men, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a sense of helplessness.

Victims may also suffer from traumatic bonding – a form of coercive control in which the perpetrator instills in the victim fear as well as gratitude for being allowed to live.

Types of Sex Trafficking Include

  • prostitution
  • pornography
  • stripping
  • live-sex shows
  • mail-order brides
  • military prostitution
  • sex tourism.

Victims that are forced into prostitution and pornography are usually exploited the most and are at greatest risk of danger.

Sex Trafficking Operations

They can be found in highly-visible places such as on the street with prostitution, on the internet and residential houses. Like I said, here on the news it was discovered in a popular tourist location. Often they take place behind closed doors of massage parlors, strip clubs and other fronts for prostitution.

Some times victims may start off stripping, and then get tricked or persuaded into prostitution or pornography.

Help for Sex Trafficking Victims

If you think you have come in contact with a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1.888.3737.888.

This hotline will help you determine if you have encountered victims of human trafficking, will identify local resources available in your community to help victims, and will help you coordinate with local social service organizations to help protect and serve victims so they can begin the process of restoring their lives.

For more information on human trafficking visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking.

(National Human Sex Trafficking Resource Center)