Abortion Laws, Feminism, Politics, and Neoliberal Societies in Developed Nations

Re-conceptualizing restrictive abortion laws with a sex equality framework allow us to identify the limitations of women living in developed nations to act in a free manner with their physical bodies as men do. On many occasions, rules, regulations, and laws are enforced to reduce chaos/harm, but the same is similarly used to limit the freedoms of the individual which can also be oppressive in itself.

Historically, anti-abortive attitudes were prominent and common due to societies ignorance of scientific knowledge surrounding an embryo. Often when a pregnancy was declared, the fetus had already grown to a more formed stage which made abortion seem more of inhumane act. Early feminists radically opposed abortion claiming it was “child murder” that exploited both women and children. The core of the radical feminist’s argument was to ‘protect women at the embryonic stage’, hence leading to the anti-pro choice view.

Today, the attitudes of radical feminists have progressed to campaigning to eliminate the ‘root causes’ which drives women to abortion such as providing access to free childcare, financial support and enabling access to practical resources. Modern feminism has not adopted the ‘extreme’ stances of the past which have led to tensions within feminist communities. Depending on the feminist spectrum, some radical feminists believe motherhood is an obligation of womanhood while others may renounce the obligation of motherhood despite being financially and resource able to do so.

Modern feminism is defined in a variety of ways which is then filtered through our many lived experiences. One of the most basic and foundational definitions of feminism is the “advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of sexes”. The origins of the feminism began in the 1950s as a movement in the USA inspired by Betty Friendan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, which inspired women to pursue goals of freedom and autonomy.

The feminist anti-abortion arguments come with a variety of justifications for its campaigns – religious (when does life begin?); scientific (damaging a females body?); conservative (securing the future of mankind); power (forcing restrictive laws on women to exert power and control, potentially for political grounds).

Let us contextualize some of the laws in developed nations where women are forced to abide by policies informed by these anti-abortion justifications:

El Salvador – Illegal under every circumstance (rape, ill physical and mental health. Women can be jailed for up to a decade for performing the procedure. It is noted that low-income women who have miscarriages and stillbirths may be prosecuted due to being wrongly accused of abortion or homicide (White-Lebhar, 2018).

Alabama, United States of America – Illegal under every circumstance. What is concerning about this case though, is that it was only just voted in (last month), meaning that the senator they have in office today, have these views.

Northern Ireland – Illegal under every circumstance (including a result of rape). Medical professionals are afraid to provide their candid opinions about the health of the pregnant female and/or the fetus due to repercussions.

Under further examination, these laws celebrate a lack of individualization and are enforced by these powerful societal structures. Women are forced to adhere to laws derived from cultural and/or religious values in which they may not believe or practice. As Social Workers, our ethical practices use a person-centered approach with a systematic theoretical underpinning of self-determination for those we serve.

This approach applauds the unique and individual dynamic in one’s life and that these dynamics are even more special when they interact with their environment (person-in-context). No one person’s issue is perceived or dealt with in the same manner – social work theory acknowledges these humanistic values yet, we are forced to operate in neoliberal societies where under resourced service providers do not have the capacity and flexibility to approach each client uniquely.

Our role working within the abortion context means we can advocate change on multiple levels – through therapeutic supporting (counselling); by advocating for policy changes by sparking dynamic public discourse (policy); educating generations of women on abortion in an impartial manner (education) and much more. Our perspectives on the matter, and with feminism itself, comes from the top down – our attitudes are shaped by the leaders we have, whether they conflict or reflect our beliefs.

Relieving restrictions surrounding abortion isn’t only about the freedom of choice for women, it’s also an opportunity to examine and identify where first world nations fall short in imploring the sense of freedom we so frequently advertise to eastern societies and third world nations. Developed nations are allowing powerful politics driven by strong single-sided opinions often funded by the wealthiest ten percent of the world decide about life, death, family, and women health decisions.

There are no solidified answers on what restrictive abortion laws mean for women and feminism – whether regressive or progressive for the feminist movement. Whether we identify with feminism and all that it embodies or not, we are ultimately shaped by the societal constructs we were influenced by in our youth and our family values. However, context changes through life experience and transcultural immersions. Therefore, we must evolve individually and collectively.

Our society is ever changing in this way and essentially to be progressive on these fronts, decision making regarding policy should evolve towards being free of judgment, opinions, religion, and power – thinking about individual lives at the core is crucial. Some may view this perspective as idealistic, especially in countries where government structures have the funds to create change, but government money is alternatively utilized to support the community as a whole with supports mainstreamed, directly conflicting with the individualistic nature of social work approaches.

A Call to Action for Social Workers! The Time is Now to ELEVATE

As we recognize March as Social Work Month, let’s awaken that original passion in each other and build on our strengths and core social work values to make change and lead the way for others to do so as well.

My fellow social workers, the time is now to lead the way for our nation regarding human rights and human well-being. The shocking cruelty and violation of human rights that occur each day in our nation under the current administration not only violates our Code of Ethics, but is cruel, unjust, and the epitome of what we as social workers dedicate our lives to fight against—socialinjustice.

We cannot risk becoming desensitized to any injustice, despite hearing about a new, abhorrent policy, practice or incident, every day. Let’s channel our frustration into collective action because this is our domain. We are the experts of social welfare, and we are uniquely trained to recognize social injustice and empower individuals, families, organizations, and communities toward positive social change.

It’s what we do every day as social workers. Since we know how to do this, we should be leading the way. This social work month lets ELELVATE our dedication and translate it into collective action for social justice. I believe that in doing so, we honor of the many pioneer social workers who have blazed the trail for us and worked to give us many of the rights we now enjoy.

Every day I am in awe of our society and our government’s attitudes and policies toward the most vulnerable people in our society. Racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and homophobia seem to be increasing at alarming rates (or perhaps are just more acceptably overt now) and this is resulting in more violence, conflict, and division among families and communities.

To me, that constitutes an emergency. Children are being legally separated from their parents, put in cages, often abused or neglected and “lost” by our government. If that isn’t an emergency, I’m not sure what is. Banning PEOPLE from serving in the military, sending refugees back to their country of origin to face certain death, and women’s reproductive rights at risk are all emergencies to me.

What do you think? What constitutes a national emergency to you? Whatever you answer, the good news is that we know how to deal with crisis as social workers and are bound together by social workvalues. So, let’s do it. Someone has to, and why not us—this is our domain. Plus, we have a lot of professional strengths to build on.

For example:

• We know how to build on strengths.
• We know how to organize.
• We know how to educate.
• We know how to build bridges, not walls.
• We know how to empower individuals, families, organization, and communities.
• We understand human rights and human dignity.
• We know how to advocate on micro through macro levels.
• We know how to push through when we are tired because people’s lives depend on us.
• We understand human behavior more than most.
• We know how to critique social policy.
• We know how to conduct research and translate it into practice.
• We know how to problem solve and are used to complex problems.
• We value diversity and we know how to celebrate it.

As a social work educator, I have the privilege of working with budding social workers every day. Their passion for social justice is raw and strong. However, as some seasoned social workers know, that passion may not go away, but it may grow tired, and frustrated by red tape, high case-loads and lack of support.

My fellow social workers, I ask you to ask yourself: How do you want to use your unique innate gifts and your professional skills as a social worker to help our nation awaken to the humanity of others? We cannot let human suffering being the norm or be a line item on news that people shake their head to and go on about their day. Jane Addams would not approve.

Increased Inmate Deaths and the Lack of Accountability

Sandra Bland

One year after the death of Sandra Bland on July 13, 2015, the Huffington Post compiled a list of persons who died in jail. In the following twelve month period, there were 811 deaths, most of which were the result of suicide. In fact, 253 detainees committed suicide in the year after Sandra’s death, constituting 31% of all fatalities.

This heartbreaking statistic highlights a historical pattern; one of racial targeting and classism, poor management, health care oversight, and corruption. The criminal justice system fails our communities by allowing preventable inmate deaths while targeting the most vulnerable communities. These alarming trends in our prisons, jails, and juvenile detention centers have us wondering, why?

Experts examining suicide and death in our nation’s jails reveal disturbing trends across the most vulnerable communities. A recent New York Times article, for example, Preventing Suicide in America’s Jails, reveals in 2013 a total of 967 jail inmates died while detained in local corrections facilities. This statistic continued to grow the year after, even though the inmate population declined by 4%. Other authors and researchers cite poor management, inadequate health care, and perfunctory oversight as major culprits. Although these issues go mostly unresolved, they continue to institute a pattern of death and suicide.

Reasons Behind Inmate Deaths

Many jail fatalities are overlooked and underreported. Generally, jails are not required to disclose fatalities occurring within their facility to their community. Even the most egregious incarceration centers can go unnoticed by the community at large when they aren’t being held accountable for deaths occurring in their own institutions.

Different from prison, jail stays are shorter (approximately 21 days) and most of the inmates have yet to be sentenced. Jail inmates could also be under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or have mental or physical health issues that correctional staff might be unaware of. For these reasons, many jail suicides occur in the first week of incarceration as indicated below by the Prison Policy Initiative.

According to KyCIR’s reports in Kentucky’s Grant County Jail, rampant corruption, employee incompetence, ineffective staff preparation, and inmate maltreatment were all present in the jail’s culture. In an environment where accountability is minimal, inmates are more likely to be disregarded and mistreated, as is the case of Danny Ray Burden at Grant County Jail.

“Danny Ray Burden fell asleep mid-sentence as he was booked into the Grant County jail, toppling over on the bench where he sat. Prodded awake, he coughed, shook and pleaded for emergency medical attention. A blood test showed that the 41-year-old diabetic badly needed insulin. Instead of assisting with proper medical standards and medications, deputies put Danny Ray in a cell, where he was found unconscious just three hours after he had entered the jail on March 27, 2013. He died a week later.”

Reflecting on the data, including the specific cases of Sandra Bland and Danny Ray Burden, who is at risk for jail fatality?

Vulnerable groups at correctional facilities include:

  • Persons booked for lesser crimes
  • Those without financial resources who are unable to post bond
  • Communities of color who are profiled by police and often receive harsher punishments
  • Sex offenders and those accused of vicious crimes

Why Death by Suicide?

For inmates whose lives were previously difficult, a brief jail sentence could prove traumatic. The most at-risk inmates may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms, a lack of access to prescriptions, and/or low availability of medical or mental health services. An inmate with a troubled emotional, mental, or physical state of inmates suffers even more while imprisoned, especially when our system neglects their basic needs.

Correctional facility detainees may have anxiety about unemployment, broken relationships, loss of residence, healthcare, or the inability to care for children. Without financial resources, these issues are compounded by the inability to pay a bond. And for black inmates, especially those in the 18 to 29-year age range, accruing considerably greater bail amounts than their peers in other racial groups isn’t uncommon.

Suicide Prevention Strategies for Correctional Facilities

In Matti Hautala’s article In the Shadow of Sandra Bland: The Importance of Mental Health Screening in U.S. Jails, the author examines the multifaceted environment of our American jail system and garners evidence-based recommendations for inmate suicide prevention.

The author suggests the initial entry procedure, including the preliminary psychological evaluation, acclimates the inmate to the criminal justice environment. This experience could have a lasting impact on the immediate future for that inmate; although alternative programs such as parole, probation, or mental health courts are recommended. Community supervision, rather than incarceration, is especially effective for those with psychological or mental health issues. Further recommendations include:

  • Psychological evaluation instruments and qualified evaluators
  • Proper procedures regarding medical records and treatment
  • Limiting the use of restraint and isolation
  • Frequent visual follow-ups, every 15 minutes, with suicidal or homicidal inmates.

The gross lack of culpability by local and state corrections personnel and increasing inmate deaths calls for advocacy and reform. Social workers, helping professionals, and concerned citizens must engage our political and community leaders in evidence-based dialogue and program development to reduce the number of inmate fatalities in our nation’s correctional facilities.

By engaging with our local communities and representatives, together, we can hold our system accountable. We can force our jail and correctional facilities to say “mea culpa!” and reform our policies to prevent tragic and unnecessary death.

Indigenous Women Trapped in Human Trafficking in North America

The subject of human and sex trafficking has been popular in the media recently. From the recent exposure of celebrities involved in trafficking and sex rings to the implementation of SESTA/FOSTA by the Republican party. Headlines focusing on celebrity figures and politicians silences the voice of vulnerable populations who are predominately impacted by human trafficking such as Native and Indigenous women on Reservations across North America.

Human traffickers prey on individuals who are socially oppressed, marginalized within their family and community, and vulnerable due to poverty. These circumstances create the perfect recipe for human traffickers when oil drilling corporations are interested in geographic regions near Reservations.

Corporate America has created the ultimate vehicle and tool for human traffickers to generate a business based on the exploitation of Indigenous girls and women. The scariest aspect of all is that the Johns/potential buyers within the encampment are not utilizing websites like backpage.com or craigslist.com.

Human traffickers are exploiting unsuspecting girls and women by transporting them directly to the oil drilling encampments. In other words, the implementation of SESTA/FOSTA by the Republican party fails to protect Indigenous women, men, and children trapped in human trafficking.

The Indigenous population of North America is 2.5 times more likely to experience violence in comparison to other neighboring populations. The statistics on violence and trauma becomes increasingly alarming because a majority of children on Reservations are exposed to violence before the age of 5. The high rates of violence on Reservations is a result of widespread poverty, Western colonization, and low job employment or opportunities. The impact of poverty and colonization has had devastating consequences on the Indigenous population residing on Reservations in South Dakota.

According to the 2010 census, the Pine Ridge River Reservation only consisted of 3,308 individuals. By 2014, almost 50% of Indigenous women and men reported experiencing violence, sexual assault, and domestic violence. These statistics indicate that 4 out of 5 Indigenous folks have experienced some form of violence at least once in their lifetime. In fact, statistics and rates of sexual violence may be higher due to under-reporting. These instances of violence increase based on non-native intervention, poverty, substance abuse, and childhood exposure to violence.

The high rates of violence, poverty, and substance abuse play an active role in the widespread occurrence of human and sex trafficking on Reservations. For Indigenous folks in North and South Dakota, instances of human trafficking have become increasingly problematic with oil drilling. The corporate interest in oil drilling has a negative impact on the Indigenous community by intentionally placing large groups of non-natives in close proximity to Reservations.

The promise of gaining monetary compensation for drilling has rebranded North and South Dakota as the new Western Frontier. Human traffickers and pimps benefit from the large oil drilling encampments because they are utilized as a one-stop-shop for marginalized Indigenous girls and women. This indicates that interests in corporate oil drilling have caused the onset of missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women across America.

Over spring break, I had the opportunity to visit the Pine Ridge River Reservation and Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota with an Immersion Program offered by the University of Southern California. However, an encounter during our last night in Rapid City made extremely aware easy someone can become a victim of human sex trafficking.

After dinner, we were approached by a young girl who proposed that her male friends wanted to meet and sit with us. We immediately declined the invitation, but that did not stop her male friends from approaching us. We recognized the red-flags of the situation and safely removed ourselves from the establishment.

We were only able to recognize the signs of human trafficking because we are privileged. As USC students, we are privileged with money, power through name recognition, and education. We have been trained to spot dangerous situations and problem-solve solutions on the spot. We have the money to afford the education and have been trained to recognize these red-flags. In addition, we might not be as vulnerable to human trafficking due to our socioeconomic status in America.

This close encounter with the young woman and group of men resembles Allison Mack’s role as a recruiter for the NXIVM group. Allison Mack exercised her privilege as a trusting and recognizable celebrity figure to lure and entrap unsuspecting women into human trafficking. Mack’s role as a female recruiter for NXIVM is a common tactic utilized by human traffickers.

Indigenous women and children do not share the same experiences as non-natives. As a matter of fact, 7 in 10 Indigenous children are expected to graduate high school and only 17% pursue higher-education. The risk-factors and barriers to completing and pursuing higher-education increases based on poverty, the absence of parents in the home, exposure to trauma and abuse, and substance abuse. These risk-factors place Indigenous women and children in a vulnerable position to be lured and swayed by the promises made by human traffickers.

In 2017, the #MeToo movement gained immense popularity in mainstream America, although the movement was originally created by Tarana Burke in 2006. The colonization and erasure of WOC is a topic that isn’t foreign to Indigenous folks on the reservation. Indigenous girls and women continued to feel excluded by the blatant disregard for native voices in the #MeToo movement.

In order to raise awareness surrounding the missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women across America, Senator Heidi Heitkamp drafted Savannah’s Act in 2017 and created the alternative hashtag for the movement: #NotInvisible. Savannah’s Act aims to fill the service gaps found in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to provide safety and protection for Indigenous women and girls. Since Savannah’s Act has been introduced, the movement has not gained much traction based on America’s proficiency to erase and silence things that do not make us feel comfortable.

What exactly can we do about human trafficking on Reservations across North America? First, let’s beat down the virtual doors of our government officials by tweeting and sharing facts and statistics surrounding human trafficking on Reservations.

Continue to share it with your friends, family members, and colleagues. Heck, bring it up over Thanksgiving dinner this year! The most important factor is raising awareness and advocating on behalf of Indigenous folks across America and Canada. Indigenous folks have asked again and again for visibility through education, advocacy, and public awareness.

As non-natives, let’s create a platform where they can stand on our shoulders and share their experiences across America and Canada. Together, let’s continue to rally for marginalized individuals on Reservations across America.

Ending Gender-Based Violence in Conflict

On this International Women’s Day, let’s applaud the advances made in the fight against gender-based violence this year, but also look to the work that still needs to be done.

The #metoo movement saw powerful men held accountable for a range of predatory behavior against women and girls. US states have been finally addressing the issue of child marriage. The Women’s March saw people from around the world gathering once again to advocate for women’s issues. Survivors of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) also spoke out and said #metoo.

There is no denying the strides that have been made.

Yet, the Council on Foreign Relations estimates that 35% of women will face physical abuse during their lifetime. Furthermore, gender-based violence continues to be a common tool used to terrorize populations during conflict.

A poignant example of this is of the pervasive use of gender-based violence against the Rohingya women fleeing Burma. Rape has been used systematically by the Burmese military against these women, including children and older women. In addition to facing this violence, these women lack basic post-rape medical care after arriving in camps in Bangladesh.

Another recent example of gender-based violence in conflict is that of the Yazidi women who were kidnapped, raped and sold into sexual slavery by ISIS. One brave survivor, Nadia Murad, has spoken throughout the world to raise awareness of the genocide committed against the Yazidi people and to ask for justice.

Even in refugee camps, where women flee to in search of safety, there is exploitation of women. Syrian women have reportedly been forced to trade sex for food aid. The problem has gotten so bad that the women will no longer go to get food. Sadly, sexual exploitation of refugees in conflict zones by aid officials has happened in other crises as well including a vast human trafficking network during the conflict in Bosnia.

Perpetrators of gender-based violence during wartime are not only those in power but often include civilians, as has been documented in the Democratic Republic of Congo—pointing to the pervasiveness of the problem.

With the call for accountability for crimes against women, let this be the “Time’s Up” on gender-based violence committed during war. Ms. Murad and her lawyer Amal Clooney are advocating for evidence to be collected and brought to the International Criminal Court in the case against ISIS–one step toward holding perpetrators accountable.

Murad states, “I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine”. Let us channel the fire that brought about these movements to fight back against exploitation of women, especially the women facing the unimaginable difficulties of war.

The Call of the Rohingyas: A 21st Century Holocaust

Photo: AFP

The brutal killings of Rohingyas have been confirmed by the international diaspora as being – “The Worlds most persecuted minority”. Rohingya progeny is found in Myanmar with the consistent brutal violence and forced fleeing which has become their daily existence.

A very minute spec of Humanity (The Rohingya`s) in the 21st century is in crisis and a strength of belonging to one`s land is transformed into a reality of statelessness. It’s a well directed ethnic cleansing, the level of hatred was and continues to such an extreme that Rohingyas hurriedly left their lands using the quickest available means of transport, mostly using water transportation, out of the fear of being persecuted in hopes of seeking shelter on whichever shore they reach. Despite being denied entry in many countries, they continue to float, as though living dead bodies would have done.

The very act of stamping down masses or crushing them is not limited to ethnic cleansing only, it`s a negative transformation injecting a lifelong fear, or memories of fear, hatred, and rejection from other nations, a destruction including emotional, physical and sociological. It`s a small term to call the Rohingya`s ethnic cleansing as genocide, it`s beyond the wordy jargons, something which humanity is witnessing in the 21st century – The Holocaust! The Renaissance of Killings!

“A Tale to be talked out or a Tale to be dusted in the coming years.”

The world needs to ponder, what are the paths that lead to the extremity of injected ethnic cleansing which violates almost all laws of human rights whether national or international, do question the level of insecurity any minority or small groups of tribes/masses undergo? What is the credibility that these lives will survive with dignity? The damage is done, though hope has not to be lost, human values are slowly dying a natural death, wonder the uncaptured inhuman phases the Rohingya`s are forced to live with?

There are innumerable talks on United Nations protocol, Laws which are ratified and not by Nations who want to help but find reasons to rejection or acceptance of its non-ratifications, security threats yes or no, but there is no one talking about, where do these group of neglected people go?  Who will repatriate them while guaranteeing security and safety and thereby normalising towards rehabilitation?

What does it mean to be a Rohingya?

Just one day to be a Rohingya can cost you to stand just nowhere, belonging to no one, with nothing at all to exist except a body which is better living then dead if escapes to any other land or for that matter even surviving for days in the sea ….and curse oneself to be born, living in highly impoverished conditions with  no health care access, and a life of  full of crippled mobility.

The case of Rohingyas is being dealt in a manner where a strategic displacement in shifting the identity from National identity to individual minority group with a stateless status, and it is this very depreciating transformation has been played well enough to plan a systematic exodus of the ethnic group and flush them out of the Nation just as the slag of any process.

“ Myanmar is going through self inflictment, injuring its own people, it is not that easy, it kills the reputation of a Nation globally, affects its economic growth and this ethnic cleansing has witnessed a history, a history which is not supposed to be repeated but to be repealed!!”

What can or can`t the Nations do, is not the struggling or comparative question, the responsibility is more on how can this mass exodus of Rohingyas be addressed by the neighbouring Nations and not stopped.  The reason of not stopping this exodus is clearly understood, since the history of Rohingya cleansing in Myanmar, dates back in 1970s, which is a proof of foment, displaying ethnic rifts and polarisation by using genocide as a tool to clean the cultural and religious species of Rohingyas.

 “  Is Myanmar carrying  a Heritage of Horror for its next generation”

They are subjected to a systematic marginalisation and wherever they have migrated, they are living in sheer abysmal conditions after escaping the fear of persecution. Not that migration has given them any promising hopes for rehabilitation but the least it could benefit them is saving life and continuing the survival struggle. An exhumation of the Rohingya history will bring out how this ethnic group has been time and again subjected to violence, hatred, rejection, forced labour, imposed a legal stateless status, restricted freedom of movement and to be précises a 21st century Holocaust!

 “Is it a fight of religion or a fight to displace people who are of no good (as considered by their own nation), for the Nations economy and residing at that terrain which is explorable for tapping rich natural resources?”

Scottish Survivor Groups Encourage All Survivors of Abuse in Care to Take Part in a Milestone Consultation

Survivor groups in Scotland have called on all survivors of abuse in care to take part in an important consultation, allowing individuals to share their views on a possible financial redress scheme for the first time.

The consultation has been developed and delivered through a collaboration between a range of partners including survivor representatives (Interaction Action Plan Review Group) and CELCIS (the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland).

With just four weeks left to the deadline of Friday 17 November to complete the consultation, survivor groups have spoken out about the need for all survivors of abuse in care to take part.

David Whelan, spokesperson from Former Boys and Girls Abused in Quarriers group (FBGA), commented: “This redress and compensation consultation gives everyone who has experienced abuse in the care system in Scotland an opportunity to share their views. The consultation offers real choices to the individual and survivor groups as to what it is they would like in any proposed redress-consultation scheme. It allows all survivors a chance to have their voices and opinions heard.  We would encourage as many survivors as possible to take part over the next month.

“Former Boys and Girls Abused in Quarriers group fully support this consultation which was put together in a partnership with other victims-survivors, the Scottish Human Rights Commission, CELCIS, The Scottish Government and others.”

Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said: “Anyone who has been subjected to abuse has a human right to access justice and to an effective and fair remedy. Everyone has the right to live and be treated with dignity.  The Scottish Human Rights Commission welcomes the consultation by the InterAction Review Group and CELCIS on financial redress for historic abuse.  It is a crucial part of developing Scotland’s Action Plan on Historic Abuse and we encourage anyone who is themselves a survivor of childhood abuse to take part.”

Joanne McMeeking, Head of Improving Care Experiences at CELCIS, said: “We are in the final month of the consultation process, which is a milestone in terms of seeking justice for survivors of abuse in care in Scotland. Completing this consultation questionnaire gives survivors a way to have their views about potential financial redress seen and heard.”

Taking part

The consultation is open to all victims/survivors of historical abuse in care as defined by the Terms of Reference of the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry and is available online.

Rescuing Sex Trafficking Victims

Lois Lee, Ph.D., J.D. – Founder of Children of the Night Photo Credit: CalState

Forty years ago, it wasn’t unusual to find Lois Lee, Ph.D., J.D. wandering the streets and alleys of Los Angeles at 3 a.m.; she even did so while pregnant with her son.

Dr. Lee was looking for victims of sex trafficking and those who exploited them.

Walking miles along Sunset, Santa Monica and Hollywood Boulevards, the then-24-year-old would hand out business cards with her hotline number, encouraging victims to call and letting them know what kind of help they’d find.

“These are girls, boys and transgender children that would fall between the cracks of the system,” remembers Lee. “They had nowhere to go — no one was providing a bed or a school or offering to take care of these kids.”

So, she created that place.

From 1979 to 1981, Lee housed more than 250 sex trafficking victims in her own home, all while building the Children of the Night outreach program; the privately funded nonprofit organization would become unlike any other in existence at the time, or even today, rescuing children from child prostitution and providing housing, education and treatment.

But perhaps most important, Lee gave them hope.

An Unimaginable Life

Lee was raised in Los Angeles, the eldest child in a family of three girls. It was a childhood she describes as healthy, safe and sheltered.

So when, as a graduate student at California State University, Dominguez Hills, her faculty mentor Jeanne Curran, PhD., then a professor of sociology, introduced her to the underworld of sex trafficking, it was a wake-up call.

“I wanted to make everything better because I just couldn’t imagine someone living in these types of conditions,” explains Lee, who graduated from CSU Dominguez Hills with a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science in 1973 and a master’s in sociology in 1977.

It was at CSUDH that she developed the skills she’d later use to address child sex trafficking. Lee also taught courses at the campus’s Social Systems Research Center, then led by Dr. Curran. The center has since been renamed the Urban Community Research Center.

“Jeanne became a mentor for me, both on- and off-campus. She influenced my life and academic choices so much,” says Lee, a first-generation college student.

“She and CSU Dominguez Hills empowered me.”

Victims, Not Criminals

Late one night in 1977, Lee received a call from a woman who operated an escort service. A 17-year-old she worked with had not returned and she was unable to contact her.

Afraid, she had called Lee for guidance. Lee went to the police, who dismissed the call and refused to help. The next morning, the girl’s body was found; she had become one of the Hillside Stranglers’victims.

Frustrated by the lack of resources that were available to these girls, Lee appeared on an L.A. news broadcast, giving out her personal phone number and encouraging prostitutes with knowledge of the case to reach out to her directly. She promised confidentiality.

“I coordinated everything just as I had learned from Jeanne at CSU Dominguez Hills,” Lee recalls. “And that was really the beginning of my work.”

Lee would go on to play a critical role in the Hillside Strangler trial, testifying in the case and coordinating witnesses for the prosecution.

At just 27, Lee garnered attention when she sued the Los Angeles Police Department for prosecuting underage prostitutes while letting their customers go free.

She won the case and has gone on to file a number of other lawsuits.

“I taught vice detectives nationwide that there were children prostituting and they needed to be treated differently,” says the President’s Volunteer Action Award recipient. She strongly advocated – and still does – to have the children referred to and treated as victims, not criminals.

Education: The Key to Success

To date, Children of the Night’s president and founder is credited with rescuing more than 10,000 children from prostitution in the U.S.

The organization’s shelter, located in Van Nuys, California, offers no-cost housing for as many as 12 children ages 11 to 17. They attend classes at the on-site school, receive individualized treatment, and participate in fun outings. A nationwide toll-free hotline is also staffed 24/7.

Lee sees education as the most fundamental of the services they offer, and attendance is mandatory for all residents.

“What’s really important about the development of any society is to educate the people,” she explains. “Through education, I was able to learn about the world. Education empowers.”

While children are offered treatment to manage trauma, their past experiences are not the focus, Lee stresses. “I don’t feel sorry for the children with whom I work,” she says. “[That] incapacitates their ability to become strong and independent. I want the world for my kids. I have very high expectations of them.”

Which is not to say she isn’t deeply empathetic to what they’ve faced.

“There is no way that I can make what happened to them go away, but I can … put distance between their old lifestyle and their life now.”

Still Fighting

Today, Lee is regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in rescuing child sex trafficking victims, raising awareness on a topic that previously wasn’t talked about. In 1981, the General Accounting Office estimated there were 600,000 children under the age of 16 working as prostitutes in the United States. Today, that number is estimated to be 100,000.

In January 2017, Children of the Night announced a new global initiative to rescue 10,000 more children worldwide from sex trafficking.

Lee is also passionate about giving back to the campus that helped turn her dream into an advocacy mission that has no doubt saved thousands of lives.

“So much of what I have done and have been able to do in my life is because of my time at CSU Dominguez Hills,” Lee says. “The faculty raised me and nourished me. They liked to take risks and they challenged traditional thinking processes. “Dominguez Hills taught me how to break down barriers.”

A Practical Guide on How to Confront Hate

Tina Kempin Reuter, Ph.D., director of the UAB Institute for Human Rights Photo Credit: UAB

In the wake of violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Tina Kempin Reuter, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Institute for Human Rights offers some practical tips on how to confront hate.

Know your human rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the key document guiding human rights advocacy. It is based on the universality, inalienability, and indivisibility of human rights and is founded on the core values of equality, non-discrimination and human dignity.

“Knowing one’s human rights is an important step that often gets forgotten,” Reuter said. “Learning the content and extent of basic human rights will give people the tools and language needed to address certain issues. Discrimination, suppression, racism, marginalization, and violence against individuals or groups are human rights violations that must be confronted.”

Reuter urges reporting human rights violations to the authorities such as the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice or other entities such as the American Civil Liberties Union. If an incident occurs in the workplace, inform your human resources representative or a diversity officer. At UAB, students, faculty, and staff can contact the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. You can learn more about international human rights by visiting the United Nations Human Rights website and by reading the UAB Institute for Human Rights blog, where faculty and students write about international human rights issues.

Speak up in the face of injustice

Once you know what human rights and human rights violations are, Reuter encourages everyone to pay attention and speak up in the face of injustice. Pay attention to what happens in your everyday life. Document, record and monitor what is going on around you, and if you see injustice, say something.

“The goal is to make everyday suppression of a specific group based on race, color, religion, ethnicity, immigration status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability status just as unacceptable as the violence and hatred that has occurred in Charlottesville,” Reuter said. “It’s these normal, hidden human rights violations that are particularly dangerous to our society and that we have to confront together.”

Be aware of your own biases

One of the ways to overcome biases and stereotypes is to engage with those who are different. Research shows that interpersonal contact is one of the best ways to reduce prejudice. This theory is called contact hypothesis. The theory suggests that under appropriate conditions interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority groups.

“It is incredibly important to be aware of your own biases,” Reuter said. “We all have them. Realize if you cross the street when a person of a different race walks toward you. Notice if you assume that someone is less competent because she is a woman, a person of color or Muslim. Think about systemic racism and structural violence in your own environment, and find ways to confront them. Actively learn about how our society has grown to marginalize some to the benefit of others. I encourage people to reach out and make new friends outside of their race, religion and gender.”

Join a movement or a cause that fits your passions and interests

Join a movement, and talk with others who feel the same. Look for a rally in your community. Organize a vigil. Participate in a discussion. Engage with others. Get together formally or informally. Look for opportunities to talk. The UAB Institute for Human Rights is a part of the StandAsOne Coalition. If you are a UAB student, you can join the Students for Human Rights club.

“Not all of us are born to be activists or community organizers,” Reuter said. “We cannot all become Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela or Leymah Gboweee; but we all can contribute by supporting the movement. Think about what you are good at and how your skills and talent can be used to move a cause forward.”

Call your representatives

One of the most effective ways to achieve policy change is to call local and state representatives. Reuter says calling is much more impactful than writing an email, Facebook message or letter. She advises anyone contacting their local representative to be polite to the staff, which is who you will most likely get on the line. Their staff members do not have influence on the decision-making process, but they will record your call and do not mind taking opposing views as long as the conversation is civil.

Educate others

This step does not have to be formal. You can educate others by leading by example, or by bringing a friend along to a conversation you are having. It can happen person to person, on social media or on any other platform you use to connect with others. Creating art, poems and performances are incredible ways to get your point across to people who might find that formal ways of education do not resonate with them.

“It is such a privilege to be an educator,” Reuter said. “It is one of my favorite parts of my job to talk to students about issues that affect the world and to encourage them to learn more about these topics. It’s something that everyone can do. Teach your children and young relatives about kindness, human rights, and peace building. Teach them also about systemic suppression, racism and the way our society has oppressed minorities. Talk to them about what bothers you and what you would like to achieve. You don’t have to be a professor or teacher to educate others.”

Donate

One of the fastest and easiest opportunities to make an impact is to donate to an organization that fights for human rights or civil rights.

There are a number of organizations dedicated to ensuring the preservation of individual rights and liberties, one of which is the UAB Institute for Human Rights. You can learn more about the Institute here.

Take care of yourself

Confronting issues such as hatred, violence, and suppression can take a mental and physical toll on anyone. Reuter says it is important to know what you can and cannot do, what you are willing to do, and what your priorities are.

“Focus on the local level. Start in your own community,” Reuter said. “That world is changed person by person, but don’t forget to take care of your needs. When you start to feel overwhelmed, shut down Facebook, Twitter, cable news and other forms of media. Enjoy time with your friends and family. Be kind to yourself, and realize that real progress takes patience.”

How to Help Human Trafficking Survivors

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Human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking, has become an area of interest both in the general public and also within social work. As a result, attention, money, and resources are being allocated for this cause. The array of services needed for human trafficking survivors is complex, but one area that is not receiving enough support is in employment and training for survivors.

As Evelyn Chumbow, a survivor of domestic servitude and anti-trafficking activist stated, “There are times when I feel like screaming on behalf of all human trafficking survivors, we need jobs, not pity!”. I have served in the roles of both case manager and therapist for trafficking survivors. Across both roles, I have heard trafficking survivors express their exasperation and fear of not finding employment outside of the sex industry. What are the barriers?

Many sex trafficking survivors entered the sex industry at a young age, which likely resulted in a disruption in education. Because of this many did not have the opportunity to complete their high school degree.

Furthermore, many have criminal records that reflect prostitution charges. Expungement can be extremely complex to navigate. Many have no prior work history or spotty work history. All of these factors can make employment difficult to secure.

Survivors may also not feel comfortable with, or have success with, explaining their circumstances to a prospective employer. Finally, transgender trafficking survivors may face increased discrimination in employment due to barriers already described, but also as a result of their gender identity.

Employment can be a gateway for trafficking survivors to build independence. Traditional employment programs may not be a good match unless the staff is trained are well-trained on the particular employment issues that trafficking survivors may face and are able to find employment, sex trafficking survivors end up homeless or returning to the sex industry out of desperation to support themselves.

For those interested in helping sex trafficking survivors, consider how to help them in building job skills and obtaining employment. Some programs that serve trafficking survivors incorporate a jobs skills and employment component. One program that does a great job in this area is Thistle Farms, which was featured in the documentary A Path Appears.

While trafficking survivors may not have a traditional work history, they do have skills. They were able to survive their situation and have internal strengths. Despite the unimaginable circumstances they may have experienced, they have hope and want to support themselves and contribute. Many I have worked with have expressed a desire to make meaning of their experience and help others who have been trafficked.

At a recent conference held by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, many survivors voiced their need for skills training and employment. As one trafficking survivor stated, “Once we escape, there is a whole new hell…You can rescue us all you want, but what we need is an opportunity. We want jobs, we want education, we want choices”.

Why Feminism is Still Important For Social Workers

PHOTO BY LORIE SHAULL

Feminism continues to be a fraught issue with fractures within the community of feminists, as well as women in general. Yet, feminism is more crucial than ever given the diversity of challenges women are now facing. Feminism has become a focal point again recently largely as a result of the Presidential election and the response from it. This is clearly important for social workers as well, from the perspective of human rights and social justice, as well as from a policy perspective.

The role of feminism came to the forefront during the Presidential election for various reasons, most obviously because for the first time a woman became the Presidential candidate for a major political party in the United States. The treatment and response by the media to a female candidate, in comparison to a male candidate, was highlighted by various commentators. This included incessant references to the candidate’s clothing and appearance, the sound of her voice, and the dichotomy of seeming too harsh or cold vs. too weak.

Sadly, many female candidates are forced to endure humiliating treatment that their male counterparts would not experience. The list of demeaning comments made against Hillary Clinton goes on and on which also impacted the Republican female presidential candidate. President Donald Trump infamously commented on Carla Fiorina’s looks stating, “Look at that face!.. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” These demeaning, misogynistic attitudes and comments were pervasive this election season.

As a result, there has been a strong backlash to what many views as a war on women. This has culminated in the Women’s March, which was estimated to have had three times as many people in attendance than at the Presidential Inauguration. The momentum has continued with more women taking up the call to run for office. International Women’s Day, held on March 8th, also held more significance this year as the Women’s March organizers highlighted the day with calls for strikes from women, and for women to wear red in acknowledgment of the challenges women face.

Yet, there are many naysayers that feel that these efforts are women playing the victim. Some women are vocal that these efforts do not represent them. Political policy impacts all women, and the advantages we enjoy now came from blood, sweat, and tears. This includes the continued fight for equal pay, women’s ability to advance in the workplace, paid maternity leave, and better childcare options—these issues are universal. Aside from this, there is the continued victim blaming of those who have experienced rape on college colleges and a lack of substantial follow-up on the part of the police. Many of those who are prosecuted are given a slap on the wrist, as was the case with Brock Turner.

Sexism and assault of women in the military continue, where most recently nude photos of a female Marine have been posted online. Intimate partner violence and murder of women by husbands or boyfriends are frighteningly pervasive. Seven trans women have already been murdered in 2017 and 27 were killed in 2016.

Furthermore, women and girls continued to be sexually exploited through human trafficking networks. This is due largely in part because our society condones selling women and the demand persists. Until recently children who were caught prostituting, some as young as 10, were prosecuted in court instead of viewing them as a victim in need of help. Even today not all states have yet adopted Safe Harbor laws, viewing “child prostitutes” as culpable in some way.

Worldwide women continue to experience gender-based violence. In Pakistan, Saba Qaiser was shot in the head and left for dead by her father as part of an honor killing. She miraculously survived but saw no justice as she was pressured by the community to forgive those who shot her, letting them off the hook legally. India is experiencing a rape crisis, with 34,000 cases reported in 2015. 200 million girls and women alive today have experienced female genital mutilation. Rape continues to be used as a weapon of war, including in Syria and Iraq, by ISIS militants.

Now is not the time for inaction or denial. Clearly, we still have a long way to go to achieve social justice for women in the United States and worldwide, and these issues have a direct connection to social workers and those we serve. The silencing of Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor has ignited a new rallying cry, “never the less she persisted”– and so should we all in this fight for fairness, equality, and justice.

The Intersection Between the Worldwide Refugee Crisis and Human Trafficking

Bilal Hussein/AP

The worldwide refugee crisis, largely spurred by the historic mass migration of people from war-torn Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, are seeking refuge around the world. Many of these individuals are unaccompanied minors and are at even greater risk of exploitation with no social support from their family and sometimes no support from the host country where they are seeking refuge. Some of these individuals have been targeted by human traffickers who are taking this opportunity to exploit their vulnerability.

Many unaccompanied refugee youth have entered the sex industry in Greece as a result having no other means to support themselves. Many are teenage boys, a group often overlooked as potential sex trafficking victims, are trading sex to meet their basic needs. Many of these youth have nowhere to stay and no way to support themselves. This is a commonality with many runaways in the United States that are lured into the sex industry with the promise of a having some place to stay. CNN also reported there are around 1200 unaccompanied minors living on the streets of Greece with no place to stay—but it is believed to be much higher.

Other reports suggest approximately 10,000 unaccompanied refugee minors are unaccounted for and may have been trafficked by underground criminal networks. The United Kingdom is proposing to halt unaccompanied refugee minors entry into the country after only accepting 350 of them. Advocates fear this move will lead to an increase in human trafficking while leaving them with no formal support system and no ability to stay in their war-torn home countries.

Meanwhile, in the United States unaccompanied refugee minors from Central America and other countries are also at risk. In 2014, several unaccompanied refugee minors from Central America were accidentally released by a shelter to human traffickers and forced to work on an egg farm in Ohio where traffickers threatened to kill them if they left. When historic numbers of unaccompanied minors entered the US in 2014, there was an increase in trafficking visas issued to children as traffickers once again exploited this vulnerable population.

In Iraq and Syria, ISIS has been targeting the religious minority Yazidi, forcing them to flee as refugees. Many of the women and girls have been captured by ISIS militants and forced to ‘marry’ or are used as sex slaves for the men. Again, like other victims of human trafficking, the women and girls are systematically raped and traded among ISIS fighters. The New York Times estimates that 3,144 Yazidi women and girls are still being held captive. One courageous Yazidi woman escaped her captivity and has been telling her story to bring awareness of the
others that are still being held captive.

Human trafficking is an exploitation of vulnerability and refugees can be among the most vulnerable populations. As a result, it is necessary that providers be aware of the potential risk factors leading to trafficking, be able to identify and assess for trafficking, and be able to provide trauma-informed care to those that may have been trafficked. This is a clear issue of social justice and re-emphasizes the humanitarian necessity of assisting vulnerable refugee populations—particularly children. Likewise, policy can be crucial in providing the resources to
support refugee populations that may be at risk.

With the scale of the problem being so vast, complex, and multi-faceted, it can feel like any effort at combatting this issue cannot possibly make an impact. Yet, social workers are at the intersection of mental health, the medical field, the justice system and the school system as well as various social service agencies. Social workers may likely be the first to identify a trafficking victim which places us in a unique position to make a real difference for this population.

What can you do to help?

    • Educate yourself on the issue of human trafficking and let others know what you’ve learned. Attend a workshop or training on this issue.
    • Learn how to assess whether an individual may be trafficked. As a social worker, you may be the first person to identify a potential trafficking victim.
    • If you think someone may be trafficked report a tip to the Polaris Project hotline: at 1888-373-7888.
    • Host a film screening on the human trafficking to raise awareness, such as A Path Appears.
    • Make a donation to an agency working with survivors. Tangible needs for survivors of human trafficking may include: clothing, toiletries, money for rental assistance/getting a first apartment, bus passes. This can include international agencies working with survivors.
    • Survivors of human trafficking also have long-term needs in order for them to become self-sufficient. This may include GED classes or ESL classes, medical services, counseling services, job placement services and immigration services. Consider whether your agency may be willing to help provide some of these services for survivors.
    • Become a mentor for a survivor. Continue to advocate for vulnerable refugee populations around the world, particularly unaccompanied minors who may be at the greatest risk. Educate others on the worldwide refugee crisis and our responsibility as social workers to take a role in addressing this issue as one of social justice.

While it is an audacious goal, we must aspire to end human trafficking in our time and renew our commitment to serving vulnerable refugee populations. As abolitionist William Wilberforce is quoted as saying, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

What Can We Do to Help Support Refugee Resettlement in the United States?

With the recent change in administration, many questions remain in regard to the potential policy changes that may affect refugees being resettled in the United States, and have already started to affect refugees.

Most notable the executive orders that have been recently signed will have an impact on the number of refugees being received, the countries we will accept refugees from, as well as a proposed suspension of any refugee resettlement for 120 days.

This comes largely as a result of the negative rhetoric that came out of the campaign from various candidates, but most notably from the President elect. We have an obligation to educate the public on who refugees really are, to advocate for and defend policies to resettle refugees in the United States, and to support refugees that are arriving or are already here.

Refugees arriving in the United States are a diverse group, including those from Iraq, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Bhutan, and Burma. The commonality among these individuals is that they are all fleeing due to a, “well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group” as defined by the United Nations.

They represent many different religious backgrounds, languages and cultures. Welcoming refugees is woven in the fabric of our history and culture, with the first refugee legislation enacted in 1948. Over three million refugees have been resettled since 1975 from 70 countries around the world.

The United States has welcomed refugees fleeing Europe as a result of World War II, refugees escaping the former Soviet Union, those who came as a result of the war in Vietnam, Cubans, those from the former Yugoslavia as well as the more recent arrivals previously mentioned.

While refugees are welcomed primarily for humanitarian reasons they also bring benefits to the community they are being resettled in. Firstly, refugees contribute to their local communities economically. They are eager to work, and have been shown to retain their jobs longer than native born individuals. Many refugees have an entrepreneurial spirit and are more likely to start their own businesses.

Aside from that, in some cities that have lost population or that have aging populations, refugees are viewed as not only adding population but also contributing to the economy and enriching the community by sharing their culture. This has been seen in cities like Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Rutland, Vermont who is making a concerted effort to welcome refugees. Refugees should be viewed as resilient for having survived
unimaginable circumstances.

What can social workers or those interested in supporting refugees do to help? Firstly, let your opinions be known to your elected representatives. Policy action is the crucial to maintain the existing resettlement programs. Secondly, support resettlement agencies and refugees in your community. Make your city a ‘welcoming’ community for those who are newly arriving. This may mean training police, schools and social service agencies on who refugees are and being prepared to provide culturally appropriate services. Furthermore, donate to your local resettlement agency.

Many resettlement agencies may be in need of gently used furniture and clothing for newly arriving refugees. Resettlement agencies are also in need of volunteers to help set-up apartments, as well as helping refugees to learn life skills like taking the bus or tutoring them in English. If you are a business owner, hire a refugee. Employment is crucial for newly arriving refugees to integrate into their new communities.

Finally, educate others on who refugees are and why it is important to maintain this program. Refugees are not a traditional population that social work or social workers tend to focus on and this should change. Supporting refugees is an issue of social justice—refugee resettlement saves lives. In no other case is this more apparent than of those fleeing Syria, as the war continues to rage with no end in sight. Yet the United States has been slow to accept these refugees and is now proposing effectively ending resettlement of Syrians. In stark contrast to this are the Canadians who met their goal of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees last year.

We need to mobilize to defend the integrity of this program and affirm that this is a key social justice issue for social workers to focus their efforts on.

Four Tips to Help Communities and Churches Battle Human Trafficking

WACO, Texas – Super Bowl festivities in Houston will be in full swing this week as the nation gears up for the NFL’s premier event on Sunday. Thousands of people will pour into the city. Unfortunately, those crowds will include those involved in human trafficking.

“We can expect to see an influx of out-of-town victims and trafficking solicitations during Super Bowl weekend. Much of that will take place online,” said human trafficking expert Elizabeth Goatley, Ph.D., assistant professor in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.

Goatley said large-scale national events like the Super Bowl draw attention to human trafficking, and it’s an appropriate time to make people aware of the epidemic, which victimizes hundreds of thousands of people within the United States each year. Globally, an estimated 20.9 million people are victims of human trafficking, resulting in a $150 billion industry, according to the International Labour Organization.

“Communities can make a difference in combating human trafficking,” Goatley said, “but it takes knowing your neighbor and your neighborhood and doing for the ‘least of these.’”

She offered the following tips to help communities better understand and combat human trafficking.

1. People must understand that human trafficking includes both sex and labor trafficking.

Human trafficking is the bartering or transactional engagement of a person for sex or labor, through the use of force, fraud or coercion, Goatley explained. Most communities and congregations focus on the “commercialized sex” part of human trafficking and often neglect those who are trapped in labor trafficking.

2. Human trafficking is cultural and contextualized to specific environments.

“When people say, ‘Tell me what human trafficking looks like,’ my response is always to reflect on how those in poverty are surviving in that community,” Goatley said.

In urban areas, she explained, it may look like the commercial sex industry (strip clubs, online ads, local prostitution tracks or brothels) or like day laborers who are financially exploited. It may look like childcare workers who never get days off, no breaks and little pay for labor; or it may look like a teenage runaway who needs food and barters sex for a meal or place to stay and is not allowed to leave.

In rural communities, she said, human trafficking may look like agricultural workers who are refused breaks and payment, or those working in toxic conditions and sweatshops. It may look like a family member bartering sex with a child to pay a bill.

“To best address human trafficking, people must know what’s going on in their communities,” she said.

3. Human trafficking is no respecter of race, gender, class or religion.

“There is no ‘type’ of person that can be lured into human trafficking,” Goatley said.

In a recent column Goatley penned for Ethics Daily, she provided the following examples of those who’ve fallen victim to human trafficking.

“Through my work in trafficking, I’ve heard stories from the 15-year-old competitive swimmer from the elite swimming club who fell for a guy she met on the Internet. When he asked for a meeting at the local mall to “hang out,” she didn’t hesitate. She told her mother that she was meeting friends at the mall, left home and didn’t return,” Goatley wrote.

“I’ve listened to a mother describe the struggle of providing for her family in her native country and the decision she made to sacrifice everything for a chance at a better life in America. She paid a coyote (smuggler) to help her cross into the United States, but upon crossing the coyote refused to let her go without a $10,000 ransom. She was forced to have sex with strangers until her debt was paid,” she wrote.

“I will never forget the story of the migrant worker who ‘followed the crops’ to provide for his family. He worked long hard hours in the fields picking a plethora of fruits and vegetables, pulling tobacco and tending to stables where he wasn’t allowed breaks and paid a dollar and a half a day,” Goatley wrote.

Fortunately, she wrote, all of those stories are of survivors who were assisted by local churches and other human trafficking organizations.

4. Get involved.

“Get to know the needs within your community,” Goatley said.

Is there a local school that needs adopting? Goatley said that research shows that third- and fourth-grade literacy rates have great predicting values on the path of a child’s life.

Is your church located in an immigrant community? Consider offering English as a Second Language courses (ESL), Goatley said. Research shows that immigrants that have better understanding of the English language are less likely to be exploited in the hiring process.

Is your church located within a community that experiences homelessness? Consider adopting a homeless shelter, Goatley said. Research states that runaways, throwaways (children whose families have put them out) and newly homeless persons are at a higher risk for human trafficking within the first 48 hours on the street.

“Additionally, people should pray and support anti-human trafficking organizations and advocate for anti-human trafficking legislation,” Goatley said.

The national hotline number to report any case or suspicion of a case is 1-888-373-7888.

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month: Join the Fight

The mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is to safeguard the American people, our homeland, and our values.  As a Department, we work to combat the heinous crime of human trafficking each day because it robs people of their freedom  It makes our homeland less secure, and it stands in stark contrast to our American values.

By Presidential Proclamation, January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. DHS employees can take a stand against human trafficking by recommitting ourselves to the fight to end human trafficking in the United States. But you don’t have to be a homeland security professional to combat human trafficking.  This January, learn how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, and where to report suspected instances. We need you to help end trafficking in your community.

January 11 is the Blue Campaign’s “Wear Blue Day”, a day where we can all pledge our solidarity with victims of human trafficking and raise awareness about, and work to end, this heinous crime.  You can participate by wearing blue and contributing to the campaign on social media using #WearBlueDay.   Help us bring trafficking out of the shadows and into plain sight.

DHS created the Blue Campaign in 2010 to serve as the Department’s unified voice to combat human trafficking. By prioritizing the fight against human trafficking and improving our coordination across the Department on this important issue, we embarked on a concerted effort to raise public consciousness of human trafficking, protect victims, and bring perpetrators to justice.  Please join us in this important fight.

Since When Did Human Rights Become a Debate?

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There is a worrying trend in popular media, whereby “debate” and “free speech” are becoming synonymous with “listening to hate speech”. This is particularly true regarding two recent votes: for Britain to leave the European Union (Brexit) and for the United States voting for the new president.

Some people have suggested that pro-equality activists are shutting down people’s right to speak and are also using defamatory labels unnecessarily (notably the labels racism, sexism, homophobia). This “name-calling”, “silencing” and “lack of debate” being alleged has led to a hateful brand of politics as people who are tired of being labelled are increasingly pushed to extremes. This shutting-down story is harmful and inaccurate.

To debate assumes both perspectives are valid and have merit – something called the balance fallacy. For example, issues such as marriage equality and access to contraception should be considered basic human rights. If there was a “debate” about the existence of marriage equality, this assumes marriage equality is up for debate. If the result was inconclusive or against permitting LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) people to marry, someone’s rights have been removed.

What is a “debate” to one person is an attack on the rights of another. The “silencing” story seems to suggest that everything should be up for debate or at least, it does not specify what should and should not be under the realm of debate. This is simply not true.

Secondly, there is the assumption that “free speech” means “speech without consequence”. Nobody believes this. Everybody understands, for example, that if they talk in a library they may be asked to leave, or if they insult a judge in court they may be held in contempt. Free speech does not mean “the right to say what you want, how you want, anywhere you want, without consequence”.

The “silencing” story suggests that pointing out sexism, racism, homophobia is an attack on free speech instead of a reasonable consequence to saying things like, well, for a sample take your pick from the UK or the United States. What could be simply called respecting people’s human rights and avoiding hate speech has now become political correctness (indeed, asking equality activists not to use the word “racism” could also be considered “political correctness”). To assume that people’s right to live safely  is not as important as someone’s “right” to openly advocate sexual assault is frankly unacceptable.

Not pointing these things out will not make them go away. Accepting sexist cultures does not change a culture. Accepting racist rhetoric and refusing to speak up does not prevent racism from happening. Pointing out that these things exist does not create them. It does not create division. It shows the division that was already there – particularly, a division of power.

The “silencing” story also assumes that narratives of equality are so powerful that they have been able to silence people. This is false. Equality activists (often but not necessarily thought of as being politically “liberal”) are not actually in power, they do not have control of the media. There is only the repeated, media-perpetuated perception that free speech is under attack.

Another troubling implication is the idea that current trends towards increased hate crimes and hate speech could have been stopped with logic and discussion. Discussion doesn’t exist in a bubble of rationality – humans do not simply listen to facts, weigh them up, and come to a reasonable conclusion on the basis of evidence. The idea that logical engagement and discussion should even be the burden of those being attacked – or, indeed, that logical engagement could work – is based on a denial of a) the irrationality of human beings, and b) social power.

The key ingredient to changing prejudiced attitudes is that people care about their prejudices and are motivated to change them. If a person does not see racism, sexism, homophobia, or hate crimes related to these attitudes as a problem that needs addressing, they are not motivated to change.

If someone is presented with evidence that counters a belief that they hold very dearly, instead of accepting the evidence, a person is likely to hold on to their original belief even more strongly. Additionally, if a person’s sense of self-worth is intertwined with a belief, and that person lacks alternative sources of self-worth, they are also unlikely to change that belief. This is called “self-affirmation theory”. Political partisanship increases this effect on a group level.

In other words, “attacks on freedom of speech” and “not engaging in discussion/debate” do not explain the current social and political climate. Better explanations include racism and white supremacy – including but not limited to the online radicalism of white men –  economic hardship leading to a desire for any form of change taking precedent over all else, including equality, human rights and a general hopelessness and political apathy.

Ways to tackle this include calling out prejudice and hate speech – yes, calling it out directly – increasing interactions between different groups, setting new social norms where respect and diversity take centre stage, and working on shared goals and values. It is likely that many people are, deep down, looking for the same thing: financial stability, access to reasonable opportunities, and feeling as though they belong. There is enough room for everyone in those hopes and dreams.

It was never reasonable to suggest that people’s rights should be compromised in order to appease a system that is fundamentally against them. Now is the time to speak out, to not stay silent, to raise awareness. No matter what kind of post-event rhetoric is being circulated, let one thing be clear – people’s basic human rights are not, nor should they be – up for debate.

Working Full Time but Cannot Afford Food

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Ex-Walmart worker David Alvarez, center.

As a Wal-Mart employee in Tampa, Florida, David Alvarez was responsible for routinely throwing away food that was past its prime. After completing this task, Mr. Alvarez went home to a dinner of ramen noodles or peanut butter sandwiches, as he could not afford much more on his wage of $9.15 an hour. Although this is a little over a dollar more than Florida’s minimum wage of $8.05, and close to two dollars more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, it is still not enough for many individuals and families to survive.

Unfortunately, Mr. Alvarez’s story is all too common. According to a report by Americans for Tax Fairness, a collation of 400 national and state level progressive groups, Wal-Mart has cost taxpayers approximately $6.2 billion a year in subsidies. Many of these are in the form of social welfare programs, such as food stamps, because the company routinely does not pay enough wages for families to make ends meet.

Although Wal-Mart is perhaps the best-known example of this sort of corporate greed, it is far from the only company to pay its employees a wage so low that they continue to qualify for public assistance, even with a full time job. Many jobs in fast food or other restaurants, in addition to much home health care work, pay only minimum wage.

The larger problem of having a minimum wage that is not a living wage has many potential solutions. However, in the case of Mr. Alvarez and other Wal-Mart workers, a solution that would cost the company no additional money would be to allow employees to take home food that was past its prime. While Wal-Mart does donate uneaten food to area food pantries frequently, company policy forbids employees from taking any food home.

The problems of food waste and food insecurity are deeply tied together. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that one in seven households are food insecure, yet around 40 percent of food produced goes uneaten. There are many reasons for this, including an obsession with only selling perfect looking fruits and vegetables, unclear expiration dates, and inefficient supply chains.

There are also many reasons for needing food assistance and food insecurity. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, the top five reasons for food insecurity are unemployment, high housing costs, lack of access to SNAP benefits, medical costs, and low wages. It seems that there are solutions that would be a win-win, helping to reduce food waste and helping to ease food insecurity. Some of these include petitioning major retailers such as Wal-Mart to sell imperfect produce at a discount, clarifying expiration dates, and making it easier for retailers to donate food to those in need.

The Center for American Progress estimates that 8.9 million adults work full time and remain in poverty. For many families, the food budget is the first one to trim when money is tight, while so much food goes to waste. Food insecurity, poverty, and low wage jobs are all multi-faceted issues with many possible solutions. However, for people like Mr. Alvarez, help could come straight from his employer.

Black and Blue: Injustice Is Battering Us All

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It is starting to feel like a domestic war is brewing. People are taking sides, dividing up into camps. Facebook has become a platform for digital conflict. The tensions among Americans and worldwide, actually are palpable. I recently witnessed an exchange on social media about social justice and how it was a copout. Nuance is clearly a bridge too far for many engaged in a my side/your side battle and convincing the angry and scared that love is the answer is like convincing a starving person to not eat a poptart because of nutrition.

The frustration is causing violence which is being responded to with violence and preemptive violence. Cops are killing people and nowadays, this becomes quickly and broadly shared on social media. People have, thusly, become afraid of cops. Because people are afraid of cops, they respond to cops with fear, which makes them seem suspicious. Then, cops treat people like suspects. This is an understandable, if unfortunate cycle, but it is unacceptable and must be examined with honesty.

Unfortunately, efforts to bring attention to this cycle are being spun in various directions in order to rationalize this unacceptable behavior. What it ends up doing is creating hatred towards those who have been victimized. Additionally, people are trying to co-opt movements which is not helping the situation. For example, Black Lives Matter began as an attempt to show that black people were being killed by cops in high numbers with little consequence to their assailants, creating the perception that black lives don’t matter in the eyes of the law.

The movement was created to attract attention to this injustice so that it could be corrected. When the All Lives Matter was presented as a substitution for Black Lives Matter and subsequently so was Blue Lives Matter, it moved the conversation away from the overreaching injustice that has reached critical mass. People began creating memes and movements to support the new narratives. The problem with that is that it maintains the tone deaf reality that black people get killed with impunity.

People are deliberately changing the subject from the fact that we are moving towards a police state with militarized police. By doing this, we legitimize the institutional use of force, even unnecessary force to control people. Ironically, it is often those who ostensibly fear tyranny who feel comfortable legitimizing the advancement of an impending Martial Law.

The University of Cincinnati found that minorities are more likely to be pulled over. Some of the data indicates that racial profiling and economic factors put minorities at higher risk of becoming suspects. Additionally, once pulled over, they have a higher risk of search. Critics of these statistics say it wasn’t racially motivated searches, but concerns over drug trafficking, which pretty much proves the point. They are stereotypes that lead to increased risk of being a citizen.

A real issue with changing the narrative away from Black Lives Matter to all lives or Blue Lives Matter is that it not only washes over the tragedies that we have seen with unjustified homicides that go unadjudicated, but we give license for police oppression and tyranny. When the narratives of government overreach become accepted, through rationalizations like Blue Lives Matter, then they are propped up on a platform that accepts their overreaches. Unchecked authority and wanton aggression by law enforcement is what tyranny looks like and making excuses for brutality is a starting point.

So it’s really disheartening to see the escalated levels of justified violence against citizens. Especially because the dividing up into teams has been creating blind spots. In these blind spots we often ignore issues if those issues tend to be ‘other’ people’s issues. We must understand, though, that any of us could become a target and if we push to allow unchecked aggression without consequence, we will regret it when we are in the cross hairs. These blind spots are exactly why we must all demand equal treatment under the law even if we are privileged. When we rationalize exceptions we pave the way for abuse.

As this conversation unfolds I do hope it opens up the larger discussion of how economic inequality leads to injustice and social unrest. So far it appears that the discussion centers around a distrust for the police or blacks. Both sides have understandable positions when considering their roles.

But the police must understand that they are trained and responsible for keeping the peace in a community, not the opposite. And they must not simply operate as tools of the elite and therefore soldiers of the social divide. If they function in this manner, it is no wonder there is civil unrest. The citizens of the community are treated as subjugates instead of valuable members.

Ultimately, until we all adopt the mindset that violence is unacceptable, it will continue. But we must try and root out the underlying causes of the tensions, fear and hatred. Until everyone feels safe in their communities, it will be difficult to expect peace.

Criminalizing Child Welfare: Retired Texas Ranger Takes Over Child Protection Agency

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“Child welfare is a continuum of services that ensure children are safe and that families have the support they need to care for them”, according to the federal Children’s Bureau.  The complexities of serving children and families are many. But, depending on the perspective of the speaker, some are advocating for more law enforcement presence, more substance abuse treatment, or more parenting education and the list goes on.

However, the state of Texas is playing out this high stakes human drama in court, in its state agencies, in foster homes and the Governor’s office.

In the courts:

U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled in December 2015 that the state’s long-term foster care system had infringed on children’s civil rights and caused emotional and physical damage.  Recently, the Judge appointed two special masters to design plans to repair the embattled agency.

This month, U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the state to continue making plans, as Judge Jack ordered, to revamp the foster system.  The state has repeatedly gone to court to block the court-ordered changes in the foster system.  State officials have said improvements are needed, but the failings aren’t so bad that they “shock the conscience.”  The state’s lawyers wrote in their appeal:  “It is true that Texas’ foster-care system needs improvement in certain areas.  But the same could be said of most states’ foster-care systems.”

In the Governor’s office:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott was in office only six days in 2015 before a child in the state’s care and custody died.  In March, two more children in the state’s care died.  The Governor and his staff became involved in the daily operations of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

The Texas Tribune received thousands of pages of email correspondence between the governor and his staff and the child welfare agency.  To staunch the hemorrhage caused by protective service workers quitting, the Governor’s office has approved hire high school and community college graduates who have work experience in a human services field. Currently, 200 hundred jobs are vacant today.

In the state agency:

Retired Texas Rangers Chief Henry “Hank” Whitman took over as commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services.  In Dallas, during the quarter September through November 2015, protective services staff were quitting at a rate of 57% per year.  This exit of experienced staff is associated with a steady increase in the number of investigations open for more than 60 days: from 571 in February 2015 to more than 1,300 in February of this year.  Beginning caseworkers earn CPS caseworker salaries are rock bottom, as low as $34,000 to start.

In foster care

In January the state removed dozens of kids from two residential care centers and dropped off at a shelter 400 miles away.  The disruption was so hard for the kids, some were placed in a psychiatric hospital after the move. Meechaiel Criner, was removed from his mother’s house at age 2 after he and his siblings were left alone in a home with no running water.  On March 24th of this year he ran away from his therapeutic foster home.  Ten days later, he attacked and strangled an 18 year old freshman on the University of Texas campus.

This month, Commissioner Whitman gave a long interview to the Texas Tribune and discussed his vision for protecting children.  He addressed a question about the appointment of a lawman to head the child welfare agency by saying,

“I ask staff ‘Which one of y’all think that a policeman is not a social worker?’ ..I’ve been an investigator 20 years… We have to be with those families during a time of tragedy.  We’re there with them many times to see what we can do because they’re poor.” 

One of Whitman’s first initiatives is to put 20 new crime analysts, trained by the Department of Public Safety, on board to provide background information to Special Investigators who step in after an initial assessment by a protective services worker.  The job description asks for: “experience interviewing perpetrators, children and witnesses, crime scene analysis, experience obtaining credible and reliable victim, witness and suspect statements ”….  98% of 140 the Special Investigators come from law enforcement.

The NASW continues to advocate for child welfare workers who are trained with either a Bachelors or Masters degree in Social Work:

Standard 2. Qualifications, Knowledge, and Practice Requirements Social workers practicing in child welfare shall hold a BSW or MSW degree from an accredited school of social work.

It is all bigger in Texas, but is it better?  Is Texas creating a new model of child welfare that puts an emphasis on investigation, law enforcement with social work assistants left to do friendly visiting?  Can social work reclaim the leadership in child welfare? This would be a nightmare in protecting 4th amendment rights of children and families from unreasonable searches and seizures because they seek or need help.

Journey through the Grief of Homelessness

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Subprime loans, adjustable rate mortgages, unregulated equity lines of credit, mentally ill, physically and verbally abused, veterans, runaway children, drug addicts, and prostitutes are all part of the collectively vulnerable voices journeying through the grief of homelessness.

Homelessness is not prejudiced it crosses socio-economic, religious, educational, mental capacity, gender, veteran status, sexual preference and racial barriers; this destitution occurs in urban, rural and suburbia. Unfortunately, homelessness is an equalizer that causes one to lose hope and pride in the American dream as it becomes more elusive to the average Joe citizen.

Statistically speaking the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans reported that last year 12% of the adult population is veterans and of that total 20% are homeless with co-occurring disabilities and severe mental illnesses. Moreover, the state of our current economic situation and housing condition within the United States has created a social epidemic and high-risk population demographic.

The Tarrant County Homeless Coalition (TCHC) of Fort Worth, Texas, was established to serve the homeless population in Tarrant and Parker Counties. This agency annually conducts a point in time count of homeless individuals. On January 23, 2014, over 2400 people including children were homeless. Moreover, a systemized national survey revealed that over 84,000 were experiencing chronic homelessness. It was 30 degrees. Homelessness is a national crisis.

The Services for Ending Long-Term Homelessness Act (H.R. 1293) was introduced to the House of Representatives on March 4, 2015, by Democratic Alcee Hastings from Florida and currently has 21 cosponsors.  As of March 6, 2015, the health subcommittee received a referral for committee consideration from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. As of this date, H.R. 1293 has not moved any further through the legislative process.

This Act (H. R. 1293) was proposed to amend the Public Health Service Act of 1944 by establishing sponsorship for supportive services in permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals and families, and for other purposes.  Moreover, organizations that receive funding must treat individuals and families that are identified as chronically homeless and provide mental health and substance abuse treatment; treatment for co-occurring disorders; education on self-sufficiency and other services aimed at eradicating chronic homelessness.

The need for H.R. 1293 to become adopted is of an urgent nature to assist in eliminating homelessness. It is vital that you write, call or visit your local political representatives to ensure that they are aware of this Act and take action to address the issue of transitioning from homelessness to mainstream society it became a never-ending cycle.

This specific legislation could complement the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act, which was the preliminary phase to eradicating homelessness in America. Although this was an attempt to address the issue it was meant for short-term use only; however, few programs did not address the issue of transitioning from homelessness to mainstream society it became a never-ending cycle. Therefore, by enacting H.R. 1293, this amendment would address the gaps in services that exist within McKinney Act. Allowing for funding for advocacy groups, national programs, nonprofit and for-profit organizations to work collectively with heightened public awareness will eventually produce solutions to this global dilemma.

Supporting a National Priority to Eliminate Homelessness stated that the persisting numbers of homeless people in America are an indictment of our collective failure to make the essential ingredients of civilized society accessible to all citizens. Having the public’s best interest in mind and limited resources elected official must focus on the vital needs affecting their communities. The voice and influence in support of H.R. 1293 must come from the public against this grievous offense of homelessness.

Call, email and write your local, state, and federal elected officials and ask why H.R. 1293 has not moved any further through the legislative process. Let them know that we this amendment passed immediately!

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