Somaly Mam, award-winning crusader for victims of sex trafficking and author of the book The Road of Lost Innocence, has resigned from the foundation bearing her name, and an internal investigation has been conducted to verify claims that substantial parts of her story about being a sex-trafficking victim are not true.  Newsweek published a cover story in May 2014 that reported questions about her experience as a sex-trafficking victim.  A statement on the Somaly Mam Foundation home page confirms the investigation and Mam’s resignation.

It was shocking and disappointing to read these reports about Somaly Mam.  As someone who wants to see slavery ended, but who has never experienced it, I’ve looked to people like Mam to be the voice for this effort.  People who have been through such cruelty and then turn their experience of suffering and struggle toward helping other victims are powerful in getting the word out.  I rely on their voice, and expect their stories to be true.

I have Somaly Mam’s book, The Road of Lost Innocence, included in my list of non-fiction books currently, and will consider removing it if time continues to bear out the accusations that have been made.  However, since the investigation by Somaly Mam foundation does not at this point refute the reports by Newsweek, preliminarily it seems the accusations are valid.

Although the revelation that Somaly Mam has fabricated serious parts of her autobiography does not change the fact that girls are being helped by Somaly Mam’s efforts, and the work of her foundation, it harms the perceived integrity of people like her that are raising millions of dollars in the work against slavery.  People like me who try to raise awareness and encourage financial support of organizations like the foundation she was a part of, and others who do much more than I, need to know that the people on the front lines are telling the truth.

Matt Friedman of UNIAP (United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking) gives an articulate and personal message at TEDxSanJoaquin about the widespread challenges, and urgent need for people’s involvement in fighting slavery. It’s hard to watch this and not want to take action.

  • Thanks to Wendi Adelson at Human Trafficking Law blog for the heads up about this link
  • Watching the video makes me think of the handy book Better World Shopper, which helps me know which products I can buy to reduce slavery in the supply chain.

Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission was the first person that I heard speak about slave sex trafficking, bonded slave labor, and land theft from AIDS widows in Africa.  And he was also the first person I heard that challenged me to take up the cause of justice. It was after reading about the work of IJM and hearing Gary speak in 2002 that I made some important life decisions about getting involved.  There are a lot more organizations involved in this work now, and that’s a good thing.  But IJM pioneered a lot of what’s being done to fight oppression today, and they have been one of the biggest forces mobilizing churches to get out of the pews and into the fray. 

Visit IJM for more information about supporting their work for justice and getting involved in the fight against slavery and oppression.

The Justice Conference premiered Blue Like Jazz last year, and decided to incorporate a film festival as part of the conference.  The Justice Film Festival will be held in Philadelphia, PA February 22-24, 2013. You can submit a film,  register and find out more at The Justice Film Festival.

Arts Aftercare is about beauty and healing through the arts. This innovative team, founded by Curtis & Grace Romjue and Brian Howe produces the Healing Arts Toolkit, and trains human trafficking aftercare groups how to use the toolkit to help restore life and health in survivors of human trafficking. Eric Becker traveled to the Philippines with Arts Aftercare to video how they put the Healing Arts Toolkit into practice with several aftercare organizations working there. Watch this video to see how art can be used to transform precious lives.

Do What You Love to End What You Hate | Arts Aftercare from eric becker on Vimeo.

California’s Prop 35 is Chris Kelly’s misguided attempt to fight sex trafficking. It’s a good idea, but a bad way to go about it.  Inadequate training requirement for police.  Emphasis on criminal penalties may actually reduce restitution money available to victims.  Problems with who gets classified as traffickers, and thus tracked in CA databases as registered sex offenders. Most major newspapers oppose it.   People I know from the local coalition against human trafficking that understand the issues way better than I do, including @John_Vanek, urge a No vote on Proposition 35.

Please vote NO on Prop 35.

(and whether you agree or not, please at least vote! :-)

 

Caden Welles has the world at his disposal. With the resources of his wealthy father, he’s living life as large as any 20-year-old could dream. But what happens when that dream becomes a nightmare halfway around the world?

Traveling with his friends to Hyderabad, India on a whim, Caden’s expectations of a never-ending party crash hard. But not as hard as his conscience when he refuses to help a starving man and his little girl. Haunted by the images of Kiran and Annika, Caden attempts to right his wrong—only to discover Kiran has been forced to sell his own daughter.”

I got to go trick or treating early this year, courtesy of someone nice who did the shopping.  My Halloween chocolate consisted of Trader Joes Fair Trade Belgian Chocolate.  Tastes heavenly and doesn’t contribute to slavery.  Be an abolitionist and buy Fair Trade products!

Truckers Against Trafficking has created a human trafficking training video to educate the trucking industry about the enormous problem of sex trafficking and labor trafficking here in the United States.


Truckers Against Trafficking (28:11) from iEmpathize on Vimeo.

Because human trafficking becomes a costly, dangerous and relevant safety issue when it intersects with truckers and travel plaza employees, we hope trucking companies, travel plazas, truck-driving schools, state associations and national trucking associations will consider making this DVD a part of their orientation and training for all employees,” said Kendis Paris, national director for Truckers Against Trafficking.

Visit Truckers Against Trafficking for more information aobut the video, or to order a copy on DVD.

St. Ambrose to Host The Child Next Door: Quad-City Human Trafficking Conference November 15th Event to feature former victims, startling details about the world’s fastest-growing crime.   CEU credits available.

When Tina Frundt was 14-years-old she accepted a ride from an older man who had befriended her.  She was taken from her home in Chicago to Cleveland, OH, where she was forced into sex slavery.  Today Frundt, now an adult, runs Courtney’s House, a Washington DC shelter for women who are escaping sex trafficking. Frundt will be among the presenters at The Child Next Door Quad-Cities Human Trafficking Conference, Thursday, November 15th 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at St. Ambrose University’s Rogalski Center in Davenport, IA.  Frundt’s story of survival from a brutal life as a sex slave is a shocking example of what the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Rescue and Restore campaign calls the “fastest growing criminal activity in the world.”  Cathy O’Keeffe, Executive Director of Braking Traffik, one of eleven groups organizing the conference hopes the event will help open many eyes. “Many don’t yet realize the problem of sex trafficking has reached our backyards.  It’s a very real threat to American children, not just in major cities.”

The Child Next Door QC Human Trafficking Conference is seeking to promote networking and dialogue on this emerging threat.  Parents, members of law enforcement, social services and healthcare workers, legal personnel and clergy are among those encouraged to attend.  Organizers are seeking to promote greater awareness about the markers for human trafficking, while exploring barriers to effective interventions and discussing solutions to helping victims escape a life of bondage, brutality, destruction and death.   This conference has been approved for continuing education credits for nurses and other health care professionals, social workers, IOVA-­CP Certified Providers as well as qualifying for 1.5 CLE credits for attorneys (including ethics hours).  To register for The Child Next Door Conference, or learn more, go to http://www.brakingtraffik.org.   Space is limited to 250 attendees.  A free kick-off event will be held Wednesday, November 14th from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at John Deere Planetarium on the campus of Augustana College.  The kick-off event is open to the public and requires no registration.

Also presenting at The Child Next Door Human Trafficking Conference, Ruth Buckels, adoptive mother of Brittany Phillips, who was lured from a Cedar Rapids grocery store at the age of 14 by a man offering a modeling opportunity.   She was marketed for sex on a popular online website, before it shut down its adult services section.  Online escort sites remain a major pipeline for sex traffickers.  One survey conducted by Braking Traffik this fall found 19 different females tracked to the same phone number, a possible indicator that they were being trafficked.  Several of the posts included known indicators or ‘code words’ that some of the females were being marketed as minors.  Recent FBI stings in Cedar Rapids and Coralville, IA netted scores of adults and one 16-year-old girl forced to sell sex for money.  This past September, three adults were arrested in Iowa City under suspicion of trafficking three minors.

The Child Next Door QC Human Trafficking Conference is being presented by a coalition of Quad-Cities organizations that include Braking Traffik (formerly the Quad-Cities Human Trafficking Project), Attacking Trafficking, The Catholic Diocese of Davenport, Community Partnerships for Protecting Children, Scott County Kids, Family Resources, Iowa State Patrol, Child Abuse Council, CASA, Building Forever Families, The Place2b Youth Center, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church Jubilee Ministry, the Christian Church Disciples Women’s Ministry and Augustana College.

To register for The Child Next Door Conference, or learn more, go to http://www.brakingtraffik.org.