Welcome to the Bridge to Freedom Foundation Blog

Thank you for visiting the Bridge to Freedom Foundation (BTFF) blog, where we look forward to bringing you inside information on the inner-workings of BTFF, inside information on our volunteer team and leadership, in-depth coverage of BTFF and partner events, news and happenings from across the globe and so much more.

Learn more about Bridge to Freedom Foundation and how you can help on the BTFF website. We do hope you will subscribe to and follow our blog and please e-mail us at blog@btff.org if you have any feedback, ideas or contributions.

Thank you for your support!
Cassandra Clifford
Executive Director and Founder of BTFF

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ask the Founder & Executive Director

What is your highest priority in life?

To work with others to abolish modern day slavery and human trafficking, a feat that I hope to see by the end of my lifetime.  Of course I do plan to achieve this while leading a balanced life and while I am lucky enough to have my passion be my career, I have learned never to forget those who are important in my life and I make my family and friends a priority always.  As well on must never forget to make sure that you make yourself a priority...remember if you are not happy and healthy you cannot help anyone else to succeed.

Do you have a question for Cassandra? Send your questions to blog@btff.org

Monday, August 29, 2011

Slavery Growing in Thailand's Fishing, Construction, and Agriculture Industries

According to a leading human rights expert, “[h]uman trafficking in Cambodia and Thailand is no longer limited to women and children…[p]oor farmers in Cambodia are convinced to leave home on the promise of better work in Thailand. Many are finding themselves on long-haul trawlers in the South China Sea and forced to work against their will.”

According to a US report, the Thai government “reported 18 convictions in trafficking-related cases in 2010—an increase from eight known convictions during the previous year; as of May 2011, only five of the 18 convictions reported by the government could be confirmed to be for trafficking offenses.”

Taing Ky* and his cousin were recruited to make “good money” as gardeners in Thailand, but they found themselves forced to work on Thai fishing boats in the South China Sea. Taing Ky is a native Cambodian and father of five. After six months of torture, enslavement, and deplorable working conditions, he and his cousin managed to escape while their boat was offloading on Benjina island in northern Indonesia.

It’s estimated that thousands of Cambodian, Thai, and Burmese men are presently enslaved on long-haul trawlers, far beyond the reach of law enforcement officials. "It's slavery. There's no other way to describe it," Lim Tith, national project coordinator for the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), told IRIN

According to an IRIN report, “[t]hose lucky enough to escape report 20-hour work days, food deprivation, regular beatings and threats at the hands of the crew, many of whom are armed…So bad are conditions that those deemed expendable are tossed overboard.” One survivor stated that “The captain had a gun. We had no choice but to work.”

Recently, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, urged the Thai government to "do more to combat human trafficking effectively and protect the rights of migrant workers who are increasingly vulnerable to forced and exploitative labour.” "Thailand faces significant challenges as a source, transit and destination country," said the UN expert at the end of her 12-day mission to the country. "The trend of trafficking for forced labour is growing in scale in the agricultural, construction and fishing industries," she said.

When these crimes occur on fishing boats located outside Thai waters, there’s very little that Thai authorities can do to help the trafficked workers; and therefore, the Thai and Cambodian governments must take stronger action to effectively combat human trafficking.







Image: http://cambodiatodayz.com/migrants-tell-of-slavery-on-thai-fishing-boats.html

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pornography Fuels the Global Sex Trade

Porn Industry Facts

  • There are 4.2 million pornographic websites, 420 million pornographic web pages, and 68 million daily search engine requests.
  • Worldwide pornography revenue in 2006 was $97.06 billion, and approximately $13 billion of that was generated/earned the United States.
  • Child pornography is one of the fastest growing businesses online, and the content is becoming much more graphic.
  • In 2008, the Internet Watch Foundation found 1,536 individual child abuse domains.
  • More than 11 million teens regularly view porn online.
  • The largest group viewing online pornography is ages 12 to 17.

Sex Trafficking Facts

  • Each year, between 100,000 to 300,000 youth are trafficked and sexually exploited for profit in the United States.
  • A 2009 University of Pennsylvania study estimated that nearly 300,000 youth in the United States were at risk of being sexually exploited for commercial uses, "most of them runaways or throw-aways.”
  • It’s estimated that each year, 300,000 American children are at risk for being trafficked into the sex industry.
  • In the U.S., girls as young as 5 and 6 years old have been and are currently being forced to do sexual acts by a pimp.

The Connection Between Pornography and Sex Trafficking

Laura Lederer, former Senior Advisor on Trafficking in Persons for the U.S. State Department, recently stated that: “Pornography is a brilliant social marketing campaign for commercial sexual exploitation...We will never have success in eradicating sex trafficking, unless and until we tackle the cultural messages of pornography and related materials that are encouraging this exploitation and abuse.” Although not all pornographic materials are created by traffickers, “a key ingredient to commercial sex is the belief that people (women especially) are sexual commodities, and Internet pornography is the ideal vehicle to teach and train this belief.”

Many Porn Firms and Publications Are Produced Through Sex Trafficking

Insiders in the pornography industry admit that many films and publications are produced through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, actions which satisfy the very definition of “sex trafficking.” The classic example is a woman or child who is promised a good paying job, but finds him or herself being sexually exploited for little or no money. Many victims are held in debt bondage, where they owe a large sum of money to their trafficker and must work to pay off the debt. All of the money earned through performing sex acts is taken by the victim’s “agent” or “trafficker” to pay off the “debt,” and what little money is left (if any) is given to the victim. Victims are also physically, emotionally, and verbally abused in order to prevent them from escaping or seeking assistance from law enforcement.

Some Traffickers Film and Publish the Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children

Preliminary findings from an international case law database revealed that more than 25% of child sex traffickers took pictures or video recordings of the rape, sodomy, and sexual abuse of the children. By photographing and/or recording the sexual exploitation, the trafficker can now profit (again) from selling the material to pornography production/distribution companies, or posting the material on the internet.

Trafficker’s Use Pornography to “Train” Young Children and Women

In a recent survey of 854 men and women in the sex industry (across nine different countries), half of those surveyed reported that pornography was used to train them how to perform various sex acts. Another survey conducted in the U.K. revealed that 35% of trafficked women had been exposed to pornography during their trafficking. In 2008 case before the Canadian Supreme Court, the Court stated that there is "clear and uncontradicted" evidence that child pornography is used for grooming and seducing victims. Discussions with former federal and state prosecutors confirm that traffickers use pornography to groom victims for prostitution, commercial sexual exploitation, and other illegal sex acts.

Pornography “Normalizes” the Victimization of Women and Children

The proliferation of pornography (especially hard-core pornography) has created a culture of tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse. In an article entitled, “$28-Billion-Crime: New film shows the dark connection between sex addiction and sex trafficking,” Luke Gilkerson writes: “Media has the power to shape culture, and the choice before each and every consumer is what kind of media they will endorse, the values they want their culture to embrace. When media sanctions the belief that it is normal—even natural—for men to use and abuse women, that women are only worth the sexual pleasure they give to men, then it works like a poison in the culture. In pornography, this message comes through loud and clear. Therefore, by consuming pornography we allow that poison to infect us, spread further into our culture, and dampen the voice of justice.”


  • Traffickers use pornography as a “tool” to teach young children and women how to perform various sex acts.
  • Many times, the forced sexual acts between the prostituted woman/child and the John are filmed and later shared online or in videos.
  • Studies have proven that pornography viewers often desire to act out what they’ve seen in porn films. If he or she does not have a sexual partner to engage in such acts, the individual will often look to the commercial sex industry to act out their desires; the increasing demand for commercial sex workers leads to increased sex trafficking to fill the demand.
  • Porn users become “numb” to “soft-core porn,” and will eventually seek harder and harder material. This phenomenon has fueled the boom of “live” porn whereby trafficked women and children are forced to perform “on-demand” sex acts in front of web cameras as “Johns” or porn users watch.
  • Porn users do not and cannot distinguish between trafficked women, prostitutes, and porn stars.
  • Bottom-line: Pornography fuels the global sex trade by driving demand into the mainstream of society.








Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ask the Founder & Executive Director

What is your definition of success?

My definition of success is not something that is based on title, income or status.  Success is when you reach the point where you know you're on the right path and with each step you're making a difference.

Do you have a question for Cassandra? Send your questions to blog@btff.org

Monday, August 22, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Hundreds of foreign students on a State Department cultural exchange visa program walked off their factory jobs in protest on Wednesday, 17 August. The J-1 visa program brings foreign students to the country to work for two months and learn English, and was designed in part to fill seasonal tourism jobs at resorts and seaside towns. The 400 students employed at a Pennsylvania factory that packages Hershey's candies told The New York Times that even though they make $8.35 an hour, their rent and program fees are deducted from their paychecks, leaving them with less money than they spent to get the visas and travel to the country in the first place.

Colorado Man Sentenced to 8 Years for Trafficking a Child
A Jefferson County District judge sentenced a Colorado man, Dallas Colby Cardenas, 20, to eight years in prison for trafficking a child. According to the Colorado Attorney General's office, Cardenas's conviction is the first under the state's 2006 human trafficking law enacted by the General Assembly. A spokesman for the Colorado Attorney General's Office and Department of Law said Cardenas could presumably face between 8 and 24 years in prison for the trafficking of a child and fines ranging between $5,000 and $1 million.

Vietnamese Village Combats Stigma of Human Trafficking Victims
A Vietnamese woman, Vang Thi Mai, 49, runs a women's co-op for victims of human trafficking and helps to combat the stigma of former forced sex workers. According to a 2005 State Department report on human rights, between 2001 and 2005, the Chinese police say they rescued more than 1,800 trafficking victims on the Vietnam border. Since then, Vietnam has waged a significant anti-trafficking campaign, but many trafficking victims face significant obstacles when they return to their villages due to the stigma surrounding sex work. Ms. Mai's co-op initiative has successfully combated much of the ostracism faced by the women, including being disowned by their families, providing a model for other campaigns to help victims of human trafficking and economic development projects in poor communities.

Human Traffickers Appeal Life Sentences in Abu Dhabi
Seven men sentenced to life in prison 18 months ago for human trafficking told an appeals court judge yesterday they had new evidence to support their innocence. The men, plus three others who received lighter sentences, were involved in what wasthe capital's largest human trafficking ring. The men represented themselves in court; they told the judge that had not been given the chance to argue their case properly. The judge promised they would be fully heard and given all the time they needed. The next hearing has been scheduled for September 21.

Feds Set for Human-Trafficking Crackdown
South Florida is a hotspot for human trafficking because of its gateway air and sea ports, and last month was one of six regions picked to launch an anti-trafficking coordination team to combat the problem. The team will work with federal prosecutors, the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Deaprtment of Labor to clamp down on human trafficking crimes in the region. Carmen Pino, of ICE, said, "We have a perfect storm here in terms of trafficking. This is a major, major organized crime." Authorities estimate that human trafficking is a growing criminal enterprise that generates $32 billion annually and bears far less risk for traffickers.

In China Cross-Border Human Trafficking Cases Rising
The trafficking of women and children into China continues to rise despite efforts to combat it, a senior police office has said. Chen Shiqu, who heads the government agency tackling trafficking, warned of the threat posed by traffickers and cited 1,500 cross-border cases uncovered since 2009, involving about 2,000 kidnapped women and infants. Mr. Shiqu is calling for greater international cooperation to end the scourge of human trafficking crimes.

Campaign Gaining Ground Against Sex Trafficking in Chicago
A new Illinois law signed this month, the Illinois Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking Crimes Act, enables victims of sex trafficking to clear their records of prostitution convictions. One Illinois woman, Kennette Thomas, who was 15 when she was first forced into sex work and spent the next 30 years under the control of her pimp, is looking to clear a rap sheet running 32 pages long from landing in jail dozens of times for prostitution and drugs. Some prosecutors hope the new law will encourage victims to come forward and bring lawsuits under another Illinois law to combat human trafficking passed in 2006, the Illinois Predator Accountability Act. Advocates also hope the newly passed Justice for Victims Act will breathe new life back into the 2006 Accountability Act.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ask the Founder & Executive Director

What is it about you that you think makes you an entrepreneur and how have you utilized past experience and personality attributes to get to this point?   

I have been told many times before, when talking to someone about taking risks or speaking out, that it’s "easy for you" or "you don't understand you’re good at...", but the reality is that is not that it’s not that easy or simple for me.  The reality is that I work hard and sleep very little, but I believe in what I am doing and I know that given time and dedication it will be successful and worth every moment good or bad.  So what makes me an entrepreneur is not that I have this special talent to lead or I know more about an area than others, it is that I took that jump and decided no longer would I continue to have a bunch of notebooks full of ideas, but that I would have an organization full of people with ideas and that together we could turn ideas into realities.  The attributes that help me to make that jump are lots of falls along the way and a stubborn resilience to being told "you can't"...you either choose to let the hardships and negative get the better of you or you use if for fuel to move beyond and empower others.  I get told often that I am so together and that people think that it’s so easy for me to take risks, to approach people to talk, to stand tall and walk into a room with confidence and that its natural for me, but the reality is that it’s not...I have stood many a days in front of that mirror after dragging myself out of bed and stood there looking myself in the eye saying; "you can do it", "you’re smart", "your worth it", "today is your day", "You can have anything you want"...You have to believe and you have to remind yourself that it’s OK to fail at times, but don't let it keep you down...there is an entrepreneur in all of us, you just have to believe and let it out. 

Do you have a question for Cassandra? Send your questions to blog@btff.org

Monday, August 15, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Senegal child bride works to end practice
Former teen bride Fatou Diakhate has become a community leader rallying against child marriage in Senegal, where an estimated 43% of girls are married before turning 18. Diakhate, who was married at 13 and bore 12 children, lobbies to convince village leaders to endorse an end to the practice.

New Law to Help Sex Trafficking Victims Rebuild Their Lives
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced approval of a bill that enables trafficking victims convicted of prostitution to expunge their records. Criminal records are seen as creating additional harms to trafficking victims particularly because of their impact on access housing, employment, education, immigration status and parental rights. The bill also creates a new filing timeline for victims of sex trafficking because they often endure years of abuse at the hands of traffickers and customers before they are able to seek help. The changes go into effect on January 1, 2012.

Child marriage condemns millions of girls to poverty
Ten million girls under the age of 18 are married every year, with the rates of child marriage above 70% in countries such as Chad and Mali, according to child-rights advocates. Child marriage directly impacts efforts to reach Millennium Development Goals on poverty, education, health and gender equity, advocates warn.
Korean Housekeeper Says Employer Enslaved Her

Korean immigrant Oak-Jin Oh, 60, has accused her former employers of keeping her as a prisoner in their homes in Queens, New York, for 12 years and forcing her to work under threat of death, according to a civil suit recently filed in Manhattan's federal court.

18 Human Trafficking Victims Rescued; Suspects Arrested
Authorities in Zamboanga City rescued 18 human trafficking victims on Monday. Suspects Rodolfo and Gloria Pasaylo were presently detained at the city police office at the time of the writing. None of the 18 victims had agreed to file charges at the time, and if no charges are filed within 36 hours the suspects must be released. After initial contact with police, the victims were transferred to the Department of Social Welfare and Development IX.

In Congress, a Bid to Make US Firms Take Steps Against Modern-day Slavery
House Representative Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York) has introduced a bill to require any company earning more than $100 million worldwide to provide details of their anti-slavery efforts through two sources; annual Securities and Exchange Commissions (SEC) filing, and the company website. Some companies are already voluntarily making such disclosures, including Hewlett-Packard, which has audited 681 of its 1,200-some production supply sites and posted details from the inspections to its website. The US Chamber of Commerce has not yet taken a public stance on the federal bill, although the California Chamber of Commerce had opposed a similar state measure that was approved in 2010.

Ontario Police Get Anti-Trafficking Funds
The Halton, Ontario police department has received grant funding for efforts to curb human trafficking in the area. The funds will go toward special investigations targeting the sex trade, increased surveillance of suspected human trafficking activities and officer training. Police services in nearby Niagara, Peel, Windsor, Hamilton and York Region received similar grants, as did the Ontario Provincial Police.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Demand for Sex Tourism

A Market-Based Analysis of the Commercial Sex Trade

Shared Hope International recently published a comparative examination of the demand for sex tourism and trafficking in Jamaica, Japan, theNetherlands, and theUnited States (“Report”). The Report outlines the results of a twelve-month market-based analysis of the culture, economy, political system, and history of prostitution and slavery in each of the four countries, in an attempt to better understand the operation of global sex tourism and human trafficking markets. Ultimately, the Report found that sex trafficking and sex tourism are intimately connected because sex trafficking funds the demand for sex tourism. Although the four countries differ greatly in regards to their respective culture, economy, political system, and history of prostitution and slavery, Shared Hope found remarkable similarities in the operation of their respective sex tourism and sex trafficking markets. This finding suggests that a collaborative and comprehensive (involving many nations) to reducing the demand for sex tourism and sex trafficking should be successful.

Sex Tourism, Human Trafficking, and Sex Trafficking Defined

“Sex tourism” occurs when an individual travels (either between cities or countries) with the intent to procure sexual services from another in exchange for money and/or goods.

Human trafficking (including sex trafficking) is defined in Article 3 of the U.N. protocol as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation…; (b) The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used.”

Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, sex trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.”

Sex Trafficking Funds the Demand for Sex Tourism

The sex trade operates as a single market: (i) the demand for sex tourism exceeds the supply of women to provide commercial sex services; (ii) sex traffickers fill the demand by delivering women and children (both foreign and local) to the sex tourism markets. Buyers of commercial sex have been conditioned to expect immediate and easy access to services, which results in the trafficking of vulnerable women and girls to satisfy the demand for commercial sex services.

The rapid growth and development of sex tourism is directly linked to globalization. The typical “sex tourist” was once considered to be a Western man who traveled to a foreign country to engage in commercial sexual activity; however, the interconnectedness of our global economies and the increasing availability of international travel have made local commercial sex markets more accessible to buyers all over the world. Globalization has also made it possible to transport large numbers of foreign women and children to high demand commercial sex markets; however, increased public awareness of the transportation of foreign women and children for sex tourism has shifted the supply chain to local women and children who are “easier” to target, and pose less risk for traffickers. Because local trafficking laws have not “caught up” with the rapidly changing commercial sex market, local women and children are increasingly vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers. Below, I've set forth a few key findings from the Report.

Culture of Tolerance Facilitates the Sex Trade

Geography, history, tradition, legislation, language, and behavior (among other influences) all contribute to a “culture of tolerance for sex markets.” The commercial sex industry (including sexual images and activities) has been “normalized” to such a degree, that buyers no longer need to travel to less developed countries to obtain commercial sex services. Here are a few examples from the report:

  • Jamaica:Jamaica has created a “perception of escapism” through advertising all-inclusive adult-only resorts that encourage international tourists to engage in any pleasure they desire (including sex tours offered by small travel companies). Severe poverty and an economy dependent upon tourism have created a “make do” culture, where residents are expected to support their family by whatever means are available, including commercial sex by children and adults.
  • The Netherlands: “Legalized prostitution, promotion of red light districts as tourism activities and centuries-long tolerance of commercial sexual activity have resulted in development of extreme, ‘fringe’ commercial sex markets and the tremendous growth in demand for commercial sexual services by both local and international visitors.”
  • United States: The American culture’s glamorization of the “pimp and ho” lifestyle has reduced our moral sensitivity to commercial sex. Take for example the new Vegas slogan: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” which encourages visitors to engage in morally deprave conduct for the sake of their personal pleasure and enjoyment.
  • Japan: The Japanese have long equated sex with physical health, and adhered to traditional gender roles which emphasize the man’s “need” for sex. Japan has also legalized all sexual services (with the exception of vaginal intercourse), all of which have normalized and allowed for easy access to commercial sex markets.

Victims are Misidentified as Criminals, and the Criminal Market for Trafficking is Thriving

Due to lack of education and awareness by government officials, law enforcement, and society, victims are frequently misidentified and mislabeled as illegal immigrants, prostitutes, “hos,” juvenile delinquents, drug mules, or thieves. The mislabeling of trafficking victims contributes to their dehumanization, and serves to facilitate sex trafficking by allowing the trafficker to operate with little fear of punishment or consequences. Further, the labeling of buyers and traffickers with normalized names (such as johns, tricks, clients, boyfriends, etc.) which do not carry the same stigma and criminal weight as those names given to the victims, contributes to the misperception that the trafficking victim (rather than the pimp or buyer) is the criminal.

In each of the four countries, Shared Hope found that the legal commercial sex market (i.e., strip clubs, escort services, adult pornography, etc.) is used not only to hide black market sex trafficking, but it’s also fueling the demand for criminal sexual exploitation. As strip clubs, “gentlemen’s clubs,” and pornography become more mainstream, the demand for young women will continue to increase as well.

The Facilitators and Buyers of Commercial Sex Tourism and Sex Trafficking

“Institutional facilitators” include businesses, governments, and other institutions that receive some benefit from the commercial sex trade. A hotel facilitates sex trafficking when it allows pimps to prostitute women and children on the premises (through inaction, poor management or tolerance of the problem). Local governments and cities facilitate sex trafficking by failing to regulate all aspects of the commercial sex market, allowing escort services and strip clubs to “cover-up” the commercial sex trade.

“Individual facilitators” include “pimps, traffickers, cab drivers, document forgers, pornographers, corrupt or negligent officials in government or business, and other individuals benefiting directly or indirectly form the commercial sex markets.” Cab drivers, pimps, and traffickers receive a direct benefit; however, the Report identifies a larger web of “indirect beneficiaries,” such as a government official who ignores the presence of trafficking because it facilitates a commercial market which benefits the city financially.

The Report also found that buyers of commercial sex services can be classified as situational, preferential, and opportunistic buyers, and each category will require differing education and prevention strategies. In the child sexual exploitation market, situational buyers engage in commercial sex acts with minors because they are available, vulnerable, and the behavior is tolerated. Preferential buyers (pedophiles), however, have sexual preferences and “shop” in specific markets for sexual services.

A third category of buyers referred to as “opportunistic” can be found in the larger commercial sex market. Opportunistic buyers have no preferences and purchase sex indiscriminately; they are “willfully blind to age or willingness of the female, or are unable to differentiate between adults and minors.” An in depth analysis of the psychology of buyers was beyond the scope of the Report, but Shared Hope’s research has revealed a culture of tolerance which both enables and condones the commercial sex market.

“Traffickers” Include Teenage Recruiters, Pimps, and Organized Crime

In the United States,Jamaica, and theNetherlands, Shared Hope found that large numbers of young males were recruiting females into the sex trade. Teenage boys are able to relate to the victim’s needs, and more easily exploit the victim’s vulnerabilities, trust, and insecurities. Young male recruiters often compliment the girls, and refer to them as their girlfriend in order to gain the young girl’s trust, and later turn to brutality to force the girl into submission.

Organized crime is also involved in sex trafficking in each of the four countries. Loosely organized crime networks in the Netherlands frequently traffick women from the Balkans and former Soviet states into the Netherlands. Tightly organized crime networks in Japan operate inJapan’s major cities and abroad, and Russian organized crime networks traffick women and children to theU.S., theNetherlands,Japan, andJamaica.

Young Women and Foreign Females are in High Demand

As the demand for sex tourism increases, the demand for young and exotic victims is increasing as well. Young girls are vulnerable and more easily recruited by pimps and traffickers, and the demand for younger girls has increased based upon the perception that they are less likely to have sexually transmitted diseases. Although the demand for younger girls has increased, the demand for “exotic” foreign girls has not diminished. In Las Vegas and Tokyo for example, “advertisements for Latin lovers, Asian beauties, and Slavic sweethearts are prolific.” Due to poverty in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, large numbers of young girls and women were found to have been trafficked to Japan,Jamaica, theNetherlands, and theU.S. Sex trafficking is no longer limited to impoverished women and girls in third world countries; women and young girls all over the world are being trafficked in their cities, towns, and countries in order to fill the local demand for commercial sexual services.

Technology is Driving the Growth of the Sex Trade

In the United States, theNetherlands, andJapan, technology is by far the single greatest driver and facilitator of the commercial sex trade. Advertisements for sex services and escort services have flooded the internet, and cell phone technology has allowed for greater connectivity between buyers, victims, and pimps. The proliferation of internet pornography has also contributed to the increased demand for commercial sex services, as pornography is frequently the gateway for situational and opportunistic buyers to purchase commercial sex services.


The global sex tourism and sex trafficking markets are intimately connected; therefore, a collaborative, comprehensive, and global approach to reducing the demand for sex tourism will be necessary to reduce the incidence and prevalence of sex trafficking.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ask the Founder & Executive Director

Where do you see BTFF going in the future?  

The future for Bridge to Freedom is endless; there is nothing but possibilities and growth in our future.  We are starting small, allowing ourselves to grow organically and we are beginning to have many things take off faster than we had dreamed, which has come from both a solid plan and enthusiasm.  We are beginning with pilot project and programs; our first to roll out has been the Personal Development Program, and then the Professional Development Program.  We have had a great launch of our Division of Research and Evidence-Based Programming and I am amazed at how much we have already achieved.  While many of our other programs are not expected to begin for some time, some even for a number of years, we are working on their research and development to ensure that when opportunities arise to move forward we are ready to take them.  Bridge to Freedom Foundation will work to ensure we become a fully inclusive national and international organization, in global partnership to end the fight against modern slavery in all forms.

Do you have a question for Cassandra? Send your questions to blog@btff.org

Monday, August 8, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Saudi cleric moves against child-marriage limits
Reformers in the Saudi Arabian ruling family and a senior cleric are on a collision course over child marriage after a fatwa was issued allowing fathers to arrange marriages for their daughters “even if they are in the cradle.” The kingdom’s Justice Ministry said this month that it would set a minimum age for marriage in an effort to help protect prepubescent girls.

Recruitment of child soldiers is rising in Somalia
The exodus of tens of thousands of Somalis escaping drought and violence has heightened the danger to children of recruitment as soldiers by Islamic insurgents. Amnesty International says the methods used by the armed groups — targeting children between 10 and 17, but sometimes as young as 8 — include luring children with promises of money and cellphones, and abduction and raids on schools.

Human Trafficking Summit Explores Darker Side
The FBI recently recognized Atlanta as one of 14 cities in the nation with the highest incidences of children used in prostitution. Georgia's most powerful law enforcement officials held a summit on Monday seeking new solutions to combat the age-old problem of human trafficking. The stories they heard of the sexual enslavement of children were as disturbing as they were unfortunately familiar. But human trafficking is not limited to sexual slavery nor to children, although those cases can be the most disturbing. It also takes the form of forced labor for the agriculture and restaurant industries and domestic servitude. There is hope, because heightened attention to the problem has spurred government action. The U.S. departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor announced last week that Atlanta had been selected as a site for one of six anti-trafficking coordination teams. The others sites are El Paso, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Memphis; and Miami.

Feds Work to Increase Use of Special Visa to Help Trafficking Victims
Federal immigration officials are working with authorities in Philadelphia and other cities around the U.S. to try to increase the use of a special visa to help victims of human trafficking. At issue is the nonimmigrant "T visa," which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials say is an underutilized tool that can be used to help victims of human trafficking who have been brought into the country — using deception in many cases — and then used as sex slaves or forced into other types of involuntary servitude. There is a 5,000 yearly cap on the visa, which allows eligible victims and family members to stay in the country up to four years. But fewer than 5,000 have been approved in total since it was instated in 2002.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New Movie Highlights Sex Trafficking and Corruption Among UN, State Department, and Local Officials

“The Whistleblower” chronicles the brave story of Kathryn Bolkovac, a police officer hired by military contractor DynCorp to work for the UN peacekeeping mission in civil war torn Bosnia. A police officer for ten years, Bolkovac was recently divorced and ready for a change when she came across a recruitment flyer for DynCorp. Seeing the opportunity as a great adventure and opportunity to make good money in a short period of time, she signed on to serve as a human rights investigator for the United Nations peacekeeping mission.

Although she had little knowledge of human trafficking, Bolkovac became suspicious at a DynCorp training session held in Fort Worth, Texas, before she ever left for Bosnia. Bolkovac told NPR’s Scott Simon that “[o]ne of the men who had done previous missions in Bosnia came bounding into the pool with a beer stating where he could find really nice 12-to-15 year-olds once we got to Bosnia;” in an effort to convince themselves that the comment was a misunderstanding, Bolkovac and her colleagues ignored and dismissed the comment.

Upon arriving in Bosnia, the human trafficking network and corruption within the UN, State Department, and investigative bodies was immediately apparent. “It wasn’t even well-hidden,” “[t]hese brothels were disguised as bars and restaurants and hotels and strip clubs and dance clubs, and they were just scatted throughout the hills of Bosnia. The clientele were all internationals. I mean let’s face it: the locals didn’t have the money to spend on this kind of an operation, so the international money was definitely funding the flow of the trade.”

Despite filing detailed victim reports, sometimes with highly identifiable internationals identified as the perpetrator, Bolkovac discovered that her reports were being thrown in the trash, and no action was ever taken. If fact, Bolkovac states that she had a “supervisor actually at the time who knew this was going on - a female supervisor - and she said, ‘You know, you might as well start making copies and start a file on these because this is just going to be a snowball effect.’”

According to NPR, Bolkovac was given a plethora of excuses for why the organization turned a blind eye and focused more on damage control than prevention. “Come on, this is war,” she was told. “That these women are whores of war, they’re just prostitutes, they want it. If they want out of this why don’t they whisper in our ears when we go into these bars that they’re being held captive?” (emphasis added).

There were no safe houses for the girls, and no psychological counseling. Instead, most of the girls were jailed as illegal immigrants or prostitutes, and then forced out of the country only to be picked again by corrupt policemen in their home country, and put back into the system.

Bolkovac hopes that the book and movie entitled, “The Whistleblower,” will encourage people to consider all aspects of the human trafficking problem, including corruption among our peace keeping forces, State Department and local officials; and further, that through increased training of police officers, military contractors, state officials, and similar personnel, we can crack down on the demand side and actually prevent this from happening in the future.





Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ask the Founder & Executive Director

What are the objectives of Bridge to Freedom Foundation? 

The Bridge to Freedom Foundation works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. The Bridge to Freedom Foundation accomplishes this by connecting for-profit corporations, community groups, educational establishments and the general public in the support and development of those who have been victims of modern slavery.  Bridge to Freedom Foundation's core programs are Personal Educational and Professional Development, which seek to give survivors a positive self image, empowerment and the opportunities to aspire and achieve the lives they want, deserve and were meant to live, so to move "from surviving to thriving" and break the cycle of modern slavery.

Do you have a question for Cassandra? Send your questions to blog@btff.org

Monday, August 1, 2011

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

20 Girls Rescued, More Than 1,000 People Detained in Juárez Human Trafficking Sweep
Mexican officials are investigating allegations of sexual exploitation and human trafficking in Juárez after a weekend sweep targeting businesses in the downtown zone netted the detention of 1,030 men and women. The federal Public Safety Ministry announced that the July 22-23 operation is part of Mexico's National Amber Alert Program, modeled after the U.S. program, in an effort to find young women who have been reported missing. "As a result of these actions, 20 female minors were rescued," federal officials said in a news release. "In addition, officers detained 500 men and 530 women on suspicion of possible links to human trafficking and sexual exploitation."

New Federal Initiative Targets Human Trafficking in Western Missouri and Kansas
Western Missouri and Kansas will be the focus of one of six new federal law enforcement teams targeting human trafficking, the U.S. Justice Department announced Monday. Housed in Kansas City, the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team is designed to “streamline” criminal investigations and prosecution of violators of federal slavery laws, authorities said. Missouri federal prosecutor Beth Phillips said the initiative means that more prosecutors and additional agents from the FBI and the Homeland Security Department will develop human trafficking cases.

Nine Girls Rescued From Job Agency
Indian police have broken up a large human trafficking ring, which bought young girls and women from east and northeast India and sold them as bonded laborers to clients in upscale localities in and around New Delhi. A team headed by Deputy Commissioner of Police P. S. Khuswah rescued nine minor girls and apprehended one of the accused, Munna Chaudhary, who owns a placement agency in Delhi. "On July 13, a team of the anti-human trafficking unit, along with NGO Shakti Vahini, raided the premises of Rajdhani Placement Agency. A case under the Juvenile Justice Act, Child Labor Act and sections of IPC was registered,” DCP Ashok Chand said.

Memphis Campaign Puts a Dent in Sex Trade, Serves as National Model

Memphis is now considered a model nationally for its initiative to maximize prison stints for sex traffickers, said U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton, who in February created a Civil Rights Unit, which encompasses human trafficking. He has assigned three prosecutors to the unit, and has vowed to aggressively target traffickers. Veteran prosecutor Steve Parker, who heads the new unit has been selected to train fledgling agents in how to spot and investigate human trafficking at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.

New Human Trafficking Unit Files State’s First Charges Under New Law

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on Monday announced his new Human Trafficking Unit had filed its first criminal charges under the state’s new human trafficking law. Sedrick Leman-Isaac Mitchell, 32, of Detroit, is accused of enslaving two young girls and forcing them to engage in prostitution in Detroit. The charges result from an investigation by Michigan State Police and the FBI through the Southeast Michigan Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Flagstaff Family Lured Women From Vietnam for Forced Labor, Indictment Alleges
The wedding boutique near downtown Flagstaff bore all the markings of an industrious family living the American dream. Federal prosecutors allege that the family running a wedding boutique close to downtown Flagstaff were conjuring a nightmare for Vietnamese immigrants lured to the United States with promises of love and education. Huong Thi McReynolds, her ex-husband, James McReynolds and their two grown sons are accused of bringing Vietnamese citizens into the U.S. under false pretenses and then forcing the victims to work at the boutique and family home for up to 11 hours a day, seven days a week.

Human-trafficking Ads to Air in 4 Areas
A public awareness campaign designed to educate citizens and encourage vigilance to combat human trafficking within local communities began on Monday, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection asking the public to join the fight against “this form of modern-day slavery.” Known as “Don’t Be Fooled,” the campaign consists of two public service announcements titled “Masquerade” and “Bird Cage” that will begin airing in four key areas: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Washington D.C. Polaris Project Executive Director Bradley Myles said raising awareness and educating people about human traffickers and the recruitment methods they use “is a vital area of work in the overall anti-trafficking fight.

The Reality of Child Marriage

The Facts

100 Million: The number of girls worldwide who will be married before the age of 18 (in the next decade).

51 Million: The number of girls (ages 15 – 19) presently married worldwide.

82%, 75%, 63%, 57%, and 50%: The percentage of girls in Niger, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Uganda who marry before age 18.

39%: The percentage of girls in the Amhara region of Ethiopia who marry before age 15.

66%: The percentage of girls among Nigeria’s poorest 20% who will marry before age 15.

12%: The percentage of girls among Nigeria’s richest 20% who will marry before age 15.

Driven by, and Connected to Poverty

Child marriage is highly prevalent in two of the world’s most impoverished areas, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia. In Bangladesh, Mali, Mozambique, and Niger, more than 75% of the population lives on less than $2.00 per day, and more than half of the young girls are married before age 18 (91% of Mali’s population lives on less than $2.00 per day). A country’s GDP is also intimately connected to the incidence of child marriage. Chad has a GDP of $1600 per capita, and 71% of young girls are married; contrast that with South Africa which has a GDP of $11,100 per capita and only 8% of the young girls are married. Not surprisingly, household economic status is a key factor in childhood marriage, as children from poorer families are much more likely to be married at a young age than children from wealthy families. According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), young girls from poorer families are twice as likely to marry before age 18 than children from wealthier families. Not only is the young girl often viewed as a financial burden, but in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, marriage also involves the exchange of wealth between families in the form of a dowry and/or a bride price, providing greater financial incentives for child marriage.

Violence & Abuse

A 2004 study conducted by the ICRW and its partners on young people in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand, India revealed that girls who were married before 18-years of age were twice as likely to report marital abuse (beatings, slapping, or threats), and three times as likely to report being forced to have sex without their consent (in the most recent 6 months) than girls who married later. The survey also found that girls who married before age 18 consistently reported having more difficulty approaching and talking with their husbands about contraception, as well as when to have children and how many children to have.

Several other studies have confirmed the link between child marriage and domestic violence. In Peru for example, a study found that child marriage increases the likelihood of domestic abuse. In Kenya, 36% of girls married before age 18 believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife; whereas only 20% of married women hold such belief. Young brides typically have less “bargaining power” (as compared to married women) as a result of their young age and lack of education, which also increases the likelihood of spousal abuse.

Health Impacts

Child marriage results in child sexual activity, and by extension, early child bearing. Adolescent female bodies are not sufficiently developed or prepared for child birth, making young girls much more susceptible to complications (including death) during childbirth. Compared to women in their 20s, girls under 15 years of age are five times more likely to die during childbirth. In fact, pregnancy is the leading cause of death worldwide for young women age 15 to 19. Adolescent childbirth is also dangerous for the infant. Because young mothers are not physically suited for childbirth, infants born to young mothers are much more likely to suffer serious complications and/or die as compared to infants born to mothers in their 20s.

The incidence of HIV/AIDS is also much higher in married sexually active adolescents as compared to unmarried sexually active adolescents. Though more research is needed to understand the connection between marriage and HIV/AIDS, current research suggests that married adolescents are more susceptible to HIV/AIDS because they have little to no option to change their sexual behavior in response to knowledge about HIV/AIDS. For example, a study of young girls in Kenya and Zambia reported that unmarried adolescents were much more likely to change their sexual behavior (including abstaining from having sex) after learning about HIV/AIDS; whereas married adolescents did not have the option to abstain from sex.

Education as a Deterrent

According to an ICRW study of 18 of 20 countries with the highest incidence of child marriage, a young girl’s level of education is the highest predictor of the age she will marry. In all regions of the developing world, educated girls are less likely to marry as children. Moreover, girls who receive secondary schooling are six times less likely to marry before the age of 18 than girls with little to no education. For economic reasons, many girls do not have the opportunity to attend school or are pulled from schools in order to get married. Once married, a young girl’s access to both formal and informal education is severely limited because of family burdens, as well as financial concerns and societal norms.

- In Nicaragua, 45% of girls with no education are married before the age of 18, compared to just 28% of girls with a primary education, 16% of girls with secondary education, and only 5% of girls with higher education.

- In Mozambique, 60% of girls with no education are married before the age 18, compared to just 10% of girls with secondary schooling and 1% of girls with higher education.

- In Senegal, 41% of young girls with no education are married, but only 14% of girls with a primary education marry as children.

These statistics and numerous studies confirm that educating adolescent girls is a crucial component of increasing the age of marriage in developing countries.

Source: http://www.icrw.org/publications/child-marriage-factsheets