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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Upcoming Event: Violence Prevention Workshop in honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Do you walk alone? Don't be surprised by surprises! The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is just 25 days away. In honor of this day, we will be hosting a Violence Prevention Workshop at First Defense Krav Maga in Herndon, VA.

Our Violence Prevention Program is taking off very well, and we are excited to be hosting more workshops. Anyone can benefit from attending this workshop, which is aimed at preparing you both mentally and physically for a surprise attack. Not only will you be equipping yourself for such an unfortunate event, but by attending one, you are also enabling BTFF to host free workshops for survivors with the money raised.

Apart from individual registration, we also have great buddy and group rates. Click here to register for this event.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Modern Slavery News Round-up

Raleigh police charge man with human trafficking involving 
17-year-old RALEIGH — Police arrested a man early Monday on a human trafficking charge, saying he kept a minor in sexual servitude for a week earlier this month, and with using a handgun to rob a woman of an iPad and a cell phone two weeks ago. Police spokesman Jim Sughrue said the case involved prostitution of a 17-year-old female victim. Perry was being held in lieu of $450,000 bail for a court appearance Monday afternoon.
Proos talks human trafficking
LANSING (WKZO) -- Efforts to combat human trafficking are ramping up in Michigan. State Senator John Proos says that he recently talked with the Michigan Women's Commission about legislation he's introduced that would allow victims to sue their captors for human trafficking, and also give them an avenue to have criminal convictions for things like prostitution cleared from their records. Usually, human trafficking in the United States involves forcing someone into prostitution. Experts say it's the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the nation, and currently ranks third, only surpassed by drugs and guns.
Bill would clear prostitution convictions for victims of human trafficking in Maine
AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill proposed by a Scarborough lawmaker would allow Maine’s courts to vacate prostitution convictions from the records of those who are victims of human trafficking. Complete language for the bill has not yet been drafted, so it’s not yet clear exactly how a victim would appeal for a conviction vacancy, or what proof he or she will be expected to provide. Requirements vary in states that have enacted similar laws.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fact: “Hey! Did you know that October is also…..”

Pink whistles for the referees.
Pink gloves for the linemen, for the quarterbacks.
Pink cleats for the kickers.
Pink ribbons for….everyone.
Pink ribbons on cars in the parking lot...pink...pink...everywhere you turn you see pink!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and the NFL and the fans are all joining the party on the fields of America’s favorite fall past time.

I am glad we see pink on the football field. Even so, there are equally insidious assaults against women unknown to the stands of fans and fields of players. Yes, breast cancer kills, and it is terrible and no woman should ever have to go through it. However no woman, girl or child should ever go through physical or sexual assault or abuse.

Did you know; however, that October is also Domestic Violence and Fair Trade Awareness Month?  If you are shaking your head no, do not feel badly. Feeling guilty is not going to help. What will help is getting the word out. If even half the money that goes into Breast Cancer awareness campaigns also went into domestic violence, Fair Trade and Human Trafficking it would no longer be a a hush hush conversation or a shock to ones ears.

The fight against domestic violence and the cruel brutality of modern slavery -human trafficking- can be just as big as breast cancer.  We have so many stories of hope floating around breast cancer survivors, and they are there thanks to the prominent pink ribbons that everybody knows what stand are for.  That same effort, money and commitment that made such a difference and has led to even more survivors could also be poured into the fight to end violence and discrimination against so many who fight under a cloak of darkness and silence in homes, on streets and in fields across the country and globe.

The tables can turn. You can help. Talk about it. Tell your friends…
“Hey! Did you know that October is also Domestic Violence and Fair Trade Awareness Month!"  So lets turn the tables today!

Check out an article I wrote more ineptly on Domestic Violence Awareness Month for the Examiner here: End the Cycle of Violence: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Monday, October 21, 2013

Modern Slavery News Round-up

Europe cycle raises awareness of human trafficking A team of passionate anti-trafficking campaigners has just returned from an 11-day cycle that took in some of Europe's human trafficking routes. The Freedom Challenge cycle started on October 6 in Sofia, Bulgaria and took in 10 countries, finishing on Wednesday afternoon in Westminster. The purpose of the cycle was to raise money and awareness for the A21 campaign against human trafficking ahead of anti-slavery day today. The cyclists hope to raise 210,000 euros for A21 shelters and victim assistance programs.

Human trafficking an American problem, experts say at forum Wednesday
The average American is largely unaware of how prevalent human trafficking is across the country, trafficking experts said Wednesday. “Often people think it’s an international issue, but primarily it’s a much bigger issue here in America,” said Jaime Meyers, managing director of Children at Risk. Undercover Dallas police officers pose as buyers online to target trafficking sales online. The program, called “Operation Brick and Mortar,” rescued six children from June of last year to August, said Lt. Alfred Diorio of the Dallas Police Department’s High Risk Victims and Trafficking Unit. The unit has made 118 arrests in the past year, many of which resulted in “significant sentencing” for the perpetrator, Diorio said.

 Maine efforts to combat human trafficking get federal funding
Advocates for homeless teenagers and young people with disabilities in southern Maine say a $400,000 federal grant will help dedicate resources for young people who have been coerced into trading sex for money or a place to sleep. The two-year grant from the Department of Justice to Preble Street allocates funds directly to help victims of human trafficking. The social services agency in Portland, which also operates a teen center, will administer the money to agencies in Cumberland and York counties. The money will also be used for health and mental health programs for victims, for legal assistance to vulnerable immigrants, and for protective orders.

Palawan intensifies campaign against human trafficking
In an effort to intensify campaign against trafficking in persons in Palawan, the provincial government spearheaded the holding of a seminar-workshop attended by members of the provincial Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).The two-day activity discussed salient features of Republic Act No. 9208 or “Anti-Human Trafficking in Persons Act” and the recent Republic Act No. 10364 or the “Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012,” which was enacted for a stronger anti-human trafficking measure. Under the RA 10364, disclosure of the identities and circumstances of human trafficking offenders is already allowed. It also looked at the present situation of trafficking in persons in the national level and to zero in on the provincial situation. Palawan and Puerto Princesa City have had human trafficking cases particularly in southern Palawan taking the so-called “backdoor” to Malaysia.

Thailand must do more to end human trafficking
According to humantrafficking.org, Thailand is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking: ‘It is a destination-side hub of exploitation in the Greater Mekong sub-region, for both sex and labor exploitation.’ The majority of Thai trafficking victims are trafficked to the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bahrain and China, for both sexual and labor exploitation. It also said that the Mekong region, compared to many other parts of the world, contains very diverse patterns of human trafficking – internal and cross-border; highly organized or small-scale; sex and labour, through both formal and informal recruitment mechanisms.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fact: UK Anti-Slavery Day, October 18th

Today the United Kingdom celebrates, Anti-Slavery Day, which falls on 18 October each year. The day provides an opportunity to draw attention to the subject and to pressurize government, local authorities, public institutions and private and public companies to address the scale and scope of human trafficking.

The Anti-Slavery Day Bill became law in 2010. It was introduced in Parliament as a Private Members Bill by Anthony Steen MP for Totnes, South Devon, in 2010 and passed through both Houses, unopposed although amended. The bill defines modern-day slavery as child trafficking, forced labour, domestic servitude and trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Walking for Freedom

The DC UNBOUND Stop Modern Slavery Walk has become somewhat of an institution within the local anti-slavery movement. This event brings together survivors, activists and non-profit professionals, corporate partners, as well as interested members of the general public. Hosted on the grounds of President Lincoln's Cottage on October 5th, this year's walk created a remarkable environment to interact with people who already find themselves deeply invested in the cause, or who are interested in getting involved. How apt for this anti-slavery event to take place in the gardens of the President most remembered for the emancipation of slaves?

From moving personal accounts by survivors to professionals who have fought in this arena for many years, this event was proof of the fact that this movement has no shortage of devoted warriors. Captivating modern dance and percussion performances made for an enjoyable day. At the BTFF promotional table, we had some great interactions with people from all walks of life. We had the opportunity to touch base with survivors, other non-profits in the field, as well as to recruit new volunteers who are excited about the work we do. The enthusiasm and drive to end modern slavery displayed left one positive about this movement and the great strides that will be made in the future.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

FBI: Houston raids targeted human and sex trafficking operations HOUSTON-- Referring to the raids in Houston on October 10. Federal, state and local agents and deputies served search and arrest warrants in a coordinated sweep of almost a dozen locations. The FBI disclosure that some raids were on suspected human and sex trafficking operations. The victims were held against their will. Three of those victims, they say, are 15-year-old girls. An indictment obtained by Eyewitness News names 14 people who allegedly forced girls and woman from Mexico into prostitution at Houston area bars that also served as brothels. It goes on to say that the victims were locked in rooms and beaten if they didn't perform.

Human trafficking's impact hits home
"The women's stories all look very similar," said "Kindsey," Selah Freedom's coordinator, who asked that her real name not be used to protect the work she does on the streets of Sarasota and Manatee counties. "Their stories all started when they were 3 to 4 years old and they were sexually abused. "This is about reunderstanding the problem, that they're not just prostitutes who chose this. They are actually victims of sexual exploitation, and standing behind them is always a pimp or trafficker making a lot of money." Selah Freedom has been working with Sarasota and Bradenton police for about two years and is now focusing on expanding its efforts into the unincorporated areas of the two counties, where sex brothels can more easily hide because of looser regulations. The group is also planning to open the area's first-ever safe house for survivors of the sex trade. "These are just red flags," "Kindsey" said. "It doesn't mean human trafficking is definitely happening. But they are red flags, and we encourage you to open your eyes a little more."

Scotland's human trafficking bill could make it a 'beacon to the world'
MSP Jenny Marra points out there are more trafficking victims in Scottish jails than perpetrators, as she launches consultation. Most disturbing of all is the fact that many victims, when they are found by our authorities – usually in brothels or on cannabis farms, or indeed stealing from high street shops – are not being referred for support. Instead, they are charged and convicted for the crimes their exploitation forces them to commit. The Anti-trafficking Monitoring Group, set up to assess the government's response to the phenomenon, estimates there are 10 young people serving time in Scottish prisons for crimes traffickers forced them to commit. That is double the number of traffickers we have jailed.

MILAN: State Rep. helps introduce human trafficking legislation
State Rep. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, joined colleagues from the House and Senate for a press conference at the Capitol on Sept. 26 after introducing a bicameral bill package dealing with human trafficking. Zorn authored House bill 4209, which increases the penalties for subjects who directly or indirectly solicit, accost, or invite people ages 16 to 17 to commit prostitution or to do any other lewd or immoral act from a misdemeanor to a five-year felony and/or $10,000 in fines.

Human trafficking on radar of Greater Cleveland 
RTA Human trafficking and how to spot its signs is the focus of a new awareness push by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. RTA said it has trained more than 100 transit police in recognizing flags that can indicate someone may be trapped in prostitution or another situation where they're bought, sold and smuggled like modern-day slaves. The agency posted information about its awareness campaign Thursday on its website, and announced an iWatch program, a free app that lets customers communicate anonymously with transit police on iPhones or Droit smart phones.

Friday, October 11, 2013

International Day of the Girl Child

Today Bridge to Freedom Foundation (BTFF) is proud to celebrate the second annual International Day of the Girl Child. Enacted by the United Nations in 2011, this day offers an opportunity to highlight gender inequality and the fulfillment of human rights for all women and girls -including the elimination of violence.

The International Day of the Girl Child provides not only everyone at BTFF a greater platform to raise our voices and improve the lives of women and girls around the globe, but for you to join us and make your voice heard. It is that reason BTFF is proud to announce the launch of our Violence Prevention Program on this very special day dedicated to girls around the world. Please help us ensure that girls are not only able to lead thriving lives, but are able to walk through their daily lives aware and empowered to fight against violence!

We hope you will join us in honoring the Day of the Girl Child, as well as October being Domestic Violence Prevention Month, by donating to our Violence Prevention / Self-Defense fundraising campaign.  Please click here to see how you can sponsor a free 3 hour workshop for a survivor.

Happy Fair Trade Month for Halloween

The Global Exchange and Equal Exchange are holding a 31 days of fun ideas and games that provide eating Fair Trade bananas, hosting movie screenings, baking delicious Fair Trade goodies, recycling Halloween costumes, and giving out Fair Trade chocolates to trick-or treaters.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

92 Children and 2 Female in China were Rescued from Human Trafficking
Chinese policy uncovered a human trafficking case on September 27 2013. There were 92 children and 2 female victims were rescued. From Xinhua News Agency, the police officers from 31 provinces arrested 301 suspects. The suspects stole children from Yunnan and Sichuanprovinces, and sold them to richer places. From an international news agency, human trafficking children is a serious issue in China; because of the strict one child policy as well as the tradition of preferring boys than girls, human trafficking children cases increase in recent years. Chinese government plans to formulate relevant regulations to punish the buyers and sellers selling their children.

POEA Chief Gives 13 Tips to Detect Human Trafficking
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration head Hans Leo Cacda gives 13 tips to define a human trafficking victim: 1. Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship? 2. Has a child stopped attending school? 3. Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior? 4. Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts? 5. Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse? 6. Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing? 7. Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive? 8. Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care? 9. Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers, Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation? 10. Does the person appear to be coached on what to say? 11. Is the person living in unsuitable conditions? 12. Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation? 13. Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

Virginia Governor holds Summit on Human Trafficking
Human trafficking, or modern-day sex slavery, is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the U.S., in the world and in our area, and many of its victims are children. It's something that happens right in front of us but in the shadows. And that's a major part of the problem. Bob McDonnell, Virginia Gov., held the first statewide governor's summit on human trafficking and created an anti-human trafficking panel to combat this growing but insidious problem. The summit was held in Richmond on Thursday and Friday.

Sex Trafficking Victims Gather, Share Stories at Capitol Mall
Their stories are heart wrenching. Tonight they gathered at the Capitol Mall to share their stories and reasons for fighting against human sex trafficking. “My daughter was missing for eight pain-staking days.” Five years ago, Vicki Zito’s heart was broken when her 17-year old daughter, Kaci Klinner, got snatched from a grocery store and swept into human sex trade. “Within five hours, her trafficker had posted pictures of her for sale on Craigslist and in 12 hours was trafficking her from the bay area,” Zito said. Kaci was eventually rescued. Leah Albright-Byrd, a then-runaway, says she too was a victim of human trafficking. “Traffickers in our community preyed on our vulnerabilities and exploited me. I ended up on the street for about four years and then got out at 18,” Albright-Byrd said. Ever since tragedy hit in these women’s lives, both say they have been on the front lines fighting what they call “evil”. “I then became a mom on a mission to do something to end trafficking because I thought it’s not good enough that my daughter is home safely. I want for everyone’s daughter to be home safely,” said Zito. “To see this level of community amongst a bunch of different service providers is significant. We’re a united front against sex trafficking. Not one organization alone can do the work,” said Albright-Byrd.

League of Women Voters Luncheon to Include Talk on Human Trafficking
The League of Women Voters Oakland Area is hosting its annual fall luncheon, 12 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, at the First Baptist Church of Birmingham, 300 Willits Street. The guest speaker is Oakland County Sheriff’s Lt. Wendy Reyes, who will present the following topic: “Human Trafficking: Is it in your neighborhood?” Reyes serves on the Michigan Human Trafficking Force. Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of reproductive slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, or a modern-day form of slavery. The luncheon and speaking engagement are open to the public. To attend both the luncheon and speaker is $25. To hear the speaker only is $7.

Paving the Way for Collaboration

In 2012, the CDC reported that 19% of undergraduate women experienced either attempted or completed sexual assault since entering college, making this a matter in need of drastic action. September was National Campus Safety Awareness Month, and PAVE: Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment hosted a National Campus Sexual Assault Summit at Georgetown Law on September 27th. The summit, which was also broadcast live to more than 300 colleges, forms part of the Safe Campus, Strong Voices campaign, a partnership between PAVE and the Clery Center for Security on Campus.

Male survivors, Title IX legislation, and the interests of the underrepresented (such as the LGBT community) are some of the themes that were expertly covered by the speakers. The summit succeeded in bringing together an interesting array of contributors, from academics, to activists and survivors. The following speakers led the discussions:

  • Angela Rose, Survivor and Activist, and Founder of PAVE 
  • Laura Dunn, Survivor and Activist, PAVE
  • Wendy Wyler, Survivor and Activist
  • Nancy Chi Cantalupo, Research Fellow at Victim Rights Law Center and Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown Law
  • Jen Luettel Schweer, Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Services Coordinator, Georgetown University
  • Chris Anderson, Executive Director, MaleSurvivor 
  • Anya Lakner, National Training and Policy Attorney, American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence 
  • Rhett Walker, Sexual Assault Prevention Specialist and Former Campus Training Coordinator, Men Can Stop Rape 
  • Tim Stephens, Alumnus and Former Inter-Fraternity Council Vice President for Judicial Affairs, Delta Tau Delta and George Washington University 
  • Sarah Rice, Survivor and Activist, and Former Star of The Real World: Brooklyn 

The PAVE summit highlighted that there is a strong need for collaborative action in order to reach a larger audience and represent all survivors. It is clear that the survivor community has many faces. One often makes the mistake of associating sexual assault with women, omitting the large number of male survivors, as well as other underrepresented groups who often find it harder to come forward or even seek help after being assaulted. A united front that brings together all of these perspectives and interests is most certainly a step in the right direction. In the past few years, PAVE has lived up to its name in not only promoting awareness, but also empowering victims. Its founder and sexual assault survivor, Angela Rose, has established herself and the organization as a beacon of hope for survivors. The BTFF team gained a lot of insight on assault specifically on campuses at the summit. This is especially useful as we have just started our Violence Prevention Program, which is aimed at mentally and physically preparing individuals for a surprise attack

BTFF Executive Director, Cassandra Clifford, with fellow Krav Maga
Instructors, Mike Coffin (left) and Mike Burkhouse (right). Mike Coffin
is also the PAVE's Board President.

Friday, October 4, 2013

FACT: A human trafficker can earn 20 times what he or she paid

A human trafficker can earn 20 times what he or she paid for a girl. Provided the girl was not physically brutalized to the point of ruining her beauty, the pimp could sell her again for a greater price because he had trained her and broken her spirit, which saves future buyers the hassle. A 2003 study in the Netherlands found that, on average, a single sex slave earned her pimp at least $250,000 a year (Skinner, E. Benjamin. 2008. A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery. New York, NY: Free Press).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Modern-Slavery News Round-Up

All Hands on Deck: Renewing the Call to Combat Human Trafficking Spet. 25: One year ago today, President Obama announced the Administration’s commitment to lead the fight against human trafficking during a seminal speech at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. ...Over the past year, we’ve made great strides and increased our efforts in order to realize the President’s vision. However, we still have so much more to do. The President said in his remarks one year ago, “It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name – modern slavery.”

Michigan: Human trafficking: 19-bill package aims to curb 'modern day slavery' in Michigan, help victims Michigan state Sen. Judy Emmons on Thursday unveiled a 19-bill package intended to crack down on human trafficking and offer help to victims of a crime that many call a form of "modern day slavery." The bipartisan package, to be formally introduced next week, features bills that would provide safe harbor for victims, eliminate the statute of limitations for trafficking offenses, allow victims to sue their captors and enable a prosecutor to utilize wire tapping while building a criminal case.

Florida: Statewide human-trafficking initiative focuses on children A new statewide initiative championed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi aims to end human trafficking by encouraging parents and children to discuss the dangers of talking to strangers online. The "From Instant Message to Instant Nightmare" crusade, unveiled Friday, includes billboards, mall displays and bus-shelter posters asking parents and children to educate themselves about sex traffickers who target children, tweens and teens online.

A Bold Plan to Aid Sex-Trafficking Victims As understanding of the cruel dynamics of sex-trafficking has grown in recent years, a consensus has emerged among criminal justice professionals that it makes more sense to treat people charged with prostitution as the exploited and abused victims a vast majority are, rather than as criminals. An important new initiative by New York State’s chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, aims to put that humane insight into practice. A handful of cities across the country, including Baltimore and Phoenix, have specialized courts that deal with sex-trafficking offenses. On Wednesday, Judge Lippman announced the creation of the nation’s first statewide system of specialized criminal courts to handle prostitution-related offenses and make services available to help sex-trafficking victims escape their abusive situations and forge new lives.