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

Friday, November 29, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Plight of Domestic Workers a Concern for Anti-Human Trafficking Activists

On November 6, 2013, the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the John Hopkins University hosted the Protection Project Eighth Annual Symposium on the issue of trafficking in persons. The focus of this year’s symposium was the plight of domestic workers. In the course of four panel discussions, a plethora of experts shared basic statistics to illustrate the scope of the problem, highlighted particular aspects that place domestic workers in vulnerable situations, debated with whom the responsibility for addressing the problem lies, and offered suggestions and recommendations on what needs to be done.

To read an entire post on the symposium, please visit The Korbel Report.

Monday, November 25, 2013

International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women

The presence of domestic violence mars the reputation of any nation regardless of how far in terms of women’s rights that nation has come. Nevertheless, as the U.N. points out, the problem “continues to be a global pandemic” and “up to 70 percent of women experience violence in their lifetimes.” Indeed, it is abundantly clear that “violence against women is a consequence of discrimination against women, in law and also in practice, and of persisting inequalities between men and women.” Gender, therefore, matters because differential treatment based on the variable is still very real even today, years after the movement toward equal rights has commenced. It matters because many still consider it relevant in the determination of one’s personal characteristics, abilities, and behavior. Most importantly, gender matters because it is still quite common for mistreatment, objectification, and violation of women to be considered acceptable ways of promoting a service, selling a product, or gaining an audience.

A closer look at the messages in many commercials and advertisements, for example, reveals that sexual violence and aggression exhibited by men is what every woman wants even if she says no. Such messages contribute to the myth that a woman who wears a certain dress, or a skirt, or a shirt, a woman who uses a specific perfume is non-verbally asking for a man to assault her. Allowing these contagious messages to infect generations of young people facilitates the development of common beliefs that a heinous crime such as a date rape is in some way solely the girl’s or woman’s fault and therefore, must not be acknowledged as a global or societal problem. The recent date rape case in Steubenville, Ohio indicates that violence against girls and women is often seen as a joke or a way to exhibit one’s manhood. To successfully address the issue and bring a resolution, therefore, we must involve both men and women in the fight for equality, but we also need to engender a paradigm shift—a meaningful change in the way society as a whole views, addresses, and treats women.

Today, the world honors the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, but it is important to remember that this is an issue that must to be addressed every day. It is not an issue at the personal level; it is not an issue at the national level; it is an issue at a global level because violence against women ultimately threatens progress and development. It could also contribute to the financial hurdles of a nation; as highlighted by the U.N., “the cost of intimate partner violence in the United States alone exceeds $5.8 billion per year: $4.1 billion is for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion.” Such facts emphasize the comprehensive and deep impact of violence against women and demand decisive actions toward a resolution.

To help empower women to achieve freedom from fear, violence, and discrimination, please consider sponsoring a free Violence Prevention Workshop for survivors of modern day slavery and human trafficking

Modern Slavery News Round-up

Coast Guard rescues 3 women from human trafficking in Zamboanga Government operatives this week rescued in Zamboanga City three Filipina would-be victims of human trafficking bound for Sabah. The operatives arrested the suspected traffickers identified as Benhar Mukin and Estrella Hasan, both from Zamboanga City. According to the three victims, one Shon Joon Sin recruited them in Pampanga and promised them decent jobs with good salarie in Sabah.

Subway Owners Arrested After Human Trafficking Investigation Married couple Amrutlal Patel and Dakshaben Patel were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly harboring and employing illegal aliens in their four Subway Restaurants in Lexington, Ky. The arrests were made after a 3-month human trafficking investigation. One of their Subways was raided shortly after they were taken into custody, as reported by local NBC affiliate WLEX-TV. Three of the Patels' employees, all Indian nationals illegally in the United States, were brought to the Lexington Police Department for questioning, according to official court documents obtained by The Huffington Post.

Cindy McCain, Christie to talk human trafficking
Cindy McCain slammed the National Football League on Wednesday for not being “willing to deal” with the issue of sex trafficking at the Super Bowl. “Everybody else has been very helpful, the NFL’s not willing to deal with this issue, and I can’t answer why, I don’t know why,” McCain said during POLITICO’s Women Rule conversation series, co-sponsored by The Tory Burch Foundation and Google, which was hosted at The Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Report includes 19 indicators of sex trafficking in Maine
PORTLAND, Maine — The national Polaris Project released a report Thursday dissecting data gleaned from calls placed to its human trafficking hotline, a help number that has seen a sharp increase in contacts over the last five years. In Maine, the organization reported that its hotline netted 19 of what Polaris Project defines as high- or moderate-level indicators of trafficking in the most recent year. However, local experts say that number is just the tip of the iceberg and that a continued push to provide comprehensive services to victims is necessary.

Vital 'golden hour' after human trafficking victims are rescued
The delicate moments after suspected victims of human trafficking are rescued are so important they are known by care workers as "the golden hour". The Salvation Army holds the government contract to help trafficking victims for the first 45 days of their release and organizes an interview room in a church, council office or other under-used building. According to Ann Reed, the charity's anti-trafficking response coordinator, here the victim can shower, eat, see a doctor, put on some new clothes and speak to a non-uniformed police officer for an hour or two to give an overview of their experience.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fact: 88% of human traffickers had grown up in homes where domestic violence was present

Domestic violence is commonly considered a “push factor” for human trafficking. Due to the increased vulnerability caused by an abusive relationship, victims of domestic violence can find themselves isolated and without access to the financial and emotional support needed to leave to a safe situation, which puts them at high risk for exploitation. Domestic Violence can also be a push factor for those who become traffickers. According to a recent study, 88% of the traffickers interviewed indicated that they had grown up in homes where domestic violence was present.

Human trafficking and domestic violence can intersect in even more profound ways. Intimate partners can force their partners into highly exploitative situations. A partner can also be a human trafficker. Intimate Partner Trafficking is not a type of trafficking that has been researched, prosecuted or discussed to the extent as other trafficking trends we see – but it does happen. However, much like intimate partner rape, it is likely that this type of exploitation is highly underreported. Familial Trafficking is another way that trafficking and domestic violence come into direct contact. While it is difficult to believe that a mother, father, brother, sister could force a relative to engage in commercial sex or forced labor, this is a trend that we see in forced commercial sex situations as well as domestic servitude.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Modern Slavery News Round-up

New Nevada fund to fight human trafficking gets kick-start
Donations totaling more than $3,500 were delivered Thursday to state officials for deposit in a newly created fund to combat human trafficking in Nevada. The new fund was created by Assembly Bill 311 from the 2013 legislative session. The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, D-Sparks, John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, and others, to create a vehicle for the state to accept donations to fight human trafficking. The money will be used to establish or provide programs or services to help victims of human trafficking.

Maryland Gets C Grade for Human Trafficking Laws
Currently Maryland has a "C" grade, but a representative of the organization 'Shared Hope International,' which issued the ranking, says the state has seen marked improvement and is ranked higher than almost half the states in the country. What can be done to improve Maryland's grade was one of several topics discussed as advocates and law enforcement officials gathered at University of Maryland law school in Baltimore to discuss efforts to protect victims of the sex trade.

Turkish Pastor Arrested on Human-Trafficking Accusations
Pastor Orhan Picaklar, a Turkish Protestant pastor arrested by police in the Black Sea province of Samsun this week is accused of involvement in prostitution and the human trafficking of refugees. The 42-year-old pastor was detained until Wednesday evening in a police investigation led by the Morals Bureau of the Public Order Division. The criminal case was reportedly based on a telephoned complaint from an unidentified person.

Fresno Council Member Clint Olivier's proposal addresses human trafficking
Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier wants to fight human trafficking by giving police investigators more time to hunt down the exploiters. Olivier plans to introduce an ordinance at next Thursday's council meeting that changes the way therapists at massage parlors are licensed. The Police Department currently does time-consuming background checks on massage therapists before issuing them a license to work. Under Olivier's ordinance, massage therapists would still need a license but it would be issued by the California Massage Therapy Council.

Christian business gives sex-trafficking victims in Mumbai a new start
According to the think tank report, “A Business Takeover: Combating the Business of the Sex Trade with Business as Mission,” the private sector is in a unique position to fight sex trafficking. By working with NGOs and charitable organizations, businesses are able to create jobs that allow survivors of trafficking to find employment, support themselves and their families, and learn valuable skills, including saving, budgeting, and working in a professional environment. One business built on this model is International Sanctuary, or iSanctuary, which has operated in Mumbai, India since 2007 and Orange County, Calif. since 2010. In Mumbai, iSanctuary works with girls as young as 14. The women in Orange County tend to be a bit older, and come from all over the globe.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tips for Law Enforcement to Efficiently Detect, Prevent, and Deter Human Trafficking

  1. Train personnel on the indicators of human trafficking and on effective interviewing of potential victims who, in most cases, do not self-identify. 
  2. Educate the public about human trafficking and concentrate on the vulnerable populations of the community. 
  3.  Develop government and non-government partnerships to achieve a unified enforcement action against human trafficking while providing aftercare for the victims. 
  4. Collect information and intelligence to identify the criminal networks, traffickers, persons of interest, locations, and financial aspects involved in the illegal trafficking operations. Investigate those people and locations linked to human trafficking and explore prosecution for any subsequent crime. 
  5. Target high risk areas for human trafficking to better utilize limited resources while tracking and assessing activity and enforcing laws. 
  6. High risk areas include brothels, strip clubs, escort services, and massage parlors. 
  7. Use proactive enforcement during the peak hours in and around locations linked to human trafficking.
  8. Develop informants from individuals who are arrested and use the information to further the investigation into trafficking networks. 
  9. Explore the use of modern technology and science to aid in the investigation, evidence collection, and prosecution efforts. 
  10.  Seize assets to hinder and disrupt individuals and organizations involved in human trafficking. Prosecute the defendants and publicize success stories. 

 Read more: http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/speaking-out/2013/oct/30/ten-tips-law-enforcement-decrease-human-traffickin/#ixzz2kYi7fuev

Monday, November 11, 2013

Modern Slavery News Round-up

Immigration Reform Will Deter Human Trafficking, Not Increase It
A recent Department of Justice report illustrates the connection between immigration policy and labor trafficking, in particular: It found that fully 95 percent of labor trafficking victims were foreign-born; of those, more than 70 percent were undocumented. Traffickers prey upon individuals who, in their desperation to enter the U.S. to escape extreme poverty, believe too-good-to-be-true promises of work and educational opportunities, only to be sold into slavery or prostitution and made to work under force, fraud or coercion. The State Department estimates that as many as 17,500 foreign-born individuals are trafficked into the U.S. in any given year.

FBI Raids Cleveland Massage Parlor Suspected of Prostitution, Human Trafficking
Cleveland FBI agents on Wednesday raided an East Side massage parlor in an attempt to find evidence of a regional sex-trafficking ring. No arrests were made during the searches. The FBI would not disclose what evidence, if any, was taken from the massage parlors. Last year, authorities in Warren shut down eight massage parlors suspected of prostitution, but made no arrests.

Report: Utah Increasing Efforts to Stop Child Sex Trafficking
When it comes to protecting children against sex trafficking, Utah is improving but could do better, according to a new report. Shared Hope International, a nonprofit group that works to eliminate child sex trafficking, gave the state a C grade for its efforts. Out of a possible 102.5 points, Utah received 74.5. That’s an improvement over the previous year, when the state received a D, and in 2011, when it got an F.

Pope Francis Steps Up Modern Slavery Fight
Pope Francis wants action against modern forms of slavery including forced labor and prostitution, the Vatican said Monday after a meeting of experts called by the pontiff to debate the problem. The pope was heavily invested in a subject he knows well from his years in Latin America and had even invited two experts on human trafficking that he knows from Buenos Aires.

Modern slavery must be abolished
On Oct. 17, CNN reported that nearly 30 million people around the world are currently living as slaves. The Global Slavery Index, published by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation, ranked 162 countries based on three factors that include estimated prevalence of modern slavery, a measure of child marriage and a measure of human trafficking in and out of a country. According to the Walk Free Foundation index, there are 29.6 million people in modern slavery globally. India leads the world, followed by China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh. These 10 countries account for 76 percent of the world’s modern slaves. These numbers reflect the chauvinistic nature of the countries.

Modern slavery must be abolished
On Oct. 17, CNN reported that nearly 30 million people around the world are currently living as slaves. The Global Slavery Index, published by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation, ranked 162 countries based on three factors that include estimated prevalence of modern slavery, a measure of child marriage and a measure of human trafficking in and out of a country. According to the Walk Free Foundation index, there are 29.6 million people in modern slavery globally. India leads the world, followed by China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh. These 10 countries account for 76 percent of the world’s modern slaves. These numbers reflect the chauvinistic nature of the countries.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fact: 15 & 76% of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime

Between 15 and 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the available country data. Most of this violence takes place within intimate relationships -this can include relationships with traffickers or pimps-, with many women (ranging from 9 to 70 percent) reporting their husbands or partners as the perpetrator (UNWomen).

Awareness and Prevention -as well as ending the demand for sex and gender discrimination are all keys to ending all forms of gender-based violence.  However as the statistics show women must seek to take back their control and never be surprised for surprises -it can happen to anyone and anywhere.  Therefore Bridge to Freedom's Violence Prevention Program not only seeks to empower survivors of modern slavery, but equip all women and girls to avoid, prevent, deescalate and/or counter such threats or attacks. Help us change these statistics today by participating in and supporting our Violence Prevention Program here!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Violence Prevention Workshops A Fighting Success

As you may have recently read on our blog, website and other social media outlets Bridge to Freedom Foundation recently launched a new Violence Prevention Program.  We have been excited to be able to bring the life saving techniques of Krav Maga -a real life self-defense system- to survivors of human trafficking.

Our first survivor workshop was held just last month in Kansas City, Missouri, and we are excited to announce that they were a fighting success!   On October 24rd, I traveled to Kansas City to run our first official Violence Prevention Workshop Fundraiser for the community. Which  I am very excited to report back to you that it was a great successes and funded the next phase of  my journey to train local survivors of sex trafficking.  This trip was important in so many ways, one I was getting to return back to my hometown and begin to see my dream and life's work go full circle.  It was also exciting -and a bit nerve racking- to finally be able to share my love of Krav Maga with many of my family and friends.  It was defiantly an interesting experience teaching a class with siblings, parents, childhood friends and all their friends, but so great to let them see first hand what I have been talking about and training so hard on.  Not to mention I want to ensure that everyone has access to true and easy to implement self-defense training, as my motto for self-defense -and much of life- is "Don't be Surprised for Surprises"!

On that note I am without words to really tell you how excited I am to report back that our first workshop(s) with the amazing survivor lead organization in Kansas City, MO, Veronica's Voice on the 24th of October, was an amazing success.  First of all I have to thank everyone at Veronica's voice for all the hard work you do everyday and allowing us to be part of your family and for seeing the value in every aspect of survivors lives -including their personal safety.  Most of all I have to thank the amazing women who spent the day learning, laughing, sharing, bonding and most of all learning some...well shall we say it....Kick Ass Self-Defense techniques!  These life saving skills we hope will keep all of these women out of harms way and empowered to fight should they have to!

Our mission at BTFF is to see that all survivors of modern slavery have the tools and resources to lead thriving lives and we know that this includes developing the mental mindset of a fighter.  Our Violence Prevention Program, does just that and we hope you will help support us on this journey and consider sponsoring a survivor or workshop here: http://www.razoo.com/story/Violence-Prevention-Self-Defense-Workshops.

If you are a survivor and would like to inquire about free training or would like to book a self-defense workshop for your clients or outreach team, please contact us at info@btff.org and we will contact you with more information and to schedule your training.  Additionally if you would like to host a community self-defense workshop and not only ensure your community is equipped for any situation, but also raise funds for free survivor training please contact us to book a workshop.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Demand Change in the Heartland

It is with great pleasure that I was able to travel to Kansas City, Missouri in October to not only conduct Violence Prevention Workshops, but to attend the Demand Change in the Heartland Conference. The conference was hosted by Veronica's Voice and featured a survivor only led panel. This amazing panel of determined, courageous, inspiring and spirited group of fighters not only shared their stories, but more importantly focused on the hurdles that victims and survivors face on the road to recovery and to lead thriving lives.

Veronica's Voice's, Demand Change Conference truly amazed me in so many ways that I don't think I can even share enough with you.  I was immediately awoken from my early morning daze and incredibly proud of the power of change that begun to kick off in the early morning on a a Saturday in America's Heartland -and my hometown.  Hometown pride has a whole new meaning now...as does the true unbreakable spirit of a Midwestern girl -no one can hold a flame to the ladies that sought to bring this house down!

As an organization that is newer and who's mission is to bring those victimized by modern slaver from a point of surviving to thriving, I personally and professionally see survivor informed services as the only way forward.  Bridge to Freedom Foundation is about the future not the past, and while we may hear many survivor stories along the way we let the survivor lead and never ask, "what happened", therefore this conference held a great deal of meaning for us and sought to ensure we continue to learn and grow from the survivor community.  BTFF strives to ensure we never forget who it is we work for and why.  Kristy Childs Founder and Director of Veronica's Voice, ut it best; "Let survivors share their story and what they want to share. Be mindful, have compassion without the details. That is dignity!.  Childs also added, "...when we see some as worthy victims an others as unworthy, we are causing great harm."

One of the day's key topics was the re-victimization of victims and the labeling placed on them, including that treating and arresting as criminals and using victimizing words such as "prostitute".  "Prostitution is an extension of slavery" added Vednita Carter of Breaking Free.  Many survivors have criminal records, including felonies following arrests for prostitution charges and vacating such crimes is not easy nor possible in call states.   Tina Frundt, Founder and Executive Director of Courtney's House broke down the harsh realities of labeling and the continual harm it causes as she spoke with unfiltered dynamism; "...what now at 20...22...I'm worth nothing because you didn't help me at 9?"

The harsh reality so many do not want to face or turn a blind eye to was not swept under the rug and even if you wanted to turn a blind eye you were too paralyzed to do so as the rooms power, inspiration, passion and leadership took you in and the heartfelt and intimate stories of the survivors took hold of you.

Brenda Myers-Powell , Founder of the Dream Catcher Foundation, spoke about her journey with a vibrancy and yet painstakingly sharp honesty that one so rarely hears on any stage; This was "...not something I got into it was something I was almost born into... All I waned to do was be shinny, but the shine kept getting taken away from me teach time I was molested."   Myers-Powell was not alone on this stage sharing often painful intimate details of their path from victim, survivor to a empowered thriving woman, and all of these remarkable leaders filled the room with the loudest voices of truth one can find.  Christine McDonald, who's book "Cry Purple", is one of the most heartwarming stories of courage, survival and triumph; showed that innocence does not have to be lost as she infected the room with her contagiously sweet laugh in the midst of telling stories that would have broke so many before they began.

The event put forward so many valuable lessons in a frank and feasible manner, that makes one question why we have not been talking like this (or listening) and resolving these issues all along.  Survivor informed and led services are key to breaking the cycle and ensuring that those abused by the chains of human trafficking are enabled to lead thriving lives with dignity.  "We need to be more than well- intended, we must be intentional!" stated, Dr. Karen Countryman-Roswurm.  Intention to see one thrive and lead their own journey requires many steps and all must be informed, as Rowena Mathews, Alumni Member of Breaking Free stated; "We need a lot of little things before we are able to walk on our own."

 The event even hosted a powerful dance performance;  "The Game" by Erin Murphy, featuring the words and stories of survivors from Veronica's Voice.  Like the performance this conference was truly a one of a kind inspirational event that drives you to act in an intentional and sustainable manner with the survivors needs at the center of it all.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Modern Slavery News Round-up

Police say 24 children rescued from human trafficking scheme
PALM BAY — Two dozen Orlando children younger than 18 were crammed into the back of an older model Chevrolet work van, driven to Palm Bay on Friday and dropped off to spend more than 10 hours selling cheap items door-to-door, Palm Bay police said. Police arrested two of the men behind the operation, which authorities said provides a window into a growing trend of human trafficking: luring children and young adults with the promise of an honest wage, transporting them in often unsafe conditions and sending them off to conduct unsupervised sales in unfamiliar neighborhoods.

London's 'shadow city' of human trafficking
Andrew Boff, who leads the London Assembly's Conservative group, published his report arguing for more and better tackling of a largely hidden form of criminality and exploitation in all its forms. Boff believes that amnesties should be extended to victims who are irregular migrants in order to encourage more disclosure of what appears to be a largely invisible form of criminal abuse.

Two survivors recall human trafficking nightmare
After Barbara Amaya escaped from her family where she was sexually abused, she was trafficked in D.C., and beaten, raped, robbed, and forced to sell her body in New York. The nightmare started when she was 13, and lasted for 9 years. The other victim, Shandra Woworuntu, was trafficked when she was 25. After losing her job in Indonesia, Woworuntu responded to an employment promising a position in Chicago. After she arrived to the U.S., her passport was seized; then she was forced to perform sexual favors in brothels. Two months later, she escaped her kidnappers by jumping out a bathroom window.

Human Sex Trafficking of U.S. Minors
Reuters reported just last week, “Some 30 million people are enslaved worldwide, trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labor, victims of debt bondage or even born into servitude.” About 14,500 to 17,500 girls from other countries are smuggled into the U.S. and exploited in sexual slavery.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fact: Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Often Happen to the Same Victim

We have quickly been flying through the Fall season, also the season football and awareness months. October is, was, Domestic Violence, established in 1995 when several organizations, including the Family Violence Prevention Fund and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence united to raise awareness against this growing -and most often silenced- problem.

Why is a human trafficking organization talking about domestic violence? Human trafficking and domestic violence can occur on a continuum of violence, and the dynamics involved in human trafficking are frequently interwoven with those of domestic violence. This occurs mo Individuals who have suffered violence and discrimination in their countries of origin based on their sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or dysfunctional family situations are often more likely to overlook the risks of unsafe migration, thus increasing their vulnerability to human trafficking. Traffickers also frequently exploit the already lowered self-esteem of trafficking victims who have experienced abusive family lives. Conversely, trafficking survivors are often vulnerable to future incidences of domestic violence.

The following are examples of cases where domestic violence and human trafficking can manifest together on the basis of the same set of facts:

  1. Involuntary servitude in marriage: Cases where traffickers force their spouses to perform services and labor, such as domestic work, working at family businesses, or sex work. These traffickers may also physically and sexually abuse their spouses, as well as threaten them with immigration and legal consequences. 
  2. Forced prostitution and sex work: Cases where individuals are recruited into sex trafficking by traffickers feigning love interest in them. The cases may involve fraudulent courtship, sexual assault, and then a distinct pattern of domestic violence to control or convince the victims to engage in sex work. 
  3. Other forced labor: Cases where individuals are trafficked by other family members (besides in