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, February 28, 2014

Fact: Average annual return on investment of a slave in 1810 was 15%-20%; today it is 300%-500%

 "The average annual return on investment of a slave for the exploiter in 1810 was 15%-20%; today it is 300%-500%, even higher for sex slaves."
                     -Siddharth Kara Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery (2009)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In Focus: Reiterating the Gravity of Gender-Based Violence (Part I)

A review of the literature, as summarized by the World Health Organization (WHO), offers support regarding the gravity of gender-based violence (GBV) and violence against women (VAW), globally.

The WHO (2013) issued a fact sheet on the matter, which included the following:


Key facts:

• Violence against women - particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women - are major public health problems and violations of women's human rights.
• Recent global prevalence figures indicate that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
• On average, 30% of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner.
• Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.
• Violence can result in physical, mental, sexual, reproductive health and other health problems, and may increase vulnerability to HIV.
• Risk factors for being a perpetrator include low education, exposure to child maltreatment or witnessing violence in the family, harmful use of alcohol, attitudes accepting of violence and gender inequality.
• Risk factors for being a victim of intimate partner and sexual violence include low education, witnessing violence between parents, exposure to abuse during childhood and attitudes accepting violence and gender inequality.
• In high-income settings, school-based programs to prevent relationship violence among young people (or dating violence) are supported by some evidence of effectiveness.
• In low-income settings, other primary prevention strategies, such as microfinance combined with gender equality training and community-based initiatives that address gender inequality and communication and relationship skills, hold promise.
• Situations of conflict, post conflict and displacement may exacerbate existing violence and present new forms of violence against women.


The United Nations defines violence against women as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."

Intimate partner violence refers to behavior by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors.

Sexual violence is any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, or other act directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting. It includes rape, defined as the physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration of the vulva or anus with a penis, other body part or object.

Scope of the problem:

Population-level surveys based on reports from victims provide the most accurate estimates of the prevalence of intimate partner violence and sexual violence in non-conflict settings. The first report of the "WHO Multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence against women" (2005) in 10 mainly developing countries found that, among women aged 15-49:

• between 15% of women in Japan and 71% of women in Ethiopia reported physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime;
• between 0.3–11.5% of women reported experiencing sexual violence by a non-partner since the age of 15 years;
• the first sexual experience for many women was reported as forced – 17% in rural Tanzania, 24% in rural Peru, and 30% in rural Bangladesh.

A more recent analysis of WHO with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Medical Research Council, based on existing data from over 80 countries, found that globally 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (30%) of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner, in some regions this is much higher. Globally as many as 38% of all murders of women are committed by intimate partners.

Intimate partner and sexual violence are mostly perpetrated by men against women and child sexual abuse affects both boys and girls. International studies reveal that approximately 20% of women and 5–10% of men report being victims of sexual violence as children. Violence among young people, including dating violence, is also a major problem.



World Health Organization, (2013). Violence against women: Intimate partner and sexual violence against women (N°239). Retrieved from World Health Organization website: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

Former victim of human trafficking helps raise awareness among lawmakers
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers says it's a $32 billion global industry. On Thursday, the Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado raised awareness about the issue at the State Capitol. Aubrey Lloyd was a featured guest. She became a victim of human traffickers at age 16. "I was an honor roll student, who was lied to by a friend," she told 7NEWS. Lloyd says she experienced "tons of abuse and confrontation" while growing up.

30 arrested in All-Star weekend sex trafficking
Louisiana state police say an investigation involving local authorities and the FBI resulted in 30 arrests in connection with sex trafficking during the NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans. The arrests included 22 women and four men arrested on prostitution-related charges. Four other men were booked for allegedly using computers to solicit minors for sex. The operation also resulted in the rescue of a juvenile believed to have been exploited since she was 14.

Couple found guilty of running human trafficking op in Boston
A husband and wife were found guilty of running a human trafficking operation in Boston. After an eight-day trial, a Suffolk Superior Court jury found Rafael Henriquez, 40, and Ramona Carpio Hernandez, 52, both of East Boston, guilty on the charges of trafficking in persons for sexual servitude, being an owner of a house of prostitution, deriving support from prostitution, and keeping a house of ill fame.

13-Year-Old Girl at Center of Human Trafficking Case Again Missing, As Police Car Shows Up at Family's Home
Before authorities say a 13-year-old girl was forced to dance nude at a Miami Beach strip club, she was reported as a runaway. In a recorded interview released by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office the girl told a Miami Police detective she had left home before and talked about how she was forced to have sex for money. Four people have been arrested and charged with human trafficking in the case, including 36-year-old Vilbert “Vitto” Jean and 22-year-old Marlene San Vincente, a former Club Madonna dancer. The 13-year-old told police how she ended up dancing there.

Exhibit in Coralville displays human trafficking, hope to those held captive
An exhibit detailing the reality of human trafficking is on display for the second time in eastern Iowa. The Journey to Freedom is currently on display at the Big White House in Coralville. The exhibit looks at the lives and situations of millions of people around the world living without freedom. Melanie Baker, the exhibit coordinator, says they not only want to raise awareness, but also give hope to those taken captive by human trafficking, including those in eastern Iowa.

Friday, February 21, 2014

10 Surprising and Counterintuitive Facts About Child Sex Trafficking

At present, the commercial sexual exploitation of children has become a staple of often scary tabloid and other media coverage. The sensationalist sex trafficking narrative commonly depicted in mass media by celebrities and activists doesn't always reveal the full story of this complex and misunderstood phenomenon, which is often buffeted by data and themes that detract from potential remedies. Here are 10 child sex trafficking statistics that you most likely didn't read….
1. Boys make up 50 percent of the sex trafficked victims in the U.S.
2. Most children who are sex trafficked don’t have a traditional ‘pimp’.
3. Many youth show a surprising amount of agency and control over their work.
4. For most exploited children, their trafficking situation is not the greatest trauma they've endured – the majority has a history of sexual abuse and neglect.
5. Trafficked children are treated as criminals despite federal law classifying anyone under 18 years of age a victim.
6. Women make up buyers and traffickers as well.
7. Online websites such as backpage.com can be a sex trafficker’s haven.
8. Criminalizing commercial sex work and branding ‘trafficking’ as the same thing raises the stakes for victims.
9. Most kids engaged in sex trafficking don’t consider themselves victims.
10.Sex trafficking funds and resources are misappropriated.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Modern Slavery News Round-up

9 Investigates teenager sex trafficking
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Channel 9 has done several stories about central Florida’s growing human sex trafficking problem. A recent study showed one out of every 12 teens who was given the assessment was a victim of human trafficking. DCF told Welch that local teens of every race and background are being recruited. The experts said parents need to monitor who their children talk to online. They should also be on the lookout for suspicious tattoos because pimps often brand their girls with tattoos.

Number of children being sex trafficked soars
The number of British children being trafficked for sexual exploitation has more than doubled over the last year, according to official figures. Police forces, charities and immigration officials identified 50 young British girls and 6 boys being trafficked in order to be abused as part of the sex industry. The figures represent a 155 per cent increase on the previous year but are thought to be just the tip of the iceberg as much of the problem remains desperately under reported.

Florida ranks 3rd in calls to human trafficking hotline
Jacksonville University professor Nathan Rousseau and local attorney Crystal Freed, are organizing a series of events with Jacksonville University, Artworks For Freedom and other organizations to be held around the area, which aim to bring awareness to the issue. Rousseau said millions of people are caught in the trap of human trafficking -- often kids and women held against their will, sometimes only freed by their own deaths. According to the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, about 2.5 million people are enslaved at any given time by human trafficking and more than 9 out of 10 people suffer from physical or sexual violence.

Artist in residence explores human trafficking in U.S.
Albion College’s Artist in Residence Lea Bult sets the record straight about human trafficking in the U.S. Her “Out of Sight” exhibition promotes public awareness of the horrific prevalence of such modern-day slavery. The gallery features unassuming landscapes such as parking lots, factories and even a massage parlor. Bult often includes a truck or van in these images
Rights group: Egypt turns blind eye to human trafficking in Sinai
CAIRO -- Scarred, terrified and systematically tortured, the victims of human traffickers in the Sinai peninsula have been largely abandoned to their fate by Egyptian authorities, a leading human rights group alleged in a report released Tuesday. The report by New York-based Human Rights Watch details a brutal extortion racket in which victims, most of them would-be migrants from Eritrea in the Horn of Africa, are beaten, burned and mutilated by smugglers while their anguished relatives – contacted by mobile phone – are forced to listen to their screams.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Chocolate Love...

It's Valentine's Day and many people of you are reaching for that tasty and sensual chocolate treat to give to your loved ones. Chocolate has long been associated with romance, but this seductive sweet has a bitter dark side you may not want to think about. This seductive treat has not seduced lovers alone, but those who prey on the innocence of others and lust after wealth. The irony is that chocolate -the happy and love induced sweet, is also source of pain and captivity.

There is a price for this dark and creamy treasure. In Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, children are often kidnapped from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso in order to provide slave labor on cocoa plantations. In Bitter Chocolate, journalist Carol Off describes the conditions in which these child slaves work:

 “The farmers were working the young people almost to death. The boys had little to eat, slept in bunkhouses that were locked during the night, and were frequently beaten. They had horrible sores on their backs and shoulders… Farmers were paying organized groups of smugglers to deliver the children to their cocoa groves, while police were being bribed to look the other way.” These children are responsible for climbing cocoa trees, cutting down bean pods, and chopping them open with machetes, which leads to inevitable accidents. They are exposed to hazardous pesticides that they spray without protective equipment. They are fed corn paste and bananas, the cheapest food available, and they’re not paid.  When one former child slave was asked what he’d stay to chocolate-eating Westerners, he answered, “When people eat chocolate, they are eating my flesh.” Despite the fact that the cocoa industry’s awful human rights record is now public knowledge, “Big Chocolate” – Cargill, Nestlé, Hershey, Mars, Ghiridelli etc. – have not taken the necessary steps to guarantee that their products are slave-free. Many problems could be alleviated, or at least improved, if these companies paid their workers a living wage, one that is high enough to maintain a basic standard of living that includes education, health care, and savings.  A big part of the problem is that Western consumers love eating cheap chocolate so much that they don’t pressure the industry to change. Rather than being viewed as a rare, expensive treat, chocolate has become “a universal luxury – a reasonably priced frivolity for everyone, except those who’ve never heard of it or can’t afford to buy it. Ironically, that unenviable group includes the people who produce its most essential ingredient.” (Bitter Chocolate)

What can you do?  The first and easiest thing you can do is read labels. Fair trade is a decent option, as it ensures producers sell chocolate at above-market prices, generating extra income to improve community infrastructure and give a higher quality of life to farming communities. The downside is that certification can be very costly, and is often not affordable for small-scale operations- therefore sometimes you have to do a little research (but then again is that really such a big price to pay?). Please also keep in mind there is more than one label -in 2012, Fair Trade USA split from the International Fair Trade Organization.  There is also the Rainforest Alliance stamp, which ensures that farmers are growing cocoa in environmentally responsible ways – protecting shade trees, planting native species, maintaining wildlife corridors, conserving natural resources, and reducing pesticide use.

Chocolate: More and more retailers carry Fair Trade chocolate so just keep your eye out for the Fair Trade label as you shop.  You can also purchase special valentines gifts online including heart-shaped chocolates from Divine Chocolate, the sweet and spicy chocolate sampler from Equal Exchange, the Valentine’s Day Heart Box from Sweet Earth Chocolates and a full tub of chocolate hearts of cherry  or dark chocolate with raspberry bar from Sjaak’s.  Sweet Earth Chocolates Classic Red Velvet BoxChocoDream SpreadsKopali Chocolate Covered Cacao NibsTCHO “My Heart’s Desire” Adigard 12-Bar SamplerAlter Eco Dark Velvet Chocolate and sweetriot riotous riotBar gift set.  Why not reach outside the box and  try Kopali’s Dark Chocolate Covered Bananas.

Learn more and see what products are "safe" by reading our post from last year and checking out all the great resources and links: http://bridgetofreedomfoundation.blogspot.com/2013/02/make-sure-your-valentines-day-is-not.html?spref=tw

Fact: Children Trafficked to Sell Flowers and Beg in Thailand

In an impoverished town in Thailand near the border with Myanmar, a trafficker offered a desperate Burmese widow 5,000 baht (US$160) on the spot, followed by an additional 4,000 baht ($120) per month for two of her 10 children to sell flowers in the Thai capital, Bangkok. The rent-a-child deal was to last three months, after which the boys would return home.

     But the deadline passed and the monthly payments stopped. After another three months the older brother, 10-year-old Ongsi, ran away and managed to make his way home to tell his mother they had to return to the capital to rescue 8-year-old Siyathon from a life of late-night flower selling and beatings.
Their case is not unusual. Across the city of more than 10 million, little Burmese vendors sell flowers and Cambodian children beg money from motorists, tourists and bar crawlers.

    “Most of these children are not Thai,” said Witanapat Rutanavaleepong, who manages the Stop Child Begging project for the Mirror Foundation, a leading Thai NGO that has become a focal point for child trafficking.

     He estimates there are at least 1,000 child beggars and flower sellers working in cities and tourist spots around the country. Since he began working with the Mirror Foundation two years ago, Witanapat has come across only one case involving three Thai children, although he handles up to 30 cases a month. The problem remains intractable in the capital.

   “Thailand has a problem with child begging that is hard to solve because the authorities do not see it as a problem that affects their [the children’s] future or society,” Witanapat said. “They see them as only child beggars, but the girls and some boys often go on to become sex workers, and the boys often become traffickers themselves.”

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Modern Slavery News Round-up

Teen killed in Yorba Linda was a human trafficking victim, police say
A 17-year-old girl found stabbed to death in an upscale Yorba Linda neighborhood Tuesday was a victim of human trafficking in Santa Ana about two weeks before she was killed, authorities said. Officers identified Aubreyanna Sade Parks as a victim of human trafficking during a crackdown on prostitution in Santa Ana. Marsalis Joseph Smith, 26, was arrested on Jan. 21 and is charged with multiple counts of human trafficking, pimping and pandering. Smith was in jail when Parks was killed. According to prosecutors, Larry Soo Shin, 35, of Yorba Linda began communicating with Parks early Tuesday morning and asked her to meet him in Yorba Linda. When she arrived, he allegedly stabbed her and left her body on a grassy area in the neighborhood, prosecutors said.

Middlesex pimp, girlfriend admit roles in NJ human trafficking prostitution ring 
A pimp who with his prostitute girlfriend swiped $500,000 worth of diamonds from a john at Manhattan’s Cosmopolitan Hotel pleaded guilty to human trafficking today — one of the first in New Jersey under the statute. Percival R. Williams — also known as Tayvann Dunston — admitted using violence and threats of violence to enslave women in a high-priced prostitution ring, after pretending to be a music producer while tooling around in high-performance Maseratis and a Porsche, state authorities charged.

Man headed to prison for human trafficking
A former fugitive who was featured on “America’s Most Wanted” is going to prison for human trafficking and other charges. Rufus Byers was arrested in 2011 for not only forcing a California woman to prostitute herself in Albuquerque, but for holding her 3-year-old daughter hostage in California. Byers bonded out of jail, then fled to Dallas. He was re-captured there in 2012 and returned to Albuquerque to face charges.

Dutch experts to visit PHL for anti-human trafficking programs
A team of anti-human trafficking experts from the Netherlands will visit the Philippines next week and meet with officials to strengthen both countries' effort to fight human trafficking. The Dutch delegation, led by Herman Bolhaar, will meet with members of the Philippine government's Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking in Persons (IACAT). According to the DOJ, which supervises the IACAT, the Dutch team's visit will "enhance cooperative efforts and mutual assistance with foreign countries through bilateral and/or multi-lateral arrangement to prevent and suppress international trafficking in person."

FBI rescues 16 juveniles in Super Bowl human trafficking operation
The FBI rescued 16 juveniles and arrested more than 45 pimps in conjunction with a child sex trafficking operation that revolved around the Super Bowl. The sex workers ranged from 13-to-17 years old, and some of them had been reported missing by their families. The Bureau is now working to provide food, shelter, counseling and medical care to the workers while also trying to contact the workers' families.

Making the Case: Withholding of Food as a Form of Gender-Based Violence

Little research currently addresses gender-based violence specifically from the viewpoint of withholding of food. Previously compiled research, however, suggests that the withholding of food and/or manipulation regarding access to and control over food is in fact a form of gender-based violence, especially in the context of associating food availability to control over sex and child-rearing (Miller et al., 2011, p. 1515; Power, 2006, p. 258-259).

In recent times, research on gender-based violence has expanded to include other lesser-known and infrequently considered, yet equally important and prevalent, behaviors encompassed under the greater umbrella of violence against women. With increasing evidence, the consideration of “withholding of food, healthcare, medication, adequate clothing, and hygiene products” as forms of gender-based violence has grown in acceptance (“Dynamics,” 2010-2011, n.p.). A study done by Ackerson et al. (2008) explored the context of malnutrition in association with domestic violence. To investigate this relationship, the authors “analyzed data from 69,072 women aged 15–49 years and 14,552 children aged 12–35 months in the 1998–1999 Indian National Family Health Survey” (Ackerson et al., 2008, p. 1193). Self-reported physical domestic violence victimization was utilized as a measure, along with anemia and underweight categorizations as indicators of malnutrition (Ackerson et al., 2008, p. 1193). Findings from this study revealed “withholding of food as a documented form of abuse in Indian households and is likely correlated with the perpetration of physical violence” (Ackerson et al., 2008, p. 1193).

Moreover, research available on withholding of food has revealed “reports of men denying their partners the resources to buy food,” along with reports of “primary male sexual partners... [withholding] food as a means of controlling the circumstance under which sex would occur (Miller et al., 2011, p. 1515; Power, 2006, p. 258-259). The overarching issue of food insecurity has “led to increased sexual vulnerability among women” (Miller et al., 2011, p. 1512). For example, “Women [are] often compelled to engage in transactional sex or remain in violent or abusive relationships due to their reliance on men in their communities to provide food for themselves and their children” (Miller et al., 2011, p. 1512).

In sum, “the unequal position of women relative to men and the normative use of violence to resolve conflicts” have been found to be “strongly associated with [gender-based violence]” in almost any form by any perpetrator (WHO, 2011). Referencing cases of withholding of food as a form of gender-based violence, “Domestic violence is strongly associated with a woman’s inability to make decisions for herself and her family, including the choice of types and quantities of food that a woman prepares as she cares for herself and her children” (Ackerson et al., 2008, p. 1193).


Ackerson, L., & Subramanian, S. (2008). Domestic violence and chronic malnutrition among women and children in India. American Journal of Epidemiology, 167(10), 1188–1196. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwn049.

Dynamics of domestic violence in API families. (2010-2011).

Miller, C., Bangsberg, D., Tuller, D., Senkungu, J., Kawuma, A., Frongillo, E., & Weiser, S. (2011). Food insecurity and sexual risk in an HIV endemic community in Uganda. AIDS and Behavior, 15, 1512-1519. doi: 10.1007/s10461-010-9693-0.

Power, E. (2006). Economic abuse and intra-household inequities in food security. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 97(3), 258-260.

World Health Organization, (2011, September). Violence against women: intimate partner and sexual violence against women. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fact: Sex Trafficking in the U.S.

Sex trafficking occurs when people are forced or coerced into the commercial sex trade against their will. Child sex trafficking includes any child involved in commercial sex. Sex traffickers frequently target vulnerable people with histories of abuse and then use violence, threats, lies, false promises, debt bondage, or other forms of control and manipulation to keep victims involved in the sex industry. Sex trafficking exists within the broader commercial sex trade, often at much larger rates than most people realize or understand. Sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues of the overall sex industry, including residential brothels, hostess clubs, online escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Modern Slavery News Round-Up

College Conference Invites Public For Human Trafficking Awareness DAVIE (CBSMiami) — Broward College in Davie is inviting the public to become more aware of human trafficking in Florida and in the rest of the world, through a conference Thursday. The free, day-long conference is being held in recognition of National Anti-Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

AG awards human trafficking victims grants
TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) – Five Kansas groups have been awarded funds from the attorney general’s office to help victims of human trafficking. The assistance program was established last year after the Legislature passed new laws cracking down on the crime. The attorney general’s office said Thursday the grants total nearly $70,000 and will be used by groups that aid human trafficking victims in Lawrence, Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita. More than 200 human trafficking victims were identified for services by the organizations since passage of the 2013 legislation.

EmberHope receives grant to combat human trafficking
EmberHope received a grant of $20,442 from the Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Fund, which was created by the new Kansas human trafficking law enacted last year. During state fiscal year 2013, Schmidt said, more than 200 trafficking victims were identified by victims service organizations in Kansas.
Along with EmberHope, which is the new name for Youthville and features expanded services, other grant recipients were:
 • Veronica’s Voice, Kansas City: $14,957
 • GaDuGi Safe Center, Lawrence: $13,384
 • YWCA Center for Safety and Empowerment, Topeka: $23,000
 • SafeHomes, Winfield: $13,000

Fighting human trafficking in Kalamazoo
The state is setting in motion its plan to combat human trafficking, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette told an audience in Kalamazoo yesterday evening. Earlier Thursday state lawmakers announced that they would seek changes in the way state law treats victims of sex trafficking so they’re not prosecuted for prostitution. Advocates also say they’re working hard to raise public awareness of an issue they say hides in plain sight.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/01/31/4653818/couple-face-njs-new-human-trafficking.html#.Uuwm3D1dWjA#storylink=cpy