Homeless Youth in America and Human Trafficking

Whenever I hear in the media about a child, a teenager, who has run away from home or is missing, I can’t help but fear for their lives.  Did you know that within 48 hours of a child who has run away from home, a trafficker will seek out this child and try to get them into the human trafficking system?  That is not a lot of time.  Children, particularly teenagers, run away from home for various reasons.  Many deal with abuse and neglect at home.  Many are turned away or kicked out.  40% of the youth who are homeless identify as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/ Questioning).  Most are homeless after coming out to their families, because they are abused or simply kicked out.  Today we are focusing on these youth, because their voices are not heard.

 

There is a lot of information about bullying and suicide in the LGBTQ community.  The issues of gay rights and marriage is a huge hot topic today.  But when it comes to homelessness, this issue is usually swept under the rug.  I am here to bring this difficult subject to light and to do something about it.  The LGBTQ youth have a hard time here in America.  They are the group that will face the most discrimination, first in conservative homes, usually being abused by their families and/or church,  and discrimination at school.  Many of these youth turn to suicide, which is the highest rate among LGBTQ than any other group of young people.  Others try to find hope by leaving their situation, which is not much better for them.  There is a lot of discrimination in the service agencies that help homeless youth, sometimes through the government and others by policies adopted by these service agencies.  LGBTQ youth are turned away at alarming rates.  It is also true in the foster care system, as many youth are turned away, and the need is growing for foster parents of children who identify as LGBTQ.  So when a child who is gay or transgender is kicked out of their home, leave because of abusive situations at home, or the legal and governmental systems turn away, it leaves little hope.  Plus, traffickers prey on youth, who are particularly vulnerable and desperate.  They prey on their hopes and dreams of a better future.  So of these 40% of LGBTQ homeless children, many will end up in the human trafficking system- sometimes simply because they have no other choice.  This is heartbreaking!

We must do something to help these kids.  No matter what you feel on the issue, we need to help.  No one should go through life feeling this rejected.  LGBTQ children are not garbage to just throw away.  If you care about helping out in the fight against human trafficking, we need to also give these kids a chance.  Today, you can.

 

The Polaris Project, a leading agency against human trafficking, recognizes this as a problem within the human trafficking ring and youth homelessness.  They are helping to raise funds to create shelters for homeless LGBTQ.  This is the step in the right direction to give LGBTQ youth a place to get off the streets.  Through private funding, this can be possible.  Please join me, either in fundraising, or in donating to this worthy cause.  For more information, visit my fundraising page below, or at http://www.polarisproject.org/take-action/fundraise/peer-to-peer-campaigns

 
Donate Here!

 

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Sexual Abuse Recognition

As a follow-up from the last post, I wanted to have more information for educators in identifying sexual child abuse in your students.  As a K-12 educator, in many states it is not mandated to take classes on child abuse recognition, even though you are mandated to report if you suspect child abuse.  As a preschool teacher, I am required by law to take classes on child abuse recognition every three years.  I just completed my three-year requirement, and realized that much of what I have on my blog coincides with this class.  And because many are not aware of all the signs, it’s only right to share them here.   

Did you know:   70-90% of children involved in sex trafficking have a history of being abused, usually through sexual abuse.¹  Also, those who are caught in sex trafficking are often physically abused, and usually emotionally/ mentally abused in order to keep the child prisoner.  For that purpose, the signs of physical and emotional abuse will also be discussed, as these are easier signs to pinpoint.  For the most part, determining behavior of sexual abuse is subtle or has very few signs, unless found by a medical examiner (i.e., a school nurse).

Sexual abuse by definition is any illegal sexual act on a child: incest, rape, indecent exposure, fondling, child pornography, and child prostitution.  Sexual exploitation which includes prostituting or using a child in porn, is the crux of sex trafficking.

Sexual Abuse Behaviors:
-Children expressing age-inappropriate knowledge of sex or sexual behaviors that seem too mature for the child’s age.
 -Highly sexual play
-Sexually explicit
-Post-traumatic stress disorder through fearfulness, excessive daydreaming, and re-traumatized from reactions or situations, causing flashbacks.
-Unexplained fear of a person or place, or trying to avoid a familiar adult
-Nightmares, sleep interruptions, and withdrawal

The emotional damage of sexual abuse is devastating.  It is a major breach of trust.  The perpetrator tries to manipulate the child into silence with real or implied threats, or gives the victim gifts.   The manipulation piece of this puzzle can result in a whole range of emotions: self-image problems, low self-confidence, guilt, shame, depression, anxiety, and mood instability.    Any drastic changes in personality with these emotional traits in mind could be a result of abuse. 

 

Side Note:  Keep in mind that a child who abuses another child may have been abused themselves.  Sometimes this occurs with sexual abuse/ sex trafficking, particularly when a boyfriend may prostitute their girlfriend.  These perpetrators may show signs of violence, manipulative behaviors, and exploitive sexual behavior. Sometimes teenage girls may be in an abusive relationship with a boyfriend, and this may be evident in signs you may see in your students.

 

Because sexual abuse is more difficult to detect, we will also list the things to look for under physical and mental/emotional abuse.  These seem to be more obvious in an abuse situation, particularly in the classroom where you will be in contact with these children. 

Physical Abuse Signs: cigarette burns, immersion burns, patterned burns, rope burns to unlikely parts of the body, cuts (to gums, eyes, mouth, lips, genitalia), questionable welts and bruises (particularly if they’re clustered or at different stages of healing), shape of object patterns (finger or hand patterns, belt patterns, etc.), human bite marks, any marks on the body where the explanation does not match the injury, and any marks on softer parts of the body or parts of the body that rarely sees injury, especially if this happens often.

Emotional/ Mental abuse can include ridicule, rejection, intimidation, belittling, indifference, unconcern about child’s problems (can also include school work), bizarre discipline.

Emotional/ Mental Abuse Signs:  antisocial traits, destructive traits, sleep disorders (where child constantly falls asleep in class), habit disorders (rocking, biting, sucking, etc.), behavioral extremes (overly compliant or overly enraged), pleasure in hurting people or animals, delinquent behaviors (drinking, drugs, etc.), self-destructive behaviors (including suicide attempts, cutting, etc.), self- fulfilling prophecies (living up to what the abuser says).

On top of the physical and emotional clues, a teacher may be able to pinpoint abuse through these academic signs:  learning difficulties, interrupted concentration, academic deterioration, excessive absences, and lack of self-discipline. Remember, any changes in how a student performs in the classroom could be signs of abuse and is worth looking into for the sake of the child.

 

Side Note:  Prostitution can occur in families.  It is common that a parent, sibling, or other family member will prostitute one of their children.  When working with families, watch the interaction between your student and their parents for possible signs of abuse (during parent-teacher conferences, meet the teacher, open house, etc.). 

 

The strongest clue that sexual abuse is occurring is if a student tells you they have been abused.  Even if the child is a “storyteller”, you need to take this seriously.  This telling is reportable, and may be the only sign to you that the child is being abuse.  By believing and listening to the child, you can resolve doubt in favor of the child.  The child’s safety and protection is of utmost importance.  A child disclosing information to an adult is a difficult thing for them to do.  There are many reasons why:  they have a sense of shame, they may be loyal to the abuser (Stockholm syndrome), fear of not being believed, and/or a fear of negative consequences to the child or their family (threatened by the abuser either said or implied).  Students may also send messages about their abuse in indirect ways.  One is bringing up a scenario “What if…..”  A disclosure can also be with strings attached: “Promise you won’t tell if I tell you?”   

 

So how do you respond if a child tells you they’re being abused?  It is most important to remain calm and not to respond emotionally as to not scare the child from disclosing this information.  Remember how difficult it must be for your students to talk about the situation to you.  Whatever you do, do not ignore the child or not respond at all.  This will give the child a feeling of abandonment.  If a child does come to you, sit near the child (not behind a desk), and give the child a space without interruptions from others.  Do not touch the child.  Listen and respond without emotion, showing that you’re listening through your response (i.e.  I appreciate you telling me about this.  This must have been very hard for you to do.).  Do not ask “why” questions:  this is very confusing for most children, and will give them a sense that it was their fault.  If a child shows you physical signs of abuse, do not react emotionally.  If their injuries are in private areas, refer them to the school nurse.  After this, you are mandated by law to report this disclosure.  Calling your local child abuse hotline, local child/family services, the local police/ sheriff’s department, and if you suspect sex trafficking, call the national human trafficking hotline at

1-888-373-7888.

                                               

Source: American Institute for Resuscitation http://www.aircpr.com

 

¹http://www.gems-girls.org/about/research-resources

Nepal’s Stolen Children

I have been very passionate about the sex trafficking end of slavery for quite a time now.  I learn something new every time I do research, read about the subject, talk to others about the problem, or talk to those who’ve been there.  Imagine tonight watching the premiere of Demi Moore’s documentary “Nepal’s Stolen Children” on CNN how much I learned directly from the victims, the families, the rescuers, and the government.  The horrors of the crime of sex trafficking reach farther than just the pimps, johns, and victims.  It destroys families.  It affects villages.  It hurts women.  And it hurts those who are stuck into the depths of poverty.  Some facts about what I learned about Nepal and their fight against sex trafficking:

30% of Nepalese people are in dire poverty.  Because of this poverty, the promise of employment and a better life are the weapons lurers use to trick the uneducated.

Education is not mandatory in Nepal.  If given the choice, boys will attend school over girls, making girls more vulnerable to perpetrators.

Legislation is changing to include education for all children in Nepal.

36,000 underage girls are currently involved in sex slavery annually, and that may be higher.

There are no current regulations at border control with Nepalese people and Indian people crossing the border- they do not need to show an ID or passport and can come and go as they please without question.  Thousands cross these borders daily, even trafficking girls into India.

These are alarming facts, but hopefully there is hope for the children of Nepal in the future.  What struck me as painful to me and many who watched the documentary was the deep pain that these victims endured.  But once they returned home, that pain continued.  There was one girl whose daughter was born in the brothels her mother was caught in.  The mother was rescued, but the daughter who was separated from her daughter by the pimps and most likely abused herself, was still there.  Later rescued, they were then reunited, but the two-year old daughter did not even recognize her own mother (and if you’re around a toddler who deals with separation anxiety, this was very painful and heartbreaking to witness).  In other instances, families were reunited after victims were rescued, but because of the societal stigma of girls working in brothels, there was definitely awkwardness, and not the warm embracing welcome you would hope in these situations.  There were many girls who had children.  Some of them were separated while getting treatment for HIV and other diseases they contracted while being victims in a prostitution ring.  Many girls who were reunited with their families or would go out to work an honest living did not want their families or employers to know that they were at Maiti Nepal, a rehabilitation center and school.  This center was run by a lioness of a lady, Anuradha Koirala. Her passion for these girls and against the evils of sex slavery was evident in this documentary.  I wish I had her guts.  In a country where men dominate the scene, she has a fire in her that lets nobody get in her way when it comes to protecting girls.  She was at the border of Nepal and India questioning people entering and exiting her country to make sure sex trafficking was not happening on her watch.  She is tough but tender.  She cares for each and every one of the girls and the children brought into Maiti Nepal. Many she had rescued herself along with her team.   It is no wonder that CNN has named her the CNN Hero of the Year for 2010.  Anuradha is definitely inspiring for all abolitionists whose one wish is to end child slavery around the world, but particularly where they live.

Which brings me to my last point.  Demi Moore mentioned this, as well as knowing this is a fact from the abolitionist group I am a part of: What is happening in Nepal with sex trafficking is very similar to the sex trade happening on American soil.  It’s happening in Atlanta, Georgia as well as Bangkok Thailand; in Toledo, OH as well as in Nepal.  Because of this, we CAN do something about it.  Get educated on the facts of global slavery and human trafficking.  Tell others.  Get others together and come up with creative solutions.  Support those fighting in the field, rescuing victims, rehabilitating and helping those get their lives back.  Anyone can help.  As Demi said at the end of the show, what if it were your daughter?  What would you do?

To see an encore presentation of Nepal’s Stolen Children on CNN, it will reair at 11PM EST on Sunday, June 26.  Also visit dnafoundation.org and maitinepal.org.

Welcome to TrueFreedomKidz

Welcome to my blog.  This blog consists of information, stories, and tips to help in the fight of human trafficking.  It is estimated that close to 30 million men, women and children are slaves in the human trafficking pandemic.  Human trafficking takes the form of labor trafficking and sex trafficking.  As many as half of these numbers are children as modern day slaves.  It is true that slavery is abolished in almost every nation around the world.  However, there are more slaves today than at any other time in our world history, including our American history with the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The only countries in the world that do not have any documented cases of human trafficking are Greenland and Iceland.  Human trafficking is not just happening in countries half-way around the world; in fact, America is deep within the sex trade, with foreign AND domestic sex trafficking happening on our soil.  Our own children in the United States fall victim to sex trafficking, as early as age 13.  The statistics are staggering!  I will post some of these on my statistics page coming soon.

So, what can I do to help?  With these numbers, how can I even begin?  We will discuss this and many more things in the weeks and months to come: signs to look out for, how to get involved, agencies and non-profit organizations to help combat human trafficking, and even more about modern day slavery as a whole.  The more you know, the better equipped you are to fight this.  And we all must do our part.  It is time to stop turning a blind eye to the horrors of human trafficking, particularly when it comes to our children.  Will you help?  Please consider subscribing to this blog to educate yourself and your family, neighbors, and friends.  Also, follow us on Twitter at truefreedomkidz.  Thanks for joining the fight!