Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Check out this cool online conference on human trafficking!

Dear Friends,

I hope you can join us for our last online conference of the academic year THIS WEDNESDAY, May 25 from 2:00-4:00 pm EST. The focus of this online conference is Best Practices to Combat Human Trafficking in the United States. And no travel is necessary to participate! In order to be in the online audience, just click on the registration link below (and you must register prior to the online conference in order to participate).

A detailed invitation is included in this email. If you know of other colleagues and friends who might like to participate, please forward on to any who might be interested. Do let me know if you have any questions on how the online conference works or how to register.

Thank you in advance for being a part of our online audience!

All my very best,



Christina A. Bain

Carr Center for Human Rights Policy

Harvard Kennedy School

79 JFK Street

Cambridge, MA 02138


Program on Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery

Best Practices to Combat Human Trafficking Online Conference Series

Contact Us

Carr Center
for Human Rights Policy
Harvard Kennedy School
79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 +1(617) 495-5819
2009 Carr Logo 250x84



Kevin Koliner

Assistant U.S. Attorney, South Dakota

Sergeant Chris Bray

Phoenix Police Department, Arizona

Norma Ramos

Executive Director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women

Moderated by:

Jeff Gulati

Associate Professor of Political Science, Bentley University, Massachusetts

Photo courtesy of Kay Chernush, U.S. State Department

Every year, thousands of men, women, and children are trafficked into the United States according to the U.S. government. Victims are trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, labor, and debt bondage. U.S. citizen victims are also trafficked within and outside the country. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, approximately 100,000 U.S. children each year are victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

The United States uses a four paradigm approach in combating human trafficking: prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships. In addition to the U.S. federal law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), states have also passed their own individual state laws to address human trafficking.

What is currently being done to respond to and combat trafficking in the United States? What is succeeding? What isn’t? The panel will tackle challenges and lessons learned in combating human trafficking from a victim-centered, enforcement, and prevention perspective.

When: Wednesday, May 25, 2:00- 4:00pm EST

Co-Sponsored with the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

To register, please go to:

If you have any questions, please contact:

Christina Bain


A Role for the Medical Community

In Oakland, Redefining Sex Trade Workers as Abuse Victims

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Oakland’s International Boulevard, where prostitution flourishes. More Photos »

OAKLAND, Calif. — Dr. Kimberly Chang, a physician at a community clinic in Chinatown, will never forget the first young girl she suspected had been sold for sex.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

A support group for girls and women vulnerable to the sex trade. More Photos »

Kalea, a 15-year-old Cambodian-American girl who grew up in Oakland, kept coming in to be examined for sexually transmitted diseases, the beginning of a grim cycle of diagnosis and treatment. “I started asking, ‘Are you having sex with new people?’ ” Dr. Chang, 37, recalled. “It was always, ‘No, no, no, no, no.’ Eventually she confided that she was worried about ‘a friend.’ That’s when I asked, ‘Are you trading sex for money?’ ”

Emerging from a long, dark tunnel, Kalea slowly began to spill her stories. How her father beat her. The childhood rape. The out-of-control john who tied her up in a motel bathtub and filled it with scalding water.

Seven years and hundreds of patients later, Dr. Chang’s clinic, Asian Health Services, is in the vanguard of a new public health approach to treating American-born minors lured into the sex trade, a problem enforcement officials and child advocates say has exploded with the Internet.

Once viewed as criminals and dispatched to juvenile centers, where treatment was rare, sexually exploited youths are increasingly seen as victims of child abuse, with a new focus on early intervention and counseling. There is growing recognition that doctors can be first responders, intervening before long years of exploitation and abuse can take an even greater toll.

In Oakland, a handful of organizations that grew out of Asian Health Services have developed new programs for Southeast Asian minors that “take into account the complex culture of foreign-born parents and their American-born children,” said Dr. Sharon Cooper, a forensic pediatrician and child abuse expert at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

An estimated 100,000 to 300,000 American-born children are sold for sex each year. The escalating numbers have prompted national initiatives by the F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies, and new or pending legislation in more than a dozen states, most recently Georgia, which enacted a toughened human trafficking law this month.

The Oakland health clinic is confronting an underground within an underground — the demand for Asian-American girls, with Cambodian-Americans among the most vulnerable. Many immigrant Cambodian parents struggle with poverty compounded by the experience of genocide and its traumatic aftermath, depression. The emotional fallout is ricocheting through generations.

“Oakland is an open-air sex market for young children,” said Sharmin Bock, assistant in charge of special operations for the district attorney’s office in Alameda County, where Oakland is.

The abusers may be pimps, even brothers, who recruit or kidnap girls from the streets and market them online through sites, where they are featured in pulsating ads for massage parlors, escort services, strip clubs, even acupuncturists.

“Asian women are exoticized in our culture,” said Elizabeth Sy, the co-founder of a program for at-risk girls called Banteay Srei that grew out of Dr. Chang’s clinic. “Many Southeast Asian girls come from new refugee populations. Recruiters target these girls because they know they are struggling with issues of cultural identity.”

Girls from many Southeast Asian families chase “an Americanized idea of love,” Ms. Sy said, growing up in emotionally distant households in which, she said, “parents never ask ‘How was school today?’ or say ‘I love you.’ ”

They fall prey to abusers who are highly motivated: the Polaris Project, a national advocacy organization, estimates that a stable of four girls earns over $600,000 a year in tax-free income for the pimp. Drug dealers here are increasingly switching to prostitution, inspired by the bottom line and fewer risks.

“The person dealing drugs has a finite amount of product to sell,” said Jason Skrdlant, an officer with the Oakland Police Department’s vice and child exploitation unit. “But a girl is reusable.”

Over time, Dr. Chang and her colleagues became aware of a disturbing pattern: young patients coming in regularly would bring their friends to be checked for sexually transmitted diseases. To provide social support, Banteay Srei was started to provide peer counseling, classes in women’s health and exchanges with elders to strengthen cultural bonds, including cooking classes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Film and Trafficking

Check this out: "An undercover journey deep into the world of sex trafficking, following one man determined to rescue his wife -- kidnapped and sold into the global sex trade."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Personal Stories of Trafficked Persons and the Attorneys Who Serve Them

Following on yesterday's post (which showed up on the blog as a few days ago, for some strange reason) about one immigration attorney's representation of a victim of trafficking...

To inform others about the abuse that trafficking victims suffer, Immigration attorney Brandmiller forwarded this translated account from her client:

I was nineteen years old when US immigration officials discovered me in the trunk of a car at a random immigration stop in Hidalgo, Texas. And I thank God that they found me because if they had not rescued me, I am sure that I would be dead by now. I had suffered for three long months at the hands of brutal men and women who used me for sex and tortured me for fun.

Three months before, at a train station in Mexico, a woman had approached me and said she could make arrangements for me to get a job in the US, so I went with her. After a few weeks, three men came to the house, and I heard the woman say, “I have one for you,” and I saw them give her money for me. I tried to ask who they were and where they were taking me but they hit me and told me to just shut up and do what I was told.

They drove me to a house out in the country with nothing else around. They took all my identification documents from me, and they locked me in a room. For the next three months, I was repeatedly sold for sex, beaten, threatened, drugged and starved.

One night several of the men took me outside to a car and locked me in the trunk. I was scared and it was difficult to breath. I was in that trunk until the next day driving to Hidalgo. Immigration officials stopped the car in the US, and finally, someone found me in the trunk.

They could see I was hurt, bruised and with bite marks all over my body, but they took me to immigration detention. After I had been detained for nearly six months, Sophia, another inmate in Pearsall, called the Catholic Charities Immigration Department in San Antonio. Linda, the Director of Immigration, came to see me.

That was two years ago. Last month, Linda called me with the news that the government recognized that I was a trafficking victim. I was so relieved and we both cried. Now, I want to be a voice for other trafficking victims who do not understand this system, who do not find Linda or someone like her who will fight for them, especially when the experts turn them down and do not believe they meet the requirements to be considered a trafficking victim. There are many, many victims like me out there, and they all need help.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Causes Highlights Trafficking and Offers A Way to Help
Featured Project

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Help 50 Human Trafficking Survivors
There are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in history. This year human trafficking will generate an estimated $32 billion -- making it the fastest growing criminal industry on the globe.
Not For Sale is working on the front lines in Romania to provide shelter, education, healthcare, counseling and vocational training to survivors of human trafficking.
We're raising $50,000 to help 50 survivors build a new life. Watch the video to learn more about how you can help end slavery.
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Therapy for Trafficked Persons

As immigration attorneys for trafficked people, we need trained mental health specialists who can provide services to this population. Please check out this article as psychologists respond to the problem of human trafficking and evaluate possible ways to assist these individuals.

Harry Potter and the Quest for Social Justice

I wanted to share this blogpost with you that I did for the Harry Potter Alliance. This group is more than an organization: it's a community. They are using their love of Harry Potter to do great things in the world, and to tackle some very important issues (like child slavery). Check it out:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Immigration Attorneys Representing Trafficked Persons

Catholic Charities San Antonio Wins Protection for Victim of Human Trafficking

Newsletter – LegalFront – State Bar of Texas Newsletter (March 25, 2011)

Last month, after two years of legal struggle, Catholic Charities attorney Linda Brandmiller finally won protection for her client as a victim of human trafficking. “For two years, this case has highlighted the failures in the T-visa system. Now, I use this case as a powerful example of how a victim can overcome all of the governmental hurdles if people are willing to fight hard enough,” Brandmiller said. One of those governmental hurdles was an initial denial of the client’s trafficking victim certification: Although the captors had sexually abused the client and smuggled her in a locked trunk, authorities denied her certification because she had previously wanted to come to the US. The denial due to ‘consent’ infuriated Brandmiller. “That is like telling a woman suffering domestic violence that she is not a victim because she ‘wanted’ to get married!” she said. Brandmiller hopes her client’s case will help improve protections for human trafficking victims. “There is a huge disconnect between the intent of the T-visa program and its implementation: To combat a billion dollar trafficking industry, the US granted only 1,200 T-visas in the past ten years.”

Business and Human Trafficking

Here’s a video of Dawn Conway at Lexis Nexis – she gives a brief talk about the basics of human trafficking and then goes on to discuss a corporate initiative they are heading up.

Send to a friend

May 12, 2011

In this issue: Human Trafficking | Serial Entrepreneur | Thai Cooking

Business and Human Trafficking
Next to the drug trade, human trafficking is the second largest criminal operation in the world. The senior vice president of corporate responsibility for LexisNexis explains how corporations can work together to stop this modern-day slavery. Watch the Video Now >>

Forced Marriage

Although forced marriage is not usually a form of human trafficking, it is yet another way that vulnerable people can be exploited by those who wield power. Please check out this effort, and either participate in the survey, or pass it along to folks you know who might be able to help.

You are Invited to Participate in a National Survey on:

Forced Marriage in Immigrant Communities in the United States

The Tahirih Justice Center (Tahirih) is a non-profit legal advocacy organization with offices in Falls Church, VA, Baltimore, MD, and Houston, TX that works to protect immigrant women and girls fleeing violence.

Over the last three years, Tahirih and several of our colleague organizations have been alerted to a number of cases of forced marriages involving young women from immigrant families residing in the United States. Some of these young women and their parents are US citizens; others are legal permanent residents, refugees, asylees, or have other immigration statuses. The United Kingdom and a few other countries have begun to recognize and address forced marriage through new laws and policies, but the United States has yet to develop a coordinated national response to the problem, leaving young women in crisis with few resources or options.

You are receiving this survey because you are a service provider, advocate, community leader, educator, law enforcement officer, or other professional who may have vital information about cases of forced marriage (either threatened, or that have already occurred) in immigrant communities in the United States.

This survey has been prepared in close consultation with sociologists and community-based/advocacy organizations with relevant expertise. While we recognize that forced marriage can occur in any community, this survey focuses on forced marriage in immigrant communities in the United States. It is not intended to stigmatize any community or to sensationalize the issue. Through the survey, we hope to better understand the nature and scope of forced marriage in immigrant communities in the United States, identify key stakeholders, and develop a collaborative national support network for those facing forced marriage. We also hope to foster respectful conversations—both nationally and at the community level—that reflect the complexity and sensitivity of the issue.

Survey information:

The survey will be available online at, May 11, 2011 to Wednesday, July 13, 2011. Please complete the survey prior to 5:00 pm EST on Wednesday, July 13th to ensure that your responses are fully recorded.

The survey should take between 10 and 30 minutes to complete (depending on how many questions are relevant to your experiences). If you need to exit the survey before completing it, your answers will be saved and you may return to the same computer to edit or complete your responses until the survey closes at 5:00 pm EST on Wednesday, July 13th.

Wide distribution of this survey is crucial— please forward the survey to others who may have encountered cases of forced marriage.

If you have any questions as you take this survey, please contact Heather Heiman (Senior Public Policy Attorney, Tahirih Justice Center) at (571) 282-6195 or

Friday, May 13, 2011

Men In The Fight Against Human Trafficking

A friend shared this call to action with me. It's worth a read:

"Gentlemen, You are needed at the state capital this Saturday at 3:00pm. And I mean needed! According to the United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office, the Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan arearepresents one of the fifteen worst metropolitan areas for sex trafficking in the country. But it just
doesn’t happen in the twin cities.

This report from WCCO TV News
highlights the extent of the problem in Duluth as well. The Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center released Shattered Hearts <> in November 2009 outlining the sexual trafficking of American Indian women and girls throughout the state. The Advocates For Human Rights
<> fact sheet estimates the average age for a girl to enter into prostitution/sex trafficking in Minnesota is between 12 and 14 years old. That is the average age. A report from A Future Not a Past <> indicates that in February of 2010, in Minnesota:80 adolescent girls were commercially sexually exploited through internet websites and escort services in February, 2010, 85% of adolescent girls are commercially sexually exploited through internet websites and 15% of adolescent girls are being exploited through escort services.15 adolescent girls are commercially sexually exploited in the state every day online.It is time we stop the demand for sexually exploited women and children. This is men’s
work! And all you need to do right now is show up on Saturday, at the capital, at 3:00.Please see the information below!! Thank you for caring.

We invite you to the first ever, first annual Demand Change Project, a groundbreaking event that will take place for the purpose of educating and engaging men and the general public about the issue of sex-trafficking to bring awareness to the issue, celebrate the work that is being done, honor the survivors, unite the men's and women's anti-human trafficking movements, raise desperately needed funds to help victims and end the demand for commercial sex."

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rites and Rituals

This blog offers a space to discuss the law as it relates to human trafficking and surrounding practices. People sometimes ask whether I find my job depressing, whether it's too sad to work with people who have been exploited and victimized. I tell them that while it can be difficult to hear people's stories of untold trauma, it is empowering to know that I can help them move forward with their lives. I am posting Kristof's latest article today not because it relates directly to human trafficking, but because I have represented women who have fled an impending "cutting" who have sought asylum in the U.S. Several students of mine have argued convincingly that human trafficking should be a potential ground for asylum as well. I would love to hear your thoughts on this article, or on anything related to the practice of female cutting...or anything at all! Thanks for reading!
Op-Ed Columnist

A Rite of Torture for Girls

HARGEISA, Somaliland

Damon Winter/The New York Times

People usually torture those whom they fear or despise. But one of the most common forms of torture in the modern world, incomparably more widespread than waterboarding or electric shocks, is inflicted by mothers on daughters they love.

It’s female genital mutilation — sometimes called female circumcision — and it is prevalent across a broad swath of Africa and chunks of Asia as well. Mothers take their daughters at about age 10 to cutters like Maryan Hirsi Ibrahim, a middle-aged Somali woman who says she wields her razor blade on up to a dozen girls a day.

“This tradition is for keeping our girls chaste, for lowering the sex drive of our daughters,” Ms. Ibrahim told me. “This is our culture.”

Ms. Ibrahim prefers the most extreme form of genital mutilation, called infibulation or Pharaonic circumcision. And let’s not be dainty or euphemistic. This is a grotesque human rights abuse that doesn’t get much attention because it involves private parts and is awkward to talk about. So pardon the bluntness about what infibulation entails.

The girls’ genitals are carved out, including the clitoris and labia, often with no anesthetic. What’s left of the flesh is sewn together with three to six stitches — wild thorns in rural areas, or needle and thread in the cities. The cutter leaves a tiny opening to permit urination and menstruation. Then the girls’ legs are tied together, and she is kept immobile for 10 days until the flesh fuses together.

When the girl is married and ready for sex, she must be cut open by her husband or by a respected woman in the community.

All this is, of course, excruciating. It also leads to infections and urinary difficulties, and scar tissue can make childbirth more dangerous, increasing maternal mortality and injuries such as fistulas.

This is one of the most pervasive human rights abuses worldwide, with three million girls mutilated each year in Africa alone, according to United Nations estimates. A hospital here in Somaliland found that 96 percent of women it surveyed had undergone infibulation. The challenge is that this is a form of oppression that women themselves embrace and perpetuate.

“A young girl herself will want to be cut,” Ms. Ibrahim told me, vigorously defending the practice. “If a girl is not cut, it would be hard for her to live in the community. She would be stigmatized.”

Kalthoun Hassan, a young mother in an Ethiopian village near Somaliland, told me that she would insist on her daughters being cut and her sons marrying only girls who had been. She added: “It is God’s will for girls to be circumcised.”

For four decades, Westerners have campaigned against genital cutting, without much effect. Indeed, the Western term “female genital mutilation” has antagonized some African women because it assumes that they have been “mutilated.” Aid groups are now moving to add the more neutral term “female genital cutting” to their lexicon.

Is it cultural imperialism for Westerners to oppose genital mutilation? Yes, perhaps, but it’s also justified. Some cultural practices such as genital mutilation — or foot-binding or bride-burning — are too brutish to defer to.

But it is clear that the most effective efforts against genital mutilation are grass-roots initiatives by local women working for change from within a culture. In Senegal, Ghana, Egypt and other countries, such efforts have made headway.

Here among Somalis, reformers are trying a new tack: Instead of telling women to stop cutting their daughters altogether, they encourage them to turn to a milder form of genital mutilation (often involving just excision of part or all of the clitoris). They say that that would be a step forward and is much easier to achieve.

Although some Christians cut their daughters, it is more common among Muslims, who often assume that the tradition is Islamic. So a crucial step has been to get a growing number of Muslim leaders to denounce the practice as contrary to Islam, for their voices carry particular weight.

At one mosque in the remote town of Baligubadle, I met an imam named Abdelahi Adan, who bluntly denounces infibulation: “From a religious point of view, it is forbidden. It is against Islam.”

Maybe the tide is beginning to turn, ever so slowly, against infibulation, and at least we’re seeing some embarrassment about the practice. In Baligubadle, a traditional cutter named Mariam Ahmed told me that she had stopped cutting girls — apparently because she knows that foreigners disapprove. Then a nurse in the local health clinic told me that she had treated Ms. Ahmed’s own daughter recently for a horrific pelvic infection and urinary blockage after the girl was infibulated by her mother.

I confronted Ms. Ahmed. She grudgingly acknowledged cutting her daughter but quickly added that she had intended only a milder form of circumcision. She added quickly: “It was an accident.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Obama speaks on Immigration

Although many victims of human trafficking have U.S. citizenship or are otherwise present in the U.S. legally, others originate from other countries and have been exploited on U.S. soil.

Because of the relationship between immigration and the population of trafficked persons, it is important to understand the current immigration debate. To that end, here is one opinion on the current state of affairs related to immigration reform.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


One reader commented on a recent blog post that she believes that:

"the monolithic conception of human trafficking is problematic and I suggest that trafficking occurs as a result of women’s willingness to immigrate –for work, for a better life etc."

Her point is well taken. I wanted to direct her and fellow readers to the work and perspectives of Norma Ramos, executive director of the Coalition Against the Trafficking in Women (CATW). Ms. Ramos does not believe in the concept of "sex work" and shares the reasons behind her opinions in speeches and papers available on the CATW website.

Check out this interesting international organization:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Even in Oklahoma? Not OK

Oklahoma City is crossroads of human trafficking for labor, sex, officials say

BY VALLERY BROWN Comment on this article 0
Published: April 14, 2011

Joy Friedman was first raped when she was 13 years old. At 15, she was beaten and held captive in a basement by three men who repeatedly molested her.

photo - Joy Friedman speaks Wednesday during the Oklahomans Against Trafficking of Humans conference.  Photo by CHRIS LANDSBERGER,  the oklahoman
Joy Friedman speaks Wednesday during the Oklahomans Against Trafficking of Humans conference. Photo by CHRIS LANDSBERGER, the oklahoman

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The following years were a whirlwind for Friedman, 48, who through a mixture of drugs, low self-esteem and coercion, began stripping and was later prostituted and sexually trafficked around the nation and Canada by pimps and people she trusted.

She told her story to law enforcement, social workers and others attending a human trafficking conference in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

“I thought I caused all of it. I believed my destiny was for these men to get their issues and abuse out on me so they could move on to love someone else,” she said.

Although Friedman is from Minnesota, experts say cases like hers are happening more frequently everywhere, including Oklahoma, and their scope is difficult to fathom.

Hub for traffickers

Oklahoma’s position along the Interstate-40 and I-35 corridor makes it a hub for traffickers smuggling people in from Mexico and Texas port cities.

Social problems in the state, including high poverty and incarceration rates, domestic abuse, teen pregnancy and drug addiction, make it a prime area for traffickers seeking vulnerable women and children to exploit.

“When you’re looking for poor, broken women who’ve been abused, these are fertile grounds,” said Mark Elam, director of the Tulsa-based Oklahomans Against Trafficking of Humans.

Human trafficking victims are forced or coerced into sexual or labor exploitation. Often they or their loved ones are threatened. Some are kidnapped, beaten or tricked into situations where they’re made to do things against their will. Many of the exploited are undocumented workers.

Elam said from 200,000 to 300,000 minor girls from the U.S. are drawn into the sex industry each year.

The numbers are difficult to ascertain because they’re tracked by different agencies and organizations, but estimates are that about 50 million people are brought to the U.S. each year as human trafficking victims, he said.

“You see a person who’s a victim of this every day and you don’t even know it,” Elam said.

‘Nasty business’

Joseph Otrhalek, with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country.

“You can keep using human beings over and over repeatedly, so it’s a lucrative and nasty business,” he said.

Otrhalek said what scares him is the penchant for exploited labor and sex in the country.

“This isn’t to cause an overreaction,” he said. “but we have to be alert.”

Friedman agrees.

She’s now an advocate for women who are sexually exploited, and she spreads the message that this is happening everywhere.

She said she might not ever fully heal, but she wants to help other victims start the process.

Read more:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bringing Sex Trafficking To A Larger Audience

Scholar Who Studies Sex Trafficking Wins National Journalism Award

Scholar on Women's Issues Tries Her Hand at Journalism and Wins a National Award 1

Alan Storey

Carrie N. Baker

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close Scholar on Women's Issues Tries Her Hand at Journalism and Wins a National Award 1

Alan Storey

Carrie N. Baker

Carrie N. Baker had only recently broken into magazine journalism when she received a national award for her reporting on sex trafficking.

Ms. Baker, an associate professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Berry College, in Georgia, became the first honoree of the Jane Velez-Mitchell Journalism Award this year. The award—named for the host of the talk show Issues on the HLN network—honors a journalist who brings attention to the issue of violence against women and girls.

Michelle Bart, public-awareness chair for the Northwest Region of Soroptimist International, one of the award's sponsors, solicited Ms. Baker's application after reading an article the professor wrote for Ms. magazine about legislation to protect victims of sex trafficking. Ms. Baker submitted her application materials, which included a personal essay and a few pages of basic paperwork, but she didn't elaborate much on her aca­demic background.

"To gain more perspective on who this woman was, the committee Googled her," says Ms. Bart. "When we got reading on Dr. Baker, it was like, 'Oh my goodness, look at all this.'"

Ms. Baker, 46, received her bachelor's degree in philosophy from Yale University in 1987 and earned both a law degree and a Ph.D. in women's studies from Emory University before joining Berry in 2002.

She has written for scholarly journals about women's studies in the rural South and issues of race, class, and sexual harassment. Her book, The Women's Movement Against Sexual Harassment (Cambridge University Press, 2008), documents the grass-roots movement of the 70s and 80s that helped create public policy on sexual harassment.

Despite her prolific background in academe, Ms. Baker was a stranger to journalism until she attended a workshop for scholars through Ms. last summer. She thought of the workshop as an opportunity to bring her scholarly research to a wider audience. Just a few months earlier, she had attained tenure at Berry, so it seemed like a good time to branch out with her writing.

"Academics obviously write like academics," she says. "Journalism is very, very different. As an academic, you get so in your rut of writing 50-word sentences. I think it was really good for me as a scholar to kind of say, Let's bring this to a level where it can be popularly consumed."

In her Ms. article, "Jailing Girls for Men's Crimes," Ms. Baker examines how several states have worked toward establishing safe-harbor laws that protect underage girls and victims of human trafficking from being prosecuted for prostitution.

In the article, she explains that sex trafficking "tends to conjure images of girls in Southeast Asian brothels or women from former Soviet-bloc states," but that in 2010 the U.S. Department of State included for the first time a country narrative about the United States in its annual "Trafficking in Persons Report." The document cited cases in this country involving compelled labor, debt bondage, and forced prostitution, among others.

The five-person committee that selected Ms. Baker for her honor included Ms. Velez-Mitchell, who is known primarily for her TV commentary on high-profile crimes and court cases and for speaking out against what she calls "the war on women." Next year Ms. Baker will also serve on the selection committee.

Ms. Baker accepted the award from the television host in Portland, Ore., in January. The media exposure has led to other opportunities, including a TV appearance on Issues with Ms. Velez-Mitchell. The professor continues to contribute to Ms. as a blogger­—the scholars who attended the Ms. workshop were invited to blog for the magazine's Web site—and she's also started to use Ms. as a teaching tool in her own women's studies classrooms.

"I think of the classroom as a place for activism and social change," she says. "I want my academic work to be relevant to the broader world. I want to make my students engaged citizens. I'm not trying to tell them what to think, but I'm trying to communicate to them the importance of engaging in the world around them."

Ms. Baker hopes to write more articles for Ms. this summer, when her academic workload is a little lighter. She will move to a new position beginning this fall as an assistant professor of women and gender studies at Smith College, where she plans to continue to do research on sex trafficking.

"For my students to be able to go to my blog or have them read my article ... I really feel like that informs my teaching and my scholar­ship," she says. Reaching not just scholars but activists and other women through Ms. "makes the rubber hit the road. It brings it to the real world, and then I can come back into the scholarly world and use that experience."

Monday, May 2, 2011

Guest Workers and Stolen Labor


Standing Up for Guest Workers

Slavery and human trafficking are alive and well in the United States, according to lawsuits filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of farm laborers in Hawaii and Washington State and shipyard workers on the Gulf Coast.

The suits allege that labor recruiters and employers lured, trapped and abused foreign workers hired through federal guest-worker programs. The government charges that more than 500 Indian men hired by Signal International of Alabama for rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina were confined in squalid camps, illegally charged for lodging and food, and subject to discrimination and abuse. When they complained, the suit says, Signal agents tried to intimidate workers’ families in India. Two lawsuits filed in Hawaii and Washington against other employers make similar charges about 200 men brought from Thailand.

The United States urgently needs to strengthen protections for guest workers who are lied to by recruiters and tied to employers with too much power to exploit them. Today’s shackles are the threats of deportation and financial ruin. They might as well be iron.

A recent agreement by the federal Labor and Homeland Security Departments to work together on immigration and labor enforcement at work sites is encouraging, though there are serious concerns about Homeland Security’s past behavior. Sworn testimony in a separate civil lawsuit against Signal International charged that rather than protecting the Indian workers, immigration officials coached the company on how to silence and deport them.

Workers in the new lawsuits may win some money and be eligible for special visas for trafficking victims. But they are only a handful of workers — both documented and undocumented — stranded in a system that accepts their labor but fails to prevent their exploitation.


(This is an excerpt from this Administrator’s Corner newsletter produced by the ALSO STAAR Project with funding from the Office on Violence Against Women, US Dept of Justice)

Special Topics on Sexual Violence and Human Trafficking:

Meeting the Challenge with STOP Funding[1]

Robin H. Thompson, JD, MA

Human trafficking is an area where STOP funds can assist law enforcement, prosecution, the courts and victim services with their responsibilities under the Violence Against Women Act. Rape and other forms of sexual violence are tools used by traffickers to control victims. This article will feature a series of “True or False” questions regarding human trafficking and sexual violence to further describe and outline how victims of human trafficking are routinely subjected to sexual violence. It will also offer policy and program responses as to how the STOP Grant Program can assist these survivors and hold traffickers accountable under the law.

True or False: “Sex trafficking” is the only type of trafficking where rape crisis centers need to focus the efforts to assist survivors.

False. Women who are trafficked in labor situations (e.g., in industries like agriculture or manufacturing, in private homes as nannies and housekeepers, or in the service industry as maids and restaurant workers) are regularly and routinely sexually assaulted by traffickers and others. Women who are victims of sex trafficking, labor trafficking or both very much need and depend on the expertise of rape crisis programs for help and advocacy. Both U.S. citizen and non-citizen adults and children can be victims of both sex and labor trafficking and, again, all need the assistance of rape crisis programs.

In his introductory letter to the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report (2010 TIP Report), Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who directs the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, noted the drastic increases in women who are trafficked for labor calling it “the feminization of labor trafficking,” and says that:

…like their brothers, husbands, and sons, women are trapped in fields, factories, mines, and restaurants, often suffering the dual demons of forced labor and sexual assault. As we more fully understand the plight of women who are victims of labor trafficking, we continue to see the devastating effects of sex trafficking, where services for survivors are as rare as programs that address the demand for their victimization.[2]

Policy and Program Responses:

  1. Victim services programs, including counselors and clinicians, therapists and advocates, must be trained to be able to recognize and respond to human trafficking. Centers report that the victimization and trauma suffered by someone who is forced by a trafficker into prostitution is very different from that suffered by another who is date raped and still another who is raped by a stranger. All of these violations are severe and horrific and staff should be trained and familiar with how to counsel and advocate for these victims.[3] An association with a local anti-trafficking task force or coalition will undoubtedly bring local service providers in contact with local training events. It is also a good idea to ask the state coalition to provide a training specific to human trafficking for all programs in their state.[4] Rape crisis staff is not alone: far and away the greatest need facing all victim services agencies, law enforcement, prosecution and the courts is education about human trafficking. While some states and communities have organized human trafficking task forces or coalitions, there are still vast numbers of members of those same communities who do not yet have these associations or understand human trafficking. If those who are encountering victims of trafficking do not know how to ask about trafficking, they cannot be providing them with the comprehensive and specific services they need. Moreover, the crimes of human trafficking are going unnoticed and unprosecuted.

  1. Sexual violence programs should post and share information about local, statewide and national programs available to assist victims of trafficking. These include the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888-3737-888) and the Department of Justice trafficking in persons line (888-428-7581).[5] FREE multi-lingual posters, brochures and fact sheets, presentations, screening tools and other valuable awareness information are available at

  1. Rape crisis programs should join with local anti-trafficking coalition or task force members if there is one in their area. Like current efforts with Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART), at the core of effective service delivery for human trafficking victims at the community level is coordination. No one agency, organization or person can do what is necessary to help a survivor with her needs nor can one law enforcement agency effectively investigate and prosecute traffickers without the assistance and participation of the survivor witness.

  1. Sexual violence advocacy programs should also help to raise awareness about the high number of labor situations that do not involve the sex industry and where victims are sexually assaulted. At the same time, they can bring awareness to local task forces and coalitions as well as to the community at large concerning the numbers of women who are forced into prostitution and into committing other commercial sex acts such as stripping or pornography.

  1. Sexual assault and rape crisis programs should consider how to incorporate information, including training and awareness building activities into their current work. One expert suggests informing all members of the local SART about human trafficking, and building a training program into its local member and community training and awareness activities.

  1. State sexual assault coalitions and national advocacy programs should develop protocols to help local programs and responders to assist sex and labor trafficking survivors. State coalitions and local programs should also work on how to incorporate human trafficking into their prevention programs and develop a “Best Practices for Prevention Educators on Human Trafficking.” This would be valuable information to include in a range of prevention efforts from those directed toward at-risk youth to women in prison.

True or False: All persons who commit acts of prostitution[6] are victims of sex trafficking.

False. Federal law, on which many state laws or based, specifies that in order to be a victim of a sex trafficking, the person must be induced by force, fraud or coercion to perform a commercial sex act or if a minor under 18, be induced to perform such an act.[7]

Here, the distinction between children and adults is important. If a child is “induced” to perform a commercial sex act, then that child is a victim of sex trafficking. Thus, a 17 year old whose 21 year old boyfriend says “you will do this if you love me” and if by that he means for her to have sex with other men for money, she is a victim of trafficking and he is a trafficker. She should not be arrested but rather should be treated like a victim and given the help and services she needs.

On the other hand, if a child or an adult is committing acts of prostitution without being “induced” by anyone to do so (if a child) or without being subject to force, fraud or coercion (if an adult), that person would not be deemed a victim of trafficking under the law. Arguably, they are acting under their own volition. Sometimes this is referred to as “survival sex.”[8]

The 2010 TIP Report, speaks further to this when it describes adult sex trafficking:

When an adult is coerced, forced, or deceived into prostitution – or maintained in prostitution through coercion – that person is a victim of trafficking. All of those involved in recruiting, transporting, harboring, receiving, or obtaining the person for that purpose have committed a trafficking crime. Sex trafficking can also occur within debt bondage, as women and girls are forced to continue in prostitution through the use of unlawful “debt” purportedly incurred through their transportation, recruitment, or even their crude “sale” – which exploiters insist they must pay off before they can be free.[9]

Policy and Program Responses:

1. Law enforcement, prosecutors and victim services programs should carefully examine how their state laws and the federal law define human trafficking and prostitution and treat any child under the age of 18 as a victim of trafficking, per federal law. They should not conflate human trafficking and prostitution as there are important legal and practical differences. All sectors should take a victim-centered approach and work with victims of trafficking in their programs in ways that reflect that person’s history and experiences and needs.

2. Any organization or agency that comes in contact with any victim of trafficking should be aware of the programs and laws that are emerging to assist domestic minor victims of sex trafficking (DMST).[10] This training includes school counselors and school resource officers who may be able to prevent a child becoming prey to a trafficker and effectively intervene if they see the signs.

True or False: Compared to resources and program funding for sexual violence and domestic violence services and justice system expertise there are relatively few resources directed to assist victims of trafficking and investigate and prosecute traffickers.

True. Relative to domestic violence and sexual violence, there are only a few programs in existence that assist victims of trafficking and compared to domestic violence and sexual violence, only a small number of justice system responders nationwide are trained on human trafficking and thus are able to recognize it and support victims.

In terms of specialized human trafficking programs, there are some agencies and advocacy groups that work with only U.S. citizen minors or other children, others that may assist mainly or exclusively international victims. Some may focus on sex trafficking and others primarily on labor trafficking. These same areas of specialization are often reflected in law enforcement and prosecution agencies. For instance, many law enforcement agencies house their “human trafficking units” within their vice units or they may focus only on crimes against children (they would more accurately be called “child sex trafficking units”). This makes it a foregone conclusion that the focus of the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases will be on child sex trafficking.

Policy and Program Responses:

1. Greater resources must be directed to assist victims of trafficking, both within agencies that can be dedicated solely to helping these survivors and within agencies such as existing sexual violence, domestic violence, homeless, runaway, and youth and other programs. Victims of trafficking are in dire need of housing and a wide range of other kinds of basic assistance. Professionals who assist them need more extensive and in-depth training and access to resources from others in the community such as with mental and physical health care, legal representation and basic living needs.

2. Law enforcement and prosecution units should consider whether their current responses to sex and labor trafficking might be lopsided or limited when deployed. If the focus is on sex trafficking, these professionals should also be trained and organized to pursue labor trafficking crimes that are committed in their areas, particularly as most women who are labor trafficked are also victims of sexual violence.


Prosecutors, law enforcement, judges, rape crisis center staff, counselors, advocates, clinicians, and all others who assist, represent, advocate for victims of sexual violence must understand that they will see women who are victims of human trafficking. These can be survivors of sex trafficking or labor trafficking and even in labor cases they will very likely have faced rape and other forms of sexual abuse at the hands of human traffickers. This makes it all the more important for STOP administrators and state Implementation Plans to consider how to train and equip their core STOP grant recipients with the knowledge and resources to be able to investigate human trafficking crimes, prosecute traffickers, and assist sexual assault survivors of both forms of trafficking with their unique needs.

[1] This article appeared in the March/April 2011 issue of Administrators’ Corner, the newsletter for STOP Grant administrators, which is produced by the STAAR Project of the Alliance of Local Service Organizations.

[2] U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 (2010 TIP Report) found at

[3] For instance see for information on training and assistance.

[4] E.g., The North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Abuse (NCCASA) employs an anti-trafficking coordinator, and has featured statewide sex trafficking workshops and publications; see and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence (FCASV) provided a statewide training conference in February 2010.

[5] For the Department of Health and Human Services information see For the National Human Trafficking Hotline see For the Department of Justice see

[6] As prostitution is defined in law.

[7] See the Victims of Trafficking Violence Prevention Act of 2000,

(8) SEVERE FORMS OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS.—The term ‘‘severe forms of trafficking in persons’’ means—

(A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or

(B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

(9) SEX TRAFFICKING.—The term ‘‘sex trafficking’’ means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.

[8] Many argue that the larger conditions of society that devalue, objectify and oppress women and children, as well as others who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are coercive in that there are insufficient alternatives to economic survival for many beyond selling their bodies for sex. This view of “coercion” does not meet requirements under federal law.

[9] TIP Report found at The 2010 TIP report goes further in the “Topics of Special Interest” section to say: “Prostitution by willing adults is not human trafficking regardless of whether it is legalized, decriminalized, or criminalized. However, pursuant to the TVPRA of 2008, the definitions of human trafficking under U.S. law are not construed to treat prostitution as a valid form of employment.”

[10] See The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: America’s Prostituted Children on the website of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center at