3 Critical Facts About Labor Trafficking We Can’t Ignore

3 Critical Facts About Labor Trafficking We Can’t Ignore

 There are an estimated 313,000 victims of trafficking in Texas, and a whopping 75% of them are experiencing labor trafficking. It’s time we talk about them. We need to make sure our conversations and our actions are centered as much on justice for victims and survivors of labor trafficking as they are on victims and survivors of sex trafficking.

1. Labor Trafficking Afflicts Every Corner Of The Globe

Labor trafficking—when someone is physically forced, threatened, or tricked into working–afflicts every corner of the globe, just like sex trafficking. Even with limited data on human trafficking, it’s clear: labor trafficking is more common than sex trafficking. Yet all too frequently, we ignore the signs and impact of labor trafficking, we don’t report the crime, and we never empower victims to leave their dangerous trafficking situations.

When we think of labor trafficking, we think “not us.”

Labor trafficking brings to mind stories of factory fires in Bangladesh, children in Nike factories overseas, young girls in garment sweatshops in some distant, far-off place making 30 cents an hour. And that’s true. Labor trafficking can and does take those forms.

2. But it’s more than that. It’s close to home.

Labor trafficking can be experienced by the nanny for those kids down the street. It happens to workers at that donut shop you always go to on Fridays before work starts. To the day laborers you see waiting for work at Home Depot.

Labor trafficking is here. It’s in Houston, it’s in our communities. And it’s something that we can see – if we know the signs.

We want to help you know what to look out for, so we’re launching a blog series on labor trafficking. We are going to talk with you about three types of businesses where labor trafficking can thrive, and give you, the customer, questions to consider as you support these businesses.

3. Labor Trafficking is a business. Vote with your dollar.

As consumers, our purchasing power is a huge tool at our disposal. Maybe you have heard the phrase “vote with your dollar.” By actively making a choice to spend our money on fair trade and ethically produced goods and services and by refusing to spend it on exploitative business practices, we shape the economy.

As consumers, our purchasing decisions tell people and companies what and who we value.

We as consumers must learn about dangerous working environments, red flags for exploitation, and best practices. Knowing what is fair trade is a good, necessary starting point, and there are several resources out there for you! You can check out Fair Trade USA for information and shopping tips, or some of the webinars that UAHT has released online.

But it can’t end there.

We have to know the signs of labor trafficking and exploitation, and we need to be engaged as consumers if we truly want to create a world where all are free. 

The fight to end human trafficking is a journey. Thank you for joining us on it.

 

 

National Human Trafficking Hotline is a toll-free number anyone can call to report or get more information on human trafficking. Call 1-888-373-7888.

Prostitution & Human Trafficking: What’s the Difference?

Prostitution & Human Trafficking: What’s the Difference?

It can be complicated – however, one thing you know for sure is that she has been exploited.

Kim is 16 years old, poor, in and out of school, no job, and wants to help her family survive.

After her mother lost her job, their family is left in terrible debt. A man her friend told her about says he can get her a job as a live-in housekeeper in another city for a few months.

She gets in the man’s truck and is transported across the Texas border to Mexico where she does not speak the language and is sold into a brothel where she is forced to have sex with 10-15 men every night. Her virginity is sold for $20. She has no money and no way to get back home.

Michelle is 26 years old; also, poor, was once married at 17 and has five children.

After her husband left their family, it was up to Michelle to provide for herself and her children. Without an education or job opportunities, she reluctantly goes into the city and starts to prostitute herself at a bar. She sends the small amount she receives to her mother who is raising her children. It is not the life she would choose for herself, but she does not see another way.

Kim and Michelle are both affected by poverty and social exploitation.

Both have been given few choices and opportunities in life. But one is a willing participant in the sex industry and the other is a victim of human trafficking. They both need help finding their way out, and they both need compassion – but their situations are not the same.

If the sex industry were a continuum;

on one side are adult men and women who are knowing and willing participants in prostitution – whether through direct exploitation, because of poverty or abuse, or by choice, they use prostitution as a means for income. On the other end of the spectrum are human trafficking victims — those forced into the sex industry against their will by some measure of force, fraud, or coercion.

Elements of Sex Trafficking

Act: Recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons.

Means: Threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or vulnerability, or giving payments or benefits to a person in control of the victim.

Purpose: Prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, or slavery.

Elements of Prostitution

Act: Sexual act or contact with another person in return for giving or receiving a fee or a thing of value.

Means: To invite, entice, offer, persuade, or agree to engage in prostitution.

The Differences

Human Trafficking

In recent years, human trafficking has become a more common topic.

Accurate estimates on the number of people enslaved today are nearly impossible because of the hidden nature of the crime. Some estimate the global number to be near 50 million, while 24.9 million people are estimated to be in labor and sexual slavery alone.

But whatever the exact numbers are, it is true that at this moment there are people who are physically locked behind closed doors, who are threatened with their family’s safety, and who are paying off debts by servicing men in brothels or working without pay.

Human trafficking forcefully converts a human being to a commodity. One person profits by stripping rights and dignity from another person. There is no element of choice for the trafficked person; he or she is a product in a multi-billion-dollar industry.

Willing Participants in Prostitution

Prostitution is another oftentimes difficult reality for millions globally. Many women, particularly those living in impoverished areas, turn to prostitution because there are very little economic opportunities elsewhere. An uneducated woman can make fast money, she is under pressure to provide for her family, and she lives within widespread cultural acceptance of the sex industry. Prostitution quickly becomes a viable option — sometimes seemingly the only one.

One study of prostituted women in nine countries found that 70-95 percent of the women were physically assaulted, 60-75 percent were raped, and 89 percent of the women told researchers that they urgently wanted to escape prostitution. Even if individuals choose this profession, globally it is a dangerous one full of exploitative and demeaning circumstances.

What is UAHT doing about it?

Our mission is to end human trafficking through preventing exploitation, educating the community, and empowering survivors.

We believe that no human life should be for sale. Children and teenagers, men and women are exploited for sex and labor in our city every day. We exist to change that.

Through awareness, we turn our community’s attention to the atrocity of human trafficking. Our neighbors become empowered to join our strategy to address this human rights violation.

Through education, we prepare professionals, first responders, and community members to recognize and address human trafficking solutions. Institutions become qualified to aid victims and survivors with a trauma-informed approach.

Through programs, support groups, and direct outreach, we bridge the gap between service providers and those who need them. We interact with overlooked people to identify exploitation and connect them with appropriate resources and restoration.

Commercial sexual exploitation needs to be stopped. To effect change, we need to respond to the specific needs of both people in prostitution (even by choice) and people who are victims of human trafficking– and all those in between. With the commitment of our team an our community, we can and will continue to help one survivor at a time.

5 Fair Trade Summer Fashion Items

5 Fair Trade Summer Fashion Items

Memorial Day has come and gone, and you know what that means! That’s right, it is officially summer! Okay, maybe not officially, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get ready for some fun in the sun with these summer essentials.

Now, some of these might not be applicable to your socially distant summer but fret not! Some of these products, you can use regardless of wrenches thrown in summer plans. Others are ones you can stock up on for when beaches and barbeques are open for business again. So, shop on, and get ready for summer 2020!

How is shopping a solution to human trafficking?

Buying items from brands that pay fair wages, hire survivors, and invest in their community, keeps people free. You ensure that a farm worker can provide for her family and that a sex trafficking victim can stay away from his captor.

Imagine a creative and skilled survivor just learned that someone purchased a necklace made by her hands. A smile lights up her face as she remembers she is loved and capable because you choose to buy her craft – rather than her body.

Each purchase is an encouragement to press on into pursing a fair and free future. We’ve made it easy for you to fight human trafficking through fun summer shopping. Look at our fun list below. There is something for everyone!

Summer Clothing

For people of all genders, shorts are a summer staple. That being said—a sad truth is that fair trade menswear has been neglected in the clothing conversation. Enter Marine Layer! They have a broad selection of menswear, but for warmer weather, check out their collection of shorts and trunks! (And if menswear isn’t your thing, don’t worry—they have plenty of other style options, including for kids and for the gals).

For a further guide to ethical menswear, this list from The Good Trade can help you start searching. And to find unique, eco-friendly (and budget friendly) clothing across the board, you can look at thrift stores, or consider doing a closet swap with friends that wear your size! For those socially distancing, there are always online thrift shops available. My personal favorite to online-shop at is happygirlthrift, a woman-run, Kansas-based Instagram account selling secondhand wears and accessories.

Swimwear

Get ready for swimsuit season with some of these pieces from Boden USA, a Britain-based company that is committed to environmental sustainability and fair labor practices across the board.

You can also check out some gender-inclusive, size inclusive options at Tomboy X. This company is eco-friendly, sweatshop free, and dedicated to promoting a “human agenda,” supportive of all.

Stuff Kids Love

Speaking of swimsuits: Where can you buy them for kids? Many fair-trade stores only offer options for a limited (read: adult-sized) audience. If you’re shopping for a little loved one, we have some options for you.

Hanna Andersson has some great swimsuits for kids in their swimwear collection. And if you have older kiddos or are shopping for a wider age range, Eternal Creation has clothing and accessories for ages 0-14.

For more brands and places to check out, Good On You’s ethical children’s brand directory has you covered! 

Accessories

Bags are a must have for any hot summer plans (and for Insta pics for those of us who are sheltering at home but want to look like we have hot summer plans). Trades of Hope has a wide assortment for you to choose from, from wristlets to totes! They also have a wide range of prices, if you’re concerned about your budget. I personally am obsessed with their Mosaic Clutches—each of which is as unique and dazzling as the artisan who crafts it.

Towels – If you’re in need of a beach towel, or want to stock up for when pools are allowed to open, Fair and Square Imports sells a gorgeous Turkish Towel in three different hues as part of their Summer R&R Collection. They’re supporting a great cause, and can pull double duty as a scarf or a travel shawl! The store is based out of Mckinney, Texas, but makes online shopping a breeze for those of us in Houston or elsewhere. 

Skincare & Sunscreen

A good sunscreen is an essential part of any summer routine, on the beach or off. To protect skin from damaging UVA beams, The Body Shop’s Aloe Soothing Moisture Lotion (SPF 15) is here for you! Additionally, the fair trade, community sourced aloe in the formula will keep your skin cool and moisturized during the hot Houston days. They also have a skin-brightening Vitamin C lotion in SPF 30, for those looking for a higher level of protection.

For an added boost: Put on sunscreen after a luxurious DIY exfoliation worthy of a spa. After brewing a cup of fair trade coffee from A 2nd Cup,  save the grounds! Mix them with some ethically sourced olive oil for an eco-friendly, budget friendly skin scrub that will leave your skin glowing and soft. This will keep in a sealed container for about three to five weeks, depending on batch size. An added bonus: by clearing away dead skin cells, combining this with an SPF will boost your summer tan!

And there you have it! Whether you’re staying in with the AC on blast, or are out on the beach, here’s to you having a fabulous, fun, ethically sourced summer!

Juneteenth: The History of Slavery and Human Trafficking

Juneteenth: The History of Slavery and Human Trafficking

Since the murder of George Floyd, all of us – advocates, allies, and detractors alike – have been encouraged to research and learn how the Black community has been impacted by societal and structural racism. I want to take a moment to challenge the idea that slavery is a thing of the past. The ideas that are put forth in this blog are not ones that I came to know from my own experiences. These are what I have learned from my own research into what the African-American community has been through, through the eyes of its’ own community members. 

For those who may not be aware, Juneteenth, (also known as Freedom Day and Jubilee Day in its’ earliest iterations) is a holiday that celebrates the news of the Emancipation Proclamation making its way into the most remote locations of Texas, the last of all states to receive the news. This was two and a half years after the initial Emancipation Proclamation, the executive order that effectively ended slavery, was put into effect on January 1st, 1863.

Did this mean that slavery really ended, or did it just take on a new form? 

After the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, laws were enacted to disproportionately target and arrest black men with the intention of prison sentences. These prison sentences would be spent on plantations where they were made to work to gain their freedom back. For many of them, this debt-like sentence would last the rest of their life. 

100 years later, segregation and Jim Crow laws plagued the nation, until the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s. The War on Drugs is the next manifestation of this timeline of structural racism. Black men and women were disproportionately impacted by The War on Drugs. From 1980-2010, the number of residents in correctional facilities increased from 300,000 to over 2 million, while crime rates fluctuated and show little correlation to the rise of incarceration. From 1985-2000, the U.S. saw a 1000% increase in drug-related offenses (Alexander, 2012). These drug-related arrests and incarcerations unduly target low-income Black communities. If you want to learn more on the history of structural racism in America, ‘The New Jim Crow’ by Michelle Alexander is an incredible starting point, that made a significant impact in my journey as an ally. 

You might ask, how is this related to human trafficking?

Human trafficking, at its core is a violation of basic human rights. It is often referred to ‘modern-day slavery.’ Human trafficking, too, impacts the Black community in an alarming way. Black men and women account for approximately 40% of all human trafficking victims domestically (Strother, 2018). In 2012, Black children accounted for 59% of all prostitution arrests (Strother, 2018).

It is extremely important for the anti-trafficking movement to recognize the historical oppression our Black friends, colleagues, family members, community members have all experienced and continue to experience. 

We must consider this when we think about impacting change upon this world. Echoing the old adage, ‘We must be the change we wish to see in the world.’ It really does start with us. 

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

At UAHT, the conversation around DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) has been ongoing since my onboarding in January of last year. We also discuss that looking inward is the first step in a lot of processes, but especially when thinking through what change looks like, and how we can bring change in our lives and the lives of those around us.

During these times, we ALL must look inward and see how we are bringing diversity, equity and inclusiveness on a personal level. It is just as important to examine what we are doing to do to the same for our communities and our environment. It starts with hard conversations, not just with those who agree with us, but those who disagree. It starts with opening our hearts, eyes and minds. It starts with you and it starts with me.  

Building A Free Future During COVID-19

Building A Free Future During COVID-19

Dear Friend,

One thing we know, human trafficking continues even with social distancing. In fact, COVID-19 created a perfect storm for exploiting our community.

Traffickers are grooming young boys and girls on social media. They haven’t stopped targeting vulnerable people, desperate to pay their mortgages and feed their families. 

Although this is a harsh reality in our city, we haven’t stop fighting for the safety of our families, friends, and neighbors. We know lives depend on us.   

For the last 7 weeks, we’ve been continuing our work protecting people struggling with homelessness, substance use, isolation, unemployment.

To fulfill our duty to protect our entire community and help flatten the curve, we quickly pivoted all our programs to fit the “new normal.”

Youth are staying safe from traffickers online through the prevention education videos developed by our team. Our relationships with survivors continue to strengthen as we send encouraging letters and videos. 

Clients in shelters, Spanish-speaking communities, and refugee and immigrant communities are receiving life-saving resources through the PSA’S we provide to our partners. 

Health professionals, first responders, and our community have access to our webinars for free, so they can continue to fight human trafficking. 

We continue to help survivors escape to safety.  

As social distancing incrementally lifts, we are considering how and when we will transition back to providing in-person services, while taking precautions to keep our team and our clients safe.

These are hard times. However, my heart is full of gratitude for the emails, phone calls, and messages we have received from you, asking how we are doing and what you can do to help.  

Thank you for your love, support, and engagementWe can’t do our work without you. Together with hope and action, we will build a future where all live free.  

For Freedom,

Timeka Walker, LMSW | Executive Director

P.S. There are lots of ways you can partner with us to help those vulnerable to trafficking!

Continuing the Mission Amid Crisis

Continuing the Mission Amid Crisis

Dear Friend,

I hope this finds you and your family well and safe. We realize these are unprecedented times, filled with uncertainty. But even as we adjust to life during social distancing and work to overcome fear of the unknown, we are confident that we will see the best of humanity emerge.

Fred Rogers once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

Be comforted that there are people tirelessly fighting for your good right now. Doctors and nurses, business owners and grocery store clerks, concerned family and neighbors are coming together to support you and offer the community help.

I hope that we can comfort you as well, as we fight for the freedom of oppressed men, women, and children in our city.

How is COVID-19 affecting our team and our mission?

Due to school closures and restrictions on large crowds, we’re forced to halt our programs for the next several weeks.

But we refuse to let this virus come between us and our mission. While COVID certainly affects us all, none are more affected than our most vulnerable at-risk children and those trapped in exploitation. Now more than ever, we need to care for trafficking survivors.

Additionally, to do our part to help flatten the curve, our team is working remotely for the next two weeks. But rest assured, we’re still responding to credible tips, connecting victims to care, and regularly calling our clients to meet their immediate and emotional needs.

We’re also using this time to prepare for the increase in care that is inveitably needed during and after a crisis.

We are:

  • Translating more materials to reach our Spanish-speaking neighbors,
  • Prepping for an influx of case-management needs; and
  • Improving our parent workshops to bring you the latest information on how to best protect your children.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Many of you have asked how you can help. While all of us are feeling the pressure of COVID-19, none feel it more than the vulnerable people we serve. We want to be ready to meet all their needs in the coming months. Funders are adjusting their giving schedule for the year, which means we don’t know if we’ll be able to operate at full capacity when we are needed the most.

Therefore, we are asking our supporters to please consider making a tax-deductible donation during this time to ensure care for those who are at-risk and for those who are currently being exploited.

Much love and peace,

Timeka Walker, LMSW | Executive Director