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My Words as Weapons: Time for some good news

Since I just launched my second book, my blog has been heavily concentrated in author related content, meaning I’ve neglected my other purpose of spreading awareness about human trafficking.   Sometimes getting caught up in the mire of that topic can become a heavy weight, and I just wanted to think happier thoughts for a while.

Here we are, smack in the middle of the 2014 World Cup. I enjoy soccer and have been watching quite a few of the games, trying not to think about the implications of so many men gathered in one place for a month long sporting event in a country that is already one of the worst as far as the sex trade on human trafficking is concerned. So I thought I might write about this, but then I remembered that I covered that concept already back at the time of the Super Bowl, and I thought, Maybe I could bring some happy news once.

And so, this time I share, not my own words as weapons, but an encouraging story that shows that if people, groups, governments work together, we can free people.

This is one link that came to me through my subscription to the Trafficking Report offered by traffickinghope.org

 

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/23/fbi-trafficking-sex-children/11271829/

My Words as Weapons: The Johns

There is a book that has sat on my shelf for over a year now that I just haven’t been able to open up to read.  I want to, and I did finally get through the intro recently, but I know it will make me angry and disgusted.  However, I feel it’s an important book to read in order to understand what is really behind the sex trafficking trade.

Victor Malarek, an investigative journalist, takes a stand to blame men for prostitution, a fresh perspective.  One sentence from the book jacket reads:

Ranging worldwide, from the United States to Europe, and from Costa Rica to Thailand, Cambodia, Ukraine, he dispels the myths that justify prostitution and puts on display the rationales of ordinary johns, their beliefs, their behaviors, and their astounding brotherhood.

I am intrigued, and I hope some of this insight might be useful in developing a plan and education to slow down and end human trafficking.

I also found a great interview with the author, under ten minutes.

I am vowing to put more effort into reading this and will report more as I read and when I finish. Time to get started.

My Words as Weapons: A Reminder

My hand from last year's Shine a Light on Slavery Day

My hand from last year’s Shine a Light on Slavery Day

Tomorrow is the day to join the End It Movement and place a red X on your hand to help create awareness for human trafficking, which is actually modern day slavery.  I don’t have much that is new to say on the subject right now. Actually, just the other day a gentleman from church was talking to me about my blog (I had forgotten that the blog address is part of my email signature and I had sent out an email in regard to an event the church was taking part it and he had linked to it from there) and mentioned that he especially found my posts on human trafficking to be interesting.

This is awesome because it means I’m doing something right!

So I thought back to some of the posts I have made on the subject and I decided perhaps it was time to collect them into one pace and share it in time for Shine a Light on Slavery Day.  If you find any of these to be informative, interesting, or just heartbreaking or maddening enough to want to help, wear a red X on your hand tomorrow and share my post(s).

Awareness is a start.

Here are some of my past human trafficking posts:

To Love… (the fundraiser has long since ended, but the other content still applies)

Let Freedom Ring!

Human Beings are NOT Commodities

Hope Lies in Creating Ripples

All Men are Created Equal…All

Anyone Can Make a Change

Stop it BEFORE it Happens

Stand in the Gap and Fight Injustice

Righteous Anger

How Words Shape our Perspectives

Armed for Battle

The Unnerving Rising Number

Creepy American Tourists

Joining the Fight with Others

Super Bowl Trafficking

Let’s Shine a Light on Slavery

Join the End It Movement on February 27 (next Thursday) to help “shine a light on slavery.”  You can do this by marking a large red X on your hand.

End It

Why?  What is a red X going to do besides make it look like you forgot to wash your hands really well after you went out to the club?

The red X alone cannot end slavery.  If it could, I’d buy stock in red Sharpies and do it every day; however, if you’re out and about the red X may induce curiosity in others, who will then ask you why you’re sporting a red X, and then you can inform them that slavery didn’t actually end with the Emancipation Proclamation and that it does, in fact, still exist all over the world, including our own “free country,” the United States.  And then, BOOM, you’ve helped create awareness.  Changes cannot be made if nobody knows this exists, but if everybody knows, an outrage will spread and changes WILL be made through the stirring of our hearts to this injustice.  With awareness, a movement of action will spread.

There are ten great organizations joined in this coalition and all are committed to creating awareness, ending slavery, and/or rehabilitating those who are rescued out of human trafficking.  You can and should check them all out here.

Once you read this, please spread the word.  Share this post; share the website; wear your red X next Thursday; get involved any way you can.  Over 27,000,000 imprisoned people’s voices can be heard if you help.

http://enditmovement.com/#featured_video

My Words as Weapons: The Unnerving Rising Number

As I mentioned last week, my Wednesday blog is about human trafficking.  If I can keep you informed, perhaps you’ll pass the knowledge along, and enough people will be enraged to actually do something to make a change.

Today’s post will be short because I know people are busy this week with Thanksgiving preparations.  Happy Thanksgiving, by the way.

When I first was drawn into the fight against human trafficking a few years back, the estimated number of people enslaved around the world was 27 million.  Today as I research, many of the organizations are changing the number to an estimated 30 million!  We need more people fighting and sharing awareness so this number will stop increasing and will instead begin declining.

3 million more people enslaved.  Heartbreaking.

Of course, these are all estimated numbers anyway, and what does that mean exactly?  The word trafficking implies movement, right? Selling, trading, importing, exporting people.  Any time money exchanges hands for a person. It’s not like there is legal paperwork tracing the whereabouts of these unfortunate people, so numbers must be estimated by the compiling of many variables.  I guess, technically, the number could be lower, but most say even this updated number is most likely a conservative estimate, meaning, there’s a good chance the victim count is higher.

This Thanksgiving, give thanks if you know where all your loved ones are and that they are safe.  Pray for those who are not.

Proverbs 31:8-9

My Words as Weapons: Armed for Battle

A few posts back, I reasserted my battle cry to wage war on human trafficking, to brandish my sword.  How exactly am I to do that?  What exactly is my metaphorical sword?  I’m a writer, so obviously it’s my words.  I’d love to swoop in, wearing a fancy cape and mask, take out all the human traffickers with some sort of non-human special ability, and bring all those enslaved to safety (and given the chance, I would), but realistically, at least for now, my best way to fight is to inform others.  The more people know, the more they can do.  The more aware we are, the more we can prevent.  From here on out, my focus-less blog will have a clear focus at least once a week, Wednesdays. I may use the chance to reflect some thoughts on human trafficking, to highlight various organizations, or just record some basic facts. The rest of the week I’ll continue to be all over with my thoughts.

Today’s focus: Prevention

Because so few people still have an understanding of what human trafficking actually is (modern day slavery), even fewer people realize it is not just one of those things that is happening to other people in other parts of the world.  It is a frightening fact that human trafficking is happening here in our own part of the world, and it could happen to people we know, because so many are uninformed.  It doesn’t matter if you live in a big city, the suburb, or the sticks; human trafficking is likely closer to you than you think.

Image borrowed from FCAHT

Image borrowed from FCAHT

I live in Florida and discovered The Coalition Against Human Trafficking, based out of Central Florida.  After liking them on Facebook, when I scan my news feed, I now come across articles they share about human trafficking rings all over Central Florida, some in small towns, and some even run by teenagers!  Some unbelievable stuff is happening right in my own back yard, so there’s a good chance it’s happening where you are too.  I don’t say this to cause fear.  I say this to create awareness.  Just because something is ignored does not mean it does not exist.  It’s much better to be aware of it in order to prevent it from happening to the people in our own lives, even if some are not willing to extend much beyond themselves to stop the issue. Just reaching out to those who are close can make a difference.

I cringe, pray, and cry a little every time I see a notification of a young missing girl because I know there’s a very good chance she has fallen victim to human trafficking in some form.  It truly breaks my heart.  One reason the number of victims to human trafficking can only be an estimate is because so many just disappear.  The thing about young girls is that they never think these things will happen to them and they aren’t always as careful as they should be.  Some of them don’t realize they even have anything to fear, so they have no idea they are even in danger.  That’s why I am happy to see over the last few years that many organizations are beginning to create and implement awareness and prevention curriculum for the young people in our society.  It’s a start.

I found this random PDF with some tips on what to look for and how to protect yourself and loved ones.  It seems to somehow be connected with the Not for Sale organization.

Click here to find a way stay informed and/or become involved in the fight.

How Words Shape Our Perspectives

Words hold power.  We all know we’re not supposed to judge someone on appearances, so maybe we listen to someone else speak of that person, or we read about that person.  The thing is, the connotations of words still shape and color a picture in our minds.  Connotations are the emotions and nuances of words, and the English language is a tricky one that way.  A good writer knows he or she can effectively craft a character this way, and so many other points.  The problem with this is being careless with our words and creating the wrong impression.

My intention today, however, is not to give a writing or English lesson.  My intention is to nudge people to think more carefully about words already used out there and to dig beyond the words to the people the words are about.  Never judge solely on appearances or words because words can be tainted, whether intentional or not.  Keep this in mind while watching and reading the news.

Judge with your heart.

A little something I used to do to help my students understand the importance of connotation and word choice was to list some words and have them put them in order of weakest to strongest or good to bad (if I gave them a full spectrum of words) .

An example:

furious, mad, upset, miffed, enraged, angry

The result would be close to this:

upset, mad, angry, furious, enraged, and “what is miffed?”

Forget miffed.  At that point we would have had a talk about slang words and how they change from generation to generation.  It’s irrelevant here. I’m just making sure you’re still paying attention.

If I gave you a list of words to describe a person and asked you to put them in order of your personal feelings towards him or her from sympathetic to unsympathetic, what order would you put these words into?

prostitute, trafficking victim, hooker, exploited child

Your list would most likely look something like this:

exploited child, trafficking victim, prostitute, hooker

Explanation:  People tend to feel automatic sympathy toward a child; trafficking victims sound like they can be any age, and our minds would automatically want to think they were not children; prostitute sounds maybe just a little better than a hooker who is obviously lower class

Something like all that, right?

What if I said all those choices are descriptions of the same person?  Oftentimes a child becomes a victim of trafficking, and is then exploited for years as a prostitute, and because most people automatically assume a prostitute has no morals, it becomes fairly easy to tack on the stigma of the word hooker.

The problem with this is that very few children desire to grow up to sell their bodies.  They want to be doctors, veterinarians, singers, firefighters, or astronauts.  Few people would ever make such a choice.  They are either forced into it, or their weaknesses are exploited.  Most of them want out of such a lifestyle but are either trapped physically by literal chains and locks, guns, or drug dependence or in bondage by emotional chains of helplessness, dependence, self-loathing, or fear.

When we begin to think of these people as individuals instead of classifying them all the same we see them as daughters, sons, siblings, and friends who just want love and acceptance, and most likely a new life.

Human trafficking does not just cover those who are tricked, sold or kidnapped and forced to work in fields or brothels for little to no wages, but any person who becomes a commodity.  If we consider this properly, they are all exploited and they are all victims, even if we don’t see the chains that bind them.  30 million people around the world are enslaved in some way today.  Right now. In this very moment.

According to the Not For Sale Campaign

Slavery occurs when one person completely controls another person, using violence or the threat of violence, to maintain that control, exploits them economically and they cannot walk away.

Let’s all help to empower them to go beyond being victims to becoming survivors.  We need to change our perspectives and to reach out in love and show them dignity.

Righteous Anger

I’ve been caught up in the world of marketing my book, because that is a never-ending process, but looking back over my recent posts, I realize that I’ve lost sight here of a big part of who I am, or who I want to be anyway.

One reason I left teaching, aside from wanting more time to write and promote my book, was to be a better person and to reach out to the broken in various ways.  I was so closed off.  I do not have much of a resource of money to give, but I can give of myself, which I feel is more rewarding anyway.  Instead of writing a check or donating online for a cause, I like to actually meet the people I am helping, or at least to feel like I am physically doing something.  I did this recently on a mission trip to Guatemala and while I worked at a local food pantry.  I enjoy this sort of activity because I feel like I am doing good with my time.  Of course I know I am not going to change the world alone, but I like being a part of the bigger picture.

Human trafficking, modern day slavery, is the specific area where I wish to help make a difference.  With numbers like 27 million people worldwide being enslaved, it seems like a hopeless fight.  But we must have hope.  And if enough people have hope, we can work together, for the bigger picture, and bring this evil to an end.

Because I live in a small town, I do not really see the effects of human trafficking close to me in my daily life, so I try to keep this injustice in front of me.  I follow various organizations that work to fight it and I research it, keeping it in the front of my mind and weighing heavily on my heart.  I try to imagine myself or people I love living through these atrocities, because that makes me angry.  I know it’s not good to go through life angry, but sometimes anger is a good thing.  Righteous anger keeps us focused on what we need to change.  When that anger brings us to action, we see hope and change, even if only in small ways.  It brings me joy in the middle of the sadness, because a difference can be made, even if just one life at a time.

Again, one reason I left teaching was to pursue a way to make more of a difference in this area.  I recently found this quote:

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

– Frederick Buechner

To me, this is hopeful.  I love being able to reach out and make a difference.  I find gladness in that.  I also find gladness in writing.  Perhaps my writing is one small way I can incite and inspire action and change in the world’s deep hunger of healing for the people currently struggling with enslavement.  More to come on this.

All Men were Created Equal… All

I’m reposting last year’s Independence Day edition, partly because I didn’t have time for a new one, and partly because I figured a year later I might get a different group reading it.

caverns of my mind

The Declaration of Independence was written specifically to dissolve the relationship “the Colonies” had with Great Britain due to the tyrannical acts of George III, and the result was the birth of this great free nation we now call the United Stated of America.  We all know, or should know that from history class.  However, freedom and independence, for which many sacrificed and died to secure for us, should not be ideas only we can enjoy, but should be the general consideration of human beings to each other, everywhere.

No, the irony that Thomas Jefferson, the writer of this great document which gives us this day to celebrate our freedom, owned slaves is not lost on me.  He was a complex man, and though he owned several slaves, he actually was against slavery and wanted it to be abolished.  I remember learning something once about his attacking Great Britain for…

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Stop it BEFORE it Happens

This is the time of year I really kick up my running training for a crazy 200 mile relay race called Ragnar, which has me reminiscing on the past few years:

In November of 2010, my team of twelve ran from Tampa to Daytona Beach and we raised, united with another team of twelve, $2040 for Love 146, an amazing organization that fights human trafficking.

Half my team (6 travel together by van)

January of this year, my team of twelve (some repeats and some newbies) ran from Miami to Key West for the same cause and raised $1020.

Team This is STILL My AWESOME Back

No worries.  I’m not fundraising.  My point here is that now I’m in training mode for my third Ragnar (Miami to Key West again), and it’s weird NOT to be fundraising.  We decided that this time we just wanted to run for fun because the fundraising for a cause  can get stressful, and we just wanted to be ridiculous without worrying about who we are representing this time.  After all, this year our team name is Ragnarrhea, and we are each assuming poop related names for the fun of it (I’m Exrecia).  Classy, I know.

Terrinator after the completion of my last run

The point I’m attempting to make, though I have now beaten around the bush so many times all the branches have been demolished, is that though I am not running for the cause this year, I do not want to forget to remind others of the importance of the cause.

I’ve always been one who cares about justice, and I’ve gotten in trouble on a few occasions for speaking up in a moment of passion, but until a few years ago I really didn’t have a particular cause I believed in, but now I do.  I’ve mentioned it here before, so you may have read about this already and are now yawning.  That’s fine, but I may have some newcomers, and I cannot chance missing the opportunity to create awareness whenever possible.  After all, I am “The Terrinator.”

In June, I wrote what turned out to be my most read blog post, “Human Beings are NOT Commodities.”   For further information on human trafficking, please give it a read.  The long story short is that human trafficking is modern day slavery.

I’ve been reading about and watching videos posted  indicating that our government is recognizing the issue and taking steps to combat this horrible act of inhumanity, which makes me happy.  But the true and basic concept of this is that it is already unconstitutional because of Amendment XIII, and it has been unconstitutional since that amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865!  Slavery is not new, it just wears a new face.

Robert and I recently decided that since abolitionism is a huge passion of ours we wanted to give regularly to the cause.  (It’s no great amount, but if many people gave even a small portion, a large impact could be made.)  When I went to Love 146.org to sign up, I was given the choice for which part of the process we wanted to impact.  My heart really lies with the recovery and rehabilitation of these survivors; however, I instead decided to give regularly to the prevention aspect.  I am both logical and optimistic.  If we can reach out and prevent this from happening, there will be no more need for recovery…eventually.  That’s my goal.

You don’t need to share my passion.  But you should find one of your own then.  It is healthy and human to care, and when you can see even a glimpse of your impact, you will feel fulfilled.  Touching lives is why we exist.

Love 146 is only one of many organizations out there set on extirpating human trafficking.  If you are interested in learning about more, you need do little more than just Google (I love that this is a recognized verb now) human trafficking and research the many organizations on your own.