How did you become involved in the movement against sex trafficking and sexual exploitation?
I don’t have any deep answers to that. In fact, I’m going to be very honest and put my cards on the table about this. I was just looking to have fun when I discovered social media (Twitter and Facebook). Eventually, I happened upon Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore talking about human trafficking. Frankly, I thought they were very cool people and I wanted them to think I was cool. So, I started following them. As I continued to read their comments, I was led to survivors, victims, activists and groups working to end human trafficking. And I totally lost my heart to the victims, and to this cause. Once you lose your heart in this, there is no turning back. The number of estimated sex and labor trafficking victims globally is at least 21 million. This was no longer about being cool to me; this was about saving the victims from this nightmare.
What draws you to support people who are trafficked and sexually exploited?
I learned that this was a real issue, globally, including right here in the US. Even in my state, Michigan. I began to read about victims and survivors of sex trafficking and my heart broke. Especially when I realised that children were being sold for sex – little girls and little boys sold globally for sex trafficking. My heart broke as I learned more and more. I rarely slept. I knew I had to try to do something to end the horror of this nightmare. There are so many groups, books and movies that tell the stories about what is happening. The PBS multi-part documentary series, Half the Sky, was life changing. There are so many things like that available for people to educate themselves about human trafficking.
What does your work involve?
I raise awareness about this unspeakable nightmare, through both Twitter and posts on my own Facebook page, Raising Awareness about Modern Day Slavery. I donate money to groups that are working to rescue victims, and to groups that open homes to help rescued victims recover from the trauma of sex trafficking.
I work for Traffic Jam and Traffic Jam Canada. Both groups have many musicians and celebrities supporting them and raising awareness. Both groups also have global concerts to raise money to rescue trafficking victims and to open the rehabilitation homes I mentioned. My job with Traffic Jam is to reach out to musicians and ask them if they would be willing to mention human trafficking during a concert they already have scheduled and ask for donations to help end trafficking. I’m very happy to say that most are very excited to join in the work to end trafficking. By the way, I work for free….as does everybody involved with Traffic Jam (including founder, Paul Myhill) and Traffic Jam Canada (including founder, Brian Parsons).
My wonderful friend, Yvonne Williams, works tirelessly to bring attention to human trafficking, and I’ve been working with her too. Her goal and dream is to have each state participating in her ‘I Promise To Do My Part’ Campaign, which in her words is, “…to engage our youth across America in the issue of human trafficking.” I believe Yvonne will get this program in every state.
I also distribute materials from Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) to local truck stops. I’m not a trucker, but TAT didn’t care and got the materials out to me within a week of my request. I put up posters and TAT’s wallet cards, which include the Human Trafficking Hotline, 1-888-373-7888. Much sex trafficking happens at truck stops.
What legal improvements or changes would help to abolish human trafficking and sexual exploitation?
The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPA) was not renewed. We need President Obama to do this to help victims of sex trafficking. The TVPA It is the largest piece of human rights legislation to ever pass the U.S. Congress. It comprehensively addresses the domestic and international dimensions of human trafficking. Every three years, the law is updated in order to make improvements, fill critical gaps, and cope with the changing nature of human trafficking and the changing tactics of traffickers. In the current legislation to renew the law, Congress added several important improvements, including the Child Protection Compact Act, which would help eradicate the exploitation of children for slave labor or commercial sex in developing countries by offering additional resources and training for law enforcement, protection of survivors, and deterrence through apprehension and prosecution of traffickers. It has not been renewed yet.
But I am thrilled that some laws have been passed, recently, in many states to help treat victims as victims and not criminals.
For anyone else who wants to be involved, what can other people do to help?
There’s so much people can do. Easy things – simply educate yourself about sex trafficking and then start posting about it on your own Facebook and/or Twitter page. If you don’t use social media, raise awareness at your church. If you don’t go to church, get involved with your state and your city politicians and educate them that human trafficking is happening in their backyard. If you can afford it, donate to groups and organisations that are working to end trafficking.
I would love to share something that happened as a result of me simply tweeting about sex trafficking: I became friends with a beautiful young woman in Poland. Her name is Magda M. Olchawska and she is an author of children’s books and a film writer. After reading my tweets for a while, this amazing woman tweeted to me that she was going to write a film about human trafficking. And she did! Anna and Modern Day Slavery will be released this year. All of the actors involved donated their time and talent and Ms Olchawska is going to release Anna and Modern Day Slavery FREE, online. That’s the power of simply tweeting about human trafficking. Anna and Modern Day Slavery will raise awareness about human trafficking.
What are your plans for the future?
I will continue on this path to end modern day slavery. I have no choice; my heart is dedicated to this. I’ll continue with my own Facebook page, with Traffic Jam and Traffic Jam Canada. I will continue to raise awareness about sex trafficking. One goal I have is to get a group started in my city, hopefully, even open a home to support rescued victims.
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