Do you want to report suspicious activity? Are you at risk of human trafficking? Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline.

Curriculum for Teachers & Parents

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Warning Signs That Someone Is Being Trafficked

Human trafficking is a problem in every state, and in every community.

If you believe that someone is being trafficked or exploited, call the The National Human Trafficking Resource Center to report your suspicions and seek help. All calls are treated anonymously:

1-888-3737-888

Here are some of the warning signs to look out for.

Common Work/Living Conditions

Lack of Control

Abnormal Behavior in Public

Poor Physical Health

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: ABDUCTING, FORCING, DECEIVING OR RECRUITING SOMEONE INTO WORKING AGAINST THEIR WILL. MOST COMMONLY FOR THE PURPOSES OF SEXUAL EXPLOITATION.

TRATA DE PERSONAS: RAPTAR O FORZAR, ENGAÑAR O RECRUTAR A PERSONAS PARA TRABAJAR EN CONTRA DE SU VOLUNTAD. COMUNMENTE CON EL PROPÓSITO DE USAR PARA EXPLOTACIÓN SEXUAL.

SEE FULL DEFINITION

"Trafficking in persons" shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs...

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83% OF CONFIRMED TRAFFICKING CASES IN THE UNITED STATES ARE AMERICAN BORN CITIZENS

It's hard to believe, but more humans are being used as slaves than ever before.

Between 700,000 and 4 million women and children will be trafficked this year, with the majority being forced to work in the sex trade. In America, there are an estimated 40,000 men, women and children enslaved at this very moment. If everyone who cares takes action, we can end slavery once and for all.

It's time.

MORE FACTS
CHILD SEX SLAVERY IN AMERICA
VICTIMS
NOT CRIMINALS
DISABLED CHILDREN TARGETED
is the international symbol for currency. We use it in our design to emphasize that no human being should be anyone else's property.

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Resources

These modern day abolitionists are fighting slavery across the globe. Here's how you can join them.

LONG-TERM SURVIVOR SUPPORT

The Coalition to Abolish Slavery & TraffickingThe Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST) is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual human rights organization providing comprehensive case management, services, and advocacy to survivors healing from the violence endured during slavery. CAST provides comprehensive long-term services through a three-pronged empowerment approach which includes Social Services, Legal Services, and Outreach and Training. The organization also operates the first shelter in the nation solely dedicated to serving victims of trafficking and established the first partnership of its kind with Saban Free Clinic – a family clinic in Los Angeles trained to address the health and mental health needs of trafficking victims.

FREEDOM THROUGH SOCIAL ENTERPRISE

Not For SaleNot For Sale uses the power of business and social enterprise to create viable alternatives to slavery. By empowering vulnerable communities, and engaging business, government and the grassroots, Not For Sale has created a modern day abolitionist movement in countries across the Globe. On November 1st and 2nd 2012, Not For Sale will be hosting Justice for the Bottom Billion - a Global Forum on stemming the tide of human trafficking.

PUSHING FOR LEGISLATIVE CHANGE

Polaris ProjectNamed after the North Star which guided slaves to freedom on the underground railroad, Polaris Project is one of the largest anti- trafficking organizations in the United States and Japan. The organization is active in lobbying for legislative change - including the current push for the CASE Act - and provides direct support to victims of trafficking. Polaris has been instrumental in providing training on human trafficking for law enforcement, social services and other public sector employees.

SUPPORTING SURVIVORS

GemsFounded by Rachel Lloyd, GEMS works with women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. The organization helps young girls transition out of the sex industry and get back to their full potential. GEMS was also instrumental in lobbying for passage of the Safe Harbor Act for Sexually Exploited Youth, which provides that girls under the age of 16, who are arrested in New York for prostitution will be treated as victims, rather than criminals.

HOLDING CALIFORNIA ACCOUNTABLE

GemsCalifornia harbors three of FBI's 13 highest child sex trafficking areas in the nation (Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego), and it has received an F rating from leading anti-trafficking organizations. California Against Slavery is coordinating a push for THE CASE ACT - a groundbreaking ballot initiative that will increase penalties for human trafficking, ensure increased support for survivors, and mandate training for law enforcement and other officials.

EMPOWERING CONSUMERS

Slavery FootprintThe Slavery Footprint website shows consumers how their consumption habits are connected to modern-day slavery, showing them just how many slaves it takes to support their lifestyle. Through the "Free World" mobile app and online action center, Slavery Footprint provides consumers with an outlet to voice their demand for products made without slave labor.

RESCUING AND RESTORING VICTIMS

Shared HopeShared Hope International is a leading light in the worldwide effort to prevent and eradicate sex trafficking and slavery. The organization uses every means possible to alert the vulnerable to the dangers of trafficking, and partners with local organizations to offer victims of the sex trade safe shelter, therapy, spiritual and physical healing, education and vocational training. Shared Hope International also campaigns for fundamental cultural and legislative change to ensure the just treatment of victims and the prosecution of perpetrators alike.

24-HOUR ANTI-TRAFFICKING HOTLINE

Shared HopeThe National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. It exists to help people to report tips/suspicious activity; connect with anti-trafficking services in their area, or to request training, technical assistance or anti-trafficking resources. The NHTRC is a program of Polaris Project, a non-profit, non-governmental organization working exclusively on the issue of human trafficking. NHTRC is not a government entity, law enforcement or an immigration authority. It can be reached at 1-888-3737-888

THE GOVERNMENT ANTI-SLAVERY EFFORT

Justice DepartmentThe fight to end slavery must include a robust response from Government. Every year, the Department of Justice publishes an overview of government efforts to and the trafficking of people. Covering everything from law enforcement and prosecutions to training and grant funding, this is a vital resource for anti-trafficking activists.

PROVIDING SAFE REFUGE

Courtney's HouseTina Frundt was “freed” from sex trafficking as a teen, only to be forced into the juvenile detention system. She founded Courtney's House as an alternative – funding a group residential home for survivors where they could heal, recover and move beyond their experiences without criminalization. Their first group home was forced to close due to lack of funding, but they are actively working toward a new home. In the meantime, they are providing drop-in services, outreach and law enforcement training.

INTERNATIONAL EMPOWERMENT

FAIR GirlsFAIR Girls provides education, outreach and empowerment to girls who have been, or are at risk of being, sexually exploited. With programs in Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, Uganda, and the United States, the organization creates opportunities for girls to become confident, happy, healthy young women. From emergency response through individual care to group empowerment workshops and prevention education, FAIR Girls works toward a world where all young women can live free from exploitation.

FIGHTING TRAFFICKERS IN JAPAN

Polaris Project JapanPolaris Project Japan is the only organization in Japan solely dedicated to combating all forms of human trafficking. They are a leading voice for victims of human trafficking and for calling attention to this human rights issue. Polaris runs case management services for survivors, a nationwide hotline for reporting trafficking, national education and awareness-raising efforts, policy advocacy, corporate outreach, and prevention programs.

SUPPORTING SURVIVORS IN SPAIN

Proyecto EsperanzaProyecto Esperanza (Project HOPE) is the response of the Congregation of the Sisters Adorers to the problem of trafficking in women in Spain. Since 1999, the group has offered a comprehensive support program for women who are victims of human trafficking for the purposes of exploitation. The Project has a multidisciplinary team who consider trafficking-in-persons to be a violation of human rights. The team consists of lawyers, educators, social workers, intercultural mediators, psychologists and other professionals.

COMBATING VIOLENCE AGAINST GIRLS

HUMAN RIGHTS FOR GIRLSGirls in the United States are subject to violence with horrifying frequency. One in four American girls will experience sexual violence by the age of 18. Girls aged 16 to 19 are four times more likely than others to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. And, nearly one in five women reports being subject to rape in her lifetime.

Violence against girls in the US is a human rights issue. Human Rights Project For Girls works to ensure it is viewed as such, and that ending this epidemic becomes a priority for our society.

KRISTI HOUSE

Kristi HouseKristi House's Project GOLD program assists commercially sexually exploited children by offering coordinated service to the victims and through training and awareness building in Miami Dade County. Kristi House, as the Miami Dade County CAC, strives to create local model programs that are easily replicated in other communities and continuously works to recognize this population of child sexual abuse victims as just that - victims - not criminals. Project GOLD is led by Trudy Novicki, Executive Director and author of the Florida Safe Harbor Act and by Sandy Skelaney, Program Manager.

FROM VICTIMS TO LEADERS

MISSSEYMotivating, Inspiring, Supporting, and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth (MISSSEY) advocates and facilitates the empowerment and inner transformation of sexually exploited youth by holistically addressing their specific needs. MISSSEY collaborates to bring about systemic and community change to prevent the sexual exploitation of children and youth through raising awareness, education and policy development. MISSSEY embodies a peer and survivor led model that recognizes the value of young people empowering other young people and the crucial voices of survivors in facilitating healing in victims of commercial sexual exploitation. MISSSEY seeks to partner with youth in their transition from victim to survivor to leader, encouraging their long-term stability and success in whatever path they choose.

PROTECTING THE VULNERABLE

International Justice MissionInternational Justice Mission is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that public justice systems - police, courts and laws - effectively protect the poor. IJM's justice professionals work in their communities in 15 field offices in Asia, Africa and Latin America to secure tangible and sustainable protection of national laws through local court systems.

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Minh Dang

ANNOUNCEMENT: Minh Dang is Moving On

"I have enjoyed my time with DSB and it was a privilege to work with the Smith Family Foundation. To all the DSB followers, please continue to think critically and complexly about the issues of human trafficking. Take time to heal your own wounds and above all else, choose love over domination and control."

Executive Director Minh Dang is moving on from her position at Don’t Sell Bodies. Having guided Don’t Sell Bodies development over the past year - including the development of the successful series of online DSBChats focusing on issues key to the movement - Minh will be moving on to other opportunities to grow the movement.

She is currently working as a consultant with the Polaris Project, as well as other important anti-trafficking organizations, and there are rumors of a book in the works.

Minh will continue to stay involved with Don’t Sell Bodies, and we look forward to her ongoing contributions during our DSBChats.

We are profoundly grateful for her work to end human trafficking. And we are proud to call her our friend and ally.

You can follow Minh’s thoughts and adventures here: http://minhspeakstruth.tumblr.com

Minh Dang

Is mental health a privilege?

I was biking to therapy yesterday, and I started thinking about how essential my therapist has been to my healing and emancipation. I am quite lucky to have met this therapist through a friend of mine. When I was first escaping my birth family, he saw me for free…and he did this for a a long time. Had I not had that, I don’t know where I would be. 

Therapy is not something that I often think of as a privilege. However, I remember my first year in graduate school when one of my professors pointed this out to me…she said, “you know, some people haven’t had the privilege of going to therapy and spending that time self-reflecting. you have done a lot of work on yourself but not everyone has had this opportunity.” 

I had never thought about it that way. For me, going to therapy was a burden - both financially and emotionally. While I appreciated the benefits of it, I didn’t see therapy as a privilege in the sense that I think of owning a vacation home as a privilege. I was going to therapy from this mindset of “I have to or else I will die.” And that was true…my life depended on my ability to deal with the immense emotions that my life brought up. If I didn’t deal with my despair, I would have felt hopeless about life. I might have resigned myself to a fate of slavery. If I didn’t deal with my anger, I might have continued to have migraines and ulcers. 

Now, therapy for me is still about my freedom and emancipation. The stakes aren’t as high, as I have a pretty stable life on the outside. I don’t have to worry about my basic needs in the same way, I love my work, I don’t feel terrorized every second,  I have a sense of my freedom, I can play and laugh and feel confident in myself more than ever…I have great friends and loved ones…life is good…

And at the same time, on the inside, there are still many storms and tornadoes, fires, destruction, nightmares, fear, and shame…I still often feel quite needy, angry, scared of being “found out” for the real, a.k.a. bad, me (which doesn’t exist), alone, uncertain, and insecure…I am not fully able to take in all the love that’s available to me and feel worried about just being who I am…

So…yeah…I still deal with psychological/emotional/mental health issues…but what does that even mean? 

Hierarchy of Needs? 
Abraham Maslow developed a now widely referred to “Hierarchy of Needs” which places physical safety before love and belonging and self-esteem. While of course, if you can’t eat, what does it matter if you feel shame? However, I have found that if you feel a crippling amount of shame, it really affects your ability to eat…to literally chew food sometimes, or to go out and get food, to work so you can pay for food, or to interact with people so that they can feed you…

Our self-esteem, our sense of love and belonging, are also what makes us healthy. What does it mean if I am physically healthy but emotionally miserable? Similarly, what does it mean if I was wealthy but is miserable? 

Mental health is more than “I don’t feel bad about myself or the world.” It’s different from “fixing” people…

Mental health IS health. You can’t separate body from mind from spirit…So I think it is often treated as a privilege…and that therapy costs make it so that often only the privilege can access it, but everyone is battling with what goes on in their heads….for some, it’s more tumultuous than others. 

My question is…how do we get society to really value mental health as something on a continuum, and that is integrated as a part of our overall health? How can it not be relegated to the “identified patients” who have problems? 

We all want to be loved. If we can hold this…we can see that the perpetrators of violence have taken on violent behaviors to deal with whatever turmoil they are facing or have faced. And victims of violence are taking on behaviors to deal with the turmoil that face and have faced. There aren’t “those” people who are victimized and “those” people who are perpetrators…No one is born a victim or a perpetrator.

We are born innocent and we are born into families and communities. Our mental health is impacted by our relationships and it is through these relationships that we get our needs met or ignored. We learn about who we are, about whether we are safe, and we learn about the world through our relationships. So is mental health really privilege?

Healing For Everyone
Despite what value or stigma society places on mental health, I think it is not a privilege. I think it is an essential of life and we all know it. Everyone has an emotional world that they are working with. Some have access to particular resources of support for that emotional world, while others don’t. This still doesn’t not mean that the monopoly on mental health is for the economically privileged. I think we need to ensure that this does not occur in the anti-slavery movement. If survivors of slavery cannot focus on their emotionally healing, all the employment support and legal support will not be enough.

By seeing me pro bono for years, my therapist taught me: Emotional prosperity is a foundation upon which to build the rest of my life…He did not think that my relative poverty at the time should be a barrier to my healing…and thus, I was able to develop emotional security as well as economic security and physiological safety, all at the same time. This is my wish for other survivors as well. 

Photo Credit: creative  commons/Moyan Brenn

Minh Dang

Daring to Love Means Dealing with Disappointment 

Last month, I delivered this speech at MISSSEY’s Inspire Change Gala. Entitled “Dare to Love,” this speech touches directly on some personal challenges I am facing in my life, as well as challenges I see us facing in social justice work. 

How do we dare to love, when we have been hurt and sorely disappointed by the actions of another human being? How do we love, when we are fighting the fact that unloving people have mistreated lovable human beings? 

Just this morning, I was asking myself, how do I love another human being, when I am so worried that loving them makes me vulnerable to being hurt again? 

What hurt am I fearing? 

Hurt vs. Disappointment
I started to think that it is not so much hurt that I am worried about. I am worried about being disappointed. When I love someone, I begin to have expectations of them. If they don’t meet those expectations, I begin to think that they don’t love me. Because if they loved me, they would do X, Y, or Z, right? 

Well…maybe…but really, everyone at one point or another, does not live up to my expectations of them. I myself don’t live up to another person’s expectations of me. And that is OK. I think we become so wrapped up in wanting someone to be one way, that we feel hurt and we take it personally when they aren’t the way that we want them to be. 

So what if feeling hurt is really about feeling disappointed? 

What if, there is a difference between unintentional harm and intentional harm. Sure…I still might feel hurt…but given my experiences with my parents, I will never be hurt the same way that they hurt me. It just can’t be so. My parents were the only people who could hurt me so deeply…because I was dependent on them. This is why any form of child abuse is ridiculously harmful. Children are completely dependent on adults  until they become adults themselves. 

I need you, but I don’t need you. 
For adults, we are interdependent and we need people, but we are not dependent on any one human being. If we feel hurt in response to another’s actions, it can be royally painful. And yet (and in no way am I diminishing adult-on-adult violence) I think that adults, if given a foundation of love in childhood, would not feel SO damaged in their capacity to love, as I have seen adult survivors of child abuse feel. 

Children are learning about love and life when they are growing. What I learned was that my love could be abused and betrayed. 

What if no one can betray me now, because I can guard my heart. And I don’t mean build up walls and keep people out. I mean…I can state my needs. I can pick who I want to share my love with. I can give freely and know that I am not enslaved. These are my choices about what to do with my love. 

I feel an immense amount of grief saying that. Though it is taking and has taken countless hours of therapy, talking with friends, and crying, I am healing from the hurt my parents did to me by ignoring me, raping me, and selling me. In fact, I am reclaiming my capacity to love and seeing that I am now more than ever, truly able to respect and love another human being. 

I am learning that it is when I dare to love people now, that I heal even more. Giving and receiving love has shown me that when people love me now, if I let in they are loving me because I am lovable….then I can let in the fact that my parents didn’t love me not because I wasn’t lovable - they didn’t love me because they couldn’t love. My parents went through their own traumas and were so damaged by the time they had me, that their capacity to love was completely gone.

Despite the fact that my parents didn’t love me…I learned to love because loving others is native to human life. We become hardened to loving because of this fear of hurt. 

Love is infinite. 
We can overcome our hurts and love again. Luckily, love is infinite. There is no finite amount of love that one person has to give. We don’t get depleted of our love source…we get scared, hurt, and angry and we recede. 

As I ask in this speech, I am asking here as well…dare to love people…dare to share yourself, your truth, and to confront the lack of love in spaces near you. Given the statistics about sexual assault, there is a history of sexual abuse in just about every family and community. If we want to end slavery and human trafficking, we need to end the lovelessness. 

Lovelessness breads domination. 

So yes, let’s continue to change laws, create safe housing, provide legal services, and the like…

…but we also need a culture shift. Changing culture is much harder than raising money or raising awareness. 

I am calling for love revolution. I am calling for abstinence from domination. We need recovery programs to get off our addictions of commodifying people - of reducing them to objects that we want to be one way for ourselves….

Loving is a practice and an action. I hope you dare to love. I will too. 

Minh Dang

An Interesting Observation About Sex Trafficking…

I recently heard about a woman from Viet Nam who was trafficked to Russia. It then occurred to me that I had heard about Russian women being trafficked into brothels outside of Russia.

I was also reading about Lao women trafficked into Thailand, and Thai women trafficked into Japan…

Where does the cycle end? So people in various countries are passing on their own citizens to be enslaved in another country, while they accept people from another country to be enslaved in their own? 

What the…@#$(*? 

Many of these dynamics are racial in nature…As if it is somehow morally less wrong to enslave someone of a different nationality than your own. The idea that it’s “okay” to enslave a community deemed inferior. 

And yet, we also know that people enslave people of their own nationality…

What is going on here?  People are NOT property to be traded around!!! 
How does globalization make people more “disposable”? 

My brows are furrowed and my face is frowning.

Minh Dang

What’s true today?

image

Hey everybody, 

I’ve been a bit MIA from tumblr lately and was struggling to figure out why. There were some logistical reasons…I was finishing (and still am!) my master’s thesis, traveling for work and for vacation, and then I had a 2-3 week crash where my mind and heart needed to do some realignment. 

As I wrote about in my last post, I was reflecting on what my identity is/was/will be. What does it mean to me to write in this blog? What does it mean to me to be a publicly identified survivor of child abuse, incest, and domestic sex trafficking? During my reflection time, I was reminded that what it means to me today can be different from what it means to me tomorrow. What I think today can change tomorrow. And thus…what I write on this blog doesn’t have to define me forever.

A respected colleague of mine illuminated this idea to me…that my blog posts don’t have to be so high stakes, super deep, or even long-winded. He pointed out that Facebook is a space where it seems easier and feels more acceptable to me to just post random thoughts I’m having. And that maybe I can think of my blog posts in a similar way…I found this idea so liberating and explains some of the battle I’ve been fighting within myself…

Confronting My Self
I’ve been struggling to blog because I find that sitting down to write forces me to confront my self - the me that exists now in 2013 with all of my experiences. Forces me to slow down, listen to my thoughts, and often, to tolerate some pretty unbearable feelings and memories of my trauma. After I stopped talking to rocks (see last blog post), I spent a LOT of time journaling as a kid. I had a livejournal (remember those days?) and I would carry around notebooks and write to the paper as if it was a human being. I would even go so far as apologizing to my journal for having not written for a couple days or weeks…

And of course, as I began to feel companionship and solace in my journals, my mother began to criticize me for spending so much time writing and then she even read them and used information in them to indict me. 

So now…I know that I am writing for an audience and there’s a sense that I am finally getting to talk/write to people. That people are listening and that my words matter…So I don’t want to waste time or space, and hence, the high stakes nature of my experience of blogging. 

Maybe freedom for me (and other survivors of slavery) is that there are no high stakes…in anything…Sure, I want to be careful about my words, I want to spend my time wisely, I don’t want to waste my resources, etc. etc. but I also want to be human. (Imagine that…I need help humanizing myself!!) 

My Truth…Today
I’m learning that being human is sharing what my truth is….right now, in the moment, today. When I started this blog and created my twitter handle “minhspeakstruth,” some of my friends asked me what I meant by “truth”. Capital T, Truth, or lower case t, truth? Do I believe there is universal Truth, or subjective truth? For me, I’m talking about personal truth in the way that we think of “truing” the wheels on a bike - aligning the wheels to run “true.” 

I want my blog to be “true” - to align with myself…and as with wear and tear of a bike, as I change and grow, then I am sure I will need to re-align. 

Some truths that stand out for me today: 
- I am still only about 7 years out of slavery 
- I am still finding my truth(s). Retelling stories from my past so that I can challenge the lies that were told to me. 
- I want training wheels for this ride/journey. 
- I am actually enjoying my journey in freedom, despite the daily challenges. 
- I care a lot about contributing my voice to the anti-slavery movement. To helping people understand the nature of slavery. That I’m not just making an analogy to slavery. 
- I care a lot about spreading love to people who want to accept it and to use it to transform their own lives. (because I tried to love my parents and they would not accept it)
- I want to blog very often and it is often the things I want to do most that I find the most challenging. 

What’s true for you today? What and whose truths are we denying? How can we each become more aligned? 

Photo credit: Creative Commons\Richard Masoned

Minh Dang

Survivor Empowerment

The last month has been quite a whirlwind for me. I’ve been on both coasts of the U.S. off and on and a lot has happened. I’ve had the honor and privilege of spending some more intentional, quality time with survivors of human trafficking. I’ve been sitting, reflecting, thinking, talking, dreaming, crying, laughing, loving, and BEING in way that feels new to me.

I am beginning to believe that the marker of successful healing is “getting closer to one’s self.” Obviously, this is subjective. However, never before in my life have I felt that there is space for me to truly be me…ALL of me.

Is this what survivor empowerment means? To bring people closer to themselves – to their true passions, gifts, desires, hurts, and needs? 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about what it means to be a whole person – what it means that my “survivor-ness” is only one part of me. It’s been tricky…because I still feel that the wounds of two decades of slavery are so deeply imbedded in my skin. My fight for internal, psychological freedom is still daily.

The picture above was a gift to me. I shared with a friend how I used to talk to rocks in my front yard when I was growing up (because I wasn’t allowed to have friends and I was not allowed to leave the house. I know…so sad!) I would collect these rocks in a shoebox and my mom would throw them out. Eventually, I gave up and convinced myself that I hated those rocks. My friend drew me this picture as a way to reclaim this experience from my past. She gave me permission to still talk to rocks if I want to, today. To talk to some rocks and leave my worries with them…and to pick up new rocks that represent something I want to keep. She gave me permission to start a new rock collection. That I don’t have to hold that story as just something horrible…that I don’t have to talk to rocks because I have people now, but I can still honor the coping skills I created! 

Maybe the fact that I am identified with the term “survivor” is because I haven’t been allowed to identify with the terms poet, writer, lover, rock-collector or friend. For many survivors of human trafficking, “survivor” is a much better term than other terms we have been called.

In spending time with other survivors, I realized that though I have spoken about seeing survivors as whole people – as more than their trauma story – I have not believed that for myself deep down to the core. My survivor sisters and brothers have shown me, and help me to believe more deeply, that I am more than what I went through.

The have shown me the courage it takes to embrace joy and freedom. The bravery it takes to laugh like you’ve never laughed before. And the peace that comes in accepting yourself for who you are.

I have always wanted to be accepted for who I am. I am realizing that that needs to start from within. Others are quicker to accept me for who I am, than I am in accepting myself.

When I think about it this way, empowering survivors to be who they are is really the same as empowering anyone to be themselves.

I hope you will all join me in the #dsbchat @ 12pmPST/3pmEST today, June 3, 2013 to discuss successful survivor empowerment initiatives! Maybe we’ll all learn something about empowering ourselves!

Minh Dang
White House honors student working to stop human trafficking

“This award also celebrates what is possible when people come together and take slavery, child abuse and the precariousness of freedom seriously. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for each and every person on my journey who kindled the fire of freedom within me.”


We have a pretty amazing Executive Director, wouldn’t you say?

Minh Dang

SURE, I’M WITH LINCOLN (BUT WHAT DOES THAT REALLY MEAN?)

The first time I watched the I’m With Lincoln Video, I was mostly numb.

The second time, I squinted and shed some tears.

The third, I got the chills, felt close to vomiting, and could barely watch until the end. 

The image that got to me is when the females are marched up the stairs in a line. My mind flashed to images of people chained up and marched to slave auctions during the transatlantic slave trade.

I wondered what it is like for other people to watch this video. I wondered what it is like for survivors of slavery, for non-survivors, and for anti-slavery activists. I also wondered how many times the average person watched this video.

Just another trafficking video?

For me, my first viewing was somewhat cursory. A colleague told me about the video and asked me what I thought of it. I hadn’t seen the full video so I went online to find it. I didn’t have high expectations. I assumed I was going to see a young woman beaten and raped, and maybe in chains. I wasn’t sure what to expect about how Lincoln was going to be tied into the video.

When I was done watching it, I felt no differently. I didn’t really learn or see anything new. I was worried that this was yet another video that could glorify violence, that overemphasized sex trafficking over labor trafficking, and that focused on the physical and sexual violence of slavery. 

I did however, appreciate that somebody was using the release of the Lincoln movie to say, “hey everybody, slavery still exists!”

Leveraging the Zeitgeist

Made in a Free World capitalized beautifully on a mainstream event that reached millions of people. They are using a cultural event that lots of people are talking about to shift the conversation to something many not as many people are talking about.

I think they are playing on the hope and inspiration that people can feel after seeing the Lincoln movie. They are saying, “So you feel good about how Lincoln ended slavery? and how you would stand on his side in history? Well…you can stand on his side now. Help us end slavery today and sign this petition.”  

Highlighting  Government Underfunding

I also think the petition for doubling the U.S. federal budget to end human trafficking is a bold request. Organizations usually ask for a little bit more funding, hoping for crumbs. Why not ask for what might really make a difference? The comparisons between the anti-human trafficking budget to other budgetary expenses is also a unique way of thinking about things. While I understand that the federal government has many priorities to address, seeing the comparisons helps us consider what we are saying our priorities are, compared to what actions we are taking on those priorities.

Do We “See” the Same Thing?

And this brings me to my third viewing of the I’m With Lincoln video. As I was watching, I paid attention to eyes of the females in the film.  I paid attention to their body language and how their emotions were portrayed. I thought that in fact, the violence portrayed was pretty real. It was accurate in a way that maybe the public can shy away from.

It was painful to imagine myself having gone through similar horrors. Imagining seeing resignation in my eyes – seeing hopelessness in how I carried my body. 

I wondered – does “the public” see this? Or are people so desensitized now to these videos? To violence in general? Are people numb to this, just as I was the first time around?

If not – if a viewer watched this and actually feels what I felt, if even a little bit, and then wants to make sure no one ever feels this way, then maybe the use of violence in the video was worth it?

But if a viewer watched this video and says nothing, does nothing, validates the violence, or writes it off as an everyday thing…then was the video worth it? 

Who knows? What I do know is that this video warrants conversation around what is controversial. Here are some things to consider:

- Psychological violence. Did you notice the exploitation of the female’s desire for love in the beginning? This is just as crucial as the physical and sexual violence. 

- I keep calling them females. Why? Do we know if they are girls or women or transgender people? These are important differences. Girls are often portrayed as vague in age so that people who rape them can feel less guilty because they thought she was “of age.” What does it mean to be enslaved as a child vs. an adult? Transgender youth can be exploited and discriminated in ways that straight girls and women aren’t.

- Did you notice the accomplices/perpetrators who are just sitting there while people are violated? This is why human trafficking is also considered an organized crime, not just a crime of some evil bad pimp. 

- The people in the video appear mostly brown and Latino. How does the video impact stereotypes about people without U.S citizenship papers?  How might it accurately portray that children/people of color are targeted as victims? Contrary to videos that might highlight the issue as important only because it also affects suburban white girls?

 - Did Lincoln really end slavery? Of course not. Members of the Underground Railroad, people who were enslaved, allies and abolitionists, and so many people contributed to ending slavery. What does this mean for how we eradicate slavery now?

Can we eradicate slavery?

Join the Discussion
We’ve been talking a lot about communication, stereotypes, violence and exploitation at Don’t Sell Bodies. As our movement matures, it’s crucial we turn a critical eye on our own communications to make sure we are not subconsciously perpetuating the problems we seek to fight.

Please follow us on twitter @dontsellbodies and join in on our twitter chat this upcoming Monday, April 29th, 11amPST/2pmEST for our first Freedom Chat on Responsible Communication in the Anti-Slavery Movement.

Use the hashtag #DSBchat to join the conversation!

Minh Dang

Freedom is…

Freedom is today.
Freedom is precious.
Freedom knows no boundaries.
Freedom is a state of existence and a process. 
Freedom is physical, emotional, and spiritual.
Freedom is worth fighting for.
Freedom must be fought for individually and collectively.
Freedom is achieved with and beside comrades. It is not fought for alone.
Freedom is quiet.
Freedom is loud.
Freedom is just.
Freedom is love.
Freedom is not a world without pain.
Freedom is grief. Grief that is so deep that it brings relief, joy, and a sense of the world expanding.
Freedom is not taken for granted by everyone.
Freedom is poetry.
Freedom is sitting with feelings of shame while knowing you’re okay just as you are.
Freedom is growing.
Freedom is learning.
Freedom is so much more than this list.
Freedom is instinctive, natural, and fundamental.
Freedom is a basic human right!
Freedom a basic human need!


7 Years in Freedom!
Freedom and what it means to me has been on my mind a lot this week. This past Tuesday (April 16th), I celebrated the end of my 7th year living in freedom and the start of my 8th year.

I thought a lot about how this was an important day for me to mark and to celebrate. This was the first year I even came up with a specific date that I call my “Freedom Day.”

Kind of like how we in the U.S. call April “Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” or we call the 4th of July, Independence Day, a dear friend and mentor of mine suggested that I pick a date to mark my entrance into the world of freedom. She suggested this to me one day when I was on the phone with her, sobbing about how difficult life can still be, even though my life is SO much better than it once was. I mean, unbelievably better.

And yet as I have mentioned before, the impact of my trauma is something that I deal with quite regularly. And by regularly, I mean more than daily…And this is an improvement from managing my trauma symptoms from minute to minute, as it once was… 

So, my friend reminded me of the relative newness of my freedom and the fact that my days in freedom have not out-numbered my days in slavery yet. The idea of quantifying this gave me something to hold on to. It gave me a date – April 16, 2026 – when my days in freedom will finally match my days in slavery.

That means, on April 17, 2026, my brain/mind/heart/body will finally have lived more freely than ever before. The experiences of freedom will finally outweigh the experiences of enslavement.

Until then, it makes perfect sense why I might have hard or super hard days that are about healing my trauma.  In fact, it would even make sense that healing from 20 years of child abuse [via incest, neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and child sex trafficking] would take MORE than 20 years. It takes many people (rightfully so), years to heal from one traumatic event. There is not mathematical equation for how long healing takes.

However, there is one mathematical equation that my brain has calculated:

                      input of evil/trauma > input of love/freedom

Wait. What? Only 7 Years in Freedom?!?!? 
So…while I did have happy/proud feelings about my 7 years of freedom, I also celebrated by feeling really angry. Why? Because I am not 7 years old. Why is it that I am almost 29 years old and only celebrating 7 years of freedom?!?!

This is outrageous to me. I should have almost 29 years of freedom under my belt. And I should, because nature intended it to be so. Nature intends for a human being to become a separate and autonomous, though interdependent, human being.

No child is born a slave. Children are forced into slavery.

No person is born a slave. People are forced into slavery.

If we need any reason to dig deep and to continue our fight against slavery, I hope that my 7-year anniversary of freedom gives us one.

I hope that someday people don’t have to celebrate their anniversary of freedom.

I hope that everyone’s Freedom Date will forever and always be their birth date.

Photo credit: Creative Commons\Jorge


THE AVERAGE VICTIM IS 12 YEARS OLD

At 17, Danielle was forced into prostitution - but she says the average age of girls being forced into sex slavery is just 12.

"It's like being raped over and over and over and over," says Danielle.

Rain is more typical of the average American victim, having entered prostitution at the age of 11.

When asked about the men whom she slept with, she is unequivocal about what they were: child abusers.

"I'm not going to label them Johns," she says.

Take action to support THE CASE ACT.


VICTIMS NOT CRIMINALS

Carissa was 12 years old when she was coerced into prostitution.

"I remember him vividly putting his arm around me and acting like he was my buddy. Within days, he was raping me violently."

With children as young as 11 or 12 being exploited for sex, there is a pressing need to differentiate between pimps and prostitutes. Nearly all prostitutes in the US are victims of child sex trafficking, and activists around the country are pushing for law enforcement to recognize them as victims - while focusing their efforts on the real criminals, the pimps and johns who make this industry possible.

The CASE Act will raise the penalties for human trafficking, forcing sex traffickers to register as sex offenders, and mandating training on human trafficking for law enforcement.

It will also funnel more funds for victim support.

Take action to support THE CASE ACT.


DISABLED CHILDREN TARGETED

When Vicki's 17-year-old daughter went missing, she feared she was dead. When she was found, Vicki discovered that she had been bought and sold for sex.

Vicki's daughter is developmentally disabled, with a mental age of just 11. Targeting of such vulnerable children is a growing trend within the trafficking industry.

Vicki is now helping to push the CASE Act (Californians Against Sexual Exploitation) - a ballot initiative that will raise penalties for trafficking and increase support for survivors.

Take action to support THE CASE ACT.

Don't Sell Bodies was conceived by Jada Pinkett Smith and Overbrook Entertainment. It was designed by The Change Creation and Goroboto.

It is dedicated to the victims and survivors of trafficking, and the heroes who are fighting to eradicate it.

Creative Team:
Jada Pinkett Smith
Chris "CJay" Jordan
Paress Salinas
Sami Grover
Jerry Stifelman
Chelsea Bay Dennis
Rebekah Miel
Tennessee Watson
Rob Biddiscombe