Thursday, November 20, 2014

Human Trafficking Taskforce E-Guide

One thing I have learned over the years studying human trafficking is just how effective the government and organizations on the ground can be when they work together. I have seen human trafficking taskforces transform anti-trafficking activities in a country because they brought together all of the agencies and ministries in the government working on this issue with organizations working in the community. It's amazing how much can be accomplished when all the government agencies come together and cooperate and when they also combine the anti-trafficking activities of organizations, they are able to coordinate more effectively and stop the overlap in services and programs and focus their efforts. I think every country in the world needs a working group or taskforce on this issue, which is why I was so excited to see the Human Trafficking Taskforce E-Guide published this week by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime. This e-guide can help existing taskforces and also provides guidelines for those looking to start their own. According to the website the e-guide's "purpose is to assist in the development and day to day operations of an anti-human trafficking task force and to provide fundamental guidance for effective task force operations." The guide provides basic information on human trafficking, a how to guide on forming a taskforce, how to operate one, support victims, and build strong cases. While this e-guide is geared at taskforces in the United States with explanations of US trafficking laws, it could be used in other advanced industrial democratic societies. Expanding its application beyond that would be difficult because countries in the post-Soviet region, my area of expertise do not have the infrastructure to develop many of the recommendations. Still the taskforce models component is an interesting look at different taskforce and working group entities which can vary dependent on the demographics factors and participants. Also according to the website "The Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center (OVC TTAC) maintains a consultant database of subject matter experts who are available to provide consultation, training, and technical assistance to task forces, law enforcement, and victim service agencies." Thus, in addition to this e-guide there is help out there for anyone looking to start a taskforce in their city or state by contacting the Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center (OVC TTAC).

Monday, November 10, 2014

National Human Trafficking Resource Center Website

The Polaris Project unveiled the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) webpage this week This website is meant to be the new hub for the NHTRC the national, 24-hour, toll-free hotline for the human trafficking. The NHTRC is operated by the Polaris Project it is supported by the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division in the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). According to a Polaris project newsletter release the website "provides information about the NHTRC and human trafficking in the United States, national and state-specific hotline statistics and events, as well as an extensive Resource Library that includes assessment tools, online trainings, statistics, reports and other materials." The website seems easier to navigate than the Polaris site since you do not have to negotiate all of the additional information about the organization. They also unveiled a public online version of their referral directory "with information on 3,000 service providers, law enforcement agencies, coalitions, and advocates covering the entire United States and U.S. territories." Similar to the Global Modern Slavery Directory I wrote about a few weeks ago, it is missing some organizations but it is a great starting off point for locating victim service and advocacy organizations. Now that their directory is online I wonder if the number of calls to the national hotline will go down. The hotline statistics are something Polaris Project discusses in most of their promotional materials so I can see why they would want to keep this information all to themselves. So it is great news that everyone has access to it now and I believe this website will be a great resource for people looking for more information on trafficking or organizations in their area.

The quotes were drawn from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center bi-monthly newsletter. For more information, please call the NHTRC at 1-888-373-7888 or visit the NHTRC at

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Support Marta Resource Centre for Women!

When I lived in Latvia as a Fulbrighter in 2007-2008 I was able to volunteer for a year at Marta Resource Center for Women, a non-governmental organization working for gender equality and against gender violence located in Riga. They were kind enough to welcome me into their organization when I had no real world experience with the issue of trafficking. I learned a lot from my time there and my experiences there have forever shaped my view on anti-trafficking NGOs. You can read more about my work there on my previous blog Adventures in Latvia. Every time I go back to Latvia I always try and stop by to see how everyone is doing and hear about the issues and projects they are working on. Last time I stopped by on my birthday for the open house in their new office located closer to the city center. They sang me Daudz baltu dieni┼ću, the Latvian birthday song and even made me take pictures with the staff and the US Ambassador to Latvia Mark Pekala since I used to work there. Here is the picture
This organization has done so much to demand equality in Latvia and I am always very impressed at the work that they do for that country. They have been fighting for many European issues such as the abolition of prostitution and LGBT equality before many other organizations were willing to even discuss them. While Latvia is a socially conservative country Marta Centre has championed a number of issues related to equality and constantly keeps the Latvian government on its toes! They are looking for support so I wanted to write a post asking my readers to think about donating to this wonderful organization that stands up for equality and fights for what is right even though sometimes it makes them unpopular in the small country of Latvia. Here is a link where you can make your tax deductible donation and support Marta Resource Centre for Women.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fostering Hope: Intersections of Foster Care and Human Trafficking

One great thing about living in Georgia is the vibrant and longstanding anti-trafficking movement in the state. Every couple of weeks there is an event or gathering sponsored by one of the numerous non-governmental organizations working on this issue in Atlanta. This week I went to a talk on the intersections of foster care and domestic minor sex trafficking sponsored by Street Grace a faith-based organization in cooperation with Georgia Cares the state coordinating agency connecting services and support for child victims of trafficking and exploitation. The talk was held at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead the most affluent neighborhood in Atlanta. The connections between the church and the anti-trafficking movement are much more apparent here in the South than they were in other regions of the US. 

The talk began with Senator Renee Unterman who has authored a number of pieces of legislation combating human trafficking in Georgia. She spoke about how she became aware of human trafficking and how she used research on the subject to convince other lawmakers that it was a problem in Georgia. She also spoke about the safe harbor bill that anti-trafficking NGOs will be lobbying for this legislative session.  
Senator Renee Unterman speaking to the crowd. 
The picture below shows members of the panel discussing the connections between child trafficking and foster care. According to one study conducted in New York Office of Children and Family Services 75% of trafficking victims have been placed in foster care. 
They also introduced the Street Grace Research Institute which looks to understand how and why foster youth are drawn into domestic minor sex trafficking. The research institute will use applied research to examine human trafficking in Atlanta. I spoke with the new director of the institute and I am hoping my students will be able to coordinate research projects with them in the future.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Route 2 Change 5K and Duathlon

October 18 is the European Union Anti-trafficking Day so people and organizations around the world got together to walk and raise awareness for human trafficking. In Atlanta  YouthSpark, my local anti-trafficking organization also organized the Route 2 Change, a 5K running event and a duathlon with a 10K biking component. Since I don't have a suitable bike I decided to run the 5K in order to raise awareness and money for  YouthSpark. This is a picture of me before the race watching the sunrise with the Atlanta skyline in the background.

This is me after the race! I took first place for my age group and here is a picture of me with my trophy, the second place winner, and YouthSpark board members. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Global Modern Slavery Directory

Polaris Project, Freedom Fund and Walk Free Foundation released the Global Modern Slavery Directory today. This is the first collaborative effort to combine resources and map non-governmental organizations that work on human trafficking initiatives around the world. According to the website "The Directory aims to map out the contours of the movement worldwide to enable more effective communication among stakeholders." Although there are currently only 949 organizations listed in the database and there are many holes in the data. For example in Russia and Ukraine there are only three organizations listed in each country which does not even begin to scratch the surface of organizations in those two countries. However, there is room to expand the database and you can submit new directory items and expand the database here. The website states that "this first release of the Directory represents the efforts of multiple organizations that have contributed by engaging in thought leadership, sharing contact lists of member and partner organizations, and offering volunteer and staff time to verify organizations for inclusion in the directory." Consequently, there is room to expand the database to make it truly inclusive and representative of the trafficking movement around the world. Despite this shortcoming it is an ambitious effort to identify and connect actors around the world working on this issue. I think it will definitely use it in my future research as a starting point for communication with NGOs in new countries of research. It is also a great reference for students seeking to start researching human trafficking topics in different countries around the world.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

YouthSpark Community Ambassador Training

Last weekend I attended the Community Ambassador Training at YouthSpark. The training educates community members about human trafficking and YouthSpark programs and then these community members in turn volunteer their time to raise awareness to this issue. This semester my students are partnering with YouthSpark and evaluating this program. So along with a few of my students I went down to the Fulton County Juvenile Court which is where YouthSpark is located on a Saturday morning to attend the training. It is the nicest 
juvenile court I have ever been to and to the right is a picture of the outside of the building.

This is the seal that greets you when you enter the courthouse.

The training room with YouthSpark trainers and fellow community members. 
Me and my students at the training.
My certificate of completion from the Community Ambassador Training.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Partnering with YouthSpark

This semester my Women and Politics students are working on a project with YouthSpark an Atlanta based anti-trafficking organization. As a feminist researcher and academic I think it is important to give back to the community and so my work seeks to improve the status of women and promotes equality. This is why instead of having my students write a formal research paper as their final project this semester, I am having them partner with a community organization on a project designed to meet the needs of the organization. Since there were many anti-trafficking organizations in Atlanta I spoke with some contacts I had on the national level of the anti-trafficking movement to determine which organization would fit the needs of my students. YouthSpark came highly recommended and so I emailed them to see if they were interested having my students work with them. Thankfully they were willing and very excited at the prospect of working with college students so I went and met with their program coordinator to determine what their needs were and how my students could help. They identified three main needs so I broke the class up into two groups, One group will formulate ideas for the creation of meaningful volunteer opportunities at the organization and then the other group will work on a project that evaluates their Community Ambassador Program. In order to prepare the project proposals for YouthSpark, this week we had a guest speaker to our class, an intern from YouthSpark who is also a Clayton State Psychology MA student. She came to our class to talk with the students about YouthSpark and give them her perspective interning at the organization. My students asked tons of questions and I think it was useful for them to hear their colleague's experiences and impressions. 

My students asking questions during the presentation.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Polaris Project's New State Ratings for the United States

The Polaris Project State Ratings for 2014 came out today! Similar to the US Trafficking in Persons Report Rankings these scores are something I always look forward to reading about because they show how far the states in the US have come with trafficking legislation over the past year. It is remarkable just how different the map looks over the years since the ratings began.

States are rated based on a ten point scale with one point for each of the following provisions: Sex Trafficking, Labor Trafficking, Asset Forfeiture and Investigative Tools, Training and Task Forces-black, Lower Burden of Proofs for CSEC Victims, Hotline Posting, Safe Harbor, Victim Assistance, Civil Damages, and Vacating Convictions. Polaris Project started rating each state in the US in 2010 and each year the ratings of the states have increased. So that means that since the ratings were published many states have adopted trafficking policies satisfying the above criteria. The first state level anti-trafficking legislation was adopted in 2002 and the last state to criminalize human trafficking was Wyoming in February 2013. There have been significant strides in state level legislation since 2002 and every year more and more states have adopted trafficking laws. Although the rankings have changed over the years with more specific provisions, they still evaluate the depth of trafficking legislation on the state level. One thing I would like to see them do in the future is discuss the superfluous legislation that has also been adopted since 2002. Most people think that more legislation is a good thing but not all legislation is designed well and can help survivors and those combatting human trafficking on the state level. Still, these rankings have provided the groundwork for evaluating state level policy and the Polaris Project's Legislative Circle's bi-weekly emails track human trafficking legislation across all fifty states. For more information and to read more about the individual state rankings please see here.

Monday, August 11, 2014

National Center for Civil and Human Rights

One great thing about moving to Atlanta is the fact that there are tons of things to do here because it is a big city and the capital of Georgia. Consequently, one of the first things on my to do list when I moved here was a visit to the newly opened National Center for Civil and Human Rights.  While most of the museum is devoted to the Civil Rights movement the third floor is called the Global Human Rights Gallery. The gallery begins with the quote below by the former US President Jimmy Carter, Georgia's most famous citizen. The first hall of the gallery has various photos from human rights struggles around the world. There was a big Ukrainian flag from the Orange Revolution that welcomed me as I entered the gallery and I was happy to see the struggles for human rights in my region of the world well represented. 

The main hall has personal stories of human rights advocates from different countries around the world. 

There was a video about the human rights struggles faced by women and girls.

The posts each revealed the human rights abuses involved with the production of things like chocolate, mobile phones, and coffee etc. 

A world map showing human rights abuses around the world and news of recent human rights abuses scrawling across the top of the map.

A more in-depth discussion of different types of human rights abuses in the United States. 

A photo of me in front of the new center and one of the informational posters about human trafficking.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Georgia's Not Buying It!

As a new resident to Georgia, I kept noticing these anti-trafficking campaign posters all around Georgia, in rest areas and on billboards on the main highways around town. It has been really interesting to see how developed the anti-trafficking movement is here in Atlanta and just how many organizations work on this issue. The above poster I saw in a rest area. The campaign Georgia's Not Buying It was sponsored by the Georgia Care Connection, an office under the Governor’s Office of Children and Families (GOCF) that also created the nation's first statewide response to address the needs of child sex trafficking victims and a statewide task force (GOCF) was established in 2008. They also run a 24 hour Georgia Cares Hotline that serves domestic victims of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) and here is the hotline number (404) 602-0068. They also sponsor six beds to help high risk victims and there are plans to establish a safe house in the future. It has been very interesting to learn more about the anti-trafficking movement here and see so many organizations and people coming together to work on this issue which has made the transition to Georgia much easier. I am definitely not in Kansas anymore (where the movement was in the developmental stages).  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Rest Area Human Trafficking Awareness Campaigns

On the move down to Georgia we saw a bunch of different human trafficking awareness campaigns in different states. It was really exciting to see so many signs raising awareness in different states and shows just how far the anti-trafficking movement has come since I first started studying this issue eight years ago.

I saw this sign in the middle of Missouri about a mile away from a highway strip club.

I found these signs in a rest area in Tennessee. Dependent on how you look at them you can see both a man and woman. They put these posters on the back of the bathroom stalls in both of the men's and women's bathroom.

I found these signs near the hand driers in another rest area in Tennessee. They were in three different languages English, Spanish, and (maybe) Vietnamese. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Back in the US and back to blogging!

After a very long hiatus from my blog I am going to attempt to start writing again on academic topics related to human trafficking and then my own experiences working and researching this issue. Since I last wrote (about a year and a half ago) I finished my fieldwork on human trafficking policy adoption and implementation in Ukraine, Latvia, and Russia. I spent the academic year 2013-2014 writing up the results of this research and successfully defended my dissertation entitled "Beyond the Natasha Effect: Determinants of Human Trafficking Policy Variation in the Post-Soviet Region" sponsored by a Social Science Research Council Eurasia Program Dissertation Development Award Fellowship. I graduated in August 2014 and then moved to Atlanta, Georgia where I am an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Clayton State University. The anti-trafficking movement is very strong in the city and there are a number of organizations working on anti-trafficking issues. The FBI named Atlanta as one of 14 cities in the nation with the highest incidence of children exploited in prostitution. It has also been categorized as a “Human Trafficking Hub” and named one of the Top 5 cities in the US for human trafficking in a number of newspaper articles although I am not sure if this statistic can actually be supported with data. Either way, moving to Atlanta will undoubtedly provide a number of opportunities to engage with and work in the anti-trafficking movement. I already have my students pegged to work with YouthSpark an Atlanta based anti-trafficking organization on two projects in place of writing a final paper. In addition to my anti-trafficking encounters in Atlanta, I also plan to post information and data gathered during my fieldwork in Ukraine, Latvia, and Russia so that this blog can also serve as a digital archive of the documents I gathered during my fieldwork research. Thanks so much for reading and I am looking forward to sharing my insights and work with you all now that I am back stateside.