January is human trafficking month.
I wanted to write about the issue of human trafficking from the perspective of an ally.As a fighter (a human rights advocate) I can only use my voice to highlight this issue from that of an ally. I, will NEVER know or begin to understand the trauma that is associated with being trafficked and exploited.
Having the work I have done in academia in researching, speaking to victims and survivors, seeing the day to day struggles of girls that I teach Tae Kwon Do to at-risk of or have already identified as CSEC (commercially sexually exploited children) and now gaining the perspective as an employee of an organization fighting to end commercial sexual exploitation of children in Oakland, has given me a unique voice as an ally in this fight to end human trafficking. I am reminded to not contribute to the voice that “speaks for” victims and survivors but only hope to elevate their voices and needs in their struggle.
In my attempts to contribute to the continued awareness that is needed on this issue, I want this post to reflect domestic human trafficking. First in regards to the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC).
Human trafficking is a multifaceted issue. The one aspect I cover is one of many struggles in regards to this human rights violation.
On January 9, 2014, in congruence with Human Trafficking Awareness, Nancy O’Malley’s office with Alameda County District Attorney’s Office held a press conference along with MISSSEY (Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting, Serving Sexually Exploited Youth). with Clear Channel Outdoor embarked on a campaign to outreach to the Oakland community. This is to shed light onto 2 issues.
One is to the existence of domestic human trafficking in the United States that focuses on the exploitation of our children.
It is to bring light to the fact that children are coerced or forced into prostitution. This outreach campaign with Alameda County’s DA’s office, MISSSEY Inc., & Clear Channel first demonstrates that when children are being prostituted, its child abuse and under our criminal code 18 USC § 2251, it is a form of human trafficking as well. There is a need to see these children as victims of such heinous crimes and not paint them as “teen prostitutes” there is NO SUCH THING.
A child cannot legally consent to sex, how can s/he perpetrate the “crime” of prostitution when s/he is unable to consent to the act. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2010 noted that out of the 62,670 arrests made in regards to Prostitution & Commercialized Vices 1,040 arrests were against juveniles (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/aus9010.pdf). There is still a lot that needs to be unpacked about this issue. Which also raises the awareness on the issue so that this problem can be combated as a community & is something that anyone can contribute to (that’s subject for a whole other post).
The billboard above is a part of the campaign that is advertised in selected regions around Alameda county.
Its to illustrate that while this crime is still occurring everyday in our community & making it a community issue. Another purpose of this campaign has been to get our youth who were exploited or are being exploited to gain access to resources for their healing and exit from “the life.” MISSSEY is as an organization works with +90 clients per month to provide services to girls at-risk or identifying as CSEC. Though MISSSEY is currently only serving female clients at-risk or facing commercial sexual exploitation, the need is for YOUTH at large. Boys are exploited just as much as girls, but it is more of a hidden problem because the predominant narrative has been the exploiation of girls. There’s also social stigma for boys to be in a place of vulnerability and a condition in our society that doesn’t allow for them to be vulnerable unless they are to be seen as weak or emasculating. This social stigma is best captured in a rather old, but heavily powerful, documentary titled The Tough Guise (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3exzMPT4nGI).
Hoping that I’ll deconstruct the prevailing narratives that do not accurately portray the discourse around the various issues of human trafficking in another post.
Commercial sexual exploitation of children is a multifaceted fight within the fight to end human trafficking.
There is a need to:
1) Dispel any notion that children are willing sex workers. So the term teen prostitute is just so wrong on so many levels
2) Address CSEC as a problem that happens in any community. Exploiters exploit anyone. It has been seen as a problem in Oakland among communities of color. But it can happen on any socio-economic & ethnic demographic.
3) expand resources to help children who are caught in this systemic exploitation.
Check out http://protectoaklandkids.org/ to learn more about the fight to end commercial sexual exploitation of children in our communities.
Sincerely, in Solidarity,
the pacifist fighter