Hope for the Sold Photo Contest: Freedom

by Michelle Brock on July 26th, 2012

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“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”              

~ Robert Frank

 

 

All you photographers, aspiring photographers, and creative people, here it your chance to take part in Hope for the Sold’s Photo Contest!

  • Theme: Freed/Freedom – What images and metaphors come to mind when you imagine freedom for victims of exploitation and slavery?  Get creative!  I am anticipating some powerful and beautiful interpretations.
  • Deadline:  August 26, 2012
  • Photo limit per person: 2
  • Submission:  Send an email along with your picture(s) to michelle@hopeforthesold.com with the title of your email as “Photo Contest.”  Be sure to include your full name and your website if you have one.
  • Voting:  The best photo will be selected by myself and HFTS blog readers.
  • Purpose:  Pictures often resonate with people in a way that words never can, and promoting the concept of freedom through images can inspire people into action, as well as encourage survivors.

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With your submission, you are giving Hope for the Sold permission to publish the photo(s) on our website, as well as use it for promotional materials related to our anti-trafficking efforts.

Photos must be taken by you.  Please don’t send in pictures by someone else from the internet.  I want to showcase your work!

Pass this onto any friends who might be interested as well!  Can’t wait to see what you come up with to celebrate this theme.  Check out what others have sent in on the previous themes of resilience and vulnerability.

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…To Lift Not One But Both Of Us

by Michelle Brock on July 23rd, 2012

A couple of weeks ago while driving to an appointment with the radio on, a song came on that caught my attention.  The chorus was so beautiful that I pulled over to scribble it down on a piece of paper.

“I wish I was strong enough to lift not one, but both of us.  Someday I will be strong enough to lift not one, but both of us.”

 

The song is about the reality of life’s hardships.  About humanity.  About glimpses of beauty in seemingly dreary contexts.  But it is the chorus that rings in my ears.  I want to live my life in a way that lifts up others, not just myself.

To be honest, I have never personally experienced the horrors of exploitation, the depth of injustice, the grip of vulnerability, or the desperation of poverty.  But I would hope that the plight of others would draw out compassion in me in such a way as to make me live differently so that they may be raised up.  A Biblical proverb says it so well:

“Better a little gain with righteousness than much gain with injustice.”

 

How can we live in such a way that lifts not one, but both of us?

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Yard Sale at Paterno Nurseries to Raise Funds for Hope for the Sold & Walk With Me, Saturday July 21

by Michelle Brock on July 19th, 2012

yard saleDo you LOVE garage sales?  Do you live in the Hamilton / Guelph / Dundas / Flamborough / Burlington / Waterdown area?  This weekend, there will be a yard sale at Paterno Nurseries to raise funds for Hope for the Sold and Walk With Me.  If you like buying second hand treasures, or supporting anti-trafficking initiatives, or both, check it out!

When:  Saturday July 21, 2012, 8am to 1pm

Where: Paterno Nurseries, 3 km West of Clappison’s Corners on Hwy 5 in Flamborough (334 Dundas St. W/Hwy 5, R.R. #2, Dundas, Ontario)

 

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What’s for Sale:  A wide variety of household items, clothing, shoes, jewelry, books and DVDs, furniture, makeup, purses, bags and luggage, art and school supplies, toys and more!

Check out the Kijiji ad here.  Yard Sale is happening rain or shine!

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Child Abuse, Mental Health & Human Trafficking: Interview with Jacqui Linder from the Chrysalis Network

by Michelle Brock on July 16th, 2012

The Chrysalis Network is a non-governmental organization designed to provide free counselling and emergency support services for survivors of human trafficking and exploitation across Canada.  If you or someone you know need to talk, the anti-trafficking hotline number is 1 866 528 7109.  I asked Jacqui Linder, the founder and executive director of the Chrysalis Network, to answer some questions about her work.

child abuseHow does addiction and abuse connect to sexual exploitation and trafficking?

Early childhood abuse and interpersonal trauma set the stage for exploitation and trafficking by making people vulnerable to predation by traffickers. This is because people with histories of abuse and addiction often have low self-esteem, core shame and a number of other mental health issues that make them particularly easy to control and manipulate.

Why is it important for people to hear the stories in this video?

Typically, the conversation around human trafficking in Canada takes place within the context of statistics and dollar figures. While such numbers are important, they fail to communicate the depths of pain and suffering experienced by victims of trauma in general and human trafficking in particular. Lexi, Diane and Phil’s stories put powerful human faces unto what I believe are Canada’s very own version of the “Disappeared” within our society.

If someone calls The Chrysalis Network, what can they expect?

Chrysalis offers LGBTQA-friendly supportive trauma counselling to trafficked and exploited women and men along with referrals to partner organizations across Canada who can assist them on the ground.

hanging by a threadWhat is it like to talk to someone on the phone who is a victim of sexual exploitation? Is it difficult?

It is both a painful and humbling experience. You’ve never met a braver human being than someone who has been utterly degraded and violated in body and soul yet is determined to hold on to life and hope, even if only by a thread. The callers on the Chrysalis line are some of the most courageous people I have ever met in all my work as a trauma psychologist.

Do you have a story you’d like to share of someone finding help through your work?

I had a beautiful conversation a few weeks ago with a young man in Ontario who is currently in the commercial sex industry.  He was trafficked into the industry by his step-mother who sexually abused him.  We talked about his loneliness, isolation and shame as well as the fact that he’s not sure he even knows how to live outside this dark Underworld.

He told me about the degradation he has experienced in the business as well as the exhilaration he sometimes feels with certain activities such as stripping.  Then we spoke of love and the fact that he has never been in love.  He’s been touched by many women but never cherished by them.  He knows about physical pleasure but knows nothing of human tenderness.  He knows about physical intimacy but knows nothing about emotional trust.  As we spoke, he came to the realization that, in many ways, he is still reenacting his early sexual abuse history with women much like his step-mother.  He was orphaned after the death of his biological parents and the one adult who was left to protect him preyed on his young body and mind instead.  Fifteen years later, the game is still in play . . .

If you could tell people one thing about the Crysalis Network that they might not know, what would it be?

Chrysalis is 100% volunteer run and operated. That means that 95% of all funds raised by or for our organization go directly to victims either by keeping the crisis line going or by going into our tiny victim rescue fund, which can be accessed by partner agencies across Canada. The other 5% of funds goes to pay for our insurance and occasional printing costs.

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What do you think is the best way to reduce vulnerability?

Protect kids. Teach them that they are loved and worthwhile. Teach them to believe in themselves. Encourage them to follow their dreams. People with high self-esteem, strong social supports and a deep feeling of empowerment do not tend to become victims of human trafficking. For those adult children that we have already failed as a society, all we can do now is step-up, take responsibility and rescue as many as we can.

You can check out the Chrysalis Network website and support their work by participating in the Freedom Rally in September.  Jacqui, thank you for the work that you do, and for your deep compassion for those who are falling through the cracks.

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Quote of the Month: Helen Keller

by Michelle Brock on July 10th, 2012

Helen Keller1“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.”

~Helen Keller

 

Words of truth, spoken by someone who took responsibility despite adversity.

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Ontario’s Prostitution Ruling Misrepresented the Evidence, Contravening Case Law & the Charter, Scholar Finds

by Michelle Brock on July 5th, 2012

Court of AppealA scholarly paper concludes that Bedford v. Canada erroneously rewrote the law against “living on the avails of prostitution” on basis of misrepresented as well as faulty evidence, and contravenes prior Supreme Court cases and the Charter by making prostituted persons more vulnerable to exploitation.

To date, living “on the avails of prostitution of another person” has been illegal in Canada. That law was challenged in the Court of Appeal for Ontario in Bedford v. Canada on March 26, 2012. The court essentially found that the law prevented prostituted persons to benefit from third parties such as brothel management, escort agencies, bodyguards, or drivers — all whom were perceived as able to enhance the safety and well-being of prostituted persons. Hence, the avails provision was rewritten by the court, stating that it “applies only to those” who live on the avails “’in circumstances of exploitation.’”

Now, a recent working paper from Stockholm University penned by Max Waltman, a PhD Candidate at their Department of Political Science, concludes that the Court of Appeal for Ontario erroneously rewrote the law against “living on the avails of prostitution” on basis of misrepresented as well as faulty evidence, and as a result made prostituted persons more vulnerable to exploitation. The paper highlights how the Bedford ruling contravenes previous Supreme Court cases on prostitution, and is inconsistent with equality guarantees under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Waltman suggests a different decision based on the notion of equality under the Charter’s case law, which would effectively endorse the Swedish prostitution law in Canada that criminalizes purchasers and pimps, and decriminalizes prostituted persons. The case will now head to the Supreme Court. (If you are new to the Bedford ruling, and want to get caught up on the basics, you can read a clear description of the decision here.)

When the Court of Appeal for Ontario’s decision was handed down this spring I had some questions about their ruling, including the following:

  • How did the Court of Appeal come to its conclusion? What research influenced their decision? 
  • How did the decision align with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? 
  • Can the Ontario Court of Appeal’s rewrite of the Criminal Code regarding “circumstances of exploitation” prevent exploitation in prostitution effectively? 

On a hunt for some answers, I contacted Max Waltman to give me his thoughts on the ruling. Waltman has written about legal challenges to pornography and prostitution that effectively challenged them as practices violating equality and other human rights in democratic systems, focusing on judicial and legislative politics in Canada, Sweden, and the United States. He has previously published in the Michigan Journal of International Law (2011), Women’s Studies International Forum (2011), Political Research Quarterly (2010), and in the popular press, among others New York Times (2012) and the Toronto Star (2011). Waltman, who has family ties with Ontario through his late father who was brought up and spend half his life there, realized that the country and province which he previously admired for their commitment to social equality and solidarity had moved to a position where, if no one intervened, they will become the haven for traffickers and pimps across North America.

Though Waltman had initially agreed to an interview, the final result was a full, in-depth working paper that examines the evidence and arguments relied on by the Court of Appeal for Ontario. The paper finds that the evidence did not support their decision. In practice the rewrite makes prostituted people, a group which is already subject to intersectional and multiple disadvantages, even more exposed and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Accordingly, the paper concludes that the Bedford decisions violate previous Supreme Court case law as well as they contravene the Charter’s section 15’s substantive equality guarantee, which impels a different decision. The paper further states that by upholding the existing criminalization of purchasers and third parties where they apply, and invalidating the criminalization of prostituted people — persons whom should rather be entitled to social support if the wish to leave prostitution, and rights to damages from purchasers and pimps for having violated their equality and dignity — Canada would, consistent with the Charter, promote equality and facilitate for prostituted persons to leave prostitution, which the overwhelming majority say they want. A similar law already exists in Sweden, and has reduced prostitution many times compared to neighboring countries.

I am honoured to share this paper with you, and believe its content to be of paramount importance for Canada’s decision makers on this issue. Please download the paper below, take some time to read it thoroughly, and spread it around.

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You can download the full working paper from the Social Sciences Research Network here, entitled “Ontario Disempowers Prostituted Persons: Assessing Evidence, Arguments & Substantive Equality in Bedford v. Canada.” It is a great read, and the download is FREE!

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This is exactly the kind of analysis we need as the issue of prostitution moves to the Supreme Court of Canada.  Thank you, Max, for taking the time to write such a well-researched, thorough piece, to better equip us to prevent sex trafficking and exploitation in this country.

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What Tackling a Monster in My Life Has Taught Me About Root Causes of Human Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on July 3rd, 2012

fighting monstersLately I have been trying to tackle a monster in my life that has been silently affecting my thoughts and my relationships.  It robs me of my joy, deprives me of my creativity, and prevents me from being the best wife, friend, daughter, sister,   co-worker, blogger, and activist that I can be.  It is a silent driving force behind  many of my decisions.  It cripples me, accuses me, frustrates me.  Though it is my enemy, it masquerades itself as a loyal friend.

That monster is comparison.

When my husband and I got married and set up our first little home, I found myself consumed with jealousy with what other friends in the same stage of life had in their houses.  I’ve never considered myself to be obsessed with material things, so the bad moods and envy that showed themselves during those first few months of our marriage shocked both me and Jay.  I was perfectly content with our little apartment, which was adorable and had everything we needed…until I saw what others had.  One day as I sulked in the car after visiting a friend’s house, and Jay lovingly but firmly said this:

“Michelle, if you think our family is about ‘keeping up with the Jones,’ you’ve married the wrong person.  Our lives are going to be about increasing our standard of giving, not our standard of living.”

I didn’t like hearing it, even though my years in Africa had taught me that I had so much more than most. But a few days later when I spilled a can of paint on our new shower curtain and burst into tears, I realized that the monster of materialism had to be weeded out of my life.  I remember whimpering to Jay, “character change is just so hard.”  In that moment everything changed.  Today I can honestly say that material things, for the most part, do not entice me like they used to, and in many ways I feel I’ve been set free. This has been replaced with an honest desire to increase our standard of giving, so that we can invest in the lives of others who actually have need.

jealousyI wish my story ended there, but the reality is that comparison, which was at the root of my materialism, has morphed into other forms over the years.  Today my jumbled thoughts can look like this:

His blog has so many more readers than mine.  How can she always look so dang good?  She’s on the front lines of fighting human trafficking but I’m just a writer.  I wish I was a good public speaker like that. It sure would be nice to get an inheritance like they did.  They get to travel WHERE?! He gets paid to do what he loves while I’m still a volunteer.

We go to the store and compare our clothes, our furniture, our accessories.  We go on facebook and compare our adventures, our pictures, our friends.  We watch movies and compare our bodies, our lifestyles, our romances.  As I heard it said once, “we spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like.”

In some cases, watching others can be a great thing if it prompts us to become better ourselves (ie. developing public speaking skills).  But sometimes it gets downright ugly.  Like that split second moment in which you quietly celebrate the downfall of another.  C.S. Lewis puts it so well:

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.”

We don’t just want to be rich, or smart, or pretty, or funny.  We want to be richer, smarter,  prettier, funnier.

Because I am passionate about prevention, I often ponder what the root causes of human trafficking are. For a while I was convinced that it was greed.  Our greed for more stuff decreases our margin to be generous to those in poverty, making them more vulnerable to exploitation.  Greed makes the flesh trade appealing to traffickers and pimps, as there is a lot of money to be made off the bodies of women and children.  Greed make corporations engage a vicious race to the bottom, where the rights and safety of workers are trampled.  But as a friend of mine recently pointed out, at the root of greed lies discontentment. And discontentment is fueled by comparison.

Discontentment leads us to spend money on only ourselves when there is a world of need all around us.  Discontentment makes us compromise our values and standards in an effort to appear to be someone we are not.  Discontentment drives men to ignore the real women in their lives to pursue sexual fantasies that often end up hurting victims of sex trafficking.  Though in most cases parents who sell their children into the sex trade do so in a desperate move to put food on the table, in some cases they do it for cable TV.

Discontentment prevents people from living their calling, which would make the world a better place. Discontentment and comparison make those of us who are trying to fight exploitation ineffective, or at the very least, less effective than we could be if we were fully united.

comparisonI don’t know about you, but I do not want discontentment and comparison to prevent me from helping others.  Every person I have talked to about this issue in the last month has acknowledged that on some level, they struggle with it too.  If we are to expect the government to fight injustice, we must be willing to fight the battle within ourselves.  Instead of comparing myself to others, I want to be inspired by others.  I still have a lot to learn and am open to any suggestions you may have in dealing with this monster.

What about you?  What areas of your life do you compare?  In what ways does it hinder you from being all you can be?  If you could stop comparing one thing, what would it be any why?  Do you agree that discontentment is connected at the root to human trafficking?  It what ways are you inspired by others instead?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this one.

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