Ensuring the Success of Canada’s Prostitution Law

by Michelle Brock on December 8th, 2014

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On December 6, Canada’s new prostitution law took effect.  I’ve written several posts highlighting the different components of the new law, as well as addressed some of the criticisms arising from the pro-sex work camp.  I’ve included links to these posts at the bottom of this one, but today I’d like to shift my focus to a question I’ve been pondering all week:

What steps are required in order for this law to be successful?

 

Passing a law is no easy task.  It involves research, committee hearings and consensus-building.  It includes a certain degree of public support.  It requires votes from both the House and the Senate.  Over the course of the last year, many Canadians have also done their part – signing petitions, writing letters, meeting with their MPs.

When a law finally gets passed, there can be a tendency to assume that nothing more is needed, that we can let down our guard and allow the issue to take care of itself.  But this is precisely the time to act, to use the momentum of the new law to make real progress.

tall ships 71 768x1024To assume that the passage of the law alone can end sexual exploitation is like hoisting up the sails and forgetting to steer the ship.  The crew on a boat understand that sails are critical, but also know that getting anywhere requires wind, a compass, knowledge of the seas, good leadership, teamwork, and diligent boat maintenance. Otherwise the ship will simply drift from one current to the other, never reaching its destination.  If the objective of the new prostitution bill – to prevent sexual exploitation and protect the vulnerable – is to be realized, we must look at the issue holistically and take action that is intentional, wise, and long-term.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of posts on how we can help the new law reach its objectives.  

They might make some people uncomfortable and I might step on some toes.  But the reality is that ending sexual exploitation is difficult and requires sacrifice.  The good news is that the passage of this law has put this issue in the limelight, so let’s not waste our opportunity to make change happen.

For more of my writing on the new law:

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A Tale of Two Coffee Shops

by Michelle Brock on December 2nd, 2014

bottoms up 1024x768This past weekend, Jay and I screened our documentary in the city of Modesto, California.  As we drove around town, I spotted what looked like a drive-thru coffee shop with an unusual sign – a silhouette of a woman in a bikini.  At first I thought it was just a tacky logo, but all of a sudden I realized that the employees inside weren’t wearing regular uniforms.  The girls were wearing nothing but skimpy bikinis.

Immediately I thought of the area of town we were in.  Massage parlours and adult stores lined the street.  I feared for the girls for when they got off their shifts at night – they’d be an easy target for an ogling customer who could easily wait around.  I was also concerned what a job like this could do to their psyche.  I know way too many stories of girls who started off as servers at Hooters or doing wet T-shirt contests at bars that ended up falling prey to a world of pimps, violence, and prostitution.  Selling your body can start off innocently enough, and for many young women who are either desperate for money or desperate for love, getting extra tips or attention by wearing next to nothing can be an addiction that leads them way further than they had intended.

origin2 820x1024Less than 24 hours later, Jay and I stopped in Rocklin, California at a coffee shop called Origin Coffee & Tea. All their profits go to helping victims of human trafficking (you can read my interview with the founder here).  I couldn’t help but compare the two coffee shops in my mind.

One exploits bodies for profit, the other uses profit to restore dignity.  

One takes advantage of vulnerability, the other offers empowerment for the vulnerable.  

One is a race to the bottom, the other is a pursuit of justice.

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As we continued on our way with delicious drinks in hand, Jay and I were so grateful for places like Origin Coffee & Tea.  Let’s make this the trend!

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Slavery Wasn’t THAT Bad…

by Michelle Brock on November 18th, 2014

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Our map of Savannah

Last week Jay and I spent a morning in Savannah, Georgia.  There is a well-known supper club in town called Mrs. Wilkes, where the food is set out family style and everyone is seated randomly, encouraging people to get to know the strangers at their table during the course of the meal.  Due to the popularity of the restaurant, we had to wait outside in line and decided to take a detailed look at our city map.

Historically Savannah served as one of the hubs for the slave market, and thousands of men, women and children were sold to the highest bidder in Savannah’s harbour 250 years ago.  Jay mentioned out loud how sad it was that so much of the city was built on the backs of slaves, who would pick cotton on plantations all over the Southern U.S. while their masters reaped the profits.

We noticed that as he said this, two middle-aged, white women in front of us bristled.  They gave each other a look, somewhere between a “oh here we go” and a “isn’t that cute.”  Jay wasted no time.  “Hi, I’m Jay, it’s nice to meet you.”  We all introduced ourselves and started talking about Savannah.  We told them about our anti-trafficking work and eventually circled back to the topic of slavery.

“Well, someone had to pick the fields,” one of the women said.

“But don’t you think it’s wrong to enslave another person?” Jay asked.

“You know, you gotta do what you gotta do.  You needed to hire help, so that’s that.”

“But it was slavery…they didn’t hire help, they bought human beings,” he countered.

“Well, that’s just how things were.”

Sadly, this wasn’t the first time we’d encountered such a flippant attitude toward slavery.  Last year we found ourselves in a conversation with another woman from the South (who still owned a piece of a former plantation she’d inherited from her ancestors), and she adamantly insisted:

“Slavery wasn’t that bad…it’s not like everyone got whipped or raped.”

Later, she referred to herself and her husband as “prime people.”  The words of Abraham Lincoln came to mind:

“Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”

 

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Roadside cotton fields

 

On the way down to Savannah the day before, we’d passed by dozens of cotton fields.  It was the first time I’d actually seen one for myself.  The white clusters of fluff were glowing lazily in the sun, and as I bent down to take a closer look, I was struck by their soft texture and simply beauty.  But knowing that generations of slaves had to perform back-breaking work in the heat of the day (and women additionally often had to serve their masters sexually at night), the moment seemed tainted, haunted by the cries of mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers.

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This is where our clothes come from

At the root of any exploitation is entitlement. It’s the belief that I am a “prime person,” a superior class of citizen, and others are not. It is the assumption that my comfort, financial security, and ambition can come at the cost of another human life.  While the entitlement of these women we’ve met in the South was painfully evident, the truth is that all of us harbour these attitudes to some degree in different areas of our lives.

I myself am guilty of having an entitled attitude. I’ve judged people before knowing them, put myself first at the expense of others, and made decisions based on what is best for me and my loved ones instead of considering the common good.  I’ve put others down while puffing myself up, allowed fear to hold me back from standing up for what is right, and sometimes assumed that people in difficult circumstances “had it coming.”  My hope is that these thoughts would gradually become rare moments instead of default attitudes.

While these thoughts may seem inconsequential, I believe that they can quickly morph into actions that hurt others.  In fact, sex trafficking and labour trafficking still thrive in our own communities, and around the world mothers, fathers, and children work in sweatshops, coffee fields or cocoa plantations for little to no pay so that we can buy cheap clothing and tasty treats.  It would appear we are not as immune to slavery as we think.

Perhaps it’s time we reel in our entitlement.  Here’s some steps we can take:

1.  Listen to people’s stories.  Instead of making an assumption about someone, learn to ask good questions.  Put away your cell phone and other distractions, and let their story in.  What is one question you could ask someone this week to get to know their story better?

2.  Walk a mile in another’s shoes.  I know of a young couple that intentionally moved into a run-down apartment building so they could actively love the people of that community.  The wife made it her goal to visit and get to know each family, specifically with the purpose of building connections with kids and their parents so they could come to her if they needed help.  Listening to loud fights through the walls and dealing with bed bugs were just part of their reality, allowing them to truly understand some of the difficulties their neighbours faced.  What is one way you could put yourself in someone else’s shoes?

3.  Watch a movie or read a book.  I personally love historical fiction because it allows me to learn about people’s experiences through story.  12 Years a Slave is a must-watch if you want to witness the horror of Antebellum slavery. Whether you want to learn more about homelessness, sex trafficking, poverty, the orphan crisis, war, domestic abuse, or any other issue, I would encourage you to find some books and movies.  What is one issue that you want to learn about, and what book or film will you pick up this week to do that?

4.  Travel with your eyes open.  This could mean going to another country or merely venturing to a different part of your own town.  If you go to another country, make sure you get away from all inclusives and cushy, Westernized hotels.  Have a meal with a local.  Spend the night in a small village.  Take local transport.  Volunteer.  On the home front, sometimes Jay and I will park our car and walk through areas of the city that people usually avoid, just so we can learn a bit more about what life is like outside our bubble.  Where is one place you can go this year to experience how others live?

5.  Ask yourself the hard questions.  In what areas could you be harbouring entitlement?

My hope is that the spirit of slavery, rooted in entitlement, would cease to exist.  It starts with us, so let’s take up the challenge!

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Big News – Prostitution Bill C-36 Passes Senate!

by Michelle Brock on November 5th, 2014

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There’s some exciting news coming out of Ottawa this week – Bill C-36 has passed Senate and is on track to receive Royal Assent before the end of the year, meeting the deadline set by the Supreme Court.  So what exactly does this mean?  It means that in the next few weeks, Canada will have a new prostitution law on the books.

I thought it would be helpful to give an overview of the bill and what’s happened in the last year.

December 20, 2013 – Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court struck down Canada’s existing prostitution laws, meaning that living off the avails of prostitution, communicating for the purposes of prostitution, and operating within a brothel would no longer be illegal.  In essence, both the buying and selling of sex would be decriminalized.  Pro-prostitution groups hailed this as a step forward for the rights of sex workers, who asserted this would make their work safer.  The Supreme Court gave Parliament exactly one year to respond to the ruling, giving them the opportunity to rewrite the laws on prostitution if they wished to do so.  If Parliament chose not to act, the Supreme Court ruling would carry through on December 20 of 2014, decriminalizing prostitution across the country.

June 4, 2014 – Bill Introduced

Parliament decided to respond to the Court decision, and on June 4, Justice Minister Peter MacKay introduced Bill C-36 (The Protection of Communities and Exploited Person Act). The proposed legislation recognized people in prostitution primarily as victims of either force or circumstance, and focused on demand reduction.  Under the new law:

  • The purchase of sex would be criminalized.  This is the critical piece, as it seeks to reduce demand for paid sex.  Demand is the economic engine that fuels sexual exploitation and makes sex trafficking extremely lucrative.  While there will always be some people who go out of their way to pay for sex, adding barriers will deter the majority from engaging.  According to a study that asked men (including some who admitted they had paid for sex) which initiatives would deter them from purchasing sex, 80-83% said jail time and 66-79% mentioned monetary fines.  Targeting demand is a big step forward if we are to deal with the issue of sexual exploitation on a long-term scale.
  • The selling of sex would be decriminalized.  This recognizes that those in prostitution are primarily in a position of inequality, and should not be criminalized.  The proposed law would only charge those selling sex if they do so in an area where minors could be present.
  • Receiving a material benefit from the exploitation of another person would be illegal.  This means pimping.  Other non-exploitative arrangements would not be criminalized, meaning that spouses, roommates, and dependents of those in prostitution would be exempt from a criminal offence.  However, trafficking (exploiting someone for profit), would not be legal.  While traffickers could potentially masquerade as “bodyguards” and “drivers,” the exemptions made in the bill align with the Charter and allow for those who wish to hire security services for their own protection to do so.
  • Advertising the sexual services of another person would be illegal.
  • The government would pledge $20M in new funding for exit programs and aftercare.

July 2014 – Response & Amendments

After passing second reading, the bill headed to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.  The Committee heard testimonies from dozens of representatives on both ends of the spectrum, including trafficking victims, pro-prostitution sex workers, lawyers, professors, NGOs, and others (watch our testimony here, starts at minute 12:30).

Two camps emerged during the hearings, which was no surprise.  The first group consisted of sex workers and others who claimed that decriminalizing the industry (both buying and selling) was the best way forward, any other option would make sex work dangerous (which I address here).  The second group consisted of former sex industry individuals, trafficking survivors, and NGOs who believed that decriminalizing the purchase of sex would have the long-term effect of increased demand and result in more harm for the majority of those in prostitution, citing the experiences of other countries.

One component of the proposed legislation was unanimously challenged by every group that testified in committee – the piece that made it illegal to sell sex in an area “where persons under the age of 18 could reasonably be expected to be present.”  Many pointed out that people in prostitution usually do it because they are in a position of inequality and vulnerability, and should never be criminalized regardless of their location.  The proposed legislation was also too vague about what constituted as an area where “minors could reasonably be expected to be present.”

The Committee passed ended up passing Bill C-36, with the following amendments:

  • Amendment # 1: The location “where minors could be present” was narrowed down to “next to a school, playground, or daycare centre.”  Though it would be better to strike the provision down altogether, at least this amendment makes it less vague.
  • Amendment #2: Within 5 years of the bill becoming law, a comprehensive review of its impact will be undertaken, to see if anything needs to be fine-tuned or changed.

 

October 6, 2014 – Bill C-36 Passes Third Reading

The bill passed with a 156-124 vote.  All Conservatives voted in favour, while Liberals, NDP & the Green Party voted against.

November 4, 2014 – Bill C-36 Passes Senate 

Bill C-36 passes the Senate and is set to receive Royal Assent before the December 19 deadline.  This means that prostitution will not be decriminalized, and that by early 2015 Canada will have a new prostitution law.

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After engaging with thousands of Canadians across the country on this issue during our film tour, the passing of Bill C-36 is fantastic, exciting news!  To all of you who contacted your member of Parliament, hosted a screening of Red Light Green Light, or signed a petition, thank you!  We also congratulate MP Joy Smith for all her hard work over the last several years on this issue.  Here’s a snippet from her statement today:

“I am delighted to share with you that yesterday evening, the Senate of Canada passed Bill C-36, Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act. With the passage of Bill C-36, Canada has established a new approach to addressing prostitution that recognizes the harm prostitution causes to women and youth.

This is a historic moment for equality and women’s rights in Canada. For the first time in Canada’s history, the buying and advertising of sexual services will be illegal, and the government will provide robust funding to help women and youth escape prostitution.”

My Thoughts:

  • I believe that Bill C-36 is a step in the right direction.  It would be naive to think that one law will solve the complex problems surrounding this issue, but the legislation is a critical component that has great potential to prevent sexual exploitation.
  • The foundations have been set, but we must build well from here.  While the law has gender equality and protection of vulnerable groups at its core, we must be careful that its implementation does not slip into a “tough on crime” paradigm.  Law enforcement needs to understand the spirit of the law and be educated in depth about how to respond in various situations.  Compassion and humility are key.
  • We must identify the factors that contribute to sexual exploitation, and recognize that issues melt into each other.  Things like poverty and child sexual abuse act as push factors that make youth vulnerable, and we must be diligent about putting systems into place that get at some of these root factors.  If we are serious about preventing sexual exploitation, we also need a public inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.
  • One thing that makes me sad is how polarized this issue became in Parliament.  I personally knew of MPs across party lines who supported the legislation but voted the party line.  The extremes appeared on both sides of the political spectrum.  On the right, some argued that everything should be criminalized, including the selling of sex.  On the left, some argued that nothing should be criminalized, including the purchase of sex.  The asymmetrical approach of the bill (which also applies to loan sharking) addresses both vulnerability and demand.  My hope is that as we move forward, our Parliamentarians would be more willing to work together so that the law can be fine-tuned wisely if need be.  I guess the question is: how do we make the environment in the House of Commons less toxic, less partisan, and more respectful?
  • Let’s commit to the long haul.  Let’s encourage our representatives – locally, provincially and federally – to make this a financial priority.  $20 million is the tip of the iceberg for what is needed, so let’s do our part to funnel more funding into both prevention and aftercare.  This is of paramount importance for this legislation to succeed.

If we are intentional and wise, I believe that Canada’s new prostitution law has great potential to go a long way to prevent sexual exploitation.  I am honoured to be part of a community that cares about these issues and continues to press on!

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How Do You Wield Your Power?

by Michelle Brock on November 3rd, 2014

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Over the past week, I’ve read and listened to numerous reports surrounding former Q host Jian Ghomeshi.  It seems that every day new allegations come to the surface, ranging from stories of inappropriate flirting in the workplace to downright sexual harassment and violence.  What started as one woman coming forward resulted in a tidal wave of others – ranging from Canadian actor Lucy DeCoutere and author Reva Seth, to a host of aspiring media grads who were afraid to report Ghomeshi’s behaviour because of how it might affect their future careers.  Each have recounted eerily similar experiences with the successful and popular radio show host.

After his dismissal from the CBC, Ghomeshi took to facebook and hired representation for his defense, but a few days later the crisis management experts and public relations firm both dropped him as a client.  The police have opened up a formal investigation, which will hopefully get to the bottom of it all.

In the midst of the media storm, I’ve been contemplating the stewardship of power.  At a leadership conference a few years ago, I heard Andy Stanley ask a thought-provoking question while speaking about influence:

“What do you do when it dawns on you that you are the most powerful person in the room?”

 

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All of us have been in this position at one time or another.  If we have children under our care or staff under our leadership, we are in a position of power.  If we have followers on social media, money in our wallet, or the ability to speak English, we are in a position of power.  If we have physical strength, sharp intellect, infectious charisma, we are in a position of power.  If we possess a skill, hold a political office, or have a wide network of relationships, we are in a position of power.

This means that we are constantly stepping into moments where we are the most powerful person in the room, so to speak.  Do we recognize our power?  Do we intentionally steward our influence?  How do we put safeguards in place that prevent us from taking advantage of others?

If the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi are found to be true, it means that he leveraged his power to manipulate and even hurt others for his own selfish purposes.  Though behaviour like this is absolutely unacceptable, we must remember that none of us are immune to slipping into patterns of misusing influence.

Let us not leverage power for our own sake, but for the sake of others.

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Meet This Year’s Riders!

by Michelle Brock on September 30th, 2014

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This year’s Ride for Refuge is taking place in FOUR DAYS!  There are 39 riders on 6 teams across 3 provinces riding for Hope for the Sold, and on October 4 they will hop on their bicycles and brave whatever elements may come their way.  Here’s your chance to support their efforts!

Team Name: HFTS Winnipeg

Team Captain: Katie Daman

Riders: 7

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The Daman girls!

Katie hosted a screening of Red Light Green Light in Winnipeg last fall, and her sister Bethany hosted a second one in Niverville in April.  Delicious baked goods accompanied both screenings (made by their super cool family) making for stellar events. Oh, and the day of the RIDE, October 4, just happens to be Katie’s birthday!

Check out their team and SUPPORT HFTS WINNIPEG HERE!

 

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Screening at The Tapestry

Team Name: Ride For Hope (Vancouver)

Team Captain: Flora Miles

Riders: 11

Flora and her husband Brandon brought Red Light Green Light to Richmond BC this past spring.  They just celebrated their 3 year anniversary!

Meet the rest of their team and SUPPORT RIDE FOR HOPE HERE!

 

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Cate, Mady & their Justice Team

Team Name: HFTS Langley

Team Captain: Cate Felton / Mady Sieben

Riders: 3

Cate hosted a screening at Trinity Western University, packing out a lecture hall with students who were eager to talk about social justice and trafficking prevention.  Cate and her friend Mady have been part of a justice club together (pictured).  Meet the HFTS LANGLEY TEAM & SHOW YOUR SUPPORT HERE!

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The bride to be!

Team Name: HFTS Hamilton

Team Captain: Niki Devereaux

Riders: 4

Not only was Niki the first person to donate when we were raising funds to make Red Light Green Light, but also jumped on board to coordinate the RIDE FOR REFUGE campaign for Hope for the Sold this year!  Oh, and she is getting married on October 11 – exactly one week after the RIDE!  Meet Niki’s team and SUPPORT HFTS HAMILTON HERE!

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Victoria screening

Team Name: Restore Dignity (Victoria)

Team Captain: Tania Betiku

Riders: 10

Tania, as part of a passionate team from Vancouver Island, brought Red Light Green Light to Victoria as part of our spring tour.

Meet and SUPPORT THE RESTORE DIGNITY TEAM HERE!

 

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Team Name: Hope Peddlers (Oshawa)

Team Captain: Cindy Gates

Riders: 4

Sadly I have no picture yet of these fine folks, but don’t let that stop you from supporting them Cindy and her team!  You can donate to Hope Peddlers HERE!

To all of you strapping on your helmets and hitting the road on Saturday, WE’RE CHEERING FOR YOU!

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Is Sensationalism a Prerequisite for Our Compassion?

by Michelle Brock on September 18th, 2014

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I recently listened to a CBC Radio interview about Rosewater, a movie about a journalist who is detained and brutally interrogated in an Iranian prison for more than 100 days.  The film, based on a true story, is John Stewart’s directorial debut, requiring him to take a 3 month leave from The Daily Show to make it happen.  During the interview, Stewart highlighted something interesting that we don’t usually associate with detainment:

“I think there is a tendency to view torture in a very narrow light.  I think we’re accustomed more to that American cinematic version…’Tell me what you know’ and the guy’s in a dank dungeon and [gets kicked] in the face…But the truth of the matter is, deprivation is torture.  And solitary is torture. And what Maziar went through is a far more common and ubiquitous form of torture that we no longer recognize.  

We’ve become desensitized to the more mundane aspects of someone losing their freedom.”

The things we do in our day-to-day life – our routines, habits, and relationships – are an intrinsic part of being human.  Like drinking coffee in the morning, going to work, hanging out with friends, doing laundry, sleeping in a bed, reading a book, listening to music, eating good food, buying a home, raising children.  Torture is not limited to being physically battered and verbally threatened.  Torture often takes the form of simply losing one’s freedom to do the mundane – yet meaningful – things that make us who we are.

The bit got me thinking about a conversation I’ve had with several front-line workers who deal with victims of trafficking and abuse.  There is a temptation for many of us in anti-trafficking circles to tell the worst stories, to shock the audience with horrific details, and in some cases, to exaggerate stories to the point where they are no longer true.  But while focusing on “the worst stories” may illicit temporary support and funding for important projects, in many cases it undermines sustainable compassion - the kind of compassion that cares about the nuances of people’s situations and doesn’t require sensationalism to keep it going.

It’s true – some victims of exploitation are locked in a room and have to service dozens of men daily. But there are other victims that are stuck in prostitution because of invisible chains, like being in love with their pimp or trying to provide for their kids.  There are some who were kidnapped off the street and sold into prostitution, and there are others who knew they would enter prostitution but had no idea how hard it would be to get out.  Some are beaten every day and deprived of food and medical attention, while others are permitted to move around and even have their own home as long as the money keeps filling the pimp’s pockets.  And then there are those who are not being sexually abused at all, but are forced to work in a field or a factory for little or no pay.

Our response and our compassion should extend to all these situations, because while some are more extreme than others, they are all missing elements of freedom.

As cliche as it sounds, picture yourself in another’s shoes and allow yourself to feel their fear, their discomfort, their frustration.  Let’s strive to care about injustice in all its forms, and wean ourselves from the addiction of sensationalism.

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Ride a Bicycle, Prevent Human Trafficking

by Michelle Brock on September 10th, 2014

Check out our new Ride for Refuge video!

Register a team or sign up as a rider here!

Can’t join the RIDE?  Donate directly to Hope for the Sold or support a RIDE team.

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Ride for Hope for the Sold in This Year’s Ride for Refuge!

by Michelle Brock on September 9th, 2014

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This year’s Ride for Refuge is fast approaching, but there is still time to sign up, dust off your bike, and get ready for ride day!

Ride for Refuge is a fantastically fun, family-friendly bike-a-thon supporting charities serving the displaced, vulnerable, and exploited.  It’s taking place on October 4 in 30 locations across the country, and is a great way to support organizations like Hope for the Sold.

 

Hope for the Sold is still looking for riders and team captains for the RIDE.  You can read more about our vision and what you’d be supporting here.

Check out the city listing and register today!

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15 Indicators Teachers Can Look For to Spot Trafficking in Their School

by Michelle Brock on September 4th, 2014

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The fall always feels like the beginning of a new year, and as I write, teachers and students in Canada are wrapping up their first week of school.  I have the privilege of knowing some incredible teachers, who not only care about information transfer and test scores, but also about the students themselves. Some of my teacher friends have become mentors, helping kids through difficult issues like bullying or abuse in the home.  They may be the only ones who notice a student struggling with an eating disorder, loneliness, or, in some cases, something as serious as human trafficking.

The Texas School Safety Center recently came out with an article about recognizing the signs of human trafficking in schools.  As I read the article, faces of trafficking victims flashed through my mind. I met one girl who, at the age of 15, met some older guys on facebook.  The exploitative nature of the relationship progressed to the point to where she’d go to class during the day and be sold for sex at night.  Her parents had no idea.  In Vegas I learned that grade 12 boys were pimping grade 9 girls out of bathroom stalls at school.  Due to cell phones and the internet, traffickers can have access to students all day long without even having to enter school premises.

Teachers, coaches, and other school personnel are in a unique position to spot warning signs.  Here are a few to keep an eye out for:

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Source: Texas State School Safety Center

 

Though these signs can point to a variety of issues, not just trafficking, it is good for teachers to be aware.  Here’s some more pointers:

1.  Have a relationship with the school liaison police officer, and ask if they have been educated/trained on human trafficking.  If so, they may be able to help you with a specific situation and give you ideas for local resources.

2.  Build a relationship of trust with your students.  In many cases, a trafficking victim won’t identify themselves as a victim, so it takes trust to help them.  Jennifer Lucking, a good friend of mine who has worked extensively with survivors of exploitation, explains that unless teachers have an incredibly close and trusting relationship with their students, a victim of trafficking will likely not listen to a teacher’s concern.

It may be better for a teacher to ask some challenging questions that will really help a victim identify for themselves that their situation isn’t ideal.  For example instead of a teacher saying “he’s a pimp, not your boyfriend, you shouldn’t be doing that,” a teacher could ask “what does he do to make you feel cared for? What does he do that makes you feel uncared for? Do you think you deserve that?”  At the very least, you are establishing that you are a safe person if the student ever decides to reach out.

You can read the entire Texas School Safety Center Report here.

It’s my hope that we can work together to traffic-proof this school year, and make schools safe zones where kids can learn and grow without fear of exploitation.

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