Archive for the ‘Sex Trafficking’ Category

The Not So Glorious Road: A Rant Sparked by Basketball

by Michelle Brock on September 16th, 2011

glory roadI recently watched Glory Road, the inspirational true story about a basketball coach who defied status quo in the 1960s when he recruited black players onto his college team.  The movie shows how the team fought exhaustion, racism, personal differences and social pressure, resulting in one of the most remarkable college ball seasons in history.

I love movies like that. I am always inspired by those who see mountains of impossibility as challenges to overcome, and oceans of uncertainty as opportunities to spread big sails.  But I can’t help but feel frustrated when I watch sometimes, for the following reasons:

In real life there is no sound track. There is no music building to a crescendo when a person is about to reach success but doesn’t know it yet.  The string instruments that romanticize a difficult moment are replaced by silence.

In real life the journey takes a long time. If a movie is an hour and a half in length, that provides the character with about an hour’s worth of struggle to work through.  The rest of the film is filled with glorious moments or snapshots of fun or comedy that allow the viewer to relax and grab a handful of popcorn.

In real life it is harder to catch the artistic beauty of your surroundings.  A camera can zoom in on a mother’s tears, a leaf falling to the ground, or light breaking through a window.  It can make run down buildings look epic and the freezing cold look perfectly comfortable.

In real life you can’t practice a scene to get it perfect.  You don’t get to choose the ideal person for a role.  You can’t pick and choose what parts you want to keep and those you wish to leave out.  You can’t simplify a story line for an audience but instead have to wrestle through complexities and messy situations.

When a person is living a life worth making a movie about, it does not always seem like a ‘glory road.’

a deserted road1

For those who are trying to make a difference in this world, terms like glory, success, and triumph are often replaced by words like tedious, discouraging, and exhausting.  I wonder what it was actually like to be William Wilberforce when his poor health did not permit him to get out of bed, or Mother Theresa when her feet were sore, or Thomas Clarkson writing late into the night when everyone else had long gone to bed, or Nelson Mandela as he sat for decades in a cold prison cell.

I wonder.

I think of today’s abolitionist movement to end slavery and exploitation.  I think of those who are busting down doors of brothels only to have business return to normal the following day.  Those who are trying to help victims they’ve rescued, only to see those same girls and boys return to life on the streets because true inner healing is so hard.  Those who are raising awareness wondering if anyone even cares or remembers what they say.  Those who work hard all their lives to serve others and no movie is ever even made.

I struggle too.  I feel small an insignificant, untalented and ineffective.  Too unorganized and fearful. Not driven enough, productive enough, dedicated enough.  Fighting resistance is hard.  Fighting for justice is going against the current, and the current is strong.

We need each other. We all need encouragement and support.  We need reminders that this is worth it, that people’s lives are at stake, that we have been given a stewardship.  We need to take time and look for beauty around us, in the old run down buildings, the eyes of a mother, or a crisp fall day. And maybe, just maybe, we need to take world changers off their pedestals so we can identify with them as real people that can show us how to overcome adversity without an orchestra playing in the background.

Michelle Brock

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Are Women the Only Ones Being Trafficked?

by Michelle Brock on September 9th, 2011

Last week I received an email from a reader that said this:

I have noticed part of your site reads “if it were your daughter, girlfriend, sister or wife …..What would you do?” I am just curious as to why you have limited this statement to describing female victims when there are male victims of sex trafficking as well?

This is a great question and one that I’d like to address on the blog for everyone to read, because I think it is very important and not talked about enough.  I emailed Brian McConaghy, a friend of mine from Ratanak who works with children in and teenagers in Cambodia, and this is what he had to say:

From what you’ve seen in Cambodia, what ages are the boys that are trafficked for sex?

Initially trafficked and abused from the age of about 8-9. This later develops into an older form of trade with teenage boys who often, being totally gender confused as a result of earlier abuse, become ladyboys and male prostitutes.

Who is buying and selling these boys? I am assuming it’s generally men, not women, who pay to abuse them?

Largely International pedophiles and as the boys grow older into Lady boys and male prostitutes the customers are homosexual/ bisexual international sex tourists. There is some domestic abuse of boys but it is limited.

brianFamily

Brian McConaghy & Family

When my husband Jay and I made our first documentary about sex trafficking in Canada, we interviewed Brian.  Before the camera started to roll, he told us that one boy that came to their kids club could not even physically sit when doing the activities because of the abuse he was being forced to endure each night.  That is why Ratanak and Hagar International partnered together to build a high security safe house specifically for boys.  Brian and his wife have also adopted two Cambodian boys, in an effort to give them a life that would prevent them from falling prey to such abuse.

Overall though, boys and men are trafficked for sex in much smaller numbers than girls and women. They are trafficked in large numbers for labour though, and can be found on fishing boats, cocoa plantations, coffee farms, construction sites, and brick factories.  The horrific conditions in these ‘work’ environments strip them of their dignity and livelihood.  Can you imagine your brother or father being forced to work in a dangerous, grueling industry for no pay?  Heartbreaking.

slavery men

End Slavery Now image of a brick factory

Hope for the Sold focuses mainly on sexual exploitation, and women and children are the most vulnerable for this.  But the experience of men must not be overlooked.  Do we ever check to make sure that what we purchase at the store is not supporting slavery?  Thanks Elizabeth for such an important question.  We have a long way to go if we are to truly end slavery in our world.

For some informative articles on this, check out:

**If you haven’t heard already, we’re making another film!  Find out the details here.

Michelle Brock

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Labour Day Ponderings

by Michelle Brock on September 5th, 2011

relaxToday in Canada is a day of rest.

A day for family and friends.

A day to get ready for the fall season.

A day to look back on summer’s memories.

A day to live, to read, to savour.

day of work

Today for victims of trafficking is a day of work.

A day full of customers and their demands.

A day to get ready for the busy night ahead.

A day to look back on life as it was before.

A day to cry, to despise, to survive.

As we rest, play, and spend time with loved ones today, let us not forget those whose Labour Day is filled with toil and torture.

Michelle Brock

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Lessons from a Bumblebee

by Michelle Brock on August 25th, 2011

“Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway.”  ~Mary Kay Ash

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A group of scientists from Oxford University conducted a study in 2009 to look at how bumblebees are able to defy gravity with their undersized wings.  The study found that brute force rather than aerodynamic efficiency is the key to bumblebee flight.  Dr. Bomphrey explains:

“Our observations show that, instead of the aerodynamic finesse found in most other insects, bumblebees have a adopted a brute force approach powered by a huge thorax and fuelled by energy-rich nectar.”

bumblebee costume 192x300Those of us who are fighting injustice, extending compassion, and resisting status quo so that others can have dignity and hope have a lesson to learn from the bumblebee.  This broken world will tell us that our wings are too small.  But by pushing ahead we can continue to fly anyway.

The key we must remember is our fuel, our “energy rich nectar.” What is your fuel?  What gives you energy?  Where do you go to recharge?  In what or who do you place your hope?

Suit up!

Michelle Brock

Bumblebee photo credit: Nick Layton Photography

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A Sex Trafficking Poem by Wenzile Nazla Madonko-Fuyane

by Michelle Brock on August 12th, 2011

 

With each tear comes hope, sometimes each tear marks the end.

Tears come with a range of the largest diversification.

A girl, who needs the answers to why life is so harsh, waits for answers that may never come.

An abyss in her heart created with her abuser, her master.

An abyss that will be filled with unimaginable pain and hatred.

A life not even fit for a homeless dog, the pain not even explained by the human mouth.

Is this all that life has to offer?

Is it mine to live if it is this deep?

I guess it is a pinch, we only imagine,

It is a life that belongs to another

As tonight, I will lay in my Egyptian cotton, she will cry for comfort

My stomach will be full, yet she will suffer if she need hers to sustain her.

My kisses rain, her pain pours

What else can I do? Give me the room,

I AM TAKING A STAND TO END SLAVERY

I shed the light of another

It is your chance to tell yours…..

~by Wenzile Nazla Madonko-Fuyane
Photo credit Tashiya-Chan 


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They Said It First: Quotes on Slavery & Freedom

by Michelle Brock on August 5th, 2011

Abraham Lincoln5

Abraham Lincoln

“Although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself.” -Abraham Lincoln

“For every man who lives without freedom, the rest of us must face the guilt.” -Lillian Hellman

“As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery.” -Martin Luther King

“Slavery can only be abolished by raising the character of the people who compose the nation; and that can be done only by showing them a higher one.”  -Maria Weston Chapman

Maria Weston Chapman

Maria Weston Chapman

“Caged birds accept each other but flight is what they long for.” -Tennessee Williams

“So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the Trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for Abolition. Let the consequences be what they would, I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.” – William Wilberforce

“For some slaves, the first step out of bondage is to learn to see their lives with new eyes. Their reality is a social world where they have their place and some assurance of a subsistence diet. Born into slavery, they cannot easily redefine their lives outside the frame of enslavement.”  -Kevin Bales

Kevin Bales

Kevin Bales

Slavery and freedom have indeed been common themes throughout history, and we must not become weary in doing good.  Some of these people have given their lives to right wrongs and declare truth.  We have the opportunity to stand on their shoulders and take this mission even further!

Do any of these quotes resonate with you?  Why?

Happy Friday!

Michelle Brock

**Still accepting photos this weekend for my photo essay, details here.




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Waxed Eyebrows, Post-Its on Foreheads & the Importance of Story-Telling

by Michelle Brock on July 21st, 2011

Sometimes I wish that the top 5 most life-shaping experiences of every person on this earth was written on their forehead. Let me expand on this by asking a few probing questions:

motivesHave you ever seen someone begging for money on the street, leaving you uncomfortable and hesitant as you try to figure out what their actual circumstances and motivations are?

Have you ever been hurt by someone and wondered how a person can become so cruel?

Have you ever been surprised to discover a secret about someone that is close to you?

If we all had the top 5 details about our lives written on our foreheads, these situations would be a bit easier to navigate through.   Was he abused as a child?  Did her father abandon the family?  Did she come from a wealthy home?  Did he have a terrible accident?

Fortunately, relationships can offer a safe haven for those stories to come out, one-by-one. Sadly, there are many stories that are left untold. I am about to tell you one.

Two weeks ago, after being too busy for months to perform any kind of maintenance on my eyebrows, I went in for a wax. As I tried not to focus on my burning forehead between strips, the aesthetician shared a story that has haunted me since.

Her husband used to work with a guy who was dating a woman from Hungary. Lack of job opportunities had brought this woman to Canada, and once she arrived she soon realized she could make decent money stripping. So she worked at a local strip club, made a living, and began dating the Canadian man I already mentioned.

Eventually her visa expired and she returned to Hungary. She did not want to strip anymore but realized it was her only “employment experience.” This pushed her into the Hungarian sex trade. After a while a group of Arab men approached her with a promise to make way more money in Western Europe, and she took the bait. She would make enough money to finally get out of the trade.

Three years ago her boyfriend in Canada received a phone call. It was her. She sounded terrified, explaining that she was locked up somewhere in Europe, and that people were speaking German. No one has heard from her since.

What keeps coming to mind again and again is that stripping stripped her of choice, despite it being her decision at first.  She began to believe the lie that she is was only good for sex, and that real dreams were no longer attainable.  This eventually led her into a place where no person ever wants to find themselves.  When you feel no worth and are blinded by lack of opportunity, you become easy prey for predators.

storiesI’ve been thinking a lot about this woman.  I don’t know her name.  I don’t know if she is dead or alive. But I am saddened that her story, whatever it is in its fullness, is not being told.  I would hope that if I vanished off the face of the earth, people would still think of me.  In telling her story, we acknowledge her existence and honour her memory.

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” -Rudyard Kipling

Michelle Brock

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So I Got An Email From a John This Week…

by Michelle Brock on July 7th, 2011

thought cloudI get quite a bit of interesting feedback from this blog, and one group of individuals is particularly eager to send in their thoughts: Johns.  For those of you who are unfamilar with the term, Johns are men who use prostituted women.  As such, they are the ones who fuel the demand for paid sex and make trafficking profitable for pimps and traffickers.

I’ll have you know that I usually delete these comments when I get them, because they are disturbing, disgusting, and not worth my time.  But I thought I would share one comment I received recently, to show you how these guys think.  If we are to help the exploited, we must have at least a basic understanding of what motivates the men who exploit them.  Here is what one man writes:

I don’t care if you women get mad at me or not. If an attractive (to me) woman were available to me with the most ideal physical looks and personality that I would marry, then I would marry and not cheat and not use a prostitute. In reality, most women are not that attractive, especially the average woman whatever that is or means.

In reality, most women have a relatively low libido. Men end-up sexually frustrated. Congressman John Edwards cheated. Former governor and actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger cheated. Former IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, cheated. In the past, men have cheated, men ARE cheating, and men WILL CONTINUE to cheat until the female population has been bred and culled into the most ideal such that cheating and prostitution are eliminated. The key word here is ‘until’ and both sexes/genders can make it happen sooner or a lot later by cooperating or otherwise.

As you know, we’re currently in Great Recession that (as the media had stated) had ended in 2009. I don’t see a glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel, so the next phase is logically a Great Depression or, to distinguish from the last depression, a Great-ER Depression and, with that, women will (as before) have no alternative and no exit strategy.

If I had (at home) a clean drug/disease-free, tattoo-free, addiction/vice-free June Cleaver with perky/firm natural C cups, some curves, beautiful without makeup, with an intelligent/logical brain with which to converse with as a husband and wife should do you really think I’m going to look out on the street for a Jane Doe to hump for money?  There is demand for prostitution for a reason: not enough supply.

Surprised? This is exactly the kind of thinking that traffickers and pimps use to their advantage. Makes my blood boil.

  • This guy talks about women as if they are commodities for men to use as they wish.  This implies women have no opinions, preferences, or wishes themselves, but solely exist for man’s pleasure and fantasy.
  • He picks and chooses his ideal traits from women as a whole and expects one woman to have them all if he is to be faithful to her.  Notice how he never mentions what qualities men should have to deserve a woman’s affection.
  • “Men will continue to cheat until women have been bred and culled into the ideal form???”  Sounds like Hitler.  It scares me that this way of thinking is still around.
  • Just because the economy always leaves vulnerable people in its wake does not give him an excuse to take advantage of them.
  • To answer his last question, yes, he would still look for prostituted women even if he had the ideal girl at home because she would never be enough.  When you become this selfish, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
  • FYI: there is demand for prostitution because guys like this don’t care who they hurt as long as they get what they want, not because of “lack of supply.”

respect women 1And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of guy that is using and abusing victims of sex trafficking. It sickens me, saddens me, and enrages me. How can we, as a society, change the way guys like this think?  Do you think it’s too late?  Where do you think this man learned to view women this way?  Do you think he would care if he found out the girl he was with was a victim of sex trafficking?  How does such a worldview impact communities?

Would love to hear your thoughts and your reaction to this letter.  Anyone else disturbed? What can we do about it?

Michelle Brock

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How My Evening Walk Was Interrupted by a Message from Moldova

by Michelle Brock on June 12th, 2011

moonstars1 682x1024My husband and I love to go on walks at night. The subdivisions we walk through are safe, quiet, and well-lit, and during these times we have some of our best and deepest conversations.

Recently on one these walks we talked about how on a regular basis we both experience moments of reality, in which the facade of affluence, comfort, and stability that is

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the norm for most in our community is pushed aside by thoughts of suffering, injustice, and abuse that the rest of the world experiences on a daily basis. Sometimes I feel as if I am living in a fake world, where people’s pain is numbed by work and entertainment, hidden behind brand new clothes and beautiful homes.

For those living in impoverished, conflict-ridden countries, this pain is harder to hide. You can see it in the streets as young children beg for food and rummage through garbage. You can hear it as mobs cry out for better leadership. You can sense it in how people treat each other and how they interact with foreigners.

Indeed, there is pain in this world. But most of us turn a blind eye in hopes that this will keep it from infecting us - from making us feel guilty – from turning our worlds upside down.

In our documentary about sex trafficking in Canada, author Benjamin Perrin explains that Moldova is one of the top source countries for international trafficking victims to Canada. The poverty that permeates this Eastern European country has led to an orphan crisis. Imagine yourself being abandoned by your parents, raised and abused in a run-down orphanage, and released into the world at 16 years of age with nothing more than a few bucks in your pocket and a bus ticket. Stop. Read that sentence again. Close your eyes and take a moment to really picture yourself in that position.

Real life stories like these ones are what hijack my pleasant evening walks with my husband and remind me that traffickers are preying on the vulnerable:

I believe that part of being human is to show compassion. To enter into the pain of others and turn it into an opportunity for hope and restoration. The girls in this film are safe because someone allowed moments of reality to interrupt the facade until action became inevitable.

For those of you with warm homes, food in your bellies, money to pay your bills, internet access, family and friends, gifts at Christmas, safe neighbourhoods, cable TV, cars, and a more than one outfit, I give this challenge to you as I give it to me:

Allow moments of reality to shatter your daydreams and invade your heart. Don’t be afraid to learn about the suffering of others. And then do something about it.

You can check out the Stella’s House website here.

Michelle Brock

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What Laryngitis Taught Me About My Civic Duty

by Michelle Brock on May 2nd, 2011

sore throatLately I have been quite contemplative. Thinking, pondering, and reflecting instead of talking, debating, and expressing.  I wish I could say it is by choice because of some newfound conviction or personal experiment, but my season of silence is caused by none other than laryngitis.

During the last few days I have discovered that speech is a tool.  To greet people.  To answer the phone.  To get someone’s attention.  To ask for help.  To offer help.  To acknowledge another’s comment.  To meet a new person.

All weekend I have tried to avoid people altogether for the following reasons:

  • My family feels the need to whisper because I am whispering.  I find this weird.
  • My husband thinks I am mad at him because I am not the chatterbox he is used to.
  • I don’t want to be in the awkward situation of having someone ask me something and me not being able to answer.
  • I feel rude at the store or at the bank because I can’t even offer up a “How are you?” without gasping for air and launching into a coughing attack.

This time of silence has made me appreciate my voice.  I am tired of being unheard.

I wonder if that is what victims of human trafficking and exploitation feel on a daily basis. Like no one cares.  Like no one hears their cries for help.  Like they are invisible.  Repulsive.  Not wanted.  Forgotten.  Like what they have to say does not matter.  Like they have no voice.

speakupFor those of you living in Canada, today is election day.  It is a day to use your voice.  My husband and I emailed our local candidate and made sure he supports Canada’s anti-trafficking efforts.  Do not waste your voice. Empower your local representatives so that they can speak up for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

And don’t be fooled: I may have laryngitis but I am far from being silent!

Michelle Brock

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