Sunday, June 26, 2011

Girls Like Us

I recently finished reading an excellent memoir by Rachel Lloyd (executive director of GEMS: Girls Educational and Mentoring Services). Girls Like Us chronicles not only her own personal story, but those of the girls she has worked with over the years, since founding GEMS in 1998. Through her non-profit organization, she helps girls and young women make the transition from a life of sexual exploitation to one on their own terms. GEMS serves as a much needed support system for the girls, providing not just shelter but counseling, court advocacy, and educational/vocational assistance. It strives to not only empower the girls it serves directly, but to put an end to all commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children.

A survivor of "the life" herself, Lloyd puts a name and a face on the issue. She humanizes what others demonize and criminalize. Detailing the horrendous ordeals she has triumphed over, she presents the reality of the commercial sex industry that profits from the abuse, torture, and enslavement of American girls--girls who should be in school instead of on the streets. In the United States, the average age of recruitment for underage girls is between 12-14 years, according to a Department of Justice-funded report (the FBI estimates age of entry for children as 12).

The theme running throughout the book is compassion. Lloyd urges the reader to see these girls as victims (and ultimately survivors) rather than as criminals participating in their own exploitation. She argues that entry into the sex trade by teenage girls is not about choice, but rather a lack of choices. I could not agree more. What these girls need is indeed compassion and empowerment, but certainly not the punishment that the criminal justice system too often hands down. Punishment should be reserved for those committing the exploitation--the pimps, the johns, the traffickers.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act (SASETA)

As of a few months ago, I had no idea this law existed. And I only became aware of it through my sexual assault training, which prepares volunteers to be medical advocates. It made me think that there must be a lot of young women out there who are unfamiliar with this law. In Illinois, the Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act (SASETA) is what makes it possible for victims of sexual assault and rape to receive FREE care in the emergency room. As a woman, it is imperative to know exactly what is contained in the law. However, since SASETA does apply to all sexual assault survivors in Illinois (regardless of residency), everyone should be aware of it (if not for one's own sake, for the sake of a friend, family member, or significant other). Listed below are the main points of SASETA (taken from the Rape Victim Advocates training manual). It should also be noted that the survivor has a right to an evidence collection (rape) kit up to one week after the assault occurred (in some cases a kit may be performed up to two weeks after). The text of the law, as well as recent amendments, can be found at the ICASA website.

SASETA, 410 ILCS 70/5, is an Illinois law that has been in effect since 1987. It mandates that all licensed hospitals provide emergency care to sexual assault victims. The Illinois Department of Public Health is the institution that hospitals apply to with their sexual assault treatment plans to be listed as authorized treatment centers. The following outlines key components of this law:

  • Sexual assault is prioritized as a Code R in the emergency department, which alerts hospital staff to respond to victims second only to life and death patients.
  • Hospital staff shall respond within minutes of the patient's arrival and move the patient to a closed environment to ensure privacy and shall refer to such patients by code.
  • A head-to-toe medical exam and gynecological is done to document any trauma, major or minor (e.g. cuts, scratches, bruises, red marks, etc...). The medical record shall only reflect trauma and injury found; it should not include any conclusions regarding whether a crime occurred, merely record "reported sexual assault," or "patient states..."
  • Minors do not need to have parental consent for medical treatment and evidence collection for sexual assault in the ER. However, if the survivor is a minor under 13 yrs of age evidence and information concerning the assault may be released by the parent or guardian, DCFS or law enforcement.
  • Tests for sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy (if applicable) or for other potential infections that are deemed medically necessary are to be completed for each patient, with the patient's informed consent.
  • The patient shall receive oral and written information concerning the possibility of infection and STI's including a description of the more common symptoms, signs and complications of these diseases.
  • The patient shall receive oral and written information concerning pregnancy resulting from the assault, available types of prevention of unwanted pregnancy and side effects, significant contraindications and limitations of the method employed.
  • Medications--NOT prescriptions, are to be made available to the patient in the ER; for treatment at the hospital and after discharge (Section 5(a) of the Act). This includes, but is not limited to, HIV, pregnancy, and STD prophylaxis, as deemed appropriate by the attending physician. The patient shall receive oral and written information about all medications dispensed.
  • The patient shall receive appropriate counseling that provides emotional support and confidentiality. Many hospitals contract with agencies like Rape Victim Advocates to provide the crisis intervention counseling in the ER and follow-up counseling resources.
  • The patient shall receive oral and written information about the need for a follow-up exam to test for STI's within 2-4 weeks. If they return to the hospital, the tests must be administered through the emergency department if they are to be covered under SASETA.
  • The patient should never receive a bill for any services provided in the ER. If the patient has listed health insurance, the hospital will first attempt to receive payment from their insurance agent. Whatever the health insurance company will not pay for, or if the patient does not have health insurance listed, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (formerly Dept. of Public Aid) will reimburse the hospital for any procedures, medications and follow-up tests.
  • Note: It is the responsibility of the treatment hospital to collect all bills related to the outpatient treatment of the sexual assault victim in the ER (this includes ambulance and private physician billing). These bills are then submitted collectively by the treatment hospital to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services for reimbursement.
Sexual assault and rape go unreported the vast majority of the time. Hopefully the knowledge of SASETA will encourage more survivors to come forward to receive the care and support they deserve. It doesn't matter if the survivor has no health insurance or isn't a resident of Illinois (as long as the assault occurred in Illinois)--he or she has a right to the services outlined in SASETA free of charge.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Rape Kit

Last week a co-worker of mine forwarded an article to me from the Washington City Paper. I am very happy she did because it sheds light on a fundamental issue of sexual assault: the rape kit. It details all the things that can go wrong when a sexual assault victim/survivor attempts to seek medical treatment and legal action. In some cases, getting the proper medical and legal advocacy can be an infuriating battle. I want to state that since the events of the article, the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 has gone into effect, which requires rape kits to be provided to victims regardless of police authorization. That is huge and this story illustrates just how important the rape kit is.

In "Test Case: You're Not a Rape Victim Unless Police Say So," Amanda Hess (of The Sexist blog) details the case of a 19-year-old Howard University student and her struggle to obtain a rape kit after a possible drug-facilitated sexual assault. Since published, this story has exploded and has been re-posted everywhere. It can be traced back to Feministing, who picked it up back in 2007 when the woman, "Hannah," decided to file suit against the District of Columbia, Howard University, George Washington University Hospital, both universities, and several doctors. In three different emergency rooms, in three different hospitals, Hannah attempted to obtain a rape kit. In all three, she was refused one. She was met with hostility, disbelief, and plain disrespect. In the ER at Howard University Hospital she was told by a doctor that she was "too incoherent to consent to receive a rape kit, because she couldn't verbally confirm that she had been raped." The police sergeant refused to authorize a kit or open an investigation. No sexual assault report was made. In the ER at George Washington University she was again denied a kit, because the police had first denied her at Howard. In the ER at Holy Cross Hospital in Maryland she was once more denied a rape kit. This time, it was considered outside of jurisdiction.

Hannah was ultimately at the mercy of a negligent police system who dismissed her cry for help with disbelief. The detective, who did not even report to the ER in person (as is required by D.C. police policy), summed up his refusal to authorize a rape kit: "She told me that she was at a party. And she remembered kissing a guy...I said, this young lady, she's not reporting anything, she's not reporting a crime to me. I'm not bringing a sex kit up here." In later testimony referring to Hannah he explained, "I'm not going to feed you any information to give you an opportunity to embellish your story."

Denise Snyder, executive director of the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, attests to the obstacles survivors encounter:

It's not just the hospitals who are skittish about being associated with rape. This is one of the greatest struggles we experience with law enforcement: The pressure on law enforcement is to always get their numbers down...For a sexual assault survivor who has already experienced an intense violation, to have your governmental system essentially say to you, 'This didn't happen, if it did happen it doesn't really count,' is devastating.

In the article, Hannah has difficulty recalling details from the night of her possible assault. She shows up to the hospital vomiting and limping from pain. If indeed a drug-facilitated assault did occur, she would not remember. But the hazy memory and vomiting aren't the only symptoms. She experiences pain in her rectum and hip. (There are numerous other telling details found in the article that I urge be read in its entirety.) Whether the detective believes she was raped or just blacked-out is not a snap decision he can make and certainly not over the phone. While Hannah is running from one ER to the next, waiting hours in between each, precious time is being wasted that should be devoted to evidence collection. To determine if she was in fact drugged, a toxicology screen could be performed. To determine if there are witnesses to interview or a crime scene to investigate, a sexual assault report could be made. But most important, what Hannah desperately pleads for is the rape kit. A rape kit comes complete with tools for collecting evidence from the victim's body (fluids, hairs, fibers, debris, blood samples, etc). The sooner the kit is performed the better. As Hess writes in her article:
But more than what's in the box, a rape kit is a system, a protocol followed in order to streamline the city services deployed in the wake of a sexual assault--including medical care, police investigation, and rape crisis counseling.

In 2009, the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 went into effect. As stated, that means that hospitals are required by law to provide rape kits to survivors. No matter if the police choose to investigate or even believe the survivor, no matter if the survivor wishes to press charges--the rape kit is provided. This is huge. Hopefully another survivor will not have to endure the run around that Hannah did. However, in a system that is far from ideal, that may not be the case. That being said, it is important to know your rights and what is provided by law in the case of a sexual assault.



Next up, Illinois law pertaining to sexual assault.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Rape Trauma Syndrome

According to the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, nearly one third of all rape victims develop rape-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in their lifetime.

It's been said that the only difference between Rape Trauma Syndrome and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is that Rape Trauma Syndrome isn't in the DSM-IV (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Even a cursory look at the symptoms of each will confirm the congruent nature of the two. Symptoms such as flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, withdrawal, and sleep disturbances can be found in both. While Rape Trauma Syndrome is not officially a mental disorder, it certainly does bear close resemblance to PTSD and in some cases it is believed to be a type of PTSD. Like sufferers of PTSD, sexual assault survivors may undergo therapy and in some cases seek out psychiatric counseling.

In understanding the effects of sexual assault, it is important to fully recognize and not minimize the aftershocks felt by the survivor.

Rape Trauma Syndrome was first identified in 1974 by psychiatrist Ann Wolbert Burgess and sociologist Lynda Lytle Holmstrom. It is generally comprised of two phases: the acute phase and the reorganization phase. In some definitions, the reorganization phase is further broken down into the outward adjustment phase and the resolution phase.

While in the acute phase, the survivor may utilize either the expressed style or the controlled style of coping (or even both). Put simply, the expressed style is characterized by displayed emotions while the controlled style is characterized by contained emotions. This first phase can last several weeks.

During the reorganization phase (and adjustment/resolution phases), the survivor begins the coping and healing process that is often fraught with setbacks and painful symptoms including depression, denial, paranoia, rage, mood swings, feelings of helplessness, flashbacks, as well as physical difficulties (disturbances in eating and sleeping patterns, difficulty concentrating, etc). The reorganization phase can last up to several months or more. Clearly, the healing process is based on the individual and therefore, does not have a set time frame.

It is essential to be aware of the reality of sexual assault and its real-life consequences. A more in-depth look at Rape Trauma Syndrome can be found at Rape Victim Advocates and also at RAINN.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

"There is no such thing as passive anti-oppression. We are either actively working against oppression or we are colluding with it, allowing it to continue in our name."
(ICASA Resource Manual)

April is sexual assault awareness month. But here, it starts early. In fact, every month is sexual assault awareness month as far as this blog is concerned. So it is in the spirit of education that I present this post.

Manning the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline at the YWCA on weeknights can be pretty low-key. The phone isn't exactly ringing off the hook. In between intermittent calls, there is plenty of time for self-education and training. The YWCA provides a myriad of materials for this exact purpose. The women who comprise the staff at the YWCA are impressively knowledgeable. I spend my time trying to catch up.

Certainly my training with Rape Victim Advocates (RVA) was an eye-opener. However, education is an on-going process. With an area such as sexual violence, there are so many elements involved that intersect with one another--legal issues, medical issues, social issues, and so on. It can be a bit overwhelming. But even a complex issue can be distilled down to the basics.

When I think of generating awareness (on any matter of public concern), I think of relating it to the individual. As a young woman myself, I think, "Could this happen to me?" Statistically speaking, there is a decent chance: about 17%. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, with college-age women four times more likely to be sexually assaulted. Although the majority of women will not have to experience sexual assault directly, it is nonetheless a sobering statistic. As the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) states:
Women between the ages of 20 and 44 had the highest levels of risk for having ever been raped (over 15%).
Furthermore, being a woman between the ages of 16 and 25, I am three times more likely to be raped. It is a fact that I am aware of every single day. And at the end of each day, I consider myself lucky to have escape unscathed. But then I am reminded that my good fortune is possible because of others' misfortune. In Illinois, the figure is 1 out of every 7. In a big city like Chicago, that's a sizable percentage of the population. Sexual violence occurs every single day and we pass by countless anonymous survivors on the street every single day.

By and large, the most common type of sexual assault that occurs is acquaintance rape. According to ICASA:
  • More than 70% of rape or sexual assault victims knew their attackers, compared to about half of all violent crime victims.
  • 75% of all sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim.
  • Two of three victims age 18-29 had a prior relationship with the rapist.
What happens in the situation of acquaintance rape, the most prevalent form of sexual assault? Unfortunately, the circumstances work to the advantage of the perpetrator:
90% of sexual assault victims who knew their attacker did not report the attack to the police.
The after effects of rape--shame, humiliation, self-blame--are compounded by the fact that the victim knew her attacker personally. Tragically, the high incidence of this type of rape coupled with the low incidence of reporting only plays into the hands of the perpetrator, thereby making future assaults even easier. It is also why acquaintance rape is not usually thought of as the most common type of rape. I'll admit that I was surprised to learn this. Perhaps without being aware of it, I had automatically imagined stranger rape when I thought of sexual assault. This is a common assumption. Given the low rate of reporting, it is easy to see why. But this kind of sexual violence is the most prevalent, and therefore, needs to be addressed in a big way.

Once I wrapped my mind around the implications of acquaintance rape, I immediately thought of the males in my life. Could anyone I know be capable of and willing to carry out such an act of violence? It's a whole new game when you evaluate the people in your life rather than just strangers on the street. Your friends, your acquaintances, your co-workers already have your trust (or a degree of it). Trust, along with proximity, makes for the ease of carrying out a crime. Add to that the pain and humiliation of reporting a person you know as your rapist, and the stage is set.

To be absolutely clear, the victim/survivor is never to blame. No one ever deserves to be the victim of a violent crime. You are only in control of your own actions and you can never completely remove yourself from risk. That being said, watch the company you keep--for your sake and for the sake of the other five women.

Now, I believe sexual assault awareness should involve both sexes. The burden should not rest solely on the sex that is by far the victim of the violence in most cases. It is just as important for men to take a hard look at themselves and who they surround themselves with, who they call friends, and what they call acceptable. As it has been said, college women are most at risk for sexual assault. Rather than focus on that demographic, we need to shift focus to the college men to get to the root of the problem. Sexual assault awareness and training is common place in a number of colleges and universities--as it should be. However, there is a recent movement to target men with prevention training. I think this is wonderful in such an atmosphere that often encourages the type of behavior that leads to sexual assault.

In 2001, Frank Baird founded Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, an unorthodox form of activism that has men marching in high heels to raise awareness and money for the cause. I'm not sure how I feel about tackling a serious issue in this manner, but there's no doubt that it does some good. It gets men involved, opens up communication, and educates the community. Personally, I'm more in favor of straight-forward classroom training that tackles the tough issues.

About a year ago, there was a great article in the Star Tribune on the University of Minnesota and their sexual violence education program, which focuses prevention training toward the men on campus. Just being able to openly talk about what constitutes sexual assault and how ubiquitous it is can be powerful. For young men to use the labels of sexual assault and rape to accurately define certain actions is so important. And to do all of this in a cooperative environment is key. As the article states: "Of about 80 campuses receiving Department of Justice grants to address sexual assault and other issues, about 20 have full-fledged men's programs, while almost all the others are on their way to starting them." Let's keep it up. Lauren Pilnick, sexual violence education coordinator at Minnesota State University, Mankato, sums it up: "The fact of the matter is that prevention comes down to, largely, males. Because males are primarily the ones perpetrating these crimes." Sounds simple right?

Sexual violence is something both men and women must be aware of and work to prevent. Every day presents challenges as well as opportunities to educate. And remember, there is no such thing as passive anti-oppression.

Monday, February 22, 2010

From Ho to Housewife

This week will be my last at RVA. Thursday I will be officially certified as an advocate in the state of Illinois. The highlight of my training has been, without a doubt, the lecture given by Brenda Myers-Powell. In under an hour, Myers-Powell packed her twenty plus years as a prostitute, a victim, a survivor, an advocate, an activist, and above all, a woman into a brutally honest and ultimately inspiring talk on sexual oppression.

She has gone from homeless to homeowner, from ho to housewife, from oppressed to empowered and shared her story with a no-nonsense candor of someone who has been to hell and back. Today she is helping to save women and young girls from the hell that she once knew.

From the age of 15, she worked as a prostitute. Over the years, she worked the entire range of the business, from low-end, street-corner hooking to making thousands a night in famed Studio 54 in New York City. Like you might expect, she has the horror stories, the things that are hard to stomach hearing. The onslaught of violence she experienced--she'd been shot at 5 times, stabbed 13 times, dragged face-first across the cement of 6 city blocks, and of course, raped. After recounting this, she asks us if we've seen the movie Monster (gritty biopic of prostitute turned serial killer, Aileen Wuornos). She levels with us: "If I had a gun, that would've been me."

Like many, she hit bottom. She wanted out. She spoke of the all too (sadly) familiar phenomenon of feeling utterly devoid of spirit. Everything stripped from her, she felt like she had lost her soul in the process. Every trick, every john took a little piece of her in exchange for the money she made...
Pretty Woman is only a movie. Ain't no Richard Gere running out there trying to pick up your body...Men are in and out of [your] body, using [your] body like a toilet.
Brenda decided to turn her life around. She told us that she asked God for two things: to make her a lady and give her her face back (which was brutally destroyed from the incident mentioned above). As she says, she has gone from homeless to homeowner, ho to housewife. What truly solidifies her as a walking miracle is the work that she is doing now to help prevent at-risk girls from falling into the world of sexual exploitation.

In 2007, along with Stephanie Daniels, she founded the Dreamcatcher Foundation
, a community-based, self-funded organization that reaches out to girls and young women (ages 12-25) before they become recruited into a life of prostitution. Working in the Englewood neighborhood, they provide educational and health services, mentorship, therapeutic field trips, self-defense training, and other programs designed to empower the girls. "God saved me to do this for these girls: this is my passion,” says Myers-Powell. Alongside Dreamcatcher, she also works as a peer coordinator with the Cook County Sheriff's Department of Women's Justice Services. In this role, she runs intervention as part of a "traffic response team." The program's coordinator, Dorenda Dixon, sums it up: "Our goal is very simple: to try to reach a woman at her most vulnerable point and show her the way out." They do this through offering shelter (75% of prostitutes working in Chicago are homeless), drug counseling, child care, and even job placement.

Her very latest undertaking: interviewing ex-pimps and madams under The Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center at the DePaul University College of Law. The research project was begun last year and was expanded thanks to a grant from the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE). Myers-Powell, along with Jody Raphael (senior research fellow at DePaul), uses a 90-point survey to investigate the backgrounds and experiences of her subjects. Raphael has this to say about the project:
I am giving a voice to the most marginalized and most demonized misunderstood women and girls in our society. And they are people. They are women just like you and me, and they have just taken the wrong turn in terms of coping with some of the dysfunctions they’ve had to face.
I won't soon forget the powerful talk that Brenda gave to us volunteers that Saturday afternoon at RVA. Her story will stick with me, as I hope it does for the young women she has dedicated her life in service to.

Brenda Myers-Powell has been the recipient of
the Judy Baar Topinka Trailblazer Award, the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault Award, and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless Recognition Award.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Social Service Plus Social Change

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have been attending a volunteer training program at Rape Victim Advocates. I am now past the half-way point of the four week program and will soon be certified as an advocate to volunteer in the emergency room as well as on the rape crisis hotline.

Every time I leave my volunteer training, as I'm walking back to the train, I just keep thinking of how easy my day job is and what a relief it will be to return to it. The last couple of sessions have been a bit overwhelming. From role plays to medical advocacy to evidence collection and legal protocol to drug facilitated sexual assault to abortion services...it's been a doozy of a week so far. Of course there are the self-doubts, the inevitable worry of, "How can I pull this off?" The role of an advocate in the emergency room is a tall order to fill. That said, I continue to take comfort in the fact that when the time comes, it won't be a choice--I will pull it off because I have to, because that is the only option, and (most importantly) because I will be working with an amazing staff who will be only a phone call away for back-up. The women that have been my trainers have among them a wealth of knowledge and experience that will become my support system once I begin taking calls as a medical advocate.

Apart from my personal experience, I would like to share some of the topics that have been discussed in recent training sessions. All of the sessions have been informative and helpful. One area of which I would like to focus on is a fundamental one. When we think of rape, we have a lot of preconceived notions that we bring to the table--whether we are aware of them or not. Most likely, we will conjure up an image of a heterosexual male committing a violent, anonymous assault against a (young, white, heterosexual) woman. It is obvious to point out that the perpetrator and the victim can be of either gender, any variation of sexual orientation, any race, any age, and so on. It's easy to say, but until you really spend the time to wrap your mind around the possibilities, you cannot begin to deconstruct the imagined "rape scenario" that may dominate the forefront of the imagination. I say this because, not only is it important to be aware of male rape, marital rape, rape of sex workers, the elderly, the disabled, and abuse of children/adolescents (often by other children/adolescents), but because it is essential in coming to terms with the reality of what rape is. Like so many things, culture has a way of coloring that reality, of contorting it, of creating prejudices, of replacing truth with lies and myths. It is these ignorant myths of convenience that do so much damage and perpetuate the cycle of violence, making it that much harder for survivors. It is the myths that erode the social harmony that survivors and advocates fight so hard for.

There is so much to tackle, so I'll begin with a simple one (taken from the RVA training manual).
Myth: Sexual assault is an act of lust and passion. Fact: Sexual assault and abuse are about power and control used to dominate, punish or humiliate another person or group of people.
This is huge. Again, it's easy to say, "Of course!" But it's even easier to resort to victim blaming. It's easy for others (and even the victim) to point to appearance and behavior as contributing factors of the assault. So I'll say again: rape is not sex--it is an act of violence. It is not about sexual gratification but about exerting power and control over another person. This is all too clear if we look to the history of rape and the times and instances it has been utilized--times of war, slavery, etc. I could go even further back, cite Biblical passages that address rape as a crime against the husband, against his "property." What matters, however, is a true understanding of the nature of the act and what motivates it. Like any other violent crime, it cannot be provoked by the victim (a logical absurdity) and therefore, blame cannot be attributed to the victim--the perpetrator is solely responsible. One only has to look to incidents of elderly rape and rape of the developmentally challenged for proof positive. It sickens to think that rape is the only crime that has the audacity to ask of the victim, "What were you wearing?" As if anyone would dare ask Grandma, or the woman in the wheelchair, or the adolescent boy that question. It is interesting to note what is really on the mind of the rapist: "Most convicted rapists admit they don't remember what the victim was wearing. Furthermore, in interviews with convicted rapists, many say they mostly look at the shoes of the victim to determine the ability to run away or fight back" (from the RVA manual).

My point being, the focus needs to be on the perpetrator when looking to reasons behind the violence. This is so fundamental, but it is an issue that survivors and advocates routinely face--even from friends and family members. This is indicative of a consciousness that needs changing. Rape Victim Advocates addresses this problem head on. As they state, RVA has two primary goals: "to assure that survivors of sexual assault are treated with dignity and compassion and to affect changes in the way the legal system, medical institutions and society as a whole respond to survivors." Put simply, it is social service plus social change. I leave you with another myth:
Myth: There is nothing we can do about sexual violence. Fact: Sexual violence can be combated with information, education and action. Confronting sexism, prejudice and oppression affects the power dynamics that feed into our rape culture.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The "R" Word

It's been quite a while since I've posted anything new on this thing. Mostly, it was because I felt I didn't have anything to say. I didn't want to simply regurgitate others' news stories. But now that I have a good reason, I want to write my own...sort of. For the time being, this blog will consist of my accounts and experiences as a volunteer with Rape Victim Advocates, YWCA, and RAINN.

Last week, I began my volunteer training with Rape Victim Advocates. It's an intense, all-encompassing 56-hour training that educates and prepares volunteers to become advocates for survivors. At the end of the 4 week program, we will receive our certification and begin our year-long commitment, volunteering as advocates via the rape crisis hotline and the emergency rooms of the 16 Chicago area hospitals that RVA now serves.

But until then, we are receiving a crash course in everything from systems of oppression to suicide assessment to legal advocacy. It's been a crazy first week and the really tough stuff is yet to come. So stick with me. I promise it won't be boring.

I leave you with the following (graphic) video. I had mixed feelings about the song when I first heard it last year and I'm still not sure how I feel about it, or the video. Nevertheless, it's provocative and deserves credit for confronting the issue and raising awareness of something ugly that most would rather avoid.



Sunday, February 22, 2009

RedBook: The Zagat of the Sex Trade


I don't know where to begin. At the risk of sounding like a bleeding heart, there is so much wrong with this, it's overwhelming. First off, as the title infers, this is the Zagat of the sex trade, meaning that human beings, women, have been reduced to less than the sum of their parts. Specifically, they have been reviewed piecemeal. Even more specifically, these women (some perhaps, even underage) have been rated on looks, service, and anything else you care to imagine. The laundry list of categories in which these working girls are rated include: personality, build, breasts, smell, and my personal favoritte, "kitty." Second, they are being reviewed as products. Each one of them has a price hanging over their head. These women, these teenage girls, are for rent. Third, the site regards this as business as usual. And so do the customers, otherwise this dehumanizing business would cease to exist. But don't take my word for it, learn more from this sample review.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

This is an American Issue, a National Issue, a Local Issue


"The actual number of victims in Colorado is unknown...We do know that 1 out of 3 runaways will be approached by human traffickers."


A group of students from the University of Colarado Denver took it upon themselves to inform and educate the public on the issue of human trafficking--a problem that festers right under their noses. "We interviewed two random women in downtown Denver who thought human trafficking meant too many people walking on the street. As we explained to them what human trafficking is and how people don't realize it happens in their neighborhoods, they were shocked and said they never thought it is happening in America."

Clearly, these students' efforts are crucial to the residents of Denver. It is shocking that there are people in the United States who are unaware of what human trafficking truly entails. If there is to be a citizen movement (in the US or globally) people must be informed and educated on the stark reality of the issue. Maybe then, once they discover it is happening in their own backyard, they will be moved to action.

Thanks to the students of UC Denver for putting together this brief documentary. Keep up the good work!



For further information, visit this group's web page at Myspace.
Read UC student Simon Maghakyan's blog
here.
To learn how to help in your community go here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The International Rescue Committee

The IRC is taking action. Are you?



On their website, IRC offers ways for citizens to take action and make a difference. The IRC concerns itself with a myriad of global issues (Congo, Darfur, refugee assistance)--human trafficking just one of those. Help is needed--whether it is donations, volunteer work, or simply staying informed on the issues. There are even careers and internships available through IRC. By signing up for their free e-newsletters you can stay connected and informed.

Don't be passive--be active!

The IRC: a beacon of freedom, hope and renewal.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Kids the Light of Our Lives

After laying low for several weeks, I could not ignore this story (brought to my attention early this morning by a friend). London police made an unbelievable bust (the lengths of which we can only predict right now since the investigation is ongoing). Currently, the number of suspects worldwide has passed 700. And the team of authorities is far-reaching as well: the United States, Canada, and Australia are the top allies out of 35 countries working together. So far, 31 children have been rescued.

The global pedophile ring was traced to an internet chat room perversely called "Kids the Light of Our Lives." Here, viewers could feast their eyes on children subjected to sexual abuse - not only still images, but streaming live video as well.

Here in the U.S., investigations are currently underway in at least 12 states.

Host of the pedophile chat room and kingpin of it all, Timothy David Martyn Cox (27, Buxhall), was arrested last September. Admitting to nine counts of possessing and distributing indecent images, he is presently being held under an indeterminate jail sentence in England under Ipswich Crown Court.

Gordon Mackintosh (a man being referred to as Cox's lieutenant), 33, awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to 27 charges of making, possessing, and distributing indecent images and videos.

"Any individual who thinks they carry out such horrific activities undetected is in for a very rude awakening."
Jim Gamble, chief executive at the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center and chairman of the Virtual Global Taskforce

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Husband & Wife Save Thai Children

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

"If it was your child, you would fight the rest of your life for their freedom.

Although they're not our blood, they matter to us and they matter to the heart of God."
Carol Hart, humanitarian


Who?
Former assistant pastors, Carol and Michael Hart, are semifinalists in Energizer Keep Going Hall of Fame contest

What?
Moved to Thailand to established shelters for children (who are victims of trafficking) through
ZOE International Ministries

Where? Relocated from California to Chiang Mai, Thailand

When?
Carol Hart started her ministry five years ago

Why? "Distraught by the plight of youngsters and teens ensnared in human trafficking, Hart and her husband, Michael...gave up a comfortable life to travel halfway around the world to intervene."

This California couple is a true inspiration and a model for humanitarianism. Clearly, the contest is not the motivation. The Harts are motivated intrinsically, from their own compassion. However, if the contest does serve to motivate others to acts of charity, so be it. We need all the help we can get in fighting human trafficking and other crimes against humanity. Call me a bleeding heart...

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A True Heroine

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Lydia Cacho Ribeiro is a name to be revered. She is a strong woman with a mission, who has sacrificed herself to the greater cause. She is a journalist by trade, but human rights activist would be more fitting. In addition to fighting for women's and children's rights, Ribeiro runs a crisis center/shelter in Cancun. Nothing has stopped her over the last twenty years--death threats, abduction, even rape...

In 2005, Ribeiro published the book The Demons of Eden. It is in this book that she unravels the twisted world of child sex tourism in Cancun. She is currently working on a new book, that will hit shelves next year.

A few days ago, I stumbled upon an interview with her by Heather Gehlert at Alternet. It is not too long and definitely worth reading in its entirety. In it, Ribeiro describes her work and the challenges that she has faced as a female investigator and advocate in Mexico. Just this year, she received the Ginetta Sagan Human Rights Award from Amnesty International USA.

Ribeiro on her working environment:
"I travel everywhere in Mexico in an armored vehicle. It's a #7 armor, which is -- I think 9 is like the top armor. It means I cannot open the windows of the car because they are too heavy and the doors and everything. They have to open them for me. So that's how I go about in my country."


More on Lydia Cacho Ribeiro:

English
Español

Friday, May 4, 2007

LIVES FOR SALE: Pounds of Meat

"A new documentary on Immigration and Human Trafficking. Lives for Sale goes beyond the rhetoric to show why immigrants are willing to risk everything - even virtual slavery - for the American Dream."

PBS aired the documentary Lives for Sale in January. The film addresses the causes and what must be done to improve the quality of life in the countries of origin. It also includes interviews with law enforcement officials and members of activist organizations.


Documents the horrific, and lucrative, business of human trafficking . . . . ideal for church and Bible study groups.--Sojourners magazine

Executive Producer: Larry Rich (Maryknoll Productions)
Lives for Sale is available for purchase at the Maryknoll website.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Power of the Church

"But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden in prisons. They have become plunder, with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot, with no one to say, 'Send them back.' "
Isaiah 42:22


Throughout history, people have looked to the church to support social justice movements: from civil rights to poverty to today's AIDS epidemic. Well where is the Church on human trafficking? What is its strategy and what is being done now to fight this issue?

Illinois:
The
Joliet Diocesan Counsel of Catholic Women is an organization whose ministry is devoted to helping oppressed women around the world. Their work includes supporting legislation against human trafficking and legislation aimed at protecting women and children.

Wisconsin:
St. Victor Catholic Church hosted a lecture and discussion on human trafficking recently. The guest speaker was Sister Stella Storch, a member of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes. This international organization's mission is to help end human trafficking. Also mentioned was a 16,000-member coalition of women from 63 countries that worked for the same cause.

California:
Mitch Irion, president of WingClips, brings Hollywood to church sermons. His website provides downloadable movies clips on varying topics that pastors can incorporate into their sermons to help illustrate various issues. WingClips concerns itself with several social justice issue, including human trafficking. "WingClips believes the issues need to be exposed and that the church has a responsibility to address social injustices within the community and across the world." A former pastor, Irion feels is passionate about his work: "We want our site to raise awareness and do our part to help end sex trafficking."

Washington:
A local YMCA held a workshop recently on child slavery. The speaker's,
Rev. Eileen Lindner, topic "Child Trafficking Victims: Global Problem – Local Reality" brought attention to children trafficked into brothels and sweatshop. Lindner is deputy general secretary for National Council of Churches, an organization that raises money for Church World Service.

Washington DC:
Gary A. Haugen, founder of the Christian ministry International Justice Mission (IJM), was presented with a National Leadership award from the National Presbyterian Church's Center for Leadership. IJM works in Southeast Asian and African countries to free victims of forced labor and child sex slaves.

Winnipeg:
Mennonite Brethren Church calls attention to the issue and urges the religious community to pray for the victims and advocate for laws and policies to help them. An important note: "The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) is monitoring a motion presented to parliament...calling for the condemnation of the trafficking of women and children across international borders for the purposes of sexual exploitation, slavery, and oppression."

London:

Recognizing that slavery is very much a product of the modern world, Rev Joel Edwards (head of the Evangelical Alliance), appealed to the leaders in big business to help put an end to the heinous human rights violation. Speaking at the Royal Exchange, Edwards summoned the city's top corporations to contribute more of their finances to the fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

Wales:
The Archbishop of Wales directed attention to human trafficking and child labor during his Easter address saying, We may this year be celebrating the bicentenary of the end of slavery, but sexual trafficking in young people and women is still rife in this country."

New Delhi:
Women of the Catholic Church believe that more should be done to fight social injustice against women and children. On a recent visit to several social service centers in the area, an event organized by the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences' Office of Laity and Family (FABC-OLF), the group witnessed first-hand the plight of the victims (of poverty, violence, trafficking). One inspired woman from Eastern India proclaimed, "I will start a network to raise awareness on trafficking in our diocese."

From these stories and others, it is clear that human trafficking is very much on the minds and in the hearts of the religious community. In the fight for social justice, the Church has been and will continue to be an invaluable ally.

Friday, April 27, 2007

New York's Children


STATEWIDE:

Last year, law enforcement and social service agencies across the State of New York were been busy collecting data on its sexually exploited children. Through interviews, focus groups, and surveys, the state hoped to get a better picture of who these children are and how many of them are roaming the streets. The estimate figured is at 2,000. Westat is the research firm responsible for the two-month study. The (State Legislature-mandated) report was issued by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services on April 20.
(http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/24/nyregion/24child.html)

CITYWIDE:
Another study, being conducted by John Jay College for Criminal Justice, is also taking a census. Beginning last August, researchers have interviewed over 330 children and teens. Doctoral student, Meredith Dank, is managing the project that is scheduled to finish at the end of the year. Upon completion, a full report will be issued including the project's findings along with an estimate on the number of sexually exploited children in the city.
(http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=1&aid=69058)

SAFE HARBOR ACT:
This new bill proposes important changes:
"The Safe Harbor Act would change the way young people arrested for prostitution are treated under the law. Rather than being charged as juvenile delinquents in Family Court and subject to detention, they would be considered victims of sexual exploitation and provided with counseling, emergency shelter and other services."

While this may seem like an obvious step in the right direction (one that should have been taken long ago), it is still pending approval. Why such a thing needs to be proposed in the first place is beyond me. These children desperately need help and support rather than punishment for "crimes" in which they are indisputably victims. Fortunately some understand this. An additional bill was proposed whose aim is to "stiffen penalties against pimps and others involved in human trafficking."

Rachel Lloyd, former prostitute and currently the executive director of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), says it best:
We’re no longer talking about teen prostitutes, bad girls. We’re talking about kids who are being bought and sold by adults.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Teen Building School in Cambodia

Georgia high-school student Brittany Entrekin is to be commended. Her noble efforts in the fight for social justice must be acknowledged. Why? Simply put, she is taking action. She is doing more than bringing awareness to intolerable human rights violations--she is tackling them head on. Her mission: to build a school in Cambodia. She hasn't even graduated from high school herself and is devoting her time and energy to raising funds for her cause.

She was inspired after watching a news report on the child sex slaves in Cambodia. Realizing the bigger picture--economics, poverty, (lack of) education--she felt a calling. "I know it's going to be a lot of work. But I'm passionate about this," says Entrekin. Her goal is to raise $27,000--the amount necessary to build the school, buy books, and hire a teacher for the first year. She has been busy fundraising in her community, contacting (former)
Time Magazine journalist Bernard Krisher, and even cutting a deal with The Bank of Asia to help finance the project.

This is a story I plan to follow in the upcoming months, hoping that updates will be made available.

Thank you Brittany, for living up to a fellow humanitarian's maxim:
"Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."
(Horace Mann)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

Prostitution is Not a Fairytale

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Compare this article to my last post. Often times "art" fails miserably. It sensationalizes, glamorizes, and draws attention away from the real victims. Recently, a new genre of hooker memoirs has produced such classics as Belle de Jour: Diary of an Unlikely Call Girl, Call Me Elizabeth: Wife, Mother, Escort, The Scorpion's Sweet Venom: The Diary of a Brazilian Call Girl, and Callgirl: Confessions of an Ivy League Lady of Pleasure, among too many others. A woman's body, a girl's body is not made to be a commodity. These titles obviously serve their purpose as entertainment material, but what else comes as a by-product? The dehumanizing effect of prostitution (forced or not) and sex trafficking is minimized and brushed aside. Our unhealthy obsession with sex is partly to blame for these problems in the first place. Adding to the mess is morally destructive. As a result, impressionable minds will no doubt become victims (whether they realize it or not). Violence, rape, and sexually-transmitted diseases are not glamorous. Women who own their sexuality do not trade and sell it away. The Daily Mail's Danuta Kean writes:
Publishers who sell this nonsense claim it 'empowers' us girls, showing women sex workers in control of their sexuality and enjoying the work. If it's such a good job, why don't these publishers recommend their daughters take it up?
Penguin editor, Katy Follain, proudly proclaims that these books "will undoubtedly appeal to both curious teenage girls as well as bored housewives." Kean characterizes the publishers as "hellbent on peddling the myth that the Oldest Profession is a path to glamour and eroticism for a certain type of woman." You decide who is right.

The Truth Aint Pretty


This movie isn't new, and neither is sex trafficking. Both deserve your attention. I believe in the power of film (and other arts) to draw attention to global issues. Lilya 4-Ever (2002) is Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson's third full-length film. It tells the story of a young Russian girl who descends into prostitution and is trafficked into Sweden. Moodysson has this to say about the film:
I can only trust my own moral standards. "Lilya" is a statement about human dignity, a quality that is constantly being eroded and corrupted in the world today by forces like political systems and a materialistic culture that allows anything and everything to be bought or sold.

"Lilya seeps into your bones, and it's not easy to shake off."
Charles Taylor

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ending Slavery: Kevin Bales

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Kevin Bales, professor and president of
Free the Slaves, offers hope for the fight to end slavery. In his first book (which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize), Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, he explored the global proportions of modern-day slavery, through first-hand research. In his new book, Ending Slavery - How We Free Today’s Slaves (due out in September), he takes a prescriptive approach to the problem, outlining what must be done to combat human slavery from the international level to the individual. Bales is considered the leading expert on modern slavery. The following is taken from a recent article by Bales entitled, "Of Human Bondage."

The good news about modern slavery is that, possibly for the first time in human history, it can be eradicated. With laws against it in every country, and the lack of any large vested economic interest supporting it, slavery can be ended when the public and governments make it a priority. Based on analysis of anti-slavery projects in south Asia and west Africa, the current estimated cost of the enforcement and rehabilitation programmes needed to eradicate slavery around the world is about $15bn over a 25-year period. This is approximately what Saudi Arabia is intending to spend in the UK buying military aircraft.
Money spent on ending slavery is more an investment than a donation. Freed slaves know how to work, and they will quickly begin to build assets, judging by the experience of anti-slavery groups. They will also become what they have never been allowed to be - consumers, buying food, clothing and education for their children. In areas with extensive slavery, liberation leads to economic growth. If we can connect the legal and economic dots, we can reasonably look to a future without slavery. Some of our strongest allies in ending slavery will be freed slaves. As more are liberated they will help guide us to better detection and better reintegration.
Read the full article here

Friday, April 13, 2007

UN Promoting Sex Trafficking?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The accusations are coming from John Miller, a former U.S. ambassador, who believes that UN peacekeepers are responsible for sexual abuse and, furthermore, that the UN is responsible for not taking appropriate action to end the abuse. Miller refers to the UN as, "one of the major promoters of human trafficking in the world." This issue came to light two years ago when peacekeepers gave food and money to girls and women in Congo in exchange for sex.

Yewande Odia, a senior official in the peacekeeping department reports that "the department has set up discipline teams in 10 missions that regulate the conduct of every U.N. peacekeeper. The U.N. has also revised the contract between troop-contributing countries and the U.N. to include prohibitions of sexual abuse...However, the revised contract, which was introduced in December, has not yet been accepted by the troop-contributing countries."

Marianne Mollman, the director of the women's rights division at Human Rights Watch:
"One of the most important things that we must change (is) the attitudes toward victims of trafficking, (so) we don't treat them as criminals."

Miller's op-ed piece in the Times Union: Abolitionists must rise against today's slavery

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Kevin Kline in Trade

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Kevin Kline stars in the new movie Trade, which follows two girls that have been sold into the sex trade. The film is directed by Marco Kreuzpaintner and is scheduled to be released August 31.



"It was something that I was aware of, but it wasn't at the front of my mind," says Kevin about the little-known crisis. "The movie is not meant to [stimulate] or activate anything more than discussions, awareness, consciousness."
(ETonline)

more info: Yahoo! Movies
official site: http://www.tradethemovie.com/

ENSLAVED

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

"A riveting illumination of this most underpublicized human rights abuse."
Nat Hentoff (Village Voice)

Enslaved
(Oct. 2006) presents narratives of former slaves and one slave owner. These accounts come from around the world: Sudan, Haiti, Sri Lanka, China, and the United States. The foreword is written by women's rights activist, Gloria Steinem. Here is an excerpt:

We can undermined the system of slavery itself by refusing to buy goods whose provenance we don't know; by supporting strong laws that target the slave trade and those who profit from the prostitution of others; by prosecuting even well-to-do and respectable customers who patronize sex slaves; by becoming aware of and willing to report the cyber-auctioning of human beings on the Internet; by spotlighting the sex industry role played by U.S. military bases, United Nations peace-keepers, and tourist agencies; by challenging the dictators who use slavery as a means for control and ethnic cleansing; by supporting anti-slavery activists working in the face of government repression; by offering escape and safe haven to those who have been enslaved; by refusing to excuse slavery in the name of “cultural relativism”; by following our sense of empathy to what free will really means – and so much more.
From Amazon.com:
Nineteenth-century slave narratives compelled changes in social mores and international law when readers were confronted with the stories of the human beings behind the economy of slavery. The editors of this collection hope for similar reactions as they present modern-day slave narratives from people held against their will as sex slaves, house servants, laborers, and migrant workers.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

21st Century Slavery

Liora Kasten, co-editor of Enslaved, speaks out against modern-day slavery, offering first-hand experiences of former slaves around the world.




SLAVERY ISN'T HISTORY

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Redlight Children Campaign

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The last article I posted mentioned this website. I checked it out. From Redlight Children, you can sign up to receive email updates from the site, learn about the campaign, donate to the cause, and soon sign online petitions and create letters to send to elected officials. They also have information on several movies that deal with the issue. I immediately signed up for updates. I look forward to new developments on this site.


CHILD SEXPLOITATION
EXPOSE IT. FIGHT IT. END IT.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Slavery in the US

Although it exists in many forms and in strong numbers, modern-day slavery is hard to imagine because its breadth and depth just isn't publicized, says Hilary Dyer (op-ed for the Liberty Champion). Let's change that, today. From the Liberty Champion:

45,000-50,000 women and children are brought to the United States as slaves every year.
(According to a report published on the Central Intelligence Agency Web site, “International Trafficking in Women to the United States: A Contemporary Manifestation of Slavery and Organized Crime”)

“After drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms dealing as the second largest criminal industry in the world, and is the fastest growing,” states the United States Department of Health & Human Services Web site.

Sexploitation is the most prevalent form of human trafficking.
Redlight Children is an international organization seeking to expose and end the abuse of children in the sex industry worldwide. According to the organization, there are around two million children who have been trafficked and are being exploited in the commercial sex industry — which is said to gross over $10 million annually. These are large numbers. The difficult thing for the average American is understanding that these numbers represent real, precious human beings, who must bear inhumane treatment and suffering on a daily basis.
Due to media coverage of John Mark Karr last year, many people are aware that children that are being sold and used as sex slaves in Thailand and other Southeast Asian nations. However, the public still remains largely unaware that child prostitution exists in Western nations.
True life stories are documented on numerous Web sites. Panos Pictures (www.panos.co.uk) has photographs accompanied with brief biographies of young women who were victims of human trafficking and the sex-slave industry in the UK. I find that putting a face to the statistics is helpful for understanding and having compassion, love and concern for these women.

After reading this article, I visited Panos Pictures, looked at the photographs, and read the accompanying biographies. This is must read information.

Towards the end of the article, Dyer offers a semi-solution to the trafficking problem. She believes that in order to decrease sex trafficking, we must make prostitution illegal worldwide. I must mention that this writer is of the Christian faith and therefore, writes from that moral perspective. I don't know whether or not criminalizing prostitution would help or hurt. It certainly is a significant point of discussion.

I end with this bold command. For it is the starting place for change.

"As humans...we must let the atrocities and the suffering of souls penetrate our hearts. I believe we must make an effort to make it personal."

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

American Dream vs. European Dream

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Is the American Dream becoming obsolete? Should it be? Is there, perhaps, a more relevant ideal that we as Americans can adopt? Author Jeremy Rifkin challenges the American Dream as the unshakable myth of the "land of the free" in his international best-seller The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream. It is an easy myth to criticize. And in doing so, Rifkin inspires critical analysis of the state of American society and the fate of the global community.

As Rifkin explains the disenchantment that followed the sixties generation, he explores the causes of today's less than ideal society:

It is the cherished American dream itself, once the ideal and envy of the world, that has led America to its current impasse. That dream emphasizes the unbridled opportunity of each individual to pursue success, which, in the American vernacular, has generally meant financial success. The American Dream is far too centered on personal material advancement and too little concerned with the broader human welfare to be relevant in a world of increasing risk, diversity, and interdependence. It is an old dream, immersed in a frontier mentality, that has long since become passé. While the American Spirit is tiring and languishing in the past, a new European Dream is being born. It is a dream far better suited to the next stage in the human journey--one that promises to bring humanity to a global consciousness befitting an increasingly interconnected and globalizing society.

I must agree with Rifkin that our old ways must go--it is high time for change! It appears abstract, but it must begin at the theoretical stage. Societal change must begin with changes in thought pattern.

The European Dream emphasizes community relationships over individual autonomy, cultural diversity over assimilation, quality of life over the accumulation of wealth, sustainable development over unlimited material growth, deep play over unrelenting toil, universal human rights and the rights of nature over property rights, and global cooperation over the unilateral exercise of power.

For some, the American Dream...represents the ultimate expression of the end of history. The new European Dream is powerful because it dares to suggest a new history, with an attention to quality of life, sustainability, and peace and harmony. In a sustainable civilization, based on the quality of life rather than unlimited individual accumulation of wealth, the very material basis of modern progress would be a thing of the past...

The fledgling European Dream represents humanity's best aspirations for a better tomorrow.

The final question is: Will we linger in the past, clinging to our old ways, or will we embrace this new ideal? I'm afraid once again, the Europeans are leading a new wave that is a bit too radical for us Americans to follow. We flatter ourselves, but right now, there's not too much to be proud of. So let's swallow it and commit to change.


"Rifkin is no starry-eyed idealist-he questions the 'thickness' of the European dream and the persistence of European cynicism--and he has studied Europe seriously and with an open mind. His book deserves to be read."
Stanley Hoffmann, Foreign Affairs

Monday, April 2, 2007

There Are Times to Make History

Last week I posted a video featuring author David Batstone. Here is some more info on his book:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Visit the Not For Sale website to download the introduction of this book for free! I have posted a few highlights:

There are times to read history, and there are times to make history. We live right now at one of those epic moments in the fight for human freedom.

Go behind the facade in any major town or city in the world today and you are likely to find a thriving commerce in human beings. You may even find slavery in your own backyard...

Nearly two hundred thousand people live enslaved at this moment in the United States, and an additional 17,500 new victims are trafficked across our borders each year. Over thirty thousand more slaves are transported through the United States on their way to other international destinations. Attorneys from the U.S. Department of
Justice have prosecuted slave-trade activity in ninety-one cities across the United States and in nearly every state of the nation.
This book aims to be a handbook for the modern-day abolitionist...It follows the trail of a select group of extraordinary abolitionists into their respective settings. We get a feel for the people around them who have fallen into captivity. We delve into the historical antecedents and social forces that frame their time and place. We learn how the slave traders they resist use power and violence to exploit the weak. And we gain an insight into the specific strategies these abolitionists deploy to bring about emancipation for the captives.
[Modern-day abolitionists] recognize that human freedom stands poised at a crucial crossroads in our time. Powerful forces aim to turn human beings into commodities that can be bought and sold like any other piece of property. To declare “not for sale” affirms that every individual has the inalienable right to be free, to pursue a God-given destiny. To inspire others to join their movement is my overriding purpose for writing this book...

As Edmund Burke presented the challenge so eloquently two
centuries ago,
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men [and women] do nothing.”

Caught Another One

Think it's not in your backyard? Think again...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


Just recently, a man from Detroit, Michigan--
Robert Lewis Young--was busted for running a prostitution ring that "employed" minors. His sentence: 25 years in federal prison followed by 5 years of supervised release--as it should be. He facilitated the transportation of his operation, that reached all the way to Hawaii, via car and airplane. In the end, he plead guilty to 26 offenses including possession of child pornography, drug charges, money laundering, and racketeering (among many others). The capture of Young led to at least five of his co-conspirators. An FBI investigation is unederway.

To read the rest of the story click here.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Stolen Childhood

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Earlier this week, I came across the awareness-raising website/blog Stolen Childhood. This site from India focuses on the abuse and misfortune of children around the world. Reading the stories posted there, I found myself instantly sucked into a world that should never exist--but nevertheless does. "Giving Voice to the Silent Shrieks of Little Angels" is their tagline. On this site, you will also find opportunities to donate to various causes. From their 'About Us' page:

"Children are the most beautiful creations of the God: they are tender, innocent and ever-lovable creations of the Almighty...But unfortunately, right from the day these children make their presence felt on the earth, their share of troubles begin piling up...They are forced into hunger, slavery, ailments, sexual abuses, exploitation, et al!...Since it is not possible for us to reach out to every suffering child physically to help them out, we will be highlighting their plight and cause through our write-ups...We will not just talk about these problems, but also try to offer some practicable solutions to them."


Here is a brief exerpt from one of their current postings:

"Children in Kashmir also show a high level of mental trauma because of the war that they come to interact with since their childhood.

Many - probably a majority - of the children in Kashmir (not the 10,000-odd orphans of militancy, but the average, school going, normal kids) have deep, permanent bruises of the mind. Bruises that have far-reaching consequences, that are now finding reflection in psychic disorders, drug abuse and personality changes."


Read more...