Experienced Voices From The Field Of Human Trafficking

REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Christine Dolan Investigative Journalist
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This is part three of a five-part series. Read the first part here and the second part here.

A lot more questions need to be asked and answered about the current anti-trafficking models, and from those large U.S. NGOs that want to duplicate their models on the global stage. Donors need to get better informed.  They should not buy into the global institutionalization of the fight against human trafficking. That will not win this war. Just because something is larger does not make it better. It could be just the opposite.

During the White House meeting with Ivanka Trump in May, Polaris Project talked about how they want to take their U.S. anti-human trafficking national hotline to the global stage. So far, no can answer how this would work in war zones, failed states, mass migrations, or during natural disasters. In the last three years, many migrants were given phones and sim cards as they headed to, and crossed Europe. That certainly did not stop trafficking.

According to former Rwandan Ambassador to the U.S., Richard Sezibera, in an interview years ago, “During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, fake European NGOs appeared making false promises to traumatized parents, who literally turned over their children for safety – never to see them again.” A hotline hardly seems plausible to stop this kind of trafficking model.

“It’s sheer insanity to try to template a solution on a global scale. It does not work. There are too many differing factors that vary greatly among global cultural climates. I watched with amazement and embarrassment as the U.S. State Department tried to apply the same counter-narcotics principles that worked in Colombia against a radically different culture, climate, and religion in Afghanistan. It’s madness. There is no global template,” says James M. Williamson, Colonel, US Army (ret.).

Several years ago, a man who served on the Florida Human Trafficking State Task Force resigned because he was disillusioned with what he experienced and witnessed. He felt that the state task force was building bureaucracies, and Polaris Project and Shared Hope were pushing state task forces for their own sustainability.

He called the Polaris Project a “joke — I tested Polaris’ hotline. I called in not to report, but to inquire about human trafficking from a very remote location in Florida.” He later learned that call was included in data that purported to show instances of human trafficking rather than a program inquiry.

Shared Hope’s narrative, which is repeatedly by many NGOs in America, as if it is fact, claim that the average age of trafficked sex victims in the US is a 12 – 13 year old girl. Male survivors have criticized this mantra for years.

Michael Skinner, an American survivor, who founded Surviving Spirit to help survivors, claims that many male survivor groups are profoundly disappointed how the large U.S. NGOs negate just how many males are raped and trafficked in America alone, and how they do not connect the dots to pedophile rings, which are trafficking models. Skinner, his late brothers and late cousins experienced this over 50 years ago.

Thousands of Catholic men in Australia, Ireland, the US, Canada and Germany and across the world where Catholic prosecutions and investigations have occurred prove that boys and disabled men have been trafficked through that institution, as well as in the foster care system, and in orphanages.

These men have much in common. They suffer from disassociation, failed marriages and relationships, gender identity issues, flashbacks, addictions, lifelong traumas and disorders.

Skinner says, “This pandemic is so much more than the downstream these large NGOs are claiming. Just look at the 2 million incarcerated in US jails. When you peel back the stories of the mental health issues, there is the trauma of child rape. What society and those in positions of power fail to recognize is the trauma is stored in your mind, body and spirit. It is not so easily gotten over with. The science is out there backing up all of this. We can help, but it takes time and most survivors do not have the financial means to tap into the modalities that can help with the healing process.”

Do these large NGOs listen to real victims’ needs? Not according to those who transform lives. Chaplain JoAnn Muller, who facilitated Bible Studies in Philadelphia’s detention center for women, and ran a home for women recycled through prisons, as well as a community center, says,

“An unfortunate lesson I learned from networking with other NGO’s while serving as the Executive Director of a Transitional Home for women for 10 years was witnessing the tremendous pressure to successfully market their product in order to receive the large sums of money to run their operation. The focus can easily shift from helping those in need, to helping yourself remain sustainable.  These demands on such organizations lead to creating a narrative and “fudged facts” over time that causes them to naturally compromise the mission, and become part of the problem in the commodification of human beings.  As a Chaplain in a Correctional Institution for 11 years, I also saw how so many women became “institutionalized”.   A small Transitional Home and full daily program helped to restore trust, build confidence, and give residents dignity and respect while preparing them for a more familial environment to return to while breaking their dependence on the system, and becoming  contributing members of society.”

Sharon Shantz, a graduate of Chaplain Muller’s program says, “New Hope For Women saved my life. The care and compassion this ministry showed me was never about money, it was about me. They invested their time, resources and energy into getting me away from the streets, my pimp, and a destructive mindset. Their success was in their commitment to us as residents, showing us love, offering us help and educating us so that we could move forward in life with dignity and respect.  This May I graduated from college, and I am a success story because others believed in me and helped me to believe in myself.  I am grateful to New Hope For Women as they continue to walk alongside me in my journey 10 years later.”

In response to Silicon Valley, specifically Google, backing the defense of Backpage making money from sex trafficking ads, Skinner says, “It goes beyond shameful and deceitful that Google goes out of its way to keep Backpage in business. The complicity in their actions and inaction is evil. The Google mantra of, “Don’t Be Evil” is false. Their actions speak louder than their words. The simple act of reading Consumer Watchdog’s report, ‘How Google’s Backing of Backpage Protects Child Sex Trafficking’ is nauseating. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief that they practice denial and look the other way, causing the destruction of so many. Their stance of hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil speaks volumes. Once again, profit comes before human beings, vulnerable human beings.”

Tedd Cadd, a survivor wrote, “How does Google’s backing of Backpage protect Child Sex Trafficking? The question is nonsense. If they don’t call Backpage to account for their selling sex, they are explicitly promoting child sex trafficking as well as any other trafficked, prostituted woman or man or child.”

It is time for authentic and ethical leadership.