20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking

To close out the week for posting, I wanted to leave you all with this.  I have been constantly searching for more information in regards to making a difference and taking action.  Something that I have really been wanting to find out more about is how I personally can get involved and make a difference all the way from Manhattan, Kansas, as a college student graduating in a semester, with lots of debt.  The crisis of sex trafficking sometimes overwhelms me because I want to aid others and make an impact, but my voice seems small and insignificant.  

From the U.S. Department of State (Diplomacy in Action), I find a link to 20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking.  I plan to take some of these steps in order to start doing my part in ending trafficking in our generation.  I encourage you to do the same and check out the link below.

20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking



Sex Trafficking and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

As I have spoken of in earlier posts, the tragic lives that women and young girls face today is not okay.  I use the words, “not okay,” but “uncalled for,” “outrageous,” and “shocking” would fit the bill as well.  Taking a look at the emotional trauma, not just physical, will be a great step into understanding more, educating ourselves, and making a change with the wisdom that we have.  My focus today will be on mental health treatments for victims of human trafficking, especially in regards to post-traumatic stress.

Many studies have discovered serious and often difficult mental health needs when it comes to victims of human sex trafficking.  Post-traumatic stress disorder has been most commonly found, and a wide variety of symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder that were severe were noted in the lives of the victims.  The victims range from experiencing or witnessing serious injury, threat to themselves or others, intense fear, helplessness, and even horror.  Preexisting conditions also play a part in the resilience or outcome of the victim, but overall the exposure to trauma is the most important feature when it comes to developing countries.  Post-traumatic most often will occur within the first month of exposure to the traumatic event, although that is not always the case.  Delayed presentations of post-traumatic stress can occur up to years later.  Even though PTSD occurs within both adults and children, women are more likely to be vulnerable to the disorder and take a longer time to recover.

Within trafficked women, the top five post-traumatic stress disorder associated symptoms were: recurrent thoughts/memories of terrifying events, feeling as though the event is happening again, recurrent nightmares, feeling detached/withdrawn, and unable to feel emotion.  These survivors of devastating traumatic experiences have also been found to suffer from other anxiety and mood disorders and also at an increased risk for development of dissociative disorders.

The most important aspect of post-traumatic stress disorder and the victims of human sex trafficking is that they receive the proper trauma related services in order for them to receive the help that they need.  The most common mental health therapy based upon post-traumatic stress disorder, are behavioral (focuses on increasing desired behaviors), cognitive (works to change behavior and feelings), and psychodynamic (explains behavior and personality).  The top five evidence-based therapeutic treatment options for post-traumatic stress disorder are the following:

Cognitive Therapy: a type of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps patients to understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors.

Exposure Therapy: a form of behavior therapy in which a survivor confronts feelings or phobias or anxieties about a traumatic event and relives it in the therapy situation.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: a psychotherapy that emphasizes disturbing memories as the cause of psychopathology and alleviates the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Stress Inoculation Training: a form of cognitive behavior modification that involves an educational, rehearsal, and application phase.

Above are just a few of the steps and options of therapy that victims of trafficking can pursue.  The problem that remains is getting aid to victims in developing countries filled with poverty.  The consequences of not receiving mental health care for trauma are too severe and destructive.

I encourage you to check out the Polaris Project, which informs, and does outreach work within the United States, as well as internationally.



Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2003, September). Medical examination and treatment for victims of sexual assault: Evidence-based clinical practice and provider training (Report to Congress: AHRQ Publication No. 03-R210). Washington, DC: Author.

American Psychiatric Association. (2005, January). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

American Psychological Association. (2008). Psychology matters: Glossary. Retrieved from http://www.psychologymatters.org/glossary.html#p

Family Violence Prevention Fund. (2005). Turning pain into power: Trafficking survivors’ perspectives on early intervention strategies. San Francisco, CA: Author.

International Organization for Migration. (2006). Breaking the cycle of vulnerability: Responding to the heath needs of trafficked women in east and southern Africa. Pretoria, South Africa: Author.

International Society for the Study of Dissociation. (2004). Guidelines for the evaluation and treatment of dissociative symptoms in children and adolescents. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 5(3), 119–150.

Mayo Clinic. (2007, March 1). Mental health: Dissociative disorders, treatment and drugs.Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dissociative-disorders/DS00574/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs

National Institute for Clinical Excellence. (2004, December) Depression: Management of depression in primary and secondary care (Clinical Guideline 23). London: Author.

Office for Victims of Crime. (1998, August). New directions from the field: Victims’ rights and services for the 21st century, mental health community (NCJ No. 172819). OVC Bulletin. Washington, DC: Author.

Office of Mental Health and Addiction Services. (2008, December 2). Trauma. Retrieved from http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/addiction/trauma.shtml

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

One of the greatest ways that people all over the world can get involved in fighting slavery and the oppression of women and young girls is becoming part of a movement.  I’ve decided to highlight the Half the Sky Movement, because it was only a year ago that they opened up my eyes to the reality of sexual slavery and oppression to helpless women.  Within the struggles of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, there is gender-based violence that is beginning to be fought.  Journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn wrote the novel, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide in 2009 in order to encourage readers all over the world to take action. 

This book is a call to all to fight in the oppression of women’s rights within the developing world.  This novel takes a look into Africa and Asia, interviewing and meeting with women and retelling their stories.  Their stories range from Cambodian teenagers sold into sex slavery and Ethiopian women who suffer devastating injuries from childbirth.  Stories of sadness, clarity and ultimately hope are what fuel their story, and they hope that the stories that they report of can transform the lives of women all around the world.  Economic progress is the one of the main strategies that Kristof and WuDunn express in order to unleash women’s potential and give them more opportunities.

Here is an excerpt from the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

“ONE OF THE MANY aid groups that for pragmatic reasons has increasingly focused on women is Heifer International, a charitable organization based in Arkansas that has been around for decades. The organization gives cows, goats and chickens to farmers in poor countries. On assuming the presidency of Heifer in 1992, the activist Jo Luck traveled to Africa, where one day she found herself sitting on the ground with a group of young women in a Zimbabwean village. One of them was Tererai Trent.

Tererai is a long-faced woman with high cheekbones and a medium brown complexion; she has a high forehead and tight cornrows. Like many women around the world, she doesn’t know when she was born and has no documentation of her birth. As a child, Tererai didn’t get much formal education, partly because she was a girl and was expected to do household chores. She herded cattle and looked after her younger siblings. Her father would say, Let’s send our sons to school, because they will be the breadwinners. Tererai’s brother, Tinashe, was forced to go to school, where he was an indifferent student. Tererai pleaded to be allowed to attend but wasn’t permitted to do so. Tinashe brought his books home each afternoon, and Tererai pored over them and taught herself to read and write. Soon she was doing her brother’s homework every evening.

The teacher grew puzzled, for Tinashe was a poor student in class but always handed in exemplary homework. Finally, the teacher noticed that the handwriting was different for homework and for class assignments and whipped Tinashe until he confessed the truth. Then the teacher went to the father, told him that Tererai was a prodigy and begged that she be allowed to attend school. After much argument, the father allowed Tererai to attend school for a couple of terms, but then married her off at about age 11.

Tererai’s husband barred her from attending school, resented her literacy and beat her whenever she tried to practice her reading by looking at a scrap of old newspaper. Indeed, he beat her for plenty more as well. She hated her marriage but had no way out. “If you’re a woman and you are not educated, what else?” she asks.

Yet when Jo Luck came and talked to Tererai and other young women in her village, Luck kept insisting that things did not have to be this way. She kept saying that they could achieve their goals, repeatedly using the word “achievable.” The women caught the repetition and asked the interpreter to explain in detail what “achievable” meant. That gave Luck a chance to push forward. “What are your hopes?” she asked the women, through the interpreter. Tererai and the others were puzzled by the question, because they didn’t really have any hopes. But Luck pushed them to think about their dreams, and reluctantly, they began to think about what they wanted.

Tererai timidly voiced hope of getting an education. Luck pounced and told her that she could do it, that she should write down her goals and methodically pursue them. After Luck and her entourage disappeared, Tererai began to study on her own, in hiding from her husband, while raising her five children. Painstakingly, with the help of friends, she wrote down her goals on a piece of paper: “One day I will go to the United States of America,” she began, for Goal 1. She added that she would earn a college degree, a master’s degree and a Ph.D. — all exquisitely absurd dreams for a married cattle herder in Zimbabwe who had less than one year’s formal education. But Tererai took the piece of paper and folded it inside three layers of plastic to protect it, and then placed it in an old can. She buried the can under a rock where she herded cattle.

Then Tererai took correspondence classes and began saving money. Her self-confidence grew as she did brilliantly in her studies, and she became a community organizer for Heifer. She stunned everyone with superb schoolwork, and the Heifer aid workers encouraged her to think that she could study in America. One day in 1998, she received notice that she had been admitted to Oklahoma State University.

Some of the neighbors thought that a woman should focus on educating her children, not herself. “I can’t talk about my children’s education when I’m not educated myself,” Tererai responded. “If I educate myself, then I can educate my children.” So she climbed into an airplane and flew to America.

At Oklahoma State, Tererai took every credit she could and worked nights to make money. She earned her undergraduate degree, brought her five children to America and started her master’s, then returned to her village. She dug up the tin can under the rock and took out the paper on which she had scribbled her goals. She put check marks beside the goals she had fulfilled and buried the tin can again.

In Arkansas, she took a job working for Heifer — while simultaneously earning a master’s degree part time. When she had her M.A., Tererai again returned to her village. After embracing her mother and sister, she dug up her tin can and checked off her next goal. Now she is working on her Ph.D. at Western Michigan University.

Tererai has completed her course work and is completing a dissertation about AIDS programs among the poor in Africa. She will become a productive economic asset for Africa and a significant figure in the battle against AIDS. And when she has her doctorate, Tererai will go back to her village and, after hugging her loved ones, go out to the field and dig up her can again.

There are many metaphors for the role of foreign assistance. For our part, we like to think of aid as a kind of lubricant, a few drops of oil in the crankcase of the developing world, so that gears move freely again on their own. That is what the assistance to Tererai amounted to: a bit of help where and when it counts most, which often means focusing on women like her. And now Tererai is gliding along freely on her own — truly able to hold up half the sky.”

In 2012, the four-hour television series from PBS and international broadcast, shot in ten countries featured Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide inspired by the book of Kristof and WuDunn.  This documentary featured women and young girls living in some of the most difficult situations within their third world, developing countries.  The following celebrities were a part of the project in order to raise awareness: America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union and Olivia Wilde.

Below you will be able to see the trailer for the 4 part television series that will give you a look into Half the Sky.  It will change you.  Once you have experienced, once you have seen, once you been a part of something larger than yourself, you won’t ever be the same.  To take another step deeper into the reality of sexual slavery and the demise of human rights, I encourage you to firstly read Half the Sky and then watch the 4 part documentary.  It is worth your time and money, and I hope through that process that it is transformative.



Kristof, N. D., & WuDunn, S. (2009). Half the sky: Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.




Personal Stories

I believe that one of the greatest ways that people can gain insight into topics that is “swept under the rug,” or hidden in the dark, is through personal testimony.  A personal testimony or significant story from someone’s life is what makes the biggest difference.  It is what separates true from false, light from dark, and exaggerations versus haunting realities.  Stories of trauma are real, gripping at life in the deepest way possible and examine a person’s darkest points in life.  Trauma has a universal dimension in the sense that all human have the capacity to experience and express fear, helplessness and horror, but trauma does not have one single definition.  Each person in their traumatic experience reactions differently and the possibilities of post-traumatic growth or resilience differ not just between cultures, but peoples.  Immediate reactions to trauma may be similar across the world, but culture may determine various reactions that may occur across time.

The psychological anguish that is experienced universally after trauma may be more related to an interference of the central morals or beliefs of the affected culture, community, or individual.  As a victim recounts their story often feelings of intense distress, sever physical reactions to reminders of the event, and even flashbacks can occur.  Pounding of the heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating, and nightmares are just a few of the things that can occur as a person re-experiences their trauma.

Here is an account from actress Emma Thompson that was a highlight of an article from Newsweek.  For most of her life she didn’t know that sex trafficking was happening in her very backyard in the United Kingdom.  It wasn’t until 2006 that she started working with a foundation that aids abused victims.  She shares the personal story of 19-year-old Elena.

 “When I was growing up in London, I walked past a massage parlor on the way to school every day. If my friends and I ever gave a thought to what went on behind its doors, we saw it as a bit of a giggle; it existed in a world away from our own.

Fast-forward 30 years to 2006, when I first met 19-year-old Elena through my work with the Helen Bamber Foundation, a U.K. charity that helps abuse victims. Elena’s story was all too common but had a huge impact on me.

An intelligent girl with ambitions, Elena had been enticed to London from Moldova with a promise of a good job and a bright future. Once in the U.K., however, her passport was taken from her and she was kept in solitary confinement to break her will. She was warned that her family in Moldova would suffer harm unless she did what she was told. And then she was put to work as a sex slave, servicing a procession of men in the most appalling circumstances.

What made her story so personal for me was where she’d been imprisoned: the same massage parlor I’d once treated as a joke. It underlined an awful truth: that human trafficking is not just a problem for other communities or other people. It exists on our own doorsteps, and our lack of action shames us all.

It’s hard to put an accurate figure on the full scale of this misery. But the International Labor Organization estimates that there are at least 2.5 million forced laborers who are victims of human trafficking at any one time. Their plight can be seen as the hidden side of globalization: a sickening business worth more than $30 billion a year.

It is a crime that scars every region and almost every country. Some 120 nations are routinely plundered by traffickers for their human raw materials, and more than 130 countries are known as destinations for their victims.

Like Elena, these victims may end up in the sex trade. Many others find themselves condemned as slave laborers, forced to work in domestic service, in hazardous factories or at grim sites like the cocoa plantations of West Africa. Thousands more, many just children, become unwilling conscripts in bitter wars. Nearly all suffer physical or sexual abuse, creating mental and physical scars they carry for the rest of their lives.

Above all, we have to keep our eyes open and not be afraid of letting our voices be heard. This is not a problem happening somewhere else. It is on all our own doorsteps.

Elena and many thousands of people like her need us to come to their aid. We can no longer keep walking past their door and ignore their cries for help.”


Adams, C. (2011). RE-TRAFFICKED VICTIMS: HOW A HUMAN RIGHTS APPROACH CAN STOP THE CYCLE OF             RE-VICTIMIZATION OF SEX TRAFFICKING VICTIMS. The George Washington International Law         Review, 43(1), 201-234. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.er.lib.k-      state.edu/docview/922467512?accountid=11789

Herman, J. (1997).  Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—from Domestic Abuse to            Political Terror.  New York, NY: Basic Books.

Resick, P. A. (2001).  Stress and Trauma. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press.

Thompson, E. (2008, Mar 17). Slavery in our times. Newsweek, 151 Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.er.lib.k-state.edu/docview/214258292?accountid=11789

The Reality of Human Sex Trafficking


               The reality is that most people don’t know the haunting truths when it comes to human sex trafficking.  It takes most people a trip to a foreign country or the daunting visuals via photograph or movie reel to really spark something within them to want to do something.  Truth is… sex trafficking may be happening in your very back yard. 


                Human sex trafficking is not just slavery, but it is a large multi-million dollar business that is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third largest criminal enterprise in the world.  Although most human sex trafficking takes place internationally, it also occurs domestically.  The estimation of American youths that are at risk of becoming victims of the commercialized into sexual exploitation is at about 290,000.  Many of the victims within the United States are runaways who eventually become forced into prostitution some coming from abused families and others who have been abandoned.  Others are “recruited” into prostitution from being abducted or even through deceptive agreements between the parent and trafficker.  The poor victims are forced into this industry and taken away from any chance at a normal life, but one revolving around violence, possible drugs, and constant threat and danger. 


                In today’s world, sex trafficking is continuously getting more violent and organized with women and young girls being locked up in room and brothels from sometimes months at a time.  They are drugged, terrorized, and raped repeatedly as their traffickers begin to take control of their victims.  Victims are controlled by their traffickers through continued use of drugs, force, emotional, tactics, and finances.  Something that has especially happened within international sex trafficking is that these youths have been promised something in return of giving into prostitution.  The trafficker and family formed a promise that they would be given money, and husband, and a healthy marriage.  Sadly, the outcome is that the traffickers take advantage of the fact that these young women have no male figure in their lives anymore and they no longer have bonds to the outside world.  These women are stuck with healthy boundaries, relationships, or daily lives.


                This modern day form of slavery is occurring more often than you may think, and it is happening all over the world.  This is beyond being just a national problem, but a local one.  Women and young girls should not be subjected to having their human rights violated and forced into sex-slavery due to the lack of resources, poverty, domestic violence, and finances.  This problem must end in our generation. 





Bekteshi, V., Gjermeni, E., & Mary, V. H. (2012). Modern day slavery: Sex trafficking in albania. The         International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 32(7), 480-494.     doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/01443331211249093


Walker-Rodriguez, A., & Hill, R. (2011). Human sex trafficking. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 80(3), 1-9. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.er.lib.k-      state.edu/docview/856990689?accountid=11789