Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Every year there are upwards of 50 thousand foreign nationals trafficked into the US. Some for forced labor, many for sex. But there are also tens of thousands of American kids trafficked each year within our borders. Many are the 300,000 homeless kids living on our streets but some are taken from our neighborhoods, from our schools, from our malls and in the case of 17 year old Shauna, a sleepover....
"I was the new girl at school looking for friends," says Shauna. Another new girl in town invited Shauna for a sleepover in her Pensacola, Fla., neighborhood. A man posing as the girl's father slipped Shauna a drug. She woke up to a nightmare.
“My legs were being held,” she says. “And my head ... my hands were tied like this, above my head. And I remember saying, 'No, please don't do this. Stop.'"
While her parents frantically searched for her, Shauna was drugged, raped and beaten. Investigator Brad Dennis suspected Shauna was a victim of human trafficking, a growing problem in the Florida Panhandle. Investigators spent four days looking for Shauna, she was found but the traffickers escaped. (cbsnews.com)
Or in Debbies case, her driveway...
Fifteen-year-old "Debbie" is the middle child in a close-knit Air Force family from suburban Phoenix, and a straight-A student . Unbelievably, police say Debbie was kidnapped from her own driveway with her mother right inside.
One evening Debbie, said she got a call from a casual friend, Bianca, who asked to stop by Debbie's house. Wearing a pair of Sponge Bob pajamas, Debbie went outside to meet Bianca, who drove up in a Cadillac with two older men, Mark and Matthew. After a few minutes of visiting, Bianca said they were going to leave.
"So I went and I started to go give her a hug, and that's when she pushed me in the car. "As they sped away from her house, Debbie said that one of the men told Bianca to tie her up and said he threatened to shoot Bianca if she didn't comply. "And she put tape over my eyes," Debbie said. "While she was putting tape on me, Matthew told me if I screamed or acted stupid, he'd shoot me. So I just stayed quiet."
Debbie said her captors drove her around the streets of Phoenix for hours. Exhausted and confused, she was finally taken to an apartment 25 miles from her home. She said one of her captors put a gun to her head. Debbie said she was then drugged by her captors and other men were brought into the room, where she was gang raped.
"And then that's when I heard them say there was a middle-aged guy in the living room that wanted to take advantage of a 15-year-old girl," she said. "And then he goes, 'Bend her over. I want to see what I'm working with.' And that's when he started to rape me. And I see more guys, four other guys had come into the room. And they all had a turn. It was really scary." After the horrifying gang rape, police say Debbie was trapped in one of Phoenix's roughest neighborhoods. In a rundown, garbage-strewn apartment, her captors were trying to break her down.
"They were asking me if I was hungry," she said. "I told them no. That's when they put a dog biscuit in my mouth, trying to get me to eat it."
After a sleepless night, Debbie was tossed back into the car and again driven around Phoenix. She said they talked to her about prostitution, and that one of the men forced her to have sex with him in the car and then later in a park. The same man took her back to his apartment, and Debbie said, "I ended up in the dog kennel."
Greg Scheffer, an officer with the Phoenix police department, said Debbie was kept in a small dog crate for several days. Lying on her back in the tiny space, her whole body went numb."She was subject to various abuses while in there," Scheffer said. "This is all part of the breaking down period where [he] gains complete control of this girl."
Unbeknownst to Debbie, police say her captors had put an ad on Craig's List. Shortly after the ad ran, men began arriving at the apartment at all hours of the day and night demanding sex from her. She said she had to comply. "I had no other choice," she said. Debbie says she was earning her pimp hundreds of dollars a night. Scheffer said Debbie was forced to have sex with at least 50 men -- and that's not counting the men who gang-raped her on a periodic basis. For more than 40 days, police say Debbie remained captive, often beaten and forced daily to have sex of the most degrading kind. During that time, she said she did not try to escape because her captors had done what police say so many pimps do -- threatened her and terrified her. Debbie said that the pimps told her they would go after her family, and they even threatened to throw battery acid on her 19-month-old niece.
"After they told me that, I didn't care what happened to me as long as my family stayed alive," she said. "And that's pretty much what I had in my head. Staying there to keep my family alive." (abcnews.go.com)
Each year, 2 million kids are sexually exploited. Close to a million of those children are trafficked. All over the world, every day, well over 2500 kids are bought and sold. Their childhoods stolen from them, their innocence destroyed. Please help Conspiracy Of Hope stop this evil. Please fund these organizations that are on the front-lines stopping the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children. Thank you.
International Justice Mission
Shared Hope International
Sunday, December 19, 2010
A new study by the Parent's Television Council shows an alarming trend in prime-time television, the widespread sexualization of underage girls and boys. In their study they found that underage kids, especially girls, were presented in sexual situations more frequently and with more casualness than that of their adult counterparts. Fashion seems to be following suit with companies such as Diesel making their intentions crystal clear, as with ads like the one below. Sex sells, and for companies like Limited Too, even it seems to kids, as they marketed a whole line of kids thongs a couple years back.
In Japan the obsession with sex and young girls can only be described as mass fetishism. In 1998, Interpol estimated that nearly 80% of the world's Internet-based child pornography websites originated in Japan. This is the same society that had vending machines that dispensed used girl's panties and continues to elevate the sexuality of barely pubescent children through graphic novelization. Lolicon, short for Lolita complex, is one of many types of pornographic renderings of children. Adult versions of Anime and Manga populate the shelves of DVD and book stores. This was one of few "clean" Lolicon images we could find...
Closer to home magazines that boast the title "Barely Legal" and "Just 18" are some of the tamer porn magazines that blur the lines of what is sexually acceptable, depicting girls that look as if they are 14 and 15. And then there is 16 year old Miley Cyrus posing naked with only a piece of fabric draped across her, apparently with her father's consent. What message is this sending young girls who idolize Cyrus? What is this re-enforcing in young girls desperate for their dad's approval?
As child sexuality becomes more pervasive, more socially acceptable, groups like NAMBLA, the National Association for Man Boy Love, up their rhetoric, and break down the resolve of decent society. Is it any wonder that many of the young boys trafficked into America end up in pedophile rings. Susan Song put together a heart-rending report on child sex-tourism. Here is the text. According to her report, American men traveling abroad make up 25% of all sex tourists. One estimate is that half of those sexual encounters are with minors. Travel brochures offering exotic, very young girls, are easily found in some Men's magazines.
Some Japanese men believe that sleeping with a virgin can bring great luck, renewed vitality, and sexual prowess. Japanese men traveling to Thailand are, percentage wise, the largest group visiting brothels. Many pay large premiums to rape a virgin girl. Their American and European counterparts aren't far behind in their desire for underage girls. In Cambodia 35% of prostitutes are underage. In Mumbai, India there are an estimated 100,000 underage girls in brothels. Supply meets demand, and in societies that continue to fetishize children, demand increases, desire increases, and more and more children are bought and sold into sexual slavery.
Please help stop the sexual exploitation and trafficking of children by supporting organizations that fight this evil.
International Justice Mission
Shared Hope International
Thank you from all of us at Conspiracy Of Hope.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
We at Conspiracy Of Hope want to extend you our warmest wishes in that regard. May your winter be white with days full of cheer, of good food, and family and friends. May your nights be warm with roaring fires and peaceful reflection.
And while we are enjoying those things, may we be ever mindful of the children of the world still enslaved. Some, God forbid, by manufacturers who use their labor to make the goods we give as gifts. May we always remember the young girls caged in brothels, may we keep them dear to our hearts, and for those young boys trapped in conflicts as child soldiers, may we never forget to keep them in our prayers.
And if you can, why not send them a gift. There are several organizations that offer a chance for you to give children freedom this holiday season. Some even have gifts made by freed slaves and survivors of sex trafficking. Here are some links:
International Justice Mission
Not For Sale
Made By Survivors
Friday, December 10, 2010
In his book "Children Of Hope" Vernon Brewer asks "What would you do if your children were so weak from hunger, so in pain but too weak to cry? Would you do whatever it took to feed them?" The question answers itself really. But would you steal? Would you sell your body? Would you be susceptible to every false promise? Would you be susceptible to being trafficked? Would you consider selling one child to save four others? What would you do if these were your children....
Kevin Carter's Pulitzer prize winning picture of a starving Sudanese child. Below children eating bugs to survive.
And because they are not our children. Because they are far away, with dark skin, in countries whose names we cannot pronounce. Do we care less? Or maybe not at all?
Hunger and hunger related illness kills 40,000 children a day. 14 million children a year. That's the equivalent of eighty-five Boeing 747s crashing everyday and killing every passenger. Or 34,000 crashes a year. That would stay in the headlines. Every headline, of every news show, every day. But starvation doesn't. Human Trafficking. Doesn't.
The desperation that those statistics represent is the daily reality for a fifth of the world. It is one of the gravest factors that leads to exploitation. If we are going to stop human trafficking in our lifetime we are going to have to remove the precipitating factors that create the environment where the cancer of trafficking thrives.
I almost didn't post the picture below. To be honest I hoped it was a fake. A photo-shopped piece of journalistic propaganda. Apparently not. You may not want to look. It may make you ashamed to be human....I know it does me...
Hunger, that makes a child do this, should not be able to exist in a world where so much excess and waste exist. This is not ok.
Here are some organizations that fight global hunger:
Stop Hunger Now
World Food Programme
Bread For The World
Food For The Hungry
Monday, November 22, 2010
There are one million homeless kids on the streets of America. Almost half are running from physical abuse, a third from sexual abuse. Within 48 hours of being on the streets 1 out of every 3 runaways is forced or coerced into prostitution or illegal pornography. The average age for the sexual exploitation of a runaway child is 13. This is human trafficking.
The following is Jill's story. It could be the story of tens of thousands of other girls and boys. It is not for the faint of heart. But it must be told. And we must wake to realize trafficking happens in our borders, in our biggest cities, in the shadows of our cathedrals, in the parking lots of our shopping malls. We must fight this evil with the same resolve as if Jill was our daughter, sister, best friend, or girlfriend. Here is her story.
"I became a runaway teen, escaping sexual and physical abuse. I left, figuring that my life couldn't be in any more jeopardy than it already was at what I'd called home. In leaving I hoped there would be no more broken bones, no more sexual abuse, no more rationalizations of molestation and cruelty.
As a runaway, your old concerns quickly disappear and are replaced by new, life threatening ones. There were no familiar faces and no one who wanted to talk to a teenage girl who was homeless; even my name became irrelevant. Instead, my concerns were more pragmatic, involving finding food, shelter, and water. I slept in cemeteries, and stole food out of dumpsters and from convenience stores. Getting drinking water and a chance to wash my face became quests of endurance. I hid from security guards, store and restaurant employees and others who didn't want a homeless girl "loitering". As a runaway teen, I was viewed as something less than human. Still, it was safer than going home.
Into my hunger, loneliness and desperation came a man named Bruce. Attractive, well dressed and very charismatic, he approached me in a suburban mall and offered to "help" me. He could provide me with food, shelter, clothing, work--and I really wanted to work. I wanted desperately to be off the street and to have something to do. In essence he knew exactly how to manipulate a desperate teenage girl with his promises to fulfill all my needs. The manipulation began within minutes of meeting him. When I questioned whether or not this "work" was prostitution, he retracted the offer and began to walk away. Desperate, I ran after him, pleading with him to give me another chance and to forgive my insult.
He brought me into his "office" (which was actually his cellar) blindfolded under the pretense of not wanting competitors to know his location in case I was a spy for them. I put my fear aside and agreed to being blindfolded because I needed what he was offering. When we went into his "office", he explained that I had to audition for the job and should step on the stage and raise my hands. When I did so, I felt leather straps being put around my wrists but didn't understand what was going on. He pulled my pants down and my shirt up, leaving me virtually naked. When I tried to stop him from undressing me, the reality of what was happening became very clear. He shoved out the wooden box I was standing on, and I was left hanging in mid air naked, suspended by my wrists. It was the beginning of my "training" for a position as a prostitute that catered to "clients", who wanted to act on their violent bondage/torture fantasies. While still hanging from my wrists, I was told that unless I agreed then to sign a contract, I would never be let down. This threat was followed, while I was still hanging by being hit, punched, whipped and penetrated with a beer bottle. I could barely breathe, and my arms, wrists and shoulders were screaming in pain. I gave up and agreed to sign, at which point I was let down, bound behind my back, gagged and blindfolded, thrown into a tiny closet under the cellar stairs without food or water and left there. Bruce did not come back until after what seemed like a couple of days, at which time he freed my hands and told me to sign by his finger while I was still blindfolded. What I signed was what is known in these "rape and snuff" circles as a slave contract. By doing so I was essentially agreeing that I was no longer a human being, but rather, a slave, whose sole purpose in life was the fulfillment of Bruce's desires and those of his "clients". The contract took away my right to feel, to speak without approval, to have emotions. In it, I agreed to do anything that I was told and to accept any punishment or training he determined necessary.
What followed next--the "training"-- was months of being tortured, starved, dehydrated, sensory deprived and raped. I was supposed to learn how to "want" to be a slave and "want" to be punished. To that end, I had to beg for everything, using phrases that Bruce had written. I had to apologize for being alive, had to thank him for each act of torture and beg for more. If I resisted, the punishments got worse, until I gave up and agreed.
Once he was satisfied that my training period was nearing the end he began to refer me to "clients" who would use my body for their fetishes. They paid Bruce to rent my body to rape in as many ways as they could devise without killing me. I was held underwater in toilets or bathtubs, whipped, hung, shocked with electrical current, and paid to have me tell them how much I was enjoying it.
One of my early clients portrayed himself as a nice guy who was going to help me escape, which I agreed to try. It turned out to be a test of my "loyalty", the failure of which resulted in a savage night of gang rape, beating, being hung by my wrists and ankles, and an attempt to hang me by my neck which left me physically scarred and damaged my vocal chords for life. I nearly died that night and never tried to escape again.
For three years I was forced to let men rape me for Bruce's profit. During that time, I'd nearly been killed several times, including Bruce's failed attempt to perform an abortion on me after I'd become pregnant. After about a year I entered a suburban Los Angeles hospital bleeding extensively from my vaginal area. On my wrists, ankles and neck were burns, cuts and scars. Having been hung from the ceiling by my wrists while my pimp attempted to abort a child that I was pregnant with, I was in shock and nearly unconscious when I was brought into the hospital. A broken, long neck beer bottle had been shoved into my vagina as the object to remove the fetus. Needless to say, it didn't work out. The fetus remained in my womb but the abortion attempt nearly killed me.
Fearing retaliation from my pimp. I didn't communicate to the doctors what had actually transpired, but instead, remained silent allowing my pimp's explanation of my abortion attempt to go unchallenged. Had these doctors given any thought their ethical oaths it should have occurred to them that the bruises, scars, strangulation marks, etc. were inconsistent with attempting to abort my own child. Exactly how did I destroy my larynx attempting to abort a child? How did I self-inflict leather strap burn marks around my wrists and ankles? Since I was an in-patient for three days, why wasn't a mental health professional sent to talk to me? Why was I questioned only in the presence of my pimp who was masquerading as my older brother, who was pretending to help his psychotic little sister? Had I been questioned alone and placed in the psychiatric ward away from him, perhaps the outcome would have been different.
When we left a Midwestern city, I was thrown into the trunk of a car and taken across country. After being left in the trunk for long periods of time in the southwest desert in July, I became sick from dehydration. At one point this pimp took me out of the car on a remote road in the desert, handcuffed me, tied me by my neck to the bumper of his car and told me he was going to drag me until I was nothing but hair and a grease stain. This fate was guaranteed unless I agreed to remain totally compliant.
Arriving at an Arizona truck stop, he pulled me out of the car, took off the blindfold and shackles and told me to walk with him into the truck stop and get a Pepsi. Weak from fatigued, dehydration and exhaustion, I couldn't walk. I became violently ill on the brick patio of the truck stop. EMS was called to the scene. I was violently ill, dirty from head to toe, and had sores on both my wrists from the handcuffs and the corners of my mouth from being gagged for days. Did they call the police? No. They accepted his explanation of the death of "our parents" and his care taking of his schizophrenic little sister. Why didn't they ask questions? Why did they only treat the symptoms of heat exhaustion and not ask how I got to that point? Why did the lady getting into her Cadillac with her husband not help me as the pimp was tying my hands behind my back and putting me back into the trunk in plain view?
These incidents are not meant to shock, but to illustrate the reality of my day-to-day life. Bruce and his "clients" inflicted every torture imaginable on me, forcing me to do disgusting, humiliating things which have had a devastating effect on my mind, my body and my soul.
My captivity came to an abrupt end. Bruce was arrested on unrelated charges, and I was able to escape after he'd been handcuffed and taken away. The police who arrested Bruce offered me no support, despite finding a young girl locked in a closet, bound gagged and blindfolded. Even my request for a female officer to speak to was denied. The police told me that there were there to execute a warrant and that I'd better shut up or I was going to be arrested, too. I wasn't even eighteen yet.
Taking whatever money I could find in the house, I left immediately, taking a taxi to the airport and flying to the first destination available with the amount of money I had. After arriving in the new city, I found a cheap hotel and literally slept for days. The face I saw in the mirror when I awoke was hardly like the one I'd seen at age fourteen. I'd lost a third of my body weight. My once thick, long hair had fallen out in clumps and was now thin, fragile and lifeless. Emotionally, I was still stunned, lost in my own world, trying to readjust to a life that suddenly left me free but with no place to go and no one to turn to. Sleep was filled with nightmares, daytime with flashbacks and raging paranoia of being located by Bruce. After three years of eating dog food and being forced to beg for it, I was unaccustomed to eating anything normal and struggled with anorexia. In essence, I still didn't exist as anything more than a slave, except I was an escaped slave.
It has been more than a decade since then. In many ways, I've recovered, having eventually regained enough sanity to get a job and hold it. The physical injuries either healed or scarred, and I learned to compensate. But having survived this experience doesn't mean I've become safe from it.
Depression is still part of my life, as is shame, fear and a strong drive for self-destruction. I still feel like I'm crazy and fear that I'm a burden to my friends, a failure as an employee and that I'm destined to again be homeless, vulnerable and alone.
There are issues on which I'm working towards recovery: an integral part of my recovery is speaking out about what happened to me, what I faced as a runaway teen, and what I face even to this day trying to live with the memory of what I survived. I write this story so that maybe someone who hears it will somehow be able to avoid the pain that was forced on me and for others to know that things like I experienced really do happen--and they can happen to anyone's daughter, sister, girlfriend, niece or wife." ---Polaris Project
From all of us at Conspiracy Of Hope. Please help us stop this evil. Support anti-human trafficking organizations such as International Justice Mission, Shared Hope International, and Not For Sale. Please volunteer at homeless shelters, especially those that house kids. Keep your eyes open for troubled teens. Rescue them before they fall through the cracks. And if you or anyone you know has been trafficked please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-3737-888.
There is Hope.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Today is National Call-In Day for the Child Protection Compact Act. And though this is a lame duck session we still have a chance to get this life saving legislation passed. It takes just one minute to call your senator, and that 60 seconds could mean 30+ million dollars over the next 3 years allocated to fight the enslavement and sexual exploitation of children. For those of you unfamiliar with the bill here is the link.
There is nothing controversial about this bill. Nothing partisan, no line item pork, no politics as usual. This is merely a chance for us as a nation to stand in solidarity with those who have no strength to stand, a chance for us to raise our voices for those who are voiceless. And here is a sample of what you can say:
“Hi, my name is [NAME] and I’m calling from [City, State]. I’m calling to ask Senator [NAME] to vote YES to pass the Child Protection Compact Act (S. 3184). This bill would help to eradicate child trafficking, an issue I really care about. Would you please pass my message on to the Senator? Thank you!”
Here is the link to find your Senator's number.
It is a great privilege for us at Conspiracy Of Hope to lobby on behalf of the smallest victims of Human Trafficking and from the bottom of our hearts we thank you for taking 60 seconds, from your what we know is a very busy day, to defend the cause of justice and demand freedom for the 1.8 million children the International Labor Organization estimates are trapped in illegal pornography and prostitution yearly. Please call. And if you don't mind. Let us know you did.
Friday, November 5, 2010
She was repeatedly raped, beaten and starved until she was too afraid to leave her new "home." (Businesses have sprouted up all over Bombay whose sole purpose it is to perform seasonings for brothel owners.)
Because of Gina's young age, she was held out by her owners as a virgin -- again and again. Sexual encounters numbered as many as 40 per day. Younger girls like Gina -- especially virgins -- command a higher price in the brothels.
Recently, Shared Hope International helped pay Gina's debt and brought her into one of our newly-opened Homes of Hope. There she is getting the physical and emotional care she needs to start a new life. She is learning skills that will help her become self-sufficient.
"It was late afternoon,” she says in a monotone. “I was washing dishes at the river with six other girls. We tried to run, but they caught us. Three girls resisted. To punish them, the rebels cut off their ears. They knifed out their eyes. Then they killed them. I was so afraid, I couldn’t move. They said if we struggled, they would kill us too. They raped us. They held me down. It was the first time I had sex.”
Over the next four days, the tall, graceful girl,was gang-raped repeatedly by rebel soldiers. It was two weeks before she could walk again. “Each night we were tied by the ankles to the girl next to us. The rebels had sex with us in the presence of everyone. It was always different men. Every time, they hurt me. If I cried, they beat me. I prayed all the time I would not become pregnant.”
During the day she was used as a human shield, and watched as other girls got gunned down. She was also a porter. “They took our shoes and made us walk barefoot through the bush for as much as 40 kilometers. The loads were so heavy, I could barely lift them. If you complained, or stopped, they beat you.” Some girls abducted by the rebel forces have become combatants, and a handful have even risen to the rank of squad commander. Mostly, however, they are employed in a perverted form of their traditional roles: as porters, cooks, looters, and sex slaves. Many of them, like I., are made to be all four.
In December 1997, government forces overran the rebel base. At the time, I.’s closest friend was quite visibly pregnant. “They called her a rebel wife, and said they had to kill her before she gave birth to a rebel baby,” she says. “They slit open her stomach. I will never forget her cries. They cut out her unborn baby. In front of my eyes, they killed Mariam.” (Source: “Sierra Leone Is No Place to be Young.” NY Times (14 February 1999)
"When I was fourteen, a man came to my parents' house in Veracruz, Mexico and asked me if I was interested in making money in the United States. He said I could make many times as much money doing the same things that I was doing in Mexico. He said I would be in good hands, and would meet many other Mexican girls who had taken advantage of this great opportunity. My parents didn't want me to go, but I persuaded them. A week later, I was smuggled into the United States through Texas to Orlando, Florida. It was then the man told me that my employment would consist of having sex with men for money.
And so my nightmare began. Because I was a virgin, the men decided to initiate me by raping me again and again, to teach me how to have sex. Over the next three months, I was taken to a different trailer every 15 days. Every night I had to sleep in the same bed in which I had been forced to service customers all day. And because I was so young, I was always in demand with the customers. It was awful. Although the men were supposed to wear condoms, some didn't, so eventually I became pregnant and was forced to have an abortion. They sent me back to the brothel almost immediately.
I cannot forget what has happened. I can't put it behind me. I find it nearly impossible to trust people. I still feel shame. I was a decent girl in Mexico. I used to go to church with my family. I only wish none of this had ever happened." (Testimony of Rosa before US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 2000)
And for the girls I've met along the way, who have humbled me with their stories of stolen childhoods and inspired me by their survival and dedication to justice, thank you. When the fight seems too big, your words are fuel, your words go with me, I carry them always in my heart. And for Gina, and Rosa, and "I" from Sierra Leone, and for J. and for C.....from all of us at Conspiracy Of Hope, you are loved.
Monday, October 25, 2010
According to the American Anti-Slavery Group, "until the 18th century the offering typically took the form of livestock or other gifts, but that began to change and priests began demanding, and receiving, virgin girls as atonement for the sins of their relatives. Girls, often under the age of 10, are brought to the priest, ritually stripped of all their possessions, including clothes, and told they have to do anything the priest tells them. Most girls are raped repeatedly."
Juliana Dogbadzi, enslaved in a shrine in her native Ghana at the age of 6, was forced to perform sexual services for the holy man. She was able to escape seventeen years later, after several failed attempts, at the age of twenty-three.
Devadasi literally means god’s (Dev) female servant (Dasi), where according to the ancient Indian practice, young pre-pubescent girls are ‘given’ in matrimony to god or local religious deity of the temple. The girl ‘serves’ the priests and inmates of the temple. The sexual service given these men is considered service of god. The Devadasi is dedicated to the service of the temple deity for life and there is no escape for her.
The practice is prevalent in Karnataka, India and surrounding states, such as Andhra Pradesh. There are approximately 23,000 Devadasis in Karnataka today and approximately 17,000 in Andhra Pradesh. Researchers estimate that the number of Devadasis in Karnataka account, for approximately 80% of all sex workers in the area. Devadasis account for an estimated 15% of all sex workers in India.
Above, a terrified child is about to be dedicated for temple service. Each year, an estimated 5,000 young girls are brought to the festival of Yellama to be dedicated as Devadasis. On the night of the full moon in January, thousands of young girls join in a religious procession to the temple for goddess Yellamma in a remote village of Karnataka. After being dedicated, they are auctioned to the highest bidder and enter the world of prostitution.
It is impossible to overstate the particular evil this is, that in the name of god, a child is trafficked into sexual bondage, where not only their innocence is stolen, but their very conscience is torn in two as they must some how reconcile the religion they are taught and the brutalization they are experiencing. Almost every religion has these two things in common, the belief that mankind is somehow made in the image of god and the concept of personal purification through faith or ritual. How can a child ever see god as anything other than a brutal beast with an insatiable lust for innocent flesh when the men made in god's image do those things to her in god's name? And how can these madmen preach sanctity, offer atonement, when they are the ones defiling and destroying true innocence?
Please help Conspiracy Of Hope end the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children in our lifetime. And for every voiceless trokosi and devadasi child, please raise your voice with us to demand justice.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
But those are just numbers.
Numbers are not afraid to cry during the rape sessions, numbers are not afraid of the beatings they will get if they do. Numbers don't get addicted to the heroin force fed them to keep them docile, to break their will, to keep them coming back. Numbers do not have their virginity sold to the highest bidder, or have their "virginity" resold and resold and resold to the highest bidder after a surgery to "restore" that virginity. Numbers are not fed animal hormones to make them look healthy when the ravages of rape and the filth of light-less existence begin to atrophy their bodies. Numbers don't get Aids. Numbers don't get thrown out of a brothel when they do.
But children, 3200 hundred a day, 135 an hour, 2 every minute, do. They lose their childhood, their hope, their sense of justice, their will to live. What if it were your child? What if it were your little sister? I bet she has a name, bet she's not a number to you. Numbers get filed in folders, in file cabinets, between other files, and are forgotten. But you'll never forget her.
These are the real life stories of the victims of human trafficking from The Polaris Project. Their stories are unforgettable, they are the daughters, the baby sisters, the children those numbers represent, they are the statistics that suffer the most depraved of injustices. Please read their stories. Please imagine their words are your own child's, your own sisters words. Please do whatever you would do for your own child for these children. Because until we fight for them with that same passion, that same relentless resolve, they are just a number to us. And numbers have a way of being rounded down, subtracted, erased, and lost forever.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
In Mumbai there are 19 million people. Half live in slums. In fact Mumbai is India's largest city, and has India's largest slum. The children of slum dwellers face the daily prospect of being trafficked. In Mumbai there are 100,000 children enslaved in brothels.
Mumbai is also home to India's richest man Mukesh Ambani. Ambani made the news this week by purchasing the most expensive home ever which is 27 stories high and worth £630m (over a billion dollars US).
According to the Telegraph UK "Ambani, his wife and three children have moved into the building which is named Antilia, after a mythical Island. It contains a health club with a gym and dance studio, a ballroom, countless guestrooms, a range of lounges and a 50 seat cinema. There is even an elevated garden with ceiling space to accommodate small trees. The roof has three helicopter pads and there is also underground parking for 160 cars, which will come in handy for guests at Ambani's forthcoming housewarming party. From the top floors of the 173m high (567 feet) property are spectacular views of Mumbai and of the Arabian Sea.
The 53 year-old tycoon is not only the richest man in India but the fourth richest man in the world. In total there is reported to be 37,000 square metres (almost 40 thousand square feet) of space, which is more than the Palace of Versailles. To keep it running smoothly requires 600 staff. "
It is unconscionable. It is beyond comprehension. It is heartbreaking beyond words, that so few would take so much, when so many, so very near to them, have so little. Please, please, let us make a pact to live lives that take very little and give so very, very much.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
This year, the National Retail Federation expects Americans to spend a record $5.07 billion on costumes, cards, candy and decorations for Halloween, with the average consumer spending $64.82 compared with $59.06 a year ago.
Please join Conspiracy Of Hope in pledging to skip Halloween spending this year by not buying a costume. There are plenty of great sites with free costume ideas and designs. Take the money you would spend and donate it to an organization fighting the trafficking of children. Halloween is a celebration of childhood as much as anything else, please celebrate childhood this Halloween by giving a child their childhood back.
As always thank you for caring about justice, thank you for your passion for human rights, thank you for being a voice for the voiceless.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Tomorrow I will address a group of students in a human rights class about human trafficking and specifically what can be done locally to combat this evil globally. One concern the professor expressed was a growing frustration among some of the students, it seems they are somewhat overwhelmed by the hugeness of the problem and a bit disheartened as to how they can do anything of any significance to stop it.
Recently I had a chance to interview IJM's Gary Haugen. As a member of the UN’s Center For Human Rights Haugen was charged with the horrific task of gathering evidence against the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide. This included the exhumation of mass graves of tortured victims. I asked Gary how he kept from becoming desensitized to suffering?
"By relentless focus on the humanity, beauty and infinite dignity of the individual person."
I believe his answer also speaks to the helpless impotency those students and many other activists feel at times. But if we can somehow turn that answer into a lens to see this crisis through, we might once again find ourselves encouraged, emboldened, and enlivened to the cause of freedom.
For the rest of his answer to this question and for the rest of our interview with Mr. Haugen stay tuned!!! And as always...From all of us at COH...Thank you for being a voice for the voiceless.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Current estimates are that it would take 50 billion dollars a year to end world poverty. If that is correct than truly, at least that part of the human trafficking equation should, and can easily be eliminated.
The following statistics are not meant to disparage America or Americans, they serve as a starting point, certainly other countries will have similar spending patterns.
Americans spend more on gambling then groceries. Upwards of 100 billion dollars a year. Twice the going rate of ending poverty.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that a combined $276 billion was spent or lost in 2005 on health care, lost productivity, premature death, auto accidents and crime relating to drug and alcohol abuse. That was in 2005, the numbers now are closer to 6 times the going rate to end poverty.
Americans spent $705 billion for entertainment and recreation in 2004, according to a Unity Marketing study Entertainment and Recreational Products Report. 14 times the cost of ending poverty.
Junk food and soft drinks over 200 billion.
In 2000 spending on the lawn and garden industry equaled $85 billion. Of that, $6.3 billion was spent on lawn and garden accessories like sundials, fountains and sculptures.
I could go on. About tooth art, vacation homes, air conditioned dog houses. Valentines day, Easter, Christmas and Halloween.... Sports cars, 52 inch plasma screens, 5 dollar lattes and 20 billion dollar annual bottled water sales....
Half of the world lives on less than 2 dollars a day. 2 dollars! Or an ATM fee, a late charge for a movie.
Even if it were 500 billion instead of 50 billion to end poverty, it's still well within reach by only cutting out waste and luxury. Once again if only we would would heed Gandhi's words and "Live simply so that others can simply live". Literally, a lifestyle change can save a life.
What would it cost to end poverty? That's not the question we should be asking. Instead....
What will it cost if we don't?
Saturday, October 2, 2010
What happens when human traffickers are not scared of the law? They are emboldened and the exploitation of children becomes ever more perverse, the girl's get younger and younger, and the light of decency flickers, fades and finally starts to go out.
If this isn't a call to action then we are not listening. No child should ever learn to count in increments of oral sex prices. No girl with her baby teeth should ever have to perform oral sex on any man. Until childhood and innocence become priceless to us, they will always be for sale to someone else. As long as one child is for sale, all children are in danger.
This is what's at stake.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army said "While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now I'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight, I'll fight to the very end!"
And if I might be so bold to put words along side his, "While children are chained to workbenches, as they are now, we'll fight; while children are maimed and forced to beg, as they are now, we'll fight; while child soldiers are forced to kill, as they are now, we'll fight; while children are being brutally raped in brothels and basements, as they are right now, we'll fight, we will fight to the very end!"
Please join us in the fight. Millions of children live in slavery right now. They are powerless and we, we have the means to fight, if we can find the will.
Here's to year number two. To freedom. To justice. To the end of slavery.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
From Third World Orphans :
Every 15 SECONDS, another child becomes an AIDS orphan in Africa
Every DAY 5,760 more children become orphans
Every YEAR 2,102,400 more children become orphans (in Africa alone)
143,000,000 Orphans in the world today.
Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but…
Every YEAR 14,050,000 children still grow up as orphans and AGE OUT of the system
Every DAY 38,493 children AGE OUT
Every 2.2 SECONDS, another orphan child AGES OUT with no family to belong to and no place to call home
In Ukraine and Russia 10% -15% of children who age out of an orphanage commit suicide before age 18
60% of those girls are lured into prostitution
70% of those boys become hardened criminals
Many of these children accept job offers that ultimately result in their being sold as slaves. Millions of girls are sex slaves today, simply because they were unfortunate enough to grow up as orphans.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The Child Protection Compact Act of 2010, bill s3184, is the sister act to the House bill hr2737. Please contact your Senator and tell them you support this piece of legislation and would like for them to co-sponsor the bill.
Every year, according to the bill's text, there are 1,800,000 kids exploited through pornography and prostitution, many of whom are trafficking victims. This bill gives our government the initiative and funds to work with other governments who are willing but lack resources or technology to fight child trafficking.
Here are resources to help you from International Justice Mission's website.
From all of us at Conspiracy Of Hope, thank you for being a voice for the voiceless and for fighting for justice.
Friday, July 9, 2010
In India, Ethiopia, even Egypt there are alarming new trends. Children who are maimed make the so called "begging mafia" 5 to ten times what a non-crippled child will. It is so prevalent in India that many humanitarian organizations counsel their members not to give crippled children money but instead offer them food, hoping it might discourage the future maiming of other children. In several recent documented cases in India, the children who were maimed had been approached by someone posing to be from a religious or humanitarian organization. The children were given food and promised a safe place to stay. And then they were taken somewhere and maimed. One boy was taken to a doctor who amputated his leg while another had his left arm amputated. The boy below is also addicted to glue that his handlers got him hooked on. This is a common tactic to keep the children submissive and pitiful looking, many of these kids end up addicted to any number of substances.
As with the many other types of Trafficking, homeless orphans are one of the highest risk groups. They have no one to protect them, no way to feed or clothe themselves. Add to this the cultural stigmatization of the impoverished in some countries, and it is painfully obvious why these innocent kids end up facing this type of inhuman torture.
One of the most profound ways individuals can fight this practice of maiming and the trafficking of orphans in general is to either adopt them or fund organizations that protect them. Please help these innocent victims by doing whatever you can in that respect. From all of us at COH, thank you for your compassion and dedication to justice.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
"Live simply so that others may simply live" is not a twitter-worthy platitude printed on an inspirational poster beneath a majestic animal doing what majestic animals do in front of a breathtaking (and majestic) landscape. It is a mandate, attributed to Gandhi, that is as relevant today as it was when it was uttered.
On the front-lines of the battle against human trafficking, NGO's, human rights organizations and civil governments continue to be hindered by budgetary shortfalls. People are continually exploited, abused, enslaved, and killed because those with the will and the expertise to fight for justice lack the resources to do just that. Economists tell us that it is not a zero sum game, that there are plenty of resources to go around. But hoping and wishing for financial equality and the realization of that desire, are a universe apart.
What is within our reach is living responsibly and sharing with those less fortunate. Ordering a small instead of a large coffee a day can double the income of the estimated 300 million people who live on less than a dollar a day. Drinking tap water instead of bottled water can save hundreds of dollars a year, money that could be used to dig clean water wells in villages where women and children are forced to walk hours a day on poorly lit roads to get water from polluted sources, all the while in danger of being kidnapped and trafficked or even killed. A two pack a day cigarette habit can mean two or three thousand dollars a year into the coffers of organizations like IJM and Not For Sale in their continuing fight against modern slavery. Down-sizing our houses and cars can save tens of thousands of dollars in utilities, fuel, mortgage payments, interest, insurance and upkeep. The liquidation of our surplus possessions can take what is gathering dust in our closets and attics and turn it into freedom for the 30 million people enslaved today.
St. Basil the Great said, "The bread which you hold back belongs to the hungry; the coat, which you guard in your locked storage-chests, belongs to the naked; the footwear moldering in your closet belongs to those without shoes". In a very real sense our excess can fill the vacuum of their lack, may even be the difference between life and death. This voluntary reduction and redistribution of resources is the most straightforward and potentially powerful way ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
We live in an age of politicking and activism where environmental concerns make the front pages as much or more than humanitarian ones. But these two things are interrelated in a very complex way. In the age of globalization we truly have become a global community where even the smallest actions have long reaching ripple reactions. When we are wasteful with resources there are more than just environmental repercussions. The resources we use cost money at every level of extraction, refinement, and consumption. Again, that money could be saved and sent to anti-slavery organizations. Reduction, recycling, and reusing are not just the tenets of a conservationist philosophy, they can be turned into very real weapons in the hands of those who war against evil men who enslave and exploit for profit.
But however we choose to reduce consumption, any amount is better than none. Just a few dollars a week can have a profound affect. And I think once you see what those few dollars can do you will become so emboldened, so enlivened, that "living simply" for such a beautiful cause will become your passion.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Futbol fever has gripped the world and for 16 teams and their respective countries, the dream of being the #1 team is still alive. Face painted, flag draped fans with vuvuzelas have created such a cacophony that Fifa has considered banning the plastic horns. It is Mardi Gras meets the Super Bowl in South Africa and it's fun! Fun! FUN!!!
But not for everybody. In the lead up to the contest 42 million condoms were sent from Great Britain alone, (out of an estimated 1 billion that may be needed) and an estimated 40 thousand women were trafficked into the country from many other nations. South African Officials have attempted to distance themselves somewhat from these numbers saying that an increased police presence surrounding the World Cup has offset any raised rate of trafficking. While actual numbers are unclear, what is clear is demand always dictates supply. And when that many males are in one small area for any length of time, the criminal element is glad to give them what they want. Several campaigns in the lead up to the contest seem to have helped to some degree. NotForSale.org is running what they are calling the Red Card Campaign to fight human trafficking during this year's World Cup. Here is video from that campaign.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Today is World Day Against Child Labor. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 215 million children engaged in illegal labor, with half being in the worst forms of slave labor. This includes, but is of course not limited to, the sex trade, child soldiering, bonded labor and the illegal drug trade.
Like most forms of child exploitation, illegal child labor is born from the womb of poverty. Many children are forced to work solely for their family or for themselves to survive. Many children will not eat if they don't work. And of course this type of desperation gives greed and evil ample opportunity for the most egregious forms exploitation.
Please let your voice be heard today and everyday for the innocent victims of illegal labor. Please make sure the products you consume are slave labor free. Ask your congressmen to support the Child Protection Compact Act. Please live simply and give whatever you can to legitimate organizations that fight poverty. Inform yourself. There are also many informative and inspiring videos on the ILO's YouTube page. From all of us at COH, thank you for defending the defenseless. Thank you for being a voice for the voiceless. Thank you for fighting for justice for the oppressed and exploited.