Survivors Offer Insight to Federal Anti-trafficking Efforts

By Holly Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Communities Digital News

WASHINGTON, February 15, 2014 – Last month, the White House administration announced a five-year “Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the Unites States…, a collaborative effort involving more than 15 agencies across the Federal Government.”

As stated in last week’s article, the Plan outlines intentions for each agency to integrate the experiences and voices of survivors into their initiatives. One anonymous survivor responded to this ambition as follows: “For a successful collaboration there must be an intentional disbursement of power between the government agencies that have traditionally held all the power of decision-making and the survivor groups that have held none.”

In response to the Plan, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families created a technical working group with the goal to enhance the health care system’s response to human trafficking. Among those invited to attend the first session were medical and health professionals, service providers, advocates, researchers, and survivors of human trafficking.

In this article, I’d like to include some perspectives from survivors who were unable to attend the meeting. Following are the questions I posed to survivors along with their answers:

What are the needs of human trafficking victims (both short and long-term) as it relates to healthcare providers?

Read the article on the Communities Digital News website

The Federal Government steps up anti-trafficking efforts

By Holly Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Communities Digital News

WASHINGTON, February 3, 2014 ─ In September 2012, President Barack Obama spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative and openly declared a U.S. initiative to address human trafficking.

In his speech, Obama called for a national action plan to better identify victims of human trafficking and address their aftercare needs. Last month, the White House administration announced a five-year “Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the Unites States, a collaborative effort involving more than 15 agencies across the Federal Government.” Co-chairs of the Plan include Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General; Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services; and Jeh Charles Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security.

In an introductory statement, the co-chairs acknowledged nationwide efforts to combat human trafficking and proposed that the Plan would strengthen “coordination, collaboration, and capacity across governmental and nongovernmental entities dedicated to providing support to the victims of human trafficking.” Further, the President’s Interagency Task Force (PITF) to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons recognized “that services must be provided in a manner that respects survivors and endeavors to integrate their experience and their voice.”

Read the article on the Communities Digital News website

The HEAAT Foundation fights human trafficking in South Jersey

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities

HEAAT

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ, September 9, 2013 — The HEAAT Foundation is committed to the support and advocacy of victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, and domestic servitude. HEAAT, which stands for Helping to Educate and Advocate Against Trafficking, is based in Atlantic County, New Jersey and serves all of southern New Jersey.

President and CEO Tina Minnis earned her Master of Education in Guidance and Counseling from the College of New Jersey. After more than 35 years of state service, Ms. Minnis retired from the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services; at which time, she was the manager of the Atlantic East Local Office in Atlantic City. Ms. Minnis is an active member of the Anti-Trafficking Task Force of Atlantic County (ATTAC) and the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force. In the following interview, Ms. Minnis shares the story and mission of HEAAT.

Holly Smith: Ms. Minnis, what inspired the creation of HEAAT?

Tina Minnis: This private non-profit organization is an extension of the Anti-Trafficking Task Force of Atlantic County (ATTAC), which has been in existence since 2005. ATTAC was spearheaded and mobilized by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which identified Atlantic City as a high-risk location for the presence of both sex and labor trafficking in the State of New Jersey.

H.S.: Can you tell us about HEAAT’s board members?

T.M.: Our Board of Trustees includes:

Vice-President/Treasurer: Brandy Smith holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW) from Fordham University with a specialization in Children and Their Families and a Concentration in Child Welfare, and is licensed by the State of New Jersey. She specializes in at-risk youth and child welfare issues. Ms. Smith has been working with at-risk youth since 1998 and is an active member of ATTAC.

Founding Board Member: Joni Whelan is a Licensed Clinical Alcohol & Drug Counselor and Certified Social Worker. Ms. Whelan began the first program in the State of New Jersey for Children of Substance Abusers. She has been awarded the NJ Child Abuse Prevention Award, the Skippy Award for her lifetime of work in the Addiction Field, and the Addiction Pioneer Award from Rowan University for her pioneering work in all areas of substance abuse treatment, prevention, and education, among other achievements.

Secretary: Doreen DeFeo-Gilroy holds a Master of Arts in Child Advocacy from Montclair State University. She has experience working with at-risk youth and understands their need for protection and permanency. Ms. DeFeo-Gilroy was inducted into the Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society while earning her Bachelor of Arts in Special Education.

H.S.:  Ms. Minnis, please tell us about HEAAT’s mission.

T.M.: Our mission is to build a community-coordinated response that will combat the perpetrators of this form of modern-day slavery; and to prevent all forms of human trafficking by raising awareness, educating, and empowering the community to take a proactive stance against these crimes. While the majority of our effort continues to be awareness, advocacy, and education; we are committed to improving and adding to the minimal resources available.

H.S.: What services are you currently offering to victims and victim advocates?

T.M.: We are providing basic and emergency needs to survivors, as well as addiction services through trained volunteers in addiction facilities.  Empowerment and support groups are provided in correctional facilities where women also receive resource directories and information for when they leave the facilities.  HEAAT also assisted and helped to plan and carry out a campaign to pass the “Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection, and Treatment Act of 2013” in New Jersey that included provisions to protect commercially sexually exploited children.

HEAAT serves as a resource directory and first response for law enforcement and victim specialists when needed. HEAAT collaborates with statewide goals and other anti-human trafficking agencies across New Jersey; and we work very hard to collaborate with law enforcement and maintain positive relationships with those entities.  Key law enforcement officials have access to HEAAT members 24-7 and are aware how to get in touch.  Local law enforcement officers have also been trained to call the child abuse hotline in New Jersey and those staff are currently being trained on how to respond.

H.S.: In what ways does HEAAT raise awareness and educate community members?

T.M.: In our capacity-building efforts, HEAAT provides extensive outreach trainings.  The core training team has created an iRespect campaign that has been presented in many area schools to raise awareness and educate young people about the issue of human trafficking. HEAAT also partnered with the New Jersey Human Trafficking Taskforce on many trainings and awareness events including Human Trafficking Awareness Day 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Additional key presentations included Dining for Dignity, the Camden County Violence Prevention Coalition, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Soroptimist International of Cumberland County,  and HHS Region II Administration for Children and Families Training Institute on Human Trafficking Prevention. HEAAT has also conducted training workshops at the NJ Alliance for Children Youth and Families as well as the Student Assistance Counselor’s Statewide Conference. Members of HEAAT were also invited to speak at the Child Welfare Congressional Briefing:  Building a Strong Response to Child Trafficking (hosted by Representative Karen Bass).

H.S.: Where do you hope to see HEAAT in the future?

T.M.: It is our objective to establish a safe house with an internal program of therapy, education, job training, and placement for the women, children, and men who are victims of the human trafficking trade. We plan to continue to raise awareness in the community in order to have seamless responses and services for victims and survivors.

H.S.: Is there anything else you’d like to add about HEAAT?

T.M.: We are having our 4th annual gala fundraiser on Friday, September 27th, 2013. To purchase tickets or to make a tax deductible donation to our basket auction, please contact us. It is our policy that 100% of proceeds raised goes directly to victim services; all HEAAT staff and board members are volunteers. To continue this work, the HEAAT Foundation needs your help!  Monetary donations can be made through PayPal on our website. Gift certificates for services or other in-kind donations are always appreciated.

For questions or more information; please contact us at:

The HEAAT Foundation, Inc.

PO Box 402

Port Republic, NJ 08241

Phone: 609-277-3050

Email: TheHeaatFoundation@gmail.com

Website: www.theheaatfoundation.org

Interview with Elena Bondar, CEO of Two Wings

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities

Two Wings

 

LOS ANGELES, August 31, 2013  —  Two Wings is a nonprofit organization located in downtown Los Angeles that aims to serve the greater Southern California region.  Their mission is to use education, mentoring, and life coaching to empower at-risk youth and young women survivors of sex trafficking transitioning out of shelter services. In the following interview; CEO Elena Bondar shares more information about Two Wings. Elena Bondar, MBA, founded Two Wings in late 2011.

Holly Smith:  Elena, what inspired the creation of Two Wings?

Elena Bondar:  After doing thorough research, we noticed that most shelters had similar needs. There was often a lack of assistance with transitioning clients to independence. We are here to bridge the gap between life in a shelter and independent living. It is important that these women find stability and can rely on people other than the harmful personalities they have been exposed to in their past. Our mentors form valuable relationships with our clients to build them up to a point where they can feel self-sufficient.

We have two client-centered programs: educational workshops & life coaching. The workshops are available to everyone in the shelter and focus on building survivors’ knowledge, confidence, and skills related to independent living, career development, and educational advancement. Our life coaching program is designated for survivors who are further along in their recovery and are ready to consider a transition into a career or higher education.

Over the past 1.5 years, we have been able to gain strategic partnerships with shelters to provide services for their clients; and we have had three life coaching clients so far. All three are currently in the process of selecting their internships and awaiting their career mentor.

Holly Smith:  How are clients referred for the life coaching services?

Elena Bondar:  Clients are identified by shelter directors as someone who has resided there for more than 6 months and is regularly seeing a mental health professional. Once the client has gone through an assessment process with Two Wings, we partner them with a life coach who will work with the client for an entire year. During this process, the coach is there to guide and help the client identify a dream career or education they would like to pursue. When a desired career is identified, the client is then partnered with a career mentor for 3 months in that field. We partner with local businesses in order to ensure our clients will receive interviews and job placement opportunities.

Our mentors offer tremendous support for clients through their transition into employment and independent living. They strive to develop ongoing relationships with the women as they continue on their journey to a new life.

Holly Smith:  Is your organization currently working on any project(s)?

Elena Bondar:  We are excited to move into the next phase of our vision – prevention of sex trafficking victimization. We are currently in the process of partnering with local prevention agencies to reach minors at high risk for trafficking along with minors who are at risk to be re-trafficked.

Holly Smith:  Are you also involved with advocacy?

Elena Bondar:  Our organization works to raise awareness in our communities; we speak at religious centers, universities, and companies. We also recruit new team members, interns, and volunteers on an ongoing basis. As part of our training, we educate new members on the multifaceted complexities involved with recovery from sex trafficking. Not only do we prepare them to function in their role with Two Wings, but we also prepare them to raise awareness about sex trafficking within their own social systems.

Our Family Dinners are also an excellent example of how we develop a personable and inviting environment to educate those who are unaware and to discuss this sensitive issue. Social media is another outlet used to spread our message.  Aside from our website, you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Holly Smith:  What has been the greatest achievement or most meaningful recognition or experience for your organization?

Elena Bondar:  Our greatest achievement so far has been watching our life coaching clients transition from being a person who had a desire for independence but felt lost and uncertain of how to attain it, to someone who is confident and ready to pursue the career of their choice!

Holly Smith:  Where do you hope to see your organization in the future?

Elena Bondar:  Our goal is to provide services nationally and eventually internationally. It would be great to not only expand our services to shelters outside of Los Angeles but further begin programs that will help in terminating the issue altogether.

Holly Smith:  What do you want the public to know about your organization?

Elena Bondar:  Our focus at Two Wings is engaging the community in every area of our clients’ journey. We encourage artisans, business professionals, and community members to use their skills and talents to inspire our clients to pursue a new future. We work to show that everyone can inspire change in a variety of ways and that, with the help of our community, we can accomplish anything.

We are always looking for volunteers for our various programs, from educational workshop facilitators to life coaches. We have a variety of opportunities for every profession and background and encourage anyone interested to see our website at: withtwowings.org/get-involved

Holly Smith:  Is there anything else you would like to add, Elena?

Elena Bondar: Our website is up and flourishing with new posts related to advocacy every week from our very own writers from Two Wings. We like to discuss topics where our readers can learn more about the issue and learn to relate to these women in a new light. We hope to hear from your readers as well.  If we fight together, sex trafficking doesn’t stand a chance.

For more information or to reach Two Wings, please visit their website at www.WithTwoWings.org or email them at Info@WithTwoWings.org.

UpRising Yoga brings hope & teaches discipline to at-risk youth

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities

UpRising Yoga

LOS ANGELES, CA, August 17, 2013 – Jill Weiss, Founder and Executive Director of Uprising Yoga, aspires to “bring yoga to at-risk youth and communities that need it most.” Located in Downtown Los Angeles, UpRising Yoga travels to juvenile halls, juvenile prison camps, and residential group homes in the L.A. area. The specific populations served in juvenile halls are children with a history of foster care and / or commercial sexual exploitation (CSEC).

“Yoga has healed so much in my life and I want to give that back to my community,” stated Weiss, “It all started when I approached the officials in the Probation Department of L.A. County about the possibility of bringing yoga to the youth in Juvenile Hall…I was so excited when they accepted. Not only have I had a past history of jails and institutions, addiction and medications, depression and hopelessness; I have been able to shed the imprisonment of despair with a yoga practice that changed the direction of my life. UpRising Yoga is my way of honoring that.”

Holly Smith: Jill, your story is so inspirational. I often encourage those involved with CSEC prevention and aftercare to incorporate the practice of yoga in their curricula. Are the services you provide in accordance with any particular standards?

Jill Weiss: UpRising Yoga only has certified Yoga instructors. Our yoga classes provide yoga teachers who have also taken our training, a curriculum that includes tools to bring healing to survivors of trauma. The other topics included are CSEC Training from Probation, specialized techniques to work with trauma, PTSD, anxiety, and high levels of stress. I have also taken Carissa Phelps’ Runaway Girl Training, which helped to shape our curriculum.

Holly Smith: Is your organization currently working on any project(s)?

Jill Weiss: Yes, the aftercare program. We are setting in place a structure to serve the minors when they are released from juvenile hall. We will also be planning our 2 -year fundraising celebrations this November.

Holly Smith: What has been the greatest achievement or most meaningful recognition or experience for your organization?

Jill Weiss: Whenever we are able to introduce a yoga class to someone who has never tried yoga before, to see them find the joy, the ease, and the honor of movement with an open mind in order to experience a new state of being, that is my greatest achievement. When I see their growing confidence, their sense of accomplishment, and their expressed interest on future yoga practice; that is the most meaningful recognition I experience.

There are many individual stories I can share but the overall change in the yoga student has to be what I notice the most. I have witnessed defiant angry kids change into yoga students who show pride in setting up their mats, whose faces light up when we arrive, who show fast improvement in poses, who develop respect for their practice, and who value their certificates of achievement. Watching our students achieve the benefits of yoga is my greatest achievement.

It is also deeply meaningful to me when people share their stories of how UpRising Yoga has inspired them to do good things in the world to help other people.

Holly Smith: Where do you hope to see your organization in the future?

Jill Weiss: My goal is to continue expansion to mental health facilities, schools, camps, and more group homes. I’d like to have an after-school program that offers yoga classes and other services mentoring and empowering youth.

I hope to partner with the CSEC community on a national level; I’d like for yoga to be a consistent tool being offered and recognized for healing trauma. We intend to train yoga teachers with specific techniques and inspire UpRising Yoga Teachers to become leaders empowering youth, in order to branch out and teach in their own communities across the country.

Holly Smith: What do you want the public to know about human trafficking or sexual exploitation, or specifically about your program?

Jill Weiss: When we started teaching yoga in juvenile hall, we found out 82% of the foster youth were sexually trafficked. We heard the grisly details and unimaginable horrors that these minors experienced. I would like the public to know that we need to be on alert and available to help this population.

Our services offer breath work to calm and heal layers of trauma, anxiety, PTSD, and anger; we offer the valuable healing tools survivors could use to restore their health.

We are volunteers. I am impressed with the devotion of our teachers who drive from all over, who hold down full-time jobs and take care of their own families, but who also care on such a deep level about bringing yoga to the people who need it most.

Holly Smith: How can the public help you with your plight?

Jill Weiss: We could use donations for mats and new yoga clothing for the girls in group homes. We also need volunteers to help with website maintenance, blogging, grant writing, marketing, research, graphic design, and other areas. Volunteer yoga teachers are always welcome to fill out an application, and in-kind services are always welcome.

We also appreciate yoga students who hold fundraisers at their local studios; this spreads the word and offers community spirit. We are happy to discuss this wonderful opportunity.

Holly Smith: Is there anything else you would like to mention about your organization?

Jill Weiss: UpRising Yoga started simply by volunteering and showing up. I encourage others to serve in their own communities…those who are most in need are often right underneath your nose.

Human Trafficking was not a subject I knew anything about before teaching yoga in juvenile hall. Once informed, I spread the word, became more educated and set forth to help heal this trauma. Our organization has just started on its mission to bring yoga to communities that need it most and my intention is to serve this population on a much larger scale.

For more information, please contact UpRising Yoga at www.UpRisingYoga.org.

Breaking Free, Inc: Breaking the cycle of sex trafficking

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities

Breaking Free

ST. PAUL, MN, July 13, 2013 – Breaking Free, Inc. is a non-profit organization serving women and girls involved in systems of abuse and exploitation / sex trafficking.  Breaking Free was established in October 1996 by Founder and Executive Director, Vednita Carter.  With headquarters in Saint Paul, MN, Breaking Free also has satellite offices in Minneapolis and Rochester, MN.  In this interview, Breaking Free will share their mission, vision, and services; and they will share an opportunity in which YOU can help them open a newly-renovated home in St. Paul.

Holly Smith:  What is the mission of Breaking Free?

Breaking Free:  The mission of Breaking Free is to educate and provide services to women / girls who have been victims of commerical sexual exploitation / sex trafficking and need assistance with escaping violence in their lives.  While based in African American culture, Breaking Free is committed to working with diverse populations of sexually exploited women and girls.  Over the last 17 years, Breaking Free has served more than 5,500 clients and reached over 22,000 individuals via street outreach while systematically growing its programming to embrace a full continuum of care. The primary target population is females in the age range of 16 to 59 years, who have been exploited sexually for commercial purposes.  They are predominantly African American and women of color (60%); and of low socioeconomic status, (most of them are single parents) with poor mental health, and chemical abuse issues.

Holly Smith: If faith-based, please tell us how faith has played a role in your organization?

Breaking Free:  Breaking Free is not a faith-based non-profit, but our founder and staff are all Christians. Because of the condition that many of our clients are in when they enter our programs, our philosophy is to show them the love of Christ though our actions and unconditional acceptance and love despite anything they have been through. Rather than force them to convert to receive housing and  services, we believe that we need to show them by example, lead them to Christ through our actions, and provide access to bible study and spiritual discipleship through our partnerships with our faith-based partners and volunteers. Then, we allow them to make their own choice if and when they are ready to accept Christ as their savior. We don’t tally conversions, but we know that each of our clients has the opportunity to hear the salvation message, and they are encouraged to learn more about being a disciple of Christ and growing in their relationship with Him.

Holly Smith:  Who are your board members and / or co-founders?

Breaking Free:  Breaking Free, Inc. has a Governing Board of five diverse directors from varying professional backgrounds and areas of expertise.  Breaking Free’s staff consists of fourteen full-time employees, seven part-time support staff, and many dedicated interns and volunteers. The majority of the staff is also composed of survivors of sex trafficking, which is important as survivors bring an element of understanding that others cannot.  Each survivor has a unique perspective and ability to relate with the women and girls whom we serve.  Many (25+) volunteers actively contribute to services at Breaking Free, each providing 10-20 hours of service per month.

Holly Smith: Can you tell us more about your services?

Breaking Free: We serve females 16 and up and their children in all of our programs. Breaking Free strives to empower women and girls to choose healthy, self-sufficient lifestyles. Our fundamental goals include strategies that focus on intervention, prevention, and education to ensure safe stable housing and family functioning, while operating in a culturally-appropriate and gender-specific context, with a secondary goal of decreasing the demand for commercial sex. Our services are as follows:

  • Provide education, crisis intervention, and advocacy to sex trafficked women and girls.
  • Decrease their exposure to and involvement in systems of violence.
  • Connect families with community resources to maintain stability and family functioning.
  • Provide and/ or coordinate safe stable housing for women / youth and their children.
  • Provide opportunities for education and life skills to enable them to move out of poverty and become self-sustaining and to improve the parenting skills of mothers.
  • Operate within a culturally-appropriate age and gender-specific context.
  • Educate the community about the effects of commercial sexual exploitation on women and girls and the negative effects on the community.
  • Bring change to  public policy regarding the treatment of victims and the prosecution of pimps and “johns” while working to educate men in an effort to decrease the demand for sexual sevices.

These goals have a direct impact on individuals, families, and the community. By providing survivors with the tools necessary to complete and improve their education and employability, Breaking Free is also helping to prevent the exploitation of the next generation, the children of the victims. Sex trafficking is a cyclical system of poverty, drug addiction, rape, abuse of power, and degradation.  This cycle will continue to be passed down from one generation to the next unless intervention occurs and women have the resources and opportunities to build a new life for themselves and their children.

Holly Smith: How can the public help you?

Breaking Free:  In the past year, Breaking Free has experienced a significant increase in the number of exploited women, girls, and children seeking assistance and services from our program. Currently, we are serving an average of 100 individuals and families each week from our St. Paul drop-in center and administrative offices.  While we are doing our best to keep up with the need, we are literally bursting at the seams with survivors and their children sitting outside, in our garage, and packed into our tiny conference room to participate in our weekly programs. Each week 20-30 children accompany their mothers to group and we need a safe place to provide care for them as well.

Breaking Free has just been presented with an opportunity to purchase a newly-renovated home just two doors down from our St. Paul location! This is a rare opportunity and a huge blessing as we struggle to figure out what will happen to these families in the winter when we literally have no room for them indoors.

We have secured over 75% of the funding, but we still need to raise the remaining $40,000 in the next TWO WEEKS.  We ask the public to please consider donating to this cause, and to share this opportunity with others.

To learn more about Breaking Free and to donate to this cause, please visit www.BreakingFree.net.

PART TWO: Interview with Laurel G. Bellows, President of the ABA

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities

Laurel G. Bellows

CHICAGO, IL, July 6, 2013 – In the second half of our interview, Laurel G. Bellows, President of the American Bar Association (ABA) and Founding Partner of Bellows Law Group PC, shares recent and upcoming events related to anti-human trafficking efforts.  In the first half of our interview, Laurel shared her passion for the cause and the ABA’s current projects, including the ABA Task Force on Human Trafficking, the ABA Fortune 100 Report, and the ABA’s “Voices for Victims: Lawyers Against Human Trafficking Tool Kit.”

Holly Smith:  Laurel, please share any recent speaking events.

Laurel G. Bellows:  Recent speaking events have included the John Marshall Law School Dean Fred F. Herzog Memorial Lecture in Chicago, focusing on human trafficking. Herzog, who left his native Austria when Hitler seized control, was a long-time champion of human rights.

I also spoke on human trafficking at the third annual Human Rights Summit hosted by the ABA’s Center for Human Rights. The summit surveyed the ABA’s activities and explored the legal profession’s unique potential to advance human rights globally.

Judges have become involved in our effort, and I recently gave a statement for a panel discussion on “Human Trafficking: How We Can Make a Difference,” presented by the National Association of Women Judges and the ABA’s Task Force on Human Trafficking. The panel was an outreach and education program for judges, civil attorneys, prosecutors, law enforcement, and other allied professionals to begin to work together to eliminate human trafficking.

I also had the honor to speak before the National Association of Attorneys General and the Conference of Chief Justices on uniting our state’s top lawyers and judges to stomp out trafficking in our nation and other crucial topics, including the funding of our justice systems and cybersecurity.

Holly Smith: Can you tell us more about your concerns for funding and cybersecurity?

Laurel G. Bellows:  The ABA continues to emphasize our fear, not simply concern, about the destruction of our justice system caused by underfunding, both at the federal level and the state level. As we lobby for federal-court funding in our Capitol, we must also be talking about state-court budgets, which still only make up 2 percent of a state’s budget. Adequate court funding is an issue that the ABA is fighting state by state.

We are also very concerned about cyberattacks, which are probably the greatest short- and long-term threats to the financial and physical security of our country. The ABA is very concerned about protecting our lawyers’ and our clients’ confidential information.  We are in the process of developing a cyber-response guidebook with practical cyberthreat information, guidance, and strategies for lawyers and law firms of all sizes. The guidebook will also establish what legal responsibilities and professional obligations are owed to the client. The book will provide strategies to help law firms defend against a cyberthreat and how to respond if breached. We expect the ABA Cybersecurity Guidebook — A Resource for Attorneys, Law Firms and Business Professionals to be released in August.

Visit www.ambar.org/cybersecurity for more information.

Holly Smith:  Please share any recent awards or experiences.

Laurel G. Bellows:  I am proud to be the recipient of the Women of Legacy Award from Powerful Women International and the 2012 ATHENA International Leadership Award, presented to leaders for achieving professional excellence and for assisting and inspiring women to realize their full personal and professional potential. This year marks significant equality-related anniversaries: the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, the upcoming 50th anniversary of the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. This is a time to celebrate our progress and remind ourselves of the work yet to be done. I have had the privilege to work alongside the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession and the ABA’s Task Force on Gender Equity to combat gender inequities in our profession and promulgate specific action steps to eradicate bias.

As for experiences, it has been an extraordinary honor to serve as the ABA’s president this year. I am proud of all the outstanding work that the ABA volunteers and staff have done, and continue to do, to advance the legal profession, protect our justice system, and improve our nation.

Holly Smith:  Can you tell us more about the ABA’s Task Force on Gender Equity?

Laurel G. Bellows:  The ABA’s Task Force on Gender Equity and Commission released the ABA Toolkit for Gender Equity in Partner Compensation in March. The tool kits were mailed to 120 major state and local bar presidents-elect and executive directors. We have also sent a message to the major women’s bars through the National Women’s Bar Associations. The tool kit outlines how to build fair compensation systems and how to implement them effectively. By the end of this summer at the ABA’s Annual Meeting, the ABA Gender Equity Task Force will release three more work products targeting three separate audiences: law firms, women lawyers, and general counsel. More information about these publications and more of the Task Force’s activities is available at www.americanbar.org/genderequity.

Holly Smith:  Please share any upcoming events.

Laurel G. Bellows:  I will serve as moderator for the panel “Combating Human Trafficking: Collaborative Solutions” at the fourth World Justice Forum in July in The Hague, Netherlands. The World Justice Forum is a global gathering designed to build and strengthen thriving communities by engaging business, government, civil society, academic, and other leaders to develop practical, multidisciplinary programs to strengthen the rule of law. During this panel, survivors will talk about their experiences, the services victims need, and what can be done to free them and prepare them for new lives.

Holly Smith:  What has been your greatest achievement or most meaningful moment while advocating against human trafficking?

Laurel G. Bellows:  Since undertaking this journey, I have been inspired by the numerous members of the legal profession and various stakeholders who have joined me in our shared mission to eliminate modern-day slavery in our nation. We have received an overwhelming response. We are opening people’s eyes to a crime, a human rights violation that happens next door, on the next block, or in the next town. We have also received many offers of assistance. People want to get involved, and we are encouraging lawyers and non-lawyers to step forward.

Holly Smith:  What message about human trafficking or human rights do you most want to communicate to the public?

Laurel G. Bellows:  Together, we must fight injustice in all its forms. The time is now to take a huge leap forward and stop our silence about the abuses that persist in our country. We must become the eyes and ears that give trafficking victims a voice.

Everyone has a role. The best way to get involved is through an experienced agency or organization that has assisted victims and is knowledgeable about the dynamics of trafficking. Many in the public have offered to donate time or money to the cause. Many of our collaborating organizations do not have enough funding to do the critical work they are doing to save lives. We are happy to help them every step of the way.

Holly Smith:  How can the public help with your plight?

Laurel G. Bellows:  Go to our website for more information and resources — http://ambar.org/trafficking. Anyone can take action — corporations, lawyers, and members of the public.

Also, through the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline (888) 373-7888; you can find local resources and organizations with experience in safely helping victims of trafficking, and you can learn how to identify victims. You can donate time or money to these local organizations, many of which are often underfunded.

Holly Smith:  How can people reach you or your organization for questions or more information?

Laurel G. Bellows:

Visit our website:  Ambar.org/trafficking.

Watch our video: Voices for Victims.

My email: Abapresident@americanbar.org

Twitter: @LaurelBellows and @ABA_Trafficking.

PART ONE: Interview with Laurel G. Bellows, President of the American Bar Association

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities

Laurel G. Bellows

CHICAGO, IL, June 29, 2013 – As President of the American Bar Association (ABA) and Founding partner of Bellows Law Group PC, Laurel G. Bellows has pioneered advocacy efforts for victims of human trafficking. This weekend’s featured advocate is both a vital voice and a powerhouse. In Part One of her two-part Interview, Laurel G. Bellows shares her passion and the ABA’s current projects.

Holly Smith: Laurel, how did you get involved with anti-human trafficking advocacy?

Laurel G. Bellows: Fighting human trafficking has been a longtime passion of mine. When I was president of the Chicago Bar Association, a group of young girls held in immigration detention asked for pro bono assistance to defend them instead of the lawyers the traffickers had sent to represent them.  The traffickers were trying to get these girls from custody to put them back into slavery.

Representing human-trafficking victims was an eye-opening experience, and I learned the extent of the crisis. Today, within our borders and across the world, human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises, generating an estimated $32 billion a year in illicit profits. This modern form of slavery is one of the most tragic and disgraceful criminal endeavors ever to exist. Millions of people across the globe — including thousands within our borders — are denied basic rights, such as sleep, food or pay, while forced to work or engage in sexual acts under constant abuse and threats. Some are killed or their family members have been threatened or murdered by traffickers in order to coerce their cooperation.

Slavery flourishes in our own backyards — in urban, suburban, and rural America. Men, women, and children are being exploited by traffickers and are suffering unspeakable atrocities. It is time for Americans to unite in our commitment to eradicate modern-day slavery in our nation, and assure that all citizens of our great country enjoy the freedom and liberty that our country guarantees.

Holly Smith: Thank you so much for your passion to represent men, women, and children who are being exploited across the country.  Can you tell us about the ABA Task Force on Human Trafficking?

Laurel G. Bellows:  The ABA is marshaling the energy and resources of our nation’s lawyers to change the way our legal system approaches human trafficking. We know that trafficking requires more than just a criminal justice system response. Our approach includes public interest lawyers, family law attorneys, corporate lawyers, torts lawyers, and of course prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Recognizing the complex barriers to prosecuting traffickers and identifying victims, the ABA Task Force on Human Trafficking has conducted training sessions across the country to help stakeholders learn to identify and treat victims as victims and to prosecute and punish perpetrators. These training sessions also shine a spotlight on the thousands of victims funneled through criminal justice systems as defendants.

So far, we have trained more than 500 lawyers and allied professionals.

Training programs help those who come into contact with trafficking victims to understand the barriers victims encounter in accessing help and resources. In addition, we are supporting lawyers who represent trafficking victims in legal services and legal aid offices. We are connecting trafficking victims to lawyers who can provide much-needed pro bono representation.  We are also developing a comprehensive online database of resources, materials, and legal-services programs for training and supervising volunteer lawyers.

You can follow our efforts on Twitter @ABA_Trafficking.

Holly Smith: You are also working with the business sector, correct?

Laurel G. Bellows: Yes, the ABA also recognizes that slavery needs to be addressed within the business community. Many corporations do not know that their suppliers are using slave labor. We are working with business lawyers and corporate leaders to develop voluntary business-conduct guidelines to eliminate labor trafficking from supply chains. In addition, we are developing a database — the ABA Fortune 100 Report — in partnership with Arizona State University College of Law.  This public database will list those U.S. corporations who have adopted business conduct standards addressing human trafficking. The report will also analyze the business conduct standards adopted by the largest U.S.-based companies.

Holly Smith:  Is the ABA working to change state laws as well?

Laurel G. Bellows:  Yes, our efforts extend to modifying and improving laws. We are working with the Uniform Law Commission to develop a uniform state-trafficking law.  Our goal is to create tougher penalties and to make certain that every state has a strong law addressing human trafficking on the books.

As the ABA works to change the way the legal system approaches human trafficking, we also recognize the dire need to increase awareness. As part of this effort, we are encouraging employers in our country to include in their employee handbooks information on how to identify a victim, whom to call, and a summary of the human trafficking issue.

Holly Smith: Can you recommend any resources for lawyers potentially working with victims?

Laurel G. Bellows: The ABA’s “Voices for Victims: Lawyers Against Human Trafficking Tool Kit” includes resources on how to choose potential speakers. The tool kit has a link to our award-winning video, “Voices for Victims.” The video gives an up-close-and-personal look at modern slavery and how lawyers can, do, and should respond. Common myths, a glossary of terms, and national resources are also included in the tool kit for bar associations. The electronic version of the tool kit is available at ambar.org/trafficking. A similar tool kit for law schools and law students is scheduled to be released by the task force during the ABA’s 2013 Annual Meeting in August.

I have continued to speak out to mobilize lawyers and non-lawyers to join our fight to combat modern-day slavery. Our goal is to recruit anyone who is interested in being active on this issue. I am moved that our efforts and hard work are effectuating change now and will continue to do so even after my term as ABA president.

Holly Smith:  Can you tell us more about the video, Voices for Victims? I see it features another powerful advocate, Brenda Myers-Powell, with The Dreamcatcher Foundation.

Laurel G. Bellows:  Our video, “Voices for Victims,” produced by the ABA’s Task Force on Human Trafficking, in partnership with the ABA’s Communication and Media Relations Division, has been recognized by the best in the video industry. It was awarded a Bronze Telly Award (runner-up to first place) in May. The Telly Award is the premier award honoring the finest film and video productions nationwide.  Our video also won a Bronze Stevie Award in June. The video is a crucial component of the ABA’s year-long effort to mobilize our members in the fight against modern-day slavery. More than a call to action, the video includes tangible courses of action to meet the problem head-on.

Stay tuned for the second half of Laurel G. Bellows’ interview.  To contact Laurel, please email her at ABApresident@americanbar.org or connect via Twitter @LaurelBellows.

Human trafficking: Interview with survivor advocate Evelyn Chumbow

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities

Evelyn Chumbow

WASHINGTON, DC, June 23, 2013 ― Evelyn Chumbow is a powerhouse as she advocates on behalf of victims of labor trafficking and servitude across the world.  “I don’t want anyone else to become a victim of what I went through, especially … at age nine,” stated Evelyn, “I am a voice of modern day slavery, and I will not stop until I help end this horrible crime … even if I am behind closed doors, my voice will always be involved.”

Holly Smith: Evelyn, what would you say is your personal mission statement?

Evelyn Chumbow: I am very passionate about end[ing] modern day slavery around the world and, most important; I want the world to recognize that modern day slavery is also a big problem in Africa…I want the world…to know  that we are all survivors of many things in…life but surviving slavery is very powerful.  Let’s teach the world that the [term] human trafficking [is not only ‘sex trafficking’] but slavery in general.  Most people forget to realize that [forced] sex is labor.

HS: How did you get involved with anti-human trafficking advocacy/speaking?

EC: I am [a survivor] of child labor trafficking.

When I reached the U.S., I was forced to cook, clean, and take care of the children of my recruiter, Theresa Mubang. I was never paid for my work, and any hope that I might escape my miserable life was undermined by the constant beatings I received from Mubang. For seven years of my young teenage life, I lived in constant fear and worked day and night. I never rode the school bus. I never went to the prom. I never got to hang out with friends after school. I never joined a dance team.

I was a modern day slave, not in some far-flung country, but right here in the U.S. I have not seen my parents for eighteen years due to this situation. My trafficker was sentenced to 17 years in prison for what she did to me.

After all those years of captivity, I finally escaped. I enrolled in GED courses, then [attended] community college, [and am now enrolled in the] University of Maryland University College (UMUC). As a student at UMUC, I am focusing on Humanitarian Work and Homeland Security. Where I come from, lack of knowledge about human trafficking [and human] rights is an everyday reality. I am the first woman from my country of Cameroon in West Africa to have been fortunate [enough to pursue an education]. I am a full-time undergraduate student at UMUC; I understand that I am in a unique position to do something about the [reality of] human trafficking in West Africa, in my hometown, and the rest of the world.

HS: Are you a member of any human trafficking-related survivor networks that you would like to mention?

EC: I am part of a speakers’ bureau website called Survivors of Slavery and a group called the National Survivor Network (NSN). [S]ome of the NSN members have become like my family because they understand me.

HS: Did any organization or advocate play a significant role in your healing / empowerment process?

EC: The person that has really played a major role is Melanie Orhant, and God.

HS: Are you working on any current projects?

EC: I would like to work for an organization, [but paid positions are hard to find.]  I am working really hard to see if I could open a nonprofit in Cameroon, but it isn’t easy.

HS: What message about human trafficking do you most want to communicate to the public?

EC: I want the public to understand that human trafficking happens in many forms. The focus should not always be on sex trafficking and thinking that human trafficking only involves forced sex. Also, I want the public to understand that victims of human trafficking are from all over the world.

HS: What message would you like to pass to other survivor advocates and speakers?

EC: The message I would like to [pass on] to other survivors is [this:]

Don’t let the media separate us.  [This] is not a competition but instead a fight to save other lives. We must be truthful with our stories because it can save many lives around the world.

HS: How can people reach you for questions or more information?

Email: EvelynChumbow@yahoo.com

Website: Survivors of Slavery

The James House: Supporting victims of domestic violence in Virginia

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities

The James House

HOPEWELL, Va., June 15, 2013 – Collaboration with local service providers is key for first responders working with survivors of any type of crime, including forms of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. It is important to know what services are available in your specific areas; this includes substance abuse programs, domestic violence programs, and any other outreach services.

Not all victims are in need of the same services; and your knowledge of distinctions between programs may be what sets a person on the path to recovery. This week’s featured service provider is The James House Intervention/Prevention Services, Inc.

How was The James House (TJH) started?

TJH was founded in 1989 on the belief that all people deserve a life free from interpersonal violence. We began as the Survivor’s Outreach Center serving people affected by sexual violence. We later became the Sexual Assault Outreach Program, and when we obtained funding to begin providing services for those affected by domestic violence and stalking as well, we became The James House.

What is your organization’s mission statement?

Providing support, advocacy, and education for people in the Tri-Cities area of Virginia affected by sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking to empower them to become healthy, safe, and self-sufficient.

Who are your board members and/or co-founders?

Phil Munson: Chairperson; Corie Tilman Wolf: Vice Chairperson; Cheryl Justice: Treasurer; William Lightfoot: Secretary; William Gandel, Andy Clark, Margaret Morgan, and Estee Newby Howard

Where are your headquarters based and where are your efforts based?

Our main business office is located in Hopewell, Va. We have satellite office space in Petersburg, Prince George County, Dinwiddie County, and southern Chesterfield County. Our service area includes the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell, and Petersburg and the counties of Prince George, Dinwiddie, and southern Chesterfield.

Do you offer outreach services, residential programs or both? 

We do not provide residential services. Our outreach services are geared towards raising awareness about the issues surrounding interpersonal violence. Our direct services include a 24-hour hotline, safe shelter, safety planning, individual counseling, support group, case management, food pantry, clothes closet, community referrals, court accompaniment, and hospital accompaniment. All of our services are cost-free and confidential.

If you offer housing, how many individuals are you able to accommodate? Which ages/genders are qualified for housing? Are you able to house mothers with children?

We offer safe shelter for anyone who is in imminent danger from sexual or domestic violence. This service is available to women, men, transgender, and children under 18 if accompanied by an adult.

Are the services you provide in accordance with any particular curriculum?  What sets you apart from other programs? How are your services specialized for those populations which you serve?

TJH is accredited by the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance. We must meet stringent standards in order to be an accredited sexual and domestic violence agency. We do not follow a set curriculum for any of our services; however, we do have several curricula available for use with support groups, etc.  We are the only accredited domestic & sexual violence agency in our service area providing specialist interpersonal violence services.

Do you have any programs / curricula that are specific to victims of sex trafficking or other forms of human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, or sexual abuse / exploitation?  If so, please describe.

We provide services for people affected by any kind of sexual violence. We do use “The Courage to Heal Workbook” with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. We do not have curricula specific to human trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation.

What is the best way for victims or for first responders to reach you for services?

Our 24-hour crisis line number is (804) 458-2840. We can also be reached at helpline@thejameshouse.org or through our website: www.TheJamesHouse.com.

Are there necessary avenues for law enforcement/social services to follow before a victim can be placed into your program?

Anyone can make a referral to our agency. We then talk with/meet with the person to do an extensive intake/needs assessment to determine if they are eligible for our services. If someone is not eligible for our services, we make referrals to community agencies that may be more appropriate.

Are you involved with other efforts related to advocacy within your state or community? 

The James House is a member agency of the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance; four local and one regional Domestic Violence Task Forces; four Sexual Assault Response Teams and one Sexual Assault Review Board (on Fort Lee).

Please share any recent awards or annual events.

The James House was recognized by the Cameron Foundation with the 2012 Excellence in Organizational Management Award and the 2008 Cleveland A. Wright Award for outstanding Community Service. We have a very successful outreach campaign and fundraising event during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.

Please share any upcoming events or honors.

This month, we will host our Volunteer/Donor Appreciation Event; and in September, we will take part in the Amazing Raise event sponsored by the Community Foundation.

What has been the greatest achievement or most meaningful recognition or experience for your organization?

Our greatest achievement is providing quality, meaningful services for people affected by interpersonal violence to help them become empowered to live safe, healthier lives. Our greatest recognition was being the recipient of the Excellence in Organizational Management Award last year.

Where do you hope to see your organization in the future?

We will continue to build upon our solid foundation, serving more people and raising more awareness about the issues of domestic and sexual violence.

How can the public help you with your plight?

TJH relies heavily upon individual and corporate monetary donations. We receive grant funding for a great deal of our direct service work, but we need to raise approximately $100,000 a year to meet our budget. We also have a solid group of community volunteers who assist us with things such as answering our hotline, co-facilitating support groups, providing accompaniment to court/hospital, sorting donations, attending community events to raise awareness, etc.

Our Board of Directors is also made up of volunteers as are our board sub-committees. We are always on the lookout for passionate, motivated, committed people willing to donate their time. We collect used cell phones and ink cartridges and we always have a need to small denomination gift cards to gas stations and stores such as Walmart, Target, Kmart, etc.

How can community members reach you or your organization for questions or more information?

Contact us at helpline@thejameshouse.org, through our website http://www.thejameshouse.org, or by calling (804) 458-2704.

What is your organization’s Twitter handle and Facebook page?

Twitter @TheJamesHouse

Facebook: The-James-House