Newsletter November 2015

Welcome to the November 2015 issue of the WA Engage Newsletter.

IN THIS ISSUE

Letter from our Executive Director 

Policy Lies at the Heart of Change

Hidden in Plain Sight: Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking

Youth Education in Communities and Schools

Survivor Voices: WA Engage New Program!

WA Engage Coalitions Against Trafficking

 

 

Letter from our Executive Director

The past six months have been a whirlwind of positive activity for me and the WA Engage staff and volunteers! I have been made incredibly welcome by all our supporters who have rolled up their sleeves to strengthen operations and create new programs that address the need in our communities.

A wonderful colleague of mine likes to say we are “at the tipping point” when it comes to human trafficking - which means the world is waking up to this issue and ready to take on the fight like never before. December will see the launch of the legislatively mandated WA State Task Force Against the Trafficking of Persons, to which WA Engage is invited - a collaborative effort to eradicate human trafficking across the state. As you will learn from the articles below, WA Engage’s collaborative partnerships continue to be fundamental to our success, not just by way of prevention but also through intervention at multiple levels.

If you haven’t yet, please take a moment to visit our new website and check back regularly for updates on the new blog site!

Sincerely,

Frances-signature.PNG 

Frances Walker-Dudenhoefer
Executive Director


Policy Lies at the Heart of Change

By Frances Walker-Dudenhoefer

Policy.jpgWhen it comes to anti-trafficking legislation, WA Engage has been at the forefront - drafting bills and advocating for stiffer penalties for pimps and buyers, along with decriminalization and services for victims. Of the twelve anti-trafficking bills that passed in 2012, nine were drafted by Rose Gundersen, WA Engage co-founder!

For the past year our organization has supported Erik Bauer in his efforts to bring a lawsuit against Backpage.com on behalf of three young girls (ages 13 and 15) who were sold on that site. On September 3, the Washington State Supreme Court announced that Backpage.com can be sued in state court! This was a historic decision and a major chink in the legal armor that has protected Backpage.com and other trafficking sites.

As we raise awareness of trafficking amongst local, state and national communities, it’s important not to forget that trafficking is centered around money and this is where we can attack the hardest - by boycotting companies using slave labor and making “business as usual” challenging for sex traffickers. Earlier this year, Mastercard agreed to withdraw as an ad payment option for Backpage.com and Visa shortly followed, cutting off all business with the online site (American Express had removed its support in 2014).

In our trainings, we like to say that a person is the only commodity that can be sold more than once. Viewed from an economic perspective, trafficking needs to be made unprofitable and highly punishable. Consequently, WA Engage is a strong supporter of End Demand policies that target pimps and buyers - these programs are already having a strong impact in cities like Seattle, Federal Way and Kent, making traffickers think twice about operating there.

And what about survivors? WA Engage is currently partnering with Representative Tina Orwall and Seattle Against Slavery on 2016 legislation that would broaden the eligibility for sex trafficking victims to have prostitution charges vacated. These charges are a daily reminder of a victim’s harrowing experience - re-traumatizing and severely impacting a survivor’s ability to seek gainful employment. We owe it to victims to be able to move on with their new life and embrace all opportunities as regular citizens.


Hidden in Plain Sight: Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking

By Jeri Moomaw

Medical_Training.JPGWhat does Hidden in Plain Sight mean? It means that victims of trafficking are walking amongst us each day and we only have to “look beneath the surface” and ask the right questions. For first responders, the opportunity to intervene on behalf of a trafficking victim is considerable - this is why WA Engage in training frontline personnel to ask the right questions and assist both sex and labor trafficking victims to seek help.

Training Medical Personnel

We are thrilled to have recently formed a partnership with CHI Franciscan and Dr. Cynthia Wolfe, an accomplished emergency room physician based in Olympia.

Through Dr. Wolfe’s experience in encountering suspected trafficking victims in emergency departments we have identified several gaps in ER screening, the manner a victim is treated in ER and an overwhelming need for specialized training for ER frontline staff. Jeri Moomaw, WA Engage Program Managers and trafficking survivor, herself visited multiple emergency rooms throughout the country during her years of being controlled by a brutal trafficker. Despite multiple opportunities, at no time did medical staff identify her as a trafficking victim - this is the message we effectively convey by including survivor testimony in all WA Engage trainings.

In September, Dr. Wolfe trained over 120 physicians, nurses and medical personnel at St. Peter’s Hospital, Olympia! WA Engage has since been invited to train medical staff in Tacoma, South Seattle and Skagit County.

Training Law Enforcement

As a strong supporter of End Demand policies, WA Engage is charged to train law enforcement officers on victim identification AND building a strong case for prosecution against pimps and buyers. To this end, we were recently invited to train Fife Police Department officers on sex and labor trafficking in their community.

Officers heard from a survivor on her experience being trafficked and, most touching, the day a Seattle police officer asked her directly why she was on the street and how he could help - this day was a turning point in her ability to eventually leave the life. Joined by a Kent PD detective, the 3.5 hour training provided participants with an overview of WA State law and proven tactics to charge and convict traffickers.


Youth Education in Communities and Schools

By Ruth Hill

Youth_Education.jpgWA Engage Facilitators educating youth on sex trafficking are making a difference in classrooms and in their community! Not only are youth made aware of the issue and given tools to protect themselves, but also learning that there is help for victims. After a recent training, one student dared to break silence and is now receiving appropriate care and support.

There is urgency to our work. Youth are the target of sex trafficking in America; the average age of entry into the commercial sex industry is between 14 and 17 years old. Research shows that on any given night there are from 300 to 500 kids being sold on the streets of Seattle.[1] Further, Internet anonymity has fueled the ease of trafficking victims and the pornographic business; 1 in 5 pornographic images are of children.[2]

WA Engage is committed to protecting youth and connecting victimized children to needed services. Two recent partnerships are making that a reality. The Association of Washington School Principals is collaborating with WAE, using its communication tools to encourage schools to partner with us in providing school personnel with training. The Washington Association of School Administrators is also partnering with us and is promoting the training WAE can provide. In addition, a former high school principal is now featured in a video clip endorsing WAE and its program.

WA Engage’s community coalitions continue to identify community members to train as Facilitators of youth education programs. WAE trained and certified two new community facilitators in August, and will shortly be certifying three new facilitators to work directly in their communities - exploring multiple options to reach out and train at-risk youth in community youth clubs, tribal agencies, detention centers and faith-based community groups.

This fall, a WAE facilitator has been invited to train both staff and detainees of the Thurston County Juvenile Detention Center. Ensuring many at-risk youth are correctly identified as victims and referred for services - intervention is key to turning around lives!

[1] Boyer, Dr. Debra, “Who Pays the Price? Assessment of Youth Involvement in Prostitution in Seattle”, June 2008.

[2] National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Child Pornography Possessors Arrested in Internet-Related Crimes: Findings from the National Juvenile Online Victimization Study


Survivor Voices: WA Engage New Program!

By Jeri Moomaw

Survivor_Voices.pngPersonal stories have the power to shape the public debate on sexual exploitation, and to call necessary attention for the need for prevention, support services and public policy change. However, those who have been sexually exploited through prostitution and sex trafficking face double exploitation when they tell their stories: from the media, the public, and organizations attempting to speak on their behalf.

Through our work we have encountered “Too Many” horror stories of re-exploitation of these amazing women to just sit back and do nothing!

We know the importance of survivor involvement in the movement to end trafficking. WA Engage strives to include the voice of survivors in all our work. We believe that those who have been directly impacted by sexual exploitation and trafficking should be seen as true experts not as women that “made” bad choices. Which unfortunately is the way trafficking survivors are often perceived.

WAE Programs Manager Jeri Moomaw, a powerful survivor, has experienced this firsthand. She speaks about the trauma and heartache experienced when she began speaking publicly about her life experiences as a child trafficking victim. She said “I was so damaged by organizations, media and general public that I suffered physically and emotionally. I was made to feel very shameful and experience increased personal blame. I questioned my personal responsibility to the point of believing that I must have been asking for the abuse I suffered by the hands of my trafficker!”

This is tragic and why, in partnership with Julie Watts of the UW School of Social Work, WA Engage has developed a training/resource to help survivors of sexual exploitation through prostitution and trafficking to advocate - by telling their personal stories in a way that is empowering, protects them from further exploitation and helps reshape the public debate on these issues.

We were thrilled to have the pilot Survivor Voices workshop launch on Friday, November 13th! Our first cohort of participants shared personal stories of not just being trafficked, but exploited by the media seeking sensationalistic stories that did not reflect the true reality of their lives or, even worse, placing blame for their experience on them. The workshop focused on taking control of media interviews and presenting a story they want to tell. Many told us they had been waiting years for this kind of resource and can’t wait for Session II!


WA Engage Coalitions Against Trafficking

WA Engage’s six community coalitions work hard to address human trafficking directly in their communities. This issue we feature the Federal Way Coalition and their highly successful 5K Run held this summer!

CSEC Blog reprinted courtesy of Kelly Mangiaracina

FWCAT_5K_Run.jpgOn Saturday May 16, 2015, King County CSEC Task Force member agency Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking (FWCAT) hosted the 3rd Annual “Break the Chains of Human Trafficking 5K”.

FWCAT, one of six community coalitions under the WA Engage umbrella, is a group of committed individuals that educates and engages the Federal Way community so that each person can play a role in ending human trafficking.

According to Brenda Oliver of FWCAT, the event is “about creating awareness” and was a huge success. In the first two years, there were approximately 200 participants. This year there were approximately 1000 participants! With the help and leadership of FWCAT, the Federal Way community has come together to fight sex trafficking and build a large coalition of informed citizens, law enforcement, and city officials. The majority of the course of the 5k was on the Pacific Highway, a known street prostitution track, and the participants were escorted by the Federal Way Police Department.

This was a great local event and received media attention in the Federal Way Mirror.
Check out the full article here.