Human Trafficking Haiku

Lonely and depressed,
inadequate and worthless.
Please, even one friend?

Online chatting fills
this void in my heart.  He says
that he “treasures” me.

We plan to meet soon.
Friday at a street corner.
We’ll ride in his car.


So, we meet at eight.
But his face does not show the
worth he made me feel.

I’m locked in the car.
Not one man, but two up front.
Confusion and fear.

Later, a basement.
Both my body and my soul
in chains.  I am drugged.

If I tell, they kill
my family.  No escape.
Stuck in a nightmare.

Selling my body,
twelve times a day.  What happened?
Acceptance and love?

I feel as if I
merely watch myself living
this hell in a dream.

Reality.  My
reality.  Forever.
Hope does not exist.

But wait, too good to
be true.  He is arrested:
the man who constrains!

I have never been
so glad to be taken.  I
go to a shelter.

Seven years of dark.
I am now given freedom
to speak, act, and live.

Freedom, choices, life.
Never valued these more than
now.  Goodbye to force!

For rescue, refuge,
safety, my forever thanks
to End Slavery.

-Anonymous

A Single Story

Stories. These short narratives help us all connect with each other.

One story can portray an instance of joy, pain, triumph, loss, and any other type of emotion. Stories are great in helping people relate to experiences had by others. They create empathy, hatred, compassion, and motivation to act. A story serves as a positive or negative glimpse into someone's life. Single stories are simply incomplete snapshots.

While it reflects aspects of an individual, one story does not define them.

The best thing about working at End Slavery with both at risk youth and survivors of human trafficking is realizing despite the tragedy, frustration, and utter pain of a single story, it is still incomplete. There is still time for stories of joy, excitement, love and much more.

As advocates passionate about social justice….

                    I understand one story does not define all of who you are. We are all a compilation of stories and experiences.

As members of the End Slavery TN community…..

                    I extend survivors options, choices, and hope.

As an individual…..

                    I see God is not finished. He is not finished with our survivors, staff, you, or I.

So now I invite you all to be apart of this new story of hope. Will you join?

Common Sense... Really?

Common sense is a funny thing. It’s easy to believe that there are certain pieces of knowledge that are universal, but common sense is only common if someone taught you that bit of wisdom.

I imagine that most of us have been instructed in the best ways to stay safe at parties. For example, we know to fix our own drinks at a party.  We know not to set that drink down, or let it out of our sight. We know never to drink anything that someone else fixed for us. We know that there is strength in numbers and that it’s best to have a friend with you at all times.

We know these things because someone taught us. But what about the kids that have grown up without someone to tell them these things?

How will they know?

It’s our belief that the very people reading this blog, the very people for whom this information IS common sense…those are the same individuals that have both the duty and the ability to pass along this knowledge to friends that maybe don’t have an older, wiser individual in their life to teach them.

Who is the person in your life that taught you what the world considers common sense?

Signs of Slavery

She is the loner in high school.  She sleeps during class, smells weird, and always talks about him. Yes, surprisingly she has a boyfriend. This mystery man is typically the topic of choice because he is handsome, wealthy, charming, and much older.

 Her man the provider.

He was the one that took notice when she left her house to escape the violence. He was the one who told her she was beautiful even though she didn't see it in herself. He showered her with expensive clothes, the latest iPhone, and dreams of a life full of happy endings. Unlike others he was always there.  While sometimes he could let his anger get the best of him and be a tad controlling, she knew not everyone is perfect, and sometimes you have to make sacrifices for those you love. So when he proposed a once in a lifetime opportunity she was all in!

Little did she know, the life she would soon encounter would be full of violence, extreme control, and slavery.

Often times middle and high school students are put in situations like this. We all tend to look at the good things each person has to offer and may choose ignore negative signs that could put us at risk.

Red Flag Week gives us all a great opportunity to talk about some of the signs of a person who is being trafficked or being prepared to be trafficked. This student was facing a tough situation at home and as a result began dating a significantly older man. While at times he appeared to control her, she trusted him because he was the only one who affirmed her with gifts and compliments.

It is easy to think that we may never fall into these traps. However, it is important to remember what this student was looking for. Just like you and me, she searched for a sense of belonging in her community.

So let's use this week as an opportunity to define our own value and self worth. Let's all take time to explore characteristics we like about ourselves and educate our community on the signs of trafficking!

What are your thoughts on some of these flags? Did any other flags stick out to you? 

 

Kamrie

Expectations

You walk into a family gathering. Niceties and greetings are exchanged, then what? We all know it’s coming…”So, are you seeing anyone?”

Dating is normal. And dating can be really good. But, it’s also expected, and sometimes those expectations just aren't realistic.

Girls are expected to date boys, older boys. Boys that can drive and afford to take them on nice dates. Boys who are bright and charismatic. Boys who look like they just stepped off the cover of a magazine. And those same boys are expected to date beautiful, young girls. Girls who will do what they want and look good doing it. And that’s just the expectations prior to the actual dating. Once a relationship is established, there are expectations of what to do and what to say.

Oftentimes in relationships, boundaries and expectations don’t line up and that can lead to some serious issues. When this happens, our self-worth, morals, and beliefs may be called into question or even discarded. How can we prevent this from happening?

The greatest way to combat unrealistic expectations is to know exactly what we want out of and are willing to put into a relationship before we even begin dating someone. It’s hard to figure out what it is we are and are not comfortable with, but the harder part is upholding those boundaries and standards. 

What are some expectations you have for dating, either positive or negative?

 

-Allie 

Opportunity is a Knockin

When you are young opportunities are endless.

Opportunities to volunteer, work, learn, travel and much much more are all at your finger tips! All of this creates new avenues to explore your interests and passions.

A common myth we all believe is simple:

This is a once in a lifetime chance.

We have seen this same pressure to seize every chance with a lot of our survivors. They are sold a dream that only comes once in a life time and they must take it now! Sometimes these opportunities are too good to be true.  They turn out to be putting individuals at risk of a world of pain and are nothing like what was originally promised.

Since then we have learned the truth: When it comes to reality you will have a bunch of opportunities and it is up to you to decide which ones are worthy investments!

So lets make a deal! Today we pledge to pick and choose wisely. We pledge to speak up about new opportunities with friends and family. By open communication we can wisely invest in what we are truly passionate about. 

What are some recent opportunities you have taken?

 

-Kamrie

Overcoming Insecurity

By Allie Bergeron

There’s a voice in my head that some days won’t let me see past the breakout on my face or the fact that my pants are getting a little tighter. Other days it reminds me that I’m single. Still others it points out exactly how well that joke DIDN'T go over.

That voice answers to the name insecurity, and I’d be willing to bet that sometimes he has a couple of words for you too. And that’s completely normal.

Insecurities aren't a new concept. They've been around for as long as humans have, and I don’t imagine them going anywhere soon. That doesn't mean we let those insecurities win, though. We've got to be bigger and louder than the voice in our head because those insecurities can leave us vulnerable.

Today, traffickers are using our insecurities for their own benefit. Traffickers are trained to see the things we’re not proud of: our bodies, our homes, our families, our opportunities and then use those things to target us.

How do we combat that? Confidence. A sense of self-worth that doesn't come from other people’s words or actions. An acceptance of the truth that we are who we were made to be. And finally, respect for the person we are today.

Own the things that make you different. They’re yours, and that’s worth celebrating. 

Bravery Behind Adventure

Twitter Facebook Instagram Snapchat

All ways we connect

All of these were invented to present parts of your identity for your friends and family to see. Whether you are posting pictures of a family vacay or sharing your results on the latest Buzzfeed quiz, all of them portray a sense of life adventure. 

Technology has a great way of capturing all of these beautiful moments that can make up your story. 

As with any great invention we all face the temptation to rely on it to create our story. We like or retweet great things others have done, befriend exciting or cute people on Facebook who we may not know too well, or even chat with other interesting people online. It becomes very normal to amplify the voices and stories of our “online community” rather than taking the time to create our own experiences.

Here at End Slavery Tennessee we have seen a variety of young people choose to use online sources as their only outlet. They want some type of adventure like the ones on tv. They look through mutual friends, send friend requests, and begin to chat. As a result, they put themselves at risk of being approached by someone who can cause harm.

So today we challenge you to be brave!

Being brave means choosing to find your own adventure outside of the Internet. 

You can be the one who creates your own adventure, then use social media as a way to talk about it. Make social media a way to reflect who you are rather than what you want to be. Choose to be brave today and seek adventure for yourself!

Do you have an idea on how to be brave today? Share it with us!

For a little more inspiration check out Sarah Barreilles amazing music video!

-Kamrie

Ready, Set, KNOW!

By Allie Bergeron

Hi everyone! Allie here, one of End Slavery Tennessee’s newest interns. My bright, confident, Northern (don’t hold it against her) fellow intern, Kamrie, and I are thrilled to be here! Human trafficking is a cause that’s been placed on both of our hearts and we, like you, are here to do something with that passion.

Yesterday an awesome group from Atlanta joined us for our first door hanger event of the summer! Door hanger events are an opportunity for Kamrie and I to give general education to students about domestic human trafficking and then for all of us to act on that knowledge by venturing out into neighborhoods to place informative flyers on peoples' doors. Yesterday, though, we were amazed by the group’s understanding of this issue before we even began our discussion. To me, that says that our generation is quickly growing aware of the devastation of human trafficking in our own backyards, and is being moved to action.

We believe that information is the key to action and that awareness is going to save lives. The more that we are able to educate those around us, the greater opportunity we have of jamming this issue once and for all. Kamrie and I invite you to keep up with our trials and tribulations and tell us about your own. At the end of the day, we’re fighting the same battle; at the end of the day, we’re all abolitionists; and at the end of the day the power of change lies in our own hands! 

Thanks for reading,

Allie 

Take a Second Look

We're serving more and more survivors and as I see the years long path to recovery for each, I think about the young people that traffickers will target next. About how much better it would be to save one person from falling prey to their tricks and traps than trying to pick up the pieces on the other side.  

I'm thinking of the 17 year old I met this week who so longs for love and acceptance, she still thinks her pimp is her boyfriend and that he loves her. So desperate for acceptance, she can't see- yet- what a warped type of 'love' it would be to sell her repeatedly to others to be raped. To take the money earned by the acts. To alternate beatings with sweet talk, promises with exploitation. The trap was simple :"I love you. Do this and we'll buy a house and live happily ever after." Not. Going. To. Happen. Just glad she is out now; because the average life expectancy once trafficked is only 7 years. 

I'm thinking of the 26 year old with a baby. She is trying so hard, taking classes to get her GED. Taking job training and looking for work. Wanting a better life for her child. But what a hard thing it is to get a job when you have a criminal record. When your frustration and trust levels are so low from the trauma you've endured. When homelessness is breathing down your back.

I'm thinking of another young woman who was raped as a child and told by her mother that it was her fault. Who has been used ever since. Brainwashed into thinking she is just a slut. That she has no other role in life than to fulfill the sick desires of men who buy kids. 

If you are thinking of running away because life at home stinks- DON'T. There are other options and people who want to help. What you run to may well be even worse than what you run from.

If you think cute clothes and nice things are the path to happiness, please-- think again. Traffickers smell those vulnerabilities and will wine and dine you and promise you the moon. For a while.

If you're looking for love in all the wrong places, ignoring your instincts and the cautions of others- please stop and think. A few years from now, do you really want to be a worn out, used up, old-before-her-years woman, tossed out for the next gullible young thing that comes along? Or dead from STDs, neglected health issues, malnutrition or violence? Real love doesn't exploit. 

I wish I could introduce you to some of the girls and women I meet who fell for the traps. They'd tell you the same thing - in stronger words. 

You are important. You deserve more. 

With love,

Derri

Up Close and Personal

I've spent a couple of days this week caring for the needs of two young US human trafficking victims kidnapped in Atlanta and brought to Nashville, in an ordeal that lasted from Tuesday of last week until Friday. It all began when one of the girls thought she was talking to a friend online. She learned too late that it was actually a trafficker. She and her BFF went to hang out with this on-line girlfriend, and instead ended up in a car with child safety locks; the beginning of their nightmare.

I heard these beautiful, intelligent, articulate girls tell their heartbreaking story, up close and personal. I sat in court and admired their incredible courage as they testified, so soon after their trauma, with their alleged perpetrator in the room...the one who threatened to kill them and their families, who beat them, put duct tape over one girl's mouth and bound her hands and pummeled her face, evidence of which was still present in a black eye, and who forced them both to be raped. The one who knows where they live.  

The time fueled my passion to empower you, the young people targeted by these predators, to prevent your own victimization and to look out for your peers. You and your friends deserve so much better treatment than what these girls endured and will live with the rest of their lives. Please – be the jam.

Welcome to BETHEJAM.org!

Welcome to Be The Jam! – a movement to empower America’s youth to protect themselves and their peers from human traffickers. Check out the videos showing the five most common tactics used by traffickers to lure young victims – then share with your friends. Be the jam. Stop human trafficking.

Be the Jam was unveiled recently at the Trafficking in America Conference in Nashville, Tennessee by Derri Smith, Director of End Slavery Tennessee, who created the Be The Jam movement. The presentation was voted as one of the top five for the conference.