03 December 2014

Rise of the Corporate by Guest Blogger Diane Wilkinson

Our latest GUEST BLOG from Diane Wilkinson, National Freedom Network, South Africa

Rise of the Corporate

As a South African network of actors and stakeholders, we have seen all sorts of people emerge with a desire to somehow get involved in counter-human trafficking. These include individuals and organizations who want to spread awareness, social clubs, church ministries who reach out to those working in prostitution and strip clubs (we even have a team working with pimps, some of whom have been trafficked themselves), government representatives, supporters of existing programs and volunteers who naively wish to ‘break down brothel doors and rescue girls’.

This year, though, has seen the rise of another role player in South Africa. All of a sudden, as if on some silent cue, there has been a burst of interest from corporate actors wanting to know more about the issue and how they can get involved - beyond just handing over a nice big cheque.

LexisNexis were, to our knowledge, the first corporate actor to really step up to the challenge in South Africa and take counter-trafficking on as their Corporate Social Investment initiative, setting the standard high for corporate involvement. A bold step, but over the past few years they have been amazing not only with raising funds for their designated Anti Human Trafficking Fund to help support various network partners across South Africa, but also by using their position to make available human trafficking information, including creating their Human Trafficking Awareness Index (http://www.lexisnexis.co.za/pdf/LexisNexis-Human-Trafficking-Index.pdf). What followed was a succession of corporate actors following the example set by LexisNexis and offering their own unique and valuable support.

Nielsen Cares (the social responsibility team of Nielsen SA) sponsored a set of our Story Board banners that showcase local South African stories of human trafficking, which we were then able to donate to the Kwa-Zulu Natal network for use by partners in their awareness events and campaigns. It’s wonderful to be able to use local resources with real “homegrown” stories to show that this is not just an issue happening ‘out there’ in Eastern Europe and South East Asia, but also right here in South Africa.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation generously offered free legal advice to any of the registered NGOs in the network, and they also hosted a live streaming of London’s annual Trust Women conference (focusing on female economic empowerment and anti-human trafficking) here in Johannesburg, which network partners were able to attend for free.

Production company MoviWorld created a 60 second PSA for us and one of our network partners that is now available for all network partners to use across South Africa. Trigger warning for survivors: you can watch Ruby’s Story here. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRGLfXoEZoQ )

The latest offering has come from advertising company Ad OutPost, who have offered us billboards and other outdoor media space to create awareness.

For us here in South Africa, these initiatives represent a big step forward and we are grateful to each of these companies for caring, sharing and supporting the cause.

Diane Wilkinson
Network Coordinator & Gauteng Provincial Networker
National Freedom Network
Operations Manager
Project Tshireletso

21 November 2014

Retracing the Vision

I am still learning that the journey of life and vision passes in seasons.. Sometimes the sun shines and other times it's hard to see a way through the darkness.

My most recent season has certainly consisted of more darkness than sunshine and a friend reminded me the importance of reflecting on the beginning of the vision to remember the start of the journey and why I took this path.

Last month we had the delight of having our daughter visit from university.  While she was here we had a sort out (one of the things my kids dread about me entering their rooms!) and she decided to clear out some of her childhood soft toys. While she was sorting them, she was explaining to me the ones that she would never get rid of as they had significant emotional memories and attachment.

As she was pulling them out of the bag, she set aside the ones she wanted to keep and among them I saw a familiar small doll hand made out of pink wool.  I asked her why she kept that doll and she explained that she wanted to keep it because the girl gave it to me for her and she always wanted to remember how a little girl who had nothing but this doll and had gone through so much wanted to give it to her. Seeing the doll took me back to an event more than 15 years ago that was a catalyst for the beginning of a vision and the work I am now doing.

The event involved both a physical and metaphorical journey that was instrumental in the immediate project work I was involved in and unknown to me at the time, planted the vision for founding Chab Dai.

The physical journey involved a few hopeful (and naive) expats and Cambodians who were disturbed by the increasing events and stories of children being traded and transited through the Cambodia/Thai border in Poipet.  At the time we didn't understand that this was indeed trafficking but knew that this was something that could not be ignored and so set out to research the issues and to see if other organisations were seeing the same as us and were trying to address it.

The more than ten hour journey (which today would take about two!) on roads that had potholes the depth of a car, in an old Toyota land cruiser with very little in the way of suspension was pretty brutal to say the least!  On more than one occasion did I wonder what I was doing on this journey!

During our time in Poipet I met a young girl of about five years old who had been trafficked to Bangkok with her baby brother to beg on the streets.  She had been separated from her family and had no idea where they were or where her home village was.  I talked to her and explained that I had a daughter her age and a son her brothers age.  As we talked she showed me a doll she had made out of wool in the shelter she was in.. And as I was about to leave, she gave me the doll and asked me to give it as a gift of friendship to my daughter.  I was deeply touched by her generosity and selflessness.  This was my first interaction with a survivor and one I have never forgot.

I have no idea where that girl or her brother are today, which is one of the agonies of working with survivors.

However, that meeting forever changed the course of my vision and of my life journey and my hope is that in turn it has touched and changed the lives of many others.

A fellow pilgrim,

04 November 2014

The Ends Justify the Means

Most people are familiar with the concept of consequentialism, where the consequences of one's conduct are more important than the rightness or wrongness of the conduct. We often phrase it as "the ends justify the means," or, "As long as it turns out well, it doesn't matter what measures I had to take to get there." These justifications are generally employed in an attempt to excuse poor or immoral behavior. I would venture to say that the majority of people would agree living according to this concept is unpredictable, unreliable and generally harmful.

However, there are those who make reckless decisions and engage in irresponsible activity as an attempt to reach their desired outcome faster and more easily. Sometimes these decisions are the best ones even with the risks involved; I'm not here to say it's a black-and-white issue or even to suggest that we always have the option of “safe” measures attached to tried-and-true results. We don't. But I do want to talk about the instances where we should know better, and do better.

Remember back in May when Newsweek ran that article about Somaly Mam fabricating parts of her story? Shortly thereafter she resigned from her leadership role with the Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF), but the board members were adamant that their work would continue on, serving the girls they had rescued from trafficking, and those they would rescue in the future. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. SMF ceased their current projects and shut their doors on September 30, as announced in an official statement two weeks ago.

My biggest question brought up by this news is, what will happen to the girls and women SMF served? These are vulnerable individuals who need specific care, attention and services, and now a major provider for these needs has permanently closed.

When Somaly encouraged narratives that lacked truth, I do not think she was trying to be cruel. I think she wanted the spotlight and the accolades that come with a story of overcoming life's brutality. I also believe she knew donors respond more hastily and with bigger checks when they're met with such inspiration. And I don't doubt she truly wanted to make a positive difference in the world. However, her false tale only carried her so far. She was granted the spotlight and the accolades. She was handed large checks to fund her work. She was featured in a high-profile documentary. She did get to make a difference. But her end in no way justifies her means.

With the revelation of Somaly's falsehoods and her subsequent resignation, the reputation of the entire counter-trafficking sector has been called into question. Donors are more wary of supporting programs. SMF has had to cease operations. One person's irresponsible means could very well cause widespread "ends" prematurely. How do organizations convince supporters they are legitimate? The girls SMF was tending to – where do they go now? Initially, Somaly was able to make beneficial waves. She brought some awareness to an important cause. She attracted funding to help provide necessary services. But where is all of that now? It's been diminished to a moment's worth of positive change, shrouded in the shadow of a lie. Was her time of glory worth the cost?

We can't only focus on the short term effects of our actions. We have to realize that there are long term outcomes to be considered, too, and weigh those as part of our decision-making process. We have to be aware of the implications of our choices, not just for ourselves but also for others who they may touch. I can make up a compelling story to sell an idea and cultivate compassion for my cause, but I'm going to be found out. Maybe not immediately, but eventually, and the fallout may well outweigh any good I'd initially accomplished. (Especially with the accessibility of information via the internet. The truth can't hide, and there is always somebody looking to uncover it.)

We can do better. Let's be more conscientious in our pursuits. Let's be careful with our methods. Let's be mindful of both the probable and possible effects of our actions. Let's be honest.

28 October 2014

Awareness Equips Us for Appropriate Action

Human Trafficking. These two words arranged together evoke such a gut wrenching jolt. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines “trafficking” as a verb, “a deal or trade in something illegal.” The trading of human beings? It just sounds awful. It is awful. But what is it exactly? We all think we know what human trafficking is. I myself once watched a documentary of creepy men wandering through dark alleyways of a slum looking for young girls. I thought that was trafficking. Oh, if it was only that simple…

The United Nations definition is: 

Trafficking in persons "shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;

(b) The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used;

(c) The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered "trafficking in persons" even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article;

(d) "Child" shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.

Protocol to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime

Well, sadly, according to this definition, we all have probably seen a form of human trafficking. It is not confined to a certain part of the world nor does it discriminate between races. It may be occurring in your neighborhood or it may be happening on the other side of the world. 

It bothers me to think that I may have seen someone trafficked and had done nothing because I did not fully understand the situation. We often see trafficking as this mythical beast in a far away land. Our media has shaped our minds on what trafficking is. If only everyone understood the actual definition.

A while back while I was traveling, due to unfortunate events, I was stranded at a bus station. While trying to figure out what my next move was I noticed an odd pairing of what I thought was a date. The female was significantly younger than the male. They were different races and the male had given the female some money to buy food in the empty bus station’s food court. She didn’t appear to look distressed. 

Yeah it looked weird. But who was I to judge? I got embarrassed for questioning why they were in each others' company. Maybe they were just really good friends. I told myself to forget it. I was by myself; what could I do? I had my own problems to worry about (being lost in another country and all). But thinking back, there was clearly something off about that situation. I forgot all about it, but after I started learning more about what human trafficking actually is this memory jumped back to my attention.

The definition of human trafficking needs to be well-established in all of our minds. Understanding the difference between force and coercion should be common knowledge. This would allow a case of trafficking to be detected sooner than later. 

We get so involved in our own lives that we do not think twice. Sometimes subconsciously we realize that something may be wrong, but we are too afraid to think a situation is something other that it appears because we don't want to look stupid. But in the meantime that little voice in your head is screaming otherwise. A deep understanding of what human trafficking is can be the tipping point of someone reporting a case versus just walking away. We as human beings have that gut instinct. We all need to trust it. But too often we fear disturbing the norm and do not listen. I myself am guilty of that because I always give anyone and everyone the benefit of the doubt.

So how does one counter the human trafficking issue? First, by getting educated on what human trafficking is. Then, by learning of all of the resources available. If ever you run across an odd circumstance, you will know how to properly address the situation and who to report it to. The worst case scenario is that you are wrong and look sheepishly dumb. But it is better to over analyze than to overlook. 

21 October 2014

The Power of “Soft Power”

          The concept of “power” is frequently used but rarely is understood in all of its intricacies. How often in academic literature, political debates and even personal conversations do we ascribe power to a person or group without really discussing what this entails? In what ways is power expressed and how do we know when a person or group has power? Within the anti-human trafficking movement it is easy to fall prey to feelings of powerlessness. In our efforts to confront this global atrocity, the power of states, the power of the global economic system and the power of traffickers themselves may all seem superior to any power we possess. I would strongly argue, however, that the power of the anti-trafficking movement is quite formidable, especially if we know where to look.

Joseph S. Nye, a Harvard professor, famously introduced the concept of soft power and hard power into the academic and political worlds during the late 1980s, and suggested that power is not simply the capacity to coerce others into behaving in a certain manner such as through military force and economic strength. Rather, power also entails the capacity to attract and persuade others into behaving a particular way. While Nye focused his astute analysis primarily on states, we can extend this way of looking at power into the anti-trafficking movement. No one would ever argue that the movement possesses sufficient hard power to bring about positive changes. Chab Dai is certainly not going to threaten a state with military strikes, nor is any other nongovernmental organization. Instead, the anti-trafficking movement excels in the use of soft power and, in this sense, our power is continuously growing. 

In a multitude of contexts, through various public and private campaigns, the movement has produced positive changes in the fight against human trafficking. Take, for example, the U.S. TIP Report; while it is certainly produced and enforced by a state, it arguably would not exist at all if not for the soft power of the anti-trafficking movement. In order to create this revolutionary tool (putting aside arguments about its effectiveness or shortcomings), it was necessary to first persuade American politicians to enact appropriate legislation. This was not a victory due to the hard power of the anti-trafficking movement; the TIP reports are the direct result of the development and effective use of soft power. Not convinced? Numerous companies are now attempting to certify that their supply chains are “slave free.” This is remarkable, considering the fact that the exploitation of workers can often be concealed by major corporations fairly easily.   

Moreover, the use of exploited labour can potentially offer significant savings in labour costs for the company. Nevertheless, the soft power of the anti-trafficking movement is producing positive changes (check out FreeTheSlaves for more details). Still dubious? Thanks to the magic of “Google trends” we can see that “human trafficking,” as a search term, has steadily increased since 2004. Why does this matter? It shows that people are becoming more interested in the issue. While this clearly does not constitute an academic study, it is quite reasonable to suggest that the soft power of the anti-trafficking movement is attracting or persuading greater numbers of people of the worthiness of our cause. After all, more and more people are choosing to educate themselves on the issue, and global support is needed to effectively fight this global problem.

So the next time you find yourself wondering if we really stand a chance against the power of those who promote or benefit from human trafficking, take a closer look around at the victories being won due to the soft power of the movement. While Joseph S. Nye may argue that soft power brought down the Berlin Wall, I would argue it can also end human trafficking.

By Tyler Girard, Strategic Planning Officer for Chab Dai

09 October 2014

Celebrating a Community of More Than 1,000 Advocates! (Join Today)

The Freedom Collaborative and Freedom Registry Story

The vision of this project is to see the global anti-trafficking movement increase its capacity to collaborate, develop inter-country and cross-border referral mechanisms and learn from one another on evidence-based practices and emerging issues.

Evidenced-based practice was drawn from many years of implementing a grassroots level coalition in Cambodia working together to end trafficking and slavery.

Chab Dai’s Freedom Registry project began in 2009. While contextualizing the organization’s ethos and vision in the development of Chab Dai USA, we carried out research among the anti-trafficking movement on the gaps that existed.

The result was a need for a registry with vetted organisations  that could be used as a mapping tool and searchable referral mechanism.

This was initially piloted in 2011 among  U.S. stakeholders, and subsequently launched to the public in March 2012.

Global Expansion

In December 2013,  the full platform, including the Freedom Registry, was launched internationally and integrated with the additional tools of Freedom Library, Freedom News and Freedom Dialogues as the all-encompassing Freedom Collaborative.

As of today, this is how the community of anti-trafficking and anti-slavery movement are using the platform:


1,007 Registered Individual Users from

135 Countries  who have registered

926 Organisations from diverse program focus within the 4 P's
Protection: 574
Prosecution: 42

Spending 2,775 total hours on the platform


2,087 User-added studies, reports, journal articles, laws, articles, books and videos. from

245 Countries and territories, in

29 Languages

Expanding into the Future

After years of working with our partners, building grassroots organisations and developing Freedom Collaborative, we still see so much potential for growth that will see the platform expand from its current form into an interactive, macro-level tool that helps us address human trafficking and slavery from a multi-sectoral perspective working not only in victim referral mechanisms but also developing tools to suppress the environment that allows and enables slavery to flourish in this world.

Watch this space…

07 October 2014

Telling Better Stories: Where "Compassion Campaigns" Fail

Have you ever faced the challenge of summarizing a very complex issue in a succinct yet engaging manner? I have. When I was visiting home recently, I was asked about my work in counter-trafficking and what is it that I do.  I always appreciate these moments and try to share information on human trafficking and Chab Dai's work in raising the standards of care for vulnerable people and building collaboration. I can think of many examples, such as our support team working on cases of forced marriage in China, the labor cases on Thai fishing boats or the thousands of villagers and community leaders in Cambodia that are now educated on safe migration, human trafficking and/or parenting skills. But these opportunities are also challenging as I try to describe what I've been working on for the past couple of years; a process that has been so challenging and precious that it hard to put into words, let alone a 30 second response.

I found it hard to share these stories in a way that sums up the complexity of these issues in a dignified and non-sensationalist manner. And the more I talk with my peers and colleagues about the reasons for this struggle, the more I realize that others in the field are facing the same challenges. Rachel Kurzyp, the Communications Director at WhyDev, wrote in her blog post, NGOs Need to Tell Better Stories, "When I re-tell these stories and others, I feel conflicted. I want the individuals within the stories to be respected and have dignity. I don’t want them to be viewed as helpless and weak. I try to make sense of their situation the best way I can. But I know the supporters and donors don’t like to read stories without happy endings or pieces that question the world’s inequality and their part in it."

There is almost always an expectation to hear an emotionally charged story with a dramatic rescue and heroic finish. A call to action usually comes through heart-wrenching images such as a powerless woman in a prison cell or a child picking up rubbish at a garbage dump. However, such stories often fall into a narrative of saviors and victims, glorifying images of rescuers during brothel raids while other seemingly more mundane, but equally important, actions go unnoticed. This kind of "compassion" marketing oversimplifies and dilutes the stories of individuals who live in these very complex sets of circumstances.

A proven risk of these "compassion" marketing campaigns is that they end up hurting the very people they set out to help. Many of the people we see in the images and we hear telling their stories end up being re-traumatized from the constant re-living of their experiences or through the stigma they face in their communities if their stories leak out. Another risk of such marketing is that once donors get tired of the same story, they move on to a new one, resulting in a loss of funding that forces projects and cases to close down. 

Many quick-fix campaigns lack a more holistic and long-term solution. They may even misidentify the underlining problems. Even though donations to these programs are given in good faith, the solutions they support in the long run might be creating more dependency rather than true empowerment.

And at the end of the day, the individuals and communities we advocate with and for are the ones who will ultimately either benefit or be deprived.

Still, there are good examples of dignified story-telling and community engagement. Contrary to the scenarios unpacked above, there are organizations and individuals who are conscious of the complexities of working alongside those who are vulnerable. More often than not, these programs run quietly and steadily with the dedication of a team of committed staff and volunteers. I have friends and colleagues who work very hard to bring change to their communities. This gives me hope. Hope that there are good initiatives to be part of with those that are informed by grassroots strategies and can galvanize a community of well-informed people who are committed to a cause that is sustainable, and one that promotes long term engagement and commitment to maintaining the dignity of the very population they serve.

30 September 2014

Does Collaboration Help?: Asking the Hard Questions

At Chab Dai we have been facilitating collaboration and coordination for years, but is that truly enough? Are we really making a difference?

John Kania and Mark Kramer wrote an article discussing collective impact, a difference made through broad cross-sector coordination, which is exactly what Chab Dai aims for. In this paper they cover three case studies: an education initiative, a conservation project and an effort to reduce childhood obesity, all of these are seen as astounding collaborative successes. They found five commonalities between the efforts, all of which are interesting and pretty simple:

1. Common Agenda
The Millennium Development
Goals, do we need these for
human trafficking? 
2. Shared Measurement System
3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities
4. Continuous Communication
5. A Backbone Support Organization

Now let's assess if Chab Dai, as a coalition, has these characteristics.

1. Common Agenda: Yes! In the most general sense, we are committed to addressing issues of abuse, exploitation and trafficking by working together and providing opportunities for learning.

2. Shared Measurement System: We've developed Chab Dai Charter and Freedom Registry, both of which measure organizational capacity across organizations Charter through a shared assessment tool and Freedom Registry through documentation of national good practices.

What about shared impact measurement? These are a start, but globally I'd advocate for some type of Millennium Development Goals system for trafficking to get everyone on the same page for at least the first 3 of these 5 aspects. An ambitious goal, but certainly possible.

3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities: Absolutely; coordination and referrals are our specialty.

4. Continuous Communication: In Cambodian culture, collectivism thrives in a formal and informal sense. We achieve this not only through forums, member meetings and emails, but it's the very core of our coalition and Freedom Collaborative project.

5. Backbone Support Organization: We've actually been expanding more and more from coordination support into capacity-building support for our local Khmer member organizations. Freedom Collaborative aims to be a backbone tool for the global movement.

Kevin Bales says only .0043 percent of the global population is affected by human trafficking. That's .0043 percent too much, but it does make the problem seem surmountable. This is something we can eradicate. If, then, we are indeed using a model that is proven to work, why are we still addressing trafficking? Can we move on to another issue?

Well let's look back at those case studies. The education initiative was able to show success in 34 of 53 indicators, which is great but still only a 64% percent success rate. An education initiative, perhaps shouldn't see a D grade as success.  

The conservation project was able to protect and restore 1,000 acres and 27 species are now thriving. However, this took 15 years and included perhaps one of the most powerful partners around, the U.S. Navy's 1,000 acres is also a tiny fraction of the millions of acres of land under threat around the world.

The childhood obesity reduction effort was able, over it's first year, to reduce "approximately one pound of weight gain over 8 months for an 8-year-old child." The effort itself said this result "may seem small."

Now, the conclusion to draw from this is not that collaboration isn't effective or that these case studies are not as successful as they're made out to be. The case studies, and please check them out for yourself, are absolutely impressive and are certainly much more effective than the sum of each stakeholder working independently.

The lesson here is that the work of collaboration addressing any issue is incredibly difficult, and the Chab Dai Coalition is actually doing quite well and more importantly collaboration can make a difference if it's done right. For us, collaboration is difficult in general, which is further compounded by the complexity of trafficking, which is then compounded even further by a Cambodian context with present corruption and lack of resources.

Going up against this, Chab Dai is not just doing well, we are doing really well. Chab Dai, as a previous blog post has mentioned, is a model for countries that are much more developed and are less corrupt than the Kingdom of Wonder, including, from our experience, countries like the U.S. and Canada. If you want further evidence, please check the December 2012 evaluation of our coalition. 

We have seen tremendous growth in our collaborative efforts with other organizations and have witnessed changed lives; empowered women, men and children; educated responses; sustainable opportunities and freedom for thousands. And it has taken the collaboration of NGOs, professionals, practitioners, students, volunteers, the Khmer community and international efforts to get us here. We hope to see more people engage in collective impact in this effort to fight human trafficking. 

23 September 2014

#WhyIStayed and Victim Shaming

Recently, video footage was released that showed Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiancée (now wife), Janay Palmer, in an elevator this past February. The video has lead to Rice's release from the Ravens and indefinite suspension from the NFL (which he is appealing), and sparked two social outcries.

The first criticism circling through the media is regarding the NFL's delayed/lack of action against Rice until the widespread viewing of the footage, and the subsequent accusation that their lax policies on domestic violence are directly allowing such abuse to continue. A valid argument with many supporting examples that demands to be addressed, but this isn't the platform to delve into that conversation.

The purpose of this post is to highlight the second major criticism, one that is not at all unique to the NFL or even domestic violence: victim blaming/shaming.

Victim blaming occurs whenever the victim of a crime or abuse or other wrongdoing is held responsible, at least in part, for the actions of the perpetrator. Have you heard the claim that a woman who has been raped shouldn't have been wearing such a short dress? Or that a store owner who was robbed brought it on himself because he forgot to lock the door? Or recently, when celebrities' intimate photos were stolen and leaked online that those individuals should have been more careful where they stored such personal files? All absurd claims. All victim blaming. The ONLY person responsible for a crime is the person who committed it.

Let me be very clear. If someone hurts you, be it physically, verbally, emotionally (including use of manipulation) or otherwise, it is not your fault. You are not culpable for the actions of others. Period.

After the video of Rice and Palmer surfaced, a lot of people started speaking out with statements like, “I can't believe she still married him after that” and “Well, she lunged at him before he hit her, so it's partially her fault.” No. It's not Palmer's fault that Rice, a very strong professional athlete, struck her so hard that she fell unconscious to the floor and had to be dragged out of the elevator, completely limp. I don't care what they were arguing about. I don't care if he'd had a rough day. I don't care if she said something that hurt his feelings. His behavior was unacceptable and was also 100% not her fault. Ray Rice is the sole individual in charge of what his own fists do and don't hit.

As the shaming amped up, Beverly Gooden decided she needed to respond. As a former victim of domestic abuse, she understands the nuances involved in a relationship involving violence, and knew she needed to spread some awareness. So she headed over to Twitter and began sending out reasons for #WhyIStayed. The hashtag took off, with people all over contributing their own stories of why they stayed in a violent situation. If you want to read some of those, I'd encourage you to start with this article. Stories include elements of fear, manipulation, believing they deserved the abuse, love for their partners. They reveal the complexities of relationships and how it's not a simple matter of just walking away. There are multiple layers to any such situation, and it's not always clear how to best handle them – and that's assuming the victim can even recognize they are being abused and acknowledge they should be treated differently.

Why does this topic belong on a blog written by a counter-trafficking organization? Because these same tactics – fear, manipulation, physical restraint, threatening loved ones or children – are used by traffickers to control their victims. Additionally, many victims of trafficking believe they are in love with their abusers. They often willingly enter into a relationship with the trafficker, seeing him or her as a boyfriend or girlfriend, seeking love and acceptance and approval they've previously been denied, not realizing they are being prepped for exploitation. By the time the abuse sets in, victims can't see it, can't cope with it, won't accept or address it, and will deny that it is even an issue.

So, then, when an outsider makes the statement of, “Why doesn't she just leave?” it's not only insensitive, it's also ignorant. Think of the bond created between lovers, and the devotion that develops as the relationship strengthens. You're committed to that person, and willing/desirous to see life through with them, no matter what. Those same elements still exist when domestic violence or trafficking occurs. Those desires to please your significant other, to work out whatever “struggles” arise, to overcome “challenges” your relationship may face. When struggles and challenges take the form of abuse, the bond/devotion/love doesn't just go away.

That's also why so many victims return to their traffickers. The emotional connection they feel and the elements of fear/manipulation engrained in them keep pulling them back. Until we can understand that, at least on a logical level if not an empathetic one, we cannot begin to offer any real relief from abuse. The psychological hold is a difficult one to break, worse than any substance addiction you might experience.

So the next time you see someone locked into a cycle of abuse, don't respond with condemnation and accusation. Unless you've been there yourself, you have no idea what they're going through. Let's stop blaming victims for the actions of their abusers and adding yet another element of guilt on top of their already-weighty emotional state. Whatever you think about Janay Palmer's decision to go through with her marriage to Ray Rice and to stand by him as he appeals his suspension, you're looking at the situation as an outsider. Try to remember that.

15 September 2014

"Warm Heart of Africa--Malawi"

The realization that human trafficking is a serious local security issue is prompting “Members of Parliament (MPs)” in Malawi to meet and discuss the Trafficking in Persons Bill on the table. Although it has taken seven years, from start to finish, the bill is now ready to move beyond development and into play. For a country that is one of the only sub-Saharan countries to be without a human trafficking law and at the same time, is considered a source and transit country as well, this is a significant move.

For me, the value of a human life is priceless. Not only is human trafficking unjust, it is also a health and safety issue. The loss of life, the spread of diseases, and the instability of people in relation to human trafficking are unnecessary and preventable. I am thankful for the advocates of the Malawi people who are pushing forth this bill to increase penalties to offenders of human trafficking.

However, it is not only a matter of creating laws and raising awareness, but also of enforcing these laws. With the appropriate penalties in place, prosecutors would have the necessary backing to enforce the laws. The Executive Director of the organization, The Eye of the Child, Malawi Maxwell Matewere, states that Malawi needs to “invest in young people and come up with means to reduce poverty, corruption and unemployment which has led to increasing acts of human trafficking”. Gender Justice Coordinator, Habiba Osman, said “the law will also give a chance to victims to seek help from the fund allocated for human trafficking programmes as a way of combating human trafficking”. 

All of these are positive strides that Malawi is taking to ensure that another generation of the Malawi people do not fall victim to the perpetuating cycle of harm that human trafficking brings to society.