Posts made in October 2019

Restore NYC: a Model for Measuring Impact

By Mitzi Perdue 

Want some additional validation for why combatting human trafficking is worth it? Then read the story of Juanita Garcia. (As usual, we are not using a real name.)

 Juanita’s story is about hope, catastrophic betrayal, suicide-inducing misery, and then happiness, fulfillment, and the infinite satisfaction of knowing that today, she’s making lives better for others.

 Juanita’s Story

When Juanita was 23, life seemed to smile on her. She met a man who told her he loved her, and he showered her with gifts that were beyond anything her family could ever afford. He had told her that they’d leave Honduras together to make a life in the United States. She was in love and full of hope for a better life. 

He also told her the wonderful news that he already had a job lined up for her. There was a nice couple in Texas who wanted to hire her to look after their two children.

 Soon after Juanita and her boyfriend crossed the border together, his behavior toward her changed. He became emotionally and physically abusive, threatening to abandon her penniless in a country where she didn’t know the language if she didn’t comply with his wishes. To her horror, he handed her over to a trafficking ring, telling her they needed the money. As she later learned, her “boyfriend” had deliberately set her up. In fact, he made a habit of this kind of fraud, and he was part of a network of criminals who trafficked drugs, weapons, and sex slaves.

 For almost four years she was trafficked, forced to have sex with strangers up to 15 times a night. The victimizers told her if she tried to escape, they knew where her family was in Honduras, and they’d all be killed.

 She became pregnant several times, and each time miscarried after horrible beatings. And then one day, more than three years into this, when her trafficker was threatening her, she told him, “I just want to die.  You can kill me right now.”

 He didn’t, but the next morning, Juanita ran out of the home and found her way to a local hospital. Law enforcement quickly became involved and arranged for her to move to New York.

 They moved her out of Texas because they knew that she wouldn’t be safe in the area where she was trafficked. She ended up in a safe place in New York, Restore NYC.

 The community at Restore NYC walked alongside Juanita during her long road to recovery and freedom. She lived in their transitional safehome for a year and a half, also receiving counseling and enrolling in their Economic Empowerment program.

 Today, Juanita is working full-time as a member of Restore’s co-op staffing agency, she’s married, and has two children.

Best of all, Juanita also works part-time as an assistant facilitator in Restore’s Economic Empowerment program, helping other survivors who have been trafficked. She is a role model showing that restoration is possible with the power of community, even after such unimaginable suffering.

Why Restore Works

 Restore has an extraordinary record of success, and there’s a reason. As Dr. Amanda Eckhardt, the Executive Director, explains, “We know that survivors have the same degree of trauma as victims of torture or combat. This trauma impacts the body, soul, and spirit.  It takes a community for an individual’s life to be restored with dignity–and we provide that community.”

 Restore’s Motto: Pilot, Measure, Iterate

 Eckhardt goes on to say, “Trafficking is a dark, complex, and devastating problem, but we believe that restoration is always possible and we must act. We want to engage in innovative solutions to trafficking. We pilot new initiatives, we measure what works and what doesn’t, and then we iterate and make improvements. It’s all-important to see if we’re going in the right direction.”

 In the ten years Restore has been operating, it clearly has been going in the right direction.

 

  • Mental Health: The women who complete counseling services have the same mental health outcomes as the average woman.
  • Housing: 73% of the women have their own housing and are living independently in the community.
  • Economic Security: On average, a woman’s earnings increase by $20,000 in one year. In the first year of employment with one of Restore’s 27 business partners, 70% are promoted.

One of the biggest goals of Restore is that their graduates are no longer vulnerable to being trafficked. Today, 92% of those who have completed the program have no red flags that indicate risk factors for being re-trafficked.

Restore measures its impact, and the impact has been inspiring. 

 If you would like to support this important work, visit the Restore website: https://restorenyc.org or call at: (212) 840-8484.

 Mitzi Perdue is a  speaker. and author of the books, HOW TO MAKE YOUR FAMILY BUSINESS LAST, and 52 TIPS FOR PREVENTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING. Contact her at Mitzi@WinThisFight.org or call her at 410 860-4444.

KATIE FORD: FROM HELPING MODELS TO MODELING  FREEDOM

KATIE FORD: FROM HELPING MODELS TO MODELING  FREEDOM

By Mitzi Perdue

Katie Ford, former CEO of Ford Models, Inc., got a life-changing phone call in 2007.  She was invited to speak at the UN about human trafficking.

She wasn’t at all sure why the UN would want her.  At that point in her life, she hadn’t even heard the term, “human trafficking,” 

Ford decided to accept the UN speaking invitation, and that meant delving deeper into the issue. She learned that traffickers frequently offer the opportunity of a job and money, but that job doesn’t exist. People are duped. They are forced into a job that they didn’t agree to and forced to work without pay. This is otherwise known as slavery.

As Ford points out,  “How people are trafficked parallels how we brought in models. We offered them opportunity, including the opportunity to make a lot of money.” However, with Ford, there was no duping. Later, she learned that traffickers often use the lure of a career in modeling to recruit future victims.  

The traffickers’ approach was the polar opposite of what Ford, as an ethical person in the modeling business, was doing. She was about building careers and protecting young models, even including having the younger ones live in her home, where she could look out for their safety and welfare.

As she learned of case after case where young, vulnerable people had been enslaved and had their lives taken away from them, she came to a realization: “I can’t stand by and not do something.”

That was the beginning of the not-for-profit organization, “Freedom for All.” In the years since, the organization has freed people from all kinds of slavery.  The organization currently has nine on-the-ground partners in five countries, including the USA.

‘We picked groups where we could vet the work,” Ford points out. “They have enough systems in place where we could see the results of the money. I wanted groups where the amount of money we can give, which is relatively small, can make a big difference.”

The organization’s impact has made a huge difference.  “In the last 10 years, Freedom for All, has helped 28,000 people,” Ford points out. “When slaves are freed and given a little help, they can do well. They are accustomed to hard work.”

An Example of the Foundation’s Impact

A success story she enjoys talking about is a sample of her organization’s efforts in India.  A man was in debt to his employer and couldn’t leave until he paid his debt off. But since the employer wasn’t paying him, he had no possibility of paying off the debt.

To make a terrible situation even worse, the man’s children were going to be enslaved with the father and not allowed to go to school. 

Involuntary servitude, the kind where you can’t quit, is illegal throughout the entire world.  Freedom for All, with its on-the-ground partner, was able to free this man and get him a “ $500 reparations grant” from the Indian government, so that he could start a free life where he profited from his labor. 

Here’s what this man did with his new freedom. He was able to open a store. With the income from the store, he was able to move from sleeping on the ground of a straw hut to living in a nice stucco home with electricity.

Even better, his children escaped being slaves.  Instead, they got an education and today are attending university.  

“Freedom for All makes this kind of transformation possible,” says a pleased Ford. Fortunately, her work enables her to see this kind of change all the time. 

What Can We Do?

Ford encourages all of us to be a part of anti-trafficking efforts.  “Everybody can do something,” she points out. Make a donation.  “Any amount counts. Anti-trafficking is underfunded, and a $10 donation makes a difference.” If you would like to:

Mitzi Perdue is the organizer of the Global Anti-Trafficking Auction, and author of the book, 52 Tips for Combatting Human Trafficking. Contact her at: Mitzi@WinThisFight.org 

 

Nic McKinley

Using Counterterrorism Methods to Fight Modern Slavery

By Mitzi Perdue

Our expert is Nic McKinley, Founder and CEO of DeliverFund, a nonprofit, private intelligence organization that uses counterterrorism techniques to combat modern slavery. DeliverFund is made up of former elite intelligence operators from the CIA, NSA, FBI, and Navy SEALs. 

Interview with Nic McKinley

Editor:  There seems to be an explosion in human trafficking. Why?

McKinley: The problem has grown because of the Internet. The Internet allows scale, and to get a feeling for it, let’s look at the human trafficking issue through the lens of technology. In the days of the Pony Express, you could write a letter and it could take weeks or months to get it delivered, and the whole process was expensive. Today, you can send all the emails you want at a fraction of a penny and at the speed of light.

Editor: So, a person who wants to advertise sex on-line can reach hundreds of thousands of potential clients at almost no cost?

McKinley: Yes. The bad news is, traffickers can cheaply market their product to customers at a large scale at very little risk to themselves. The good news is, using technology and an understanding of black-market economics, we can introduce risk. We can make it more expensive for them, and we can disrupt their ability to reach the customers. 

Editor: How? 

McKinley: We make it more expensive for the trafficker. If the trafficker faces a lifetime in prison, word gets out among the traffickers. There’s now serious risk to the trafficker. 

And this brings us to black market economics. From a business point of view, how do people handle risk? 

The answer is, insurance. 

For the trafficker, insurance against going to jail means the trafficker has to spend more money on the “muscle” to control the girls, more money on bribing hotel employees, more money hiding what’s going on. Our goal is to make the transaction so expensive that the trafficker can’t make money on it. 

Editor: You played a role in taking down the infamous commercial sex trafficking site, BackPage.com. Is this part of making trafficking uneconomic for the trafficker?

McKinley: Yes, the traffickers’ Achilles heel is the Internet. The traffickers can’t make money if they don’t advertise on the Internet. Nobody stays in business if they can’t make money at it. We want to take away their ability to advertise.

Editor: How does DeliverFund use technology to bring this about?

McKinley: Our role is using our military and intelligence training to help law enforcement. Arresting human traffickers is the ultimate form of prevention, but keep in mind that the only people with the authority to arrest the human traffickers are law enforcement officers–so that is who we serve. 

We provide them with the technology tools and the cyber investigative techniques to be more effective in investigating and prosecuting human traffickers. Most law enforcement departments don’t have even one full-time human trafficking analyst or intelligence professional. We use our intelligence training to do the heavy lifting of finding the traffickers, and then we hand the information over to law enforcement. 

Interestingly, they validate and verify everything we give them. We work within the system. 

Editor: If someone likes your approach and wants to make a donation to DeliverFund, what would their donation make possible?

McKinley: For $50, a donor can know that he or she funded discovering the physical location of a trafficked victim. $75 would fund mapping out a trafficker’s network. $100 funds finding out a trafficker’s online footprint. And $500 funds an intelligence report on a trafficker that can help put a trafficker away for life.

Editor: Do you have a final thought for us?

McKinley: We believe the ultimate prevention program is the elimination of human traffickers. Without them, there would be no victims of human trafficking. 

For more information on Nic McKinley’s work or to make a donation, go to https://deliverfund.org.