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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.

Rachel Lloyd

 Recovery, Dignity, and Helping Others after Being Trafficked

 Recovery, Dignity, and Helping Others after Being Trafficked

By Mitzi Perdue

 

If you were to meet Rachel Lloyd today, you’d see a leader known for improving the lives of young women who have been sex trafficked. The organization she founded, Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), has helped thousands of girls and young women be restored to a life of dignity.

We’ll get into how this miracle gets accomplished in a moment. But first let’s take a look at Lloyd’s extraordinary journey from being trafficked herself to leading a movement that has transformed laws, attitudes and most of all, lives.

When Lloyd was 17, she left England and her abusive, alcoholic mother, hoping to start a new life in Germany. She arrived in Munich with enough money to pay for two weeks’ room and board. She assumed she could get a job waitressing.

However, there was a flaw with this plan. “I didn’t speak German,” she recalls, “and that meant I couldn’t get the kind of job I was counting on.”

At the end of two weeks, things were becoming desperate.  “I was about to be kicked out of my bed and breakfast, and that meant I’d have no place to go. I walked into a strip club and said I could dance. My plan was to do it to do it for a week, so I’d have enough money to pay for a ticket back to England.”

However, she wasn’t even qualified for a job dancing. The manager did offer to pay her to be a hostess, the kind that encourages customers to have a drink with them.

She soon learned that having a drink with a customer wasn’t just “having a drink with a customer.” There was a back room where the high paying customers expected her to spend intimate time with them.

Her first night, an 80-year old man bought her a bottle of champagne. In return, she had to go the back room with him.  

After her “back room” experience was over,  she felt so dirty that she spent the rest of that night in the shower, “wanting to scrub my skin off.” The experience was harrowing, but it did mean that she had enough money pay her rent. 

Her plans to work at the strip club for only a week, didn’t work out.  The money was good, but her self-esteem was low, and it wasn’t much of a step to being sex trafficked. 

Her life became full of beatings, hunger, betrayal, violence, and terror. It was a nightmare.

 

After two years, she was able to get out of “the life,” with the help of a military family and a church on a US Air Force base in Germany. From there, she emigrated to the United States, got her GED, a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in Applied Urban Anthropology.

Her time of being exploited for commercial sex left her with a deep desire to help other young women.  She started GEMS in 1998, and in the years since, she’s helped mentor more than 300 girls and young women a year, helping them get out of “the life.”   In the last 21 years, she’s:

  • Created a place of safety and support for thousands of girls and young women 
  • Passed legislation that finally protects children 
  • Reached millions of Americans through awareness and cultural change efforts 
  • Created the survivor leadership movement 
  • Permanently changed the conversation and landscape on CSE (Commercial Sexual Exploitation) and domestic trafficking in the U.S. 

She sums up her life by saying, “Obviously there have been experiences I would rather not have had and pain I wish I hadn’t felt, but every experience, every tear, every hardship has equipped me for the work I do now. I get such deep satisfaction from knowing I’m fulfilling my purpose, that my life is counting for something; it puts all the past hurts into perspective. My pain has become my passion and I find true joy in my work, in my life, and in seeing ‘my girls’ fulfill their purpose too.” 

If you’d like to support girls and young women who are working to rebuild their lives after having been trafficked, visit Lloyd’s website: https://www.gems-girls.org/about-anything  And even better, donate.  Your donation can make an extraordinary difference in the lives of the many young women whose lives GEMS and Rachel Lloyd touch.

Mitzi Perdue is a business owner, speaker, and author of the books, HOW TO MAKE YOUR FAMILY BUSINESS LAST, and also 52 TIPS FOR PREVENTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING. Contact her at Mitzi@MitziPerdue.com or call her at (410) 860-4444 for more info about human trafficking education.

A System for Protecting Children from Trafficking

Lamont Hiebert

Lamont Hiebert

 

You want your kids to be safe, right?

“Start early,” warns Lamont Hiebert. “Traffickers have been known to start grooming children as young as eight years old.” As Program Director of UNITAS, the New York and Serbian-based anti-trafficking organization, he has more expertise on this than most people. 

He’s seen that traffickers can be patient and strategic about gaining the confidence of their targets. Let’s say we’re talking about a boy.  He could be ten or 12, and one day an older boy he knows and looks up to tells him, “Here’s $100, get your mom a bag of groceries.”

The boy is thrilled.  As Hiebert says, “Can you imagine how good he feels?  He’s a hero!”

The older boy stays in touch with the boy, acting like a mentor, doing small favors for him.  Then one day, when the boy is a couple of years older, his “friend” says, “Hey, I need a favor.  Run this errand for me.”

The errand involves something illegal, and the boy knows it, but he wants to look good to the older boy and agrees.  Helping out his older friend and getting paid for it becomes a habit.

So where does this lead?  Soon, the older boy asks him to help recruit girls for trafficking. He’s on his way to a life as a pimp.

Hiebert knows countless stories like this, but here’s what he does with them. He and his colleagues have created what must be one of the most comprehensive school-based trafficking prevention programs in the United States. Maybe in the world.

Tonya Turner

“It’s based on the lived experience of survivors,” his colleague, UNITAS Education & Training Director Tonya Turner explains. Kids relate to what others have gone through, and they learn the tools to recognize the threats and to resist them.

One of the truly impressive approaches UNITAS uses is comics. One of the comics, for example, tells of a high school girl who’s lonely and meets a guy on Instagram who truly “gets” her.  The story is gripping and relatable as you watch her fall in love with the guy.

The guy wants pictures of her naked, and she ends up going along with it. But then she tries to back off and doesn’t want to send him the more revealing pictures he’s demanding. He texts back that if she doesn’t send him even more explicit photos, he’s going to send all the photos she ever sent him to her whole school. “Everyone @ school will see yr a slut with tiny boobs and a fat stomach.”

The entire course is realistic, at times gritty, but the young people who take the course learn enough to be highly vigilant against the traffickers.

Todd Cavaluzzi

UNITAS Executive Director Todd Cavaluzzi has suggestions for things you can do to help prevent trafficking:

  1. The first thing you can do is to learn and spread the word.  
    • Keep seeking out information from reputable sources online like our website (www.unitas.ngo), as well as other organizations like Polaris, ECPAT, and Love146.
    • Then spread the word and help educate others in conversations with family and friends and colleagues to make sure that more and more people know what is going on with this important issue. Here is a link to seven downloadable infographics that help explain human trafficking in the US.  Download them, share them, post them, print them, whatever you need to do to help explain this complex issue to your family, friends, and colleagues.
    • Use this link to our digital comics that you can view and share with your social network. The comics  help make human trafficking easily understood even by kids. The latest installment deals with the issue of sextortion and how kids can get trapped by emailing sexy pictures of themselves to someone they think they know.
  2. The next level you can go to is to donate your time, energy and resources to anti-trafficking organizations that are doing good, smart, work to fight human trafficking.
  3. Finally, you can get involved directly with kids who are at-risk for being trafficked, by becoming a tutor, a mentor, or even a big brother or big sister and just being there for them.

 Visit Unitas at www.unitas.ngohttps://www.linkedin.com/company/unitas-north-america/ or write to Todd Cavaluzzi at: todd@unitas.ngo

Author Mitzi Perdue is a speaker, author, business owner, and organizer of the Global Anti-Trafficking Auction. She is dedicated to helping people learn how to prevent human trafficking.