Celebrating Reentry Month and Supporting Survivor Reentrants

April is not only Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it is also Reentry Month, which celebrates those who are returning home post-incarceration and reentering the community.  Therefore, it is a great time to highlight a NCCASA project that will be featured in a workshop during our upcoming 2021 Biennial Conference in May.

The “Supporting Survivor Reentrants” Project brings together NCCASA, Orange County Rape Crisis Center and the Orange County Local Reentry Council to create resource and strategies to serve survivors of sexual violence and human trafficking who are reentering the community. It centers the unique experience of “survivor-reentrants” and the barriers and challenges they face–battling COVID, achieving self-sufficiency, accessing needed services, while avoiding recidivism–with the additional trauma of sexual violence.  The project has highlighted the intersection of the reentry community, racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal legal system, the impact of COVID and sexual violence on marginalized communities.

In a facilitated discussion for the conference workshop, project team members will discuss what we have learned about these intersections, the needs and barriers for healing  unique to survivor reentrants, and the value of building collaborative partnerships between Local Reentry Councils and North Carolina rape crisis programs.

It is our hope that this workshop will inspire member programs in their service delivery to survivors pre and post release.

Blog post by Courtney Dunkerton, Anti-Human Trafficking Specialist

March 17, 2021

 

The increase in harassment and violence against Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) is unacceptable. The hate crime that took place on Tuesday, March 16 in Atlanta, Georgia is not only appalling, but an indescribable tragedy. NCCASA remains in solidarity with the AAPI community in Georgia and across the country. 

Racism, misogyny, xenophobia and white supremacy have no place in our country. Since March 19, 2020, there have been 3,795 reports of hate incidents against the AAPI community. It is our collective responsibility to do more than just condemn hate. We must create lasting change that ensures the AAPI community is safe and experiences no more harm.

According to the Sexual Violence in Asian and Pacific Islander Communities factsheet, 23% of AAPI women experienced some form of contact sexual violence, 10% experienced completed or attempted rape, and 21% had non-contact unwanted sexual experiences during their lifetime. Of AAPI men, 9% experienced some form of contact sexual violence, and 9% had non-contact unwanted sexual experiences during their lifetime. 

NCCASA uses a social justice framework, and is rooted in an intersectional approach. We will continue to advocate for policies that will combat violence and hatred.  We stand with the AAPI community, who are also our colleagues, supporters and survivors. NCCASA is committed to standing alongside our partners in the immigrant rights movement for a future where all people can thrive. 

 

Resources:

NCCASA is excited to announce our plans for Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2021 (SAAM)! Our theme, Let’s Talk About It, can be used to re-center the movement around marginalized communities, be applied to prevention or advocacy, or used however agencies across the state feel is most applicable to their services.

We have planned a month full of events for you to participate in, ranging from a virtual clothesline project to a documentary screening to trivia night. These events serve to raise awareness about the movement to end sexual violence. Get involved with SAAM this year, and use #SAAM2021 and #LetsTalkAboutIt to spread the message that we can end sexual violence together.

 

Register to attend our events:

Consent in the Digital Age: Live Advocate Interview with Chris Croft, NCCASA Prevention Education Program Manager

Yo Soy SAAM Webinar with El Futuro ***Note: This webinar will be held fully in Spanish. More details and registration to come soon.

The Hunting Ground screening + Panel

Trivia Night with Gizmo BrewWorks

Yoga for Advocates with Deanna Harrington, Director of Member Services and Technical Assistance

Take Back the Night: Global Virtual Event

Human Trafficking Prevention Curriculum Matrix Training Series

Learn more about the Human Trafficking Prevention Curriculum Matrix here.

How to Choose a Human Trafficking Prevention Curriculum

March 5, 2021 - View the recording!

In 2015, Session Law 2015-279 was passed by the NC General Legislature, mandating the inclusion of sex trafficking prevention education in reproductive health education in NC schools. However, human trafficking prevention curriculum vary widely in their quality, evidence base, topics, and approach. In this 90-minute training, attendees will learn how to identify a curriculum that fits their needs and capacity, and how to evaluate the effectiveness and evidence base of a program.

Talking About Risk Factors, Protective Factors, and Safety in Human Trafficking Prevention

April 5 from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm - Register Here!

In the media and common dialogue, people often talk about risk factors casually, based on beliefs and anecdotal information. In the field of public health, however, peer-reviewed research continues to identify known risk and protective factors and best practices for talking about safety in violence prevention. Sometimes this research confirms common beliefs; other times it discredits them, or tells a more complex story. In this 90-minute webinar, attendees will learn what the research tells us about human trafficking risk and protective factors, and how to talk about safety in prevention programming.

Building Sustainable Community Through Collaboration

April 19 from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm - Register Here!

Human trafficking is a crime that often involves other related forms of violence — sexual violence, child maltreatment, and partner violence. As human trafficking does not occur in isolation from these other forms of violence, an effective community response to human trafficking will involve multidisciplinary collaboration on both prevention and response. Engaging multidisciplinary collaboration with existing anti-violence agencies and organizations ensures that your anti-human trafficking program will be sustainable in the long-term. In this 90-minute virtual training, anti-human trafficking advocates will learn how to avoid harming survivors when services are dropped by building sustainable, collaborative prevention and response strategies.

So You Want to Create an Evidence-Informed Curriculum

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In the public health field, “evidence-informed” and “evidence-based” have specific meanings. As violence prevention professionals strive to have their curriculum be recognized as grounded in evidence, it becomes more and more important for us to understand what that means and how to translate research into practice. In this 90-minute webinar, attendees will learn the differences between emerging practices, promising practices, and best practices, and important steps to take to create an evidence-informed strategy.

Violence Prevention 101 - Avoiding Common Traps

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As violence preventionists, we are careful to make sure that we don’t cause harm while we are trying to prevent harm. In this 90-minute virtual training, attendees will learn how to avoid common missteps in violence prevention strategies and messaging. While this presentation will include broad information in violence prevention programming, it will have an emphasis on human trafficking prevention messaging.

The U.S. is experiencing a housing crisis. This has been true for many years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the housing issues and has brought an issue often erased from mainstream news to light. Those who feel its greatest impact are those who hold marginalized identities; “Over 78% of people experiencing homelessness were people of color – General population of the U.S. is almost 74% White, 12% Black, and 17% Hispanic/Latinx” (Sexual Violence in Housing During COVID-19, RSP), according to one study. This is staggering and is clear evidence of the pervasive issues of classism and housing discrimination. We see this in the clients that we work with at our programs every day. The intersections between sexual violence and housing are crucial to acknowledge in our effort to end sexual violence and create safe and just communities. 

From data that was collected from N.C. rape crisis centers beginning March 2019 and shared in August 2020, the 2nd most requested need from RCC’s was support from the state in meeting the housing needs of the survivors that they are working with. Safe housing (or lack thereof) is a key piece in the cycle of sexual violence; “Many survivors of sexual assault, abuse, and harassment have complex housing needs. Experiencing violence can jeopardize a person’s housing, and experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity can increase the risk someone will experience violence.” (What Are the Links Between Sexual Violence and Housing?, NSVRC) 

I think there is an assumption that sexual assault survivors do not need housing advocacy as often or in the same way that those who are fleeing domestic violence do, but this is not true. Sexual assault survivors need safe housing advocacy outside of intimate partner violence. Perhaps they were assaulted in their home and being there no longer feels safe, or maybe their landlord is the person who assaulted them and/ or is exploiting them for sex if they are unable to pay their rent. Helping survivors gain access to safe housing after an assault occurs as part of their safety plan can have a profound impact on their healing journey. When we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, basic needs are the core of what we all need, and this includes safe and stable housing. That’s why I believe in the housing first model. How can we expect the survivors we serve to make their therapy appointments, have healthy eating and sleeping habits, attend medical appointments, if they don’t feel safe or comfortable in their homes (assuming they are not currently experiencing homelessness)? 

In thinking about the cycle of sexual violence in our communities, we must also acknowledge that being homeless and not having safe, stable housing is a risk factor for experiencing sexual violence. In one study, “One in five adults (19%) who are homeless reported being physically or sexually assaulted while homeless” (What Are the Links Between Sexual Violence and Housing?, NSVRC). This is a sobering statistic and the numbers are higher for those who are BIPOC, trans, and youth who have experienced child sexual abuse. If you are working with a survivor that is currently housing insecure, and experienced sexual violence, not being able to get them in to safe housing can increase their risk for revictimization. That’s why it is so important to have shelter accommodations available for sexual assault survivors. 

So what can we do to support the housing needs of sexual assault survivors?

  • Consider making access to stable housing part of your prevention strategy. When you’re doing outreach with your communities and thinking about which 

community partners to connect with about prevention education work, put those who work within the housing system on your list. 

  • If you have a shelter, hold space for sexual assault survivors who may need it. Or, set aside funds that can be used to pay for a hotel stay for sexual assault survivors, as many do not feel safe in shelter environments. 
  • Partner with local homelessness and housing organizations to educate and collaborate around meeting the needs of people who have experienced sexual trauma. 
  • It is common for programs to have relationships with Habitat for Humanity or Goodwill to donate furniture and things to those who have fled domestic violence and are moving in to new housing, how can these partnerships be used to support sexual assault survivors who may want to change their space/ furniture after they’ve experienced assault? 
  • Engage with your local and state government on the need for housing for sexual assault survivors. Advocate for more funding on this issue. 

I hope that we can all start to center housing needs when working with sexual violence survivors and understand the integral part that safe housing plays in preventing this type of violence in our communities. When providing advocacy, “do you feel safe and comfortable in your current housing situation?” should be a question we are asking all survivors. 

Resources to share with your community: 

Sexual Violence and Housing Infographics

Blog Post by Leah Poole, NCCASA Rural Sexual Assault Specialist

Emergent Space Training Series

Learn more about Emergent Space here.

All trainings are in a meeting format.

Emergent Space: Exploring the Alternative

March 11 from 3:30-5:00pm - Register Here!

In this 90-minute training, participants will be introduced to the concept of emergent space. While it is not necessary that attendees be familiar with or have read Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown, attendees who have may enjoy a richer experience.

Emergent Space: Fractal Spaces

March 23 from 3:30-5:00pm - Register Here!

In this 90-minute training, participants will explore the multi-level applications of emergent space -- how processes on the individual level parallel those on the group and community level (and beyond). While it is not necessary that attendees be familiar with or have read Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown, attendees who have may enjoy a richer experience. It is recommended that attendees view the training “Emergent Space: Exploring the Alternative” as readiness work for this training.

Emergent Space: Adaptive Spaces

April 8 from 3:30-5:00pm - Register Here!

In this 90-minute training, participants will explore emergent space practices for adaptivity based on individual, group, and community needs. While it is not necessary that attendees be familiar with or have read Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown, attendees who have may enjoy a richer experience. It is recommended that attendees view the training “Emergent Space: Exploring the Alternative” as readiness work for this training.

Emergent Space: Decentralized Spaces

April 21 from 3:30-5:00pm - Register Here!

In this 90-minute training, participants will explore and practice the emergent space practice of decentralized and interdependent leadership. While it is not necessary that attendees be familiar with or have read Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown, attendees who have may enjoy a richer experience. It is recommended that attendees view the training “Emergent Space: Exploring the Alternative” as readiness work for this training.

Emergent Space: Nonlinear and Iterative

May 4 from 3:00-4:30pm - Register Here!

In this 90-minute training, participants will explore the iterative and nonlinear of emergent space, and the ways in which lesson learned earlier on will be revisited with greater depth and clarity over the course of the group process. While it is not necessary that attendees be familiar with or have read Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown, attendees who have may enjoy a richer experience. It is recommended that attendees view the training “Emergent Space: Exploring the Alternative” as readiness work for this training.

Emergent Space: Resilient Spaces

May 20 from 3:30-5:00pm - Register Here!

In this 90-minute training, participants will explore the basic emergent space principles of community accountability and productive conflict resolution. While it is not necessary that attendees be familiar with or have read Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown, attendees who have may enjoy a richer experience. It is recommended that attendees view the training “Emergent Space: Exploring the Alternative” as readiness work for this training.

Emergent Space: Creating More Possibilities

June 10 from 3:30-5:00pm - Register Here!

In this 90-minute training, participants will share and collaboratively develop both practical and visionary applications of emergent space in our anti-violence work. While it is not necessary that attendees be familiar with or have read Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown, attendees who have may enjoy a richer experience. It is recommended that attendees view the training “Emergent Space: Exploring the Alternative” as readiness work for this training.

 

We bring into this new year reflections and lessons learned from a season that has challenged us, and emphasized the importance of flexibility and adaptability to better serve survivors of human trafficking .

As NCCASA continues to provide leadership, training, and technical assistance in the anti-human trafficking movement in North Carolina, we ask that you consider these 3 A’s we plan to move forward in our anti-human trafficking work: 

1) in better AWARENESS work that effectively addresses misinformation and represents impacted populations, 

2) in ADVOCACY that is survivor-centered and trauma-formed, and 

3) in ACCOUNTABILITY with one another in the movement.

AWARENESS work that Effectively Addresses Misinformation and Represents Impacted Populations

Local programs and organizations doing AHT work continue to express concern about which messages and narratives are centered and which messages continue to fall short in holding our attention and concern. This has played out in the viral outcrys against child sex trafficking that consistently omit essential parts of the entire picture, as addressed in this December blog post. When we understand how oppression and marginalization rather than a child’s behavior are risk factors for experiencing sex trafficking, we’ll see why the message of just keep your kids safe from traffickers is an incomplete narrative of how trafficking works. Inaccurate and incomplete messages about human trafficking misdirects our vision and response. If we lack accurate understanding of the problem, those who are trafficked, will remain unseen, and ultimately unserved. 

Anti HT work requires us to “pull back the lens” to see the problem more clearly to not only better identify and serve survivors, but also to see the larger systems and influences in our community that contribute to the presence of human trafficking, which helps us in self-assessment to check our own biases.  NCCASA’s Prevention Team recently created a Human Trafficking Prevention Toolkit to advance the work in primary prevention, and help us better connect the dots to human trafficking. We are looking forward to the 2021 NC Sexual Violence Prevention Summit and its theme,“Pulling Back the Lens: Expanding Our Understanding of Violence Prevention,” will further equip us with language and vision to better address human trafficking from a public health model, emphasizing systems change, and the priority of building resilient communities, especially among the special populations most impacted by and vulnerable to human trafficking.

Local programs continue to be impacted by false reports of child trafficking recruiting schemes fueled by assumptions of abductions by strangers in white vans, and have resulted in frightened parents calling, overwhelming local and national crisis lines and reports to law enforcement. It can be challenging for programs to do their work when overshadowed by newly formed organizations, or social media groups, that market themselves as experts and train on many of these false narratives.

NCCASA continues to provide leadership in training to equip local programs to be the anti-human trafficking experts in their communities. In December, NCCASA concluded a four-part training, “Expanding Our Reach to Serve Survivors of Human Trafficking,” in a cohort learning environment. Participants worked in teams to craft awareness messages and strategies to push out in their own communities. While programs are encouraged to foster relationships and collaborate with other organizations doing AHT work, it is imperative that experts in the field--those with lived experience and those working directly with a variety of survivors who can accurately represent survivor voices and stories-- lead local and statewide awareness efforts. Such experts understand the complexities and challenges survivors face in achieving justice, healing, or equal access to services. NCCASA will offer the “Expanding Our Reach to Serve Survivors of Human Trafficking” training again in 2021.

Survivor-Centered and Trauma-Informed ADVOCACY 

Human trafficking can involve economic fraud and abuse, visa violations, sexual violence, debt bondage, criminal records that impact employment, education, and housing opportunities, challenges to fair representation in the criminal justice system, as well as the burden of past and ongoing trauma. Survivors whose cases involve law enforcement must navigate multi-agency responses that are exhausting, and perceived coercive treatment to provide information  for successful prosecutions. Survivors also face stigma and unequal treatment with other service providers and advocates because of involvement in commercial sex work. Because of the complex needs of survivors of human trafficking, and the increasing ways rape crisis center and dual agencies are called on to serve them, service providers must be equipped with information to build survivor-centered and trauma-informed advocacy skills through continuing training and professional development opportunities. 

Our work with local programs provides insight into the training programs NCCASA develops to meet these needs. NCCASA continues to support member programs who serve HT survivors by technical assistance in problem solving, challenges in outreach, specific issues that face survivors, or connection to resources. To futher support this work in providing resources rooted in frameworks that prioritze empowering survivors, we are pleased to offer an updated version of our Equipping North Carolina’s Rape Crisis Centers to Serve Survivors of Human Trafficking. 

We are also excited to share the Administration for Children and Families Region 4 Southeast Regional Human Trafficking Advisory Group’s Guiding Principles document that provides a best practice framework to guide service provision. We highly recommend this document to any agencies doing AHT work, and a timely resource in light of the growing body of misguided and harmful “rescue” service frameworks.

Another timely resource that supports trauma-infromed and survivor center advocacy includes the National Advisory Committee on the Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth in the United States Report . This report is a comprehensive response to child and youth sex trafficking in the form of twelve topics, along with recommendations for implementation in service, policy and community reponse. This significant work moves the AHT movement forward in its procedure for states to evaluate their implementation efforts of these recommendations.

ACCOUNTABILITY with One Another in the Movement

Lastly, I’d like to lift up how accountability with one another moves our AHT work forward. NCCASA had the unique experience of bringing together leaders in the North Carolina AHT landscape last fall to view and discuss together the Shared Hope International film “Chosen” in a forum titled: “Chosen: A Celebratory Critique.” We reflected together about the ways the AHT movement has grown and met many of the challenges already mentioned in this article.  At its close, I facilitated a discussion of these questions:

  • What gaps and changes do you feel we have yet to fully address?
  • Many of us have a piece of the puzzle but not the whole picture. How do we put these pieces together to establish the work while staying in our lane? How do we know what our lane is based on our unique strengths and frameworks?
  • What are some actionable steps we can take to move the AHT movement forward?

It was a time of reflecting together, listening to honest feedback, and identifying the gaps where we need to grow. As a result of these valuable discussions, NCCASA will offer a series of Critical Conversations, in which we will hear from experts in their fields, to address critical issues within the AHT movement. In each “conversation” we will take a deeper dive with current research or practice, provide policy or program recommendations, and encourage accountability with honest dialogue. You can register for our first one in the series for January 12:  Getting Our Message Out: Workshop for Effective Human Trafficking Awareness.

In conclusion, we want survivors of human trafficking to be heard, supported, and valued. We have a lot of work to do, and we are ready to assist you in your AHT work. Let’s move forward together on this with renewed vision and commitment!

Blog Post by Courtney Dunkerton, NCCASA Anti-Human Trafficking Specialist

No doubt, most reading this blog post are aware of the #savethechildren or #saveourchildren movement that has ignited local communities to organize around a narrative that still demands clarity and pushback. The movement, a response to alleged child sex trafficking in high places by the rich and politically powerful, who have keep secret (until now) a vast criminal network of child snatching, selling, and abuse. Although child sex trafficking does involve those things, the movement has created confusion around the real problem.

Learning about the prevalence of child trafficking can turn the world of empathetic people upside down, who naturally want to “do something” in response. In this case, the emotionally fervent outcry has drawn many to publish misleading and incomplete information about the sex trafficking of minors.  It has also attracted the QAnon followers, who have piggybacked the anti-human trafficking movement to push the issue as a Deep State phenomenon supported by their political enemies, and it has led many to co-opt language that should exclusively belong to those abolitionists who risked their lives to facilitate the freedom of black enslaved people.

While the urge to fight the injustice of child sex trafficking, and the desire to help victims is the right response, let’s think first about the misguided and harmful impact of misinformation and “fake news.”

First of all, some of the arguments used to promote “saving the children” are problematic: spreading the urgent message of child sex trafficking is the “real” protest we should be having, and child sex trafficking is the “real” virus we should be responding to is irresponsible at best, dismissive at worst, to very real racial injustice and very real health threats of COVID, especially for those populations dismissed by the anti-protest language. We do not need false dichotomies to fight child sex trafficking.

Second, the message to end child sex trafficking by threatening to hunt down and destroy perpetrators with a para-military style takeover of communities, coupled with imagery of guns, religious nationalism, and flags (US and Confederate) is problematic, especially given the historically and current complex relationship communities are having with law enforcement. Displays of the brute force of ex-military heroes leading rescue missions or “extractions” does not contribute to a trauma-informed response. Storming the shores of Normandy against entrenched Nazis is one thing, engaging communities and potential victims of trafficking this way is another.

Third, the movement is led by those who treat child sex trafficking as a one-dimensional problem: the trafficker and the buyer, which points to a one-dimensional solution: locate, snatch, and deliver the children safely to their parents then publish victory headlines. As advocates we know that is not how it goes. Identifying a ten year old traded for drugs or rent by their family is not the end of their troubles, but an extraordinary complex and messy journey towards justice and healing--but those leading this #savethechildren movement are unaware of that. They ARE, however, well meaning and well funded. But this is not enough. Those who want to address sex trafficking of minors must learn from local, statewide, and national experts who have been doing the work for years, and are connected with networks of services and resources. Raise money and awareness in collaboration with trusted local, statewide, and national organizations such as: North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, North Carolina Coalition Against Human Trafficking, North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, North Carolina Human Trafficking CommissionFreedom Network USA, Polaris Project, Shared Hope International, National Center on Sexual Exploitation, and Save the Children, for example.

And finally, but most importantly, messages about human trafficking that do not reflect an understanding of structural oppression and inequities impacting marginalized populations is an incomplete message. What does this mean? Consider:

Black girls are trafficked everyday in North Carolina communities, out of group homes, by men who pulled them out of school to take them to motels and homes, who force their abortions, and make them sells their drugs. These girls are seen as fast, delinquent, ratchet, and NO CONCERN OF OURS.

Latina girls are sold, are made to work in brothels, or sold in neighborhoods, but are told by their communities they shouldn't even be there, they and their families are resented. They do not come forward to get help because they are afraid of DSS, afraid of law enforcement, afraid of being treated exactly the way the trafficker tells them they would be treated. AND THEY ARE NO CONCERN OF OURS.

Young girls and boys sexually abused by parents get in trouble at school, eventually stop attending, eventually flee their homes, and at 14, they stay in hotels with friends and sell their bodies to pay for the drugs they use to cope. They are the problem the community wants to get rid of. They are the bad girls you see at the park we keep our children from. They are meth heads. AND THEY ARE NO CONCERN OF OURS.

LGBTQ youth run away from a unsafe homes and trade sex with adults for places to crash at night. Their transactions are filmed and used against them, threatened to be exposed. They are mistreated at the hospital, they are mistreated and harassed on the streets. Unwelcome, ignored. AND THEY ARE NO CONCERN OF OURS.

Until we learn to see how human trafficking impacts the most vulnerable, we cannot truly address it in our communities. The question we should ask ourselves: which children are we really concerned about? #saveALLthechildren.

 

For further reading:

Blog Post by Courtney Dunkerton, NCCASA's Anti-Human Trafficking Specialist

Rethinking “Modern Day Slavery” - Don’t Disregard the Role of Race & Racism in the Anti-Human Trafficking Movement

 

In 2019, an anti-human trafficking advocate spoke at a livestreamed hearing. After describing some of her outreach work, she produced a pair of sparkly platform shoes with a stiletto heel. She told a story about a woman she had reached out to online, and how that woman gave her those shoes after exiting the sex trades, telling her “these are the former shackles of former slavery.” Holding the shoes up, the woman repeated, “these are shackles,” before giving one final, teary plea as her voice shook.

Immediately, social media erupted with commentary. Some anti-trafficking advocates found her words to be powerful and the story to be moving. Other advocates found the image of a white woman whose ancestors did not experience chattel slavery in the United States invoking the memory of chattel slavery as a rhetorical device to be exploitative. Conversations on one side emphasized the listener’s feelings of empathy at hearing such a touching story; conversations on the other side emphasized the woman’s lack of racial sensitivity. In both cases, conversations focused on the spectacle and sensationalism, and decentered the actual needs and lived experiences of survivors of human trafficking and other people in the sex trades.

Human trafficking includes a broad range of activities. It can include one person manipulated into commercial sex for a few hours through threats of outing as LGBTQ, or another person enduring years of constant physical violence to keep them in a frightening situation. While all forms of slavery fit the definition of human trafficking, not all forms of human trafficking fit the definition of slavery, and certainly not in the historical context of chattel slavery in the United States. Chattel slavery was generational and race-based, with sexual violence strategically used to denigrate enslaved people while growing the unpaid labor force. Chattel slavery was state-sanctioned and legal, with enslaved humans offered to banks as collateral on loans and repossessed if slave holders went into default.

For people whose ancestors experienced chattel slavery, whose families still bear disproportionate access to safety and empathy, who worry about their children being attacked for being children, conflation of human trafficking with slavery may feel dismissive. When this conflation is done by people whose ancestors did not experience that harm, or in the absence of a strong commitment to racial justice, it may feel like an attempt to rewrite or ignore history.

Human trafficking is horrific. This is not in question. Recruiting or holding someone in labor through force, fraud, or coercion is an unthinkable violation of human rights and source of trauma. And… we can convey that message through clear language that doesn’t dismiss the concerns some African American anti-trafficking advocates have with calling it “slavery.”

At NCCASA, we have avoided using the language of slavery to describe human trafficking. Our staff have written on the differences between human trafficking the chattel slavery in articles for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and in our Human Trafficking Prevention Toolkit. Last year, less than a month after the shoes-as-shackles debate wound its way through Twitter, our Associate Director and Prevention Education Program Manager presented a session on “Human Trafficking in the Historical Context of US Slavery” at the SAFE Coalition for Human Rights Global Conference on Human Trafficking near Chicago. Many of the people doing anti-trafficking work in the US were grateful for the dialogue. One woman had clearly never considered this distinction, and seemed bothered. “How was slavery just about Black people?” she asked. “What about what happened to the Irish? My ancestors were slaves, too. It’s the same thing. The Irish were slaves too!”

It’s not the same.

But the kind of debt bondage experienced by Irish and other immigrant populations is similar to the experiences of many modern-day victims of human trafficking.

And if the “Irish slaves” debt bondage narrative has been used historically to minimize the horrors of slavery for racist purposes (in ways that current Irish-American descendants might not even realize), then an inclusive human trafficking movement will strive not to replicate that error of conflation.

We can fight human trafficking without co-opting the language of slavery. “Modern day slavery,” “abolition,” and “sex slave” have no place in our common language to refer uncritically to trafficking experiences. Using “shackles” as a metaphor obscures a harsh history that included actual shackles, physical torture, and state-sanctioned abuse, and ignores the complicated racial history of the anti-human trafficking movement itself.

Recommendations for agencies engaging in anti-human trafficking outreach, awareness, and prevention include:

  • Be thoughtful about your language. A little extra time to proofread your content for words that suggest chattel slavery can help your message be more inclusive.
  • Words you might want to avoid include: abolition, abolitionist, slavery, modern-day slavery, underground railroad, shackles, captivity, and sex slave. Words that might be used exploitatively depending on the context include: liberation, freedom, and rescue.
  • Avoiding sensationalized or hypersexualized imagery is always a good idea in anti-trafficking work. Avoiding imagery that invokes comparisons to chattel slavery (chains, shackles, etc.) may also lead to a more inclusive message.
  • Check out The Irina Project for information about representations of human trafficking in our langage and imagery.

For more information about NCCASA’s extensive work on human trafficking or to request technical assistance in developing your Human Trafficking Awareness Month campaigns, contact NCCASA’s Anti-Human Trafficking Specialist, Courtney Dunkerton.

 

NCCASA will be updating the documents below as more information comes in about COVID-19 and how it affects NC's community and agencies.

COVID-19 Services & Resources

This drive features resources for survivors, guidance for programs, resources for coping, service delivery information, technology resources, and social media and outreach tips.

COVID-19 Federal Updates

This drive features messages from the OVW Acting Director, Department of Labor instructions, Grantee Staff Pay FAQ, OMB Administrative Leave Memo, US DOL Employer Updates and a letter from the Office of the Secretary and other resources.

Other Resources:

Health and Human Services Discretion of Communication

Title IX Resources

COVID-19 State Updates

This drive features an FAQ from the NCCFW.

NC Updates:

Latest Information from the Governor

NC Department of Health and Human Services

Language Line Guide

This resource features steps on conference calling the Language Line in the event you have a person on the phone with limited English proficiency.

Covid-19 Information in 32 Languages