Beauty From Ashes Videos


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why the Trafficking Victims Support Act of 2009, S2925, Needs Revised Before Supporting

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has introduced in the Senate S2925, the ‘‘Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act of 2009,’’ “to establish a grant program to benefit victims of sex trafficking, and for other purposes.” It is likely you will be asked to sign a letter of support for this legislation if you haven’t already.

Since we are partners, we wanted to let you know our thoughts about this bill. Senator Wyden's efforts to increase funding for anti-trafficking work should be applauded. But we have asked an attorney who is a national expert on legislative matters to look at the bill. He has concluded that without some changes in the bill, there is no guarantee that any of these funds will go to grass-roots groups like yours, which do the lion's share of the work.

Here are the questions we must ask in evaluating any piece of legislation:

1. Will this bill help identify victims across the United States in substantially greater numbers ?

2. Will it get assistance into the hands of those organizations which are on the street every night, rescuing and aiding victims – namely, the victim assistance organizations which make up most of the Triple S Network (Stop Sex Slavery)?

The heart of the bill is the authorization of 6 “block grants” to eligible entities in the amount of $2,500,000 per year for a period of up to three years. Please note that the “eligible entities” are states or units of local government - not NGOs like yours. However, 25% of each award ($625,000 per year) must go toward the provision of shelter and services to victims of sex trafficking; 10% of each award ($250,000 per year) must go to an organization with an annual budget of $750,000 or less, to provide services to victims or training.

What might the result of this grant program be? Imagine this possible outcome: grants are awarded to the city of Baltimore MD, the State of Illinois, the city of Tampa FL, the State of Arizona, the city of Portland OR, and the city of Honolulu HI. In each of these sites, only one organization will receive a subgrant to provide services to victims. Is this substantially different from the current DOJ (Department of Justice) Task Force grants? Yes; instead of 30+ task forces there will be just 6 grants. Do these grantees have any significant incentive to find victims? No, the award is unrelated to performance as measured by victims rescued. How many victim service agencies will receive funding? Best case scenario, 6.

We believe this bill can be substantially improved by taking one of the six multi - million dollar grants proposed and creating a grant program solely for grass- roots victim-centered service providers, and we will be encouraging an amendment in this direction. We hope you will lend your support to our effort as we advocate for a more just grant-making program that will get funds directly to those already doing the work on the ground in all of our states. Remember this is why we formed Triple S in the first place. We are more powerful if we speak as one voice.

With all best wishes,

Laura Lederer and Steven Wagner

Laura J. Lederer, J.D.
President, Global Centurion
Adjunct Professor, Georgetown Law Center

Dr. Laura Lederer is an adviser for Beauty From Ashes and we are a member of the Triple S Network. Please do not support this bill until it is revised. Thank you.

Julie Shematz

Let your voice be heard bill by visiting the open congress website: HERE

Safe Housing is More Than a Roof Over a Head for Sex Trafficking/Industry Victims

In a perfect world, the victims of human trafficking or sex industry are free to live a life happily ever after, once they are freed from the brutality of their pimps or traffickers. However, experts say the process of restoring a victim's life is much more complicated than what one might think it is. In fact, they argue that it takes more than counseling sessions or medical assistances for victims to be fully recovered from the bondage of sex industry or human trafficking.

Victims often re-victimized by the sex industry without assistance
Julie Shematz, a former stripper and a co-founder of BeautyfromAshes, an organization assisting victims of sex industry and trafficking, explains the complexity behind the treatment of the victims. She points out a few factors behind such complexity of the issue. The factors include, quick money, the victim's lack of life skill, and wounds caused by trauma.

Quick Money, wounds from trauma, and lack of life skills
Julie states that quick money was one of the reasons why she was pulled back to sex industry in the past as a stripper:

"Most are accustomed to being told what to do or alternately, working very little to make the money they need to survive. Making healthy decisions and exercising self discipline is a huge hurdle, yet necessary for even a simple 40 hour a week job at Walmart or waitressing. Not to mention that working a 40 hour week to earn what one previously could make in an hour or two is a tough transition."

She also points out wounds from trauma hinders victims from establishing healthy relationship in an normal environment. Julie says that as an advocates, she has witnessed so many victims moving church to church, community to community, or job to job because they have difficulties trusting other people or establishing a healthy relationship with other people surrounding them.

Many victims find the sex industry as a comfort zone.
Because of their wounds, it is much more difficult for them to trust people than an average Joe can, which becomes another factor to reinforce them to go back to the sex industry. As they find sex industry the only place where they feel accepted and affirmed, Julie says that the victims tend to return to "what is familiar, missing the only family they consider themselves to have."

Average Joe vs. victims in sex industry/trafficking
Julie also gave an example of a client who attended a school and was expelled not long after because of her behavioral problems. She says that their lack of life skills, including self-discipline, hinders them from starting a normal life for them. Average Joe Americans learn to get up early in the morning and go to school everyday as they are growing up under their parents' roof. They learn that they need to be disciplined in order to pass classes to graduate. When they group they apply the same life skill to their work environment to support themselves or bring bread and butter on the table for their families.

On the other hand, victims of sex trafficking or sex industry learn how to take care of themselves to attract customers. They also learn to rely on drugs or alcohol to cope with the stress caused by the exploitation or pimps. Instead of learning how to build a healthy relationship, they learned to be told what to do by their exploiters.

Safe housing for the victims means more than a roof over their heads
The only thing to prevent the victims from going back to the sex industry is to provide them a family environment to support them with unconditional love. And, the way to provide a family environment is to provide them a safe housing to live with other survivors of sex industry or human trafficking. An average Joe, regardless of how loving he/she is, will not understand the victims' pain and trauma caused by the sex industry. They will not understand why the victims feel the urge to go back to the sex industry and reach out for drugs to deal with the pains and trauma. Only the people who were in the industry can do so based on their experience in sex industry. People in the sex industry will understand the victims and may give them the shoulders to cry on, but they will not help them get out of the exploitation. Rather, they will try to pull them back to the further exploitation and vicious cycles of abuse. Hence, safe housing for the victims becomes a unique but vital family environment for the survivors to support each other to break away from the cycles. Do you still need more information to support their cause? Then check out these sites below:

Source: Norfolk Human Rights Examiner