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Foreign Policy Analysis
Episode 31: Policy & Advocacy in Action: Let’s Talk Human Trafficking

Episode 31: Policy & Advocacy in Action: Let’s Talk Human Trafficking


>>Hello and welcome to Policy
and Advocacy in action. A
channel of NRCDV radio. My name is Miriam Durani and
today I will be speaking to
Mia Hasek [phonetic] Hasick the Human Trafficking
Program director from the
program Tapestri in Georgia. We will be talking about all
things human trafficking during, of course, January,
human trafficking awareness month. Thank you, Mia,
for joining me today. Let’s get right
to the questions. So, Mia, can you tell us a little
bit about yourself, your role at Tapestri and how Tapestri
works with survivors of
human trafficking?>>Sure. And thank you so much
for having me on this show. So, I am the anti-human
trafficking program
director here at Tapestri. I initially started in
2008 as a caseworker. I work directly with victims of
human trafficking at that time. And then later on,
I did training. And now I am in charge of more
administrative side, supervision of other case managers as
well as a training component. But just a little
bit about Tapestri. We are a non-profit
social service agency and we work with survivors of
human trafficking, domestic
violence and – excuse me – and domestic violence within the
refugee and immigrant community. We initially started as
a coalition of different resettlement organizations
back in 1996 to directly
respond to the needs of domestic violence survivors
specifically coming from refugee
and immigrant communities. Fast forward to 1998,
we adopted the name Tapestri. And then in 2002, we were
officially a stand alone 501(c)3
non-profit organization. So as you can probably gather,
we initially started as a
domestic violence program, but we quickly learned that there
was another aspect to the
story that we were hearing. When the federal definition of
human trafficking came out in
2000, with realized that some of the individuals we
were serving through our domestic violence program were
also victims of human trafficking. So officially in 2004,
we started our anti-human trafficking program through
which we provide training to law enforcement, social
service providers, students,
faith-based communities, anybody and everybody that’s interested in learning how to
identify potential
trafficking cases as well as we started providing
comprehensive case management to foreign national survivors
of human trafficking.>>Wow, thank you so much,
Mia, for all the work that you
do and all that Tapestri does. So can you talk to me about
what human trafficking actually
is and how prevalent is this?>>Sure. Since we work with
foreign nationals, we utilize
the federal definition of human trafficking which
is using force, fraud or coercion to recruit, harbor,
transport, obtain or employ a person for labor or
services involuntary servitude (indiscernible)
bondage or slavery. And sex trafficking is
a commercial sex act
induced by force, fraud or coercion in which the
act involves a minor. And so essentially,
if you have a minor under the age of 18 that is engaging in
any type of commercial
sex act where something of value is exchanged for
that act, that individual
is automatically deemed or seen as a victim of human
trafficking or more so
specifically sex trafficking. Whereas when you look
at labor trafficking,
regardless of the age, you have to show that there has
been force, fraud or coercion
being used to induce somebody to perform some type
of service or labor. So that can be any type
of industry, that can be a one-time service or that
can be a labor that, you
know, spans over many years. Your second question
being how prevalent is it? There is a lot of data
floating around about the
number of trafficking cases out there, but it is
actually quite hard to
estimate the real number. The numbers we go by are the
numbers that are given to us by
the United States government. And that puts on estimate
of approximately 600 to
800,000 people each year within the United States that
are engaged in some type of
human trafficking labor or induced into labor
or sex trafficking. Whereas when we look at
individuals coming from outside of the country into the United
States for the purpose of, you know, labor
trafficking or sex trafficking, we’re talking about anywhere
between 14 and a half thousand to 17 and a half
thousand individuals.>>That is a lot of
individuals. I can’t even
imagine who is not being counted. That is absolutely wild. You know, I know from
your explanation of
how human trafficking is defined, that can get
a little complicated. Are there any myths
that you hear of or that are common about human
trafficking that you think
is important to dispel?>>Absolutely. There are
many myths out there
about human trafficking. And some of them are a result of
the media. Not so much the media – but I would say maybe even some of
the movies that have been little more dramatic in a
sense, if you will. Of course, some of the movies
do, in fact, depict some of
the trafficking situations. But there are, you know,
situations where you might not see any force being, you know,
used in a trafficking case. Form individuals that Tapestri
serves, we have mostly seen
coercion being one of the main driving factors
where one individual did
not escape their situation. So being afraid of what
is going to happen to them or your family if they attempt
to leave the trafficker. Another myth that, you
know, we see is that, you know, survivors of human
trafficking will immediately bond with a social worker and
will identify as victims
of human trafficking. And that’s just not the case. Most often it takes a very
long time to build that
trust with the survivor to actually get somebody to
come forward and say, yes,
this is actually what happened to me and – to realize
that what happened to
them was not their fault and that they do, in
fact, meet the definition
of human trafficking.>>Thanks, Mia. You know, I
know you talked about how
hard it is for someone who is being trafficked to actually
disclose that and gain the trust of an advocate or
a social worker. So how do you actually go
about identifying survivors?>>Sure. Well,
like I mentioned previously, we utilize the federal
definition of human trafficking.
And just to make it a little bit easier, we also
use the AMP model which is
action means purpose. That can be easily
found on the internet. Basically, we look at what is
the action that was used to
kind of lure the individual. That could be anything
from recruitment, harboring an individual, transporting,
providing or obtaining an individual through the means
of force, fraud or coercion. And then what is the purpose? The purpose being
either involuntary
servitude [Indiscernible] bondage or slavery. But just to go back to building
that trust, we do not expect to find the answers or to
have fit somebody into every
one of these categories. The action means and purpose
in the initial screening or in
the initial ten screenings. So it’s really critical to build
that trust in order to screen
somebody for human trafficking. I will also say that the
national human trafficking
resource center also has a – has many different
screening tools available with specific questions
for specific industries. So an individual that may
have been referred to me,
let’s say the potential case of sex trafficking, I would
not use questions that were
related to agriculture. So it’s really important to
listen and to have more of an open discussion when
conducting a screening because you never know what an
individual will identify. Like an individual of sex
trafficking may, in fact,
identify more so with labor.>>That’s really
interesting. I think it’s so
important to think about all the different ways that
someone could be trafficked. You know, that’s such a
great advocacy tactic to just be open to, you know, everything
that someone is experiencing. You know, I know you touched
on this a little bit. But in terms of the cost of
labor and maybe sex trafficking. So if a survivor of
human trafficking is
already being screened for, you know, say domestic
violence or sexual assault, how do you screen for
human trafficking? Do you think it’s
important that you screen for multiple identities
that that survivor has? How does that all
work in practice?>>Absolutely. Even when
we do a screening for
human trafficking and we are a human trafficking
program, we also do a screening
of domestic violence. Just because, you know,
different crimes and
different situations that an individual may
have to lived for – lived for, excuse me, may warrant
additional resources and services. An example of this would be
let’s say I’m working with a survivor of sex trafficking
and I’m providing services
that’s more tailored to sex trafficking
experience, they may also have experienced domestic
violence within their
lifetime or even after they were out of their
trafficking situation. So
they might need services such as assistance with temporary
protective order, custody
battles, divorce, things of that nature. So it’s really
important to have access to screening tools
across multiple forms of
advocaizations. [phonetic]. So for us, you know, that – let’s say we have a domestic
violence case and the husband
is forcing the wife to – you know, to work at a factory,
then we would stop and ask, well,
does she really have a choice? Has there been force,
fraud or coercion utilized
to keep her compliant? What is he doing with the money?
Does she have access to the money? Can she quit her job
and she wanted to do so. Looking at what freedoms
have been taken away from
somebody and really, you know, if they meet this definition
or maybe they need, you know – their situation is more
so in line with another
crime, well, there might be resources available to better
meet their needs at another
organization or a program.>>That’s so important. I think
it also just shows, you know, how
creative advocates are because so many survivors have so many
different needs and there are
so many different ways. I think it just – you know, I feel
like you are just highlighting how really what survivors
need are just options. So I know you talked about
what some of the challenges
survivors have with disclosing of, you know, what happened
to them, maybe with our
freedoms being limited. So what are some of the biggest
challenges that you see? You know, do you have any ideas
how to overcome those challenges?>>Sure. Well, you know, I think
each individual has their own
challenges already discussed. The self-identification
which is critical which
really prevents people from, you know, seeking
help. Screening is
instrumental in this field. Other challenges include
even accepting services
from service providers. Because, you know, especially
the foreign nationals that we have worked with, they
often think that there is
going to be a cost to a service. So it’s really important to
say that, you know, all
services are free and that they are not going to incur a debt
as a result of receiving
services from our organization. Some of the bigger challenges
or bigger picture challenges out there, of
course, are housing. Even looking at the domestic
violence field, there is just – not enough shelters available
for emergency placement for the
victims of domestic violence and even more so, you know,
for victims of human trafficking. Now, for us we might choose
to place a survivor in a
domestic violence shelter. But that is limited to
to some individuals.
What do we do when we have a male survivor of
labor trafficking whose
only option may be to look at a homeless shelter? You know, that’s not
always the best option. So I say all of these
things because housing
continues to be one of the greatest needs
that we have out there. So, how can we resolve
this challenge? I would say that we really need
to look at non-conventional
housing options. Like working through – utilizing even Airbnb for
some emergency stay if the
individual is not in crisis. Working with landlords to
get them to rent apartments
to our clients even if they don’t have the
documentation or the best credit. Working with settlement
organizations to kind of piggyback off
of the partnerships that they have already developed
when it comes to housing. And, of course, working
with the continuum of care
to really highlight some of the housing challenges
that we are seeing. So, and lastly, I mean, there
are many different challenges
that we could discuss. But I would also like to
highlight finding employment. Some individuals might have
convictions on their records.
They may have a felony. Make it extremely hard to
find employment or even get
through that background check. We really need employers that
are willing to overlook that. And we need state courts to help
us with vacating convictions. I know that New York
has a great court. But some of the other
states are very much behind
when it comes to that. And, of course, when we
are looking at employment,
we are also looking at, you know, the individuals that
we work with, they might not – they might have specific skills.
So in addition to receiving help
with employment, you know, we need to really
think about education and job training to really assist
somebody in becoming independent and self-sufficient
down the line.>>Thank you, Mia, for pointing
all that out. You know, I think
it’s so important because when a landlord is assessing a
rental application, they may
see things that they don’t like. And employers are looking at
one’s history, they may see
things that make them nervous and they may not realize
that someone is a victim
of human trafficking. Someone may have all these
multiple identities and all these reasons why
things happen to them. So I think that’s a really
important point and thank
you for pointing that out. We know that housing is a
challenge for everyone and
I can’t even imagine what it is like if you are
facing all these hurdles. So, just from your experience
– I know you’ve been on
Tapestri for a little while and have had that direct
service experience. Do you have a story of a client
or someone that stays with you? It could be for a positive
reason or negative reason? Something that you think
about with the story?>>Wow. There are many stories
that I, you know, think about
throughout the years. But I can maybe talk more so
in general terms of a pattern
that kind of stays with me because so many individuals
that we have served kind of follow the same pattern
of recruitment. And that
is, young females in a smaller villages of Mexico
being approached by young,
attractive males who pose as they are interested in a
romantic relationship with them. So, they go so far as to meet
the victim’s family members. Introduce the victim
to their parents. And then all of a sudden,
you know, the trafficker
tells the victim that he’s going to have to travel
to the United States to do some work and that she could
accompany him to the United States and also find a part-time job
in order to help her family
in, let’s say, in Mexico. So she agrees thinking that they
are in a romantic relationship. She – she thinks that she is
doing something, you know, in order to help her family
members in her home country. But then once she ends up in
United States, once she comes
here, the first night that she arrives, she is told that
she has a quota of sleeping with
20 men each and every night. And in one particular
case, the one that
resonates the most with me, it was a case of
two sisters that were brought to the United States
by two cousins who romanced them and promised them, you
know, a better life and
great relationship. Once they arrived here,
they separated them and
they used that separation to control them and keep them
compliant and pretty much
forced them into prostitution. So the case of the two sisters
will forever resonate with me. And just the
re-unification of two of them when the traffickers
finally went to jail and when they could, you know,
see each other and spend
time with one another was definitely a memorable
moment in my mind.>>Well, Mia. Those are
patterns are enough to
keep anyone up at night. Thank you so much
for sharing that. I think it’s so important to
be aware of and think about the ways that human traffickers
use power and control to get
victims to do what they want. You know, I know we don’t
have very much time left, but I just wanted to
close by asking you, do you have any advice for
anyone listening to this
podcast today, what are some things that people can do
to help survivors of trafficking? How do you prevent it? What do you do if you are
just a person wandering
around in the world?>>Sure. If not been
in this field, I would
say educate yourself. Really spend some time
doing some research. Get to know what trafficking
really looks like. You can visit the OVC
training technical website. They have an amazing
training video called
“Faces of Trafficking”. You never know when you
are going to come across
a potential victim that, you know, that you can help
get out of that situation. You can also donate to
Tapestri’s organization
or volunteer your time. You can check out a list of
great organizations that
our freedomnetworkusa.org. It’s kind of like a
national coalition across the United States with some
really amazing service providers. You can also team up with them
and help within your community. As far as prevention, I think what
really would be helpful would be for, you know, traffickers
to be tried as traffickers.
Not to go to lesser crimes. Would also say we can
place higher fines and businesses for participating
in exploitive practices. And we can address vulnerabilities
that lead to human trafficking. Such as homelessness, poverty,
displacement as a result of war,
addiction, so on and so forth.>>Thank you so much, Mia.
For sharing all of that. I hope people visit the
resources that you mentioned. It’s so great to get educated on
all these issues and just figure out ways so you can
help in your community. And knowing that that’s
how you help victims of
human trafficking as well. Thank you so much for your
time. I’m looking forward to
hearing more from you soon.>>Thank you.>>Thank you so much for
listening to our broadcast today
and to our guest Mia Hasek. To learn more about Tapestri,
visit Tapestri.org.
That’s T-A-P-E-S-T-R-I.org. To hear more of NRCDV podcasts
and additional resources, you
can visit NRCDR.org. You can also follow us
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and Twitter at NRCDR. Policy and advocacy and
action is an NRCDV radio
broadcast product brought to you by the National Resource
Center on Domestic Violence. Support is provided by the
Administration on Children, Youth and Families,
Family and Youth Services Bureau, U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services. It’s contents are solely the
responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent
the official views of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. Thanks again.

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