Attacking modern day slavery

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An old saying has it that when you want to get something done, ask someone who’s already busy. That was certainly the case for The Salvation Army’s Southwest Division in early 2003 when the International Rescue Committee (IRC)–one of the world’s largest non-profit, non-sectarian, voluntary agencies–asked for its help on the growing problem of human trafficking. In its 80 year history, The IRC has assisted millions of people worldwide.

For several years, awareness had been growing that human beings are being routinely smuggled or kidnapped across national borders for illegal purposes. A “severe form of trafficking,” as legislation first adopted by Congress in 2000 defines it, involves the use of fraud and coercion to compel victims to work under slave-like conditions or to engage in such illegal activity as prostitution or the production of pornography. The federal government estimates that as many as 20,000 men, women and children are trafficked into the United States each year. Worldwide estimates of the phenomenon run as high as 900,000 victims annually.

Isolated in a new culture, fearful of their captors, and often penniless, these individuals are sped along an Underground Railroad that operates in reverse, transporting them to lives of misery and servitude. Last year, when Congress renewed the 2000 legislation, the Bush administration redoubled efforts to find trafficking victims and to offer them social service support. This aid comes hand in hand with a special certification and visa status that are available to trafficking victims who are willing to help prosecute the gangs who have engineered their captivity.

Mark Bratman is the Army’s divisional social service director in Phoenix. The IRC, which provides legal, mental health, translation and other services to trafficking victims, was looking for a partner who could offer immediate help with food, shelter, and access to medical care. “To enter into this project was a natural step to take for the Southwest Division,” Bratman says. “Simply put, there was a desperate need and we felt morally obligated to help.”

The Phoenix corps ultimately signed a three-year agreement with the IRC under a sub-grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. It did not take long for the Army’s services to come into play. In September 2003, six women trafficked from the Philippines for labor purposes arrived in Phoenix. “We provided apartments for the women,” Bratman says, “and along with the IRC supported them in their determination to remain in the United States. All the women are now certified, are living independently, have jobs, and are happy with their new lives.”

In April of this year, the Phoenix corps faced an even more wrenching case, one that is not at all uncommon in our prosperous land. The victim was a 17-year-old girl. She had been tricked by her captors into believing they planned to help her start a new life in America. They had raped her, a method many sex traffickers use to humiliate and control their victims. Eventually, the girl escaped and found a Good Samaritan in a grocery store. Her rescuer called the new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hotline (1-888-373-7888), operated by Covenant House, and she was quickly referred to the Army and the IRC for aid.

Bratman underscores the nature of the team approach to these tragic instances. “The young lady has received medical, psychological and other support to help her recover from her trauma and to remain safe and healthy,” he notes. “She resides in a shelter for teens and will soon be living in a loving foster home.” This material sustenance goes hand in hand with the new prosecutorial tools authorized by the Trafficking Victims Protection Acts of 2000 and 2003.

In Phoenix, the Salvation Army is a key member of the Arizona League to End Regional Trafficking (ALERT). This coalition consists of people from social agencies, law enforcement bureaus, members of the community, and others interested in eradicating this insidious form of slavery. Trafficking is a truly national and international problem, but recognizing its real face is no easy task. Traffickers are ruthless profiteers who thrive on secrecy and prey on the hopes of others.

On April 22, the national drive to raise public awareness of human trafficking was formally launched with press conferences in Phoenix, Atlanta, and Philadelphia. The Army was pleased to take part. More cities are to be announced soon. “One hundred and fifty years ago,” Bratman says, “William Booth implored us to ‘do something about that’ and those words inspire us to do something for those who have endured the insults of human bondage.”

Benefit fashion shows held in L.A., Honolulu

Benefit fashion shows held in L.A., Honolulu

ACTRESS MINNIE DRIVER hosted Vintage LA 2004 which featured vintage clothing

Revival Summit held at Crestmont College

Revival Summit held at Crestmont College

by Donna Ames, Major –  The weekend of May 13–16 was a historic one for

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