Dan is a Certified Public Accountant with Bauman Associates, an accounting firm in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. For the past 14 years he has worked with many area nonprofit clients on accounting and compliance requirements. After hearing about human trafficking, Dan wanted to do more. He is excited to use his skills to help such a worthy cause.
By Carrie Swartz
Minors are a target audience in the scope of Fierce Freedom’s human sex trafficking education and prevention outreach, and for good reason. The average age of entry into trafficking is 11-14 years old for both boys and girls (www.preventionproject.org), and between 100,000 and 300,000 minors fall victim to sex trafficking each year in the U.S. (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children), which is likely an underestimation due to the hidden nature of the crime. In response to the ongoing need for youth-specific human trafficking educational resources, Fierce Freedom has adopted iEmpathize’s Empower Youth Program for Teens as a recommended resource for members of our community working with and educating youth.
The Empower Youth Program for Teens came to Fierce Freedom’s attention via Jodi Emerson, Fierce Freedom’s Director of Public Policy and Community Relations. Jodi serves as a member of the Wisconsin Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, which was formed in December 2015 with the purpose of developing a coordinated, comprehensive plan to address human trafficking of youth in the state. The task force has since identified the Empower Youth Program as a recommended curriculum, prompting Fierce Freedom to preview the program for possible use.
The iEmpathize website explains, “Educators, parents, and youth service providers can utilize this five-part series of short films, activities, and discussion questions to empower teens 7th grade and up to successfully navigate the vulnerabilities in their lives in order to stay safe from exploitation.” The films are narrated by and include interviews with teens who have overcome difficult life circumstances using strategies from the program, making each of the five one-hour sessions relatable and engaging. The program is unique- while it does address specific dangers of sex trafficking, it also takes a broad approach in teaching youth how to protect themselves from exploitation in general. Participants learn how to recognize various tactics that an unsafe person might use to lure them into a bad situation, and tips to identify a trustworthy adult whom they might reach out to for help.
The program also directs youth to identify their personal, unique “vulnerabilities,” and how an unsafe person might target those vulnerabilities to exploit them. According to Shared Hope International, “Age is the primary factor of vulnerability. [Youth] are more susceptible to the calculated advances, deception, and tactics used by traffickers/ pimps- no youth is exempt from falling prey to these tactics.” Other vulnerabilities could include personal factors (such as poverty or an unstable family environment), environmental factors (such as violent communities or neglectful homes), or personality factors (such as low self-esteem or difficulty making friends) (www.iEmpathize.org).
Looking deeper into the profiles of children who are sex trafficked, for example, there are factors (vulnerabilities) that help us understand which youth are at highest risk. Those factors include, but are not limited to: children who frequently run away, children who have experienced childhood sexual abuse (especially if the abuse was unreported, untreated, or resulted in the child being removed from the home), children with significant substance abuse issues (or who live with someone who has significant substance abuse issues), and children who identify as LGBTQ and have been kicked out or stigmatized by their family (The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).
The Empower Youth Program teaches a core concept of empathy, encouraging youth to actively respond to the suffering of others (rather than responding with apathy or having an inactive response). Ironically, the same life experiences that can make a young person vulnerable to being trafficked can also make them vulnerable to becoming a bully or a trafficker themselves. iEmpathize states, “boys and men are often groomed to become victimizers… youth need positive alternatives to the deceptive and coercive options that exploitative people may otherwise offer them.” Through the program, participants are encouraged to put themselves in another person’s shoes, and to reach out in a positive way to offer positive support to others.
iEmpathize does charge an annual fee for using the curriculum, based on the number of students being taught (scholarships are available). Fierce Freedom will be purchasing the curriculum on a small scale (at least to start), with plans to teach the 5-part series for the first time at the Northwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center in early 2018. While we are excited to teach the curriculum ourselves, our greater objective is to get the curriculum into the hands of educators and other community organizations who work with youth so they can teach it to the youth that they work with. In doing so, the number of students reached will be multiplied.
To learn more about the Youth Empowerment Program for Teens for possible use in your sphere of influence, visit www.iempathize.org or contact Carrie Swartz at Fierce Freedom.
By Jodi Emerson
Director of Public Policy and Community Relations
2017 has been a busy anti-trafficking legislative year! We are thrilled with the attention that human trafficking is getting from elected officials at both the state and national level.
Fierce Freedom is not a lobbying group but we do advocate for stronger laws to fight human trafficking. This advocacy work is not a large part of what we do but it is an important part. There are not many groups out there fighting on behalf of the voiceless and we take this job very seriously. When we look at proposed legislation we keep two things in mind: first, whether the law will help or harm victims of trafficking, and second, whether the law will hold accountable those who are willing to buy and sell others.
We gave you an update on both Federal and State legislation in August (please see our website to review that article), so we will not cover the details of the bills proposed at that time. However, we will give you an update on their status.
The two bills we have been following are the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficker Act (SESTA) and the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). These bills were originally written to close the loopholes in Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act that prevented victims of trafficking from suing websites that profited from their exploitation. Recently, FOSTA has been amended at the urging of tech companies and this bill no longer has our support. We are still behind SESTA and urge Congress to pass this bill.
On December 8th Governor Walker signed 3 bills into law that help fight the demand for human trafficking. The first bill, SB 300, makes it a crime to ask a minor for an “intimate representation” (such as an intimate photo). Under previous law, it was only a crime once someone had possession of that photo. The second bill, SB 308, makes it a felony for the third offense of patronizing a prostitute (the first two offenses are misdemeanors). It is currently a misdemeanor to patronize a prostitute no matter how many previous offenses. The third bill, SB 396, gives law enforcement an additional option for charging adults who buy sex from minors called “patronizing a child,” which is a felony.
Several other bills have been introduced. The first, AB 540/SB 444, would mandate that technical colleges add information about human trafficking into truck driver training curriculum. We were pleased to be able to testify in favor of that bill this fall. The second bill, AB 634/SB 541, has been introduced which would enable law enforcement to serve hotels with administrative subpoenas in the case of suspected human trafficking. These types of subpoenas are already used for tech companies and other entities but this bill would expand the list to hotels as well.
The third bill is one that we are eager to see passed. AB 186/ SB 344 has unanimously passed the Assembly Committee but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing in the Senate. This bill would make it so that people under the age of 18 cannot be charged with prostitution. If you recall, last year we passed a law that made prostitution of children child abuse. Under our current law, children can still be charged with a crime for the abuse that is happening to them. This bill closes that loophole and treats victims of child sex trafficking as victims. Please contact your state senators and assembly people and ask them to help get this bill passed.
2017 has been a busy year and we are looking forward to a productive 2018 as well!
By Jenny Almquist
Fierce Freedom Co-Founder and Executive Director
A year ago, I would have never dreamed that as an organization we would be positioned as we are – in a truly strategic way to make change in the state of Wisconsin. As you read through this newsletter you will read about opportunities for change in the world of fighting human trafficking at many levels; not only in Wisconsin but across the upper Midwest with opportunities for even further reach.
If you are not aware, three bills were signed into law just last week by Governor Walker to give law enforcement tools to fight against domestic human sex trafficking. Mindsets, along with laws, are changing fast in our great state and I am thrilled that Fierce Freedom is part of that change! Because of this we have more requests than we could possibly fill for educational presentations. As a result, we are working hard at training volunteers and staff to help meet that need. One way we are doing that is developing online training for people to become Fierce Freedom Advocates. Once a person completes the training program, they will have access to Fierce Freedom training resources and be ready to give presentations and educate in their community. Can you even imagine the potential to bring change to communities across our country? This is in the works right now and we are very excited about this program.
Also, in the coming year, we will begin to educate about labor trafficking in the upper-Midwest. Until now, we have focused primarily on sex trafficking. However, labor and sex trafficking overlap and we are missing an educational opportunity if we address one and not the other. We have a lot of work to do among the agriculture industry, food and tourism industries – and we are prepared to do just that.
In this newsletter, you will see information about our 7th Annual Night of Freedom and Hope. Please make plans to join us, and bring everyone you know. The night will center around stories of people impacted by trafficking – stories of hope and healing. You won’t want to miss this!
I would like to assure each of you that as we fight against human trafficking and all the horrors that come with it, we see much good too. Good people who make changes in their lives to purchase fair trade items, help others understand that pornography destroys lives, men and women getting help for those addictions and of course much, much more. It is difficult to see immediate change but looking back over the past 10 years we see that those changes, big and small, have made a huge difference in our culture. Thank you for the ways you have worked to encourage those changes. Keep up the good work!!
Thanks to your support, Fierce Freedom has been able to bring awareness and promote education of human trafficking in our communities. As we near the end of this year, we are especially thankful for the many generous donations to our organization that allow us to continue to work toward the end of human trafficking. We are busy planning for the upcoming year to further our efforts, and today we are launching our 2017 year-end donation campaign to make our work possible.
The Super Bowl is coming to Minnesota in 2018! Although this is an exciting event, it also brings the need for awareness of Human Trafficking in our community. This year Fierce Freedom launched the Be Aware Campaign, a partnership with Visit Eau Claire and the Eau Claire Police Department to raise awareness about and promote education of human trafficking in the tourism industry. Since launching that endeavor many other communities have asked us to bring the campaign to them, an effort that will require additional resources on our part. Please join us by supporting our efforts to let traffickers know they are unwelcome in our hometowns.
Every day, your support allows us to reach our community, lawmakers, politicians, law enforcement, medical workers, teachers and more. This year alone we accomplished many initiatives, among them assisting the city of Eau Claire in developing a response plan for human trafficking victims; developing a statewide anti-human trafficking curriculum; devising an Eau Claire school district anti-human trafficking protocol; developing programming to fight human trafficking within the faith community; co-chairing a statewide human trafficking work group that is creating and implementing policy to address human trafficking across Wisconsin; and working with northern Wisconsin communities to assess the need for anti-trafficking initiatives in that part of the state.
Your support helps those and other programs become realities. In 2018, our plans include expanding the following programs:
- Launch Fierce Freedom Advocates. This program will provide training and certification for individuals around the U.S. to teach and train for Fierce Freedom, expanding our reach.
- Offer a program of support to survivors who want to work with Fierce Freedom.
- Expand the Be Aware Campaign beyond the Chippewa Valley.
- Extend our reach of education to northern and northeast Wisconsin.
That’s why our goal for this campaign is to raise at least $20,000 by December 31. In fact, the first $7500 donated in this campaign will be matched dollar for dollar, doubling your impact! But we can’t do it alone, we need your help to make it happen.
Would you be willing to make a special year-end donation of $50, $100 or whatever you can afford to help us meet our goal? Please visit www.fiercefreedom.org and click on the “donate” tab to make a donation today. We simply can’t do it without you. Your support will make a real, lasting impact in our community for generations to come.
Thank you for your continued support and friendship.