Noah Hanson is Fierce Freedom’s spring intern, a senior at UW-Eau Claire majoring in Social Work. Noah has worked hard on variety of projects, and has been a great asset to Fierce Freedom this semester. Some of the highlights include Cookies for Cops, planning the Super Bowl Rally, a trip to Madison to learn more about the legislative process, organizing the Night of Freedom & Hope, researching and presenting on labor trafficking in the chocolate industry as part of the Reducing Your Slavery Footprint series, and completing the first of five presentations of the Empower Youth Program at the local Juvenile Detention Center. We wish Noah all the best as he is graduating in May, and know that he will continue on as a force for good in the world!
Cat is thrilled to join such an amazing organization and work alongside an incredible team of social justice warriors. Her passion for this cause was sparked into flame during college while being part of International Justice Mission and after attending a Fierce Freedom hosted event at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She looks forward to advocating for victims of these crimes by working with both policymakers and the public to both spread awareness and bring hope to the hopeless.
Cat studied public relations during undergrad and received her BA from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2016. She is returning to the Midwest after living in Boston to work in her field and is excited to bring both her educational and professional experiences to Fierce Freedom.
By: Jenny Almquist, Co-Founder and Executive Director
Several months ago I was at a wedding where the groom stood at the front of the church just before the ceremony and personally welcomed the guests. One thing he said was “Please know that everything we do today in this ceremony is on purpose – we are not just going through the motions. We made every decision for a reason.”
That simple statement made the entire ceremony personal not only for the couple but for each person attending as well. In a similar way, I hope that at Fierce Freedom we never just go through the motions to get to the end of our mission. We strive to be intentional in what we do and that is why I want to share the following with you.
Lately I have been giving a lot of thought to issues around us in our world today. There are many! So I would like to ask you, is human trafficking and exploitation in our culture an issue to you or is it personal? Let me explain. Most of us these days know that human trafficking and exploitation is an “issue”. We hear about it on the news, our friends and colleagues may talk about it, we see billboards or posters. It’s an issue.
On the other hand, when I personally first heard of human trafficking in 2007 I had young children and I was horrified that this was happening in our world. I honestly felt like these people were coming for my kids. That is personal! I felt something and it now affected my world. This year at Fierce Freedom we would like to help you move from this being an issue that somebody needs to address to bringing it home to you, helping you see human trafficking and exploitation in your personal world and sphere of influence.
I would like to introduce you to our friend, Tia. She is a strong, smart young woman and she has a personal story of how she survived being exploited. Please watch:
It’s Personal has become a theme for Fierce Freedom this year. Has human trafficking and exploitation become personal for you? Do you have a story to share with us? We would like to hear about it. You can do that by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, message us on facebook or call the office at 715.514.2890. Your story could be similar to mine or more specific and dramatic like Tia’s story. We would love to hear from you (we will not share your story without your permission).
By: Jodi Emerson, Public Policy and Community Relations
As Fierce Freedom continues to grow, we are always developing new programming. While we have primarily focused on awareness about sex trafficking in the past, we feel compelled to include some programming around labor trafficking and how that affects us in the Chippewa Valley.
In March, we started a new series called Reducing Your Slavery Footprint. Each month we are looking at a different industry and trying to give people actionable ways to ensure that they are not supporting slave labor with their purchases.
There are an estimated 46 million victims of human trafficking in the world today. While a majority of those people are not enslaved in the United States, purchases that we make every day do support those businesses that use labor trafficking to get their products to market.
We have chosen six industries to focus on over the next six months. We chose these industries both because they use a lot of slave labor, and because there are small things we can do to change our buying habits in each of these areas that will make big changes in the world.
If you have ever been in the Fierce Freedom office, you know that we usually have a chocolate supply on hand. In March, we held an event at the office focusing on chocolate, which included an educational presentation and a chocolate sampling. A significant portion of the chocolate produced in the world relies on child slave labor. When you think about how many child slaves are involved in the chocolate industry, it makes chocolate not taste as good.
The best way to avoid slave labor in your chocolate is to buy chocolate with Fair Trade, Rain Forest Alliance or Equal Exchange certifications on the label. Also, organic chocolate is grown in Latin America and most labor trafficking in the chocolate industry is done in Western Africa. Buying organic chocolate doesn’t guarantee that your chocolate is not made with slave labor, but if you can’t find Fair Trade chocolate organic is a good option.
Be sure to watch the Fierce Freedom facebook page and website for information and educational presentations in the Reducing Your Slavery Footprint series:
By: Jessica Reints, Fierce Freedom Neillsville Volunteer
Fierce Freedom of Neillsville is happy to announce its official launch! We are comprised of a small group of amazing people, with a variety of skills and knowledge. Many of us have worked in the mental health, medical, or corrections fields as well as having worked closely with youth victims of sex trafficking in residential treatment facilities.
While some of us were working at a treatment facility in Clark County, we received intense training about sex trafficking which completely opened our eyes to what a problem this issue is in our state. We knew that we couldn’t keep quiet with this information and had to educate our friends and families about it. We then got in contact with Jenny and Jodi from Fierce Freedom in Altoona and hit it off. Without these wonderful ladies, we would not be where we are today. They have supported and encouraged us in our efforts, and have recently given us the opportunity to become Fierce Freedom of Neillsville.
Fierce Freedom of Neillsville has been working hard the last few months educating community members about what sex trafficking really is and spreading awareness wherever we go. We offer presentations, literature, community events, and a toolbox full of other resources. In a short amount of time we have already done employee training and presentations for our Personal Development Center who works with victims of domestic violence, an educational presentation for a youth group’s confirmation class in Stratford, an interview with a local non-profit Dylan’s Den, attended the Tattoos for Triumph event in Stevens Point, did an educational presentation in partnership with Fierce Freedom at Lutheran Social Services in Eau Claire and attended events with Fierce Freedom like the #Notinmytown Super Bowl Rally to continue the fight against this issue. Fierce Freedom of Neillsville is continuing to reach out to possible clients in Clark, Jackson, Wood, Eau Claire and LaCrosse Counties. Our group is passionate about this cause! We are striving to broaden our knowledge and educate as many people as possible.
If you’d like more information about Fierce Freedom of Neillsville, you can contact us at fiercefreedom.org or on our Facebook page Fierce Freedom of Neillsville.
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.