A blog by SIA President, Dawn Marie Lemonds and Past International President, Alice Wells.
“The 3rd Biennial Southwest Conference Against Trafficking (SWCAT), was held in Ontario California, from 11 – 13 January 2018. Three days were shared by over 200 conference participants from 8 states in USA and two countries – approximately 30 of whom were Soroptimist members from 5 regions and 8 states! Law Enforcement agencies, healthcare professionals and social workers, joined non profit organisations, survivors, journalists, politicians and anyone wanting to be educated and inspired to take action against human trafficking.
Over 25 individuals working in different parts of the field presented as keynotes, and 12 workshops held on the first two days culminated in a walk with over 600 people, held on the Saturday. HBO also allowed us to screen one of their upcoming documentaries: ‘I AM EVIDENCE’ which reveals the horrendous situation of almost half a million UNTESTED RAPE kits sitting in police stations around the country. Featured presenters included San Bernardino District Attorney, Mike Ramos, Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice Director, Dr Sandra Morgan, Dr Kathie Mathis and Dr James Beard.
There were many important “takeaways” of the conference including:
· It is not enough to be educated- there is much Action that needs support locally and through advocacy. The time is now!
· We need to continue to refer to the people affected by modern day slavery as people, not statistics and labels. There is not a one size fits all model.
· One of the most serious factors affecting the lives and health of families and children is the opioid crisis.
· In Turkey more than 10,000 refugee children have gone missing and it is assumed they have been trafficked.
· Exploitation is really a financial term… it is using someone to make money. It is all about greed to make a profit. We have to focus on the demand to eliminate this.
· 66-80% of trafficking is not about sex trafficking, it is labour trafficking (Dr Sandie Morgan, Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice).
· Social Media is the biggest recruiting tool for sexual slavery that there is.
· When a person laughs 30 minutes per day, it extends your life by 8 years! If you can’t laugh, fake it! It does the same thing! (Dr Kathie Mathis, a Nationally Certified Psychologist and international trainer and speaker.)
Finally three areas we can help:
1. Be aware when you purchase items like chocolate, clothing, bananas etc. As consumers of merchandise we are part of the DEMAND industry through our purchasing. It is the responsibility of each of us to know the labour practices that produce the products we purchase and whether it was produced by child or slave labor. There is an app that details more than 1000 pages of products that have been created or produced by child labor. It’s free and is called Sweat and Toil.
2. Push for Legislation such as holding internet companies like Backpage accountable. They are committing a crime…we need to take these companies on!
3. Convict the Crooks- Stop using the word “Johns”. They are not Johns- they are crooks and they need to be held accountable. San Bernadino County, CA uses an interesting approach to prosecution: If convicted of solicitation in this county, his photo and name is posted on the county sheriff’s department website for ONE YEAR!”