Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Our Dirty Little Secret: The Super Bowl & Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking remains prevalent. In fact, it continues to increase and is expected to overtake the drug trafficking industry in the next 1-2 years. Just yesterday, for example, 14 people were indicted in a sex trafficking ring of children across the state of Colorado. And, the individuals overseeing the ring were not much more than young adults themselves (20-22 years of age). At least 4 teenage girls were victims of this ring, which worked in Denver, Boulder, Lakewood, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction. The Colorado Human Trafficking Task Force is prosecuting this case. You can read more about this particular case here (video included).

It's right around the corner. Sex trafficking happens everywhere, even in places you wouldn't expect it.

So, while this topic was particularly current given the recent bust of this CO ring, the Super Bowl is also coming up. You might be asking, "What does that have to do with anything?" Well, prostitution and sex trafficking generally increase during large sporting events, such as the Super Bowl. In fact, last year the Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, stated, "The Super Bowl is one of the largest human trafficking events in the United States." Young girls are often offered to johns as "Super Bowl specials." In one particular case, this meant paying $300 for two girls, a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old. Domestic sex trafficking (the moving of primarily women from city to city, state to state) for the purpose of exploitation is a significant and severely troublesome social problem.  According to Shared Hope International, over a 5 year period of time, an under-aged prostitute who works 5 nights a week could be "raped" 6,000 times by men. This number dramatically increases around sporting events. Shared Hope International reports that prostitutes are generally given a quota to reach of 10-15 buyers per night. However, around peak times, such as the Super Bowl, girls have reportedly been sold to as many as 45 buyers in a single night.

The good news? Some people and places are working to combat this incredibly horrendous and exploitive practice--even targeting time frames specific to the Super Bowl. For instance, a bill in Indiana to toughen penalties for sex trafficking is being reviewed by the Governor. It passed both the House and Senate in Indiana with unanimous support. The bill would make it easier to prosecute cases involving victims 16 and younger and broadens the law for cases involving older victims.

And, perhaps even more interesting, there is a group of nuns in Indiana that are taking to the streets to catalyze change and combat sex trafficking. One group of nuns buys stocks in hotels and motels so that as stockholders they have a say and can demand action. And, many of the hotels within a 50-mile radius in/around Indianapolis have pledged to report any human trafficking issues. You can find out more through the Indiana Protection of Abused and Trafficked Humans Task Force.

And, there is "The S.O.A.P. Project." TraffickFree will be offering bars of soap with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number (1-888-3737-888) on them. These bars are also placed in some hotel and motel bathrooms.

You may also be interested in learning more about GEMS (Girls Educational & Mentoring Services) which acts as the only service in NY aimed at helping girls who have been sexually exploited and/or domestically trafficked.

Finally, below I've included a video made by GEMS in honor of President Obama's National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  GEMS supporters from across the country sent in messages of love and support to girls recovering from exploitation and sex trafficking. The message? You are loved and cared about.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Making a Difference

I've been feeling a bit down lately about the blog, what I want to write about, etc. Then I came across this picture and remembered why I started this blog and the corresponding FB page. I hope you have the same "ah-ha" moment I did. Be inspired.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rick Santorum's message to victims of rape--Public Morality & Criminal Law

I was scrolling through the news today and came across a headline reading, "Rick Santorum: Rape victims 'should make the best of a bad situation' if they get pregnant and give birth to the 'gift from god'". I specifically looked for other articles about Santorum's stance and found article titles such as, "Rick Santorum: 'Make the best' of rape by rejecting abortion" and "Santorum to Rape Victims: 'Make the best Out of a Bad Situation". Appalling. I couldn't believe what I was reading.  Talk about retraumatizing. Not only is he telling victims how they should feel, but what they should do, also. I wanted to verify what was said, so found the following video.

Indeed, Rick Santorum states, "I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created--in the sense of rape--but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given you." It seems Santorum has created a bit of a paradox. While he ends by identifying the product of a woman's rape as a "gift", he begins by calling it something "horribly created".

I am not debating the issue of abortion in this post. I've done that before and with politics on the board right now, I am sure you have been hearing many different perspectives. Instead, reading these articles about Santorum made me think about the lecture I just gave to my Criminology class. As an opener to the class, we talk about the definition of crime. I ask them what television shows they watch that tells them something, true or untrue, about crime. Law & Order,  CSI, Bones, The Sopranos, Criminal Minds...the list goes on and on. Literally, I think the entire 75 minutes could have been filled simply listing various types of entertainment that sends messages about crime. As we talk about these shows, I ask them what message is sent. What do we learn about victims from these shows? Who are they? What do they look like? What about offenders? What do we learn about various types of crime?  How is crime constructed in our society? How do we come to understand a behavior as criminal or not?

In preparation for the this lecture on defining crime, they read an article discussing public morality and criminal law. There are essentially two sides to the debate. The first argues that public morality should not control criminal law, but that criminal law should be created in correspondence with what causes direct harm to others. The law is viewed as an improper instrument for regulating one's private moral conduct. In contrast, the other side of this argument is that criminal law serves an important function in the facilitation of personal responsibility. Thus, criminal law serves as a fundamental means by which individuals learn personal responsibility.

I ask my students to consider two main questions.
1) Should the law control public morality?
2) Can the law control public morality?

Admittedly, I am quite frustrated by not only Santorum's position, but also his choice of words.  As I listened to him and his desire to make abortion illegal, I reran my lecture and the thoughtful, intelligent things my students had to say on the matter through my mind. Santorum, in my opinion, is suggesting he will aim to control my private morality through use of public criminal law. Am I okay with this? Is this what happens everyday, regardless of who the President is? Sadly, I'd say it likely is. And I tell my students that, too. So, we then transition to "Can the law control public morality?"

I've created two polls below to get your thoughts on these questions. Think about whatever issued you'd like. And, in addition to participation in the poll, comments are welcome and hoped for. My students and I engaged in a fantastic dialogue about issues of abortion, same-sex marriage, drug use, prostitution, etc. and the role private morality and public law play. I hope we can do the same here.

For full articles on Rick Santorum's position toward women who are victims of rape, you can click HERE, HERE, and HERE.


Event Announcement: Chocolate Lovers' Fling

Have you heard about this event? If you're in the Boulder, CO area, I highly suggest you attend. It's a ton of fun and benefits a very worthy organization, Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence. Great food, a silent auction, dancing...come one, come all.

Simply click HERE and you can reserve your spot!

February 11, 2012 - 7pm - 11pm - UCAR Events Center 
3080 Center Green Drive Boulder, CO 80301
Chocolate Lovers' Fling Logo 2012

There's still time to support the 31st Annual Chocolate Lovers' Fling!  The Chocolate Lovers' Fling is our most important fundraising event of the year, with a goal of raising funds to support services that are changing lives, even saving lives. 
Our event is going to be the best yet and we are delighted to bring you some exciting (and delicious) details in this email. Please take a look at all we have to offer and spread the word!  To purchase tickets visit www.active.com.  To donate items for the auctions or to ask questions about the event, contact Chelsea at chelsea@safehousealliance.org or 303-449-8623.

Chelsea O'Neil
Fundraising Events Organizer
Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence

Chocolate Tastings...

We have a wonderful group some of the area's best chocolatiers set to provide a variety of delicious chocolate candies, confections, sauces, and more!  Vendors include...
If you are a chocolatier or know of a vendor who might be interested in donating chocolate samples for the event, contact Alev at alevviggio@gmail.com.

Dinner & Dancing...    
Our menu this year will be a delicious assortment of gourmet appetizers and tapas! Sample shrimp scampi, beef skewers del mar and more as you browse the silent auction items or have a seat in the ballroom and mingle with other guests.  

The evening will end on on a high note with dancing to live music provided by "The Mark Diamond Band" featuring Ricardo Peña, Ed Edwards, Amy Biondo, and Dean Kielian.  
Explore new combinations of specialized beer, wine & port paired with chocolate samples.  Participating vendors include...

Silent & Live Auctions...

There are some exciting and diverse options in place for our silent auction. Specialty baskets, art, jewelry, event tickets, Spanish lessons, gift certificates to your favorite restaurants, and more!

We are absolutely thrilled to welcome back our favorite auctioneer, Mr. Don Martin of Martin Auctioneering.  If you haven't experienced Don before, you are in for a treat!  He's sure to keep the evening moving by providing an exciting and entertaining auction experience!  Some of the items to look forward to this year...

Order now!

There is still time to donate gift certificates, baskets, items, etc.!  If you're interested in promoting your business or services by donating items to be sold at auction, contact
for details.
Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN) 

is a human rights organization which provides emergency shelter, counseling, community education, legal advocacy and transitional services to adults and children who are fleeing violent relationships in Boulder and Broomfield Counties. 
 If you or someone you know is in need of help, call our 24 hour crisis line at:
Find us online:
Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter
  View our videos on YouTube 

Monday, January 23, 2012

39th Anniversary of Roe v Wade

Today's post is brief. I've posted before about Roe v Wade and the debate still occuring around abortion, but today, the focus is a video of the facts. Regardless of your opinion, this video by Guttmacher provides basic facts about abortion, e.g., who is having them, religious affiliations, age, etc. In other words, we must remember that it is not simply those women who have abortions and those women that have babies. Check it out. I'd love feedback and thoughts. Did you learn something? Were you surprised? And, of course, I encourage you to pass this blog entry on to others so that they, too, can be educated about the hot topics in our society.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Roland Martin Calls Boxer Floyd Mayweather Out

The below article was sent to me by a colleague. Thanks, Tamara Williams Van Horn!
The article is from Clutch Magazine. Check it out and leave your comments.

Why Don't More Men Speak Up About Violence Against Women?
Wednesday, Jan 11, 2012 by Britini Danielle

Something interesting happened on Twitter yesterday. After boxer Floyd Mayweather challenged Manny Pacquiao to a fight before Mayweather heads off to serve his 90-day stint in jail for domestic violence, CNN’s Roland Martin called him for being a hypocrite.

Mayweather tweeted: “Manny Pacquiao I’m calling you out let’s fight May 5th and give the world what they want to see. My Jail Sentence was pushed back because the date was locked in. Step up Punk.”

Martin put the boxer on blast, noting that Mayweather couldn’t call another man a punk when he was  headed to jail for abusing the mother of his children (he reportedly pulled her hair, punched her, twisted her aim, and threatened her).

Shortly after his tweet, Martin was criticized by some Twitter users for being publicly critical of Mayweather because he is a fellow black man. Apparently, they felt that Martin should have had a private conversation with the boxer about domestic violence instead of being critical of him in public, simply because of his race, despite the fact that Mayweather often takes to Twitter to air out his grievances.

This idea that black people shouldn’t be publicly critical of one another is nothing new. It plays into the notion that we shouldn’t talk negatively about one another lest we “disrespect the race” and make all black people look bad in the eyes white folks.
While I’m of the belief that some things do indeed need to be discussed behind closed doors (i.e. family problems), when it comes to issues that affect large swaths of people, we need to get them out in the open.

For too long things like domestic violence and sexual assault were swept under the rug, and many–both men and women–suffered in silence. But now that it’s common knowledge that beating your partner is wrong and sexual assault has no place in a civil society, some people still take issue with holding abusers accountable for their actions.

But why?

Why do some people have a problem when abusers are called out for their destructive behaviors? Why do some continually try to rationalize abuse? (i.e. saying he didn’t hit her, he just twisted her arm). And why don’t more men hold each other PUBLICLY accountable for perpetuating and engaging in violent behavior (against women and against each other)?

While I know there are men like Roland Martin, Mark Anthony Neal, and Kevin Powell who do step up to hold their brethren accountable, when bad things happen to women–and especially black women–the chorus of men holding their feet to the fire is painfully low.

Domestic violence is no laughing matter, nor is it something that we can just talk about behind closed doors.  It not only affects the couple in the relationship, but many times, it also scars children who bear witness to it.

As Audre Lorde once wrote, “your silence will not protect you,” and staying silent on such pressing issues will do little to ensure they don’t happen in the future.


Way to go, Roland Martin! Way. to. go!

Seems to me that we all might need to do a little more "Calling out" of individuals who think it's acceptable to violate others. 

Check out this and this for some background into this dialogue.

Finally, I'd like to remind everyone about the White Ribbon campaign. Currently they've got an effort called "16 Ways in 16 Days." This part of the campaign provides 16 ways that men and boys can make a difference.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reader's Choice: Cigarettes and Sexual Violence

Thank you to everyone who has contacted me with interesting articles, statistics, and topics of interest. Today, I'm focusing on an article that was sent to me. This is something I'd very much like to implement--a sort of Reader's Choice. So, if you come across interesting reads, films, etc. that will educate us, help us break barriers, and grow, send them on. And, I'd certainly love if anyone is interested in guest posting sometime. This is a forum for everyone.

The title of the article for today's Reader's Choice reads, "In US, more women were raped last year than smoke cigarettes." I received this article from a close friend who reads the blog often. She, too, is passionate about making change.  This article summarized the findings from a study that begin in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and continued into 2011. 1 in 5 women are estimated to have been victims of rape.  For 80% of the victims, their first rape occurred before the age of 25. And, the majority of victims knew their perpetrator.

When I teach about sexual violence, my students and I often talk about what rape looks like. Who are perpetrators? Who are victims? What is "real rape"? Real rape embodies the false idea that rape most often occurs at the hands of a male stranger, dressed in all black, who jumps out of the bushes, and forces himself on his female victim. Real rape, though, is not what occurs most often. It presents a false image and discredits the experiences of women who find themselves victimized by those they know and trust.

This information comes at an interesting time given the change in how 'rape' is defined.  We now include non-forcible assault and crimes against men. This is huge. For instance, under the past conceptualization of rape, Jerry Sandusky would not be considered. After all, his violence was against little boys.  But, under our new definition, we move to discredit "real" rape. Just think for a moment though; the statistics above are from before this change in definition. Just imagine how the numbers would skyrocket in the next annual report. And, sexual assault is remains the most underreported crime in the United States, so we must also consider this when thinking about the statistics.

1 in 5.  Think about the women in your life. 1 in 5 has experienced rape. This is a violation of women's rights that impacts everyone. We are that woman. We know that woman.

By arming ourselves, our communities, our society, and our government with this information and considering the new changes in definition--maybe now we can finally make effective change in the treatment of sexual violence. We can no longer overlook the impact sexual violence has.

Other important statistics to consider:

  • Every 2 minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.
  • 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to law enforcement
  • Among high school students, 9.3% of black students, 7.8% of Hispanic students, and 6.9% of white students reported that they were forced to have sexual intercourse at some time in their lives (2008)
  • In a nationally representative sample, 60.4% of female and 69.2% of male victims were first raped before the age of 18.

Monday, January 16, 2012

For the LOVE of pets

I love animals. It's true. I absolutely LOVE them. As someone who studies violence and crime, I am constantly amazed at the ability of humans to hurt, betray, and violate one another, while pets remain so loyal and committed to their people, regardless of the horrid circumstances they are put through. I'm sure you have heard the stories about dogs who get thrown out of cars or survive their owners and yet steadfastly wait for the owners to return. These stories break my heart and also show me just how loving animals can be. A human turns his/her back so quickly, but the animal never stops loving.

Today's blog entry is about the love of animals and the links they have in lives of violence and abuse.  Recently, two states (Kansas and Florida) have taken steps to include animals in their domestic violence policies and statutes. These changes, however, did not occur out of the blue. No, in fact, animal heroes brought this change. When a Great Dane in Kansas placed itself over it's female owners body to protect her, it instead endured great injury at the hands of the woman's boyfriend. The boyfriend was using both sides of a hammer to hit his partner and the dog instead received these blows (resulting in a number of broken bones). Eventually the boyfriend threw both his girlfriend and this heroic Great Dane out of a second-story window. Both dog and owner survived and found refuge at a shelter. The shelter did not allow pets, but made an exception because the woman would not leave her pet.  Since this time, the shelter, Rose Brooks Center, has began renovations including the addition of a pet-friendly wing, dog kennels, a walking trail, and a pet-friendly outdoor play yard.

In Florida, two new bills have been passed. These include the Animal Abuse Registry bill and the Domestic Violence Against Family Pets bill. Both of these are important pieces of legislation and I recommend you look into both. However, I'm going to focus on the latter of these because it is the first of it's kind and makes a clear link between pets and humans in abusive situations. The Domestic Violence Against Family Pets bill is called "Horatio's law".  Situations of domestic violence are often volatile. Abusers frequently inflict harm on family pets as a way to "get at" their victims. Horatio, an 8-year-old Catahoula (picture above), was beaten so badly that he nearly died. He didn't though. His loyalty and love for his person, however, did leave him with a permanent indention in his head, nerve damage, and he now must wear goggles when in the sunlight. Horatio, like the Great Dane described above, laid himself over the body of his elderly female owner as her own son violently attacked her.  The woman and dog survived, but Horatio has since found a new home after his owner passed away in December.  Horatio's law "redefined the term domestic violence to include inflicting, or attempting to inflict, physical injury against an animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by one family or household member by another family or household member. It also includes placing a family or household member in fear of physical harm to a pet, which essentially widens the scope of the bill to include threats of violence against pets" (Dog Heirs).  

These cases or this news may not seem that important. But, I promise you it is. While working at a local Safehouse, I heard story after story about the violence pets experienced, the fear women faced leaving their pets behind, the stories of happiness they felt when finding out their pets could stay at a local shelter for free (this allowed the women, children, and pets to escape safely). I do, however, love the idea of having a separate pet-friendly wing so that animals and people can be together. Children, especially, do much better in these situations when their pets are with them.

And, though not stemming from a recent news story, I do want to mention that Oregon has been working to pass legislation that will allow judges to add animals belonging to victims to restraining orders under the Family Abuse Prevention Act (FAPA). And, Oregon is not the first. Maine passed this legislation and soon after 16 other states began including animals (Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia, and Vermont).

Below I've listed some other information that might bring to light the importance of these changes. The information is from the American Humane Society.

  • 71% of pet-owning women entering women's shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims 
  • 13% of intentional animal abuse cases involve domestic violence
  • Between 25% and 40% of battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they worry about what will happen to their pets or livestock should they leave

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Buy LOTS of Girl Scout cookies!

Have you heard? A 14-year-old girl in California is requesting people participate in a national boycott of girl scout cookies because the organization admitted a 7-year-old transgender child to a Colorado troop this past November, 2011. (Read original story here) While this is not the first time the issue has been challenged (a few troops disbanded after the decision to admit transgender children), this young girl make the broadest and most wide-ranging claims by far.  The young girl, a teenager for Ventura, CA, claims the organization uses proceeds from the cookie sales in "promoting the desires of a small handful of people."

This video was released by a group called the "Honest Girl Scouts." While this teen is entitled to her own opinion and has the right to voice her opinion, I'd like everyone to consider a few things (and certainly post comments on this entry with feedback, questions, concerns, etc.).

I participated in Girl Scouts when I was younger. As I recall, many of the badges and activities we did were meant to bring awareness to friendship, helping others, support, and inclusivity. Where did these goals and values go?

And, what happened to the song I personally remember singing in Girl Scouts? Make New Friends?  The song lyrics include:  "You have one hand, I have the other. Put them together, We have each other."  And, "Silver is previous, Gold is too. I am precious, and so are you." Finally, "You help me, and I'll help you and together we will see it through."

I've spent time today reading comments, other blogs, and reviewing past responses on youtube from Fall 2011 when the Colorado troop was deciding whether to allow transgender children. It seems many people are equating sexual orientation to gender identity. Two VERY different things. Several comments I read mentioned camp-outs and sleep-overs as problematic because of possible sexual attraction. If the reasoning for NOT allowing transgender children into this organization is fear of sexual attraction, then doesn't this same rationale exclude girls who identify as lesbian? What do you think about this? 

In response to videos and groups such as those mentioned above, a national Girl Scouts spokeswoman, Michelle Tompkins, said the organization, "prided itself on being an inclusive organization serving all girls grom all walks of life." 

For this very reason I say: Let's buy Girl Scout cookies! Let's buy lots of 'em! Thin mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, Dulce de Leche...yum, yum, yum! I for one will be supporting this organization that respects every person's right to be who s/he is. 

P.S. I recognize cookies are not overly healthy, but remember, you don't have to eat all the cookies at once (or you can :) and, you can always consider buying boxes and donating them to your local homeless shelter, safe shelter, and/or other organizations. For me, human rights will always win over human weight.