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Posts Categorized: Araminta Freedom Initiative

From One Boomer to Another

Image Found via Creative Commons

OK, so I’m old! I said it. I won’t say how old, but, I’m old. I’m old enough to remember the 60’s. I’m old enough to be retired. I’m a Baby Boomer.

Baby Boomers are people born between 1946 and 1964. We make up about a quarter of the US population. Like me, there are a lot of us Baby Boomers dropping out of the work force and dropping into the “serving” industry because, even though we are old, we want to continue to make a difference with our lives.

As Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about things that matter.” I don’t want to go silently into the night. I want our generation to rekindle the passion of the 60’s. Dr. King also said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” I’ve devoted my time and energy to solving a massive problem. That problem is Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking.

Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is the commercial sexual exploitation of American children within U.S. borders. It is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a minor for the purpose of a commercial sex act, where the person is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident under the age of 18 years.

Will you join me in becoming engaged in the battle to end trafficking?

When asked why Baltimore is such a favorite target for sex trafficking, a rescued child victim responded that it is because no one cares. We often hear that prostitution is a victimless crime, that it is the oldest profession, that by legalizing it, the “bad effects” (disease and drugs) will be controlled. But I maintain its victims are not only those directly involved, but society as a whole.

Social ills are not isolated events. More frequently than not, social ills occur when poverty and desperation are side by side with wealth and disposable income. As Martin Luther King said, ”Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” We are all affected by this “victimless crime.”

If you are a Boomer with time to give, we need you to join our mission to end Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. At Araminta we will equip you and mobilize you to make a difference.

Sincerely,

Steve Martin – a Certified Araminta Volunteer

Moving Water

Picture found via Creative Commons

“Don’t drink that!” my scout leader yelled at me from across the path. I was ten. It was hot. We’d been hiking all day, and the one thing I wanted more than anything else in the world was a drink of water. So when I came across the small puddle in the dirt I thought I’d seize the opportunity and take a drink. Thankfully my scout leader knew something I did not – stagnant water can make you sick. It’s not healthy.

According to the National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, between 100,000 and 300,000 kids are at risk for being trafficked every year in the United States. Imagine M&T Bank Stadium, where the Baltimore Ravens play. That massive complex holds 71,800 people. Now imagine three Ravens Stadiums packed to the brim with kids under the age of 18 and you begin to get an idea of the number of children that are at risk every year of being sold for sex.

When confronted with a problem as large as Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, it is tempting to grieve but then push it aside in our minds. The size of the issue overwhelms us. We feel debilitated by its scope. But we cannot give in to the temptation to be still.

Rather, we must act. We must be on the move. We must join the prophet Amos’ and cry, “Let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24)

Water on the move is a powerful force. When focused like a fire hose, it puts out fires, it knocks down walls, and it digs valleys out of rock. Given time, there is nothing that can resist its pressure. As long as it continues to move, there is nothing that can stand in its way.

Part of our work at Araminta is to engage and empower local churches to help bring an end to Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. We agree with what Bill Hybels wrote in his book Courageous Leadership:

“There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken… Whatever the capacity for human suffering, the church has a greater capacity for healing and wholeness.”

If you are a member or a pastor of a local church in the Baltimore area, we want to work with you. We’d love to awaken you to the problem of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking, equip you to join our mission to end it, and then mobilize you to action. We’d want to get you moving because we believe that once you have been mobilized, nothing will stand in your way.

What is Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking?

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Sarah was a sixteen-year-old girl. Her family life was nothing to brag about. She hated school because she felt like she didn’t fit in, but Sarah had dreams. She loved to sing. She hoped to one day become the next Beyoncé or Katie Perry. She dreamt of being discovered by a producer who would sign her to a record deal. Fueled by her dream, Sarah began posting videos of herself singing on YouTube. Then one day, it happened.  A producer contacted her over Twitter. He said he loved her voice. He said he thought her songs were amazing. He said she was beautiful. No one had ever told her she was beautiful. The producer offered to take her on tour. He promised he was going to make her a star. Full of excitement and hope, Sarah ran away and met up with the man. It was only after Sarah had left the security of her friends and community that she discovered the man’s real intention is to sell her? into the commercial sex industry during every stop on the tour.

It’s hard to believe, but Sarah’s story is very much a reality for many American children and teens. It’s the story of how human trafficking affects our U.S. kids. Every day children and teens in and around Baltimore are sold for sex.  This horrific reality is called Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and is the most common form of human trafficking here in the U.S. Unlike movies and television often lead us to believe, these children are not international. This crime is not just happening overseas. A recent national study showed that between 100,000 and 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked every year within the United States. At any given moment, the FBI says there are 700,000 predators searching the internet, looking for children to exploit.

Angela entered foster care when she was ten. Although the people around her did the best they could to help her, she could never settle. She was always in trouble. She routinely rebelled. She ran away a lot and bounced from group home to group home. Then one day Angela met a man who said he cared about her. He bought her a cell phone and new shoes – things she’d always wanted but could never afford. He told her he loved her and he wanted to take care of her. He invited her to leave the group home and come and live with him. His only requirement was that she sell her body every night for sex and give him the cash. 

According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the United States, surpassed only by the drug trade. The form that this modern day slave trade takes doesn’t always fit the narrative in our minds. Traffickers, or “Pimps” come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they are smooth talkers who engage youth romantically. Sometimes they offer youth security and housing in exchange for sexual favors. Sometimes traffickers are family members. What they all have in common is that they are willing to sell a child for their own profit.

The Araminta Freedom Initiative is dedicated to seeing Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking stopped in Baltimore and the surrounding regions. We believe that the solution to this horrible injustice is the Church. Our goal is to awaken, equip, and mobilize the Church and our community to stop this atrocity.

The dream of Araminta was birthed in the fall of 2010 when eight friends began to pray about how they might bring a stop to Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. After a season of discernment and prayer, in the spring of 2012, Araminta was born.

Our name was inspired by the great abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Araminta was Harriet Tubman’s given name as a child slave in Maryland. It means “defender”.  In honor of Harriet’s legacy of returning time and again to Maryland to free slaves, we believe it is our duty to defend the freedom of children. We must continue to return to the dark places where they are held captive.

We would be honored if you would join us in our mission to see Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking stopped in our region. There are three ways you can start participating today:

First, you can educate yourself about the problem. Understanding the truth behind Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is the first step to helping end it. If you can learn what it looks like and dispel cultural myths that surround it, then you will be able to recognize it when it happens around you; and if you can recognize it, you can report it.

To learn more about Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and how to report it, go to the Araminta website and check out our resources page. If you don’t know where to start, we recommend the book “Girls Like Us” by Rachel Lloyd. (www.aramintafreedom.org)

Second, you can join us at one of our large community events.  For example, on Saturday, August 2nd, we are hosting our annual “Freedom Night at the Orioles.” Tickets to the game and Araminta t-shirts can be purchased from our website starting June 22nd. Events like this one are a great way for you to help us raise awareness.

Third, you can help fuel our work through giving financially. Araminta accepts donations through our website. We would be honored if you would consider becoming a monthly donor.

Finally, you can join the Araminta team as a volunteer. Araminta is striving to end DMST by providing four avenues for churches to engage in:

1) The prevention of the sexual exploitation of minors,

2) The creation of systemic economic deterrence that will frustrate the business of human trafficking,

3) Intervention and rescue of those held against their will

4) And the provision of aftercare initiatives that offer healing and wholeness to victims.

Currently, Araminta has eight volunteer teams working in all of these areas and we will be launching another three teams this fall. The first step to joining an Araminta volunteer team is completing our volunteer training. We offer the training once a quarter. Our next training session will be in October.

We would love for you to join our mission to stop Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in our area. Let’s work together to make sure stories like Sarah’s and Angela’s are never repeated.

Breaking News: Araminta and TurnAround Partnership for Freedom Finalists

We are thrilled to announce that in partnership with  TurnAround Inc, we have been named as finalists in the Partnership for Freedom Challenge Opportunity, led by Humanity United.  For more information, please read our press release below. We look forward to updating you on this exciting opportunity in the months to come!

ARAMINTA FREEDOM INITIATIVE AND TURNAROUND,INC. NAMED FINALISTS IN PARTNERSHIP FOR FREEDOM
Innovation Competition Seeks New Ideas to Support
Human Trafficking Survivors in the United States

BALTIMORE, MD – Dec. 16, 2013 – Baltimore-based organizations Araminta Freedom Initiative and TurnAround, Inc. have been named as finalists in the first round of the Partnership for Freedom, a competition seeking innovative ideas to better care for survivors of modern-day slavery in the United States.

Araminta Freedom Initiative and TurnAround, Inc. joined together to submit THRIVE, a concept that will establish an aggressive new approach to long-term recovery for survivors of human trafficking in the Baltimore region. Their entry was selected from more than 160 submissions representing 260 applying organizations. 

The THRIVE Partnership will focus on moving survivors past the initial stages of safety and stabilization to provide the tools and skills necessary for independence and self-sufficiency. This partnership focuses on holistic, wrap-around support, including the utilization of the Open Table model, specialized host families for survivors, mentoring, expansion of intensive case management and victim advocacy services, and an employment initiative.  THRIVE will create an integrated safety net that moves the care of a trafficking survivor from individual case-management to include a restorative, transformational and holistic healing experience for both the survivor and the local community. We will walk beside survivors as they move from simply surviving to thriving.

Today, tens of thousands of people in the U.S. are currently living in some type of modern-day slavery. Although efforts to combat this crime have increased in recent years, care and recovery support for survivors remains inadequate. The Partnership for Freedom’s first challenge, Reimagine: Opportunity, is looking for creative, sustainable ways to address three critical issues faced by human trafficking survivors: sustainable housing, economic empowerment and social services. Two additional challenges will be launched in 2014 and 2015 to address other ways of combating human trafficking.

“We are humbled and honored to be one of the twelve finalists in the Partnership for Freedom competition series.  Araminta and TurnAround’s partnership has the potential to create groundbreaking and transformational services for trafficking survivors in the Baltimore region.”  Alicia McDowell – Executive Director, Araminta Freedom Initiative; Rosalyn Branson – Executive Director, TurnAround Inc.

Araminta Freedom Initiative and TurnAround, along with eleven other finalists, will participate in an Innovation Workshop in Washington, D.C. in January to further develop their ideas. The final winners will be announced in Spring 2014 and will receive funding to begin piloting their solutions.

Learn more at www.partnershipforfreedom.org or follow #P4F on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Declare Freedom this 4th of July

old glory

July 4th Freedom 

When in the course of human events one set of people finds themselves captive and under the evil hand of another, then it becomes the duty of those free to step up and help them.  For if one of us is not free, then none of us can truly be free.  As our nation’s founders declared on this day 237 years ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

As we celebrate these words today and as we honor our nation’s independence, let us not forget that far too many of our children are not free.  They are shackled in a life of violence, perversion, and the slavery of being bought and sold night after night as sex slaves.

Similar to the brave men and women who declared our nation’s independence and then fought to protect it, we have an obligation to do what we can to free these children trapped in slavery.

At Araminta Freedom Initiative we are accomplishing just that.  With your support, in the past year and a half Araminta has trained over 200 volunteers that are on the front lines in declaring that all children must be free. We have hired three staff members and have started to put the pieces in place to develop an aftercare model to holistically care for survivors of  child sex trafficking.

Our Education Team is working on a plan to train all education personnel in Maryland to know what to look for as they prevent young people from being trapped in the dark world of modern day slavery. Our Economic Deterrence Team is working to certify all of the region’s hotels as traffic-free establishments by inviting them to be a part of F.R.E.E. [Federation to Responsibly End Exploitation]. We are fighting this battle for Freedom, and we have great momentum, but we need your help.

This battle for Freedom requires us all to contribute our time, talents, and treasures if we are to truly say that all of our children are free.

It could be sharing our cause with your friends, families, coworkers, or neighbors and inviting them to become involved through one of our Action Nights.

Maybe this passion in your heart is stirring to see true freedom come to all and you want to share your God given talents as an active member of one of our teams.  We welcome your help and are excited to have you as a part of this organization.

Volunteer

 

Or maybe you have the means to support us financially and would like to be a part of our donor team by giving a recurring monthly donation of $25, $50, $100, or more.

 

Give Online

 

Araminta Freedom Initiative has declared that this month of July is about Freedom for our children and, for this reason and on this day of our nation’s independence, we now join together in thanking you for your support and asking for your help in declaring to the world that we will see the day when all of our children are free.

Scott Jenkins
Director of Development, Araminta Board of Directors

Defining Freedom

Defining Freedom

by Mark Stephenson, Director of Programs

 

Suppose you were in a hostage situation in a bank.  The criminals in dark masks wanted to rob the place and run.  Instead, they find themselves pinned down by police inside a bank full of innocent bystanders.

Imagine you are one of their hostages and you are sitting in a chair next to the door.  In a flash you realize that all the armed bank robbers have their back turned to you.  You have a choice.  You could stay or you could run.  There’s a chance that if you stay you could die.  There’s also a good chance that if you run out the door, you could be noticed and shot by one of the bank robbers.

Now what if in the midst of this dilemma someone from outside the bank grabbed a megaphone and said to you, “You are free.  Why don’t you just run out?  You could choose freedom and yet you choose to sit in that bank and appease your captors.  It’s your own fault that you are still a hostage.  You have no one to blame but yourself.”

How would you feel about what that person just told you?  Is it true that you are free?  Is it true that you have a simple choice to make? No, that decision is anything but simple. The option of staying and the option of running are equally dangerous and life threatening.  You might think to yourself, “Real freedom doesn’t just mean having a choice between any two options.  Real freedom must include a good option – a viable choice.”  And you’d be right.

The problem with human trafficking is that too often we are the one’s with the megaphones yelling into the bank from the outside.  For young children and youth who are trapped in the dark world of sex trafficking, escaping to freedom often seems as dangerous as enduring the nightmare of human trafficking.

The dictionary defines the word freedom as:

1: the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action

2: liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another

It is easy enough to understand the second definition of the word freedom.  We understand what it might mean for someone enslaved in child sex trafficking to be set free from his or her captor.  It’s more difficult to understand the first definition.

These young victims have no freedom.  They daily experience a life with no real choices.  Their choices are constrained.  Their decisions are coerced.  Real freedom for them means not just having a choice but having a real choice.  Choosing between getting beaten nearly to death or sleeping with 15 men is not a real choice.  Choosing between an escape attempt that could mean death or being sold night after night to married men with a dark secret is not a real choice.

Harriet Tubman, the famous abolitionist from which we take our name, was once quoted as saying “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” Part of the enslavement of human trafficking is not knowing that there is a way out.  Part of the darkness endured by sex trafficking victims is the lie that there is no hope for their future.

Araminta seeks not only to offer liberation from slavery for those enslaved in child sex trafficking, but also to offer a life of real choices, unconstrained options, and un-coerced decisions.  We hope to offer trafficking survivors not just freedom from their trafficker but also freedom from a narrow future confined by their past.

In the month of July we celebrate Independence Day for our nation.  This is a good time to consider what real freedom looks like to you. This July, what might real freedom feel like to those who have only known the bondage of modern day slavery?  How can you join this mission to offer a holistic kind of freedom to those who can’t yet see a way out?

A Little Bit of Heaven Everywhere…and at Target

I LOVE Christmas music.  That is a little bit of an understatement considering I have 417 Christmas songs on my iTunes. Yet, each year I find a new song that moves me closer to the spirit of the season. This year Francesca Battistelli’s song “Heaven Everywhere”  has me reflecting on what our mission means this Christmas season.

We are just beginning the journey here in Baltimore to see human trafficking cease. And sometimes looking at the road that lies before us can be overwhelming and daunting.  But then I watch one of our volunteers engaging in prevention education or hear how they are supporting a survivor, and I see the response of Heaven right there in front of me.  So the lyrics of this song ring true for our mission.

It’s the grace that we show to a world that needs hope
It’s giving our lives knowing they’re not our own
It’s the joy that we feel and the love that we share
There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere
– Francesca Battistelli, Heaven Everywhere

Now some shoppers might say that Target already has pieces of heaven (at least until they get to the register and realize how much they spent). But you can bring a little bit of the true Heaven into the lives of trafficking survivors by shopping at Target this Christmas.  Our partners at TurnAround have a Target Wish List that will provide for the needs of the survivors they serve.  These are items they use at their drop-in center, their residential center for young women 18 and up, and when they meet a survivor with law enforcement during their rescue.  Pick up a few items and really bless them this Christmas!

TARGET WISH LIST

You can ship it directly to TurnAround

401 Washington Ave, Suite 300
Attn: Anti-Trafficking Program
Towson, MD 21204

Or email us at contact@aramintafreedom.org and we can get the item from you.

Thank you for increasing the “little bits of Heaven everywhere”.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Alicia McDowell
Executive Director

 

 

Culture of Denial at Penn State and Beyond

The truth about Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State football program has finally come out.  In June, the former coach was convicted of sexually abusing boys over a 15-year period. More disturbing, however, was the 267-page internal review released July 12th which revealed the Penn State football program and upper-level administration going out of their way to cover up these awful crimes.

The modus operandi to look the other way while children were sexually assaulted by Sandusky was followed from top to bottom, from the senior leadership of Penn State to the janitors who actually witnessed some of the abusive acts.  There was a culture of denial at Penn State that allowed a pedophile to thrive and children to be harmed.

What is even more alarming is that this culture of denial not only exists in Penn State, but in our society at large.  It exists in every American who is willing to look the other way when children are being sexually abused.  It is in every individual who turns a blind eye to the problems of child abuse, pedophilia and child sex trafficking.

Statistics tell us that sexually abused children are 11 times more likely to be victims of human trafficking.  Domestic minor sex trafficking is happening all around us but we often choose not to see it.

Just as work is underway at Penn State to expel the people and eradicate the systems that allowed for child sex abuse to continue there for decades, the Araminta Freedom Initiative is working to eradicate the cultural systems that allow child sex trafficking to continue in our own Baltimore neighborhoods.

Our children must be protected. This culture of denial must end. We as a society must wake up to the harm that is being done to the next generation.  Our future depends on it.

If you want to join Araminta in fighting for our children, start here:

www.aramintafreedom.org

Mark Stephenson, Church Engagement Coordinator

The Beginning of the Beginning

Last Thursday night, I was on my way out the door to attend the final night of Araminta Freedom Initiative’s first ever Awake-Equip-Mobilize Training course. This was to be the last night of a five-week training for people who wanted to join Araminta in our mission to end domestic minor sex trafficking in the Baltimore region.

As a dad, sometimes it’s hard to leave the house in the evening knowing that I won’t be home to tuck my sons into bed. I enjoy our bedtime routine of reading books and saying “I love you” as much as my boys do. So, before I left I wanted to explain to my oldest son, who is almost three years old, where I was going and why I was going there.

I turned to my son and said, “I have to go to a meeting tonight, buddy.”
He asked, “Where are you going Daddy?”
“I have some friends that I have to meet with. We all made a group and this group helps save kids from bad guys,” I explained. “What bad guys?”

Trying to explain human trafficking to a child who isn’t even three years old was proving to be more difficult than I had first thought but I knew I had to try. “Well, there are some bad guys out there who want to hurt little kids. So my friends and I made this group that helps save the kids from the bad guys.”

My son thought for a few seconds and then made a reference to one of his favorite movies, Cars 2. “Bad guys like Grem and Acer?”  I smiled and said, “Yes, just like Grem and Acer from Cars. They tried to hurt Lightening McQueen in the movie. And so my group of friends get together to try to make sure little kids don’t get hurt by the bad guys.”  My son hopped down from the chair he was in and thought about our conversation for a couple minutes. Then, out of nowhere, he turned to me and asked, “Daddy, one day when I get bigger, can I be a part of your group and can I help save the kids from the bad guys?”

As you can imagine, my heart melted. My wife, hearing all of this from the next room, came in to see the rest of the conversation. I said, “Yeah, buddy, I would love for you to be a part of our group when you get bigger.”  My son replied, “And you’ll be so proud of me?”  At this point I was overwhelmed with love for my kid and had to give him hug. “Yeah, buddy,” I said. “I would be so proud of you.”

It was in this moment that my son reminded me that the commitment to end domestic minor sex trafficking in Baltimore is a generational commitment. One day, my son will pick up where I leave off. I have to wonder what the state of trafficking in the Baltimore region will be like the day he joins Araminta Freedom Initiative. How many girls will be rescued? How many children will be set free from the slavery of trafficking?

On Thursday, April 26, 2012, Araminta Freedom Initiative graduated 51 Certified Volunteers from its Awake-Equip-Mobilize Training course. After attending the first ever Araminta Action Night on February 19th in Towson, Maryland, these individuals were awakened to the devastating reality of domestic minor sex trafficking right here in the Baltimore region.

In many ways, this first class of dedicated volunteers is the beginning of the beginning. The scope of domestic minor sex trafficking is so large that the need for volunteers is enormous and the commitment must be a generational one. The hope of Araminta is that this will be the beginning of thousands of Certified Volunteers who will help bring an end to human trafficking in Baltimore. This is the beginning of the beginning. But one day, years from now, my son will be able to look back and say that this is when the tide of trafficking turned and when the hope for thousands of trafficked children was born.

Mark Stephenson, Church Engagement Coordinator

To join our next training this fall, contact training@aramintafreedom.org to be put on our contact list.

Immediate needs for survivors of trafficking in Baltimore!

When faced with the atrocity of human trafficking, many people feel overwhelmed and that there is nothing they can do to help.  But that is simply NOT TRUE.

The Araminta Freedom Initiative’s mission is to mobilize our community to end trafficking in tangible ways.  Here is one way you can start fighting human trafficking in the Baltimore Region…TODAY!

Our partners and friends at TurnAround are opening a Transitional Living Home and Independent Living Home for survivors of sex trafficking.  They still need several items to setup these homes, and they are so close to opening. Below is a Target Wish List of items they still need.  By giving items on this list, you are allowing survivors to enter a safe, stable environment where the message they receive is that they are loved, wanted and cherished by our community.

Please consider what you can give and follow these simple steps to contribute.

Option 1: Online Shopping

1. View the Target Wish List here. (Items range from $5-$250)

2.  Add Items to your cart and select items for  “Melissa”.  Items will ship directly to TurnAround.

Option 2: Shop in your local Target

1. Go to any Target store and look up TurnAround on their registry computers to shop for items.

2. Email Araminta at contact@aramintafreedom.org to arrange for a volunteer to collect the items and deliver the item to TurnAround (Baltimore Region only).

Option 3: Purchase a Target Gift Card

1. Purchase a Target gift card in any amount.

2. Mail the giftcards to:

Araminta Freedom Initiative
PO Box 22106
Baltimore, MD  21203

3. Include your name and address, and you will be mailed a tax deductible receipt and confirmation of the gift to TurnAround.

Thank you for your support of TurnAround and the brave survivors they serve!