Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bringing Awareness to the Prevalence and Danger of Stalking

This month, the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) joined with law enforcement and national organizations to observe National Stalking Awareness Month. Stalking isn’t simply unwanted attention; it’s a serious crime that affects an estimated 6.6 million Americans each year. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men become victims of stalking at some point during their lifetime. Victims of stalking may be threatened, fear for their safety and suffer violence as a result of the harassment.

California law defines stalking as willful, malicious and repeated following or harassing, and making a credible threat to the safety of another person. Stalking can include:
  • Repeated phone calls or hang-ups
  • Unwanted letters, emails, text messages or gifts
  • Following you or showing up unexpectedly where you are
  • Threatening to harm you, your property, family members or pets
  • Using technology to track you or access your records or private information
It’s important to report all incidents of stalking to law enforcement. Don’t downplay stalking incidents; if you feel like you’re unsafe, then you may be in danger.

Contact local law enforcement immediately if you or someone you know is being stalked. Far too often these threats can escalate into physical assault or homicide. Studies have shown that for 76% of women killed by an intimate partner, stalking was a precursor to the violence. It’s important to report all incidents of stalking to law enforcement. Don’t downplay stalking incidents; if you feel like you’re unsafe, then you may be in danger.

Stalking crimes have a large impact on our society and on victims. Victims of stalking usually need ongoing mental health treatment to cope with victimization. Anxiety, insomnia, social dysfunction, and severe depression are much higher among stalking victims. There is help to create a safety plan, get mental health help and begin the recovery process. By raising awareness of stalking, it is our hope that we can help victims to take steps to ensure safety, prevent violence and aid in the recovery process.

Resources for Getting Help!:

California Victim Compensation Program Logo
The California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) provides compensation for victims of violent crime. CalVCP provides eligible victims with reimbursement for many crime-related expenses. CalVCP funding comes from restitution paid by criminal offenders through fines, orders, penalty assessments and federal matching funds.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Safe, Loving Home

By Jenny Williamson, CEO & Founder of Courage Worldwide

I live in a world where children are sold for sex. This fact broke my heart, but when I learned children were being sold for sex in my own backyard, I became angry and vowed to do something. So, I decided to learn everything I could about this issue. I read everything on the internet I could find on this evil called sex trafficking. I read the California State Report on Human Trafficking and called the author of the report to verify it was really happening here. I then called the Sacramento Police Department and asked just how bad the problem was. They introduced me to the FBI Innocence Lost Task Force, who told me they had recovered 125 children from the Sacramento area alone - to date that number is now close to 300. I asked what their greatest need was; they simply said "a home - these kids need a safe, loving home". I vowed to build one. That was in 2008.

Today Courage House, a home for children rescued from sex trafficking, has been open for eighteen months. Twenty-five children have called Courage House their home. Our youngest was twelve years old and our oldest seventeen. I have never been surrounded by so much pain. These children are truly victims of modern day slavery. Their needs are great, and we seek to meet them all at Courage House. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually; this evil affects every aspect of their young lives.

Being rescued is only the beginning of their journey. Providing them with an environment that is conducive to healing is vital, but tapping into their dreams is essential. And they do have dreams. They want to be doctors, lawyers, school teachers, moms and photographers, but first, they must do the hard work of confronting their past and their pain. This is not for the fainthearted. These young women are some of the most courageous individuals I have ever met. Two of our Courage Girls testified against their perpetrators in a court of law. I have never seen such a display of courage and grace. They were armed with people who believed in them and their future. They were armed with the truth that they were created on purpose for a purpose and they must fight for their destiny. And they did just that.

Courage House is a home not a program where young victims of sex trafficking can begin to realize that they have value. It is a place where they move from victim to victorious.

It was just a few years ago that I heard about human trafficking. Since then, my own life has changed, and I’ve been blessed to be able to change the lives of the 25 girls that have come through Courage House. I am just one person; so are you. What will you do?

Jenny Williamson is the Founder and CEO of Courage Worldwide, an international, non-profit organization that builds homes for children rescued out of sex trafficking. These homes are called Courage House. Jenny and her organization have spearheaded a comprehensive program to assist in the rescue and restoration of these young, vulnerable victims and have done ground-breaking research regarding the complex trauma of sexual exploitation, best practice therapy models and the healing process. Courage Worldwide successfully operates two homes for rescued children – one in Northern California and one in Tanzania, Africa.

Due to her efforts, expertise and leadership across the nation, Jenny was awarded the FBI Director's 2010 Leadership Award, the 2011 Community Spirit Award by Sacramento's District Attorney, Jan Scully and the 2012 William Jessup University's prestigious Community Impact Award. Jenny was also invited to be part of the California Attorney General's Working Group on human trafficking as well as Shared Hope International's Practitioners Working Group for their National Colloquium in Washington, D.C. She is also a member of Abolition International Shelter Association's advisory board.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Calling All Modern-Day Abolitionists

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

Humans are being bought and sold for labor and sex all over our world, country and here in California.

In the last decade, many organizations, agencies and government groups have formed to combat this dreadful crime. However, with continued challenges of globalization and the use of technology, the fight against one of the world’s most profitable criminal enterprises is not yet over.

California is home to three of the thirteen FBI-identified high-intensity child sex trafficking regions in the nation. The Victims of Trafficking Division of WEAVE, a Northern California based advocacy and crisis center for women and men, confirms the realities I wish were not true: “The survivors we work with are reporting initial trafficking victimization between 12 and 14 years old. It is disheartening.”

Our work to ensure the rights of human trafficking victims, prevent future violence, and reach all victims has never been more challenging. Now more than ever, collaboration is the pathway to success. Our collective energy, skill, and commitment will lead the way to realizing freedom.

Today in recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, will you resolve to join me in this fight? Anti-trafficking organizations have many needs, affording us numerous ways to get involved:
  • Volunteer your time and skills at a nonprofit or agency. Organizations in every county need assistance with public relations, training, office work, graphic art, fundraising and awareness, and outreach efforts.
  • Donate care package items such as backpacks, sweats, underclothing, journals, shampoo, and bus passes. Most agencies need help meeting the basic needs of trafficking survivors.
  • Donate money to help fund a local anti-trafficking program.
There is a long way to go until all of California experiences freedom, but if we each play our part, we can end this battle.

Portrait of Julie Nauman
Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hiding in Plain Sight

Working to Raise Awareness of Human Trafficking this January
By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

It’s sad but true: here in this country, people are being bought, sold, and smuggled like modern-day slaves. They are trapped in lives of misery—often beaten, starved, and forced to work as prostitutes or to take grueling jobs as migrant, domestic, restaurant, or factory workers with little or no pay. (FBI; Human Trafficking Prevention, 1/10/12.)

A visual from CalVCP's Tumblr blog,
"Human Trafficking is about Exploitation".
January marks the observance of National Slavery
and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
As we enter a new year, I cannot think of any story more horrific than the trafficking of children and adults who are sold over and over again throughout this country and around the world. Now, with the growth and popularity of social networks and Internet chat rooms, the technology has inadvertently helped traffickers expand their reach by luring vulnerable boys, girls, men and women from their homes with promises of a better life, only to exploit them and turn them into modern-day slaves.

As we have become more aware of this heinous crime, we are beginning to see just how widespread with now epidemic proportions this has become. These victims are everywhere: in factories, restaurants, elder care facilities, hotels, housekeeping, child-rearing, agriculture, construction or landscaping, food processing, meat-packing, cleaning services and the commercial sex industry.
From mid-2010 to mid-2012, California's human trafficking task forces identified 1,277 victims. However, that number is believed to be only a small fraction of those actually affected.

Human trafficking generates billions of dollars of profit each year, making it one of the world’s fastest growing criminal activities. Human trafficking activities exist and cross over into other criminal areas as well, including organized crime, crimes against children and gangs. Human trafficking can affect the quality of life for all of us.

While the majority of human trafficking victims are from other countries and may speak little or no English, approximately one-third of victims are Americans. According to the recent report, “The State of Human Trafficking in California 2012," released by the Attorney General’s office, California is one of the nation's top four destination states for human trafficking, believed to be a $32 billion a year global industry. From mid-2010 to mid-2012, California's human trafficking task forces identified 1,277 victims. However, that number is believed to be only a small fraction of those actually affected.

While we hope that victims of human trafficking will come forward and seek the assistance so many desperately need, yet we realize that often, many victims are too scared to come forward out of fear of retaliation or from embarrassment. This is why outreach and education are so important, so that as a community we can recognize the warning signs and help these victims. Many times, victims of trafficking display warning signs such as acting fearful, tense, depressed, submissive, or paranoid, avoiding eye contact and may appear malnourished and defer to another person to speak for them. They also tend to show signs or physical and/or sexual abuse, confinement or torture, and work excessively long and unusual hours, often with a pimp/manager.

We must, as concerned citizens of California and of the United States, do our part to help the thousands of victims that are all around us. By becoming more aware of people that surround us in our every-day activities, we may be able to help curtail this growing problem and save victims of this horrendous 21st century crime.

To report suspected trafficking or connect with anti-trafficking services in your area, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888.
Portrait of Julie Nauman
Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.