Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Scope of Human Trafficking In California

There are an estimated 20.9 million human trafficking victims worldwide at any given time. Astoundingly, this organized criminal enterprise ranks second only to the drug trafficking industry, generating revenues of approximately $32 billion a year.

And while most people associate the term with the smuggling of humans across international borders, the faces of human trafficking are more familiar than you might think. This modern slavery is happening not only on foreign soil but often in our very own zip codes. Would you believe that a staggering 72% of human trafficking victims identified by California’s regional human trafficking task forces are U.S. citizens?

Within the United States, California has become one of the primary transit and destination states for human trafficking victims, with the populous metropolitan regions of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego nabbing three of the 13 spots on the FBI’s report of the highest child sex trafficking areas in the nation. Unfortunately, the same factors that make California an ideal place to live and work—our large economy, commercial influence, and prime geographic location—have also provided a fertile breeding ground for the exploitation of humans.

In commemoration of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, CalVCP has released a video PSA highlighting the broad scope of human trafficking. The good news is that combatting this crime can be as simple as being aware of its existence and knowing how to respond to it. Join us this month in helping to give silenced victims a voice and shed light on the prevalence of this dark crime.

If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any activity and cannot leave—whether it is commercial sex, housework, farm work, construction, factory, retail, or restaurant work, or any other activity—call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or the California Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) at 1-888-KEY-2-FRE(EDOM) or 1-888-539-2373 to access help and services. Victims of slavery and human trafficking are protected under United States and California law.

The hotlines are:
  • Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Toll-free.
  • Operated by nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations.
  • Anonymous and confidential.
  • Accessible in more than 160 languages.
  • Able to provide help, referral to services, training, and general information.

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.

Monday, January 27, 2014

National Stalking Awareness Month

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

This January, CalVCP joins the nation in observing the 10th anniversary of National Stalking Awareness Month. In standing with President Obama’s Proclamation, we dedicate this month to “pursuing justice for victims of stalking and ensuring survivors receive the support they need.”

According to California law, stalking is defined as willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following or harassing another person. It’s not necessarily a single criminal act, but a series of actions directed at a person that causes the victim to fear for his or her safety.

Stalking can include:
  • Unwanted phone calls, texts, letters, emails, or gifts 
  • Following or spying
  • Tracking actions, location, or private information using technology
  • Spreading rumors
  • Waiting at places for victim; showing up at locations without a legitimate reason
  • Harassing victim’s friends or family
We must teach our youth that stalking is not a joke. It’s not romantic. Far too often, threats can escalate into physical assault or even homicide. It is time to dispel the many common myths that allow stalking behaviors to persist.

It’s worth noting that the word “stalking” has undergone a bizarre evolution in today’s popular culture, with modern technologies blurring the line between destructive crime and casual pastime. Trendy teenagers and young adults can often be heard joking about “Facebook stalking” their best friends or potential partners, a reference to the tracking of a person’s social media page for pictures, status updates, and other personal information. This seemingly innocuous term is in fact very dangerous, as it essentially decriminalizes stalking and minimizes the severity of a very illegal offense. Coincidentally, persons ages 18 to 24 experience the highest rate of stalking victimization. We must teach our youth that stalking is not a joke. It’s not romantic. Far too often, threats can escalate into physical assault or even homicide.It is time to dispel the many common myths that allow stalking behaviors to persist.

The following are examples of widely held misconceptions surrounding stalking:
Stalking is more than just an annoyance or unwanted attention. It’s an abusive behavior and a serious crime. By recognizing this fact and helping to change attitudes, we can better provide support and healing to victims as well as hold their stalkers accountable.

If you or someone you know is being victimized by a stalker, there are a variety of resources available to help:

Join me this January for National Stalking Awareness Month as we stand behind victims, survivors, law enforcement, first responders, advocates, and service providers in the collaborative effort to create a safer nation for all. 

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.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Changing Cultural Attitudes on Domestic Violence

By a Hmong Domestic Violence Survivor and Advocate

As a domestic violence survivor, I can honestly say that until abuse is understood by both Hmong women and Hmong men, many Hmong women will continue to say that their husbands never abuse them and many Hmong men will continue to say they have never abused their wives. Death due to physical abuse is what most of the Hmong community understands domestic violence to be, but it’s more than that. Hmong women and men need to know that death is the last stage in abuse.

Being a Hmong woman comes with lots of obligations. During a traditional Hmong marriage ceremony, the bride is given advice from clan leader, elders, and at times, the parents of the bride, on how to be a “good wife”:
  • A good wife is to be exactly as her husband, because being the opposite of him will lead to conflicts in the marriage. If your husband wakes up early, so should you. If he wakes up late, so should you. Whatever he does, you are to follow. Do not talk about your marriage problems because doing so means you are degrading your own marriage. A good wife listens to her husband and is obedient.
  • When a husband takes a wife, she becomes his responsibility. If she walks uphill, you are to follow. If she walks downhill, you are to follow. If you don’t control her and she errors, you cannot blame her. A good husband is patient with his wife.
  • A husband and wife are to be supportive of and good to each other, and love each other so both sides of the families’ relationship remain civil.
Maintaining the name of a good wife in an abusive marriage leads to depression and shattered dreams. If a woman has children with her abuser, it is another reason to endure the abuse. No one wants a broken home for her children. There are some Hmong women that have found the strength to leave, and most of these women are labeled as terrible wives, adulterers, and bad mothers. I have not encountered one woman who walked away from her abusive husband that has not been judged or labeled. Just about every Hmong woman is at fault if she decides to leave.

When educating Hmong community about domestic violence, it is very important to convey all types of abuse. Hmong women and men need to understand that abuse comes in different shapes and forms — not just physical, but also verbal and emotional. Most Hmong women would say, my husband never abused me. He’s just mean to me in the following ways:
  • He degrades me in front of other people and compares me to other women.
  • He forces sex on me. He says he is my husband and that gives him the right any time.
  • He tells me I am not smart enough so my opinion does not matter.
  • I am only allowed to visit my parents 1–2 times per year and talk to my sisters only when he can listen.
  • He checks my cell phone and my monthly billing statements.
  • I am not allowed to drive. He says he will take me wherever I want to go when he has time.
  • He says if I love him, I will let him do whatever makes him happy.
I know this because I lived with an abuser for over ten years and thought that the way a man loves a woman was how I was treated. It’s not until I met my current husband that I learned what love really feels like. Everyone, men and women, deserves to have this feeling; the feeling of being appreciated, respected, and most of all, valued.

Abuse should not be tolerated and people should be educated. Let’s work together to understand the different types of abuse so that we can once and for all, eliminate this issue, because abuse is not just happening in the Hmong community; it’s in every community, everywhere.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year Brings Renewed War on Human Exploitation

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

This January, I am honored to join Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr, the state of California, and the nation in observing National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. As stated in the Governor’s official proclamation, “we take this time to renew our commitment to ending the scourges of slavery and human trafficking, punishing those who engage in these illegal activities and aiding those who are being victimized.”
We must work together to save lives, provide healing, and administer justice for all victims.

CalVCP stands with the Governor in recognizing human trafficking as one of the greatest crimes against humanity of our time, and we rededicate ourselves to preventing and stopping a modern-day slavery that strips victims of the freedom and basic human rights guaranteed to all people by the U.S. Constitution.

As the world’s third largest criminal industry, human trafficking affects communities small and large, at home and abroad. Each year, millions of men, women, and children are bought and sold for the purposes of labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Defrauded, frightened or forced into compliance by their perpetrators, these victims often suffer in silence. You might find them camouflaged in everyday restaurants and retail establishments; hidden in fields and factories; concealed in motels and massage parlors.

Efforts to address this callous crime are often hindered by the hidden nature of trafficking activities. Thus, we must work together to save lives, provide healing, and administer justice for all victims.

During Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we stand united with trafficking survivors, celebrate our State’s efforts in combatting human exploitation, and commit to the continued fight to eradicate this despicable violation of human rights.

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.