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Selah Freedom CEO says trafficking victims are ‘sold for sex between 15 and 40 times a day’

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Selah Freedom CEO, Elizabeth Melendez Fisher

January marks Human Trafficking Awareness Month, a 31-day period when dozens of organizations and advocates enlighten the public on the “modern day slavery” happening in their own backyards. While the #MeToo movement has become the forefront of sexual harassment crimes the global epidemic of sex trafficking continues to get swept under the rug. With efforts of foundation’s like Selah Freedom lead by Elizabeth Melendez Fisher, who’s been instrumental in providing residential programming, outreach, and prevention for survivors, there is certainly progression towards ending the exploitation.

We spoke with Fisher recently to discuss some of the alarming statistics, major targeted areas, and how her foundation works to get the victims back on track after the traumatic experiences.

What prompted you to launch Selah Freedom and what is the focus of the organization’s work?

I did not wake up one day and say, “Oh! My purpose is to start this organization.” Rather for me, I [simply] was trying to do a woman’s event and find an underdog charity. I had just moved to Florida from Chicago and was told our local kids are being sold for sex.

Coming to Sarasota, Florida from a market like Chicago where you know your crimes –– we’re pretty notorious for what we do. To hear in Sarasota and the whole Tampa Bay region that our children are being sold for sex and purchased by our own people –– that is the definition of sex trafficking in America (Florida is number three in the country).

One out of every three little girls is being sexually abused and one out of every five little boys is being sexually abused.

They are coerced in and sold for sex [between] 15 and 40 times a day [affecting] over 300,000 of our American children at any zip code.

I literally just wanted to write a check but there was no one to write a check to –– it just snowballed. You can’t hear something like that and turn away.

Will you share with us some of the emotional and physical effects survivors deal with as a result of their trauma?

What I think is interesting is that people say, “Aren’t they choosing this?” What I can say is [most of our] survivors that have come through our residential outreach program have [gone to] drug or alcohol rehab usually around 20 times. Throwing a kid or a young adult into drug rehab to get better is the [equivalent] of trying to band-aid a symptom. The truth is until the root is healed they will just walk out of rehab and become numb again because they don’t want to think about all the things they feel. For us, the success has been really helping them get to the root and undue that trauma. We have an amazing partnership with Dr. Jason Quintal. The level of trauma these girls have is like nothing you could imagine.

How do you work to build trust with the survivors?

As I mentioned, we have a prevention arm which is to help kids from even getting into this. Our residential arm would not even have anybody in a bed if we didn’t have the outreach program. Our outreach program is literally in conjunction with: state attorneys –– judges –– courts –– law enforcement. We will sometimes pursue relationships with a girl that’s on the street, in jail, or in the court because of the circumstances of her being sold for sex.

How are health care providers, and emergency medicine physicians, in particular, uniquely positioned to help victims of human trafficking?

I think that it’s the first point of contact that walks in with the girl so if we have a girl that is needing medical care then having somebody that she trusts to go with her really helps. We trained a thousand law enforcement trainers just this past 12 months –– 40 of them in the state of Connecticut. First responders need to be trained so they can quickly shift and put on their compassion hats. If girls don’t look like victims but they are victims first responders need to change the paradigm of how they see this population. From the beginning, in 2011, cops were like, “We hate this population!” Now they are relentlessly running after them and helping them realize that they know. It was like if their daughter had something happen and they didn’t know and she ran into the hands of someone who’s been abusing her for six years on the street.

The average victim of abuse gets five to seven times of intervention before they will receive help because of the trauma and inability to understand that they need it so high.

Our girls will say it took two years of Selah telling me, “I’m worth more.” It took 20 times [before] getting me to take a bed. We have such a dedicated staff and community network in all of our markets around the country that are relentlessly pursuing these girls. It’s so hard to get them to trust –– two years of investment usually.

What percentage of recruiting happens via social media?

The percentages are increasing so rapidly. It’s interesting because a girl that’s been abused when was she’s little, now, her uncle may have used her for his fun or with a friend, and now, he [film’s] her for child porn-ups where anybody can buy it. He can advertise her through online sites where there’s code that people use when ordering a kid, almost like ordering a pizza. Many of the girls were escorted and driven into homes with people waiting to buy sex with them when they were 15 years old. Although the adult will claim, “I didn’t know she was 15!”

We have made it a commodity to buy sex anytime you want and there is plenty of places to look for it. Even with our children, the access that they have. I always tell people to beware of the power of the portal. The predators are so much more skilled on it then we are at reaching our kids.

What are some of the common trends you’ve noticed in terms of the victims the predators seek?

With international trafficking, it’s very different. Parents are deceived and they think they’re sending their kid off for this great opportunity or they can’t afford to eat so they sell a child. In America, it’s purely because of the epidemic and the secret of childhood sexual abuse.

For every girl that we’ve ever worked with, the statistics will tell you 92 percent of survivors of sex trafficking are also survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Of the 3800, that we’ve worked with since we’ve started the organization in 2011, 100 percent of the abused kids was from someone they knew. It’s impossible to have a child be sexually abused and not have affected them in one way or another. Almost every woman I know has been abused. Our prevention program is my heart and soul because I believe every kid should have an opportunity to have an intervention to shut this down before reaching that point.

What is it about Atlanta that makes it the number one hub for Human Tracking in the United States?

I think that Atlanta is the same as Chicago and New York –– major metro cities. We’ve had a lot of girls run away from other markets to Atlanta. It’s just like the other major cities, it’s shared numbers. The bottom line is anywhere you go it’s happening but Atlanta is one of the forerunners.

We have one of the organizations their called Wellspring Living, which got [sex trafficking] on the radar by noting the numbers. It’s an epidemic and it’s happening everywhere. Atlanta is a destination city.

The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, about how many of the victims are rescued?

That’s a hard question because until a few years ago they weren’t even tracking it correctly with a system for the law enforcement to identify. They were convicting people with old slavery laws. In the last six years, they’re a [number] of laws that have been changed and is drastically improving.

The numbers are astronomical and they say half a million American kids are sold in any zip code. The very tip of the iceberg is what we are finally starting to reveal. There’s never been a 7-year-old that grows up and says, ” I want to be a sex worker.”

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Kim Kardashian debuts ‘Justice Project’ trailer, addresses Mass Incarceration

“There are millions of people impacted by this broken justice system, and I wanted to put faces to these numbers and statistics. There are a lot of people who deserve a second chance, but many do not have the resources to make it happen.” – Kim Kardashian West

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American media personality Kim Kardashian West, who always wanted to become a lawyer, on Monday shared the trailer of her upcoming documentary ‘The Justice Project’.

Kardashian broke the news via Instagram to her 100m followers that her upcoming documentary will be coming out on April 5 on Oxygen.

The ‘Keeping up with the Kardashian’ star on Instagram wrote, “The official trailer for my new documentary is here! Criminal justice reform is something that’s so important to me, and I can’t wait to share these stories with all of you. #KKWTheJusticeProject premieres Sunday, April 5 at 7/6c on @Oxygen.”

The two-hour-long documentary is set to go inside four cases, including one victim of sex trafficking and a woman who murdered a family member for sexually assaulting her. All the four believed that they received unfair sentences and two of them end up being released.

See the reality star’s official press statement below:

“I partnered with Oxygen to do the ‘Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project’ documentary because there are millions of people impacted by this broken justice system, and I wanted to put faces to these numbers and statistics. There are a lot of people who deserve a second chance, but many do not have the resources to make it happen. I want to help elevate these cases to a national level to effect change, and this documentary is an honest depiction of me learning about the system and helping bring tangible results to justice reform.”

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Puerto Rico Fires 2 more Officials over Supplies found in Warehouse

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Photo by Ricardo Arduengo/ Getty Images

“There have been actions by government officials that have been completely unacceptable,” Vázquez said Sunday. She had ordered an investigation into the warehouse of supplies and nominated Puerto Rican National Guard chief Major General José J. Reyes to replace Acevedo.

Vázquez met earlier Sunday with members of her administration and they were unable to provide information she had requested about other collection and distribution centers, according to The Associated Press. She didn’t elaborate on firing Gil and Andújar, but said she had lost confidence in them.

“There are thousands of people who have made sacrifices to help those in the south, and it is unforgivable that resources were kept in the warehouse,” Vázquez said in a statement Sunday.

On Sunday, Ponce Mayor María Meléndez expressed her dismay at the situation.

“I spent several days requesting cots and water,” Meléndez said. “They sent me to Cabo Rojo for the cots and to San Juan for the water. If I had known that those supplies were there, I would have demanded that they be taken out immediately.”

When Vázquez was asked about not knowing the supplies were at the warehouse, she replied, “That’s what the head of agencies are for … to inform the governor.”

Acevedo said on Saturday that it was “insane” to imply the aid was mishandled. 

Acevedo said in a statement that after the earthquake, the warehouse had been inspected by a structural engineer who “recommended emptying it due to the damage suffered after the event.” According to Acevedo, the Fire Department Bureau removed and distributed aid from the warehouse to those affected by the earthquakes. 

“There are still pallets of food, water, diapers, and baby formula, cots and awnings in the warehouse. At no time has it been ordered to seize or destroy those items,” reads his statement.

Puerto Rico emergency supplies in Ponce warehouse
Photo by Ricardo Arduengo/ Getty Images

“It is of utmost importance to emphasize that no citizen has been denied any of the items stored at the warehouse,” he said. “At the moment there is no shortage of any of these articles and they are being distributed to the people who need it, this may be corroborated in the shelters and base camps.”

“The citizen who entered the property today, and shared the images on social networks, violated the security perimeter, which in turn, represented a risk for him. For this reason he was instructed to leave the area. Any personnel entering that structure, which is compromised, requires specific security measures to ensure their safety.”Trump signs declaration of disaster for Puerto Rico 9 days after request

A 4.7 magnitude earthquake hit Puerto Rico on December 28, kicking off a series of seismic events on the island. More than 2,000 tremors have occurred since the original quake, leaving the island’s three million people in fear, and wanting for aid. 

Puerto Ricans were waiting to see if President Trump would sign a major disaster declaration to authorize the much needed aid. Nine days after Vázquez submitted the request, the president signed the declaration. One day prior, the Trump administration released $8.2 billion in heavily restricted aid to the island.

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/puerto-rico-supplies-warehouse-governor-wanda-vazquez-fires-2-more-officials-over-viral-video-showing-aid-2020-01-19/

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2 dead, 15 hurt in Kansas City, Mo. bar shooting

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Police are investigating a shooting that happened outside a bar in Kansas City, Missouri, just before 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

Kansas City police reported a man and a woman have died at the scene. Officers said there were approximately 15 other victims at local hospitals. According to police, at least three people were in critical condition.

The incident occurred at the 9ine Ultra Lounge.

Police said a line had formed to get into the bar when the male suspect started shooting into the line of people.

Police said they believe the man who died is the gunman. Officers said the shooter was stopped by an armed security guard.

The motive for the shooting wasn’t immediately clear, authorities said.

Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas reacted to the shooting saying, “Our greatest challenges remain even this morning in our community. My thoughts are with the families and friends of those whose lives were lost or impacted by last night’s mass shooting. Thankful security appears to have kept the situation from being even worse.”

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