218 – How to Strengthen the Human Trafficking Prevention Conversation

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Dr. Sandie Morgan and Dave Stachowiak review a 2018 Policy brief produced by the Society for Community Research and Action. It offers a guide to strengthening the human trafficking prevention conversation and allows us to review best practices.

Key Points

  • Raising awareness alone is not sufficient to prevent human trafficking. It must be used as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy rather than in isolation.
  • Encourage human trafficking task forces to place greater emphasis on primary prevention.
  • Six Characteristics of Prevention Strategies:
    • 1) Strengthening individual knowledge and skills;
    • 2) Promoting community education;
    • 3) Educating providers;
    • 4) Fostering coalitions and networks;
    • 5) Changing organizational practices;
    • and 6) influencing policy.
  • Facilitate primary prevention efforts by supporting community stakeholders’ collaborative use of data and corresponding approaches for addressing known risk factors. Ensure Justice 2020 is designed to build community stakeholder collaboration!


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Dave [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number 218, How to Strengthen the Human Trafficking Prevention Conversation.

Production Credits [00:00:10] Produced by Innovate Learning, maximizing human potential.

Dave [00:00:31] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie [00:00:37] And my name is Sandie Morgan.

Dave [00:00:39] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in ending human trafficking. Sandie, one of the places we can make the biggest difference is on prevention. And we talk about prevention often, you and I, with many guests who mention the word prevention. It is, however, one thing to say prevention. It is another thing to actually prevent human trafficking. And today, I think we’re going to look at some of the distinction between that and how we can really be even more proactive and intentional with this work.

Sandie [00:01:13] Oh, I like that. That’s a great lead into this conversation. We probably did the most early conversation back in podcast 52, and we were focused on prevention of cyber exploitation. And we introduced a model that’s very simple to predict what the harm might be, devise a strategy to protect, and then practice that strategy. And we made the analogy of brushing your teeth. If you eat candy, we can predict you’re going to have cavities. So, what can we do to protect you? We can intervene and teach you how to brush your teeth. Not once, not twice, but every single day. So, practice, practice, practice. And when we look at the health care model, public health model for prevention, we usually identify it in three categories: primary, secondary and tertiary. And to make that very, very simple primary is there’s no disease. You have no problem. So, what can you do to avoid getting a disease? I remember when my grandpa got throat cancer and lung cancer and he told my sister and brother and I never smoke. So, he was doing primary prevention. He didn’t want us to pick up a habit that might lead to a very serious health consequence. So that’s primary, no disease, but we’re still going to take action. Secondary prevention is when we see early signs of some problem and we intervene early. We learn all the time in public health education, get this test done, make sure you have your mammogram done, because we want to find the problem as early as possible. That’s secondary prevention. It’s really associated with early intervention. So, if we’re talking about child trafficking and we see some signs that are risk factors, we would want to start a program, a plan, a strategy to intervene in that. And then the third, tertiary segment, is when there is already an established experience, either a health consequence or in our case, we know for sure someone has been trafficked, labor trafficked, or sex trafficked. And now our focus is on cure and care. And we’re going to focus mostly on the first two primary and secondary I think today though, Dave.

Dave [00:04:08] Indeed, and Sandie, you’re highlighting in this conversation for us a policy brief. This is from July 2018 that was produced by the Society for Community Research and Action, and it offers a guide to strengthening the human trafficking prevention conversation. And we’ve reviewed this, and you’ve really dived into some detail and there are some key statements that stand out, and there’s a few of them that I’d like to highlight and get your thinking on this.

Sandie [00:04:39] Okay.

Dave [00:04:40] The first statement is: “raising awareness alone is not sufficient to prevent human trafficking. It must be used as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy rather than in isolation.” What strikes you as being so key about that statement?

Sandie [00:04:58] Well, for me, you know, I’ve been working in the anti-human trafficking field for a very long time. I’ve gone to probably thousands of events. And most of the time the focus has been downstream. Here’s what’s happening. And, you know, we’ve used I love using the term downstream because we have often used the illustration of people at the picnic who suddenly look over at the river and see babies in the water and they form a line to go and rescue the babies. And finally, somebody says, we got to find out how these babies are ending up in the water and they go upstream. And that’s when we start the conversation about prevention instead of intervention and rescue. And the policies, the policies that we need to promote comprehensive primary prevention efforts that address known risk factors for victimization, use multi-tiered strategies. And I love that because in our Education Department in California, that multi-tiered strategy is finding language in our public schools to address all kinds of risks for our children. And it’s very simple for me to think that we can engage in that project, those those programs from the perspective of prevention of human trafficking, especially when it impacts our children or the families of our children. And here in the United States, we know that we have foreign nationals who are working in very exploitative, if not trafficking situations. And how can we do a better job of prevention from the country of origin as well?

Dave [00:07:02] I’m struck by that analogy you used of the upstream and downstream. And I think that there is sometimes the tendency to get fixated on that as an either or, right, as far as different partnerships and organizations of going in and rescuing or going in and doing prevention. And really, if we’re looking at this holistically, this is an end, right? It’s about doing both well. And ultimately, if we can get to a place where we’re mostly working in prevention, what a wonderful place that would be. And now it’s just part of what I’m hearing you say is it’s getting beyond a bit of awareness and getting actually into things that really do prevent the behaviors that might lead to trafficking.

Sandie [00:07:43] And that’s a lot more work, Dave. That’s a lot more work because we break the cross sector, or maybe that’s not the right word. We look at vulnerabilities in a contextual, layered approach. So, we want to look at what are the vulnerabilities at the individual level, what are the vulnerabilities in a neighborhood or family level, and then ultimately at a societal level. So, if you’re looking at an individual level, you can talk about child sexual abuse, you can talk about exploitation in the media. We look at things like homelessness and gang involvement. Lots of the things that we’ve talked about on this show a lot. And then we start looking at the neighborhood perspective. And family is the smallest unit of a neighborhood, but the whole all the adults around children, when we’re talking about child trafficking and all of the people in the neighborhood become a community that is the base of either protection and prevention or may actually be a community that breeds abuse and exploitation. So, if you’re in an immigrant community and you don’t understand your worker rights, that is a vulnerability that we have to look at as a as a factor we could engage in prevention. We also want to think about it at the societal level, because I love my Live2Free students at Vanguard, they are the best at understanding and communicating the demand for cheap goods. Their Fair Trade Fashion Show this year absolutely was so empathetic to people who are labor trafficking victims, people who are exploited, and that exploitation then increases their vulnerability to more exploitation. And it becomes a cycle and looking at societal understandings of the roles of men and women and how law enforcement works in that community and resources, there are so many pieces. So those are three aspects of kind of an onion layered approach to understanding the vulnerabilities, and that goes a lot further than awareness at an event with the five signs of human trafficking.

Dave [00:10:26] Yeah, indeed. And well-intended, but not always driving a difference in behavior change, right? And so, I think that’s a good lead in to one of the other statements that really leapt out at us from this policy brief, which is: “encouraging human trafficking task forces to place greater emphasis on primary prevention.” Tell me more about that.

Sandie [00:10:50] Well, I think that means that we have to actually educate our task forces on what primary prevention really is. And we haven’t given them clear guidelines. And prevention often has been more about community awareness so we can create a safe climate. I’ve done those speeches in our public communities here and across the nation. But the evidence-based practices that support a data driven approach look for assessing the vulnerabilities and implementing research informed prevention strategies. And so those strategies have six characteristics, and I’m going to list them here, but we will put them in our show notes so that if you’re driving, you don’t have to memorize. I mean, go back and review, and review is good because it cements it in your thinking. And these six characteristics, these are the conversation that will move the prevention conversation forward. So those six strategies, number one, strengthening individual knowledge and skills. How do we move our prevention so that we’re actually looking at the knowledge and skills that support prevention? And promoting community education. So, one of our goals at the Global Center for Women and Justice, we’ve been doing this and kudos to Vanguard University for helping us put on Ensure Justice that promotes community education. We bring people, experts in the field, like the last podcast speaker, Jody Quas, and before that, Heidi Olsen. These are the kind of topics that need to be part of the conversation that promotes community education. And then educating providers. Most of you know, I’ve been doing evaluation with task forces. I’ve been doing assessments in different nonprofit communities. And what I’ve learned is that providers, not all of them, have the same opportunities for training. You may have very strict requirements because you’re at a federal agency. County and state requirements may differ. Nonprofit sector, NGOs, may have many opportunities, or they may have fewer opportunities that’s often driven by what their budgets will allow. And sometimes resource scarcity is a challenge. So, educating providers has to be one of the strengths, the pillars, of primary prevention. And then number four, fostering coalitions and networks. This is my favorite part because I love overlapping networks. If anybody has ever heard me speak, I’m always talking about overlapping networks. And I love the image of crossing all these different lines. And it creates a safety net, which is exactly what prevention is all about. So how do we build stronger coalitions and networks? And that may require that we look at number five, changing organizational practices. And you’re the guru of leadership and organization. And maybe you can tell me why some organizations are a bit resistant to changing their practices and being told from the outside what they should do.

Dave [00:14:44] Indeed, every organization is resistant to changing their practices. I’m resistant to changing my practices when I think about eating better and exercising. And so, it’s really no different for an organization. So, you know, Sandie, one of the things that I often make invitations to the leaders in our listening community to do is to take a first step and to find a small win and an early win. And that actually relates directly to one of the things I was wondering, as you were mentioning all those strategies is I suspect that it’s very, very common that the task forces, and I know that we have many people listen to the show that are part of a task force, either formally or informally. And they have been doing the awareness events, and they do believe strongly in prevention. And they’ve heard us talk about that and others. And they’re all in. And yet if in reflecting on it, they think, well, yeah, we’re probably doing more awareness than we are really, truly prevention. When you reflect on this and your work with the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force over the years, what would be a good first step, an early win, just as a beginning point that would be useful for a task force that’s never done much of this before, the prevention piece, the primary prevention to begin with?

Sandie [00:15:57] Wow. That is such a good question. An early win. I think an early win would look like a nonprofit asking the question about how to plug in to prevention and asking for guidelines that will support data driven best practices in primary intervention. And one of the reasons that would be an early win is there are a lot of nonprofits that don’t provide services. And so, they’re not formal partners with a federal task force, but they are community stakeholders, and they can become active in an area that law enforcement and victim service providers are overwhelmed often with all of the investigations and the lengthy victim service requirements. So, when those overlapping networks, the growing coalitions, begin to take on some of that responsibility, not just as volunteers to do events and things, but actually learning what primary prevention in human trafficking looks like and understanding the difference between labor trafficking and sex trafficking, and just setting a goal this year to do one thing that is a primary prevention strategy.

Dave [00:17:31] And you said a moment ago asking the question, when you think about asking the question, is that the task force asking the question of themselves and engaging with the community, or is there someone else, some other entity organization that may be asking that question of them? What does that look like?

Sandie [00:17:48] Well, for me from a federal task force perspective, but really, anybody in the community, there are stakeholder opportunities in your public education. There are stakeholder opportunities at the community level, city council, all of those things. But from a federal task force perspective, every task force is required to demonstrate competency in prevention, protection and prosecution. So, finding out what your task force leaders need to be able to document prevention, that’s going to become a bigger conversation. And I think that it’s definitely something that as the director of the Global Center for Women and Justice, and we do Ensure Justice, which is targeting primary and secondary prevention, I think we can begin to help facilitate this conversation. And at the risk of spamming our inbox, I want your input on what you think primary prevention looks like in your community and how can we provide better opportunities. I think one of the things we need are rubrics. My students, when I give an assignment and I don’t give them a rubric, they’re kind of floundering. But a rubric says, oh, I have to have one topic sentence, three supporting statements and a conclusion and an application. Then they know what to do. And I think that’s something that this community, this audience, you all have a lot of experience, you can give us what you think that rubric might contain.

Dave [00:19:34] The super helpful. And one of the invitations I’m hearing you make, too, is if a task force finds themselves not knowing even where to start on that, that perhaps even reaching out to us, it could be a starting point as far as what that question is. And we said at the end of the show most of the time, but the email address for that is feedback@endinghumantrafficking.org. And if that’s the action that will have you and your task force taking that very first step, we’d be happy to help facilitate the beginning start of that process and what that looks like.

Sandie [00:20:02] And let me do the sixth characteristics.

Dave [00:20:05] Oh, sure. Sorry.

Sandie [00:20:05] So characteristic is influencing policy. Influencing policy. And so, if you made this into a pyramid and you started with, number one, strengthening knowledge and skills, that’s foundational and then growing it in community education and then adding to that educating providers and fostering coalitions, changing organizational practices, and influencing policy. It looks a little like a Maslow’s Hierarchy for creating a movement, and the ending human trafficking movement should have a strong basis to influence policy. So, when you have an opportunity to go to your city council, when you have an opportunity to vote, when you have an opportunity to speak up and be an advocate, then you’re standing on really solid ground.

Dave [00:21:07] So helpful. The third statement that really jumped out at us on the brief is this: “facilitate primary prevention efforts by supporting community stakeholders, collaborative use of data, and corresponding approaches for addressing known risk factors.” And I know that’s one of the focuses of the upcoming Ensure Justice conference, Sandie, is designed to build community stakeholder collaboration, right?

Sandie [00:21:35] That’s right. And having experts that bring their data, their research data, to show us this is working. Sometimes we do things because it’s the way we’ve always done it. And if we reached out just a little further, we might find that there’s evidence from documented practices that have been evaluated and we could learn a new way to integrate a new idea, a new practice that will make our efforts more effective. And there’s actually a database of evidence-based practice registries. Isn’t that amazing? We can look at that and see who’s doing research, informed practices, and what are they learning? And I could just go along doing my trial-and-error method and only depending on what I learn in my surveys and in my my center, or I can take advantage of literally national and global research that’s out there. And when we share that data, we all benefit.

Dave [00:22:49] Okay. Two things I’m curious about that. Number one is how do you get access to that practically? And then secondly, what does data look like beyond the data, the primary research that a researcher may be doing? Because I’m guessing there’s also other data points that community leaders, partners, folks in health care, and schools might contribute there as well.

Sandie [00:23:11] Oh, my goodness. That’s a fabulous question. We’re going to have to have somebody on this show that’s an expert at all the different ways of doing research, because maybe it’s not dinnertime conversation for everybody else, but it’s inspiring to me. So, the registry that I mentioned is public access, and we’ll put the link in our show notes. But the idea of shared data– I saw a labor trafficking presentation a couple of months ago where they took three public access data points that had to do with visas and agriculture and census data and laid them over each other. So, they took the overlapping sectors and were able to show a picture of where we might find more labor trafficking victims of agricultural labor trafficking. Now, that was all public access data that if one person tried to collect all of that on their own, it might be the next decade before we’d see anything out of that. But this is existing research, and those kinds of opportunities are out there and there are research institutions that that’s what they do. They love asking questions and trying to figure out what fits here and what fits there. I think it is helpful to us to look for those opportunities, to find who’s doing that, read their work. It doesn’t mean we have to apply it because some people say, well, they’re coming from a perspective that I don’t agree with. You don’t have to agree with everybody to look at the data and find out how that might be useful to you and build this whole idea of more networks and coalitions. We can have coalitions and networks that are around supporting our schools. We can have coalitions and networks around supporting our immigrant communities. We’ve talked about that in the past. So how do we use data driven intervention data to help us support our community stakeholders? And I do want to emphasize Ensure Justice is a great place to begin to meet the people that represent cross-sector stakeholders in anti-human trafficking. This year, we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the U.N. Protocol on Trafficking. Both of those are an opportunity for us to step back and look at a couple of decades and see where we have come from and where we need to go. One of the plenary sessions will be a decade of juvenile justices looking at what commercial sexual exploitation of children has been like in Orange County under three different judges, the progress we’ve made and the progress we still need to make.

Dave [00:26:32] I love your invitation you made a moment ago to invite us, Sandie, to think like we may not necessarily agree with the way everyone does something, but we can still learn from them. And I think about what you said earlier about overlapping networks. So, you have just been so masterful in your work of not only professionally but personally of building relationships and finding points of agreement, even if there may be disagreement in many other areas of being able to create partnerships that are able to find that agreement. And you were gracious a few months ago to come on the Coaching for Leaders podcast and talk about your philosophy of overlapping networks. And so, we’ll include a link to that in the show notes as well. For those who’d really like to hear more from Sandie from a leadership standpoint of how she really does that, because I think you’re really masterful at doing that and so much we can learn by following your example.

Sandie [00:27:22] Well, my biggest ask for people as we launch this new decade is that they take our mantra for the podcast very seriously, study the issues, be a voice, make a difference, and go beyond what you already know. Read something that is new. Look for opportunities to compare what you’re doing with what’s happening with another task force, with another school district. Find out what you might be able to integrate in your network, your coalition that will move prevention further. And I’m talking about prevention primary, they never get trafficked. And secondary, if they are in this dream, we get them out right away.

Dave [00:28:19] Sandie, you made the invitation a moment ago for us to read something new. There is an easy, simple way to do that. I know exactly where people can go. Go to endinghumantrafficking.org and download a copy of Sandie’s book, The Five Things You Must Know: A Quick Start Guide to Ending Human Trafficking. If you haven’t yet read that before, it’s a great place to start on a new framework that will give you the five critical things that we’ve identified in our work that you should know before you join the fight against human trafficking. You can get access right now by going over to endinghumantrafficking.org. And for more information on the conference upcoming, just very shortly from now, March 6th and 7th, 2020, go over to ensurejustice.com for all of the details. Sandie will be one of the speakers as well as an incredible line up again this year. Thank you, Sandie, for all the leadership you’ve offered us over the years of the conference. I’ve got really excited to see it come together again this year and we will see you all again in two weeks. Thanks so much for your time. Thanks, Sandie.

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