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Human Trafficking in Suburban Grocery Stores

cool movie scene


A brief rant about the reaction to human trafficking.


Last week, I came across a Facebook status that really and truly should not have been shared at all. However, the content created such an emotional uproar that things got out of hand quickly; several thousand shares and like and comments later, people were no longer discussing the topic of the post, but rather attacking Obamacare and gun control laws. What in the world…?!


misinformed white woman


Now read the post, then hear what I have to say. Make sure you go over everything twice in order for everything to sink in properly. I am not here to criticize this woman’s story, but I will point out how misinformation can spread exponentially, especially in regards to the issue of human trafficking.
Myth #1: Human trafficking is in Cedar Rapids.

Reality: Human trafficking can be found anywhere in the United States and all around the world. It is not just reduced to sex trafficking, either – the food we eat and the electronics we use are more than likely rooted in forced labor in many countries. This means that every time we buy chocolate, coffee, cell phones and laptops, we have made some contribution to human trafficking.


Myth #2: You will be kidnapped while grocery shopping.

Reality: While kidnapping does happen out there, human traffickers are more likely to prey upon runaways, illegal immigrants and teens who talk to strangers online.


Myth #3: Having a CCW and taking a self-defense gives you the upper hand.

Reality: For those of you who are still uncomfortable with running your errands, here are a few tips that have been derived from the methods that human traffickers may use while trying to pick up a victim in a public place…

1. Someone compliments your eyes. If a stranger (usually a man) tells you that you have pretty eyes, just look at him confidently and say, “I know, thank you,” and keep walking. Why? Human traffickers target women with low self-esteem. If you’re confident about who you are – and you should be! – then the trafficker will quickly move on to find someone else. While this may deter other men from trying to ask you on a real date, you can still rest easy that you won’t be pulling a gun on anyone today (and possibly missing).

2. Someone wants to meet you alone. While common sense should be screaming, “Stay in a group! Say no! Stranger danger!” I just thought that I should add this little ditty in case you really do feel as if you are being followed: Stay in a group, say no, and definitely tell someone about stranger danger. Store clerks and security will definitely help you out if you feel unsafe, so please do not hesitate to ask for help. I used to work a very late shift in a not-so-great neighborhood, and security was always happy to walk me to my car if I felt uncomfortable venturing into the parking lot alone.


Myth #4: Life is like a scene from “Taken.”

Reality: NO ONE IS GOING TO INJECT ANYTHING INTO YOU AND THROW YOU INTO AN UNMARKED VAN. People are taught to worry about the creepy guy in the van, but what we should really be concerned about is the nice guy online.


Fortunately, the Grand Rapids police finally stepped in and released a statement that this was only a rumor. This may have angered a few people, but that’s probably because they didn’t know the really facts about human trafficking and how to end it! You are so clever for checking in with us, and know you can pass this knowledge on to your panicked friends.


clever doctor!


Please remember that being informed and making the right decisions as a consumer are the two most important characteristics of being a modern day abolitionist! For more information, please visit our site to read more articles, talk to us and view some very informative videos about what else you can do to help children worldwide.


Courtney M.

Board Member

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Ethical, sustainable & repeatable

Ending human trafficking requires out of the box thinking, a departure from traditional roots in activism and counseling and into business models (yes I’ve been reading a whole lot lately about business).

The model to end human trafficking must be ethical, sustainable and repeatable. It must involve education, empowerment, counseling, faith and economics. The people involved in human trafficking & abuse must be given improved educational and economic alternatives so as remove themselves from the cyclical nature of the crime.

Here’s what I mean. Traffickers don’t just wake up one day and decide to sell human beings. It’s a crime of economics that they employ to make money. Through their socio-cultural upbringing they escalate through smaller level criminal-enterprise to one day end up in the business of buying and selling people. They have a business insight that was somehow corrupted, somehow criminalized during their upbringing.

What if we find out that traffickers first engage in criminal money-making enterprise in 6th grade. If 6th grade was the first time that they earned money illegally. To a 13 year old kid, earning money legally or illegally is a big deal. Now what if we could put in an intervention at 5th grade, one that exposed the child to legitimate ways of earning a living. Say some sort of scripted entrepreneurship intervention. If we can get to the kid and show him that one can legally earn money before the streets show him the illegal methods; what could happen?

Could we intervene in the trafficking process before it even happens thus negating the entire system of abuse?

In dealing with trafficking victims, what if we can intervene during the formative years when a child may be engaging in potentially dangerous situations. If we can offer that child an alternative from seeking attention in the wrong places while educating her about potentially dangerous situations; could we then intervene before she’s victimized?

Unfortunately the model for such thinking doesn’t exist yet. It’s going to take a whole bunch of people to figure it out & it has to be ethical, sustainable and repeatable. We need to be able to duplicate this model widespread to truly end trafficking.



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Cause & Effect

I won’t comment on my viewpoints on Ohio’s governor. This blog isn’t a place to be remotely political. The political arena is not a place to debate human rights. There is no debate. Human trafficking is wrong. It is a violation of the very principles of human existence. With that being said I am proud of Kasich, Ohio’s Governor and his new fight against human trafficking.

I will say that I am concerned about his approach. His viewpoint is to lock up the offenders and throw away the key. Nowhere in any of his speeches does he talk about trafficking survivors services, safe houses, medical treatment or trafficking prevention programs. His rhetoric is one of reacting to human trafficking. I hope that we are proactive towards human trafficking.

We often compare things to cause & effect. Americans (myself included) are focused on effect. What actually happens. We look at the little girl who has been sold and our heart just breaks. We want to imprison the monster who did this to her. We want him to be jailed forever and to never see the light of day again.

Unfortunately that viewpoint does nothing to bring down the system of human trafficking. We have one of the largest prison populations in the world. We spend more on incarcerating each individual than on educating that same individual. If there is one thing we learned over the past twenty years, prison is not a deterrent. Locking up someone and throwing away the key does nothing to stop the crime. It is a punitive system rather than a preventative one.

So about this time I’m accused of being soft on crime. No, I’m realistic about crime. If we really want to stop human trafficking we shouldn’t just look at the effects of this heinous act; we need to look at the causes.

Trafficking exists because of economic and educational disparities.

Traffickers get into this business because there is quick money to be made, and a lot of it. But they also get into illegal enterprise as many of them have no other option ( more on this in a future blog). People need to be able to support themselves if they can’t they will turn to crime. Traffickers also get into this as schools have failed them. They were never taught about effective ways to legally earn a living. They were never taught about human rights, self respect or self efficacy. They were never taught.

Trafficking victims were never taught about the possibilities of human trafficking in school. This is the third largest crime worldwide, students are taught about guns and drugs but mums the word on slavery. Most believe that it ended with the final shot of the civil war.

So as we talk about locking up the perps and throwing away the key., we also need to include long term education, socialization and rehabilitation for both victim and trafficker. We also need to put in place large scale educational programs giving students the skills they need to avoid such situations; both in terms of trafficker and victim.

The key to ending human trafficking long term isn’t a dramatic speech on a podium surrounded by law enforcement; threating traffickers. The key to ending human trafficking is to view the entire system as one of cause and effect.

To end the effect, counteract the causes. Never fixate on the problem, focus on the solution.

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Project Safe:

Project safe is one of the next items of business for The Imagine Foundation and I’m very excited about it. We have two amazing volunteers beginning to work on it and I can’t wait to see it come to fruition.

Project Safe: Saving Adolescents From Exploitation

When it comes down to it kids aren’t taught about risk factors on the Internet, human trafficking, forced labor or slavery in general.

Teachers, counselors and principals aren’t aware of identifying factors or what to do if they suspect the exploitation of one of their students.

In time Project Safe will help to curb the supply side of human trafficking. It will empower the youth to take control of their lives. Prevention goes a long way.

We see an instructional dvd in teen friendly language, an interesting and interactive website, educational materials and identifying and assisting materials for educational staff.

Children are our future, it’s our responsibility to teach them.

Do you want to help out? We sure could use it. We’re looking for funding, every little bit helps. We’re looking for contacts in law who might want to be associated with the project, celebrities who might be interested in lending their name. Trust me, you can make a difference. Thank you for your support.

Lets make Cleveland safe for our kids




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The first step

Over the past week I was lucky enough to meet with five amazing individuals. Each one of them heard of us through our work on The Cleveland Backpage Report. Each one of them took it on themselves to e-mail us. Each one of them has now taken their own first step into making the world a better place.

One person is interested in helping to organize our yearly Yoga for Freedom trip, one delivered copies of The Cleveland Backpage report to the mayors and police chiefs of implicated areas. Another young lady wants to help to organize her religious community and yet another wants to promote an educational project for local kids.

Many people look at The Imagine Foundation and ask “what are you going to do to end child slavery”, we look right back to say “work with you”.

The simple fact of the matter is we’re a small local non-profit with big dreams. We are nothing if not for those who volunteer with us, those who are willing to work for the freedom of others.

If you’re thinking about taking that first step, do it.

Together we can do amazing things.

Together we can end slavery.

Freedom for all




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It’s hard to hear

Recently we had a booth at a local event and a gentleman came up and started reading our information. He didn’t know that human trafficking and slavery still existed. He stepped back for a moment when he read the reports regarding Ohio.

Awareness is the first step, but it’s not the only step. In order to make the situation right, we must commit ourselves to figuring out the solutions.

We’re working on this report about human trafficking in N.E. Ohio and it seems that the areas with the largest probabilities of human trafficking also have some of the largest concentrations of school age children.

Solution #1: Protect our kids.

Our schools are vulnerable and we need to correct that. Every school in N.E. Ohio needs to be equipped with the information to identify and assist a child victims of human trafficking.

We’re going to call it Project Safe: Save adolescents from exploitation.

The goal is to equip every school in our area with a 20 minute dvd outlining what they can do and a binder of information to do the same.

Right now we don’t have funding, but hopefully soon that will change.

Our children are the future and they must be protected.

There are problems in the world, but there are also solutions.

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