Freedom Week brings awareness of human trafficking, domestic violence signs

Published 10:14 am Tuesday, October 17, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

The Jefferson State Community College Chilton-Clanton campus focused on awareness and prevention of human trafficking in Alabama and intimate partner violence during Freedom Week.

Human Trafficking

During the presentation on Oct. 16, Freedom Week founder Wendy Shuffett of the Jeff State Shelby campus said human sex trafficking is an issue in Alabama.

One Shelby County victim “slept in her own bed every night. She went to school during the day, so the parents had no idea,” Shuffett said.

Shuffett said it is also becoming as issue at the high school level, especially in northern Virginia, as children are groomed to be trafficked.

“Grooming is a relationship that develops between a girl or a boy and an older individual who establishes an emotional connection with them and a financial connection with them,” Shuffett said.

This process, according to Shuffett, often begins at age 13. It is subtle in the beginning as the trafficker give the girl several gifts. Once the girl enjoys the gifts, the trafficker pushes for a sexual aspect of the relationship. This grows into the trafficker asking the girl to perform sexual favors for others for money.

Warning signs of human trafficking include: a sudden increase in money and expensive clothes, unexplained absences from usual activities, sexualized behavior, frequently falling asleep in class, new tattoos, brags about having or making a lot of money, becomes withdrawn, depressed or distracted.

Tattoos are used by traffickers to brand victims.

“A lot of prevention is just awareness,” Shuffett said.

Traffickers are jealous, controlling and violent, older than the victim, encourage victim to do things that are illegal, pressure for sex, are vague about their profession and make the victim feel financially responsible for him.

Shuffett encouraged those who are in a trafficking situation or knew someone who is to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

Intimate Partner Violence

Shayla Hughes of Safe House in Shelby County spoke on intimate partner (also known as domestic) violence.

“It’s a pattern, frequent or widespread incidents that include harmful and fear-inducing behaviors demonstrating power and control over a partner,” Hughes said. “It’s a choice and it’s a learned behavior.”

Intimate partner violence is not just physical abuse. It can also include emotional and psychological abuse through control, limiting educational opportunities, using the Bible or another religion’s text to keep victim in the relationship, stalking or digital harassment through texting or social media, limiting access to finances and sexual abuse.

Hughes said a psychological abuser will do things to make the victim think he or she is going crazy.

“One in three women and one in four men have been victims of domestic violence,” Hughes said. “On average, three women are murdered daily due to domestic violence.”

She said these statistics are similar for those in the LGBTQ community.

“They don’t have to be weak and they don’t have to be helpless to be in this situation,” Hughes said.

IPV is an issue that anyone from any background or income level could face. Hughes said it does not solely stem from anger or substance abuse. Another myth about domestic violence is that the victim deserves to be abused.

It usually takes a victim seven attempts to finally leave an abusive relationship. Hughes said this means friends and family need to be patient rather than judgmental when a victim returns to an abusive relationship.

There are several barriers, financial and otherwise, that keep a person from being able or willing to leave an abusive relationship.

Possible signs of domestic violence include “phone conversations brief when partner is around or has to constantly check in when away from partner, partner criticizes and embarrasses them in front of others, partner makes all the decisions: finances, of when or where to go, they frequently talk or make comments about partners, jealousy, bad temper or possessiveness, has visible injuries.”

Those who have a friend or family member that is a victim of domestic violence can help, Hughes said, by being empathetic, speaking against victim blaming and pointing victims to community resources that can help, rather than giving advice about something they haven’t experienced.

Safe House is one such resource. It provides an emergency shelter, counseling and legal services for those leaving abusive relationships. Its 24-hour crisis hotline can be reached at 205-669-7233.

IPV for foreign-born residents

Intimate partner violence can look different for those living in the United States, who were not born here.

Tiffany Lockett of Asha Kiram, an organization that works with foreign born IPV victims, said it includes isolation from family members, blocking access to important paperwork, threatening to get the person deported and keeping them from learning English. This could also include destroying the only possessions they have from their native country.

“An undocumented immigrant has just as much right to be safe and have access to services and emergency care just as much as you and I do,” Lockett said.

She encouraged students to work on being “cross-culturally competent” to understand how a person’s culture impacts their response to abuse.