Child Victims of Sex Trafficking Receive Mixed Messages: If We Aren’t ‘Aggressors’ Then Why are We Arrested?

Op-Ed piece written by Dr. Karen Countryman-Roswurm, Center for Combating Human Trafficking and Linda Smith, Shared Hope International In February, Kansas Judge Michael Gibbens came under fire in national news for claiming that two girls, ages 13 and 14, acted as “aggressors” in a situation of exploitation in which a 67-year-old male, Eugene Soden, paid them to have sex. While public reaction to Gibbens ruling was appropriately harsh, the reality is that his decision is reflective of a much larger societal and legal paradox. Informing his ruling, Gibbens made multiple statements that less harm was done to the girls because he felt they had acted “voluntarily” and were paid. In speaking of the 13-year-old, Gibbens questioned: “So, she’s uncomfortable for something that she voluntarily went to, voluntarily took her top off for, and was paid for?” “I wonder, what kind of trauma there really was to this victim under those peculiar circumstances?” As a society, we must ask, why did money sanitize what, in any other circumstance, would be considered child rape? And more concerning, how did the exchange of money shift the narrative so dramatically so as to characterize children as aggressors in the crime of which they were victims? The answers lie in the paradox in which victims of child sex trafficking are legally apprehended and consequently, socially stigmatized.  Twenty-five states, including Kansas, still allow commercially sexually...

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Survivors of Child Sex Trafficking are Never the Aggressors

Survivors of Child Sex Trafficking are Never the Aggressor

February 13, 2019 by Karen Countryman-Roswurmand Kalynn Cheyney Joint Statement by the Center for Combating Human Trafficking and Shared Hope International on Sentencing by Kansas Judge Michael Gibbens Under Federal and Kansas state law, persons who purchase sex from minors commit child sex trafficking; in fact, Kansas law specifically criminalizes such conduct as “Aggravated Human Trafficking.” Therefore, by definition, minors who are purchased for commercial sex are victims of sex trafficking. Yet in 25 states, including Kansas, an alarming legal paradox exists that oftentimes prevents child sex trafficking victims from being identified and treated as victims of the heinous crime. A February 3, 2019 sentencing by Kansas Judge Michael Gibbens has once again reminded us of the detrimental status of our nation’s non-criminalization laws. In reducing the sentence of a 67-year-old buyer, and referencing the 13 and 14-year-old victims, Judge Gibbens stated, “So, she’s uncomfortable for something that she voluntarily went to, voluntarily took her top off for, and was paid for? . . . . I do find that the victims in this case in particular were more an aggressor . . . [t]hey were certainly selling things monetarily that it’s against the law for even an adult to sell. . . . Normally, I would think that the harm that would have been done by this kind of conduct would very, very substantial. I’m not convinced that that is so in this case.” This...

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Love not Lockup Graphic on Gray Background

Love Not Lockup

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. During this month, the Wichita State University Center for Combating Human Trafficking (CCHT) provides opportunities for community members, leaders, and multidisciplinary professionals to learn more about issues related to human trafficking.

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Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Announcement: CCHT Schedule of Events for Human Trafficking Awareness Month 2018

Per Presidential Proclamation, January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. At CCHT, we believe this month of focused awareness offers the opportunity to engage, educate, and inspire our community to combat abuse and exploitation. Ultimately, we hope to move our communities beyond basic awareness, toward purposeful action. With this in mind, we are thrilled to have partnered with a number of local businesses and organizations to offer a variety of awareness events. We hope that you will join us in both attending and spreading the words about these opportunities. Human Trafficking Dialogue Thursday, January 4th Breakfast at 8:45 AM, Meeting at 9:10 AM Progressive Missionary Baptist Church 2727 E 25th St. North Open to Ministerial League and Community   Hosted by the Greater Wichita Ministerial League, this panel discussion will feature representatives from the WSU CCHT, 18th Judicial District, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), The Governor’s Social Services Policy Council, and Pure and Simple Health Education, Inc. Wichita Women in Health Professions Human Trafficking Awareness Month EventTuesday, January 23rd at 5:30 PM KU School of Medicine, Sunflower Room1010 N. Kansas Free and Open to the Public Hosted by the Wichita Women in Health Professions, this event is intended to raise awareness about human trafficking and local initiatives to best prevent and identify abuse and exploitation. Panelists include...

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We want to hear from you.

Announcement: Human Trafficking Awareness Month Art & Writing Contest

We love working alongside youth through our Prevention to Prosperity: ThriveTM Program. We know you are full of big, creative ideas and we want to hear from you! If you are 14-18 years old and living in the Wichita Metro area, you can are eligible to participate in our Human Trafficking Awareness Month Art and Writing Contest. Winners will not only win great prizes, but be featured on our blog and at our 2018 Human Trafficking Awareness Month Events.  Art Contest At the Center for Combating Human Trafficking (CCHT), the Lotus™ Anti-Trafficking Model guides our work and programming. This model is named after the flower that grows through mud and dirty water before blooming into a bright, exceptional flower. At CCHT, we believe the lotus is a symbol of determination and perseverance. Participants are free to express themselves through any medium to illustrate the meaning of the Lotus flower. Writing Contest In no more than 500 words, participants are asked to answer one of the questions below. Writing can be formal or creative form. What does it mean to overcome?What does it mean to be an ally? To Enter Deadline for entry is December 15, 2017. Contests are open to teens, ages 14 to 18, in the Wichita and surrounding areas. To enter, submit entry form along with finalized project. Entries can be mailed, emailed, or submitted in person. Pick up can also be arranged by calling CCHT at (316) 978-5061. In Person:...

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Justice for Hope

Justice for Hope

In the name of stealing away what few moments I can for reflection and restoration, I have remained fairly quiet on social media over the last couple of months. But today, I cannot remain silent. Today, I cry out for justice. Today, I plead with my community, I beg you—particularly those of you who have claimed commitment to anti-violence efforts, to rise-up for Hope. Representative of the majority of survivors I have walked alongside over the last twenty-two years in the anti-trafficking movement, Hope is a young lady whose vulnerabilities in life were preyed upon and exploited. A minor victim of human trafficking herself, Hope remained under the control of a perpetrator who, as typical in trafficking situations, utilized her social media account to attempt contact with one of her peers. Thus, while the attempt was unsuccessful, and the perpetrator never made direct contact with nor exploited Hope’s peer, such interaction is deemed as “recruitment” under the action element of the crime of human trafficking. For this, there is an opportunity to prosecute Hope for human trafficking. For this, Hope—our daughter, our sister—who she herself was abused and exploited while in our state’s system of “care” and “justice” is charged. As Hope did not behave as the “perfect victim,” but rather acted in a manner resulting from the trauma-bond formed with her perpetrator (typical for the great majority of human trafficking survivors) and without the proposal of alternatives, she was...

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