Modern slavery is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world. And no matter where you live, chances are it’s happening right down the street. From the girl forced into prostitution at a truck stop, to the man discovered in a restaurant kitchen, stripped of his passport and held against his will. Polaris, named after the North Star that guided slaves to freedom in the U.S., disrupts the conditions that allow human trafficking to thrive in our society. From working with government leaders to protect victims’ rights, to building partnerships with the world’s leading technology corporations, we spark long-term change that focuses communities on identifying, reporting and eliminating trafficking networks. Our comprehensive model puts victims at the center of all that we do -- helping survivors restore their freedom, preventing more victims, and gathering the data to pursue traffickers wherever they operate. Unparalleled expertise. Relentlessness. And an innovative spirit. This is how Polaris eradicates the slavery networks that rob human beings of their lives and their independence. Freedom happens now
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Stop human traffickers and help survivors find support
Imagine a young woman who ran away from an abusive home, with no one to turn to. When she met a man who promised to take care of her, she trusted him. But instead of helping her, he abused her and forced her to sell sex. She felt trapped. She wanted a way out, but believed no one could help her—until she found out about the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline and was able to call for help. A trained hotline advocate ensured her safety, presented her with options, and ultimately connected her to a local service provider. Now, she is overcoming her trauma, enrolling in a community college, and beginning the long process of recovery. In 2015, more than 1,600 survivors of human trafficking reached out to the NHTRC or Polaris’s BeFree Textline to get services and support. But hundreds of thousands more have no idea these lifelines exist and desperately still need help today. And although more than a dozen states post the NHTRC hotline number in public venues where survivors can see them, many still don’t. Attorneys General play a unique role in responding to and stopping human trafficking in their state. One critical step that can truly make a difference is publicizing the national hotline. And it works: five years ago, after the National Association of Attorney General (NAAG) promoted the hotline through a national initiative, call volume increased by up to 200% in states where the hotline was widely publicized by the state Attorney General’s Office. Not only does promoting the hotline help more victims find support, it also helps law enforcement arrest more traffickers. Once the NHTRC learns about a case and receives permission from the victim to intervene, they can provide tips to local law enforcement who then arrest and prosecute the traffickers. The NHTRC has sent more than 6,500 tips to local and federal law enforcement. According to an independent study from Northeastern University, “the most important provision to increasing arrests is requiring the National Human Trafficking Hotline number to be posted in public places.” That’s why we need you to tell your Attorney General to share the NHTRC hotline number in your state. By taking this simple step, states can can stop traffickers from harming more people and help survivors find the services they need. (Model in photo is used for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Mats Silvan, Getty Images)
Kids Not Criminals--Pass Safe Harbor Laws
Tracey’s life changed forever on a walk to the corner store. She was 15 and trying to get a few minutes of peace away from her abusive home. A guy she knew from around the neighborhood pulled up next to her and asked if she was ok. He offered her a ride and listened to her talk about how much she wanted a new life. After a few months of “courtship,” Jay began to get abusive and forced her to engage in commercial sex. When she wanted to stop, he and his friends beat and raped her. Before long, even though Tracey was a victim of child sex trafficking, the local police arrested Tracey for prostitution and placed her in juvenile detention. Tracey’s future dimmed. She was getting punished for an act that she couldn’t even legally consent to. She was a kid who needed help and support, but she was being treated like a criminal. I’m Director of Client Services for Polaris Project, an organization dedicated to ending human trafficking. Tracey’s story is the story of girls I work with every day. Tracey is a kid, not a criminal. She didn’t deserve to be locked up. There are better policy approaches and better options, ones that literally save the lives of children and teens. Safe Harbor laws are that better option. These laws define these sexually exploited children as victims of abuse, help them find protection and support, and grant them immunity from prosecution for prostitution while they are under 18 years of age. Safe Harbor laws also can increase funding for specialized services like long-term housing, mental health care, educational support, and job training to help these children recover. Thirty-nine states lack these basic Safe Harbor protections – including Texas, Michigan, Nebraska, and Louisiana. Every state can do more to increase services for child victims of sex trafficking. According to national estimates, there are 100,000 children in the commercial sex trade in the United States. Safe Harbor laws help all of these children get the care they so desperately need. Polaris Project is trying to make 2013 the last year a 15-year-old can be tossed into jail and treated like a criminal despite being a victim of commercial sexual exploitation. I cannot believe these laws have not been passed in every state. I cannot believe any lawmaker—any person—would look at an abused 15-year-old and think: jail. We must do better. Your signature tells your state legislators that you support these kids and support Safe Harbor laws to protect them. Thank you. Sincerely, Carolina De Los Rios, PhD Director of Client Services Polaris Project polarisproject.org *Tracey’s story is the story of the 100,000 kids who are hurt by commercial sexual exploitation. To protect our clients, we’ve woven together a few of their stories.
U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe: Co-Sponsor the TVPRA
Human trafficking hurts residents of Maine—in 2011 the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) received nearly 50 calls from the state alone, including calls from Augusta, Belfast, Farmington and Ogunquit. Today, to prevent human trafficking in Maine and protect those who survive it, ask Senator Snowe to co-sponsor the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. She has supported previous bills and we need your help to encourage her to join the ranks of Senators supporting this vital legislation. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act, introduced in 2000, greatly increased America’s efforts to protect victims, assist survivors, improve prevention methods and successfully prosecute traffickers. Even though the TVPA has been reauthorized three times by bipartisan majorities, it was allowed to expire in September of 2011. Below are some of the provisions included in S. 1301 that would better protect victims. - Encourage the distribution and posting of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline number within federal agencies as well as by states; - Create programs to assist minor victims of sex trafficking through grant programs to states; - Create programs to help foreign governments investigate labor recruitment centers where trafficking victims may be recruited; - Prohibit the provision of peacekeeping operation funds to countries that use child soldiers. Maine residents are hurt by the scourge of human trafficking and Senator Snowe should demonstrate her support for those victims by co-sponsoring the TVPRA today.
Urge Governor Abercrombie to help victims of sex trafficking
The Hawaii legislature recently passed important anti-human trafficking legislation, SB 2576, that will allow victims of sex trafficking to live their lives free of legal repercussions for crimes they committed as a result of being trafficked. Tell Governor Neil Abercrombie to help trafficking victims by signing this critical legislation into law.
Marylanders: Please Help Bring Human Trafficking to an End in Maryland!
The 2011 Maryland Legislative Session ends on April 11th and your help is needed to help move several important human trafficking bills before it is too late! These important bills will clamp down on the brutal crime of human trafficking, help victims, provide new investigative tools to law enforcement and increase the penalties for human traffickers. But your help is needed to urge the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to move these bills forward! There are several ways to help. In fact, a 30 second phone call to your legislators can make an incredible difference. You can find out who your legislators are HERE (be sure to click the box for House of Delegates and State Senate). The names of your senator and your 2-3 delegates will appear on the left hand side. Here are the bills: - SB 247 and HB 418: Asset Forfeiture for Convicted Human Traffickers Human trafficking is committed for one reason: profit. This legislation provides for the forfeiture of assets derived from or used in connection with human trafficking activity. Proceeds from the assets are directed into the newly created Anti-Human Trafficking Fund, for grants to law enforcement and victim service organizations to respond to human trafficking. In 2010 and in 2011 this bill passed the full Senate unanimously. In the House, however, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee refused to bring it to a vote in 2010, and without strong support from the public he may do the same this year. - SB 299 and HB 345 - Human Trafficking – InvestigationsThis bill will add human trafficking to the list of exceptions to the one party consent law to allow wiretapping and electronic surveillance during a human trafficking investigation. Crimes now excluded from the ban on wiretapping include child pornography, rape, and murder, among others. - SB 327 and HB 266 - Human Trafficking Victims Support Act (2 parts)Vacating Convictions would provide for the removal of any convictions for commercial sex for anyone later found to be a victim of human trafficking under state or federal law. Restitution to provide courts with the authority to order that a defendant pay out his gains from labor or sex trafficking to the victim, or compensate the claimant for his or her losses. - HB 674 - Education - Human Trafficking - Awareness, Training, and Distribution of Materials This bill will require the State Department of Education, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, to provide awareness and training for the Directors of Student Services in local education agencies on human trafficking. This important bill will help educators and school employees to better recognize the signs of human trafficking. - HN 1304 - Human Trafficking in Truckstops This legislation will require rest areas and truck stops in Maryland, key locations for sex trafficking crimes, to post the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (888-3737-888) in bathrooms, so victims may access help and tipsters can report anything they find, confidentially, 24 hours a day. Click here to visit our action alert. Photo Credit: M.V. Jantzen
Take action to end human trafficking in Nevada
The Nevada General Assembly is considering legislation to help combat human trafficking, and your help is needed! A critical bill to help victims of sex trafficking to restart their lives has just passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee, and we need to keep the momentum going. Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. Traffickers reap billions in profits by using force, fraud or coercion to rob victims of their freedom through labor or commercial sex. Experts estimate that there are a minimum of approximately 5,100 to 60,500 people trafficked into and within the U.S. each year and an estimated 100,000 American children who are prostituted within the U.S. each year -- a brutal form of human trafficking. In Nevada, victims of sex trafficking and involuntary servitude include US citizens, foreign nationals, minors and adults. Traffickers and pimps force and coerce victims into commercial sex, and require them to meet a daily quota or be subjected to additional abuse or torture. Victims are often forced to provide commercial sex in massage parlors, brothels operated in residential homes, and on the street where pimps control and sell victims for sex. Victims are commonly advertised on internet sites like Backpage.com and sold to many men in a single night in hotels or motels or at truck stops. This brutal crime is happening in Nevada – but you can help to combat it by taking action now. Critical legislation, AB6, which will help victims of sex trafficking, has just passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee and will now head to the full floor for a vote. Your help is needed to ensure its passage!
Tell the Department of Labor to release its list of goods tainted by slave labor
With the reauthorization of Trafficking Victims' Protection Act (TVPA) in 2005, the Department of Labor was mandated by Congress to compile a list of goods produced by forced labor or child labor and the countries where they were made. It is now four years later and the department has yet to release this list to the public. The list is designed to identify problem products (seafood, steel, textiles, etc.) and the countries where they are produced. Its release would provide consumers and shareholders with leverage to fight slavery worldwide. Empowered with this information, individuals could use their buying power to hold companies accountable and pressure them to rid their supply chains of slave labor. In December, the newest reauthorization of the TVPA, the William Wilberforce Reauthorization Act, gave the department until the end of this year to comply with the mandate. However, due to the foot-dragging of the last adminstration's Secretary of Labor, the list is already long overdue. We must hold this administration to its promise of transparency, and demand the release of this list to the public now. Let the Department of Labor know that we will not wait any longer, and urge them to take the steps toward eliminating modern-day slavery. Please take action by signing and adding your own message below (as individualized letters are more effective than form letters), and sending it to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis today.
Tell the Washington Post to Stop Supporting Brothels
Update: On the heels of Craigslist's shutting down of their adult services section and Backpage.com's lawsuit from a child trafficking survivor, The Washington Post has announced they will no longer run ads for massage parlors. The announcement comes after over 3,400 Change.org readers and several NGOs complained that these massage parlors are often fronts for human trafficking operations. The WaPo's decision exemplifies the continued trend of businesses making socially responsible decisions The Washington Post is one of the few remaining large U.S. newspapers that accept advertisements for massage parlors, many of which are thinly veiled, legal fronts for brothels. The women in many of these brothels are lured by human traffickers under the guise of a legitimate job but then forced into prostitution, subjected to manipulation and false promises, threatened with harm to family members, and/or coerced through debt bondage. The Washington Post is one of the primary sources used to find these types of brothels in DC Metro Area, through ads in the Sports section. The Washington Post's disregard for this reality and lack of action to stop the ads makes it complicit in sex trafficking and sexual violence against women. Most other well respected newspapers, including The New York Times, Boston Globe, and Los Angeles Times have long banned advertising for certain massage parlors, spas, and other related fronts because of their connection to brothels. However, The Washington Post is not only turning a blind eye to the victims of human trafficking in brothels, but also profiting from advertising them. Help end The Washington Post's support for and advertising of brothels by letting them know that it is unacceptable and inexcusable, and that they should stop advertising for them immediately. Please take action by signing and adding your own message below (as individualized letters are more effective than form letters), and sending it to The Post today.