After all the heaviness of the last few columns, here is a lighthearted glimpse of the long running sitcom of my life which my dear husband lovingly refers to as “Life with Lucy.”
One of my responsibilities as the AmeriCorps United Against Opioid Abuse local coordinator is to update the United Council on Opioids (UCO) Facebook page. During CoVid, our goal has been to maintain a daily dose of positive, encouraging messages to lift the spirits of everyone who LIKES the UCO page as well as keep them aware of events that promote recovery, treatment and prevention of substance use in our region.
During this process, I have been reminded why the longsuffering technology support staff at Twin Lakes referred to me as the “Black Hands of Technology Death.” At one point, as I recall, all four of the technology staff had rotated through my office shaking their heads in wonderment and dismay at whatever my current technology foible happened to be. God bless them! They never said a disparaging word (to me), and valiantly persevered until whatever chaos I had inadvertently created this time, was resolved.
With this in mind, I warned my boss of my past technology failures when she gave me this new assignment. She naively waved away my lack of success and gave me a five-minute training on scheduling posts on Facebook. And off I went.
Part of the challenge for my current task is finding appropriate, non-offensive, family friendly memes to share. Being a middle-aged cultural dinosaur, did not help this process. My very kind, more hip than me, boss, gently instructed me on some current slang, people and situations that might be offensive to many, even if the picture was hilarious. Along the way, I learned that any acronym using the letter F is most likely NOT acceptable. Even now, I marvel at the combinations!
Another misstep involved scheduling and ensuring a new post appeared every day on the correct page. There are important details involved in not posting a week’s worth of posts in one day.
A side benefit was that scrolling through the endless Facebook posts of others, looking for materials to share, was considered a good use of my shelter at home CoVid quarantine schedule.
And then came Zoom! After co-hosting a Zoom call with Indiana Youth Institute earlier this spring, the hosts graciously showed me some Zoom tips on break out rooms, screen sharing, polls, assigning someone to man the chat box in the background, etc. Through the school of hard knocks, I quickly learned that most embarrassing technological snafus* could be solved with a thirty second Google search AFTER the meeting was over. I am happy to report that I am currently able to appear fairly Zoom competent. Happily, I can utilize a virtual background to hide my incredibly messy home office and use the mute button at appropriate times to avoid embarrassment for myself and family members. As a colleague bemoaned at a recent Zoom meeting, “Once we get good at this, we won’t be Zooming anymore.” Here is hoping that is true!
*OOPS! There’s that F again!
To join the fun, please LIKE the UCO Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/UCOwhitecounty or join one of our United Council on Opioids task force groups. It is good clean fun and worth your time.
July 30 has been declared World Day Against Trafficking in Persons by the United Nations. This is the last of a three-part series looking at Human Trafficking. In the past two articles we have looked at what human trafficking is and common myths and misconceptions related to trafficking. Today we will examine what can one individual do to prevent human trafficking.
Awareness is always the first step in prevention efforts. Being aware of who is vulnerable, traffickers’ recruiting methods, and ways to provide protective factors can be an effective method of prevention.
Youth, in general, are particularly vulnerable, especially those experiencing family violence, recent relocation, homelessness, a need to be loved, poverty, and/or drug use. Traffickers prey on desperation, targeting those in need or those who lack strong support systems. They look for disadvantaged youth, and then provide shelter, food and clothing; through these necessities, traffickers develop a strong, trusting, “loving” relationship with the victim. Traffickers may introduce their victims to drugs to create an additional dependency on the trafficker. Once the victim believes the trafficker is the only one they can trust and rely on, the demands for labor or services begin, often with phrases like, “after all I have done for you, can’t you just help out this once…” Once the victim complies, their cooperation is used to shame and humiliate them into further service and prevent them from leaving.
Online, traffickers use similar strategies to develop a relationship over time with the individual through a grooming process. Teenage girls are frequent targets. It may start out innocently enough. “You are so pretty.” “You should be a model.” “Send me a picture of yourself. I know someone who can help you get started.” “Meet me someplace so we can talk about it.” In four or five texts, the trafficker has maneuvered the individual into a dangerous situation, but youth may not recognize the red flags. Or perhaps the target feels uncomfortable with what they are being asked to do but may be hesitant to talk to anyone because they are afraid or embarrassed to admit what is happening. Teenage girls are often lured by older men who pretend, at first, to have fallen in love with them.
As we have discussed before, the involvement of a supportive, nurturing adult in the life of a child or youth is a powerful prevention strategy against many of the perils facing our youth. When interviewed after escaping trafficking, many trafficked youth indicated that if there had been one supportive, trusted, nonjudgmental adult in their life, they believe they would not have been as vulnerable and could have avoided being trafficked. Becoming involved in a child’s life as a teacher, friend, or mentor is a powerful prevention strategy.
Parents’ involvement is another crucial protective factor. Parents may notice subtle changes in their child that can be early warnings that something is amiss. Be aware of who your child is hanging out with. If their friend group changes, ask questions. Teach your child safe online behaviors. Be aware of their online activities. Reassure them that if something happens causing them to feel uncomfortable, they can talk to you and you will listen without judgement. Help them set up protective privacy settings on their devices and develop an exit plan if others make them uncomfortable or are sharing personal information about them. Teach them about safe, appropriate sharing practices for their pictures and personal information. Teach them to NEVER do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable online.
For those who prefer anonymity, the CyberTipline: 800-843-5678 is a 24-hour hotline providing information on how to deal with online issues and connects with agencies who can intervene.
Trafficking can happen here. Being aware of the problem and knowing how to protect our loved ones makes a difference.
If you suspect someone is being trafficked or notice suspicious activity, call the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans hot line: 888-373-7888, the ICE tipline: 866-347-2423, or text HELP to BeFree (233733). For more information on human trafficking go to humantraffickinghotline.org
Last time we began our discussion on human trafficking and its frequency. There are several myths and misconceptions surrounding this issue. (These are compiled from a variety of sources: www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign; www.acf.hhs.gov; unitedway.org; https://blog.theexodusroad.com)
Many people believe that the majority of human trafficking is enacted by strangers. In reality, only nine percent of trafficking is perpetrated by a stranger. Half of victims are trafficked by an immediate family member or family friend, twenty-seven percent by a boyfriend, and fourteen percent by their employer. Ninety percent of trafficked persons had a relationship with their trafficker before being trafficked. Family members who were trafficked themselves often traffic other family members, viewing trafficking as normal.
Many traffickers groom their victims for a period of time before coercing them into trafficking. They use what is missing in a person’s life to recruit them. They offer false job offers, empty promises to take care of them, or necessities like shelter, food, and clothing. This makes it difficult for the victim to recognize or resist the coercion because of all the trafficker has done for them.
There is a misconception that all trafficking is related to the sex trade. But the International Labor Organization estimates that in 2012, there were more than four times as many children trafficked for forced labor than for sex. Trafficking is referred to as modern day slavery. Although the sex industry does use trafficking to recruit, many other legitimate and illegitimate industries utilize trafficking to obtain workers. These include restaurants, health and beauty, hospitality, construction, forestry, domestic work, and agriculture. Even major worldwide industries may partner with companies that utilizing trafficking. The website Knowthechain.org ranks corporations on their policies on trafficking and other social issues.
Hollywood has popularized the notion that trafficked individuals are locked in basements in third world countries. Although traffickers may use confinement to hold their victims, most traffickers use psychological means such as intimidation, humiliation, defrauding, manipulating, or threatening victims to coerce them to continue. Many victims are afraid to seek help fearing retribution to themselves or family members.
Another misconception is that trafficking must involve transporting victims across state or national borders. Trafficking can occur without the victim leaving their neighborhood or home. Human smuggling, however, is defined as moving a person across a country’s border without that person’s consent in violation of immigration laws. But an individual doesn’t need to be smuggled to be a victim of trafficking.
Another myth about trafficking is that all traffickers are men. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, seventy-two percent of convicted traffickers are men. The females comprising the other twenty-eight percent were often victims themselves and viewed trafficking as an escape from being trafficked themselves.
If you suspect someone is being trafficked or notice suspicious activity, call the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans hot line: 888-373-7888, the ICE tipline: 866-347-2423, or text HELP to BeFree (233733).
Next time we will discuss what an individual can do to stop trafficking.
As we think about summer celebrations and days of remembrance such as Memorial Day, Flag Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day, there are lesser known days of remembrance that do not garner as much attention. One of these is July 30, the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons declared by the United Nations.
The reader may wonder how trafficking relates to the substance use issues normally addressed in this column. Substance misuse is to connected to Human Trafficking on several levels. Thirty-six percent of trafficked youth were trafficked by family members, often to obtain drugs or money for drugs. Traffickers may also give their victims drugs to make them more compliant. People involved in substance misuse are also more vulnerable to being trafficked.
U.S. law defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel a person into labor, services, or commercial sex acts against their will. The most frequent definition of trafficking requires there must be an action, means and purpose. The action of trafficking includes recruiting, harboring, transporting, obtaining, patronizing or soliciting a person. The means could be through force, fraud or coercion. The purpose of trafficking could be for labor, services, or commercial sex conduct.
According to the July 2020 issue of Trauma Times, a publication of Indiana State Dept of Health, human trafficking is the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the world, generating roughly $150.2 billion worldwide. The US State Department estimates that twenty-seven million people worldwide are victims of some form of human trafficking, but because trafficking is an illegal underground issue; it is incredibly complex and underreported.
The Polaris Project (Polarisproject.org) states that more than 10,000 cases of human trafficking were reported in the United States in 2018. Eighty three percent of trafficking victims in the United States are US citizens.
This may seem like a faraway problem that doesn’t happen locally. The Indiana 2016 Attorney General’s Report on Human Trafficking indicates that there were 170 trafficked youth in Indiana in that year alone. Indiana is considered a hub for trafficking because of our central location and ease of access through interstate highways. Indianapolis hosts major sporting events such as Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400, NCAA championship games and even the Super Bowl in 2012, which create opportunities for trafficking. During Super Bowl XLVI, authorities initiated 168 human trafficking investigations.
In a recent presentation to the Indiana Youth Institute, Morgan Donatelli-Bow from Indiana Youth Services Association stated that Human Trafficking has been reported in every county in Indiana.
Trafficking is affecting our country, state and county in ways you might not suspect. Next time we will discuss myths and misconceptions surrounding human trafficking.
If you suspect someone is being trafficked or notice suspicious activity, call the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans hot line: 888-373-7888, the ICE tip line: 866-347-2423, or text HELP to BeFree (233733).
Last week, we discussed Anticipatory Grief in response to CoVid, a terminal medical diagnosis, or having a family member involved in substance use. It is grieving for what is not yet lost, a kind of rehearsal or progressive letting go in preparation for an unknown future.
How do we cope with, or prepare for a future that is constantly shifting and changing? One of the ways people cope with anticipatory grief is to become hypervigilant, having a heightened sense of alertness, constantly looking for potential threats. We may find ourselves anticipating the worst when someone coughs or sneezes in a public place or a loved one is running late.
Others describe it as an impending sense of doom, dwelling on the worst possible outcome. Staying in this mindset, quickly overwhelms and paralyzes into inaction and despair.
We may find ourselves numb and avoiding interactions with others, distancing ourselves from the situation and others. Responding to simple questions like “How are you?” may leave us overwhelmed. We may feel shame or embarrassment that we are not handling the situation as we think we should. This conspiracy of silence keeps us isolated and alone, often perpetuating the hopelessness and uncertainty.
Others may find that self-medicating with food, sleep, substances or activities provides a distraction from the situation.
None of these strategies are helpful in the long term. What are some healthier ways to deal with the uncertainty?
A good first step may be accepting the fact that we are not in control of the situation. Often we have very little control of our circumstances or other people. But there is one thing we can control: our thinking and attitude. A wise friend once told me: “You can’t control the thoughts that pop into your head, but you don’t have to invite them to sit down and have a cup of coffee.”
This sounds so simple, but is extremely difficult to do. We must first notice or identify our negative thoughts, really listening to the self-talk that is going on inside our heads. Phrases like “they always” or “she never” can be key words to listen for. Assuming we know someone else’s thoughts or motivations or making sweeping overgeneralizations are also a red flags. Once we notice these thoughts, we need to challenge then with examples that prove them not true. For example, “Jane never helps me,” can be countered with, “Last week, Jane offered to go to grocery for me, and I told her no. I wonder if she would be willing to pick up a gallon of milk for me when she is at the store.” OR “No one cares if I live or die,” might be challenged with “I haven’t heard from anyone today, but Sam called me yesterday. Frank sent me several texts on Monday. My neighbor left some garden produce on my porch. People do care about me.”
Getting outside can be extremely helpful. Going for a brief walk or sitting in the sun can be powerful in helping reset our attitudes and thinking.
Connecting with others through phone calls or even texts can help, if face to face visits are not possible. Surrounding ourselves with people who are happy and positive definitely impacts our mood.
Being patient and kind to ourselves and those around us: this is uncharted territory for all of us and we all cope in different ways.
Noting the triggers that cause anxiety or fear: if consuming too much media increases stress or anxiety, try limiting exposure. Make it a goal to be aware, but not consumed by the constant barrage of news and social media.
Helping someone else is a sure way to improve our outlook. We will make their day better and ours as well.
Take care of basic needs such as healthy nutrition, and adequate sleep and hydration. Engage in activities that bring joy and peace. Breathe.
If we find ourselves continually struggling with the uncertainty, checking in with our health care provider may provide necessary guidance and support.
We can only control what we can control, and finding that distinction is key.
Lynn Saylor is the AmeriCorps member working with the United Against Opioid Abuse Initiative alongside the White County United Way. She is a major facilitator of the United Council on Opioids serving White County and a regular contributor to local media.