VS.: Confronting Modern Slavery in America
By Athena Eastwood, Chair VS. Board
VS.: Confronting Modern Slavery in America is a targeted campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking in the United States, provide legal resources, share innovative models, and support legislative reform to prosecute traffickers, prevent modern slavery and protect victims.1 Our unique model of advocacy and coalition building is centered on the belief that we can have a broader and more informed impact – through improved legislation and victim services – if we work together.
Human trafficking has become a global epidemic. While many are aware of the atrocities committed abroad, some are not aware that human trafficking exists here in the United States. In fact, there are estimated to be hundreds of thousands of trafficking victims in the US today.2
Countless organizations and individuals are working tirelessly to put an end to this injustice, but they often work in silos within the medical, legal, enforcement, political, and social services fields.
VS. is a coalition builder. VS. exists to help those individuals and organizations that work around the clock for change. We believe that by helping these champions of change – by bringing them together to share their stories, their innovative ideas, what has worked and what has not worked – we can expand their impact and significantly improve legislation and victim services. VS. is a unique model for advocacy centered on the belief that we can have a broader and more informed impact if we work together.
We encourage you to peruse the website to see what VS. has been doing. You will find an extensive array of resources (including the VS. Resource Guide), interviews with leaders in the field, like Dr. Holly Atkinson (Director of the Human Rights Program at Mount Sinai Global Health), and United Nations Ambassador, Luis CdeBaca (Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons), an extraordinary exhibition created by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Taro Yamasaki, and a moving performance by Grammy Award-winning artist, Marcus Hummon.
In May 2014, VS. was invited to the Sacramento Film Festival for its production of the film, “To Build Strong Children” – a film about Kenneth Morris of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiative (“FDFI”). Ken is a direct descendant of Frederick Douglass and has leveraged his unique ancestry into a powerful anti-trafficking educational model for middle and high school students. VS. was with Ken when he became the first man to win the Ida B. Wells award from Women eNews this Spring. Watch the film trailer.
This year, we are spotlighting the work of Attorneys General who are serious about combating trafficking in their states. We hope that you will take a few minutes to watch our interview with Attorney General Pam Bondi (June 2014) as she discusses her innovative work in Florida to get tough on traffickers and increase awareness among Florida’s police officers and local businesses.
Want to walk the talk? VS. is launching a broad mobilization effort to encourage and train pro bono attorneys to represent victims of trafficking in newly formed diversion programs. Many states have passed legislation that enables victims of trafficking, who may previously have been convicted on prostitution charges, to set aside those verdicts so that they can focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into a healthy life. Now we need attorneys who are willing and able to be victim advocates.
We invite you to become a regular visitor to our newest feature – the VS. blog – through which we will communicate breaking news and innovative developments by the many champions of change with whom we are fortunate to collaborate.
We hope that you will be inspired to reach out to us with your suggestions for creative new models, collaborative solutions, and a willingness to join us in the fight.
The United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol, which is organized around the 3P Paradigm to prosecute, prevent, and protect. ↩
Polaris Project, see http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/overview; see also the US State Department’s Trafficking in Person’s report 2013, available at: http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2013 ↩