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A Field or a Social Movement?

Mona and I have officially finished our time on the road. During our last phase we were on the road through the western states (California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Montana, Washington and Oregon). The last few weeks went by faster than we imagined they would and were even more hectic than any of the previous seven months. Each day was packed with meetings, and on the weekends we made our way to our next destination. We of course took some time to stop through a few of the most incredible national parks in the U.S..

On my way from San Francisco to Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego I took the beautiful 101 highway, part of which runs down the coast of CA, through San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. I had to stop on the coast to appreciate how far we had come in our work. Having begun in Indiana, working our way south, up the east coast, the great plains, the mid-west and finally finding myself back at home in California, driving down one of the most beautiful coasts in the U.S..

In southern California I attended the Orange County Task Force meeting, spoke with Community Protective Services in Santa Ana, the Mary Magdalene House in Los Angeles, the LA County Juvenile Probation Office and the LA District Attorney’s Office. In San Diego I met with the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition, More than Purpose and plan to speak with the San Diego Police Department, as well as a counselor from a San Diego school district who is working towards preparing schools to address the issue of commercial sexual exploitation of children.

From San Diego I made my way to Arizona, where I would pick up Mona from the airport and continue on with meetings in Phoenix with the Catholic Charities Dignity Project, the International Rescue Committee and Girls Scouts of America, Arizona Office.

The variety of agencies we have met with over the course of our work have proven to us how imperative it is that all agencies are aware of this issue, not just those who have been ‘trained’ on human trafficking.

I wanted to speak briefly about a conversation I had the other day with the Executive Director of the SAGE Project, Ellyn Bell and Case Manager, Donna Sinar.

I stopped by the SAGE Project office in San Francisco to pick up some case studies for a separate book project I am working on in regards to human trafficking. I was speaking more about the direction my work is going in this field of anti-human trafficking and Ellyn became very interested in the fact that I called this a ‘field’. I have already learned over time how important it is to pay attention to language, because it is language that often shapes individual views on this issue. As I have spoken with agencies over the course of my work I have learned to change the language I use multiple times.

The point that Ellyn made to me was that as soon as we stop referring to this human rights abuse as a ‘field’, but rather as a ‘social movement’ we may find more individuals willing to get fully trained and educated on how to work to prevent and combat this issue. However, as long as we continue to identify this as a social movement, we engage communities around the world on the topic. We can engage various agencies in the conversation and encourage them to step up and do something.

A social movement by definition is a type of group action; they are large groupings of individuals or organizations that focus on specific social issues. Since this is a modern movement, organizations and individuals utilize technology to mobilize the global community. Is this not exactly what we are doing?

We cannot go to school and easily get a masters degree, or Phd in the field specifically focused on anti-human trafficking. We would have to enter it from another profession depending on our education and interests. So over the course of this work, Mona and I have seen people coming into this movement from the fields of criminal justice, sociology, film, journalism, art, technology, law, social services, hospitality, education, healthcare, etc. You name it and someone is most likely figuring out a way to include their profession in this movement. This is precisely what so much of our work has been focused on over the past eight months. We are discovering how many different agencies, organizations and individuals are involved, or trying to join this social movement across the country.

It is fascinating. There is so much passion to combat this issue. The most important conversation I believe we can have now, however, is how do we ensure that all of these actors become engaged in the most responsible and productive way possible?

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Author: Ali Wolf

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