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Human Trafficking Awareness Day – Jan. 11

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In acknowledgment of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the Alliance of Leadership & Innovation for Victims of Exploitation (ALIVE), embraces victims and survivors of human trafficking. ALIVE’S founder, Melinda Metz has a saying, “It’s about saving lives.”

Victims and survivors want and deserve a chance to start, or restart, their lives after exploitation. The opportunity to have healthy choices, to feel alive, free, liberated.

Throughout history many courageous abolitionists have battled the business model of slavery. While this human atrocity remains in its evolved form, ALIVE’s Mission is “dedicated to ending sex trafficking in the Black community, by leveraging awareness and prevention through innovative solution-focused events.”  Our Vision, “To behold a Black Community free from sex trafficking and exploitation.”   

Women and girls of color continue to be disproportionately impacted by the sex trade. Their vulnerabilities, a result of structural violence, including poverty, homelessness, lack of education and over-sexualization at an early age, make them targets for exploitation, as well as increasing the chances they will be arrested for their own victimization.

According to Johan Galtung, “structural violence” is an avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs. He introduced the term in the article “Violence, Peace and Peace Research” in 1969. It refers to a form of violence where some social structure or social institution may harm people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.

Paul Farmer defines it as “one way of describing social arrangements that put individuals and populations in harms way… The arrangements are structural because they are embedded in the political and economic organization of our social world; they are violent because they cause injury to people… neither culture nor pure individual is at fault; rather historically given (and often economically driven) processes and forces conspire to constrain individual agency. Structural Violence is visited upon all those whose social status denies them access to the fruits of scientific and social progress.”

ALIVE exists to address the root cause of exploitation as it manifests in the Black community, embedded in society due to structural violence. Our Purpose is “To respond to the impact and ongoing harm of exploitation, address cultural barriers and collaborate to heal a hurting community. By hosting and/or collaborating in large and small-scale events, ALIVE educates communities of color, and society at large, about the urban experience in the sex trade.”

While Alive is headquartered in Houston, Texas, we have a national platform. Our impact has recently been felt on Capitol Hill. Our Co-Founder, Rev. Dr. Marian Hatcher, a survivor leader, testified before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee this past Spring and was the inspiration for, and a contributor to, the Debt Bondage Repair Act (DBRA) (McHenry Applauds Inclusion of Debt Bondage Repair Act in NDAA | Financial Services Committee Republicans – house.gov), which passed as a part of the Annual National Defense Authorization Act 2022. Signed into law by President Biden, Monday December 27, 2021.

“The DBRA final text has the potential to help thousands of victims every year by ensuring that a consumer reporting agency may not furnish a credit report with adverse information from a severe form of trafficking.”

ALIVE will continue to fight for each victim to become a survivor, a champion, so their future and that of their families, is full of life, purpose, happiness, dignity and respect.

National Bullying Prevention Month – A Year in Review

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Hopefully by now you are already aware that October is National Bullying Prevention Month. With the goal remaining bullying prevention, let’s look back at a few news stories that gained national attention over the last twelve months since our last Blog during the month of awareness.

News Story One: January 25, 2021, A Houston father of five is dead after a confrontation that allegedly stemmed from his 15-year-old daughter being cyberbullied by another teen.[1] Brandon Curtis, 35, was shot more than once on Friday evening. The shooter claimed he shot Curtis in self-defense, as reported by  ABC-13. The Harris County Sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, tweeted that Curtis took his daughter to fight a group of teenagers. During the fight, Gonzalez alleges, several other people got involved, including Curtis. Harris tells the station that her daughter had been bullied on social media by a teenage boy for nine months. She shared some profanity-laced messages with the station. Harris claimed she and her husband spoke with the boy’s father a few months ago, but that the bullying had never subsided. She said her husband, daughter and son went back to address the issue for a second time when the fight broke out.

News Story Two: March 14, 2021, Pennsylvania Woman Accused of Using Deepfake Technology to Harass Cheerleaders. Three teenagers in a Bucks County cheerleading program were subjected to a campaign of harassment using altered videos and spoof phone numbers, police officials said.[2]

News Story Three: An upstate New York teen died by suicide after he was allegedly blackmailed with “personal” images on social media, according to his family.[3] Riley Basford, 15, took his own life on March 30 in Potsdam, New York after being “bombarded” with online threats, the Watertown Daily Times reported. Shortly before the teen’s death, an unidentified social media user threatened to leak sensitive snapshots of Basford if he didn’t pay $3,500. New York State Police confirmed they’re investigating a number of other incidents in which teen victims were targeted online in similar catfishing schemes.

News Story Four: July 1, 2021, Cyberbullying of Wilson 6th grader abruptly stops after possible hacker says mom ‘told me to apologize.’ A message appeared, it said “I won’t hack you anymore. My mom caught me hacking you.” A second message appeared saying, “She told me to apologize. I’m sorry for hacking you.”

What we know from stories such as the four referenced here, is that bullying is still a prevalent part of modern society. The consequences of bullying activities left largely unchecked show a potential to be fatal. Bullying can affect everyone—victims, aggressors, families, and those who witness bullying. Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, substance use, suicide, and homicide. It is important to talk to people in your community, including kids, to determine whether bullying is a concern and to educate.

Kids Who are Bullied

According to https://www.stopbullying.gov/bullying/effects those ids who are bullied can experience negative physical, social, emotional, academic, and mental health issues. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:

  • Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
  • Health complaints
  • Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.

There appears to be a correlation between victims and violence. A very small number of bullied children may retaliate through extremely violent measures.[4] In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.

Kids Who Bully Others

Conversely, kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood. Kids who bully are more likely to:

  • Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults
  • Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school
  • Engage in early sexual activity
  • Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults
  • Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults

 

Bullying Statistics [5]

How Common Is Bullying

  • About 20% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying nationwide.
  • Students ages 12–18 who reported being bullied said they thought those who bullied them:
    • Had the ability to influence other students’ perception of them (56%).
    • Had more social influence (50%).
    • Were physically stronger or larger (40%).
    • Had more money (31%).

Bullying in Schools

  • Nationwide, 19% of students in grades 9–12 report being bullied on school property in the 12 months prior to the survey.
  • The following percentages of students ages 12-18 had experienced bullying in various places at school:
    • Hallway or stairwell (43.4%)
    • Classroom (42.1%)
    • Cafeteria (26.8%)
    • Outside on school grounds (21.9%)
    • Online or text (15.3%)
    • Bathroom or locker room (12.1%)
    • Somewhere else in the school building (2.1%)
  • Approximately 46% of students ages 12-18 who were bullied during the school year notified an adult at school about the bullying.

Cyberbullying

  • Among students ages 12-18 who reported being bullied at school during the school year, 15 % were bullied online or by text.
  • An estimated 14.9% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Types of Bullying

  • Students ages 12-18  experienced  various types of bullying, including:
    • Being the subject of rumors or lies (13.4%)
    • Being made fun of, called names, or insulted (13.0%)
    • Pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on (5.3%)
    • Leaving out/exclusion (5.2%)
    • Threatened with harm (3.9%)
    • Others tried to make them do things they did not want to do (1.9%)
    • Property was destroyed on purpose (1.4%)

By increasing the awareness of some of the effects of bullying on victims, aggressors, and the related statistics,  hopefully by October of 2022 we will collectively see a decline in the number and frequency of bullying occurrences.  The goal remains consistent, bullying prevention.

[1] https://people.com/crime/texas-dad-killed-confronting-group-daughter-cyberbullying-says-family/

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/14/us/raffaela-spone-victory-vipers-deepfake.html

[3] https://www.yahoo.com/now/split-second-madness-ny-teen-145300933.html

[4] https://www.stopbullying.gov/bullying/effects

[5] https://www.stopbullying.gov/resources/facts

The FBI and Counterterrorism

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the lead agency in the United States for combating international and domestic terrorism.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 forever changed the FBI. The agency transformed itself into an intelligence-driven, threat-based, national security and law enforcement agency, with counterterrorism, both domestic and international, as our highest priority. To achieve this transformation, the Bureau focused on three main areas:

  • We improved the way we analyze and share intelligence to drive our investigations and to stay ahead of changing threats.
  • We greatly enhanced the FBI’s technology, giving us tools to help understand the intelligence data we collect and how to make the best use of it. In 2002, we created a Cyber Division at FBI Headquarters to address emerging cyber threats.
  • We enhanced our partnerships with our counterparts in law enforcement, the intelligence community, and the public and private sectors.

In the last few years, threats from domestic terrorist extremists have emerged as a larger threat than international terrorism. As a matter of fact, in recent years, domestic violent extremists have caused more deaths in the United States than international terrorists.

Between 2015 and 2019 the most lethal threat posed by domestic violent extremists in the U.S. stemmed from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists. However, in 2020, three of the four fatal domestic terrorism homeland attacks were perpetrated by anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists.

For the FBI to investigate a case as domestic terrorism the following criteria must be met: the existence of a potential federal criminal violation, the unlawful use or threat of force or violence, and the existence of ideological motivation. The FBI can never open an investigation based solely on protected First Amendment activity. We cannot and do not investigate ideology.

Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism (RMVE) and Anti-Government or Anti-Authority Violent Extremism (AGAAVE) is viewed by the FBI as the top domestic violent extremism threats in 2021. The Bureau elevated RMVE to be one of our top threat priorities—on the same level as international terrorist groups such as ISIS.

The primary threat to the homeland today is the one posed by lone actors or small cells who often look to attack soft, familiar targets with easily acquired weapons. The threat has created a new set of challenges for law enforcement because these actors are difficult to identify, investigate, and disrupt before they take violent action. There are far fewer “dots” to connect when individuals act alone and do not discuss plans with others.

That’s why it is critical for anyone who has information about someone planning to do harm to our community to report it to law enforcement immediately. We’ve all become familiar with the phrase “If you see something, say something.” We hope you do.

How #Default2Safety is Helping Keep Students Safe on Technology

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#Default2Safety may seem like a normal hashtag to many, but it’s what lead to a revelation of a large tech company to take a deeper look into how technology can be reformed to keep students safe.

With technology being a main staple not only in our homes, but now in our student’s education, there have been many questions and concerns. One of our partners, NCOSE, took the challenge head on to fight for change and safety for all students. Google devices, Chromebooks are used by majority of school districts in America (40+ million students), including the Greater Houston Area. As of September 1st, they will be implementing several of the suggestions made by NCOSE for making Chromebooks and google education safer for students. The original article can be read here. Below is a breakdown of the new implemented safety settings.

The safety settings will automatically be defaulted on all products for K-12 students (under the age of 18) that can only be changed by those who hold administrative privileges. Administrators will also be given the ability to tailor settings for services such as maps, photos, and YouTube based on the age group at that campus.

  • SafeSearch: ON
    • SafeSearch when on, is used to filter out explicit content (images, videos, websites) that may pop up when using Google Search results.
  • Enable Guest Browsing: OFF
    • Guest Browsing when on, is a mode that allows all browsing activity to go undetected as well as be deleted when guest mode is exited.
  • Incognito Mode: OFF
    • Incognito mode is a private browser that keeps other people who use the device from seeing the history. Chrome will not save the history, information entered, or filed that were downloaded while using the private browser.
  • SafeSites: ON
    • SafeSites also called Safe Browsing, will alert you about malware, risky extensions, phishing or sites on Google’s list of potentially unsafe sites. It will also warn you if a downloaded file may be dangerous, giving the option for Google to scan it.

So, what do these changes mean and how great will the impact be?

First and foremost, this will help to considerably cut down on purposeful exposure to explicit content as well as predatory language through school-issued Chromebooks while being used at home and school. This is also beneficial to educators and administrators who are unable to consistently monitor the devices safety settings, as well as ease parent’s minds that they are being protected while at school. Though these safety settings aren’t 100% going to catch everything, consider checking browser history frequently and talk to students about safe sites that are able to access and what to do in the event of explicit content and sites they may come across.

This wouldn’t have been possible without NCOSE, Protect Young Eyes and many other organizations that played a part in this long 10-year battle through public campaigns and legislation. Thanks to organizations who continuously put in the work to make student and public safety a priority!

Drugs in a Snap: Our 5 Step Fentanyl Poisoning Prevention Plan

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Fentanyl is pouring into the United States and Social media platforms such as Snapchat make it easy for dealers to connect with and sell to teens with little risk of being caught.

Our Safe Community Program has created “Drugs in a Snap: A 5 Step Fentanyl Poisoning Prevention Plan” an essential resource for parents and caregivers that addresses this safety crisis and provides action steps to help prevent tragedy. Download it for FREE here:

Download our Fentanyl Poisoning Prevention Plan Here!

Download our Fentanyl Poisoning Prevention resource guide for students here!

What is fentanyl? Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid similar to morphine that is 50 to 100 times more potent. It is highly addictive and just 2mg, the equivalent of 2 grains of salt, can kill you within minutes.

Why does it matter? Fentanyl is being laced in drugs that teens are purchasing on social media platforms such as Snapchat for just a few pennies. These fentanyl-laced drugs can be purchased online and delivered straight to your home.

What can you do to keep your loved ones safe? 

  1. Download and share our FREE resource guide that provides a 5 step action plan and will enable you to help mitigate the fentanyl overdose crisis here.
  2. Download our FREE Student resource card here and share it with your teen.
  3.  Watch The Balanced Voice podcast episode with Dr. Laura Berman about her son’s tragic overdose here.
  4. Sign the #LetParentsProtect to urge social media platforms such as Snapchat to allow third-party monitoring tools to monitor teen accounts for potential dangers here: change.org/LetParentsProtect

Want a hard copy of this resource guide? Reach out to us at scp@crime-stoppers.org.