Mouncey, LISW-S, LCDCIII
Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, President & CEO
What images come to mind when you hear the
words human trafficking? Maybe a young woman kidnapped and held captive by a
stranger? Children forced to make clothing in a foreign country? Chains and truck
This is often the way this crime is portrayed in the
media and how we can compartmentalize that this human rights violation is rare in
our society and can’t possibly be happening in our own back yards. What if I told
you human trafficking happens in our communities, right under
our noses? It is the single mother trying to make ends meet who is pressured
into sex trafficking while working at a strip club. A domestic worker coerced into
working 15-hour shifts, receiving no pay, no time off, and no living space of their
own. A teenage boy betrayed by someone he trusted and forced into sexual
exploitation under threats of harm to his family. The young girl sold for drugs
or rent. In this guest post, I’d like to introduce
readers to a broader discussion of human trafficking and offer resources on
where to go to obtain more knowledge. All of this is in the spirit of
exchanging resources and ideas towards the goal of ending and preventing human
Human trafficking victims most often are individuals
with vulnerabilities: runaways and homeless youth; Black and Brown women and
girls; young people from the LGBTQI community; children in and out of the
system with traumas of neglect and abuse; and those with substance abuse,
mental health concerns, and disabilities. Traffickers target vulnerable
populations who have little social or legal protection. Choosing victims from
marginalized communities contributes to a minimized “risk” for traffickers. There
is no community outrage when there is a perception that those harmed are
frequently to blame for their circumstances.
exploit their victims by using deception, fraud, manipulation, or coercion. They
may offer things their victims need, such as shelter, food, clothing,
protection, emotional support, or the false promise of love to lure them in.
Many victims are trafficked by an intimate partner, friend, or even parent or
guardian. Not all traffickers use violence but most do to strengthen the emotional
bonds with victims that arise from a recurring, cyclical pattern of abuse
perpetuated by irregular reinforcement through rewards and punishments (trauma
its core, human trafficking is a financially motivated system of crime, all
about exploiting humans for profit. Like other financial crimes, it involves a
triangle of activity: supply, demand, and distribution. Human trafficking can
include sex trafficking, labor trafficking, or a combination of the two. Forced
labor, also referred to as “labor trafficking,” encompasses the range of
activities involved when a person uses force, fraud, or coercion to obtain the
labor or services of another person. Sex trafficking encompasses the range of
activities involved when a trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion to compel
another person to engage in a commercial sex act or causes a child to engage in
a commercial sex act. Both can happen to the same individual when they are
exploited through forced labor and sexual activities by the same trafficker.
crimes are more detestable than human trafficking, and few crimes are more
challenging for communities to confront. Yet, communities are beginning to take
proactive action in identifying, responding to, and preventing human
trafficking; Cleveland/Northeast Ohio being one of them.
with other forms of violence considered to be a public health crisis, deeply
rooted and connected to poverty and inequality, power and control; the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services recommends a comprehensive frame work
and multilevel approach to the prevention of human trafficking. The Centers for
Disease Control (CDC) describes multiple, complementary, evidence-based
violence prevention strategies which are meant to be carried out across various
systems and levels of organizations. The primary or universal tier involves
creating environments and fostering skills in children that prevent
victimization in the first place. The second tier focuses on identifying
victims and offering early interventions to prevent further harm. The tertiary
tier addresses long term support for those victimized. The complexity of this
model makes it apparent that no single organization
or system has the capacity or ability to handle all the aspects of responding
to human trafficking alone. Each organization has abilities and limitations.
For example, a school system might have a program for primary prevention but no
intervention and treatment capabilities if a child discloses trafficking. While
a law enforcement agency has immediate response capabilities to identify
victims, it may lack long term service resources to link these victims to.
Frequently, task forces or coalitions, such as Greater Cleveland Coordinated
Response to Human Trafficking, convened by the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking
here in Cleveland, are the catalysts for this collective impact. Through the
creation of a network of member organizations, everyone involved in anti-human
trafficking work can identify the capacity of the other members and work
together to create a coordinated response and prevention system.
Collective action can go even further in preventing and
comprehensively serving victims: the greater task is to collectively address
the systemic challenges that human trafficking exhumes. This means working
together to shift paradigms in each community about how marginalized populations
are seen and treated, and addressing the root causes such as racism, poverty,
and inequities. This also means leaving egos at the door, breaking down
organizational and systemic silos, and digging deep into overarching discriminatory
practices and policies.
Other avenues, equally important to consider, are the
disruption of demand and supply such as through demand reduction efforts with the Five S’s framework:
sanctioning soliciting, second chance schools (Johns Schools), sting and
reverse sting operations, social media campaigns, and standards. Demand reduction efforts reduce the demand for
trafficked sex and labor using prevention, treatment, and research. Supply
reduction aims to make these illegal activities scarcer, more expensive, and
less socially tolerated. Similar to US drug policy, hope lies in the
combination of both demand reduction (law enforcement) and supply reduction
(treatment, prevention and research) to also bring success to the efforts of
eradicating human trafficking. More research and conversations are also needed
about the men who buy sex and their motivations. Understanding that they are
closer to sexual predators than “sexually frustrated, nice guys” could help
identify the predictive ability of men at risk for purchasing sex.
what about the treatment of sex traffickers charged with sexual offenses? Since
traditional sexual offender treatment may not be appropriate due to the
different motivation for committing the crime, is it possible to rehabilitate
and prevent that way?
reality of human trafficking is difficult to comprehend and it is even more
difficult to envision a comprehensive prevention model that includes all
approaches described above: the public health approach; supply, demand, and
distribution; and bringing together all the systems necessary to tackle this
complex problem: victim service organizations, law enforcement agencies, sex
offender treatment providers, law and policy makers, researchers, and businesses
and the financial sector. We all need to come together at the same table to put
our collective impact into action.
The anti-trafficking community emphasizes that learning about these
issues and collaborating to deliver a continued and improved response to
combating trafficking are major considerations aimed at mitigating the impacts
of this crises and guide the path forward. There is also a call and a need to
incorporate anti-trafficking efforts into existing responses in other contexts.
Everyone and every sector has a role to play in the fight against human
I am leaving you with a call to action to do just that - learn more
about human trafficking and incorporate what you have learned into to your
sphere of influence, your context. For those of you already engaged in anti-human
trafficking work or planning to do so in the future, my call to action for you
is to apply equity based approaches and to relentlessly seek collaboration!
Anyone can join in the fight against human trafficking.
Here are ideas to consider:
about national Human Trafficking Statistics, Indicators, Policy and Legislation:
Human Trafficking Training or learn more about how to be an Advocate:
Be conscious of the power your
purchase holds. Support companies committed to taking a stand against human
an informed consumer.
with and support anti-human trafficking efforts in your community
Become a mentor to a young
person or someone in need. As a mentor, you can be involved in new and positive
experiences in that person’s life during a formative time.
your local, state and federal elected official to let them know you
care about combating human trafficking and ask what they are doing to
Be well-informed. Set up a web alert to
receive current human trafficking news.
Encourage your local schools or school district
to include human trafficking in their curricula and to develop
protocols for identifying and reporting a suspected case of human
trafficking or responding to a potential victim.
Parents and Caregivers: Learn how human traffickers
often target and recruit youth and who to turn to for help in
potentially dangerous situations. Host community conversations with parent
teacher associations and community members regarding safeguarding children
in your community.
Visit our website for more information
and resources: www.collabtoendht.org
Kirsti Mouncey, LISW-S, LCDCIII currently serves as the President
& CEO at the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, and is an experienced
and innovative non-profit executive. Driven by a vision of a world fee of
violence, she takes pride in driving organizational transformation and
multisystemic collaboration. As a women with a vision, her goals include catalyzing enduring positive change, and identifying
and strengthen existing assets in her community and beyond. In
addition to her primary job functions Kirsti has been recognized by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center with the
Visionary Voice Award in 2016 and was inducted into the as Case Western Reserve
University Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences
Hall of Achievements in 2017. Kirsti holds a Master’s degree in Social
Work from Cleveland State University, and is a Licensed Independent Social Work
Supervisor and a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor in the State of Ohio.
She lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio with her husband, two sons, a goldendoodle
and a hedgehog.