Raven Kaliana, Director of Outspiral, presented and discussed her autobiographical film – Hooray for Hollywood - a story on surviving human trafficking, to a well-attended and diverse audience. The event was hosted by Anita Amendra, Project Manager of the Sustainable Communities Programme, IofC-UK on 9 April, 2013. It was held at the IofC UK national centre in London. Kaliana’s presentation was followed by a talk back session with Adam Weiss (Legal Director at the AIRE Centre – Advice on Individual Rights in Europe Centre); Esther Davidson (OXCAT – Oxford Community against Trafficking) and Deepti Patel (Head of Legal, Kids Company). The event was attended by community leaders, social workers and concerned individuals.
In her opening remarks, Amendra said: ‘Positive change in community life often starts with the individuals who decide to take action and make a difference in their community.’ She commented: ‘Trafficking can happen anywhere in our neighbourhoods. It takes many forms as a lucrative operation for organised crime - second after drug dealing. It is important to understand and learn the signs to help adults and children who have been trafficked.’
Approaching with Compassion
The screening of Hooray for Hollywood depicted with insight the most appalling of crimes – the depraved world of human trafficking and the child pornography industry. Viewed through the eyes of a child, this poignant film is made powerful by its use of puppets for the child characters - portraying the vulnerability of ‘victims without voice’ - manipulated, helpless and exploited in crimes against humanity.
She described isolating effects of trauma:
‘It’s hard to emotionally connect when traumatised – like being in a fish tank. Often victims present their story 'in pieces' – they'll compartmentalise their experience. The best way to help is to validate and reflect back what they are feeling – by listening and caring you can throw them a lifeline.’
After the screening she was asked how she feels towards her abusers and the question of forgiveness: ‘I campaign for prevention, instead of expending energy on hatred. Some of my torturers were family members, and I hold compassion for them [...] But it will never be safe to let them back into my life.’
Gaps in Legislation
Deepti Patel, representing the charity Kids Company, commented: ‘There is lack of understanding that traumatised and dysfunctional families and the State, when acting as the corporate parent, willfully or unwilfully, as the case might be, could be participating to some degree in the trafficking and sexual exploitation of children in their care.' Patel, who works with children suffering from abuse, highlighted case studies of a UK system, where legal definition alone would not necessarily identify a child by right as a ‘victim of trafficking’ and that there needs to be greater awareness and signposting of trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Adam Weiss, legal director of AIRE, explained the problem: ‘Despite the ‘host of different obligations’ for European countries, the reality is that a victim can be expelled to countries only to be re-trafficked.
‘There is little respect for the right to be identified as a victim of human trafficking’ […] without that most important right none of the other rights make sense.’
The panel highlighted a critical gap in legislation and the inadequacy of a framework to support victims.
Open our Eyes
What Can we Do?
Davidson described how OXCAT has been able to support the work of Thames Valley Police, who have now successfully prosecuted two local cases of trafficking and sexual exploitation. Davidson outlined ways that people can get involved in their community:
- start a group and work with the police and local authorities;
- get ‘Stop the Traffik’ (http://www.stopthetraffik.org/united-kingdom) training in how to identify trafficking in your area;
- talk to your MP and MEP;
- do assemblies in schools;
- get trained in how you can support trafficking victims;
- give awareness training to key groups of workers like taxi-drivers and hotel staff;
- get out on the streets – stage stunts that will raise awareness - that will literally ‘stop the traffic’!
Photos by Kelly Burks