Laura Coleman and Howard Collins
DescriptionFriends Laura Coleman (57) and Howard Collins (60) discuss their work in battling child sex trafficking, and highlight the ways our society and culture contribute to the continued exploitation of children.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Laura Coleman
- Howard Collins
Recording LocationVirtual Recording
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00:01 I am Laura Coleman and I am 57. It is Friday, May 7th 2021 and we are recording from Baltimore Maryland. I'm here today with Howard Collins and Howard and I are colleagues and friends on this issue.
00:20 Yeah, my name is Howard Collins. I'm 60 years old. And yes, today is Friday. May 7th near recording here in Baltimore, Maryland. My recording partner with me, is Laura Coleman with a colleague and a friend of mine.
00:41 So how hard it is great to be here with you. The first time I met you was actually at a training you were presenting with araminta freedom initiative. One thing that resonated with me that night was hearing the challenge to consider the ways that each one of us are contributing, either directly, or indirectly to the exploitation of our children in child, sex, trafficking, and quite honestly, but the more work we've got. And the more time we spend studying the factors that lead to exploitation the more convicted, I became of how very true that statement. Is that, how did you get here? What was it that launch you into learning about this issue of child sex trafficking? Well, believe it or not, buying a ticket to the Baltimore. Orioles game with a cool t-shirt attending a really tip a little conference there.
01:32 Stadium event was sponsored by Era meant to ask was the conference. I found out that organized evil and it was happening. A lot in the US with American children and teens, now, having Courage by a couple of things, one. There was a few people who were involved from the governor's office, teachers church members State Police Ernie's all types of people.
02:07 Also, there was a strategy to end it and that was very excited to hear the community coming together and it
02:17 And then there was a personal point for me. One of the speakers was a Survivor who is traffic in New Jersey, and that's the state in which I could love. And that just really struck me that if someone could be trafficked in a small Beach town, like I grew up in this could happen, anywhere based organization and we were started with an emphasis on that public awareness. Peace. Part of our mission is to awaken the community and a lot of times in those trainings. We will say that this issue of trafficking happens because Community has broken down and making them vulnerable.
03:04 Yeah, that's a really good point, you know, children and teens. You don't have safe. Stable community, are especially vulnerable to trafficking through the foster care system of juvenile services and a growing up in a neighborhood, possibly filled with drug addiction offer of false English title Community, but we know as human beings, we were born for love. And belonging we were born for connection and many of the things that you named are about a disconnection to a family or someone who recognizes the value and worth in a child. So, when a child has experienced trauma and their young life, whether it's their own experience, or they witnessed that in the world around you,
04:04 It can put them on a path to believe that pain is to be expected in relationship. I think one of the biggest even conservative numbers indicate that one in ten children growing up in the United States will experience this kind of trauma better out there for them.
04:32 Well, that brings us back to the name araminta which was chosen specifically for this mission. That was also Harriet Tubman's name as a child slave in Maryland, part of her Legacy. If she was able to cast The Vision Booth Brothers enslaved, those who are enslaved and that there's something better waiting for them, but it wouldn't be easy to get there. Right? They eventually up the courage, to follow her, on the Underground Railroad. And we see that it is a commitment to helping them. See that their lives should not be defined by what was done to them. And then there is hope for healing and Redemption on the other side of it. We having this work.
05:21 Yeah, not healing. It just has to happen in community and healthy Community, caring and capable.
05:36 Yeah, we often hear people question. If this really even happens in the United States, without even being noticed, when we talked about criminal Industries, the top three are drug trafficking, drugs or guns in their possession that will get them unwanted attention. But when someone's bound to have children with them, most of the time, no one would even ask or even know what questions to ask.
06:15 Yeah, conservative estimates are that more than a hundred thousand billion year are exploited in this industry in the United States. Since 2013. We passed more than 270 cases reported to DSS offices. 141 cases of minors were reported in 2019.
06:40 And because it's often hidden in families massage parlors internet invitations, these kind of under the places. We don't often see how pervasive trafficking actually is social injustice or social justice issues, like drug addiction or homelessness until it impacts them or someone that they care about directly. Why do you care so much? You've committed a lot of time and energy to this cause what motivates you
07:23 I know I spent a lot of time over the past 20 years, working with guys putting myself to become better man, and our families, and our communities and our churches.
07:34 And this industry of child sex trafficking in your not, in the United States is driven primarily by men.
07:42 It is a good man. It's our responsibility to stand up and make a difference for our families and our communities. At least that's how I felt when I learned that we as a society are open. So for me, it's really a privilege to be able to help.
08:01 I do understand feeling like this is privileged work. One of my favorite parts of this job is working with you. It's the perfect blend of my two worlds, bringing my 17 years of teaching experience to help students understand sex trafficking and Empower them with the knowledge. They need to protect themselves and they will be the generation that can change all of this students. Often do not see themselves as victims in this crime, because it is so normalized in some communities. So, we often have to start with the definition of child sex trafficking.
08:43 The Rock federal law to find child sex trafficking has the commercial exchange of anything of value, drugs cell phone, whatever that exchange for sex act by someone who is under the age of 18.
09:02 And this is true importantly, even if the students says, they are choosing to be involved in this Behavior. We did in one Baltimore City, High School. When we talked about that Federal definition. I had two junior girls who just Shrugged their shoulders and said that happens every day. Here. You would have a hard time finding someone in this school, who hasn't done that.
09:31 The young girls and that high-risk Community are raised to believe. If there is a need, they have that cannot be met, then they have to use what they do. Have to get that need met.
09:44 Yeah, I think the normalization is what happens in some of our neighborhoods, you know, when historically wealthy communities are in close proximity to neighborhoods of great need and hardship. You can set the stage for exploitation, especially if there's been a history of discrimination and oppression are u.s. History is certainly a factor given that more than 60% of identified cases of trafficking across the us or girl of color. And in addition to that. I think that the lack of awareness of what looks like, what we can even do about it. Keeps communities vulnerable to this industry.
10:32 Yeah, absolutely. Whether I am talking with students in these, high-risk communities, or, and schools. Where the basic physical needs are being met, students are still vulnerable to this issue because of how traffickers Target them on the Internet because according to one of our sources at any given moment, there are 750,000 waiting to intercept a child. They deserve to know how traffickers are targeting them this year. When we lost our teens against trafficking group. It's been so empowering to know that these students are able to go out and share with younger kids about the risk that that really they are being subjected to and we're also preparing them to be.
11:32 Culture changes. A lot of hard work to change. The culture were in sports leaders who have been involved in any more sexual abuse children. So many have been involved and have received relatively few and light on sacrifices. So that's the culture in which they live. And then there's a part where we glamorize the lifestyle music view of the destructive. Nature of that life in the music industry that utilize really highly, sexualised images, dance moves, and lyrics all of those things will catapult them to fame.
12:31 But as an organization that's working to fight against the exploitation of our children. We have to consider the impact of these role models, are young girls over the last few decades, we witness the trickle-down effect as younger and younger children are acting out what they are watching. Their role models do on-screen. So dance teams and cheer competitions. They get they get awarded by using specific costumes makeup and facial expressions and Performing moves that are more provocative. But in doing this we are adult Define are young girls and grooming them to find their value in their looks and sex appeal.
13:14 Yeah, right adultification.
13:18 It's one of the contributing factors factors to young women of color being exploited in this industry as well. You know, when study found that compared to black girls were viewed as neither less nor trained less protection, less support less comfort.
13:40 Because they're seen as more independent and know more about adult topics, including sex.
13:47 By identifying a young girl buyers by justify that exploitation. The new little girls are into this world to be used that way. Yeah, there have been survivors. Who have said culture groom them before they ever met there. Traffic route to believe that this is what women are made to do. How do we get here? 100, children a year are being exploited through sex trafficking, some organizations estimate that number of children, being sex trafficked, worldwide would exceed 2 million victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. But the fastest-growing demographic be to nine year old boys. And in 2018, they were more than 45 million child sexual abuse images share online and then 29
14:47 69 million child, sexual abuse images and video shared online traffic from child, sexual, abuse images, otherwise known as child pronography.
15:07 Yeah, how did we get here? I'll part of this pretty simple. If there were no demand. It would no longer be a need for supply.
15:17 What are we doing? At generating? This kind of demands in our children or for our children? I understand it's hard to separate. These two are children, harmed and pornography but they are harmed by pornography statistically the average.
15:42 Many of these are accidental, but that's not always the case. So wait about a moment for young boy and years old, who precociously Google's breast thinking, he's going to see women, topless sunbathing, but pornographers war images that are the most profitable. And the most hardcore vinyl graphic that he cannot process or takes a little nauseous. Yep. They're just part of the brain that portrays him and called him a release that he's never experienced before.
16:33 With a curiosity, usually wins out and return on time, again until those images. He sees become the norm. And they become part of his world is an antonym for the interactions that he'll see our later in life. And what we know about the team or the preteen brain, is that it isn't fully mature, that prefrontal cortex that area of our brain, where we have our executive thinking skills. Problem solving our ability to recognize another human being, as we develop anything, the team Brands exposed to before it's fully mature impact, the brain develops. The trauma of their trafficking experience that shuts down the development of the prefrontal cortex.
17:28 But for a young person who is exposed to pornography consistently, it can actually impact the wiring of the brain.
17:37 Yeah, it really hijack. Your rational thinking and you begin to want what you have been watching on the screen and when it comes to the brain, and males also have more receptors in their brain that make them feel like I'm living out. What is playing on the screen. I get this, I understand that an Eden pornography exploiting other people.
18:12 But I can happen within the context of relationship. But we've also heard from law enforcement, but there's been a higher incidence of Youth on. You sexual assault, that's being distributed of pornography use.
18:29 And really demand is more about dissatisfaction that gives birth to a sense of entitlement and unwanted sexual behaviors you. How do you say unwanted sexual behaviors? But that seems counterintuitive even countercultural right when it comes to sexual behavior. Yeah. So, you know, in this research, we've learned that a lot of childhood experiences in a loneliness banded man, sexual abuse, other forms of neglect. Put someone on a half wave, either become a buyer or to being exploited in this way.
19:17 And so what was early experiences don't excuse? Somebody's actions of individuals who are exploiting this way. They're acting out of in the middle of that broken this they either keep firing or deny that these wounds exist or unwanted sexual behaviors are wise, choosing something that they need they feel that they need to do in the experiences.
19:49 And when adding on top of that, we live in silence, secrecy over the theaters. When I find out the truth. We are planting those seeds. We're seeing roads in. So those behaviors tend to go underground and they are
20:09 Secret. Yeah, I heard someone put it this way. The pain that we do not transform. We transmit. So always someone else will have to suffer because we don't know how or as our favorite shame researcher says, you know brene Brown causing someone else pain is easier than dealing with my
20:32 So are we raising a generation of people who are living in shame? How is that going to work? And that is one of the boys. And I know a lot of the only mean by that, feeling of being unworthy, defective or worthless. And shame says, I am bad. That can easily lead to all kinds of acting out Behavior because if I can't change and I'm not talking to someone else about it. I may as well just go ahead and continue this Behavior so that I can live with the pain of what it is.
21:31 Also for the next focus on self, you know, Lisa said think that everybody else knows our. So we have to hide. And you can see how that keeps us from being in healthy relationship. And healthy relationship is a key to moving beyond our shame and are unhealthy behaviors. That makes so much sense when you explain it that way and you did such a good job of talking about the young boy and so are you and word is so closely tied to her physical appearance. Her sexuality plays a role, but it comes from a different size women to the point that we self objectify. Right? And we have these unrealistic standards of beauty and expectation, that we cannot possibly live up to.
22:31 But I want to say my right and so I directly to pornography but it is associated with the images that are around us all the time that Define Beauty and often those are highly sexualized. According to Gale diamonds that pornography researcher girls today have one of two Pathways that they can take. They need to be available or invisible.
23:07 But what price are we willing to pay to make ourselves available or on the flip side of that? What? Young girl wants to be invisible? What? Old girl wants to be invisible? Right? We have a god-given need to be seeing and validated. So how does that happen? When we are not even being noticed to our shame comes from a place of not being worthy, enough to even be noticed or it can be from acting out and pushing the limits of what is acceptable in order to be noticed.
23:43 So, how do we fix this power or, you know, have you ever felt like as a male that you don't really even have a voice in this issue? For sure. I think that pipe back a little bit to thinking earlier in this conversation that as a, as a guy, you know, where the problem causes on how can we even think about being a part of
24:14 Yeah, I think it's time for us to have some hard conversations both as a man and as a women rather than hiding in our shame. We need to start sharing our stories and listening.
24:29 With her before that no, revealing leaves to heal, but we can't heal that that we don't, and it's not easy and our current. And one of the things that needs to happen in our current culture to have Lisa's safe spaces for us to begin to have those conversations.
24:52 We need to recognize exploited, behaviors and address. Those were being exploited. Yeah, we want everyone to have a confidence so that we can create that climate where that kind of behavior is seen as unacceptable. And I think that, you know, we talked about this issue as you said and tend to go. Well, the men write the role of the many this issue, but the reality of it is with this understanding of what exploited behaviors are. And we need to raise our girls to find their value.
25:30 Work in the gift of who they were created to be intelligence capable rather than struggle. With this one. I had this happen in my own world. I have a good friend who is a successful professional accomplished and intelligent part of her work is to be in front of high school, students sharing about career options and one evening. I was at her home after she had presented at an all-boys school earlier, in the day her husband was on the phone with a good friend of his and his friend mentioned that his fifteen-year-old son had watched her session that day and of course she asked, what did he think? And her husband talks for a few more seconds to his friend and awkward kind of pause and then he
26:26 He and his friends think you're a MILF. Not I was appalled and I looked at her thinking we're offended, right? But she smiled as she looked back and she said, really thought was a compliment.
26:42 So I looked back and forth that her husband, like we're not okay with this, right? And I looked at her like, we're not okay with this, right?
26:49 But in the end, I didn't say anything and her husband didn't say anything. And a father, the 15-year old boy, didn't say anything. And our silence gave consent for his friends, to treat this woman, like an object that he wanted to use for his own gratification.
27:08 Next exploitation. Now, it took many months during our research of this work before I was finally convicted that I had to go back and talk to them about what had happened in that experience and they graciously encouraged me to share this story with others because they recognize their raising a little girl. They want better for her than for her to be raised in that environment and we need more people who we were created with good, intentions for love and belonging and counterfeit in place of the real thing. I love that story because it's so normal, and it's a regular conversation that you could see happening every day. So, we are all a part of this.
28:07 If we're going to see if this Dynamic and change our culture, the altar painters, we need to start healing and healthy communities. And this means our conversations, more honest. We are about ourselves and our own Stories. The further is in both personal and Community, healing ability Partners to share stories of the transformative, and healing power of friendships. I want to emphasize that I knew in my life and the life of my friends and others. There is no story that's not redeemable and just like those who were enslaved that needed to hear from araminta at a better life of possible. That's true on the side of the story as well. What's better for those who are enslaved by unwanted sexual?
29:07 And he can use everything, the exploitation of a trail of broken families, the lack of purpose, all the shameful stories to bring personal and Community healing, because I'm Community, we had an opportunity to be transformed by love.
29:26 Howard. We took a two-year journey together with that demand response team. That let us to this point. I am extremely grateful for that time together, you know, other demand response programs that we found across the country were all punitive an approach, but we learned to be true is that this is a problem of the heart. And punitive approach has rarely change Hearts. I learned so much during that time that helped me to see buyers differently. Quite honestly, I was of the thinking early on if we just arrest them all, this problem will go away, right?
30:05 But then I realize that this is not all the evil men. It is so pervasive in the world around us and one story in particular stands out to me because we received this letter from a man about a year after he was motivated to reveal his own hypocrisy, his own hidden truth about the way he had been living in the previous years.
30:30 And he wrote, thank you for not being judgmental or unforgiving. Rather. You have been Grace still and kind your response. Convicted me not to run and hide. And if not for you, I would have gone on to live in shame and apart from God.
30:49 Now isn't that where our hope really lies on this issue that we all stopped running that we stop trying and then we can begin to flourish as human beings and relationship is God always
31:03 I want to thank you, Howard, for your honesty, for your integrity, for your work. On this end for taking this journey with me as well. And remember our time together being amazed that men and women but have these hard conversations together and actually come out to a place where we could appreciate one another and we could make a difference in this in this industry. Thank you as well.