A Different Sort of Contest

551197_337037406382696_1891785269_nOnly two more weeks until the Poetry For Their Freedom Contest closes. First prize is $100 and no entry fee.

Submit a poem on human trafficking and victims’ restoration of hope. Raise awareness and promote freedom for the 27 million enslaved around the world and in our own backyard.

Please consider sharing if you know any writers and poets. From some of the cover letters and background stories we’re getting, let me tell you, it confirms that human trafficking is way too alive and well in our country.

Help Fight The World’s Fastest Growing Crime

Are you a poet? A writer? Do you know one?

Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world. Criminals buy, sell and trade human beings into the commercial sex industry and forced labor. Take up your pen to help combat this horrific form of modern-day slavery. Submit a poem to the Poetry For Their Freedom Contest.

Poetry For Their Freedom

First prize includes $100, a live reading at The A21 Campaign – U.S. East Coast office’s Be Their Freedom annual benefit to be held on Sept. 19th in Charleston, SC. Additionally, the winning poem will be printed in the Be Their Freedom event program and posted on The global A21 Campaign’s Instagram feed.

For submission guidelines and more information, please visit Poetry For Their Freedom at www.poetryfortheirfreedom.com

Please forward to any poet you think would be interested in becoming an active voice for freedom!

Diffusion of Responsibility


Photo Courtesy of Watcharakun on freedigitalphotos.net

Photo Courtesy of Watcharakun on freedigitalphotos.net

Since writing my Modern-Day Good Samaritan posts, I’ve been thinking a lot about a phenomenon I learned in psych class called “Diffusion of Responsibility”. It’s a phenomenon where a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction when others are present.

How do you overcome that?

In an emergency situation—say, when someone passes out in public or a woman screams and no one does anything to help—it’s referred to as the “Bystander effect”. It seems, the larger the crowd, the less sense of personal responsibility people feel and the less likely they are to help. The case most infamous is the rape and murder of Kitty Genovese that was witnessed by thirty-some people.

What causes this lockup? It can’t be that all these people are just cold and callous…or brain dead. What could be going through a person’s mind to rationalize doing nothing?

Shock: First off, witnessing someone drop to the sidewalk or suffer a brutal mugging isn’t an everyday occurrence for most of us. (At least I hope not). So, there’s the shock factor of something way out of the ordinary.

Look for guidance: We look around. What does everyone else think of this? If everyone’s acting normal or standing there, not taking any action, then it must be okay, right? You might not understand what’s going on, but someone does. Someone else must be in-the-know. Right?

Lack of Qualifications: Someone else, more experienced in how to handle emergency situations probably did what needed to be done. Or they will. Surely there’s a doctor, nurse, EMT, policeman or military Special Forces in the crowd somewhere.

Fear: We’ve all heard “no good deed goes unpunished.” We could get embroiled in something and get hurt. We’ve watched plenty of TV drama to prove it. Plus, there are a plethora of lawyers making it their lives’ work to try to punch holes in the shield of Good Samaritan laws and sue us for trying to help anyone.

Stranger: Someone who knows the victim will help.

Anonymity is easier. To watch from the crowd or walk away as if nothing’s amiss.

English: CPR training

English: CPR training (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Possible Ways to Overcome This Bystander Tendency?

Purpose: For me, I would think it would start with your worldview. Do you think we’re on this planet to help each other? Or to live for ourselves and simply make sure we keep on breathing? If we determine we’re the kind of people who want to help…well then, maybe we can decide ahead of time that we’d give it our best shot, should such a situation arise.

Recognition: I can’t guarantee how I would react in such an emergency situation. All I know is how I’d WANT to respond. As my mom always says, identifying the problem is a big step. Recognize the situation. Like, “Hey, could this be that bystander effect happening right now? Why nobody’s doing anything? Including me?” Recognize the hurdle so you can jump over it. Moving forward may not come naturally, but if we can consciously recognize a situation for what is, maybe then it will help push us to act.

And helping may not require a lot. It may simply mean making a phone call or taking a photo or leveraging the crowd.

Pinpoint: In this case, it’s not rude to point at someone. If you want to offer assistance and need help, specifically designate someone. Don’t just say, “Someone help me. Someone call 911.” Make eye contact. Point. “You in the ball cap, call 911.”

My husband said that type of pinpointing was part of his lifeguard training in high school. Sad that it took me so long to learn it, too.

What examples do you have of diffusion of responsibility happening? Or its opposite? Maybe you’ve witnessed someone courageously take charge like the folks I wrote about in Uganda? Ever used the Heimlich? Given CPR?



MLKMartin Luther King Day is the only federal holiday designated as a day of national service. I’ve heard it said that it is not meant to be ‘a day off’, but ‘a day on’.

The MLK Day of Service is 21 January 2013—a day when many Americans, from all over the country, focus on serving in their communities, turning their attention to the folks across the street or a few blocks down rather than doing their usual commute to work. Projects run the gamut: from playing bingo with the elderly, writing letters to soldiers overseas to initiatives long-planned and involving large teams and corporations.

Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” We each have to answer that in our own way. But I am happy to say that as I scan the general list of project idea areas provided on the official MLK Day website, I automatically picture people I know who are actively doing just those kinds of things. Keep it up, my friends!

Check out the list for yourself. Find a project or share your idea. You might just get yourself some volunteers. If you do a project on MLK day, the Corporation for National & Community Service would like to know about it. You can send them an e-report during the action or send in a story afterward to describe its impact.

“I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Nobel Prize acceptance speech

How to Help Stop Human Trafficking While You Go About Your Day

Pay Attention!

My previous post about the book, Undaunted, garnered questions (and some frustrations) about what a person can do once they are aware of the problem of human trafficking. In addition to signing up for the newsletters of anti-trafficking organizations and liking their Facebook pages, (which can lead you into all kinds of ways to get involved), you can help by simply knowing what to look for. Human trafficking happens right under our noses.

  • Learn to recognize the signs.
  • Pay attention.
    • Notice people.
    • Take a closer look. Human trafficking (sex and labor) can often occur in street prostitution, brothels, strip clubs and massage parlors, but also at truck stops and in domestic service, agriculture, manufacturing, in restaurants and other hospitality and service industries, janitorial services, construction, and health and elder care.
  • Don’t assume they are simply prostitutes of their own free will. Federal law defines the means used, to include not only force, but also fraud and coercion.
    • Many have been beaten and raped until their will to fight is broken. This is still involuntary servitude.
    • Many have received threats that loved ones will be hurt or killed if they don’t comply.
    • Many may display attitudes of disdain if questioned, but this often stems from fear and learned distrust of people’s intentions.
    • Many may not self-identify as victims because they do not know their rights and/or their traffickers have made them think they brought it on themselves, and that nobody cares.
  • Do they possess any identification or travel documentation?
    • Traffickers often take and maintain control of these documents to prevent escape.
  • Do they look underage?
    • Any minor engaged in commercial sex is a victim of human trafficking. Period. Unfortunately, they are often treated as criminals rather than victims.
  • If you work in the travel/tourism/hospitality industry, have you seen him or her more than once?
    • Do you recognize any men or women accompanying them or directing them? Do you recognize their vehicles?
  • Physical signs of trauma or fatigue?
    • Overall health? Bruises? Other injuries?
    • Any tattoos or branding?
      • Some traffickers brand their victims. Note specific markings.
  • Are individuals withdrawn or afraid to speak?
    • Does someone censor or speak for them?
    • Do their answers sound canned and rehearsed?
  • Does their movement seem restricted by another person?
  • Do they know where they are?
    • Victims are often moved so often, they may not know what city or state they are in right now.
  • Do they speak the language?
    • Foreign-born victims may understand only words and phrases associated with sex.

Example Questions For Potential Victims:

  • Is there anything I can do to help you?
  • Do you live here in town? How long?
  • Do you owe your boss money?
  • Does your boss take anything out of your pay?
  • Are you allowed to come and go freely?
  • Are you afraid to stop doing what you’re doing?

**Be extremely cautious if ever approaching a potential victim with these questions…their trafficker may be monitoring them.


  1. DO NOT approach or confront a suspected trafficker (for safety as well as judicial case building reasons)
  2. Call your local police. State you suspect a case of human trafficking. Provide as much detail as possible (ex. location, physical descriptions, scenario that played out to cause suspicion, vehicle make, model, plates)
  3. Call the U.S. National Human Trafficking Resource Center 1-888-3737-888

The above, of course, is not a definitive list. But it should get you thinking. Yes?

To learn more, you may want to read the article I was recently fortunate enough to have published in Relevant Magazine on The State of Modern Slavery.


Undaunted“Why didn’t you come sooner?” A young girl once posed this question to Christine Caine—the co-founder of The A21 Campaign, which fights human trafficking. This girl had suffered unspeakable horror as a slave sold for sex many times a day. She’d stared at Christine with despair in her eyes. “Why didn’t you come sooner?”

In her excellent book, Undaunted, Christine Caine says she had an unassailable excuse, but couldn’t bring herself to use it. In truth, she hadn’t come because she simply hadn’t known. But that wasn’t good enough—not in the face of this girl’s urgency, her despair.

Have you ever temporarily lost your child in a crowd? Felt the searing rip of instantaneous fear? However shy your personality, you grip strangers’ arms, begging to know if they’ve seen your child. How can they even consider going about their day when something so absolutely desperate is happening? You’re frantic for a kind and friendly person to find your child and bring them back to you. You pray for the kindness of a stranger.

But what if that is not the type of person your child encounters?

What if your child’s eyes are darting from one unfamiliar face to another for rescue? But that rescue doesn’t come. Can you now blame the girl for asking, “Why didn’t you come sooner?”

“When you’re not lost—when you’re safe—it’s hard to understand the urgency of needing to be found, needing to be rescued.” Christine Caine

With that quote, I think you can already see how Undaunted is a book that hits hard. But it is simultaneously very inspiring. Christine Caine generously shares her own dramatic life story in the hopes it can help ours. She has gone through some really difficult things that could have left her bitter and stagnant…but instead, she has used them to make—not only herself—but others stronger. And she has developed a compassion that has shot past emotion into action.

In Undaunted, Christine talks about why we hold back—how we may want to help others, but common things stop us:

  • We don’t feel empowered
  • We think we lack the courage, the strength, the wisdom, the money, the experience, the education, the organization, the backing.
  • We feel unqualified. We feel daunted.

Personally, I’ve felt all those things, but this book helps remind me how to overcome them.

I’ve written for The A21 Campaign East Coast office for over a year now, but I’ve not met Christine Caine personally. I had the chance in June at our first (soon-to-be annual BE HER FREEDOM gala), but to be honest, it’s not that easy for me to just go up and talk to somebody—especially when that someone is a great and powerful speaker…and doer of so-many-things overwhelming. I guess you could say I was daunted. One time, hearing her speak, my husband leaned over to me and said, “She packs into a 40-minute lecture what it would take someone else an hour and a half to say.”

It’s true. Christine Caine is a slim 5’3” energetic powerhouse. While she travels all over the world, speaking inspirationally to thousands upon thousands, I sit in my office chair, oftentimes staring at my blinking cursor. Although our lives are very different, one of the blessings of her being so open about the difficulties in her own life is that they resonate. Suffering (unfortunately) is a connector for us all.

Like her, I, too, know exactly what it’s like to hear a doctor say, “I’m sorry. I can’t find a heartbeat.” Perhaps, pain is not always so similar in nature, but we have all suffered. We can understand loss. We feel compassion. What we do with it is the main difference. How we handle it is up to us.

Many former human trafficking victims are now huge advocates for the cause. Other activists, like myself, may have no personal tragedy to associate with the cause, but “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” -Benjamin Franklin. Human trafficking is not only a horrific crime; it’s also the fastest growing in the world. The trade of people now outsells the trafficking of arms. If we don’t fight this, it is not a stretch to consider a future where we will know someone who has fallen victim.

Christine has a wonderful prayer in her book, Undaunted. “God, help me not to close my eyes to other people’s horror or ignore injustice. Help me fight the injustices you hate. Help me value people and speak up for those who have been silenced.”

I know I’m quoting her a lot, but hey, she’s got a lot of good stuff to say. Here’s one last: in reference to the rows and rows of posters of the missing. “These photographs should be in beautiful frames on a mantle, or in the pages of a family photo album on a coffee table… They shouldn’t be plastered coldly here, taped across the peeling paint of an airport wall.”

The New Year is a great time to stand up. Don’t you think?

Key2Free Is Coming

October 18th is International Anti-Slavery Day. Yet, wasn’t slavery abolished? Sadly, it has simply twisted into a more shadowy and hidden form—human trafficking. People can be sold over and over again…unlike a drug.

In honor of anti-slavery day, The A21 Campaign is conducting its largest awareness campaign of the year: Key2Free. It’s an initiative to rally individuals, groups and businesses everywhere to join the fight and declare on October 18th that human trafficking is absolutely unacceptable.

People all over the world are coming up with unique (and funny) ways to use their business acumen, talents and creativity to help awaken our world to the fact this horrific crime is going on.

There are LOTS of fun ways to participate. You’re only limited by your imagination.

1. Wear the Key: On October 18, wear a key to symbolize freedom. 
Be prepared to explain what it represents.

2. Share the Key: Spread the word. Share human trafficking links on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Causes. If you host an event, post photos on the Key2Free Facebook page and tweet with the hashtag #KEY2FREE.

3. Raise the Key: Use your creativity and gather friends for a Key2Free event. Party with a purpose.

4. Be the Key: Join the fight and make a difference by becoming an A21 abolitionist. ‘Cause, yes, they are still needed.

Need some more ideas?

  1. Walk in her shoes: organize or participate in a sporting event to promote awareness and/or raise funds
  2. Smarten up your staff: Invite staff and friends for a showing of the documentary Nefarious or the film, Trade
  3. Donate a percentage: donate a percentage of sales proceeds or funds from a specific product/service
  4. Offer future in-kind resources: arrange to become an A21 resource for specific products/services
  5. Poster the city: Make and display Key2Free signs.
  6. Come up with something entirely different. Be creative.

As red and black are The A21 Campaign colors, a local salon (here in Charleston) decided they’re going to offer red and black hair extensions for $15 in the month of October. All profits (after expenses) will be donated to The A21 Campaign.

A local football team has decided to wear red socks along with their black uniform pants every time they take the field this fall.

Doesn’t take much to promote a little awareness. But, could have a huge impact for some 14-year-old girl. Actually, the average age for a victim is 12. Tell me that doesn’t scare you.