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PostPosted: Fri Jun 15, 2012 2:38 pm 
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Online voice launched for sex crime victims
13 May 2012

Five activists from Munich are trying to break the walls of silence surrounding sexual violence with an internet campaign enabling people to tell their stories even if they never told the police what happened to them.

Many victims of sexual violence often don’t dare go to the police – out of shame, fear of a court trial, fear of not being believed or because they are not sure if it may have been partly their own fault.

Sabrina Lorenz from Munich wants to change all that with an internet campaign #ichhabnichtangezeigt (I didn’t report it), the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Saturday. This month Lorenz and four fellow activists will be encouraging victims to tell their stories anonymously online, in the hope of breaking through the culture of shame and fear surrounding sexual violence. Victims – men and women – can use Twitter, Facebook and emails to finally tell someone what has happened to them and why they did not go to the police.

"Our society, in which ‘victim’ is used as an insult, I feel is hostile to victims,” activist and womens’ career advisor Daniela Oerter told the paper. "I know several women who have been the victims of sexual violence but not one of them has reported it to the police.”

The women, who met at a conference in November last year, decided they wanted “to stop talking and do something,” said Lorenz. Some of them have experienced sexual violence themselves, or are close to people who have. Many of the messages they have received so far tell of violence within relationships or child abuse. Victims write about incidents that happened years or decades ago. “It’s clear that writing breaks through the dam with those ones,” said Lorenz.

One of the messages already submitted says, “Because I did not want to further damage my already dysfunctional family and I was ashamed.”

Another says, “Because at 15 I was scared of being seen as a prude because I didn’t yet want sex with my ‘boyfriend’ and did not tell anyone that he then simply ‘took’ it.”

And yet another says, “Because I was only six and he is probably dead now. My father didn’t report it because it was his father. My grandma didn’t report it because it was her husband. My mother didn’t report it because she is the ‘victim of the family’. Now my soul is dead because no-one helped me.”

The campaign – the first of its kind in Germany – is based on similar ones in the UK and France #ididnotreport and #jenaipasportéplaint, which have been very successful in raising awareness.

In France, 70,000 victims told their stories anonymously online.

Source: The Local Germany.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 29, 2013 7:57 am 
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Google weaves a web between human trafficking hotlines
10 April 2013

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A sex worker stands outside a brothel in Madaripur, Bangladesh on July 14, 2012.

AFP - Sex workers are more likely to call in to a hotline for victims of human trafficking on a Wednesday, and a Google-backed initiative could help to explain why.

The Internet search giant is giving a total of $3 million to three groups in Europe, Asia and the United States combating modern-day slavery to help them share and analyze the mountains of data that grows out of their frontline work.

"There are a lot of different hotlines that exist around the world, but they're completely disconnected," Jared Cohen, the head of Google's in-house think tank Google Ideas, told AFP. "The data is not integrated across all of them," he said. "If you call one hotline, it doesn't necessarily feed into an integrated system that meshes with all the others."

Sharing the Google funding will be La Strada International, based in Amsterdam but focused on central and eastern Europe; Hong Kong-based Liberty Asia; and the Polaris Project that covers the United States. The initiative was unveiled Tuesday at Google's offices in Washington, where a few hours earlier the White House published what it called a Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking. Open for public comment until May 24, the 61-page document comes three years after the Department of Homeland Security launched a so-called "Blue Campaign" to cut across bureaucratic lines in a bid to address human trafficking.

In a statement online, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that in 2012 alone, the US authorities "investigated a historic amount of cases and rescued more victims of human trafficking." They also, she said, "provided support to over 1,200 human trafficking victims... Working together, we can take comprehensive action to stop this terrible crime, rescue victims, and put perpetrators behind bars."

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Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas, talks about technology's role in aiding anti-trafficking efforts in Washington, DC on April 9, 2013.

Worldwide, human trafficking is responsible for enslaving nearly 21 million people, from sex workers to manual laborers to street beggars, in an illicit trade that generates an estimated $32 billion a year, Cohen said. "Bringing all the data together illuminates certain patterns and questions that one might not otherwise see without looking at holistically," Cohen said. "There are, in the United States, nearly double the number of reports from women who are controlled by their pimps on a Wednesday than any other day in the week," he said by way of example. "We don't know why that's the case -- but because of the integration of this data, we are able to see this as a question."

Google has previously committed $11.5 million to anti-trafficking efforts -- and Cohen said "any ads (that appear on Google's search result pages) known to fuel human trafficking absolutely gets taken down, period." Hotlines have also started to notice how calls from trafficked individuals forced into the selling of door-to-door sales scams are more frequent in northern states in the summer, and the south in the winter, he added.

More access to more data from more sources can help campaigners and law enforcement allies to identify choke points where human trafficking can best be disrupted. Polaris alone has collected data from more than 72,000 calls to its hotline, while Suzanne Hoff of La Strada International said her organization last year took 13,000 calls over its eight hotlines. "By sharing data, you can see a picture at the global level (and) it gives you more information on your own situation," Hoff told AFP.

Source: France24.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 11:44 am 
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Ind. team leads fight against child pornography
17 August 2013
By CHARLES WILSON

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In this Feb. 19, 2013, photo, Indiana State Police Lt. Chuck Cohen poses for a photo in a mobile crime lab in Indianapolis. The lab is used by an Indiana task force that is building a national reputation for aggressive pursuit of child pornographers worldwide. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- In a cluttered office cubicle in a nondescript building on Indianapolis' derelict east side, a man with rolled-up shirt sleeves scans email attachments of videos that depict startlingly young children being sexually tormented in ways that can make even federal judges weep.

Detective Kurt Spivey is trying to find the people who record or collect such images. He has 30 days to locate as many as he can. After that, the trail could go cold as the data on the hard drive dissolves.

Spivey is a 43-year-old police detective who parlayed his nine years in vice and experience with computers into a position on the city's cybercrime unit. It's part of central Indiana's Internet Crimes Against Children task force, which has become one of the nation's most aggressive and effective child pornography hunters, with a reach that extends around the globe.

"They are really cutting-edge," said Francey Hakes, who worked for three years as a special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General overseeing child exploitation units in various agencies within the Justice Department. "I would say that most districts that have learned of some of the techniques and tactics used there have tried to model and adopt them as best they can."

At first blush, Indiana isn't a likely location for such a group. Though it has its share of violent crime, the state is better known for its hospitality, auto racing and love of basketball than as an international hotbed of perversion. Yet in 2011, the latest year for which U.S. Department of Justice statistics are available, Indiana's task force made 166 arrests for manufacturing, distributing or possessing child pornography. New York City's task force made 16 arrests, and Chicago's team made 71. And Indiana did all this with about $100,000 less funding than New York City.

Much of the success of the Indiana team, which includes federal, state and local agencies, stems from the reach the Internet provides. The team also benefits from a rare level of cooperation among the law enforcement agencies that has largely eliminated turf wars. That cooperation is essential as child pornography trafficking, which had largely been eliminated in the United States by the mid-1980s, has exploded, fueled by the Internet, social networking and digital technology that make it easy to produce and access. "The thing with social networking is, no matter what your interest is, you can find people with the same interest or even more extreme interest ... so by extension, you can feel normal," said Indiana State Police Lt. Chuck Cohen, chief of the state's Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says it reviewed 17.3 million images and videos of suspected child pornography in 2011. That's four times more than 2007. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve DeBrota, who began pursuing child pornography cases in 1991 as a green federal prosecutor because no one else wanted them, said the technology can be a curse because it creates more avenues for sharing pornography. But it's also a blessing, because the Internet has no boundaries. So long as there's a trail to follow, it doesn't matter whether the investigator is in a rural farmhouse in Indiana or in a hut in Indonesia. The Indiana team has followed the cyber trail to suspects in the United Kingdom and Australia. "Steve really pioneered the idea of what I call the spider-web investigation," said Hakes, who runs a consulting firm based in Atlanta that advises police on child exploitation.

One such bust started Nov. 17, 2010, when a nondescript van pulled up in front of David Bostic's home in Bloomington, Ind., and FBI agents, state troopers and local police officers swarmed to Bostic's front door to serve a search warrant. Computer geeks using a mobile crime lab started digging through Bostic's home computer, while others searched the house for DVDs or other evidence of sex crimes. The technique is called forensic triage, and Hakes says the Indianapolis-based unit pioneered it.

When searchers found images Bostic had deleted from his PC, interrogators immediately peppered Bostic with questions. He first admitted to collecting child porn, and then to producing it with children he babysat - some of them infants, none older than 5. He also told investigators he'd shared the images by email and other avenues with dozens of fellow collectors.

According to court records, the Indiana-based team then followed the trail that began on Bostic's computer link by link through Internet Service Providers to an email account in the United Kingdom. Authorities there traced the account to a registered sex offender. While British authorities revoked his probation, investigators back in Indiana used his email contacts to track down his fellow collectors.

The case that started at Bostic's house has resulted in 24 arrests - including some in Serbia and the UK. Bostic was sentenced to 315 years in prison in November 2011. More importantly, DeBrota says, 24 children have been rescued. Another Indiana case that was the largest at the time, with more than 50 arrests, spun off another investigation that led to 72 arrests, the biggest child porn bust in U.S. history.

Deputy U.S. Attorney Jay Exum of the Eastern District of North Carolina, who led that bust, credits DeBrota - one of a handful of prosecutors advising the attorney general on big child pornography investigations - and his team. "You really need somebody who kind of steps into the darkness and stays there to fight. And that's the kind of guy Steve is," Exum said.

Source: AP.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2014 9:23 am 
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UK launches £500,000 fund for male victims of sexual abuse
by Maria Tadeo
Thursday, 13 February 2014

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UK government set to launch £500,000 fund- the first of its kind- to help victims of male sexual assault and rape. Posed by model. Getty Images

Male victims of rape and sexual abuse are set to receive counselling and advice as part of a new £500,000 fund launched by the British government.

Police figures show there were 2,164 rape and sexual assaults against males aged 13 or over in the 12 months to November. There could be as many as 72,000 male victims of sexual offences each year, according to a recent crime survey for England and Wales.

Minister Damian Green said the fund will also help "historic" victims who were under the age of 13 at the time. He warned male rape is still a taboo subject and cases of sexual assault often go unreported. He said: "We believe around 12 per cent of rapes are against men. Yet many choose not to come forward, either to report the crime or seek the support they need. I am determined to help break the silence on a subject still seen as a taboo."

Duncan Craig of Survivors Manchester, which helps male victims of sexual abuse and rape, hopes the launch of the fund serves to kick-start a conversation about sexual violence so that "male victims are no longer ignored". He added:"In the past, there has not been enough support in the UK for male victims or sexual violence. But in the future I would like to see both the government and society begin talking more openly about boys and men as victims and see us trying to make a positive change to pulling down those barriers that stop boys and men speaking up.

The justice ministry recently launched a campaign on social media using the hashtag #breakthesilence encouraging victims of sexual violence to come forward.

Source: Independent UK.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 6:14 pm 
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‘Men and boys get raped too’
By Theo Merz
24 February 2014

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'Male victims feel completely ignored. They feel like they can’t speak out' Photo: Alamy

With the British government allocating funds to support men who have been sexually assaulted, the issue is finally coming to the public’s attention. But is enough being done?

In 2011, then justice secretary Ken Clarke caused controversy when he appeared to suggest date rapes were less serious than sexual attacks by strangers. Ed Miliband told him at prime minister’s questions that he could not “speak for the women of this country when he makes comments like that,” and public opinion seemed to be largely on the Labour leader’s side.

But psychotherapist Duncan Craig, despite working full-time with victims of rape, was less than impressed with Mr Miliband. “I thought, what about boys and men?” he remembers. “There are so many men who have been affected by sexual abuse. But the language is always about women and girls, so they feel completely ignored. They feel like they can’t speak out.”

An estimated 78,000 people in the UK are victims of rape or attempted rape each year, of which around 9,000 are thought to be men, according to the most recent government statistics. But sexual crime has a notoriously low report rate, and research suggests that this is particularly true among male victims. In 2011-12, just 1,250 incidents of male rape were reported to the police.

Despite male rape accounting for almost 12 per cent of the estimated national total, until now government releases have never explicitly mentioned male victims, while counselling services working only with men were barred from applying to a £5m rape crisis fund unveiled last October. This month, however, the ministry of justice set aside £500,000 exclusively to provide counselling and support for men who have been affected by sexual abuse.

Elsewhere, a storyline on the Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks examining the impact of male rape has led to sexual violence against men being discussed more openly in the media. Craig - who founded Survivors Manchester for male victims of sexual abuse five years ago and served as a script advisor for the Hollyoaks story - is delighted the issue is finally been brought to the public’s attention.

“If men feel like they can’t talk about it, or they don’t understand that it’s abuse, then it’s only going to complicate their feelings about being violated in the first place,” he says. “There’s something in that process of violation that’s a bit like losing a fight – you feel like you were too weak, you lost control of your own body, you should have fought back. People often feel like it’s their fault.”

Craig understands better than most the realities of sexual abuse, why it can often take men so long to talk about it - and why all-male support groups are so important when they do. From the age of 11 to 16 he was groomed and then raped by an older “authority figure” in his east Manchester community, but it was only a decade later, when he was training to be a therapist himself, that he fully understood what had happened to him.

“He started by buying me sweets and small gifts, doing everything he could to normalise the process,” Craig says of the man. “As I became more adult, the abuse became more adult – it moved on from things like tickling, trying to break down my boundaries, to being raped.

“Then, when I was doing my psychotherapy training in my 20s, I realised a client’s personal experience was really affecting me. I brought it up with my supervisor, who asked me why I thought that was. I told her it reminded me of a relationship I’d had when I was a boy – I used the word relationship – and when she asked me how old the other person was, I told her he was in his fifties. As soon as I said that I just broke down, because I couldn’t believe I’d never seen it for what it was before.”


Duncan Craig has appeared in a government-produced video with Hollyoaks actor James Sutton, aimed at breaking the taboo around male rape

After so many years of repressing this childhood experience, Craig looked for a specialist service for male survivors of sexual abuse but found there was nothing available in his area. He had to travel down to a group in Wiltshire, which has since been closed, to talk to men with similar stories. Understanding that he wasn’t alone was a key moment in coming to terms with what had happened to him and it was then, he says, that he decided to set up a similar group of his own in Manchester.

“I think if there had been more stuff in the media, or an organisation like Survivors at the time this was happening, I would have been more aware that something was wrong,” Craig says. “Things are better now but there are still only a handful of other organisations like ours around the country, so it’s a postcode lottery whether you can get support. I’d like to see so many more.”

London-based researcher Michael, 42, also understands the benefits of men-only group therapy. He was repeatedly raped by his father for about a year from the age of eight but, like Craig, left it years before he sought help.

“I was in my 30s and had just come out of a relationship,” Michael remembers. “I was aware that this sexual abuse might have had an effect on the break-up, but it wasn’t something I wanted to address head on. I had a feeling of shame, guilt and complicity in what had happened.

“I always found it difficult to bring it up with people close to me, and then I couldn’t explain why I sometimes became withdrawn and angry. One time I did mention it to a girl I was seeing and she suggested I talk to someone, but I thought ‘what’s the point of that?’”

After that relationship ended, Michael started going to sessions at Survivors UK, a London-based organisation for male victims, and talking about the abuse. Through group sessions, Michael began to realise that he wasn’t the only man this has happened to and that he didn’t have to carry this feeling of guilt around with him forever. Now he runs informal support groups himself and says he finds it “heartbreaking” when men in their 60s or even 70s come in to talk about assaults that took place several decades ago, having buried their experiences for so long.

Of course, rape isn’t the only issue. Some 72,000 men are victims of sexual offences every year, according to official estimates, while other studies suggest as many as one in six men are the subject of “unwanted sexual attention” before the age of 16. Alisdair, now 49 and the director of a recruitment company, was heavily involved with the church in his first year at university but found unwanted advances from senior figures in it left him wary of sexual contact for years. “After what happened I didn’t know how to deal with anything further than kissing. I felt awkward about people touching me sexually and that really delayed my sexual development,” he says.

Alisdair followed a similar path to Michael when it came to dealing with the assault. “It came out very much later, in my late 20s, when a partner left me and I had counselling. Most definitely if there had been organisations like Survivors UK on campus I would have spoken to them straight away; I would have been more aware that what had happened was wrong. The only person I could have confided in was a Methodist minister, and he wouldn’t have known how to deal with it at all.”

Michael May, a senior manager at Survivors UK, welcomes the news of the government fund but is keen to ensure the money, when it is released in October, will go to men-only services, rather than groups which primarily cater for women while offering some support for male victims. “There’s no competing agenda, but there are a lot of survivors who tell us they want to go to a male-only service,” he says. “They don’t want to feel like the treatment they’re getting is secondary.”

He adds: “From infancy we’re told that boys don’t cry and if you’re strong enough you can fight people off. You’re told that your role is to penetrate, so if you’re raped and you’re penetrated, what does that make you: a woman? Gay? And there are many other kinds of sexual abuse. It’s so good that this is being talked about more and people are coming to our services, but we need the funds to be able to provide them.”

For more information visit Survivors UK, Survivors Manchester or the Brighton-based Mankind.

Source: Telegraph UK.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 7:48 am 
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Sex Trafficking & Sexual Slavery Support

National Human Trafficking Hotline
Open 24/7
1-888-373-7888 or Text INFO or HELP to BeFree 233733

Shared Hope International
Offers training and information to the public, helps expand shelters across the nation, lobbies to change legislation to combat injustices and protect victims.
Accepts donations.

Polaris Project
• Works to combat trafficking at international, national and local levels.
• Offers training to the public and writes policy to lobby to help prevent trafficking.

Department of Homeland Security
• Offers information and resources on website to help inform the general public.
• Provides links to state and local anti-trafficking groups.
• Concerned citizens can click a link to request help for child victims of trafficking.

Center for Missing and Exploited Children
• Offers a cyber tip line for people to report possible cases of trafficking.

Sanctuary For Families
• Provides domestic violence victims, sex trafficking victims, and their children with a range of comprehensive services.
• Offers legal and clinical services.
• Provides shelter to 200 women and children a night.

Office of Refugee Resettlement
• Anti-Trafficking in Persons Program, assists foreign victims in becoming eligible for U.S. public benefits and services.
• Offers training programs for general public.
• Campaigns to rescue and restore victims of sex trafficking.

Extra Reading

Human Trafficking Into and Within the United States: A Review of the Literature

Women Trafficked to the Metropolitan area of ​​Monterrey: An Analytical Perspective

Attorney General’s Annual Report to Congress and Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons

Trafficking:: Pimps, Initiation and Modus Operandi.

Statistics on Efficiency in the Fight Against Trafficking in Mexico

Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010

Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2007-08

Estimating Human Trafficking into the United States: Development of a Methodology

Understanding and Addressing Violence Against Women: Human Trafficking

Statutory Responses to Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Victims

Biennial Comprehensive Research and Statistical Review and Analysis of Severe Forms of Trafficking, Sex Trafficking and Unlawful Commercial Sex Acts in the United States

Source: fusion.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2014 6:54 pm 
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Appeal to Londoners to help tackle anti-gay hate crime
4 July 2014
By Joe Morgan

Mayor of London Boris Johnson is appealing to Londoners to help tackle homophobic and transphobic hate crime.

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime is hoping to enable the LGBTI community to feel confident in reporting crimes to the police. In order to do this, they have asked LGBTI Londoners to fill out a consultation so they can inform a new strategy to be revealed in autumn this year.

Stephen Greenhalgh, the deputy mayor for policing crime, said: ‘Levels of hate crime are too high and there is significant under-reporting. Working with key organisations such as the Metropolitan Police, the Mayor and I are committed to improving the city's approach to tackling hate crime and we are seeking wider views to help us do this. London is a city where we should be free to live our lives how we choose, but not free to hate.'

In the last year alone, reports of hate crime in the LGBTI community in London have increased. Homophobic hate crime went up by 7% (1106 to 1185) and transphobic hate crime went up by 65% (51 to 84). Hate crime can include verbal abuse, physical assault, domestic abuse, harassment and damage to property.

Ruth Hunt, acting director of Stonewall, told Gay Star News: ‘We must never get complacent. All the rights that we have secured, not everybody has good feelings about gay people. We must be aware of that. Whatever happens, however minor, we must report those instances to the police. We must have an accurate picture of LGBT hate crime in London.’

If you would like to fill out the consultation, you can do so here.

Source: GayStarNews.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2015 4:45 am 
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Södersjukhuset, southern Stockholm's main hospital where the clinic will be. Photo: Tomas Oneberg/TT

Sweden opens world's first male rape centre
15 October 2015

A hospital in Stockholm is understood to be first in the world to set up an emergency department specifically for male rape victims.

The clinic at Södersjukhuset opened on Thursday as part of a strategy to ensure "gender equal" patient care. Södersjukhuset already runs a round-the-clock walk-in clinic for women and girls who have been sexually assaulted in the city, treating between 600 and 700 patients a year. Now, the hospital, which hosts the largest emergency care unit in the Nordic region, is opening its doors to men and boys who are victims of rape and sex attacks.

"We are happy that we now can finally open the first rape clinic for men following the rape clinic for women," Rasmus Jonlund, a press spokesperson for the Liberal Party, which led the campaign for the department in the Swedish capital, told The Local just ahead of the launch. "It is the first in Sweden (...) We think it is the first in the world. We haven't found another from our research on the world wide web," he added.

The opening was also celebrated by the Liberal Party's centre-right Alliance partners in Stockholm City Council; the Moderates, which are the largest group in the capital's coalition, the Christan Democrats and the Centre Party.

"Emergency medical care for raped men will be free of charge, and offered around the clock, all year," said Marie Ljungberg Schött, a local Moderate Party party politician and council representative on emergency care in a statement.
"So far there has been no specific place for men who are victims of rape to turn to. Therefore we in the Alliance have decided to change this."

In 2014, some 370 cases of sexual assault on men or boys were reported across Sweden, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, although experts believe that the actual figure is much higher. "We don't know how many people will use it (...) but we know that there are many who experience these kinds of assaults but don't currently seek care," said Jonlund. "Our hope now is that many more of these hidden victims will also be able to get help now."

Sweden has the highest rape rate in Europe, a statistic that gained global prominence in 2010, when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was first accused of sex crimes in the Nordic nation, allegations which he still strongly denies. However this is partly because the country records allegations in a different way to most other countries, tracking each case of sexual violence separately. So for example if someone says they were raped by a partner every day for a fortnight, officers will record 14 potential crimes. Elsewhere, many countries would log the claim as a single incident. Nevertheless, the nation's high statistics have made rape a matter of high level political debate in recent years.

In 2014, a study by sexual education organization RFSU suggested that in most municipalities across Sweden, men were uncertain where they could get emergency help following a rape.

Inger Björklund, a spokesperson for the group told The Local in June that it was looking forward to the opening of Stockholm's new facility. "There are myths about masculinity that make it difficult for men who have been sexually traumatized to talk about their experiences," she said. "A clinic focusing on men who have been sexually abused will contribute to the awareness of experiences of sexual abuse among men and make it more possible to meet men's needs."

Jonlund said on Thursday that he hoped the new clinic in Stockholm would also be able to "spread the knowledge" aquired by its efforts, in order to help other medical centres provide the best care possible for male victims. He also argued it was essential that work also continued to prevent rapes happening across Sweden. "Men shouldn't have to come to this kind of clinic at all," he said.

Source: The Local Sweden.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2015 8:17 pm 
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Russia's sole sexual assault center struggles to make ends meet
By Vasily Kolotilov
20 October 2015

Russia has only one organization that exists specifically to help victims of sexual assault, and today, its fate hangs in the balance.

The Sisters sexual assault recovery center in Moscow is eking out an existence, depending on modest donations and barely able to cover the rent and phone bill for Russia's only dedicated helpline for victims of rape. "We were close to shutting the center down several months ago," Maria Mokhova, the center's director, told the Moscow Times in a recent interview. "No one was being paid, and only a few of us were still working. If anyone had come and told us to leave the office, we would have left. We had no more strength to fight."

In 2014, Russia's courts convicted 4,720 people of rape and sexual assault charges, according to Supreme Court statistics. But the official statistics are far from reality, said Mokhova, as only 5 percent of sexual assault victims who call the center take their cases to court.

The Sisters center was opened in 1994 by women's rights advocates who realized that the psychological trauma caused by sexual assault had not been treated properly for decades under Soviet rule. It occupies a small office in an ordinary high-rise apartment building on the northern outskirts of Moscow. It has a room for the helpline operator and another containing several armchairs that is used for individual counseling. The office walls are covered with social ads and drawings done as part of therapy by those who come to the center for help.

Mokhova, a microbiologist by training, joined the center in 1996. She saw an advertisement in a newspaper, showed up at a volunteer training course and ended up staying, she said. "There's no word like 'woman' in the center's name because it is clear that sexual assault can be committed against a woman or a man or a child," the director said. She declined to say how often men and children turn to the center for help.

Today, the center's main activity is the helpline for sexual assault victims. The center has run many different projects during its existence, but the helpline is the only one that endures, said Mokhova. It receives calls from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. "As soon as there is a single possible case of sexual assault, we have to be on the line to provide help," she said.

The center's helpline is operated by women only: Social research and Sisters' experience have shown that it is psychologically easier for callers to share their experience with a woman, regardless of the caller's gender. The helpline operators are volunteers who work two five-hour shifts a week or more, depending on how many volunteers are available at any given time. Every center employee has to help staff the helpline, except for the male lawyers.

Seven people were working at the center during the visit of a reporter from the Moscow Times earlier this month. Sisters' core team is 25 people who have worked at the center from time to time through the years, Mokhova said. Calls to the helpline are strictly confidential and anonymous, and are not recorded. No journalists are allowed into the room where the helpline operator works.

The approach is based on more than simply keeping the clients anonymous. Sexual assault trauma issues in part from the attacker's wish to gain total control over the victim, said Mokhova. Afterward, the victim feels a dramatic lack of control over their life and the world around them. "We allow the caller to regain ownership of their life. They call, we pick up the phone. The callers tell us their names, we listen. But we don't record the conversation, we have no right to interfere in their personal life. We have to show them that they are in charge of their lives and actions," said Mokhova.

The helpline operators do not invite callers to visit the center for personal consultations, it has to be the caller's own decision. And that decision is a leap in a person's therapy: By doing so they get their life back in their own hands, said the director. "It takes courage to call, courage to admit what has happened, and even more courage to come here," Svetlana, one of the center's psychologists, said. Svetlana asked for her second name to be withheld, citing security concerns.

In her opinion, the most important part of the job during the phone sessions or personal meetings is to convince the sexual assault victim that what happened was not their fault. "They blame themselves for what happened. Moreover, others blame them too. Doctors and police officers blame them and laugh at them, but it's never the victim's fault. The attacker is responsible," says Svetlana. "Sometimes we just need to tell people that to make them feel much better."

Along with the phone conversations, she helps the center's clients in person. Six years ago, a friend of hers invited her to join the volunteer training. She had always been interested in practical psychologist's work so she stayed. "It may seem very specific, but psychologists work with this kind of trauma in the same way as with any other. There's no difference," said Svetlana. She has never taken a break, although it is common among the staff here, and when a volunteer wants a change of scene and a rest, the center lets them go.

All volunteers regularly participate in group training sessions to prevent emotional burnout. "To help people who call, I have to wear my professional hat. I won't be able to help if I associate myself with them, if I simply listen to them as another human being," said Svetlana.

For many years Sisters was financed largely by international charities, including the Soros Foundation, Ford Foundation and MacArthur Foundation, Mokhova said. "What is happening now is the shutting down of the donors market, with donors leaving Russia," she said.

In December 2014, Sisters was on the verge of collapse. It owed 300,000 rubles ($4,800) for office rent and utility payments. For the whole of that year, the center had survived solely thanks to employees' enthusiasm, said Mokhova. Help finally came from the Yabloko liberal party, which started an online petition in April calling for help for Sisters. The petition was signed by 45,000 people in two months. Seeing this and realizing what the scale of support for the center was, its leadership decided to carry on.

The center organized a social media campaign, and soon after a prominent charity foundation, Nuzhna Pomoshch, contacted Sisters and offered to put the center's request for donations on their site and promote it. Currently the center only receives private donations, said Mokhova. This year, Sisters applied for two presidential grants for NGOs, but to no avail. It plans to apply for another one in November set up by the Economy Ministry.

Sisters is the only center in Russia that specializes in helping sexual assault victims, the director of the ANNA National Center for Violence Prevention, Marina Pisklakova-Parker, told the Moscow Times. There are many different crisis centers for women in Russia, both private and state-run, including shelters for women in difficult situations where people can stay for several weeks. But these establishments are generally geared toward victims of domestic violence. Sexual violence is considered part of that, but most of the centers' employees do not know how to treat it specifically. "We don't have a government-sponsored help system for sexual assault victims in Russia," said Pisklakova-Parker. "It's widely acknowledged that people should see a psychologist after an assault. But usually the victim has to do it on their own," she said.

Source: Moscow Times

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2016 7:26 pm 
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Spain busts sex trafficking ring based on victim hotline tip
22 October 2016

MADRID (AP) -- Police in Spain say they have arrested 21 people and freed four women while breaking up an alleged human trafficking ring.

The country's national police said in a statement Saturday that the bust in the southern city of Malaga happened after a victim called an anti-sex trafficking hotline saying she was being forced into prostitution and to consume illegal drugs. Police say the ring was led by a woman who operated four locations where victims were forced to prostitute themselves in "marathonic sessions." One of the freed women first was exploited when she was a minor.

Spanish police say the anonymous hotline established three years ago has received more than 1,800 calls this year, leading to about 400 interventions by the police.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2017 4:54 pm 
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New trauma unit to help former Islamic State sex slaves
By DAVID RISING
22 February 2017

DOHUK, Iraq (AP) -- After their rape and torture by Islamic State extremists for months or years, Yazidi women face ongoing suffering from psychological trauma even if they do manage to escape.

Until now, a lack of psychiatrists and other mental health specialists in northern Iraq meant that many Yazidi women - a minority singled out for especially harsh treatment by IS - got little or no help. That's about to change with the establishment of a new psychological training center at the University of Dohuk in Iraq, the first in the entire region.

For Perwin Ali Baku, who escaped IS two weeks ago after more than two years in captivity, that can't come soon enough. The trauma of being bought and sold from fighter to fighter and carted from Iraq to Syria and then back again weighs heavy on both her body and her mind.

Today, when a door slams, the 23-year-old Yazidi woman flashes back to her captors locking away her 3-year-old daughter, captured with her, to torment her. When she hears a loud voice, she cringes at the thought of IS militants barking orders. "I don't feel right," she said, sitting on a mattress on the floor of her father-in-law's small, canvas-topped Quonset hut in a northern Iraq refugee camp. "I still can't sleep. My body is tense all the time."

The training center is the next phase of an ambitious project funded by the wealthy German state of Baden Wuerttemberg that brought 1,100 women who had escaped Islamic State captivity, primarily Yazidis, to Germany for psychological treatment. The medical head of that project, German psychologist Jan Kizilhan, is also the driving force behind the new institute, which opens at the end of the month. The program will train local mental health professionals to treat people like Perwin and thousands of Yazidi women, children and other Islamic State victims.

About 1,900 Yazidis have escaped the clutches of IS, but more than 3,000 other women and children are believed to still be held captive, pressed into sexual slavery and subjected to horrific abuse. As the fighting rages on between Iraqi forces and IS in Mosul, only about 75 kilometers (47 miles) from Dohuk, the number reaching freedom increases daily.

Right now there are only 26 psychiatrists practicing in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, which has a population of 5.5 million people and more than 1.5 million refugees and internally displaced people. None specializes in treating trauma.

Perwin received brief, basic counseling after being freed Dec. 30 from IS near Mosul - "they asked 'Do you sleep well?' and I said 'No, I can't sleep well'" - but nothing else. She looks to her toddler, dressed in a red sweatsuit with her hair in pigtails fastened by cherry bobbles, who popped into the tent only to beat a hasty retreat when she saw strangers. The child has received no treatment at all. "She's always scared," Perwin said. "And she's had nothing more than cough medicine."

Fighters from the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, swept into the Sinjar region of northern Iraq in August 2014, an area near the Syrian border that is the Yazidis' ancestral home. Tens of thousands of Yazidis escaped to Mount Sinjar, where they were surrounded and besieged by Islamic State militants. The U.S., Iraq, Britain, France and Australia flew in water and other supplies, until Kurdish fighters eventually opened a corridor to allow some of them to reach safety.

Casualty estimates vary widely, but the United Nations has called the Islamic State assault genocide, saying the Yazidis' "400,000-strong community had all been displaced, captured or killed." Of the thousands captured by IS, boys were forced to fight for the extremists, men were executed if they didn't convert to Islam - and often executed in any case - and women and girls were sold into slavery.

Those lucky enough to escape are left with deep psychological scars. Kizilhan, a trauma specialist and also a university professor and Mideast expert, has been working tirelessly to help them find support. "We are talking about general trauma, we are talking about collective trauma and we are talking about genocide," said Kizilhan, who is of Yazidi background and immigrated to Germany at age 6. "That's the reason we have to help if we can - it's our human duty to help them."

The new Institute of Psychotherapy and Psychotraumatology at Dohuk University, in cooperation with Germany's University of Tuebingen, will train 30 new professionals over three years. The hope is to extend the program to other regional universities, so after 10 years there could be more than 1,000 psychotherapists in the region. The first class is made up of 17 women and 13 men, Muslims, Christians and Yazidis, with backgrounds in psychology, nursing, social work and teaching.

Galavej Jaafar Mohemmad, a Kurdish native of Dohuk who was chosen for the inaugural class, already has some psychological training but said she wants more. "Iraq has moved from one war to another war, but this time is the worst that has ever happened to humans - that's why I want to help," the 45-year-old said. "Even for the women who have come back from Daesh, Daesh has taken their kids, their husbands - they're free but they don't feel free."

In the Sharya camp, one of about two dozen sprawling facilities for internally displaced people in the Dohuk area, 39-year-old Gorwe has just been visited by two sisters-in-law who are receiving treatment in Kizilhan's program in Germany. Psychological treatment has helped them, but she said it "is no use" for her. "No matter how many doctors I see, I'll still have the same pain inside me," said Gorwe, who asked that her last name not be used out of fear that the Islamic State would harm her relatives still in captivity.

Twenty-four of her family members were taken by Islamic State militants, including herself, but only 14 - all women and children - have returned. The fate of the other 10, including her husband and four of her children, are unknown. "I will never forget what happened to us as they were selling us and buying us and beating us, I think about it all the time," she said. "How could you forget?"

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2017 4:02 pm 
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Cambodia rescinds expulsion of US charity workers
By SOPHENG CHEANG
22 August 2017

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- Cambodia's prime minister said Tuesday he has rescinded his decision to expel an American-led Christian organization that seeks to rescue and rehabilitate women working in the sex trade, accepting its apology and explanation that it did not intend to demean Cambodians.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said the Roseville, California-based group, Agape International Missions, would be allowed to continue its normal operations and that he hoped the group had learned a lesson from the controversy.

Hun Sen ordered the group expelled three weeks ago after its personnel appeared in a CNN report about child prostitution in Cambodia. Hun Sen took offense that the report said Cambodian mothers sold their daughters into prostitution. He and other officials said the report should have noted that the women profiled were ethnic Vietnamese, rather than Cambodia's mainstream ethnic Khmer. Many Cambodians share a long-established prejudice against Vietnam, a much larger neighboring country that has traditionally been suspected of coveting Cambodian territory and resources. "This nation is not for insulting," Hun Sen said Tuesday at a forum for conservationists.

Agape International Missions, founded by Don Brewster and his wife Bridget, opened its first center for former child sex workers in 2006, according to the group's website. Brewster of Lincoln, California, described child prostitution in the Svay Pak suburb of Phnom Penh in the CNN story, which was a follow-up to a 2013 report on the same subject. The website says the group, also known as AIM, "has been granted unique permission by the Cambodian government to conduct investigations, perform raids, make arrests and rescue victims of sex trafficking alongside local government officials within the country of Cambodia."

On Monday, Brewster on behalf of AIM held a news conference at which he expressed his "heartfelt apology" for any offense the CNN report had caused and specifically for its identifying the women profiled as Cambodian. "Recently, myself and the NGO I led, Agape International Mission, were mistakenly accused of working with CNN to defame the integrity of Cambodian mothers and of not having programs to help the people of Cambodia. Both of these accusations are false," he said. "CNN identified the three girls as Cambodian when in fact they are ethnically Vietnamese. This misidentification was made even though I told CNN the girls were Vietnamese," he said in a statement.

CNN declined to comment on Tuesday's development. In a statement published by The Cambodia Daily after Hun Sen's original criticism of the program, CNN said it stood by its story, noting that its point was that progress had been made in combating child sex trafficking since its previous story.

Hun Sen originally lashed out at both AIM and CNN when he first denounced the broadcast, but on Tuesday pinned the blame on CNN. His original criticism of AIM had been harsh. Hun Sen said he "could not accept" the assertion that Cambodian mothers sold their daughters into prostitution. "My country is poor but you can't insult my people," he said. "This insult cannot be tolerated. No matter what it costs us, this organization has to leave Cambodia."

Source: AP

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