Sex Trafficking in Cambodia Documentary: How Cambodia Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC) works to support women and girls

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This BBC documentary takes a look at the child-slavery involved in sex-trafficking. Poverty, is the main reason girls become trapped in the cycle of sex-trafficking and prostitution. Families will often sell their children in order to survive. Girls, themselves, may then enter the sex-industry as a way to support themselves, while enduring the abuse that is involved. Often, they do not have many options, or choices, that would allow them to escape the cycle of trafficking and poverty. Because of this, they are vulnerable to continued abuse and mistreatment. CWCC, our partner organization, works to provide support and resources for women and girls who are coming out of the sex-trafficking industry. In the last section of this BBC documentary, CWCC is featured. They provide scholarships to the young women in the documentary who are seeking a different path. The CWCC handles around 300 trafficking cases each year (Phnom Penh Post). Their work is pivotal in providing choice, as their mission states, they are “Helping Women Help Themselves” by providing resources and financial aid to women and girls coming out of the sex-trafficking industry.

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Empowered Feminism and Cultural Humility

Blog by: Sue Wallingford

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      One of the concepts that we discuss as a team before going to work in Cambodia is the notion of “cultural humility.”  Our conversations, though still in their infancy, offer opportunities to look more deeply at the assumptions deeply embedded in our own white privilege, as primarily western-white middle-class women.  We have looked at this idea of “cultural humility,” as opposed to “cultural competence,” as our desire is to remain open to what is yet to be learned.  I also like the notion of humility over competency because it constantly puts the student in the place of not knowing; never assuming to have the answers; opening always to the moment at hand, and the people encountered as worthy of their own history and complexity.

I, as their teacher, and someone who is supposed to know the answers, struggle with this notion and have to constantly remind myself that I too am a student in this life-long subject, and that by allowing my students to see me struggle with the “right” answers I am sharing the most important lesson in humility of all.

One of most difficult areas for me in doing this work, both professionally and personally, is how do I remain an empowered female, who desires to instill in women comfort in all it means to be empowered (from a Western point of view) and do the hard work of facing a Cambodian girl who has spent most her years using her body as a vehicle for someone else’s pleasure?  How do I instill in her that all she has to do is take back her power, wield the shield of fierce sexuality and she will be ok? I can’t.  And to assume I can is not only a crime to her but to all women and men who have been abused in the most intimate of ways, including myself.  To stand in her sexual power will likely never be possible for this girl given the history she has, and I can’t make it better.

So, when this happens, and I forget that to really love another I have to honor their scars as well as their beauty, I get to say, “I’m sorry,” and try again to not speak from a place of ignorance but instead from a place of curiosity and compassion.

Cultural “Humility” extends beyond knowing what to say, how to dress, or even how to behave.  It is about deep and fearless empathy, and the desire to really understand another’s suffering.  Not to try to change it, just to be with it, and love it, no matter what.

I love the following article by Kelly Rose Pflug-Back because I think it speaks directly to this issue, and challenges us empowered feminists to take another look at what “power” really means.  I’ll be sharing this one with my students.   Please join the conversation and give us your thoughts too.  And stay tuned for more conversations about this topic.

Why “Sex-Positive” Feminism Is Negative For Me

Kelly Rose Pflug-Back

While skimming through news a few weeks ago, I noticed that one of the current hot topics on feminist threads was the Cliteracy project, an installation piece by New York artist Sophia Wallace that focuses on themes of women’s sexual gratification.

Like many popular presentations of feminism today, the Cliteracy project seems to propagate the idea that sexual empowerment in the 21st century means that women should enjoy getting off and that men should enjoy getting women off. While society has long been plagued by suppressed knowledge of the female sexual anatomy, a superficial and reductionist critique like Cliteracy results in men being able to think that they are being “good” feminists by mere virtue of enjoying giving oral sex to women. The idea that “good sex” or a “healthy sex life” can be quantified by levels of arousal or frequency of orgasms fails to meet the needs of people who have a complicated relationship with sex because of past trauma, gender dysphoria, or other factors.

I have had sexual encounters which, by conventional standards, would be deemed “good sex,” yet still left me feeling violated, afraid, and alone. While my partners may have understood the mechanics of my anatomy, they felt no need to understand my history of trauma and the impact this has had on my emotional and spiritual life.

I didn’t realize that I wasn’t a virgin until the day, after coming home from Grade 1, I finally worked up the courage to ask my mother what sex was. I remember experiencing a strange sinking feeling as she calmly described to me some vague approximation of the terrifying ritual which a group of older boys I knew had been forcing me to perform with them for some time.

One’s pubescent years are often thought of in our culture as a time of sexual discovery, yet all I felt that I had discovered through my first sexual experiences was the grim reality of what it meant to be violently objectified as a female-bodied person in an insidiously patriarchal society.

As I entered high school, I remember watching with growing bitterness as my peers giggled about their own sexual awakenings, blushing as they speculated about the details of something that had never been a mystery to me. While they swooned with their first dizzying tastes of love and lust, I was locked in my room snorting crushed up pills and cutting my arms open with straight razors, fantasizing about peeling my own skin off and immersing myself in acid baths until even my bones disintegrated, dousing myself in gasoline and burning ’til there was nothing left that could feel.

I felt physical attraction to other girls, and the idea of acknowledging it tortured me and robbed me of sleep. I fell in love at some point with one of my best friends, but when he reciprocated my feelings, I became terrified by the prospect of physical intimacy. Sex, I felt, was not a happy thing, something I could not ever do with a person I loved and respected. I seized up and became cold when he and I touched, yet I had no problem having anonymous sex with older men with whom I felt no connection. I remember laughing about it later, showing him the bruises on my legs, looking at the sadness in his eyes and wishing I could make him understand somehow. The body, which he thought was beautiful and sexy, was nothing but a site of violence to me, an inconvenient lump of flesh and nerves which served no purpose besides being a vehicle for agony and helpless rage.

I grew accustomed to directing my hate and anger towards my own body, starving it, mutilating it, abusing it with drugs. I blamed my body it for its vulnerability, instead of blaming the society which had produced this vulnerability and the individuals who had taken advantage of it. There were times I tried to tell other kids at school about what had happened to me, but their reaction was laughter and ridicule. I was one of the unpopular girls, the ones who walked around in stained hand-me-downs and never got invited to birthday parties. I was already dirty in their eyes; the admission of having been violated was simply proof of it.

When I started to become acquainted in later years with the world of feminist activism, I immediately felt alienated by the ways in which mainstream feminist movements approached things like sexual empowerment and body acceptance. Almost 10 years later, the face of popular, “sex-positive” feminism seems to have changed very little. It still seems to be a movement geared towards middle-class, mostly white, liberal, cis-women for whom liberation may indeed be a simple matter of achieving greater sexual satisfactionending the culture of slut-shaming, and re-appropriating femme aesthetics.

For people who face more obstacles in the path towards reclaiming and realizing their sexuality, this sort of uncompromisingly positive and monolithic view of sex can come off as anywhere from frivolous to brutally alienating. During the long period of my life in which I felt that I was completely incapable of having any kind of healthy manifestation of a sex life, I often felt wracked by the guilt of not being a “good” feminist.

Given the alarming prevalence of rape and sexual violence in our society, perhaps all of us, regardless of gender, should begin with the assumption that all female-bodied partners we have (and, realistically, quite a few of our male-bodied partners as well) are survivors. In a world so rife with inequality and violence, it is not enough for us to think that being an adequate lover means knowing how to make our partners come. Our understanding of human sexuality and eroticism must expand in ways which are not limited to the physical intricacies of genital sex. “The clitoris is not a button it is an iceberg” proclaims one of the slogans which compose the Cliteracy project — a phrase that seems to imply the clit is not in fact as small and external as it appears, because it is attached to a much larger internal structure. Yes, the external clitoris is attached to a large internal apparatus of muscles and nerve endings — it is also attached to an entire human being, a being who, since birth, has been categorized as socially inferior based upon their anatomy and more than likely has a complicated relationship with their body and their sexuality because of it.

Today, I feel like the sex I choose to have in my life has to include more than just physical factors. It’s not enough to be having an orgasm (or two, or three) every time. It’s not enough to feel like I have the space to talk about and ask for the things that turn me on. I have to feel like my partners and I have opened the space to be radically honest about the ways we have been damaged, the space to start healing each other’s wounds and healing our own in the process. This is something that can happen in a long term relationship, a one night stand, a sexual encounter between friends or casual lovers. It can range anywhere from the most vanilla of vanilla to the most extreme of BDSM scenes, and everything in between. It can be through types of erotic intimacy that don’t involve physical touch. It can happen in any of the myriad circumstances in which we seek out closeness with each other, so long as everyone involved acknowledges that sex is not always just an act of doing — sometimes, it must also be one of undoing.

It’s one thing for a lover to accept my body, to find beauty in its curves, its cellulite, its asymmetries and uniqueness — but if they can’t look at my scars and acknowledge that these, too, are part of the package, then the rest is meaningless to me.

We are taught through the ethos of mainstream feminism to love and accept our bodies regardless of whether they fit conventional standards of beauty or sexiness, to know what gives us pleasure, and to feel no shame in asking for it. These things may be incredibly beneficial for some people, but we also must acknowledge that each body comes with baggage — and if this baggage prevents us, for the time being, from fully loving and accepting ourselves, from pleasuring ourselves, or from giving and accepting pleasure from others, this does not mean that we are wrong or bad or broken. We are simply doing what we have to in order to survive in a world where the odds are stacked against us, regardless of whether our ways of coping look “healthy” to others, regardless of whether we are called bad feminists or bad women because of them.

A woman who was assigned male at birth will likely have a different relationship with her body than a woman who has gone through her life with cis-gendered privilege, just like a woman who is subject to types of sexism that are intertwined with racism and colonialism will likely have a different relationship with her body than a woman who lives sheltered by white privilege. As surely as there are no right or wrong bodies, there are no right or wrong ways of relating to our bodies.

If we wish to construct a feminism that is truly “sex positive,” it must address the myriad forms of oppression that violate women’s lives and bodies on a global scale. “Freedom in society can be measured by distribution of orgasms,” reads another slogan of Wallace’s Cliteracy project — a statement that seems almost painfully ludicrous when we consider the millions of women worldwide whose freedoms, sexual and otherwise, are devastated on a daily basis by state violence, environmental degradation, poverty, racism, and the wide variety of other hardships women must tackle in the contemporary world, in addition to a lack of sexual gratification. Women’s sexual empowerment is not an issue which can be separated from broader struggles for gender justice, and in order to support its realization, we must fight collectively for serious social and political change with the same passion and uncompromising desire we bring to our bedrooms.

Unveiling the Mandalas: Fundraising for the Service-Learning Trip to Cambodia. Come be part of the community!

An important piece of the service-learning trip to Cambodia involves fundraising through the annual Painting Marathon.  This year, the marathon, titled “Canvases for Cambodia”, has three teams including: The Creative Crusaders, The Sunbeams, and The Helping Hands.  Three canvases will be painted over the course of 48 hours to create distinct mandalas.  Sponsors support students by donating to each team as they paint.  This project serves to bring awareness to the service-learning trip, to the reality of sex-trafficking in Cambodia, and to build community support and connection.

canvases for cambodia

The Mandala:

Sanskrit for “sacred circle,” the mandala has represented a mystical symbol of the universe used primarily as a Buddhist or Hindu aid to meditation (Dellios, 2003).  An important part of Cambodian culture, the mandala represents, in this context, the coming together of community.  This is symbolized in the painters coming together to support this project, as well as the larger connection to a global community striving for social justice.  Come join us in connecting to the world through art and community.  Check out this years intentions from each team!  Follow the links to learn more about each team and how to be involved with them.

Introducing the Teams and their Intentions:  

The Creative Crusaders: Resilience, Empowerment, and Possibility

liz mandala

“This open-ended format embraces the whole spectrum of artistic ability, so whether you are a master photorealist, an intuitive abstract colorist, someone who relishes getting lost in intricate patterns, or EVEN if your talent with a paintbrush plateaued in preschool, your contribution has a place in the Mandala. In terms of what we will paint, team Creative Crusaders does not have any specific source images in mind, but we hope to draw upon the following themes for inspiration. A crusader is someone who fights for change in the world, and stands as the source for creating that change. Resilience, empowerment, possibility, justice, truth, courage, passion, and vision are just a few of the qualities we hope to evoke and honor in this Mandala. We encourage each artist to reflect upon your own associations of what it means to be a crusader for social justice. What symbols, colors, patterns, and images come to mind? Have a mandala that inspires you? Post it to our facebook page! We are so excited to create with you!”
The Sunbeams: Reminding us of Natural Cycles and Interconnection
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“We create our image/mandala in honor of the Sun, a life-giving Mandala that we witness daily rising in the East and setting in the West.  It is a reminder that we are all united on Earth, as human beings, as nature.  It is a reminder that life is a cycle, always renewing, always rebirthing.  It is a symbol of hope and interconnection; the values we bring with us in our commitment to social justice.”
The Helping Hands: “The whole is greater then the sum of its parts”- Aristotle
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“Helping Hands wants to represent each one of our painters over the 48hrs by having them create their own personal, individual mandala.  Each mandala created during your time painting will then create the illusion of a larger mandala.  Each small mandala becomes part of the greater image. Your marks help create the greater whole!”
How this relates to you:
If you live in the area, come paint with us!  No matter where you live, consider donating to support the 2014 team in their commitment to Social Justice, Art Therapy, and Learning.  This is one opportunity to be involve in something larger than ourselves while having fun in the process.  Don’t forget to follow the links to learn more about the teams or donate to them!
The General Donation Fund can also be donated to here.  We thank you for the support!
References:
Dellios, R. (2003). Mandala: from sacred origins to sovereign affairs in traditional Southeast Asia. Center for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies.  Bond University.
Mandala Images Courtesy of:
Via the 2014 Team.
Compiled by Aiya Staller

NCAS-I Team Ready to go to Cambodia

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After organizing, re-organizing, weighing and packing nearly 200 pounds of art supplies, tending to last minute details, and checking the last thing on our list, we are ready to begin our journey to Cambodia!  We have a full agenda ahead, partnering with several different NGO’s in 4 different cities in Cambodia.  We will blog as we go along, so please stay posted as we tell of our adventures.  Here is a rough schedule of our trip.

May 22 – 28  – Siem Reap – while there we will be visiting Angkor Wat, getting lessons in Khmer and working with Anjali House, a non-profit organisation providing free food, healthcare and education to under-privileged street kids and their families in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  We will be making a sand tray and miniatures with them.

May 28 – 31 – We will be on the Thai Cambodia border working with Lotus and the CWCC Safe Shelter, a counseling and re-integration program with women and children survivors of the sex trafficking industry.  We will be working with them for 3 intense days offering training to the clinical team about trauma informed art therapy and doing groups with the girls.  We will be making worry dolls, hope garlands, treasure boxes, mandalas, eye pillows, and much more.

June 1- 7 –  Phnom Penh – On the 1st we will board a bus and travel to Phnom Penh where we will visit the killing fields, the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and other sites.  We will spend time with Carrie Herbert, an Integrative Arts Psychotherapist, qualified Trainer and supervisor and Director of the Arts Therapy Services for The Ragamuffin Project.  Carrie will provide supervision and educate the team about the expressive arts in Cambodia.  We will also visit with Arn Chorn Pond, founder of Cambodian Living Arts, and a Cambodian-American refugee having survived the Khmer Rouge genocide, at his lovely home in a small province outside of Phnom Penh.

June 8 – 15 – Kep – In Kep we will be staying at The Vine Retreat, and organic farm and retreat center where we will be spending time together integrating all we have learned, sitting together and making plenty of art.  We will also spend 3 days with a women’s handicraft and development association WHADA, making handicrafts to bring back to the states for sale, with all proceeds going back to this women’s organisation.

And much much more in between.  We will be posting often, sharing lots of stories and pictures!  Thank you so much for your support as we experience good times, exciting times and some hard and difficult moments too.

Until we return…… love to you!

Student Blog Entry: Healing trauma through art-based interventions

“Healing trauma through art-based interventions”

By Emily Seagrave

One of the most exciting opportunities for me as an emerging counselor and art therapist is the practice of designing treatment plans and art-based interventions to be utilized and shared with our partner organizations in Cambodia this spring. Because the Naropa Community Art Studio-International will be partnering with organizations that work on a daily basis with individuals who have experienced trauma, our interventions require us to skillfully integrate trauma-informed practices. Eager to brainstorm ideas, I have spent some time researching Trauma-Informed Art Therapy® and potential art-based interventions. A few preliminary questions guided my research and directed me toward the intervention featured. Note: While the intervention featured may not be appropriate for all populations who have experienced trauma, my hope is that this post will offer some insight into how art can help to heal trauma.

What is trauma and what effects does trauma have on an individual? In general, traumatic events involve threats made to the integrity of an individual’s life or body, or an encounter with death or violence that is both close and personal. Herman (1997) explains that traumatic events have the power to evoke helplessness and terror and result in changes to physiological arousal, emotion, cognition, and memory that are profound and lasting. Further, traumatic events compromise an individual’s sense of control, connection, and meaning.

How might such an experience manifest in an individual? According to Herman (1997), “The traumatized person may experience intense emotion but without clear memory of the event, or may remember everything in detail but without emotion. She may find herself in a constant state of vigilance and irritability without knowing why” (p. 34). In other words, the symptoms of trauma tend to become disconnected from the source and assume a “life of their own” (Herman, 1997, p. 34).

What role does art therapy play? Words or verbal narrative cannot describe the traumatic memories because they are experienced and remembered through vivid sensations and images (Steele & Malchiodi, 2012). Art therapy, on the other hand, allows for the trauma narrative to be processed through nonverbal expression (Malchiodi, 2005, 2008, as cited in Steele & Malchiodi, 2012). Even more, Malchiodi (2011a) explains that the sensory qualities – kinesthetic, auditory, and visual – of expressive approaches like art therapy are especially beneficial when working with trauma symptoms because of their relationship to neurological functioning and neurodevelopment (as cited in Steele & Malchiodi, 2012). Ultimately, as Steele (2003) elucidates, the goal of therapy for traumatized individuals is to encode the traumatic memory, express it through language, and successfully integrate it. However, the traumatic memory must first be retrieved and indirectly symbolized through the external means of art (as cited in Steele & Malchiodi, 2012). This essential step of externalization through art can be achieved through a creative therapeutic process called “body scan,” a somatically based art intervention briefly introduced below.

Body Scan: A Somatically Based Art Intervention

How does a body scan work? Body scan is based on Peter Levine’s “Somatic Experiencing.” It essentially combines bodily experience with visual artistic expression. An individual is asked to relax and imagine scanning one’s body from feet to torso to arms to head, noticing any sensations of discomfort, anxiety, or other distressing emotions. The individual is presented with an outline of a body (or has his or her own body outlined) and is asked to use drawing materials to indicate on the body outline any sensations noted during the body scan through lines, shapes, colors, or images (Malchiodi, 2008; Steele & Raider, 2002, as cited in Malchiodi & Rozum, 2012).

What is the goal of body scan? One goal is to help the individual visually express implicit sensations and to identify where any feelings of discomfort are felt in the body. To follow-up, the individual may be asked to add additional lines, shapes, colors, or images to the outline that might help reduce the discomfort in the body. Ideally, the individual can see both where he or she is holding trauma in the body and where resources are in the body. The ultimate goal of body scan is to assist the individual in understanding how trauma affects the body and to teach that trauma reactions are actually a physical response to stressful situations (Malchiodi, 2008; Steele & Raider, 2002, as cited in Malchiodi & Rozum, 2012).

If you are interested in learning more, watch the video above by Art2BeArt for Positive Living and Social Change – a group of Kenyan and International visual artists and therapists that uses what has been termed “body mapping,” a creative therapeutic process similar to “body scan,” in their work with marginalized groups. Through “body scan” or “body mapping,” you can see how individuals are able to externalize somatic and emotional experience, make meaning with symbolic representation through creative expression, and develop a tangible image that reconnects the different aspects of their being, all of which are key goals of trauma-informed art therapy and goals I hope our partners can work toward with help from the art-based interventions we share.

Herman, J. L. (1997). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence – from domestic abuse to political terror. New York, NY: BasicBooks.

Malchiodi, C & Rozum, A. L. (2012). Cognitive behavioral and mind-body approaches. In Malchiodi, C. (Ed.), Handbook of art therapy (89-102). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Steele, W. & Malchiodi, C. (2012). Trauma-informed practices with children and adolescents. New York, NY: Routledge.

Student Blog Entry: Make Good Art

     Earlier this semester, during a break (procrastination) from grad school, work, internship search, and planning for the matchbox gala, I was killing some time on the youtube and came across a commencement speech given to the University of the Arts class of 2012 by Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors. In his speech he discusses his journey to becoming a writer having never went to college. How he became a better writer by writing, his failures and rejections, and the hopelessness he faced when the prospects of achieving his dreams seemed too great. True to form, he also included his personal recipe for success in life. Although I appreciated his personal spin, much of his advice could be found in many other commencement or otherwise motivational speeches. What stayed with me was his final prescription; make good art, it will get you through the good times and it will get you through the bad times. Leg crushed and eaten by a mutated boa constrictor; make good art. IRS on your trail; make good art. Cat exploded; make good art. Someone on the internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before; make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best; make good art.

     Now, this brings up an interesting question. What is good art? The question ‘what is art?’ often arises; and has since before Andy Warhol created abstract paintings using his own urine and reactive copper paint, before Duchamp painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa. The question, what is ‘good art’ then is even more complicated. For me art is a creation that speaks to, and speaks from, one’s personal truths. Art is a reflection of some aspect of oneself. Good art then, is when that reflection can connect with the personal truths of others. My personal truth is that I love creating, I love being outdoors, and I love my sense of humor, I value my imagination above all else. To quote André Breton “Beloved imagination, what I most like in you is your unsparing quality”.

     Several weeks ago I came down with a cold.  Unable to fully concentrate on my readings, having to constantly attend to my runny nose and in a mental fog of cold medicine, I followed Neil’s advice and made art. With the matchbox gala on the horizon, I decided to make matchbox art. The first matchbox I ever made, before even knowing I was coming to Naropa was a dinosaur; so I decided to start there. Eventually, I noticed that I was actually starting to feel better. I was so focused on what I was doing that I didn’t notice when my sinuses were plugged or feel the need to cough every time there was a tickle in my throat.

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     It was another side of my truth that brought me to Naropa and led to my involvement with the Naropa Community Art Studio-International project; I care very much about people and I want to facilitate others finding their own truth and expression, and live their lives to the fullest, I will cry out against injustice, and I do not give up easily. Recently in our preparations, we read several articles concerning sex-trafficking worldwide and specifically in Cambodia. These articles discussed the violence inflicted upon those forced into prostitution; verbal abuse, physical beatings, early sexual abuse, traumatic head injuries, STDs, and rape (Farley et al., 2003). It is not often thought that prostitutes are raped, but when someone is unable to decline their sexual partners due to threats of violence, or they are physically forced into sex, beaten, drugged, and taken advantage of, that is rape.

     In Cambodia, young girls are often unknowingly sold to brothels by their families. They are told there are jobs in factories and restaurants then given an advance on their daughter’s first paycheck. That advance then becomes a debt the girls must pay off through enslavement at a brothel. Their virginity is sold for $500, after which the brothel rents them to 6-7 men each day to masturbate into for a price of $2 (Freed, 2003).

     I have again been feeling sick recently. Not a physical sickness, but one of the soul. How can the efforts of twelve make a dent in what is often referred to as the ‘world’s oldest profession’? How can we impact a problem that exists in almost every culture worldwide? How can we do something positive in Cambodia when it is estimated that 59%-80% of Cambodian men have paid for sex at least once, by far the highest of any other country? I feel hopeless and helpless. What went wrong in our evolution? This malice and brutality does not exist in other animals, no other species beats their mates unconscious before it rapes them. I feel like we are fighting back a wildfire with squirt guns and the fire keeps growing every day. We can keep treating the burn victims but this problem requires systemic changes. We need to change how our global culture views masculinity and power.

     So what do I do with these feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, fear in facing the overwhelming immensity of the problem? I make good art. I have experienced the profound healing power of art in my own life. Making art has helped me out of this mire of helplessness, fear, and anger before. Prostitution is not a one-sided problem. I believe those who perpetuate this abuse are in need of healing just as much as those they hurt. I believe art can heal the world, and I do not give up easily.

 By James Huffman

Farley, M., Cotton, A., Lynne, J., Zumbeck, S., Spiwak, F., Reyes, M. E., et al. (2003). Prostitution and trafficking in nine countries: an update on violence and posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Trauma Practice, 2(3), 33-74.

Freed, W. (2003). From duty to despair: brothel prostitution in cambodia. Journal of Trauma Practice, 2(3), 133-146.

Student Blog Entry: Using Our Voices

“Using Our Voices”

By Bethany Wells

“The realization that one exists as a whole of mutually conditioned relationships and that one is absolutely connected with all of existence may be the next step in human evolution” -Francis Vaughn

The NCAS-I team has been working with enthusiasm and dedication in preparation for our 2nd annual learning-service opportunity to work with women and girls who have escaped the sex trade. When I began my journey into art therapy it was with a clear intention of working cross-culturally, with marginalized and underserved communities, and in the field of social justice. When the possibility to get involved with the issue of sex trafficking by using art as a means toward healing arose, I knew this was an incredible chance to learn about, witness, and work with the suffering of the world. That said, there is still so much I don’t understand about the complex and pervasive system of deception, coercion, betrayal, sexual exploitation, and brutality that exists in and between almost every culture across the globe.

It can be argued that sex trafficking begins with poverty. With nearly every survivor there is a story of a family who did not have enough money to feed their children, could only afford to send one child to school so they chose the boy, and/or unequal opportunity for women and girls to find other sources of income. It is also speculated that most females who are or have been sex slaves or work(ed) in the sex industry have a history of abuse and/or addiction. But on top of these intertwining explanations, there are human beings that prey on the vulnerability of the poor, homeless, and young; that drug, kidnap, manipulate, coerce, control, intimidate, and physically, sexually, emotionally and psychologically abuse other human beings. Modern day sexual slavery is an organized criminal enterprise that condemns millions of women and children to social (and often literal) death, for the sexual pleasure and profit of others.

Where does one begin to address this problem? Why is there such disparity in access to resources throughout the world? Why is there still unequal opportunity for education and employment between genders? And how could anyone be capable of committing such atrocities against another person?

Learning to be therapists, it is difficult enough to face the reality of sexual and domestic violence as it operates interpersonally or in a single family. How much more difficult then, to face the reality of sexual violence as exercised by an elaborate and alarmingly lucrative industry that operates in nearly every community, systematically reducing victims to the condition of slavery (Herman, 2004). Knowing this phenomenon, studying the staggering worldwide statistics, and hearing the stories of survivors who have chosen to break the silence, fills my head with shock, horror, disgust, and dread. Dread that the problem is too big, too deeply rooted in patriarchy and capitalism, power and corruption. But when I look at organizations like Lotus Outreach International, Chab Dai, Polaris Project, iEmpathize, Truckers Against Trafficking, NCAS-I, and more, I see hope. I know that it may be too much for one person but with the number of activists, advocates, and brigades increasing every day, and the ability to approach this issue from countless different angles, change is possible.

Since my time with this project began I have had many conversations about the issue of sex trafficking with people who were either not aware of modern day slavery, or had a vague idea but assumed it only happened “over there” in countries far away and very different from ours. Thirty years ago, rape, domestic violence, and incest were similarly invisible, despite their high prevalence. A mass movement was required to bring these abuses into public awareness, which has resulted in enormous changes in the criminal justice system and victim advocacy. One hundred and fifty years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves during the civil war, it is astonishing that we still face the need to fight slavery. But the fact is—today, human trafficking is a $32-billion worldwide industry with more than 2.7 million people enslaved; has been reported in all 50 states, and the number of victims in the United States are estimated in the hundreds of thousands (U.S. Department of Justice).

In addition to the increasing numbers of organizations working to eradicate human trafficking, progress is being made regarding institutional accountability. In September, President Obama pledged his commitment to renew the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) during a highly public speech at the Clinton Global Initiative. Some say it was the longest speech on slavery by a U.S. president since the Emancipation Proclamation. The president also announced an executive order to strengthen U.S. efforts to stop human trafficking in government contracting, pledged to provide relevant officials and agencies with training and guidance programs on human trafficking, and promised to expand resources and services for trafficking survivors. On March 7th, 2013, hundreds of advocates, survivors, law enforcement officials and lawmakers gathered to witness President Obama sign legislation to renew the TVPA.

Ending modern slavery will not come with one speech, one executive order, or one signed piece of legislation. It will come if all of us—citizens, governments, corporations, and the philanthropic community—make it the priority it needs to be. “The demands for young adolescent girls, the abuses perpetrated by traffickers and brothel owners, and the social attitudes toward the women who become their victims are all issues that need to be addressed on a global level” (Freed 2004). The social and political institutions that support prostitution and the individuals who perpetuate and maintain such abuses for personal and financial gain need to be stopped. Only then will we be on our way to ensuring that every person is afforded the human dignity we deserve, no matter where we were born or what circumstances we find ourselves in.

In our recent conversations about ethical marketing and fundraising, NCAS-I members have grappled with how to address the issue of sex trafficking in a way that grabs and holds attention without sensationalization or unintentionally contributing to the exotification of victims, people’s fascination, disgust, or misconceptions, and we have experienced some paralyzing uncertainty regarding the complexity of language. But still, we have to talk about it. The main contributor to any cycle of violence (in addition to shame and stigma) is silence. We must use our voices and privilege (ethically, sensitively and respectfully of course) in ways that victims can’t, in order to get this issue on everyone’s radar. And for those of us who are artists and aspiring art therapists, we have another, far-reaching and important instrument for activism and healing. I am beyond excited to be a part of the large community of people working to eradicate this system of abuse and to assist women in discovering and/or reclaiming their incredible power.

Freed, W. (2004). From duty to despair: Brothel prostitution in Cambodia. In M. Farley, Prostitution, trafficking and traumatic stress (pp. 1-13). NY, NY: Routledge.

Herman, J.L. (2004). Introduction. In M. Farley, Prostitution, trafficking and traumatic stress (pp. 133-146). NY, NY: Routledge.

NCAS-I Forms Partnership with Lotus Outreach!

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We are thrilled to announce our new Partnership with Lotus Outreach, and the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, which we will be joining forces with for our service learning trip in May. We will be working specifically with their Counseling and Reintegration Program that provides a safe haven for victims of violence and the sex trafficking industry,to bring art therapy training and interventions to their organization. It is an exiting new possibility and one we hope grows as we work together to heal the effects of physical and sexual trauma that such heinous crimes bring.

To learn more about this organization and their Counseling and Reintegration program you can visit their webpage at Lotus Outreach.

Lotus Outreach is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to ensuring the education, health and safety of at-risk and exploited women and children in the developing world. Lotus Outreach achieves its mission by supporting the development of grassroots projects in vulnerable communities. By working with local people and organizations, Lotus Outreach ensures the local ownership, cultural relevance and cost effectiveness of each project.

Originally established to support refugee education, Lotus Outreach now also helps rehabilitate survivors of human trafficking and keep at-risk students in school.

Reminiscing and Looking Forward and a big THANK YOU!

Blog by Sue Wallingford

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Almost a year ago today the NCAS-I team only had about $500, a partnership with Tranisitons and a HUGE dream of going to Cambodia and working with girls who had been rescued from the sex trafficking industry.  With great enthusiasm, unbridled passion and a strong will to make our dream come true we had our first fundraiser, the first Painting Marathon Relay in October of 2011.  Quickly we were to realize that others in our community were also eager to take up the cause to fight against the trafficking of girls for sex, and by the end of our fundraiser we had engaged over 300 people and raised enough money to say, “Yes, we are going to Cambodia!”

From the moment we birthed the idea to now we have experienced such an outpouring of support for this cause, that I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to all the seen and unseen supporters and to let you know how well your efforts paid off.

After the Painting Marathon in October of 2011, we had a few other successful fundraisers that helped to not only support the travel of 7 students to Cambodia, but also provided enough for us to buy needed art supplies for the organizations with which we worked.  We received a prestigious grant from the Jenzabar Foundation while we were in Cambodia and so are well situated to begin the seeding process of future fundraising events and trips abroad.

As stated in an earlier blog about the mission of NCAS-I and our intended work in Cambodia:

NCAS-I expands the boundaries of the Naropa University Community Art Studio from local to global. Rooted in the principle of collaboration and a belief in the innate wisdom, creativity, and interdependence of all, we, the art therapy graduate students and faculty, seek active engagement with social justice organizations around the world. We will use art therapy practices to help relieve suffering and maintain a vision of unity, as guests and learners in the communities we serve.

I marvel at the foresight we had in the very beginning when we wrote this statement. I feel proud and deeply satisfied that we have been able to accomplish what we set out to do and that our mission was fulfilled.  Our plan to bring healing through art to the people of Cambodia was wrought with active engagement (external and internal), and collaboration.  Our aim to bring relief to suffering through the practice of art making was realized and became our own practice as we struggled to work with the harsh realities of this country.

While our intention in the beginning was to work with one NGO, Transitions Global, we found ourselves being asked to join forces with other human rights organizations.  In the three short weeks we were there we also worked with Anjali House, an organization that takes children off the streets and provides free healthcare, food, clean drinking water and education.  We talked with Ragamuffin, a grass roots NGO committed to bringing the expressive arts to relieve emotional pain and psychological damage in children and adults, about how we might collaborate in the future.  We spent some time volunteering at an orphanage in Phnom Penh that takes in abandoned and disabled babies and young children.  There we held babies, painted, danced and played with the children.  They asked us to come back next year.  We visited Arn Chorn Pond’s country home and learned from him first hand about the atrocities that happened to the Kymer people during the rule of Pol Pot.  We visited his Cambodian Living Arts Center and played music with students committed to bringing the traditional arts back to the people of Cambodia.  We had long conversations with the hotel staff, our tuk tuk driver, NGO workers, ex-pats and many other Cambodian people about politics, religion, art and culture.  Assumptions and personal values were constantly challenged, transformed, sometimes dropped and sometimes deepened.

AND WE DID ALL THAT IN A YEARS TIME!  WITH THE LOVING SUPPORT OF PEOPLE ALL OVER THE GLOBE!

Now, a year later, we are preparing for the 2nd Annual Painting Marathon, and ways to bring awareness to the issue of sexual trafficking and other devastating issues that plague the Cambodian people. We are forming new partnerships with other NGO’s in Cambodia and have widened our trainings there to include more populations in need. We are no less enthusiastic or driven.  The work we have done so far has only made us stronger and more focused on our mission.   This year’s team is bigger and strongly dedicated to what we began a year ago.  I am as proud of this team as I was the first.  It is such a blessing to be a part of this incredible journey with them and with you who continue to support us.

THANK YOU for your continued love and support, we could not do without it!

No Sunday Plans? Watch “Half the Sky” Online!

Watch Part 1 through October 8 here:  http://video.pbs.org/video/2283557115

Watch Part 2 through October 9 here:  http://video.pbs.org/video/2283558278

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide was filmed in 10 countries and follows Kristof, WuDunn, and celebrity activists America Ferrera, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, Gabrielle Union, and Olivia Wilde on a journey to tell the stories of inspiring, courageous individuals. Across the globe oppression is being confronted, and real meaningful solutions are being fashioned through health care, education, and economic empowerment for women and girls. The linked problems of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality — which needlessly claim one woman every 90 seconds — present to us the single most vital opportunity of our time: the opportunity to make a change. All over the world women are seizing this opportunity.” -From http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/half-the-sky/

“When women progress, we all progress.” – From “Half the Sky”

Do you want to support NCAS-I and our upcoming Painting Marathon fundraiser?  Visit our Crowdrise page and donate to the cause HERE!