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In new book, anti-trafficking experts insist we protect the poor from violence

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In their new book The Locust Effect from Oxford University Press, authors Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros reveal the pervasive obstacle that sabotages billions of dollars of poverty alleviation efforts around the world: violence against the poor.

Haugen, founder and president of International Justice Mission (IJM) and one of only two Americans to be recognized by the U.S. State Department as a Trafficking in Persons “Hero” for anti-slavery leadership, will present his findings and recommendations at three Bay Area book events from February 17 to 19.

The book contends that “far below the headlines, a plague of hidden, everyday violence —like rape, trafficking, and police brutality — is devastating the developing world and undermining our efforts to end poverty.” It refers to an estimate by the U.N. Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor that “4 billion people live outside the protection of the law.”

Haugen is uniquely qualified to present this case as IJM is a global leader in protecting the poor from violence by partnering with local law enforcement and other authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.

IJM has been conducted this work for over 17 years with operations in nearly 20 communities throughout the world, rescuing thousands of victims of slavery, sex trafficking, police brutality and other criminal violence and working to protect millions more by strengthening their justice systems.

They have learned first-hand that lack of protection from violence prevents the poor from emerging from their poverty. Such field experience substantiated this conclusion because “violence is as much a part of what it means to be poor as being hungry, sick, homeless or jobless –but it is harder to see.”

Two of the authors’ illustrations are: “The medical clinic can’t help the slave who isn’t allowed out of the rock quarry to go see a doctor. The new school can’t benefit the girl who cannot walk there because she fears being raped on the way.” Their assessment is “Violence not only undermines the help the world is trying to provide, but it also erodes economic development – lower levels of violence are correlated with higher levels of economic growth.”

As to the cause of such victimization, the authors summarize: “the heart of their vulnerability is a simple and devastating truth: there’s nothing shielding them from violent people. Their justice systems don’t work. The wonderful protections promised in the law books do not actually get delivered for the poor. No one goes to jail for hurting poor people, so no one is afraid to hurt poor people. Take India, for example, where you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than you are to go to jail if you hold people as slaves.”

A powerful example of such devastation is this fact from World Bank Data: “For women ages 15-44, gender based violence creates a greater risk of death and physical harm than cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria combined.”

Another horrific reality is in Guatemala where children were the victims in almost half of all sexual assault cases reported in the past 4 years. There, sexual crimes are underreported, and even when a report is made, 7 out of 10 cases stall out. IJM has an on-line petition where you can ask your Members of Congress to invest in Guatemala's Sexual Crimes Unit so they can better protect children and ensure justice for victims.

Haugen and co-author Boutros, a U.S. Department of Justice federal prosecutor and member of its Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, insist that broken justice systems must be fixed so that they protect the poor from violence. Citing the fact that only 1% of aid from USAID and the World Bank is applied to help improve justice systems to protect the poor from violence, they urge much more attention and investment to ensure that violence against the poor ends.

They stress that “the implications are enormous: We can’t end poverty if we don’t end the plague of violence. And, the violence won’t stop until public justice systems start to protect the poor.” Pointing to a 4-year partnership between IJM and local authorities in Metro Cebu, the Philippines, the authors report that the availability of children for commercial sex plummeted by 79%.

This initiative was called Project Lantern, and one of its many outcomes was the establishment of the Livermore-based Red Window Project, which equips trafficking survivors for fulfilling jobs in rewarding careers in Cebu. Many of the survivors they serve were rescued from enslavement in Project Lantern operations, a compelling case of making justice work on behalf of the victimized poor.

After successful intervention and protection from law enforcement and justice systems, these survivors are then able to pursue poverty alleviation programs, including career counseling, education, job training, and employment placement services provided by Red Window Project. This Bay Area non-profit served 250 survivors last year in a process of empowering them to emerge from poverty and the vulnerability to violent exploitation that accompanies it.

All author royalties from The Locust Effect will help fight violence against the poor. Additionally, during its launch week of Feb. 3-9, all purchases will be matched, $20 per book, as a donation to IJM in their work to end modern day slavery.

These are the Bay Area book events with Haugen: February 17, 7:30 p.m. at Kepler’s Books, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. February 18, 7-8 p.m. at World Affairs Council Auditorium, 312 Sutter Street, Suite 200, San Francisco. February 19, 7-9 p.m. at an event sponsored by the Bay Area Anti-Trafficking Coalition and the Stanford Program on Human Rights at Bechtel Conference Center, Encina Hall, 616 Serra Street, Stanford University.

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