Beyond Freedom got the chance to talk to Seattle Against Slavery about their work to fight slavery and especially sex slavery in Seattle.

What is Seattle Against Slavery?

It is a grassroots coalition working with local and national non-government and also government organizations and is building a strong community to fight sex and labor trafficking.

What is Seattle Against Slavery doing?

Besides building coalitions and forming reliable partnerships, they also offer different programs to educate the community and raise awareness to make a difference.

Trafficking Prevention for Schools

One of their projects is taking place in classrooms where they educate students in the hope to prevent them from turning into future victims but also future exploiters. Every one of us is a consumer and we can make daily choices what and how we consume. Of course, nobody who is reading our blog is thinking about buying sex, but the culture that supports sex trafficking is not made up of a single choice. It´s also about where we buy our clothes, what TV shows we are watching, which brands and people we choose to support. We have to make ethical choices and be aware of the impact every decision has. To raise a generation that knows how to make ethical choices, Seattle Against Slavery is speaking to those students.

The organization’s Education Director, Tanya Fernandez, told us that the students respond well to the program. “Our data shows that students report increased understanding of trafficking, positive shift in attitude, and behavioral changes that will promote safety in communities.”  Many students don´t forget about the topic once the class is over but they choose to volunteer. “Many students help coordinate future presentations in other classes, or work on special projects related to trafficking with the help of our staff.”

Tanya Fernandez sees the clear impact the program is having on the students. “At the heart of our program  is the belief that high school students are mature enough to have really tough conversations and powerful enough to change the world; we have yet to be disappointed or proven wrong.”

Freedom Signal

Freedom Signal is another interesting aspect of their work. A lot of sex trafficking is taking place online. The deals are made in chat rooms or on websites and even though the government has closed Backpage last year, other sites are a breeding ground for sex trafficking. That is the downside of the internet, but with the increase of social media and a more and more connected world, there is also an upside. We can do our part whenever we come across some suspicious activities we should report them, but that is not enough, and here is where “Freedom Signal” has its place.

In short, Freedom Signal is software to fight online sex trafficking. By utilizing existing platforms such as Google and Facebook it´s possible to reach out to possible victims and help them to exit trafficking, but it also enables to collect data about exploiters and buyers.  This works by using chatbots which are programmed by volunteers and “trained” by survivors to interact with buyers.

Executive Director, Robert Beiser, told Beyond Freedom, “Our vision for Freedom Signal is that everywhere someone is being trafficked online, they will find out about support and ways to get out, and Freedom Signal is a way to make that possible. Additionally, we want to educate the men buying trafficked sex about the trauma and violence they are creating, and Freedom Signal can do that, too.”

Men´s Accountability

The idea that got us interested in Seattle Against Slavery in the first place is one that works with men who are ordered by court to attend the program “Stopping Sexual Exploitation” after they got arrested for buying sex, but some men attend the program because they see the negative impact buying sex has on their daily lives.

Eli Zucker, Director of Men´s Accountability told us,l “Stopping Sexual Exploitation program (SSE) is a 10-week intervention aimed at decreasing repeat sex buying. The program is paid for by the participants, and 20% of the revenue we generate goes directly back to local survivor service organizations. Throughout the 10 weeks, men learn about the harms of trafficking, cycles of violence, the impacts of harmful or “toxic” masculinity, and how they can develop more fulfilling, sustainable relationships in their life.

SSE is a radical departure from other John Schools for many reasons, but the 10-week duration of our program is an important difference that speaks directly to our success in decreasing demand for sex buying. Meaningful personal and social change takes time; even if men are not receptive to our program at week one, nearly all of them find deep meaning in the program before we conclude. In that time, the men grow in their understanding of how they grew to be the man they have become, and how they can become healthier, better versions of themselves.

After ten weeks the men have finished the program and the results are impressive. Eli Zucker, concludes, “Overall, 93.5% of the men who come throughout program say they will not buy sex again, 90% of participants say that their thinking about prostitution has changed since being in the program, and nearly 84% of participants realize that buying sex had a negative impact on women in prostitution.“ 

Change is possible and it is necessary. Organizations such as Beyond Freedom and Seattle Against Slavery have a huge impact on society, help victims and survivors and can change the way men are thinking about buying sex.

If you live in Seattle, need help or want more information, visit the website. They also offer educational movies and interesting podcasts!