By Lisa Loving, NECN
In the scant attention given to victims of human trafficking, almost none focuses on boys and men who are not perpetrators — but, rather, are victims. Binu Joseph is working to change that.
A longtime Oregon resident, Joseph considers himself a survivor of human trafficking in the local community. His organization, Freedom & Justice for Humanity, is relaunching its awareness work with a campaign encouraging local residents to create beautiful art lanterns out of glass bottles and light them, bringing attention to male survivors of sexual and labor trafficking in our own communities.
Their launch was slowed by the pandemic, but now with support from NECN and others, the organization is moving ahead, with a new website — www.freedomandjusticeforhumanity.com — a community project, and soon, more services to help locally trafficked males get out of danger.
“Our goal is to create Freedom & Justice for Humanity workshops in communities to spread light and end human trafficking,” he says.
Joseph says in his own case he didn’t realize what he was living through was wrong, and that it was not his fault. Without going into the specifics of his story, he stresses that other male victims in similar situations need to be educated about their rights; and given the assistance they need to find their freedom.
Born from a group of friends and allies about three years ago, Joseph says the organization’s main goal is to help local males who are victims of human trafficking to fight for their freedom, and to help these survivors integrate back into society. He’s already been doing the work informally over the years, but now he can gear up with better resources to meet the need.
Contrary to popular belief, not all trafficking victims show signs of physical abuse, and not all realize in the moment how their behavior is controlled by a financial or criminal interest, Joseph says.
Also: Male survivors tend not to seek out or receive the same access to counseling and health services that some female survivors do. “And when they are finally ready to come out and ask for help, there are not any kind of counseling services, none of these are available to men — in particular with sexual and labor trafficking,” Joseph says.
“For the man to actually accept that exploitation is happening in their life — and even when they accept that exploitation does happen — it is hard for them to come out and speak up. “The times I was going through PTSD and anxiety and trauma in my life, there was no one I could find to help me with that,” Joseph says.
Over the past year, Joseph says, the issue has gotten much worse; the isolation and fear triggered by the pandemic has made it hard to reach out and help vulnerable people.
Right now, Freedom & Justice for Humanity is gearing up its outreach plans to hold more events in 2022, including craft workshops where participants can make the glass freedom lanterns and learn about human trafficking in the local community.
“Our goal is to create Freedom & Justice for Humanity workshops in communities to spread light and end human trafficking,” Joseph says.
The group’s first efforts will lay down an educational groundwork for volunteers and supporters in the coming year. “We want to start from the community,” he says. “When people in the community are aware of the issue, they will look out for their neighbors.”
For more information on the Freedom Lanterns and Freedom and Justice for All, go to their website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.