Anne-Cecile Raphael: a multilingual, multi-talented volunteer

Anne-Cecile volunteers her legal and language skills.

It’s National Volunteer Recognition Week, and every day this week we’ll be highlighting a Sanctuary volunteer being honored at our Pillars of Change Volunteer Recognition event on May 5th. Learn more and register for Pillars of Change.

Anne-Cecile Raphael is an attorney, an advocate, a transplant to the United States from France, and speaks four languages (French, Chinese, German and English).

Who better to serve as a volunteer attorney with Sanctuary’s Immigration Intervention Project and Anti-Trafficking Initiative?

Anne-Cecile first became interested in bringing together her legal expertise and her interest in gender issues when volunteering with trafficking survivors in France. After moving to the United States almost two years ago, she found Sanctuary and began volunteering in our Legal Center. Her previous experience as an attorney in France and in China made her a valuable asset to our team from the start.

While at Sanctuary, Anne-Cecile has assisted numerous West African clients in navigating their immigration cases, and recently got involved with the Anti-Trafficking Initiative (ATI). A fluent Mandarin speaker, Anne-Cecile represents the growing number of Chinese clients seeking services with ATI.‎

Having previously worked with Chinese sex trafficking survivors in Europe, Anne-Cecile brings with her the cultural sensitivity and knowledge necessary to win client trust and to effectively address clients’ experiences of sexual violence, exploitation and trauma.

“Anne-Cecile has demonstrated great compassion and patience during her many sessions with clients, who have difficulty speaking about their horrific past,” shares Carolien Hardenbol, Co-Director of the Immigration Intervention Project.

“She has shown great dedication to serving some of Sanctuary’s most high-needs clients and is highly motivated to addressing the multiple challenges our clients face.”

Anne-Cecile recently received some exciting news: she was accepted to the Masters Program in Anthropology at Columbia University.

“I know this may affect my ability to volunteer regularly with Sanctuary,” she says. “But I hope to find new ways to stay involved and connect my interests!”

She’s already found one very dedicated way to stay involved – next November, Anne-Cecile plans to run the New York City Marathon on behalf of Sanctuary, raising funds and spreading the word about our work to end gender violence.

We are so grateful to Anne-Cecile for her incredible service, and look forward to honoring her at Pillars of Change on May 5, 2016.

You can join us at Pillars of Change by registering now. We hope to see you there!

New report reveals formula for success behind Sanctuary’s Economic Empowerment Program

494 women have graduated from the program.

View the full report.

For five years, our ground-breaking Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) has offered career readiness and office technology training to help survivors of gender violence disrupt the cycle of poverty, homelessness, and abuse by securing a living wage, career-track job.

Through an intensive four month training program, EEP participants focus on professional development, literacy upgrading, and advanced office technology skills that position them for living wage jobs across growing industries seeking skilled employees, including health care, financial services, technology, human services, and construction administration.

“The Economic Empowerment Program: Five Years of Transforming Lives, 2011-2016” reveals big numbers and impactful results:

  • 564 survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking enrolled – growing from 68 participants in 2011 to 146 participants in 2015
  • 494 graduates – an 88% graduation rate
  • 270 placed in career-track, living wage jobs – a higher rate than average for workforce development programs
  • $13.71 – the average current hourly wage of our graduates, more than $5 higher than New York State’s private sector minimum wage
  • 148,000 – the number of hours of advanced office technology training and literacy instruction our graduates received over the past five years – and this doesn’t even include additional time spent at internships, with individual mentoring and tutoring, and enrollment in outside courses and trainings

What makes our approach unique? Seven “Career Keys” unlock each client’s potential to move from low to living wage work: professional development, literacy, English proficiency, secondary education, IT skills, occupational skill and work experience.

After determining the Career Keys that a client needs, EEP also offers a full set of supportive services to address other barriers, such as childcare and transportation needs.

Meena, a survivor of extreme domestic violence, graduated from EEP in 2012. She says “My EEP counselor Saloni gave me the skills I needed to feel confident and move forward, while the other women enrolled in EEP were a constant source of positive energy when I was feeling uncertain about the future.

With EEP’s help, Meena obtained a full time job as a campus recruiter. She advanced quickly at her company, and today earns $75,000 a year. She is remarried, and her daughter Shari is thriving.

Read the full report and view more success stories.

Read Executive Director Judy Kluger’s op-ed about the critical need to connect survivors of gender violence with economic empowerment resources.

Learn more about the Economic Empowerment Program.

It happens to boys, too: a story of sex trafficking in Thailand

45% of trafficking victims are boys and men.

Our memory works in funny ways, with a select few images flashing through our heads when we think back to a particular one. When I think back to my 10 days on the ground with Urban Light in Chiang Mai, it is one particular image from my first night that returns incessantly to mind.

The image that haunts me is that of a boy, barely 12, short and skinny, leaving a bar with a man, easily in his fifties, tall and overweight. The look on the man’s face spoke of entitlement, an air of dominance and anticipation. The way he led the 12 year-old across the street was more authoritarian than paternal. The look on the boy’s face was that of resignation, a numbed out expression of utter helplessness.

The boy was one of many led away by older men from bars across Chiang Mai that night, probably to a nearby motel or alleyway to provide sex for pay. I never learned that boy’s name, I don’t know where he is today, but I know that I will never forget the look on his face that night.

All this I saw from the back of a tok tok in an ostensibly residential neighborhood of Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city. Together with Alezandra Russell, Urban Light’s founder, Brent Seely, the NGO’s Thailand director, and Montse Ferrer, a fellow pro-bono attorney, I was investigating places where boys are “sold.” From the back of that tok tok I would soon discover that, alongside Thailand’s highly public sale and exploitation of women, is a parallel but hidden network of bars, spas and cruising spots at which boys are “bought” and “sold” with impunity.

These boys, mostly teenagers, some as young as 10, have been trafficked from nearby Laos, Burma and Northern Thailand. The buyers are mainly white and Chinese “sex tourists” in their 40s to 70s. Local bar owners snarl these destitute boys with promises of good pay in return for “working” at their bars and then ply the boys with drugs so that survival sex becomes the only means for them to feed their addictions. The buyers, for their part, know that they can “buy” boys at will in Chiang Mai.

Despite the direness of the situation, trafficked boys remain one of the most under-served populations in Thailand. With many NGOs dedicated solely to the plight of girls trafficked into sex slavery and the boys themselves often reluctant to ask for help given the patriarchal nature of Thai society, the situation did not bode well for the boys of Chiang Mai.

Urban Light, the only NGO of its kind dedicated exclusively to helping boys, is changing the reality of these trafficked and exploited boys — offering them shelter, a daily hot meal they can rely on, medical testing, counseling, English and Thai classes, art relief and many other preventative and rehabilitative services.

Only a couple of blocks from Chiang Mai’s red light district, Urban Light runs a four-story drop-in center. It was within the walls of this drop-in center that I saw the promise of a better reality for Chiang Mai’s boys. I saw boys having a hot, healthy meal on the first floor, others participating in art relief classes on the center’s roof, still others waiting in line for medical and counselling appointments, and boys browsing the internet at the center’s computer room or simply taking a nap on the center’s comfy couches.

The boys treated the center as their home. They knew they were safe to take a nap without judgment, having probably gotten little sleep the night before. They knew they could count on the center’s doctor to see them when ill, and, when they were ready, they knew they could talk to a counselor to start their re-training to exit the sex trade altogether. The look in the eyes of every one of the boys at the center spoke of security – in the center they had found a refuge from the life they have been forced to lead outside its walls.

It is true that certain images become seared in our head, and, try as we might, we are unable to let them go. It is also true that we are capable of countering these images with other, hopeful ones. Urban Light’s center provided me with countless images of exploited boys taking charge of their lives again, helping me counter that one seared image. I can only hope that the boy I saw on that first night learns about Urban Light so that he too can have a shot at a different reality.

Ziad Reslan is an associate at Davis, Polk & Wardwell, currently assigned as a Legal Manager in Hong Kong. He shared his story with Sanctuary for Families after volunteering with Urban Light, and organization that helps boys who are survivors of sex trafficking in Thailand. 

5 Harmful Myths about Human Trafficking

When it comes to human trafficking, it’s hard to separate myth from fact.

Human trafficking is complicated. It’s kept under wraps, overlooked, and often ignored. Few reliable studies exist about its prevalence. As a result, it’s often hard to separate myth from fact when trying to understand this horrific abuse of human rights.

Read on to see some myths about human trafficking dispelled, and during Human Trafficking Awareness Month, take the opportunity to learn, share – and take action. 

1) MYTH: Human trafficking only happens in countries far away from the United States.

FACT: Human trafficking occurs around the world, in the United States, and right here in New York City. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center received over 16,600 calls for help last year. At Sanctuary, we regularly serve survivors of sex trafficking and human trafficking from the five boroughs. Our clients include both immigrants and native New Yorkers.

2) MYTH: Only women are victims of human trafficking.

FACT: Anyone, regardless of gender, can be a victim of human trafficking. In fact, studies have indicated that 45% of victims of human trafficking are men and boys. Men and boys can be victims of both labor trafficking AND sex trafficking.

3) MYTH: Human trafficking requires physical force or restraint to be considered trafficking.

FACT: Traffickers can use many kinds of tactics to coerce victims, including threats to a victim’s family; exploiting a victim’s vulnerability, such as lack of immigration status; using psychological tactics, like shaming, mental abuse, and isolation; and using debt bondage against a victim.

4) MYTH: Human trafficking is a small, underground industry that doesn’t affect many people.

FACT: 20.9 million people around the world are victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a $150 billion global industry. There are no reliable numbers on human trafficking victims in the United States, but the reality is pretty clear – this crime is widespread and affects millions of people around the world and at home.

5) MYTH: There is nothing I can do to end human trafficking.

FACT: Everyone can take action to end human trafficking. You can volunteer with Sanctuary, make a donation, or sign up to receive advocacy updates. You can also make smart decisions about how you spend your money and what you buy – check out to see how your consumer decisions might be supporting human trafficking, and what you can do to make change.