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Could a New Phone App Combat Human Trafficking?

 

Slavery - Human Trafficking

Author: Shernide Delva

There are an estimated 21 million people in forced or coerced human trafficking worldwide. That number is just an estimate. Human trafficking can happen anywhere at anytime.  It is going on in our backyards, and most of us are unaware of it. Because we are unaware of it, it becomes an unspoken problem. Now, a newly released app plans to combat this epidemic. All it requires is users take photos of their hotel room.

Just by taking pictures of your next hotel room, you can take a small step in helping victims of sex trafficking around the world. The new app is called TraffickCam and allows those traveling to upload photos of their hotel room around the world.

“You just enter your hotel room and your room number. You take four pictures, and you submit them to the website,” Washington University Researcher and TraffickCam developer Abby Stylianou said at a Human Trafficking Town Hall. “And then those become part of the pipeline that law enforcement can use to track down where the victims are being trafficked.”

The hotel room photos go into a database that over time will help law enforcement locate where human trafficking is occurring. Pictures of Hotel rooms are matched against a police database.

“Right now there are pictures posted every day. Hundreds of pictures, in every city around the United States, posted online, that show victims of trafficking, in hotel rooms posed on beds,” she said.

Stylianou says the idea sparked from the times authorities have asked the public to identify a hotel room where human trafficking took place. Often, someone was able to identify the hotel room from the photo.

Now, this app aims to collect hotel room photos in advance. So the next time you check into a hotel room, take pictures of your room and upload them using the app. After all, it is only one extra thing to do on top of your Snapchats and fancy food Instagram pictures. The app is free and available for both iOS and Android devices.

Human Trafficking and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and human trafficking, unfortunately, go hand and hand. Estimates indicate that between 40 and 85 percent of all prostitutes are drug users. What the media often does not portray is the fact that many victims are not addicts before being traffic. However, when found, these victims are left with drug addictions and dependencies.

There a few ways that substance abuse and human trafficking intertwine. It can be a product of recruitment, control or coping:

  • Recruitment: Victims will sometimes end up in human trafficking before any drug abuse. This scenario is very common in the sex industry. Men and women turn to prostitution to support their drug dependencies. Traffickers use this as leverage to obtain workers.
  • Control: Traffickers will force drug use on victims as a mean of control, so they get what they want.
    “In some cases, a prostitute will be forced by a pimp or other person to take drugs to ensure that they do as they are told… This is particularly true in the case of young people and children” (DARA).
    Sadly, this method of control is even used on children as well. Children are sometimes forced to take drugs or drink alcohol, so they are more manipulated into having sex or performing sexual acts without consent. Trafficking victims are often forced to take drugs like heroin or meth because they eventually become dependent on these substances. Traffickers gain control of their victims this way because soon the victims will feel they need to fund their addiction. Now, their addiction binds them to their exploitation.
  • Coping: Drugs can be a method of coping for victims. Victims of human trafficking may use drugs as a way to numb their pain. Day after day, abusing substances allow victims to deal with the reality of their life and work. Substance Abuse is used “as a way to be able to continue to do the degrading and often violent work” (DARA). Some victims also use drugs in the aftermath to reduce their post-traumatic emotional distress.

As you can see, human trafficking is a major problem across the board. The fact that an app like this could help law enforcement find the location these horrible acts are taking place is a step in the right direction. If you or someone you know has gone through a similar traumatic experience and is struggling with any form of dependency, the time is now to call for help. Do not try to do this alone.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Utah Senator Declares Porn a Public Health Crisis

Utah Senator Declares Porn as a Public Health Crisis.

Author: Shernide Delva

Utah has officially declared porn a public health crisis. Republican State Senator Todd Weiler has recognized the destructive, addictive nature of pornography and has recently introduced a resolution to the Utah legislature.

However, critics of the new legislature say it is based on exaggeration and morality rather than scientific evidence on the actual effects of pornography. Furthermore, many argue the senator’s resolution relies more on pseudoscience and has no place in governmental action.

Nonetheless, Weiler suggests that pornography exposure causes low-self-esteem in teens and leads to sexual behaviors. The bill he is pushing suggests that pornography represents a public health crisis.

The senator goes on to claim that pornography is responsible for:

  • Damaging teens’ brains
  • Affecting the state of marriage
  • Increasing the rates of rape and sexual violence
  • Causing a host of other social problems.

Weiler is passionate about the porn addiction problem. He has even called on the government of Utah to engage in research and prevention efforts to address this “epidemic.”  Is porn responsible for these setbacks? Are these claims fact or fiction?

Digging a bit deeper, one can find a host of arguments for and against Weiler’s statements. One argument points to a massive study conducted in the United Kingdom which actually reveals that the effects of porn on teens were too insubstantial to actually make any true claims.  In the study, which reviewed over 40,000 research articles, they found that pornography only explained less than 1% of negative behaviors in teens. The study concluded that blaming pornography for risky sexual behavior is more of a distraction than a solution. Rather, there should be a stronger focus on issues of education, poverty, substance use/mental health and family variables that play a more significant role.

Moving on to the next part of the legislation, Weiler states that pornography serves as a child’s first form of sex education and even forms their sexual templates in the long run. Unfortunately, this has been seen to be true in most cases. Often, a young person’s first exposure to sexuality is found to be through pornography.

However, many hope the legislation will push towards focusing on sex education efforts for youth in Utah, rather than the addiction in general. Sex education is a huge issue across the United States. Many states, like Utah, have an emphasis  on abstinence-only sex education rather than exploring other more effective options. This could be a very significant setback.

Next question: Is pornography really a biological addiction?

One article reveals actually has been a wealth of research that correlates porn access to a reduction of sexual violence and sexual crimes. Still, other articles correlate porn with an increase in sexual violence. Science remains unsure if porn addiction is a true addiction.

Furthermore, the final terms of Weiler’s bill is strongly considered a conservative ideology. Weiler seems to believe that it is only men who watch porn and women who are abused by it. Throughout the resolution, it seems that Weiler’s main concern is that pornography reduces the desire for males to marry women and have children. However, studies show that many women view pornography as well.

According to several reports, Utah has the highest rates of pornography in the United States. Weiler believes that pornography is a “gateway” behavior that affects the brains of teenagers. However, in a strange chicken-egg debate, critics argue if whether pornography is the problem, or if underlying issues cause the increase in pornography use.

Whether you believe in porn addiction or not, addiction is a wide spectrum disorder, and it does not always have to be substance abuse. Other addictions are common and real. If you feel like you are struggling to overcome an addiction, the time is now to explore your treatment options. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

LGBT Community at High Risk of Eating Disorders

LGBT Community at High Risk of Eating Disorders

Author: Justin Mckibben

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community is not without its own history of facing conflict and adversity, as the civil rights of these individuals are often debated and questioned, and certain people in the LGBT community have been speculated to have a unique susceptibility to specific health risks. Lesbian women have been said to be more vulnerable to breast cancer, while gay men are suggested to have an increased risk of HIV or other infections.

With the various notions of threats to these individuals health, it may not be too much of a shock that there is some conjecture of another serious health risk for the LGBT community, as recent research proposes these individuals may be at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder than straight and cisgender individuals, with transgender people at the highest risk.

Talking Transgender

Just to clarify some general information:

Cisgender (cissexual) – Related types of gender identity where individuals’ experiences of their own gender match the sex they were assigned at birth

TransgenderWhen gender identity or gender expression does not match one’s assigned sex. Transgender is independent of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as:

  • Heterosexual
  • Homosexual
  • Bisexual
  • Asexual, etc.

This relates to a report published on April 28th in the Journal of Adolescent Health with data drawn from the first study examining eating disordered behavior among a significant proportion of transgender people compared to cisgender people, with numbers making it sufficient enough to make a meaningful comparison.

Researchers surveyed students from 223 universities across the United States between 2008 and 2011, inquiring about several aspects including:

  • Mental health
  • Substance use
  • Sexual behavior
  • Nutrition history

Out of those included in the study:

  • 200,000 were heterosexuals
  • 5,000 were “unsure” of sexual orientation
  • 15,000 were gay/lesbian/bisexual
  • 479 were transgender

The survey found that cisgender heterosexual men were at the lowest risk of eating disorders, while transgender people were at the highest risk out of those surveyed. This again does not prove to be rule of thumb, but is the idea presented by the research.

Reading Results

According to the study’s lead author, Alexis E. Duncan from Washington University in St. Louis, that in broad terms they determined cisgender heterosexual men had the lowest rates of eating disorders, while cisgender heterosexual women found themselves in the middle, and transgender individuals were found to have the highest risk.

  • Approximately 1.5% of the students reported being diagnosed with an eating disorder during the previous year
  • Nearly 3% had self-induced vomited or used laxatives to control weight
  • More than 3% had used diet pills in the previous month

Out of these overall averages transgender individuals had the highest rates, so from reading these results it seems to support the concept that these issues are more commonly combatted in the LGBT community.

Shifting Stigma

Now this new research may actually provide a shift in stigma that has labeled eating disorders as a ‘women’s issue.’ Past studies of eating disordered behaviors have been generally focused on heterosexual women, who are considered the most at risk, to the extent that so many assume the stigma of disordered eating being a ‘female issue’ and ignoring the growing number of males who suffer from eating disorders as well.

This study could raise a red flag that creates a change, because it revealed that transgender students were actually more than 4 times as likely as cisgender heterosexual women to report an eating disorder diagnosis. Transgender students were also 2 times as likely as cisgender females to have used unsafe methods to control their weight such as:

  • Diet pills
  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Laxatives

These are only part of the data collected that suggests the outdated ideas behind eating disorders being a gender-specific issue are not as founded in facts as many may believe, and more can always be revealed.

Counting Conclusions

Monica Algars of Abo Akademi University in Turku, Finland once conducted a study on eating disorders that determined there is a connection between eating disorders, gender dysphoria and body dissatisfaction among transgender people, which means to infer that transgender people may adopt unhealthy and harmful eating habits to manipulate their bodies to try and fit the gender the identify with, or revolt against one they do not.

Algars explains that these attempts to suppress features of their birth gender may manifest as a desire to control weight, and the added stress created by stigma and discrimination may also contribute to the problem. But all this has the possibility of being alleviated by gender reassignment therapy.

Out of all the conclusions one can come to, one definitively counts: stigma is hurting people, and even killing people who never get the help they need. Be it someone from the LGBT community or a cisgender heterosexual individual, stigma puts us all at a greater risk. It can fuel body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, and even substance abuse. And once someone has fallen prey to these conditions, they can be trapped in a never ending cycle of abuse, stigma and self-mutilation in the form of obsession and deprivation.

Regardless of someone’s sexual orientation, they deserve the same life of love and freedom from stigma as the rest of us. It is up to all of us to make recovery and unity a reality.

Eating disorders and substance abuse are tormenting and fatal symptoms of the disease of addiction, but recovery from that hopelessness is possible for everyone who seeks it. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

15 Characteristics of a Healthy Sober Sex Life

15 Characteristics of a Healthy Sober Sex Life

By Cheryl Steinberg

Being in recovery from alcohol and/or drug addiction means learning a whole new way of life, one of sobriety. And what that entails is having a whole new and different experience when it comes to things you have already previously experienced. One area of life in particular that will be completely new and different is your sober sex life. Now, just because you are sober does not mean that you will have a healthy sex life. It takes work and introspection in order to develop a healthy sober sex life. Here are 15 characteristics of a healthy sober sex life.

#1. You express your sexuality in ways that are congruent with your values

So, for example, in your active addiction, you might have slept around or even prostituted yourself to support your habit. As a sober adult, your values might include being monogamous or more discriminating when it comes to choosing your sexual partners. You also might not think that prostitution is a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, an indication that your sober sex life is healthy is that you are basically practicing what you preach, or in this case, what you believe to be right and good.

#2. You can enjoy sexual feelings without always acting on them

Another characteristic of a healthy sober sex life is that you can experience feeling turned on, maybe it’s intimate thoughts about your partner, without having to act out. This one’s pretty self-explanatory.

#3. You know the difference between life-enhancing sexual behaviors and those that are harmful to self or others

This one leads into the next item on the list but, it basically means that you have a healthy attitude towards sex – which can include kinky thoughts and behaviors – as long as it doesn’t hurt or cause harm to anyone else. Sex is always consensual and respects the wants, needs, and beliefs of your partner.

#4. You express your sexuality while at the same time respecting the rights of others

This means that you have an understanding and respect towards all people, regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity. You do not have to share their beliefs but you respect them all the same.

#5. You seek out new information in order to enhance your sexuality

Whether it’s learning about new sexual positions or other ways to spice us your sex life, such as trying out role play, a healthy sober sex life means that you are interested in expanding your understanding about sex, sexuality, and sexual pleasure.

#6. You engage in sexual relationships that are consensual, non-exploitative, honest, and pleasurable

This also includes having sexual relationships in which you exercise protection against disease and unwanted pregnancy; you are knowledgeable regarding reproduction and risks.

#7. Your intimate relationships have components of affection, tenderness, and companionship

Again, this one’s pretty self-explanatory. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to cuddle if you’re just not the cuddling type. But, it does mean that, whatever affection looks like for you and your partner, it’s present in your relationship.

#8. You’re able to attach emotions and meaning to sexual experiences

No longer is sex about meaningless hook-ups, a healthy sober sex life involves sexual encounters in which you can find meaning and experience emotions.

#9. You have an appreciation for your own body

Having sexual health means that you are comfortable with your body and with your sexuality. It means that you are confident enough to tell your partner what you do and don’t like and with asking them to perform certain things that bring you pleasure.

#10. You understand that natural human development includes sexual development

For example, it is completely natural that the body is built for reproduction, and that you and/or your partner will experience things like menstruation and PMS. Also, you understand that genital sexual experiences differ from person to person and are willing to learn about your current sexual partner’s turn-ons and turn-offs.

#11. You appropriately express love and intimacy

Again, this looks different for everybody. But, generally speaking, you are not cold or distant with your sexual partner. You are connected emotionally with them.

#12. You develop and maintain meaningful relationships while avoiding exploitative or manipulative ones

In your relationships, there are no mind games, power plays, having the upper-hand, etc.

#13. Your sex life includes components of communication and acceptance of love

The key to successful relationships boils down to one main thing: communication. A healthy sober sex life means being open, honest, and respectful with your partner. It also means that you are willing to accept love as much as you give it.

#14. You express emotion and are into giving and receiving pleasure

Sex is not a one-sided experience. Therefore, it’s about both parties receiving pleasure. Also, a healthy sex life involves the ability to experience and express emotions. This will deepen the experience for both you and your partner.

#15. You have the ability to enjoy sex without feelings of guilt, fear, or shame

Sex and human sexuality are natural to the human experience. After all, we are sexual beings. A healthy sober sex life means having the ability to enjoy sex without a twisted, distorted perception that it is somehow dirty or bad.

If you are experiencing substance abuse or addiction, it’s time to do something about it. The good news is that there is help available in the form of highly specialized treatment. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today.

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