What You Need To Need Know: Take Back The Night & Its History

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Center is hosting its 5th consecutive Take Back The Night (TBTN) on Thursday, April 13th. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of questions about what Take Back the Night exactly is, why it looks the way it does, and how students can get involved. To help get those questions answered this year, we’ve doing a “What You Need to Know” series focused on TBTN so stay tuned for more posts over the next couple of weeks. This first post in the series focuses on the history and purpose of TBTN.

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The crowd waiting for UMBC’s TBTN 2014 to begin.

In 1971 in New York a group of women and survivors hosted the first-ever rape speak-out that was organized by the group the New York Radical Feminists. A few years later, one of the first “Take Back the Night” marches was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in October 1975.

Despite some advancements and more attention being paid to sexual violence, we still live in a society where over forty-five years later  there is still a need to speak out against rape and sexual assault. There is still a need to say, “It happened to me.” “I believe you.” “You are not alone.” “It is not your fault.” And, so this is why we host Take Back the Night each year at UMBC and why it still happens worldwide.

UMBC (from what we can tell from the archives), held their first TBTN event in the early 2000s for just a few years. Campus stopped hosting it for several years so as to be in solidarity with other area colleges by participating in Baltimore City Hall’s Take Back the Night. But, by 2013, it made the most sense for us to bring back our own Take Back the Night. So the Women’s Center with support from UHS’s Health Education, Greek Week, and a BreakingGround grant did just that. Since then, this campus-wide rally and march against sexual violence has been a signature Women’s Center event every April.

Each year the Women’s Center hosts survivor speak-out followed by a campus march against sexual assault. When marchers return, UMBC’s TBTN spends the rest of the evening doing “craftivism” art healing projects and hosting a community resource fair. A smaller version of the Clothesline Project is also serves as a backdrop to the evening’s events.

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The survivor speak-out at UMBC’s TBTN 2016

Stay tuned for more posts explaining the significance of each portion of Take Back The Night!

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The march against sexual violence at UMBC’s TBTN 2015

For more information about UMBC’s TBTN (check out Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter too by searching the hashtag #UMBCTBTN):

Stay tuned for the next installment of what you need to know about TBTN 2017! 

The Rise in Human Trafficking in the State of Maryland

This post was written by Farhan Augustine, a UMBC senior studying Biochemistry. In addition to his work at UMBC, Farhan advocates for the rights of human trafficking survivors and is actively involved in local efforts to create legislation that would protect survivors. 

Human sex and labor trafficking is a hideous violation of human rights that has been quietly growing in our communities for many years. According to some of the statistics, human trafficking is now the second highest grossing criminal enterprise across the world.

Maryland Data TablesAlthough the awareness regarding human sex and labor trafficking appears to be growing, our state of Maryland remains a treasure-trove for human sex and labor trafficking. Maryland is a vital location because many of our highways, especially I-95, provide easy access to some of the most populated communities on the East Coast. Traffickers use many of our local highways to traverse between New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. In fact, National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) reports receiving 531 tips and registering 158 Human trafficking cases in Maryland in the year 2016. Further breakdown of the NHTH data indicates that 77% of the reported human trafficking cases involved sex trafficking, and 16% of the reported cases involved human labor trafficking. Moreover, Maryland’s Judiciary (Administrative Office of the Courts), the U.S. Department of Justice, and Department of Legislative Services advises that approximately 476 violations of Maryland’s Criminal Law, Article 11-303 (MD Criminal Law, Article 11- related to Human trafficking), were seen in District Courts and 256 violations were seen in the Circuit Courts.

Despite being so prevalent in Maryland, human trafficking remains hidden in plain sight. My main purpose in writing this article is to make you aware of human trafficking in Maryland in the hopes that you may become an active and informed member of our society.

Human Trafficking is More Than Sex Trafficking

Maryland Data Charts (1)Many people associate human trafficking with sexual exploitation; however, human trafficking has many different faces, and it plays a major role in dozens of businesses across Maryland. Labor exploitation is another facet of human trafficking. Maryland counts domestic labor, begging rings, traveling sales crews, agriculture and fish farming industries, health care industry, marriage and online dating, commercial brothels, hotel/motel brothels, and online escort services as hubs of human trafficking. As widespread as it is, human trafficking is often undetectable to the untrained eye. “Mail-order brides,” for example are illegal in Maryland under Criminal Law §11-303 and (HB#0276F) which describes “compelled marriage” as marriage in which a person knowingly takes money or uses fraud to compel the other person to marry another person. This crime is punishable with up to 25 years of imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $15,000. A person who knowingly aids, abets, or benefits financially from such ventures or activities is also in violation of the state’s human trafficking laws, and is subject to the same penalties. Thus, human trafficking is more widespread than many people realize and spreading awareness is of utmost importance.

Furthermore, many people are maladroit in distinguishing between smuggling and trafficking. This in part is because of the widespread neo-abolitionist discourses adopted by almost all anti-trafficking efforts, movies, TV shows, and political activities which sets up widespread misrepresentation of victims of trafficking only as young and innocent women who are deceived and forced into the sex industry. The reality is something of a complicated nature and is often perverse for policy and law making purposes. For example, it is true that many women that are trafficked for sex and labor are often forced into such acts. However, the unauthorized international migration, often initiated by women themselves to ameliorate their lives and families, positions them as isolated and distinct victims of emotional, physical, and sexual exploitation that is almost unprecedented and often under reported by victims due to fears of retaliation from the law enforcement agencies. Thus, a simple definition of a trafficking victim that suffers at the hands of individual men: traffickers, clients, and buyers, needs to be broadened to form holistic anti-trafficking policies and laws that do no assume or correlate trafficking with only sex work. The problem with the popular view of “human trafficking = sex work” is that it relies on the construction of human trafficking based on gender stereotypes and denies men and women’s agency by focusing exclusively on sexual exploitation of women that makes other types of labor exploitation almost invisible. Instead it reinforces the patriarchal discourse that all “sex workers” must necessarily be “passive victims” that need paternal protection, and it establishes a single framework for victimhood that most of the exploited undocumented migrant victims cannot meet in the court of law. Thus, it is important to be aware and create laws and policies to distinguish between people that intentional engage in sex work purely for their own economic gains, and separate those from the people who are forced and coerced into modern day sex-slavery.  

Maryland’s Legislation and Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts

Maryland, compared to some other states like Florida, New York, and California, does not have a comprehensive human trafficking legislation. To give you some background regarding the Human trafficking laws in Maryland, I have chosen to present you with information which (I believe) every responsible citizen of the State should be aware of. (Click the hyperlinks if you require further comprehension of Criminal Law Article-11). MD Code, Criminal Law, §11-303, as repealed and reenacted in October 2010, provided the following major provisions to the Criminal Law Article.

  1.  § 11-303(a)(1)(v) of the Criminal Law Article “A person may not knowingly: engage in a device, scheme, or continuing course of conduct intended to cause another to believe that if the other did not take part in a sexually explicit performance, the other or a third person would suffer physical restraint or serious physical harm.”  
  2. § 11-303(b)(2) of the Criminal Law Article A person may not knowingly take or detain another with the intent to use force, threat, coercion, or fraud to compel the other to marry the person or a third person or perform a sexual act, sexual contact, or vaginal intercourse.” Separate from Criminal Law, the MD Code- Transportation- §8-655, requires the rest area restrooms and businesses to post National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline information signs.
  3. §11-303(f), provide that a person charged with Human trafficking of a minor may not assert a defense by claiming to not have known the age of the victim.
  4. As of January 23, 2017, the Maryland General Assembly has passed House Bill #0276 which extends the statute of limitations to 10 years, applicable to civil actions related to Human trafficking.

Maryland’s Human trafficking Laws are slowly becoming more comprehensive, nonetheless, without more community involvement our State’s legislature will continue overlooking Human Rights Violations associated with human trafficking.

Community Safety and Involvement

As stated previously, much of our community is unaware of the expansive foothold that human trafficking is establishing in our communities. Maryland, in 2007, established the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force (MHTTF) under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General of Maryland, and the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City to investigate, prosecute, and serve the victims of human trafficking in our state. MHTTF has been subcategorized based on the region it serves. See the resource section for the list of local Task Forces. Since January 2013, the local task forces and federal law enforcement partners (FBI, Dept. of Homeland Security, etc..) have identified ≥ 200 victims of trafficking and have prosecuted 94 human traffickers. The men and women of MHTTF do great fieldwork and deserve our gratitude for making our communities safer.

However, the infrastructure to support MHTTF is still in the infancy stage. The state and federal funding to establish facilities that can provide crisis services to victims and survivors, and to serve as community outreach centers for training, research, and development is lacking significantly. It is paramount to provide training to first responders, public universities, school teachers, and to health care professionals that can confidentially screen potential victims of Human trafficking.

My principles spare me no excuse, for the same freedoms, which I enjoy so much, should also be accessible for every person regardless of their race, ethnicity, immigration status, or age. Most of my December and January months were spent studying Maryland’s Constitution and Criminal Law, Article-11. I was writing emails and making phone calls to anyone I though could help in making my voice heard at the state or the federal legislature. My singular voice in the ether of bureaucracy was praying for a change to occur. Thanks to the efforts of so many people who had the same conviction as me, the change has begun to happen. On January 23, 2017, the Human Trafficking – Civil Actions – Statue of Limitations (HB#0276) was first read and passed in the Maryland’s General Assembly. Its purpose was to extend the Statue of Limitations related to Human trafficking, effective October 1, 2017. Which means, if a plaintiff who were a minor at the time the statute of limitations began to accrue, he/she would now have 10 years to file a civil cause of action in Maryland. Furthermore, a new federal bill has been proposed in the House of Representatives in January, “Trafficking Survivors Relief Act of 2017.” This new bill is spearheading the efforts to decriminalize certain non-violent convictions and arrest records of Human trafficking victims. Many of our young adults and runaway foster-care children become victims of human trafficking. [They are pushed into a lifestyle that they did not choose and often violently exploited.] It is heartbreaking for me to acknowledge that instead of providing safety, protection, and guidance to people, our laws assign a criminal status to those who are victims of Human trafficking.

Thus, I implore you to partake in the process of bringing freedom, liberty, and happiness to victims of Human trafficking, and help to lessen their suffering. One of the easiest ways you can help is by holding your public officials accountable. Public pressures and public awareness is the key to getting our legislatures to recognize and change the laws which protect and safeguard our communities against Human traffickers. Together we can bring change in our communities. I am providing you with two links to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s petition forms. Please consider signing the petitions to protect the victims of Human trafficking, and please help them get their freedom back.

 

1). Petition for the reauthorization of Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act: http://act.polarisproject.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=23990

2). Trafficking Survivor’s Relief Act http://act.polarisproject.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=23688

 

Additional Resources:

Maryland’s Human Trafficking Task Forces: http://www.mdhumantrafficking.org/mhttf

 

 

NGOs and Other Local Agencies: http://www.mdhumantrafficking.org/partners

Whats your queer click moment?

Maybe you’ve heard of a feminist click moment, but do you remember what your queer click moment was? Kayla Smith, Women’s Center student staff member, collected queer click moment stories for the blog. Thanks to those who contributed!

That moment when the lightbulb went off in your head and a little (or loud) voice said “Holy crap! I’m not straight!”

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Maybe you had a “girl crush” on a classmate? Or found yourself getting REALLY into L Word? The Women’s Center staff and community members share their queer click Moments!

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Bi AND badass. Thanks Callie!

“When I was 19, I was completely infatuated with my Women’s Studies professor. She was
brilliant and beautiful, and I worked so hard in that class to try to impress her. I soon realized that it wasn’t a “girl crush” – it was an actual crush.” – Megan Tagle Adams, Women’s Center Assistant Director

 

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First Shira, and then Willow. Everyone is gay

 

 

“I was in middle school, sitting next to this person who had identified as a lesbian at the time. I remember daydreaming in math, and suddenly an image of us married to each other, laying in bed and cuddling ( super scandalous for a 12 year- old, I know!). I quickly repressed that thought and never seriously revisited my queerness until college – though I still had a crush on this person all the way through High School.” – Shira Devora, Women’s Center student staff member

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Shane putting the connections together!

“The moment is so vivid for me. At 24 years old, I was alone in my apartment watching L Word on DVD for the first time. I remember sitting on this green couch and feeling totally excited by what was happening on my tv (women hooking up with women – gasp!) followed by this realization that the stereotypes fed to me of what and who lesbians were was totally wrong. In that moment, my world opened up to the possibility there was another way of being for me… the rest, my friends, is history. This late bloomer, thanks you, L Word.” – Jess Myers, Women’s Center Director

“When I was a child, my favorite movie was The Sound of Music. My queer click moment, was when I saw Liesel (you know, ’16 going on 17′) do her musical number with Rolph (the bad guy who later ends up being a Nazi)! I wanted to be Rolph (but not a bad guy). Wow, this is embarrassing!” – Michael Jalloh-Jamboria, Women’s Center Student Staff member

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Liesel seducing a young Michael.

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Look at her cute gay overalls.

“I used to watch Power Rangers at my cousins house when I was little and I found myself really drawn to the Pink Ranger – Kimberly. I really liked Trini, the yellow ranger, and I knew I wanted to BE the yellow ranger….but something about the pink ranger and her little skirt? Yep. Definitely a queer.” – Kayla Smith, Women’s Center Student Staff member

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“A friend of mine sent me a cool looking picture of a fantasy theme featuring a particularly attractive girl. We got into a conversation about female aesthetics which led to a rather non-PG13 discussion resulting in my friend telling me “you know that means you’re at least bi, right?”. My response was, “Wait what? Nooo…. wait. Hold on… huh. Aaaactually? THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE!” Click.” – Anonymous

“I slowly started realizing I was bisexual late freshman year. I had just gotten a tumblr, Ooyu49hand one of the first blogs I followed was literally just selfies of “androgynous girls” (just gals admiring gals, right?) It finally hit me sophomore year when I got really into the band Halestorm. Their singer’s leather pants, her bright red lipstick… it was all too much for my baby bi heart.” – Anonymous

 

“I suspected I was rainbow-tinged from an early age. When I was 5, I kissed a girl in kindergarten and thought it was gross (because let’s face it, out of context, kissing is weird). But when I went into elementary school and then middle school, all of my best friends were girls and I thought they were the most beautiful people ever. I would seriously stare at them in disbelief that people so beautiful could ever exist. Ladies were like otherworldly goddesses to me, a small unworthy frog-girl. Meanwhile, I was also heavily interested in the idea of Jesse Bradford (specifically as Cliff in Bring it On) putting his smirk on my face. I didn’t really put all the pieces together of being queer, until I kissed a girl and I liked it. And then I kissed a boy and I liked that, too.” – Amelia Meman, Women’s Center Special Projects Coordinator

Do you remember what your queer click moment was? Join us at Between Women on Thursdays (☞゚ヮ゚)☞ bi-weekly in the Women’s Center lounge. Between Women is a discussion-based program that centers the experiences of women students who identify themselves on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

We can’t wait to see you in the center!

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Slaying on the Weekly: Spring Break is HERE!!

A weekly round-up curated by Women’s Center staff member, Michael Jalloh Jamboria

In the spirit of my friend, who gave us the glorious name ‘Slaying on the Weekly’, every week I will be bringing you some interesting, funny or thought-provoking content from the internet! Be sure to join us next week for more and continue to slay!

Happy Women’s History Month! Join us in celebrating women, their lives, their stories and their resistance.

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Provost Philip Rous and Vice Provost Simon Stacy came to the Women’s Center to pay us a visit!

 

Enjoy your Spring Break! See you in two weeks! Same place, same time! Stay safe and continue to slay! Happy Women’s History Month!

Performing Pregnancy As A Black Woman

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A reflection by Women’s center staff member, Kayla Smith.

 

Full disclosure: I’m a Beyonce stan. I support pretty much everything she does. There are very few things Beyonce can do that I wouldn’t damn near worship. Needless to say when she released pictures from her maternity shoot I was ready to bow down.

 

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Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement on Instagram

I scrolled through her website looking at all the maternity pictures in awe. The symbolism of a black woman evoking the Virgin Mary and the goddess Venus was not lost on me as I looked through the pictures feeling overjoyed for her and hopeful for my own future. She looked regal and glowed  with pride. This pregnancy announcement was radically different from her first, and was shrouded in much less mystery. I was reminded that in 2015 Beyonce suffered a miscarriage and I was so happy that she could announce another pregnancy with confidence. I even lamented to my boyfriend hoping that I would be as beautiful as Beyonce whenever I decide to have kids.

 

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Beyonce as the Goddess Venus, pictured with a bust of Nefertiti.

To my surprise, outside of the BeyHive bubble, not everyone responded to the maternity shoot in the same way I did. Comment threads are filled with comments that call the maternity shoot “tacky,” “extra,” and “self absorbed.” Articles were written criticizing not just the image, but Beyonce and the announcement itself. Continue reading

What Happened to the “Working” in International Working Women’s Day?

Daniel Willey A post by staff member Daniel Willey

Wednesday, March 8th marked International Working Women’s Day and the Women’s Strike, or the Day Without Women. On that day, women were encouraged to not work or shop and wear red in solidarity as a way of protesting inequality and showing women’s economic impact.

Protest organizers Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, and Carmen Perez arrested at New York protest on Wednesday

 

But, International Working Women’s Day has always been a day for striking. The first time this day was observed in 1908, women marched in New York City against poor working conditions and low wages. The observance of International Working Women’s Day (IWWD) spread quickly to other countries as a part of socialist movements and, eventually, as protests against WWI. In 1917, women, joined by female textile workers and eventually working men, gathered in the Russian capital to protest living and working conditions– a day which would spark the Russian revolution.

It is in honor of this history and this tradition that I write this blog.

There have been a lot of critiques of this year’s IWWD Women’s Strike. I’ve read about how only privileged women who can afford time off or have the job stability will participate. Prince George’s county schools closed on Wednesday because so many of their teachers requested the day off, leaving poor kids without school lunch and breakfast and working parents with nowhere to put their kids. Some just plain argue that the strike is a symbolic gesture and that it’s effectively useless as a strategy.

I’d like to make a different critique: when International Working Women’s Day becomes International Women’s Day, we lose the incredible power of the strike and deny the history paved by women in labor movements. Continue reading

Slaying on the Weekly:

A weekly round-up curated by Women’s Center staff member, Michael Jalloh Jamboria

In the spirit of my friend, who gave us the glorious name ‘Slaying on the Weekly’, every week I will be bringing you some interesting, funny or thought-provoking content from the internet! Be sure to join us next week for more and continue to slay!

Happy Women’s History Month! Join us in celebrating women, their lives, their stories and their resistance.

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The Women’s Center staff members, Loretta Ross and friends on International Women’s Day.

 

See you here, next week! Same place, same time! Stay safe and continue to slay! Happy Women’s History Month!