Freedom Needs Truth

freedom needs truth - an open letter endorsed by aura freedom

So many voices coming together!

Aura Freedom has been very vocal about the harms caused by sensational and untrue theories of human trafficking circulating on social media. 

Freedom Needs Truth is a coalition of organizers, including Aura Freedom, dedicated to fighting human trafficking, who are warning about the dangers posed by QAnon and Pizzagate thories of human trafficking.

On October 21, 2020, Freedom Needs Truth posted an open letter to the media, political parties, and policymakers in the USA.

Click HERE to read the letter and learn more. 

“The truth shall set you free.”

The Children of Pornhub-An Open Thank You Letter to Nicholas Kristoff

The Children of Pornhub – An Open Thank You Letter to Nicholas Kristof

Photo credit: Nicholas Kristof

 

I have followed the journalist Nicholas Kristof for years. As someone working to eradicate gender-based violence and exploitation, his writing has always spoken to me.

Never sensational.

Fact-based.

Compassionate.

Human.

His coverage of wartime sexual violence, human trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence inspired me to research these issues in different ways. In 2012, a good friend of mine (hi Katerina) put the book “Half the Sky” in my hands. This book, which Nicholas co-authored with his wife Cheryl WuDunn, became one of the most important reads of my life.

The pages of that book are still soaked with my tears and notes.

Half the Sky assisted me in my own grassroots research of gender-based violence and human trafficking, and even acted as a ‘map’ of sorts. I even traced Nicholas and Sheryl’s steps to Calcutta, India to find the alleyways that they were describing. These alleyways are where I met the amazing Urmi Basu and her team at New Light who work to end exploitation in the red light district of Kalighat.

That book was, in a way, a guiding light during my field work and study of violence against women from the frontline. From Italy, to Kenya, to India, to Nepal and back home to Canada, I sat and listened to the sobering stories of women, survivors and frontline workers working to end gender-based violence. And throughout many of those years, I carried the book Half the Sky with me wherever I went.

I am now saving the book for my daughter.

In 2013, I founded Aura Freedom International. Based in my hometown of Toronto, Aura Freedom works to end gender-based violence and exploitation through education, research, advocacy and survivor support. We are an intersectional, feminist organization and collaborate with many different grassroots organizations here in Toronto and beyond.

I cannot say enough about Nicholas’s work that not only uncovers injustice, but educates others on what they can do to be part of the change. As an investigative journalist, Nicholas is the real deal. And not because he’s won Pulitzer Prizes, but because I have been on the frontlines and I know what he writes to be true. To you Nicholas, I say thank you for the constant inspiration.

Last week, Nicholas did us all a great service.

Last week, Nicholas used his huge platform (the New York Times) to publish a story about rape videos and child exploitation being monetized on Pornhub. In my work, I have supported survivors who have had their images on Pornhub (among other sites) and I know how life shattering that experience was for them. One of the survivors I support ended up admitting herself to a mental health facility because her abuser still had images and video of her and was threatening to post them. Pornhub gets 3.5 billion visits a month, which is even more than Amazon. In Nicholas’s article, he calls upon Canadian leadership to look into this issue since Pornhub is Canadian-owned, calling on Justin Trudeau himself for action.

Here’s an excerpt of the article, which is also linked below.

Yet there’s another side of the company: Its site is infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags. A search for “girls under18” (no space) or “14yo” leads in each case to more than 100,000 videos. Most aren’t of children being assaulted, but too many are.

After a 15-year-old girl went missing in Florida, her mother found her on Pornhub — in 58 sex videos. Sexual assaults on a 14-year-old California girl were posted on Pornhub and were reported to the authorities not by the company but by a classmate who saw the videos. In each case, offenders were arrested for the assaults, but Pornhub escaped responsibility for sharing the videos and profiting from them.

Those working with Aura Freedom know that we are an organization that supports all women, including sex workers and those working in the pornography industry.

But, as Nicholas states in his article, this is not about pornography – this is about rape.

Rape videos of kids are being shown on Pornhub.

Unconscious women are being raped on Pornhub.

Revenge videos from abusers are being uploaded to Pornhub.

Folks are watching these videos and becoming desensitized to violence and rape. Moreover, youth are consuming this content and forming skewed perceptions of what consensual sex looks like. Anyone working to dismantle the patriarchal structures in place that allow gender-based violence to thrive knows that these videos directly contribute to violence, misogyny, rape culture and slut shaming.

Silencing the survivors who have been exploited on Pornhub does a disservice to all survivors.

Much like Aura Freedom, Nicholas Kristof has spoken out against the QAnon theories and other misperceptions of human trafficking circulating on social media and the damaging effect they have to survivors and those working with them. He is by no means a journalist who perpetuates moral panics and this is why his article has been received so well by so many.

So Nicholas, from so many of us working in the GBV sector, we thank you. Thank you for your courage, your honesty, and your humanity. We are so grateful.

 

In solidarity,

Marissa Kokkoros

Executive Director, Aura Freedom International

 

Link to Nicholas Kristof’s article – The Children of Pornhub: 

Link to Globe & Mail article on the subject with comments by Aura Freedom:

Relentless Resilience – A Beijing +25 Canadian Parallel Report & CSW64 Parallel Event

relentless resilience - a beijing +25 Canadian parallel report

The Grassroots has spoken.

In February 2020, Aura Freedom submitted an official Beijing +25 Canadian Parallel Report with a focus on gender-based violence entitled ‘Relentless Resilience.

Relentless Resilience is a Beijing +25 Parallel Report that calls for holistic change to address the root causes of gender-based violence (gender inequity, systemic racism, colonialism, ableism, trans/homophobia, capitalism, etc.) and societal power imbalances that uphold the status quo. Our guiding framework is rooted in human rights activism, grassroots excellence, trauma and, of course, resilience. Relentless Resilience aims to highlight the most marginalized women and girls in Canada and the resiliency of them in response to violence, oppression, and indifference. 

Through interviews with frontline social workers and survivor stories from grassroots organizations in the City of Toronto, Canada, our Beijing +25 Parallel Report demonstrates how gender-based violence is impacting all 12 Areas of Critical Concern of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and hindering the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Relentless Resilience can be considered a point of reference for advocacy efforts that call for the eradication of gender-based violence throughout the entire year of Beijing +25, including CSW64 and the Generation Equality Forum taking place in Mexico and France in 2020, and beyond. 

Click here for the report: AF_RelentlessResilience_Beijing25_Cdn_ParallelRpt_Feb2020.pdf

Attending CSW64? Come and meet Aura Freedom on March 13th at the Church Center for the United Nations (Drew Room) at 6:15pm for the launch of Relentless Resilience, where we will present key findings, share resiliency strategies with our colleagues from around the world, and build the feminist movement. All are welcome!

Click here for the flyer:

AuraFreedom_NGO_HandbookAd_6.25×9.25Ad_2020_lores

GBV Across the SDGs​ -A Beijing +25 Initiative

gbv across the sDgs - A beijing +25 initiative

Gender-based violence is a National Emergency in Canada. It is affecting every single aspect of Canadian life and the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Grassroots groups have been advocating for change for a long time. We can’t wait any longer.


Gender-based violence is impacting families, communities and entire countries. While global heads of state convene to discuss struggling economies, migration, poverty, disease, and climate change, we at the grassroots level know that the eradication of gender-based violence and the empowerment of women and girls can bring increased wealth, health, peace and climate justice to our communities.

Click on the link below to view our snapshot of gender-based violence in Canada across the Sustainable Development Goals and join the movement to end GBV for the benefit of everyone on earth.

AF_RelentlessResilience_Beijing+25_Cdn_ParallelRpt_SDGSnapShot

Ontario Government Human Trafficking Roundtables

Ontario Government Human Trafficking Roundtables

In 2019, Aura Freedom participated in a series of roundtables with the Ontario Provincial Government to inform their new strategy to address human trafficking in the province. As usual, we made sure to advocate for the most marginalized groups and for the strategy to address gender inequality, colonialism, and other root causes of sexual exploitation.

City of Toronto Human Trafficking Consultations, Submission to City Council

City of Toronto Human Trafficking Consultation and Submission to City Council

In May 2019, the City of Toronto’s END TRAFFICKING T.O. division submitted a report on Supporting Survivors of Human Trafficking.

Aura Freedom was asked to participate in the City’s consultations implemented to make sure the voices of community stakeholders were incorporated into the report, which also recognized mentioned Aura Freedom’s Peer Prevention Project.

Aura Freedom made a written submission to City Council regarding the report, in order to put prevention, gender equality and anti-oppression at the top of the counter-trafficking agenda.

To read the submission, click here: Written submission for 2019.EC5.4 on June 18, 2019 City Council

On June 18, 2019, Council adopted the report that outlines a number of actions that the City proposes to take, in collaboration with other agencies, corporations and divisions to support survivors of human trafficking.

We look forward to being a part of the City of Toronto’s ongoing efforts to address human trafficking in our communities.

Consulting for Canada’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking

Consulting for Canada's National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking

In March 2018, Aura Freedom presented to the Federal Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for their national human trafficking study. Our recommendations focused on how gender inequality, systemic racism and other root causes perpetuate violence against women and girls and human trafficking. In September 2018, the Canadian Federal Government concluded the study with a summit where Aura Freedom consulted on a new national strategy. In 2019, the Federal Government released its National Strategy To Combat Human Trafficking 2019-2024.

Housing for Human Trafficking Victims

Housing for Human Trafficking Victims

In 2018, Toronto’s Ministry of Housing made changes to its Housing Services Act to better support survivors of human trafficking and give survivors priority access. These amendments came about after a consultation with community organizations working with trafficking survivors, including Aura Freedom.