EFN Group Photo

Photo credit: © Sandjena Barnes

The European Freedom Network e.V. (EFN) gathered in Berlin last week for the their 4th conference.  EFN is made up of 206 organisations working across 45 countries to fight human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Over 200 delegates in the 4 day conference were challenged by survivor leader Rebecca Bender, from the Rebecca Bender Initiative, “We should be portraying human trafficking how it actually looks.  It rarely looks  like a five year old, blonde girl behind bars with black tape over her mouth.”  Ms Bender went on to explain that many victims don’t realise they are trafficked and therefore do not access services and help because they don’t identify with the pictures we place in the media.  “They don’t even know they’ve been trafficked.”

Broadcaster and theologian, Andrew Graystone, challenged the conference on how the future ideologies of sex are being challenged by the virtual world, beyond that of the currently understood online pornography.  Mr Graystone explained, “People are already trading real sexual relationships for a screen deeming it as good enough.”  He went on to explain devices that are already in existence that will have an impact on our future ideas of sex.

EFN also released a video warning viewers on how human traffickers are recruiting both boys and girls online with a video campaign called Don’t Shut Your Eyes (dontshutyoureyes.org).  The video was released on October 18, EU Anti-Trafficking Day reaching 518,645 people online with thunderclap technology, a kind of social media flash mob.  It was also screened at an EFN Press Conference moderated by German politician Frank Heinrich.  Jennifer Roemhildt-Tunehag, from EFN’s Core Team reported that “Human traffickers are now able to come right into your home.”  Leanne Rhodes, also from EFN’s Core Team explained, “We created this video so that people would be aware of how traffickers operate.  Parents and children must understand the tricks they play.”

Over the conference, delegates were encouraged to work together to provide full services to survivors.  Dr. Katherine Welch from Relentless taught how trauma effects the brain physically whilst Dr. Becca Johnson from Rescue Freedom taught the emotional effects of trauma.  Most of all EFN was challenged to change the narrative in the media about human trafficking is. “It rarely looks like the film ‘Taken’ where someone is pulled out screaming from under their bed,” said Ms Bender.

“As a result of this conference, EFN are now poised and trained to have a significant impact in the fight against human trafficking, particularly in Europe,” said Ms Rhodes.  “We are ready to move forward together with one voice.”