The End It movement is not an apolitical movement. People aren’t supporting or directly funding “the slaves” – people are supporting and directly funding institutions that define slavery, trafficking, and freedom by their own criteria while collaborating with the FBI, DHS, and police forces. Overall, the End It movement serves the state, corporate, and institutional interests of the people who run it. Every year the End It movement picks a random date in February to “Shine a Light on Slavery”. Through their media campaigns they promote Westerners drawing a red ‘X’ on their hand to represent millions of victims who are enslaved today. Their twitter page is full of people gaining the social capital of an “abolitionist”, mostly celebrities, police, corporations and their 17 coalition partner organizations they fund. This is an appropriation of the prison abolition movement by the establishment. For the most part, the “movement” coalition of 17 organizations themselves are very homogeneous, leaning heavily WASP, neoliberal, “law and order” types.
In the 2012 Passion conferences (by Passion Inc/Choice Ministries) students raised $3.3 million to fund 7 organizations that battle sex trafficking, however. It wasn’t until 2013, when wealthy WASP CEOs decided to manipulate college students for millions more to fund their white savior projects that the End It Movement was officially born. International Justice Mission’s founder, Gary Haugen delivered a speech at Passion’s 2013 conference about the 27 million slaves (a statistic made up by Kevin Bales), quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and highlighting stories of the Civil Rights. Most college aged students would jump on board to a movement that seems so easy, and uncontroversial. Louie Giglio, who that same year had to pull out of President Obama’s swearing in ceremony due to his anti-LGBTQ speeches, encouraged the students to buy into their project:
There is an irony that the End It campaign came out of Passion Conferences (controlled by Choice Ministries Inc), rooted in a larger movement of the Southern Baptist Convention towards a more conservative, patriarchal, and neocalvinism church that lends itself well to authoritarianism. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest Protestant denomination in the US. It was formed from a split with Northern Baptists over the issues of abolition, civil rights, and desegregation, which they were opposed to. Even current polling shows that Southern Baptists lean Republican, known for being opposed to undocumented immigrants/criminalized people having rights, and favoring a carceral system where legal slavery is alive and well.
End it, is a campaign fund of Global Generosity Inc. (previously named Giving Wisely Inc., Global Generosity Movement Inc.). It was part of the Global Generosity Network (GGN) – a partnership between the Lausanne Movement and the World Evangelical Alliance focused on missionary work and church planting. The stated goal of Global Generosity Inc is “To fuel a broad-based, worldwide movement that results in radical, life transforming generosity among Christians as well as fund specific Christian projects related to human trafficking and bible translation.” Global Generosity Inc distributed the money raised from 2013 to missions, bible translation causes, and their selection of organizations. Connections like this show an overlap of shared interests, and identity. It helps explain the focus on women, girls, purity, innocence, and sex that all these organizations tend to share. These campaigns mirror the Mann Act and the fight against “White Slavery” in the late 1880s and early 1900s. They use stories of innocent young girls becoming sex slaves to push carceral policy that mostly harms black people, LGBTQ people, and re-reinforces borders without addressing any systemic issues that lead people to work for survival.
Many of the organizations under the coalition train police to targets sex workers and migrants including IJM, Polaris (which is focused on Asian massage workers currently), Love 146, A21, The Exodus Road, and many others work alongside police. For example, Restore NYC (another Christian organization) got $70k from the Choices Ministries, who are a big part of the End it movement. They get most of their referrals to their program from the court system, other anti-trafficking organizations, and police. In order to get help from the organization, clients must meet the federal definition of human trafficking and be pursuing immigration relief through the Trafficking visa.
On average around 500 people qualify for the Trafficking visa every year, on a visa that has a cap of 5,000 yearly. The Trafficking Visa offers people working rights for 4 years in the US, and a legal pathway toward citizenship. New York, according to FBI reports has 0 cases of human trafficking every year. Restore NYC has 7 Safehome beds and 3-4 emergency beds that they offer these specific victims who are still expected to pay monthly rent on it. They offer an “Economic Empowerment Program” with Irving Farm Coffee Roasters which pays the criminalized migrant women an average net monthly income of $1,227 in NYC. The CEO, Jimmy Lee made $115,852 from Restore NYC in 2017, the organization made $2.5 million. For many anti-trafficking organizations, this is how you liberate “slaves”.
These initiatives very strongly mirror the philosophy of the Salvation Army from William Booth’s (their founder) book In Darkest England and the Way Out. The Salvation Army (who is coalition member of End It) envisioned a model that would treat the poor people of England like Africa, eventually the Salvation grew all over the world. In many countries, like the US they are among the top service providers. This movement was based on colonial model that sought to forcibly segregate poor people into colonized spaces that were “specially designed to educate, reform, employ, and civilize them”. Some scholars have argued that after the abolition of slavery, campaigns against vice like sex work, alcohol, or poverty were a way for the wealthy elites to regain their moral high ground, often claiming that that sex workers and poor people were the same or had it worse than newly emancipated African Americans.
International Justice Mission is one of the biggest anti-trafficking organizations in the US, they made $68.9 million in 2018, they train and work with global police and border enforcement agencies. Everyone who works there is required to be a Christian, and they work with the IMF and the World Bank on “development projects” in third world countries. According to a New Yorker profile on the founder, “Haugen believes that the biggest problem on earth is not too little democracy, or too much poverty, or too few anti-retroviral AIDS medicines, but, rather, an absence of proper law enforcement.” The organization stands by that statement with their focus on brothel raids (leading to mass arrests and deportations), hindering HIV prevention measures, and slandering organizations that question their violence. They receive millions of dollars of grant funding from the government, Google, Wal-Mart, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
These institutions not only believe that any type of sex work is fundamentally a moral and legal crime, but that it is their responsibility as white members of a “more superior free nation” to bring justice to black and brown countries which were made poor by Western conquests in the first place. These actions carry out a legacy of white supremacy in that they continue to impose state-sanctioned violence on the most marginalized people, and the actions of white saviors goes unchecked, unquestioned, and rewarded with trophies and mass media praise. Over and over, we can see who benefits from the criminalization of marginalized people. One of the promoted corporations by the End it movement Twitter page is Motel6, which is now getting “human trafficking” training by ECPAT (one of the End It movement partners) to report any signs of prostitution to police. Some items from ECPAT anti-trafficking hotel checklist include “Monitor online sex ads such as Craigslist and Backpage for your hotel name and pictures of your rooms and guests”, “Block Internet access to popular websites for online sex ads”, and “Be aware of rooms with excess condoms, lubricants, sex toys, lingerie, towels and used gift cards.” It also encourages hotels/motels to run reports of all rooms paid in cash, implement no cash policies, and to not rent by the hour. This mostly harms survival, undocumented, and low-income sex workers who are more likely to be tracked and reported to authorities due to these policies. In 2019 Motel6 was caught in a million-dollar lawsuit for racially profiling Hispanic guests with ICE from 2015-2017.
There is an interesting reliance on these movements on the emotional appeal of the transatlantic slave trade and black civil rights despite how far removed the people who run these organizations are from black struggle. It reduces the transatlantic slave trade to a symbolic, superficial view, that maintains the innocence of the developed world. These organizations are ruled by a Western white view that imagines that slavery was and is caused by “criminals”, people existing outside the legal system of global capitalism, and citizenship. It imagines that criminals, trafficking victims, and slaves are all coming from foreign “source” countries, usually from the Global South into “destination” countries, usually from the Global North. This narrative ends up benefitting privileged people who benefit from the pre-existing power structures.
Besides the collaboration with police, surveillance, and border violence these organizations promote, they also promote and profit from social enterprises. Like most anti-trafficking organizations, the End It Movement embraces commodity activism with messages that anyone can be “an abolitionist” by simply donating to their organization, or buying their merchandise. End It Movement’s store products are made in India with a partnership with the social enterprise Known Supply. Travis Hartanov and Kohl Crecelius are the founders of– Known Supply and Krochet Kids International and have managed social enterprise operations with brands like Vans, Nordstrom, Volcom, Whole Foods. The irony of the End It Movement store is sweatshirts with the word “Freedom” across them, and “Raise Your Voice” shirts for Westerners to consume. Customers are told on the store page that: “Your purchase helps us in the fight for freedom.” The biggest selling point of Known Supply, and what they give as proof that their garments are ethically made, is that they strip the workers of their privacy. Known Supply promises Western consumers that every piece they buy will have the worker’s name on it, and they can find out their life story, see their photos, videos, and quirky information like their favorite emojis. Every single profile has a description of how much they are head over heels in love with their dead-end low waged factory job. In other words, much like most retail, food service, and sales jobs in the US, their workers are required to represent the brand of the company.
Social enterprises that put poor people, marginalized people, and human trafficking victims to work will often claim that key information like wages is kept secret for the benefit of the workers, when in reality it’s for the institution’s benefit. Other organizations in the End It Movement also have social enterprises, including the A21 Campaign with their “Liberty” store, each garment is sewn by a human trafficking victim (this is how they advertise the items!). Hagar International is an international Christian organization founded to “rehabilitate” victims of trafficking, domestic violence, and destitute women. Hagar Social Enterprise Group (HSEG) is their for-profit subsidiary which manages their social enterprise investments. There’s Hagar Soya which the Cambodia Daily reported in 2003 as: “The $1.2 million factory was financed by Hagar, Hagar Soya’s majority shareholder, and $450,000 in equity financing from the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank. Half of the company’s 41 employees were destitute women living in Hagar’s shelter or foster homes. They now earn $50 per month at the factory.”
Most of these social enterprises are run by white men from the Global North who are actively preying on abused, poor, or marginalized women and children from the Global South. Elizabeth Bernstein notes that “Conditions of employment in vocational training programs for sex workers are often characterized by protectionist policies that aim to discipline workers as part of their rehabilitation”. Historically sex workers were forced in rehabilitation programs, or in Magdalene asylums to try to eliminate prostitution, or otherwise deviant women. These programs didn’t go away, and the philosophy behind them is still the socially accepted one. Social enterprises have the predicable side effect of increasing global inequality. People often don’t understand that most anti-trafficking organizations are missionary groups, and the way they talk about “slavery” and “saving slaves” is different from most people’s definitions of it. For many of these organizations that do outreach ministry work by visiting prisons, detention centers, harassing strip clubs, or other places where sex workers exist, this is “abolitionist” work, they’re liberating “slaves” by teaching them their version of Christianity. Some of the more extreme organizations that do this are As Our Own ($2.4 million revenue in 2018) and Set Beautiful Free ($900k).. One “heartwarming” story I found was about a boy named Vinod Rawat who was a 16 year old homeless disabled teenager. He was admitted into the Bombay Teen Challenge where he was given the task of cleaning the rehab center. Eventually the director got him admitted to a nearby night school, but he dropped out after his father died, and he had to provide for the family. After which he took a job at McDonalds at night and worked at the rehab center in the morning. Another thing the organization does is they put their them to work making garments, leather goods, jewelry, etc. for companies like The Hard Rock Café.
As Our own ($2.4 million revenue) was founded by Indian expatriate, Ralph Borde who claims to consensually take children from their “sex slaves” mothers, to break the cycle of “slavery”. He’s also on the board of directors for Compassion International Inc. a Christian child sponsorship ministry. As Our Own website explains that “Their mothers are captives in the sex trade. And when enslaved women give birth, their children inevitably become second-generation slaves—like mother, like daughter.” I should probably mention this viewpoint that sex workers will give birth to children who will become sex workers (as if it’s a genetic trait) is from eugenics. As Our Own does not operate a school even though they advertise that they give the children an education everywhere, and they did collect money to build one. What As Our Own offers instead is English language training, Ralph claims “an English education is crucial for these girls to break free from the stigma of their background.” Originally As Our Own was under the name Charasia NFP, their mission statement was “Responding with the love and message of Jesus Christ, the mission of Charasia is to empower the next generation of Christian leaders in South Asia. Charasia, a grassroots U.S.-based charity, focuses on three main areas of ministry: Church Planting, Orphan Care & Child Protection, and Micro Enterprise Development.”
Movements like End It, have bipartisan support; both sides benefit from what Elizabeth Bernstein calls “carceral feminism, militarized humanitarianism, and redemptive capitalism”. Human Trafficking discourse needs to be understood as imperialistic, anti-immigrant, and anti-sex work policy. The issue behind the End It Movement is the privilege and power that they have over marginalized groups, and how these narratives and movements keep the power dynamics intact. One of the center arguments of the movement is that women can’t consent to selling erotic services for resources or money and yet they can consent to working at a sweatshop/factories, and giving up their children to strangers. This framework is that trafficking victims/slaves can only consent to things that benefit the institution; they can only make a choice that the system/they allows them to make. Any decision made outside of their direct control is a “enslaved” choice, and therefore should not be recognized or respected. When the public is given a chance to see what’s really happening behind “anti-trafficking” policy, they’re often outraged. We can see this at the American border, as children are taken from their parents and families to protect them from potential “traffickers”, and later sold off to adoption agencies. Many people have pointed out that these are state sanctioned kidnappings, if not an act of genocide. If we really seek to empower people, we should listen to those that anti-trafficking organizations call “slaves” and we should stop calling them slaves. We should listen to marginalized people, to poor people, to undocumented immigrants, and to sex workers as the true experts and leaders.