It’s Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week! This will be followed from 14. February by the One Billion Rising Campaign. Between 14 February and International Women’s Day, on 8 March: look out for regular Shiloh Project updates!

 Today, during Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week is a good time for The Shiloh Project to launch the first post of an occasional series profiling NGOs working actively against rape culture in its myriad forms.

 Organizations such as Women’s Shelter and Rape Crisis are very well known and do fantastic and important work. The NGOs we’ll be profiling here are less well known and also important to support, promote and celebrate. First up today is The Cambridge Centre for Applied Research in Human Trafficking, introduced by its Development Director, Rev. Carrie Pemberton Ford …



Tell us about your NGO and your own role.

My name is Carrie Pemberton Ford. I am an Anglican priest and academic, as well as Development Director of the Cambridge Centre for Applied Research in Human Trafficking (CCARHT). The Centre is based in Cambridge (UK). CCARHT is a nonprofit (or not-for-profit) Community Interest Company (CIC), which has Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) recognition from the United Nations office working on counter trafficking.

CCARHT’s vision is to foster applied research that addresses the contemporary global scourge of Human Trafficking, as well as to set this scourge in the wider context of social justice, gender equity, international economic and political power distribution, safer migration and asylum corridors, voice and victim empowerment, and multi-partner co-operation. Human trafficking, as defined by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is the ‘hydra-headed monster’ manifesting in multiple forms that we seek to defeat. This is in line with the Palermo Protocols: three protocols adopted by the United Nations to supplement the 2000 Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. Two of these protocols address human trafficking: one is aimed at suppressing and punishing the trafficking of persons, especially women and children; the second addresses the smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air.

The Shiloh Project explores the intersections between, on the one hand, rape culture, and, on the other, religion. On some of our subsidiary projects we work together with third-sector organizations (including NGOs and FBOs). We also want to raise awareness about and address and resist rape culture manifestations and gender-based violence directly. We’re interested to hear your answers to the following:

 How did you get involved in the work you are doing? Do you see religion having impact on the setting where you are working – and how do you perceive that impact?

I was involved in developing victim care responses to human trafficking before the Palermo Protocols became ratified by the UK Government (in 2003). I was the founder of the UK Charity Churches Alert to Sex Trafficking across Europe (CHASTE), and the instigator of the NOT FOR SALE campaign, which raises the issue of the commodification of female lives, along with a minority culture of male lives, within the sex industry. This was my entry into the last fifteen years of working in resistance to human trafficking – in its widest interpretation, which involves labour trafficking (or, slavery), child exploitation, organ trafficking, gamete trafficking and surrogacy, alongside trafficking for sexual exploitation and child abuse within the pornography ‘industry’.

The role of religion is extremely compromised and complex in the challenge of human trafficking. On the one hand, those of us whose faith discourse developed within a culture that values human liberation, gender equality and human rights, recognize religious communities as having powerful potential to interrupt and begin to dismantle cultures of commodification, devaluation of the ‘divine image’ imprint of humanity, and gender-based and racial hierarchies, alongside also age-related abuse, which runs as a major vein across human trafficking and modern slavery. On the other hand, many of these discourses have had long and embarrassing support from patriarchal and systematized ‘canonical’ teachings and their organizational realization.

Consequently, the role of religion is profoundly ambiguous, but offers some dynamic opportunities to address the diverse challenges around human trafficking – from the articulations of state interests, as well as some global conversations around international distribution of resources, value chains, and ensuring safe corridors for the movement of people – all of which address international trafficking – whilst also exploring community accountability, social justice and rape cultures within the domestic and national space.

Whether positive or negative, the role and impact of religion cannot and should not be ignored – including in terms of understanding the full picture of human trafficking.

 How do you understand ‘rape culture’ and do you think it can be resisted or detoxified?

 Rape culture is about the failure of interpersonal respect and the dereliction of an understanding of gendered difference founded on radical human equality. Rape culture underpins or is underpinned by political and economic hierarchies where the active consent of the other becomes void. Though its etymological background lies in the 1970s feminist movement, with a specific focus on ‘outing’ the ways in which society blames victims of sexual assault and normalizes male sexual violence, rape culture exists up until today and is fed by every societal message where one gender, ethnicity, class, ability, or sexuality becomes dominant and ‘entitled’ to transgress the embodied boundaries of the other.

Rape culture is resisted and detoxified through the raising up of equality, equity, and personal autonomy as rights protected by the State for all its citizens, by the enactment of the United Nations’ inalienable rights (as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948), and wherever religious discourse privileges this way of viewing humanity over and against the hierarchical forms which have so often dominated western and other cultures.

Sex trafficking is one form of human trafficking and directly indicative of rape culture. It violates fundamental human rights and human dignity and generates illicit finance for the pimps and traffickers complicit in each and every delivery of a female, male or transgender person into the regional, national or international ‘sex market’. It feeds off the normalization of rape culture whereby the ‘consumer’ does not perceive their transaction as anything other than a ‘purchase’, consent having allegedly been delivered by the agreement to ‘exchange’ a body or bodily service for money.

The relationship between sex trafficking and prostitution more generally is important to disentangle. Important here is the recent and incisive work of Julie Bindel. Her book The Pimping of Prostitution offers some clear insights into the multiple tiers implicit in the notion of ‘consent’ within the context of the global sex industry. She also highlights how the dominant culture refuses to explore the profound power asymmetries present in the embodied politics of this ‘market’ exchange, where the golden mean of the market is rigged by profound systemic inequalities in terms of gender, ethnicity and class.

These matters inform some of the challenges religious discourse needs to address going forward. CCARHT has already developed a theological wing to our work to explore such challenges.

How could those who are interested find out more about your NGO? How can people contribute and where will their money go?

For information and resources, please see the CCARHT website.

We host an annual symposium, which this year is held at Cambridge University from 2nd – 6th July 2018. Our focus will be ‘Terror, Trauma and Transport’. We are hoping to spend the final day of the conference on the theological explorations underpinning the Shiloh Project. (It would be wonderful to attend your conference on 6th July – but that might be difficult, logistically!)

We are also co-curating a summer school on ‘Migrants, Human Rights and Democracy’, to be held in Palermo (Sicily) from June 11th –15th June 2018.

Another upcoming event is a mini conference to be held in London on 13th April. The focus of this is very relevant to the Shiloh Project: namely, the multi-faceted issues and dimensions surrounding the safeguarding and protection of spouses and children in the context of domestic abuse, with particular focus on the roles played by coercive control or institutional inertia of clergy and religious institutions. (Please see: #Hometruths and #Badfaithed or contact me: [email protected])

CCARHT is a not-for-profit organization, and all donations go towards financing publications, mini symposia, research and at-risk-community interventions. These currently involve work in all of Sicily, Catalonia, Macedonia, Ukraine, and the UK.

All our work is focused on developing effective and more sustainable counter-human-trafficking interventions. In the course of this, we look, for example, at international and inter-regional economic fractures, the nexus with migration, creating asylum delivery, victim protection and survivor care, entrepreneurial empowerment for survivors, averting risky behaviours and situations for communities working with unaccompanied minors, supply chain transparency and value chain transformation.

We rely on fee-paying participation of our training symposia, on commissioned reports and donations for the business intervention and training work we are currently undertaking in Sicily, and on co-sponsored arts interventions – the most recent being #Justsex. We are currently seeking £8,000 to develop #Justsex materials to support the ‘Physical Theatre’ work which is currently beginning to find access into School PSHE (Personal and Social Health Education) programmes. (Please contact me directly for more details!)

Please see our library page on for our latest reports including our recent submission on ‘Behind Closed Doors: Addressing Human Trafficking, Servitude and Domestic Abuse Through the Black African Churches in London’, which has resulted in the development of a new charity from the cluster working on precisely these issues – namely, ‘Seraphs Tackling Social Injustice’.

 What kinds of posts would you like to see on The Shiloh Project blog and what kinds of resources that come into our orbit would be of value to you?

 Anything around the way in which rape culture, or patriarchal thinking, or pre-emptive demolition of consent, or gang formation and criminality, works internationally, and cross-culturally, as well as how rape culture is implicitly supported through some religious structures and discourses – and also how rape culture can start to be dismantled through a liberation theology or through a breach in rape culture-supportive theological praxis.

Tags : Carrie Pemberton FordCCARHTCHASTENGORape Culture

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