Interview with Vanguard’s Director of Global Center for Women and Justice

Sandie Morgan is the Director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice and teaches Women’s Studies, Family Violence, and Human Trafficking at Vanguard.  As a Registered Nurse, Sandie served on the Board of the International Nurses Association in Athens, Greece where she lived for ten years.  It was there that she discover human trafficking wile doing a story for Lydia Living magazine and working on reducing violence against women. Below is an interview by Terence Loose telling more insight about Sandie and her life work.

This educator and nurse is fighting the modern-day slave trade, which exists even here in the OC.

BY Terence Loose
COAST MAGAZINE

If you’re like most Americans, you are under the impression that slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation – and the Civil War – in 1863.

But you’d be wrong. Slavery still exists. In fact, the U.S. State Department says there are 27 million victims of human trafficking worldwide – 100,000 or more in the United States and some even in Orange County. These unfortunates are sold into everything from the sex-slave trade to the restaurant industry.

But there is hope, and one big reason for that is Sandra Morgan, director of the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University. Recently, she also served as Administrator for the Orange County Human Trafficking Taskforce, which battles against the modern slave trade. In addition to teaching at Vanguard, she hosts a podcast called Ending Human Trafficking.

Her conviction is obvious to anyone who listens. She speaks with a knowledge and passion for the issue of human rights that is only found in someone committed to changing a seemingly unchangeable problem. And she says that this is part of her mission.

“Our mantra here is study the issue, be a voice, make a difference. I live by that myself. I do the research so I have an answer for people when they ask about this issue,” she says.

So we asked.

How common is human trafficking in Orange County?
Our Orange County human trafficking taskforce has served over 100 certified victims of human trafficking. Those are only the ones we’ve been able to get certification for so we can provide them with services.

Does one stand out in your mind?
I met one young girl named Shyima who was brought here from Egypt to be a household slave at age nine. For three years she lived in a $1.6 million Orange County home, only she slept in the garage and was up from early morning until late at night doing all of the cleaning and taking care of two small children. Her life was the life of a slave. She never went to school, she never got to play, she never went to the doctor or the dentist.

How was she rescued?
A neighbor noticed a child who never went to school and they called the authorities. [The national human trafficking resource center hotline is 888.373.7888.] Now, Shyima’s doing great. In fact, in November she got her U.S. citizenship. As for the family who had enslaved her, they were convicted, spent time in prison and then were deported.

Movies like to depict victims as being kidnapped into this life. Is that common?
No. Most of the media over-glamorizes the idea of force. People being kidnapped is pretty rare. More often you have people who are in a compromised position without any options and someone offers them a job or opportunity and they take it. In the area of our American children, the majority are kids who come from dysfunctional families – they’ve been in group homes, in foster care, they don’t have a home to run back to. So someone takes them in and the grooming process begins. They’re recruited and sold for sex.

A sex slave trade right here in Orange County?
Yes, we have several cases ongoing of juveniles who were being sold for sex right here in Orange County. That raises the question: Who in Orange County is buying a child for sex? And what other kinds of jobs are we talking about? The one that gets the most attention is the sex trade, but we also have victims that have been household servants, worked in eldercare facilities, in restaurants, hotels, magazine sales.

What keeps them loyal?
If you get down into basic child psychology and the way a child’s brain is developing, we are hard-wired to have a family. And even if that family is a gang or a pimp and three women he’s exploiting, at least you have someplace to go home to. So there’s this sense of belonging. In fact, often when the police show up to rescue them, they don’t want to be rescued.

What happens in that situation?
Fortunately, if they’re under 18 they don’t get to choose. We take them and help them. Many times, it takes months before young women and boys can go through restorative services. In fact, in Las Vegas, a judge pointed out that 85% of the juveniles they save run away, so they put them in juvenile detention.

There is also the situation of debt bondage. Can you explain that?
A trafficker tells a victim something like, “We have a restaurant job for you and you’ll be able to send money home to your family.” The [victim] says they don’t have money to get across the border. So the [trafficker] will say, “That’s OK, you’ll owe us.” So the victim comes across and earns little to nothing and what they do make goes to pay their debt. They’re charged for the place they’re sleeping – which is often nearly inhabitable – their groceries, exorbitant interest and other things, all at outrageously high prices. After a few weeks, the victim begins to understand there is no way out, and they’re threatened with being turned over to the cops so they’ll never see their family again, or even with harm to them or their family. So people could be human trafficking victims and right in front of you, but they’re afraid to self-identify.

Why did you first get involved in fighting human trafficking?
I was living and working in Greece in 2000. In Greece prostitution is legal and so I walked past brothels all the time. But I noticed that a lot of the girls in the doorways were very young and not Greek, so I started asking questions. That was the beginning of my journey. When I found out more, and how horrible the problem was, I tried to figure out how to change it.

And you now teach on a bigger scale at Vanguard University.
That’s why I love my position and what we’re doing here. I realize my limitations. I’m only one person; I can only do so much. But every semester, when I teach my students, I multiply myself 30, 40, 50 times. In that way, I hope I can really make a difference.

Full Story

OC Register Recognizes Vanguard’s Veterans Courtyard of Honor and Dedication to Veterans

Vanguard’s Veterans Courtyard of Honor was dedicated yesterday with many veterans, community members and Vanguard staff, faculty and students present.  View photos from the event here, and watch a recap film from the celebration here. The Veterans Courtyard of Honor was built to serve as an enduring symbol of gratitude and commitment to honor the service of military personnel and veterans and is a beacon at the entrance to the University.  The university itself is built on the land where the former Santa Ana Air Base was located.  In 1943 the college received recognition by the government for the training of military chaplains.  Vanguard University trained chaplains who have served in WWII, Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Vanguard’s Veterans program gives veterans meaning and purpose in their life.  Many of the 30,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who return to California each year experience challenges when transitioning from military to civilian life.  Unemployment rates are high and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and other transitional challenges have led to an alarming spike in suicides.  Every 80 minutes an Iraq or Afghanistan Veteran commits suicide.  Education is the best transitional bridge for veterans because it provides hope for a better life through increased employability, higher income potential, and restored purpose and meaning through self-discovery.

Sgt. Brent Theobald, USMC, director of Veterans Affairs for Vanguard has many memories and has had much influence on the veterans program and resource center.  His reflective words bring a veterans perspective to the Veteran’s Courtyard of Honor. “Some of my closest comrades are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  I recently visited Washington D.C. and the cemetery, where memories of serving as a marine in Afghanistan and Iraq flooded back.  Each veteran has his or her own memories that are as fresh as the day they were made.  Some memories we would like to forget, others stand as reminders of the greatest fraternity in our lives. Emotion overwhelmed me as the sun set across the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery.  This is a great nation and I am thankful for the men and women who will raise their right hand to continue the legacy of service. Vanguard University is committed to honoring the legacy of all veterans while preparing the next generation as they transition out of the military during this difficult economic time.  Thank you to all of those who gave to make this Veteran’s Courtyard of Honor possible to serve our nation’s veterans.”

Below is an article by The Orange County Register in response to this momentous event at Vanguard.

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ROSE PALMISANO

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

The Veterans Courtyard of Honor is a dream come true for Vanguard University President Carol Taylor, who began to dream of how to better serve veterans three years ago.

“Today, the dream became reality,” Taylor said during Courtyard of Honor dedication ceremonies Thursday at the Costa Mesa university.

More than 100 veterans and local supporters joined Brent Theobald, the Universities director of veterans affairs, government and community relations, and Vanguard’s Veterans Advisory Board to celebrate the new courtyard and to honor donors who made it possible.

Speakers, specials guests and the unveiling of “value pillars” dedicated to those who served in uniform were also part of the ceremonies.

Vanguard University is a private liberal arts university that is one of the few schools in the nation to have a courtyard specially dedicated to veterans, Taylor said.

“This is a space that visually says to veterans, ‘Welcome home. You are welcome here, and this now your home,’ ” Taylor said.

Read the full OC Register story.