Preventing Human Trafficking Through Self Esteem

Preventing Human Trafficking Through Self Esteem

Why is self-esteem so important?  There are many reasons, and this post will highlight one of them, human trafficking.

Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud or coercion against a human being (man, woman or child) to exploit them.  It is a $150 billion global industry (although it exists in every community, even your own) and is a growing crime.  In terms of profits, it has surpassed the selling of illegal weapons and is expected to surpass the illegal drug trade. Gangs and other criminals (perpetrators are men, women and young adults) are increasingly using human trafficking as a means to make money.

What does this have to do with self-esteem you might ask?  Well, a lot.  Here is an example.  A man walks around the mall to recruit young girls to work for him.  He knows the best candidates are the girls who need reassurance they are pretty and loved.  If he walks up to a young girl and tells her she is pretty, he can tell by her reaction if she is a good fit.

If the girl drops her head in shame or comments that she is not pretty, chances are she has low self-esteem.  It will be easy for him to convince her through coercion to come with him.  All he has to do is talk up to her about how pretty she is, how he will buy her new clothes, get her hair and nails done and this will make her feel good and more inclined to go with him.

If she looks at him, says thank you and walks away, then that is not someone he is going to want to recruit; she doesn’t need him or his compliments.  Someone with confidence and high self-esteem feels good about themself, respects and loves themself for who they are and values their own opinion of themself, not someone else’s.

Unfortunately, the girls who go with this man are unaware of his intentions, they like the attention.  At first he may treat her well and set up the situation so she feels he has done a lot for her.  Then one day he may ask her to do something in return.  And this something may not be what the girl wants to do, but she does it because she feels she owes him and she has little respect for herself.  He controls her and she is now faced with a situation she has no idea how to escape.  She may be physically threatened and/or mentally threatened by him to a point where she is trapped and has no hope of escaping the nightmare she is now lives.

Learn to love, value and respect yourself for who you are, it might one day save your life.

Virginia Zart, President-Elect Junior League of Long Beach

Especially Me!

Studies indicate that up to 62% of girls are insecure about themselves. As many as seven in ten girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way. The Junior League of Long Beach is pleased to announce our upcoming Especially Me! event dedicated to addressing these very issues.

Our 2015 event was a HUGE success, with rave reviews from the fifth grade girls in attendance, and there was a waiting list for additional girls who wanted to attend. Especially Me! is designed to teach girls the skills they need to be happy and confident, to make good decisions, to be assertive, to express themselves, and to have a strong sense of self. The goal of the course is to instill the idea in each girl that she is unique and special and that she can take control of her own life. Topics covered include self-esteem, body awareness, puberty, nutrition, positive body image, mass media misrepresentations, decision-making, assertiveness, and goal setting.

The Junior League of Long Beach is an organization of women volunteers dedicated to issues that affect the children of our community. We have organized seven Especially Me! courses during the last four school years, and the positive feedback from the girls and the participating schools indicates that there is a strong need for programs such as this.

 Maria, an Especially Me! participant said, “I think this class is great. I have very low self-esteem. I’ve always thought I was ugly. I’ve always thought I was fat and never ‘perfect.’ It was never easy, especially when my mom and dad said I had bad skin and I was ugly. That always brought me down. I can start building my self esteem again.”

 Trained Junior League members facilitate the sessions, which are taught in an interactive format. The girls attend the course by themselves, as we have found they are sometimes more comfortable discussing sensitive issues outside the presence of their parents or guardians. In addition, we are happy to answer questions or provide additional information regarding the content of the classes at any time.

 This year, Especially Me! will take place on January 30, 2016, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Washington Middle School, 1450 Cedar Ave., Long Beach. Enclosed you will find a flyer and consent form.

 In order for the girls to be registered for the course, please email or mail dated and signed parent permission slips, the child’s name and school to the contact below by January 15th. You are welcome to scan the permission slips/releases and email them back to us instead. We will accept girls on a first come, first served basis until all of our 100 spaces are full. Once the consent form has been received, you will receive a confirmation letter that will include more information on drop off, pick up, and other logistics.

 If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to email us at or contact us by phone at 562-989-6400.

Goals Like a Boss

Goal setting is a crucial step in getting what you want – but where do we start?  How do we identify what we want in a world full of options?  For many of us the idea of deciding what we want to do or be, is overwhelming and scary.  Sometimes, setting goals feels like a useless task, because things always seem to change along the way. The reality is, it’s not the goal you’ve set that’s the problem, it’s the way you’ve set it that’s holding you back!  In this article we take a look at 5 steps to make goal setting easy and attainable.  These steps will not only help you visualize where you want to be, but also, help you set realistic timelines and stay accountable. 
Take a read and let us know – what goals will you be setting for yourself?   
Jenny Shirbroun

Practice Makes Perfect

Are there things that make you nervous?  Do you ever wonder how you would handle a situation?  We live in a world where there are “not nice” people and there are people who don’t intend to be mean, but are mean accidentally.  Do you know what you will do in that situation?  Do you know what you will say?  Do you know what you will feel?

Did you ever think of making a plan?  Then most importantly, PRACTICING that plan so when we are put into an uncomfortable situation we know what we will do and it is easy.  This way we don’t allow the uncomfortable situations to disrupt our day.  Having a plan makes us more comfortable and makes those around us more comfortable too.  It keeps us from getting so worked up that one negative interaction doesn’t ruin our entire day.

For example, pretend you have a test coming up and your best friend didn’t study.  You spent all week studying.  Do you know what you will say if they ask to copy?  Or what you will do if you notice they are trying to look at your paper during the test?  This is your very very best friend.  You don’t want to make them mad and you don’t want to fight with them.  Also, even though it’s not right for them to cheat, you don’t want to lose their friendship over it either.  If you don’t have a plan, you might end up saying that they can cheat but then feeling guilty about it all day or so nervous about getting caught that you don’t end up doing well on the test.  However, you can practice just through imagination in your own bedroom what you might say.  For example, you could say, “We might get caught, and I could get a bad grade.  I really need a good grade on this test, so I can’t risk it.”  Practice that in your bedroom.  Memorize it.  Close your eyes and imagine your very best friend asking you.  Then imagine you saying that sentence.  Then imagine it again and again and again.  Imagine all the different things your friend might say and what you would say back.  And then imagine hanging out together after the test and still being friends.  Repeat it over and over and over until you feel super comfortable with it.  Then when it happens you will know what to do and even though you’ve never actually done it before you’ve practiced so often that it feels like you have.

There once was a college diver who got hurt at the beginning of the season.  He couldn’t practice all season long.  But still every day he showed up to the pool and laid on the pool deck with his eyes closed. From the outside, he looked so funny.  His arms would go up and down and he’d hold himself in a ball then straighten out like an arrow.  Every day he did this all season long.  Right before the very last meet of the season the doctors said he was finally healed and allowed to dive.  His team needed him to finish in at least third place to win the meet.  No one expected him to be able to accomplish that because he hadn’t actually done a dive for most of the season.  To everyone’s surprise, he walked out on the diving board full of confidence.  He dove some of the most difficult dives of anyone at the meet and he finished in second place, just one point behind first place.  His team went on to win the meet.  He could dive with confidence because although he hadn’t actually practiced in the water for most of the season, he had practiced in his imagination so often that his body knew what to do when the time came to actually perform.  We can do the same thing with anything in our life.  Mental practice doesn’t have to be reserved for athletic performance; it can be used for anything.

What are you going to practice today?

–Jennifer Sears

A Lesson in Anti-Bullying: Demonstrated by our Favorite Bully- Biff Tannen

#BullyingPreventionMonth ended last week, but we educate ourselves on anti-bullying tactics every month of the year. Learn how bullying differs from harassment and many other important legal issues surrounding bullying in the state of California. Stand up against bullying every day, not just during the month of October.

It’s probably safe to say that everyone has been bullied at one time or another in their life.  Whether it was in elementary school, high school or at your place of work, someone has pushed you around, berated you, stole your lunch money, made fun of you or called you names. Nationally, more than 13 million American children will be bullied, making it the most common form of violence young people experience.  Well, as this October is Anti-Bullying Month and the 30th Anniversary of Back to the Future, the moon and stars have aligned perfectly and provided us with an opportunity to revisit Biff’s Bad Bullying Behavior.

Everyone remembers the movie Back to the Future, right?  (How could you not??)

Quick synopsis- In attempt to evade the evil Libyan rebels seeking return of their plutonium from eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, who used the plutonium to power the flux capacitor in his time-traveling DeLorean instead of building them a bomb.

Marty McFly jumps into the Delorean and upon reaching a speed of 88 mph (in the Puente Hills mall parking lot), 1.21 jigawatts of power sends Marty and the car back in time to November 5, 1955- the date parents’ first met.  Marty then meets his future parents in high school and accidentally becomes his mother’s romantic interest.  In an ensuing caper of errors, Marty must repair the damage to history by causing his parents-to-be to fall in love, and with the help of Doc Brown and find a way to return to 1985.

While helping his to-be father, George McFly, try to woo his to be mother in 1955, Marty inadvertently witnesses several occasions of George being verbally and physically abused by the school bully, Biff Tannen.  The most memorable of which is:

This scene, despite Crispin Glover’s adorably dorky demeanor, makes everyone cringe and sink down in their seats.  And if you’re like me, it makes you want to jump up and give Biff a swift kick to the boys (if you know what I mean.)  However, what is sad is that George takes the knocking on his head, slap and verbal abuse from Biff with a smile and even joins in the laughter when Biff’s friend makes fun of Marty’s “life preserver” jacket.  So, would Biff face any repercussions for his bullying behavior in 2015?

Well, what is bullying anyway?

“Bullying” is defined as any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act, and including one or more acts committed by a pupil or group of pupils, directed toward one or more pupils that has or can be reasonably predicted to have the effect of one or more of the following: (A) Placing a reasonable pupil or pupils in fear of harm to that pupil’s or those pupils’ person or property;  (B) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience a substantially detrimental effect on his or her physical or mental health;  (C) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her academic performance;  (D) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with his or her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900.

Bullying is different from harassment because the “bully” is not usually just one person with a grudge but is often a group of schoolmates, or people who were once thought of as friends.  Bullying in the modern era is not just a message written on the men’s room wall “for a good time call…”, or name-calling in the schoolyard.  Bullying, in the age of social media, is often fairly anonymous and because of the anonymity, typically more vicious and more likely to reach a wider audience, thereby, creating more bullies.

In November 1955, when George and Biff were in high school, bullying existed (obviously), but not much was done by the parents or the schools to deter this kind of behavior.  In fact, if you were being bullied, you were likely to be told to turn the other cheek or “man up” and defend yourself (enter the Karate Kid). 

However, in the wake of several high-profile suicides among students who were chronically bullied, and after two students, who said they were constantly bullied, attacked and opened fire on their fellow students at Columbine High School in 1999, various states started passing laws to stop bullying behavior among students.  In the aftermath of the school shooting and in reaction to a local bullying-related suicide in the state, Georgia became the first state to pass bullying legislation and California followed shortly thereafter.  In 2011, California passed the Safe Place to Learn Act located in the California Education Code §234(b) which provides that all students have a right to attend school without discrimination, harassment, violence, intimidation, and bullying and applies to students either at school, at a school function or in transit to or from school.  Since then, there have been numerous amendments, revisions and new laws added to the books in California aimed at preventing bullying.

Now, how do these bullying laws affect Biff at all?  Well, the answer is, they don’t…(wait for it)…yet.  The scene shown above was off campus and while Biff is most definitely committing battery- willful force or violence used against another person, but the likelihood that George is going to go to the police and file a police report is slim to none and slim just left the bar.

Since Biff is basically a giant meathead, we assume that his bullying knows no bounds and would occur on campus and off.  In those instances where he is bullying anyone on campus, or in transit to and from campus, the above-mentioned legislation would most definitely get Biff suspended, and eventually, expelled.  Moreover, the “Under the Sea” dance is a school function, which would also fall under the above legislation.  In addition to the many criminal charges Biff racks up while attempting to rape Lorraine in the car at the dance, Biff also continues his bullying of George and in doing so, almost breaks his arm. 

While no one ever saw what happened, except Marty and Lorraine, schools today would have every inch of that parking lot under video surveillance, thus, enabling them to catch Biff in the act of yet more bullying.  (With the amount of bullying by Biff just shown during the three days of this movie, I don’t see Biff even graduating from Hill Valley High School.)

Just to throw insult on injury- what does almost every human being on earth have in 2015?  A cell phone!  If this scenario were to occur today, we all know that Biff, his friends and all of those patrons at the diner would all have their cell phones out taking pictures and videoing George getting bullied by Biff.  (Any video would also likely catch that Biff is having George do his work for him, which would lead to other disciplinary issues at school, but one issue at a time.)  None of these people videoing the scene would bother to defend George, but all of these videos would wind up on Facebook, You Tube and other social media, leading to George getting ridiculed by even more people at school the next day.  Moreover, why waste time bullying someone face to face, when you can do it all day on your cell phone or computer.  We all know Biff would be mercilessly bullying George on any social media forum possible (as long as he knows how to work modern technology).

Luckily, thanks to the love of the internet and the cell phone, Biff Tannen and all of those lookie-loos sharing the video could be punished as well.  Recently, Assembly Member Christina Garcia proposed AB 881, which becomes a law on January 1, 2015 and centers on protecting children from cyber bullying and reaches beyond the schoolyard to stop bullying wherever it occurs.  Previous legislation was written before the explosive growth of electronic devices and instant communication, so AB 881 clarified that an “electronic act” means the creation OR transmission of any communication. This means kids who participate in cyberbullying can now be suspended for cyberbullying even if they were not the one who originated the document.  (This bill was supported by the Junior League Long Beach, among others.)

Based on the current laws of California, and those effective in January 2016, Biff Tannen would be suspended…a lot, and most likely, expelled, for his bullying behavior.

Lessons learned here:  Justice is sweet.  High School sucks.  Don’t be a bully, because you could end up in a pile of …

-Megan Hitchcock

[ This post originally appeared on The Legal Geeks blog.]

Breast Cancer Awareness Month


October marks #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth and people around the world are wearing pink ribbons to show their support for those battling this awful disease. When you aren’t well, there is nothing more important than taking care of yourself and devoting time to your health. The Junior League of Long Beach’s largest fundraiser each year donates a portion of the proceeds to the Breast Cancer Fund, which helps expose and eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer.

Below a member shares her friend’s alternative healing journey against breast cancer.

Mind, Body and Spiritual Healing vs Modern Treatments

When my girlfriend was diagnosed with breast cancer the doctors assumed Western medicine would be the choice for care and quickly began describing the process of a mastectomy, the follow-on treatment involving radiation and chemotherapy and the quality of life that should be expected during this treatment course.  Little did they realize that she would only hear one-third of the words, not because English was her second language, but because the concepts paralyzed her.  The blank stares fueled by emotions lead by fears, questions, procedure protocols and medical terms went unnoticed by friends and family.

In a state of suspended disbelief, she was afforded by her loving husband the time to seek answers to her many questions and explore the emotions concealed inside her. Consulting many books, doctors and reverting back to her childhood teachings that “we are what we eat”; she explored the alternative medicinal paths including herbal medicine and spiritual healing.

Research has proven that more and more medical credence is being given to alternative medicinal approaches for illnesses such as breast cancer.  Although there is no documented cause for this illness, there are several document treatments.  Western medicine prescribes procedures and treatments that span from minor surgery to a full removal and reconstructive approach.  Several drugs and therapies are accepted in the medical communities as well. The internet is full of information about how to diagnose, treat and recover from breast cancer, most of it being backed by solid research and science.

There is another approach that is less understood, less researched but potentially a better choice for some. Spiritual healers, medicine men, shrinks – call them what you will.

Traveling to Bali, Indonesia this summer helped me understand the draw to Bali for healing alternatives and overall better health. Famous for its long history of traditional healing, the rich Balinese culture includes herbal remedies, message and energy healing as well as customs and traditions that continue to thrive today.  The lush Indonesian landscape produces a wide range of herbal medicines known as “jamu” and the Balinese continue to lean on traditional spiritual healers.  The Ubud Yoga House, a favorite of mine, sits in the middle of a beautiful rice field between tower volcanoes.  People travel from all over the world to consult with the practitioners, relax and rejuvenate in this home environment. The Sacred Wellness Institute is promoted as a space of healing and love where the sick rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit.  The Institute specializes in individual self-awareness programs that radically change one’s aliveness.

Medical hers are consistently available and are promoted by healers and practitioners alike. The Balinese traditional medical treatment is known as “usada”.  The word is formed from the Sanskrit word  “ausadhi”, meaning medicinal plant.  There are more than 500 species of documented medicinal  varieties found on the island of Bali today. These plants are recognized globally by the medical and scientific communities and are actively prescribed by holistic healers in Bali and other countries.

I am not recommending an exclusive path of choice for anyone suffering from breast cancer. There are various types, various degrees and various health factors that make the diagnosis and the treatment plan an individualized choice.  Fighting an illness of this magnitude often times requires a life change.

Embrace the change as positively as possible and open your heart and mind to an aliveness that alternative approaches offer.


[This is a guest contribution and not a medical opinion. While there are many ways to take care of your health, you should always seek a medical professional’s advice.]