The Essential Abolitionist: The story behind the book

IMG_1844With The Essential Abolitionist: What you need to know about human trafficking & modern slavery now on sale, I’m often asked about the writing and publishing process. Most often, I’m asked, where did I get the idea to write the book? This is the short story behind the book.

Since 2006 I’ve been involved in the response to human trafficking when I was tasked with managing the San Jose Police Department’s Human Trafficking Task Force. We were part of a nationwide program of task forces funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. When the program was launched in late-2005 it was the first effort to create and sustain multi-sector task forces involving local law enforcement, federal law enforcement, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) who provide services to victims of human trafficking. Being a brand new effort, each of the task forces was left to design their own plan to achieve the program’s four goals: Identify and rescue victims of trafficking; prosecute offenders; train local law enforcement, and; raise public awareness.

Our task force launched an aggressive campaign of educating the public (mostly by speaking at public events), and creating training programs for law enforcement and victim services providers. So from the start we were being asked lots of questions about human trafficking and how best to respond.

For me, this led to more and more opportunities to speak, train, and advise, usually with partners from other anti-trafficking sectors. What I began to realize over time was that people were usually asking the same questions, regardless if they were the general public, students, community activists, or even professionals with a role in the response to human trafficking.

About two years ago the idea came to me that the most-often asked questions could be condensed into a book, written in a style any reader would find engaging and valuable. What would set this book apart from many of the other excellent books focusing on human trafficking would be my experience putting this knowledge to work, and my experience helping other organizations enhance their response efforts. The book would focus on real-world challenges faced every day by those actively responding to modern slavery. After drafting an initial list of about 100 questions, I asked several colleagues their opinion of the book’s concept and the draft questions. I received enthusiastic feedback about the potential value of the concept, and most of my colleagues told me that they were routinely asked the same questions!

HOW TO MAKE THE BOOK EVEN BETTER?

There is one indisputable fact when it comes to fighting human trafficking: No single sector, no single organization, and certainly no single individual can do the work alone. Effective collaboration is critical. (Collaboration is also one of the greatest challenges faced in the response to human trafficking.)

So, again, I reached out to colleagues from across the country, each with expertise in their own area of responding to human trafficking. I will always be grateful that every contributor I invited to join me on the project quickly agreed. How much better is the book than if I had written it alone? It is immensely better! The contributors come from almost every sector involved in the response to trafficking. And though some of their topics seem focused on a particular sector, they crafted their contributions in such a way that every reader can gain knowledge, and a better understanding of the challenges faced by all. You can read the biographies of the contributors here.

The writing and editing process reduced the original list of 100 questions to 78; each a topic of value to anyone interested or involved in the response to human trafficking. The questions address the essential knowledge we should all possess.

So now you know the story behind the book!

Let me know what questions you have about the book, the writing process, or human trafficking in general. I’ll try to answer them in the comments or in a future blog post!

John

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