Marti MacGibbon, CADC-II, was featured Speaker/Trainer on Human Trafficking 101 at the Dignity Health hospital staff retreat on April 27th in Rancho Cordova, CA. The training, developed by Dignity Health’s Director of Human Trafficking Response Program, Holly Gibbs. Marti is an empowered survivor and advocate and is an expert on human trafficking, trauma resolution, and addiction. Ms. MacGibbon has engaged in legislative advocacy for victims and survivors of human trafficking at the national level. She is a well-known humorous motivational speaker and is the author of two critically acclaimed and nationally award-winning memoirs: Fierce, Funny, and Female and Never Give in to Fear.
Women all over the world are making history. The #MeToo movement has elevated women’s voices as they stand up against sexual harassment in the workplace. Females of all ages are speaking up and speaking out on a number of issues, including equal pay, equal representation in leadership, elimination of gender bias, better prenatal and postnatal care, and justice for victims and survivors of gender-based violence.
Celebrate Women’s History Month by listening to what women are saying. We speak with music, science, art, literature, activism, advocacy, friendship, love, and justice. Women bring life into the world, not only biologically, but spiritually, emotionally, and socially. We do this creatively and ingeniously. And yet, in certain contexts, people are more likely to associate creativity with men rather than women, a bias based on male and female stereotypes. That’s what a 2015 paper by Devon Proudfoot, Aaron Kay, and Christy Koval at the Fuqua School of Business suggests. In several experiments, they discovered that “outside the box” creativity is “…more strongly associated with stereotypically masculine characteristics (e.g., daring and self-reliance) than with stereotypically feminine characteristics (e.g., cooperativeness and supportiveness).”
In their series of studies, Proudfoot, Kay, and Koval also found that a man is credited with more creativity that a woman, even when their individual output is identical, and that men’s ideas are evaluated as more ingenious that women’s ideas. They also discovered that female executives are evaluated as less innovative than their male colleagues, and that when men engage in stereotypically male behavior (like independence and self-direction) others’ perception of them as creative increases. However, when women display the same behaviors, it does not enhance their perceived creativity. No wonder there still are so few women in top executive positions! You can read their entire paper here.
Let’s banish the worn-out old gender stereotypes. It’s essential and beneficial for both women and men to be aware that sexism, with its biases, myths, and misconceptions, is still deeply entrenched in our institutions, society, attitudes, and beliefs. Science needs an overhaul as badly as business does. When we’re asked to imagine a clueless person who needs complex concepts to be broken down and simplified, the “someone” is often described as female — an elderly aunt, a grandmother, a mother, or even a barmaid. That’s actually a thing! The ability to explain a theory, research, etc., in terms so basic they can be written on a cocktail napkin is known as “Barmaid Physics.” Josie Glausiusz, a journalist in Israel who writes about science and the environment for magazines including Nature, National Geographic, and American Scholar, covers this brilliantly in a piece published in Scientific American today, March 20th:
Along with many other science journalists, I have encountered this stereotype time and again. We are advised to ask scientists to explain their research to “your granny,” “to your mother or a ninth-grader,” to “Aunt Gladys.” As Einstein supposedly said in innumerably repeated memes, “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” (The quote is “probably not by Einstein,” according to the Ultimate Quotable Einstein, published by Princeton University Press.) In another iteration often attributed to Ernest Rutherford, one doesn’t fully understand a phenomena, theory, concept, principle, or law, etc., completely, until one can explain it to a barmaid (or child), e.g. in simple words, or on a cocktail napkin. This is sometimes called “Barmaid Physics.”
The well-worn formula is a prime example of the subtle ways in which sexism pervades science in a manner so entrenched that it is difficult to recognize. We are never asked to explain science to “your dad” or “your granddad.” “‘Explain it like you would explain it to your middle-aged Uncle Bob,’ said no one ever,” notes Leah Fey, subject investigation analyst at PreScouter, Inc. The advice “assumes that “Mom” and “Grandma” are either stupid or uneducated—either way, are incapable of comprehending anything technical,” adds Jen Pinkowski, Senior Science Editor at Mental Floss.
Take a moment to read Josie Glausiusz’ wonderful blog post here.
Throughout history, despite prejudice and sexism, females have triumphed, and will continue to do so. Hmmm…winning out against all odds? Hey, a heroic feat like that must take daring, self-reliance, independence and self-direction — “stereotypically male attributes” — to achieve. And let’s not forget to show some cooperativeness and supportiveness — “stereotypically female attributes,” toward women as we move forward. Women must fight to achieve each stage of progress, and must defend every triumph in order to sustain that hard-won progress for the generations that follow. Good thing we’re up to the task.
If you’d like to read my personal story of smashing female stereotypes, and get some laughs along the way, check out Fierce, Funny, and Female: A Journey Through Middle America, the Texas Oil Field, and Standup Comedy.
Humorous inspirational speaker and human trafficking survivor leader Marti MacGibbon delivered the closing keynote at the 10th Annual Human Trafficking Conference, “A Trauma-Informed Response to Human Trafficking Victims,” at California State University, Sacramento. The conference, attended by more than 530 participants, included survivors, law enforcement, attorneys, service providers, advocates and community members. The conference organizer, My Sister’s House, an organization dedicated to ending sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking in the Sacramento area. Their website cites their mission statement, “To serve Asian and Pacific Islander and other underserved women and children impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking by providing a culturally appropriate and responsive safe haven, job training, and community services.”
Marti’s presentation followed a day of intensive panels and discussions surrounding human trafficking. The conference event planners wanted to end the day on a lighter note with a focus on techniques for trauma-informed self-care. Since Marti tailors each presentation to meet the specific needs of each event planner, her talk provided the audience with humor, inspiration, and evidence-based strategies for trauma-informed self-care. Nilda Valmores, Executive Director at My Sister’s House, says, “Marti did a great job at using her humorous approach to share a piece of her story and provide the audience with different techniques for self-care. Working with Marti was very seamless. She was always responsive with email and phone calls and made sure there were no gaps following up the conference. The best recommendation we can give a speaker is that we hope to use her services again. This is especially true regarding Marti.”
February 16th is National Do a Grouch a Favor Day, a call to kindness in the name of a grouch. You can celebrate this occasion in a variety of ways — and whether you are the “grouch-er” or the “grouch-ee” doesn’t matter, your kind act will benefit you either way. We’ve all been ill-tempered, irritable, or complained too much, and we all know somebody who engages in those behaviors. There’s no shame in being a grouch: comedian Lewis Black built a very successful and celebrated career on grumpy rants. During my research for this post, I discovered a West Coast independent hip-hop artist with the stage name, The Grouch, and I downloaded some of his music. I also was reminded of the classic Sesame Street character, Oscar the Grouch. Whether you know a grouch, work for or with a grouch, or you are one, take a moment to celebrate it. And you may want to watch a clip of Oscar the Grouch in action, or check out that hip-hop artist, The Grouch. His song, “Breath” is upbeat and a good one to start with.
Now, about doing a grouch a favor…
Over the past decade, research has shown that being kind to others can result in more life satisfaction and maybe even more happiness. In a study published in the Journal of Social Psychology, scientists instructed one group of test subjects to do a kindness for three people each day over a ten-day period, instructed a second group to do three new things over the same time period, while a third group were instructed to do nothing at all for the same number of days. All test subjects reported on their level of life satisfaction and sense of well-being. The results showed that the group who did nothing reported no change. Both the group doing the kind acts and the group engaging in new experiences reported an improvement in mood and life satisfaction. But the group doing kind things for others reported the highest levels of happiness.
Research on the kindness to happiness connection abound. In a University of Oxford study, scholars reviewed metadata on the many studies and reported that being kind to others does make you ‘slightly happier,’ but they added that the happiness uptick is only an increase of about one point on a ten-point scale. That’s still significant — especially if you’re a grouch.
If you’re the grouch, do yourself a favor. When you show yourself kindness, the benefits are the same. Self-kindness and compassion really do work. You can give yourself a break, buy yourself something, or use positive self-talk to build yourself up. Or you can motivate yourself to be kind and good to others by learning how people who engage in positive behavior are more likely to be well-liked, more productive and happier. Kindness counts.
When you’re kind to strangers, friends and loved ones alike, you build your kindness potential — continue that practice and the behavior becomes a habit. And you may want to include charitable spending in your strategy. The amount of money doesn’t matter, it’s the giving to another. In the Journal of Happiness Studies, one research project published shows evidence for a positive feedback loop between spending for the good of others and happiness.
Do you have a special grump in your family?
Giving your support to a loved one has shown to benefit you as much as it benefits the one you are supporting. We talk a lot about the power of being connected to a positive support network, but sometimes we tend to think of only connecting to receive support. The truth is, both giving and receiving are equally important in the process of being connected. A study published in the Psychosomatic Medicine Journal shows that when you’re giving support, the rewards in your brain include stress reduction and other soothing neural bonuses.
So, do you think you’re ready to celebrate National Do a Grouch a Favor Day?
Are you wondering exactly which kind acts you’ll engage in? Don’t worry!
- Take a pledge to choose kindness,
- Join a kindness initiative,
- Carry out an act of kindness,
- …and other suggestions
The Kindness.org site offers interactive ways to get started on your kindness plan. Think of it as joining a goodwill gym and building your kindness muscles. Put on some hip hop by The Grouch, and do some reps! In the arena where kindness takes on grouchiness, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
- Journal of Social Psychology Title: Acts of Kindness and Acts of Novelty Affect Life Satisfaction
- University of Oxford Title: Being kind to others does make you ‘slightly happier’
- Public Library of Science Title: Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being
- Journal of Happiness Studies Title: Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion: Evidence for a Positive Feedback Loop between Prosocial Spending and Happiness
- Psychosomatic Medicine Journal Title: Neural Correlates of Giving Support to a Loved One
January is International Creativity Month, an opportunity to increase and explore your creativity and innovative spark. You can also celebrate the creativity of your colleagues, family and friends. I recently stumbled across this fun fact myself, while researching ways to ramp up creativity in the brain. Incidentally, that’s one of the cool things about creativity — when you seek, you find. As with gratitude or courage, when you open your mind to it, it spurs you to discover more of it in yourself, others, and the world around you.
You may think of creativity as something you have to be born with, or as a strength attributed to certain individuals. You may think creativity is domain of geniuses: famous artists, inventors, musicians, writers, philosophers — people at the top of the creativity ladder who deliver entertainment, art, and innovative breakthroughs to consumers in the general population. But everyone is creative to a certain degree.The truth is you can build your creativity in everyday life, and use it to maintain enthusiasm and emotional resiliency.
When you’re facing change, problems or stressors, try viewing them as opportunities to become more creative. When you envision opportunities, it opens your mind to possibilities and positive outcomes. And because you’re shifting your focus away from problems alone, and onto solutions, you might even have some fun during the process.
Here are a few simple ways to increase your creativity:
Immerse Yourself in Nature. Life in our modern world is filled with distractions like TV, cellphones, computers…not to mention leaf blowers, car alarms, and traffic noise, including the wail of police, fire and ambulance sirens. All of this takes a toll on what scientists call attentional resources. According to a research article in Public Library of Science (PLOS), the brain’s prefrontal cortex-mediated executive attentional system, the part that engages with technology, multitasking and staying focused on the goal at hand, can become depleted from dealing with all those incoming status updates, emails and calls. The good news is: interactions with nature are very effective at restoring the executive attentional system of the brain.
Research suggests that another benefit of exposure to nature engages what is called “default mode” networks of the brain— so your mind can be open to introspection, contemplation, and soft fascination. Modern society is loaded with sudden, sharp interruptions and distractions, even when you’re giving all your energy to completing a project or task. If you’ve been sitting at your desk for hours, and are starting to feel burnt out, you’ll benefit from a trip to a park, hiking trail, botanical garden or anywhere you can feast your eyes, ears and other senses on nature. And while you’re there, stay off your phone! In a natural setting, you can recharge and get in touch with your creative, contemplative center.
The PLOS research article reports that in the study sample of 56 adults involved in Outward Bound expeditions, “…four days immersed in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multimedia and technology, increases performance on a creativity problem-solving task in a full 50% of hikers…”
Fifty percent! That’s an excellent payoff for a walk in the park or a picnic under a shade tree — as long as there’s a corresponding disconnection from media and tech. Of course, the study did focus on four days of immersion in nature, but even a five percent increase would be vital to your performance. And if you make a practice of spending time in a natural setting every day, or three days a week, on a regular basis over a year, you’ll definitely see results. So drop that phone and go hug a tree.
Get Some Distance: Think About Distant Things. Creativity means thinking outside the box, especially if the box is far away in time or space. Social psychologists have discovered that creativity may change depending on situation and context. Psychological distance helps you to get better at innovation and problem solving. Scientific American, in an article entitled, An Easy Way to Increase Creativity states:
According to the construal level theory (CLT) of psychological distance: “Anything that we do not experience as occurring now, here, and to ourselves falls into the ‘psychologically distant category. It’s also possible to induce a state of ‘psychological distance’ simply by changing the way we think about a particular problem, such as attempting to take another person’s perspective, or by thinking of the question as if it were unreal and unlikely.”
You can establish psychological distance by thinking about another time or place. For instance, what if you won a hundred million dollars in the lottery ten years ago — where would you be today? Think: New Year’s Eve, Antartica, 2025, then put together a story around it. Let your mind wander. Have fun. Or you can create a scenario from the distant past. Try a few different ways, and see what works for you. You can also travel to distant places, plan a trip, or learn about events in history or prehistory that stimulate your creative flow. Imagine the distant future. Make it fun.
Meditate. Mindfulness is a wonderful and relaxing way to strengthen your creative spark. Meditation promotes divergent thinking, the state of mind where creativity happens.
Writing — The Old-Fashioned Way. Carrie Barron, M.D., and Alton Barron, M.D., authors of The Creativity Cure, recommend jotting things down by hand, with a pen and paper, to stimulate creativity. Next time you find yourself stalled at the keyboard, grab your notepad and give it a try.
Look at the Sky on a Clear Day. Research has shown that looking at the color blue boosts creativity, while red stimulates attention to detail.
There you go! Now you’ve got a few more days left to observe International Creativity Month. But you can exercise your creativity muscles any day of the year. And while you’re creating, remember to have fun!
Join me in supporting the movement to end human trafficking and support survivors with safe housing, trauma-informed and victim-centered approaches, and legislative advocacy. You may want to consider donating to one of more of these organizations:
Human trafficking is a complicated and potentially overwhelming issue. It is not for the faint of heart. The global struggle can appear impossible to win. But it is not impossible to create positive change. I’ve seen this firsthand, as a survivor, advocate, clinician, and leader. As a survivor, I am often asked, “How did this terrible thing happen to you?” Here, in the first of two consecutive blog posts, I will recount my personal story of surviving trafficking and intimate partner violence, listing the vulnerabilities to my being trafficked. In part two, I’ll discuss key ingredients of recovery for survivors. Every case is individual, but some vulnerabilities are common across all types of trafficking. Trauma is a vulnerability to being trafficked; so are poverty, isolation, and lack of safe housing, and all of these difficulties preceded by being targeted by an exploiter.
Imagine yourself in a faraway country, where you’ve never been before. You don’t speak the language. Upon arrival, you realize you’ve been sold to organized crime figures. You’re isolated in an apartment, under guard, then raped, brutalized, threatened with death. You are compelled to see a man every hour of every day, except when one of them buys up multiple hours of time with you. You cannot refuse any of these men, you meet their demands or face consequences. Cameras record each session: they are mounted high on the walls, in opposite corners of the room; in this way the traffickers establish their omniscience. You’re terrified, but you know you can’t show it — you can’t break down, or cry, either, or you risk being taken somewhere even worse. You have no idea if you’ll ever see your home or your family again.
That’s what happened to me. I am a survivor of international sex trafficking. I was trafficked from San Francisco to Tokyo, and held under the control of Japanese organized crime. But I am one of the lucky ones — I escaped the situation after slightly less than two months. And as an adult victim, I had inner resources to draw upon, street smarts to help me steel myself against the utter insanity of that situation. Within the first twenty-four hours being trafficked, I found my courage. I promised myself I’d be home by Christmas, and that I would treat the people around me with as much basic human respect as I could muster, so I could hang on to who I am. And I made my stand. I clung to the visualization of getting home, and refused to allow any other possibility to enter my thoughts. And at a certain point, one of the men helped me to escape.
I survived. But escape is only the beginning.
You have to survive the surviving.
My vulnerabilities to being human trafficked as an adult were:
- A history of adolescent sexual abuse/assault
- Sheer desperation trying to escape an abusive relationship
- Poverty: I was living in my car, living hand to mouth
- I’d had no permanent address in several months, not even a P.O. Box.
I was “low-hanging fruit for a perpetrator. The trafficker recognized all of those vulnerabilities, she offered to “help” me to escape the abusive relationship. The phony offer to help was the initial stage of the fraud, force, and coercion that defined my experience of being trafficked. The organized crime figures used coercion and force to keep me under their control.
As an adolescent, I’d been traumatized multiple times, (sexual assault and abuse at fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen years old), and had suffered adult trauma (sexual assault) as well. After escaping Japan, the trauma of trafficking descended on me like a heavy black curtain. I could not find a safe place within my own mind. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I suffered from severe PTSD. Trust evaporated from my mind and my life after being trafficked. Engulfed in fear and shame, I attempted to manage the trauma with hard drugs. Night terrors plagued me and I feared reprisals from the traffickers. Much like many victims of trauma do, I returned to what was familiar, went back to the abusive boyfriend. He beat me up and almost killed me. I ran away from him, into the redwood country north of San Francisco, where I slept under bridges and in abandoned houses. I dug ditches or chopped firewood for twenty dollars a day to survive. He followed, and whenever he caught up to me, he spit on me, tore my clothes, raped me, verbally or physically assaulted me.
In the middle of all that hell, I met my true love. After a year and a half of absolute rock bottom homelessness, I met a wonderful guy, Christopher Fitzhugh, who is my husband today, and I finally came in from the cold. It wasn’t a storybook romance — he was living a dangerous life, too. But we each found our courage and triumphed against all odds. We pulled ourselves up out of drug addiction and abject poverty. I’ve been clean for more than twenty-two years, and Chris and I have been together for thirty years. My first career after getting clean was in professional standup comedy. That’s cool, isn’t it? Tragedy, then comedy.
Initially, I focused only on my recovery from substance use disorder/addiction. I avoided thinking about the traumatic events that happened when I was trafficked, or the violence I experienced at the hands of the abusive boyfriend. I still didn’t realize that I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I knew I had times when I was overwhelmed by anxiety that seemed to float, unattached to any external cause. I managed it the best I could for a long time, and I enjoyed success as a standup comic, went back to school, and continued my reentry into mainstream life. Until the suppressed memories and unresolved trauma erupted and brought me to a crisis point. Like I said, you have to survive the surviving. (Continued in Part Two)
The Landing in Houston, Texas is a drop-in center for victims and survivors of human trafficking. The Landing provides victim-centered, trauma-informed services to clients, and coordinates with many service providers in Houston. Drop-in centers are very important because they meet needs of survivors where they are — the trauma of being trafficked, whether for sex or labor, often leaves victims and survivors homeless, physically injured, lacking identification documents and other basic needs. And victims/survivors may still be within reach of their trafficker, under threat or actively being attacked or pursued. Drop-in centers help with victim identification and can assist law enforcement in apprehending perpetrators. The Landing is a model of a drop-in center, a safe place where a victim/survivor can find empowerment and assistance at every step of the way on the journey to exiting the trafficking situation, and beyond that, to finding employment, housing, education, career, achievement, and happiness.
A 2016 University of Texas research study found that 313,000 Texans are now human trafficking victims.
Keynoter Marti MacGibbon is a nationally renowned professional speaker, an internationally known author, and a nationally recognized human trafficking survivor leader and advocate. Her experiential knowledge, combined with expertise in anti-trafficking — she served on the Indiana Attorney General’s anti-trafficking task force from 2012-2017 — makes her an ideal speaker for anti-trafficking events. And Marti has the ability to bring humor to her presentations. She’s a certified mental health expert with a background in professional standup comedy. At The Landing’s 2nd Annual Breakfast Fundraiser, the audience roared with laughter as she shared stories that connected with everyone’s common experiences, overcoming everyday challenges and fears. Marti’s speech also included deeply moving insights into the courage and resilience of survivors. The Landing reported they’d actually reached their fundraising goal during the period after Marti’s talk. The event was attended by law enforcement, attorneys general, community leaders and faith leaders, citizens and businesses, as well as social services providers, anti-trafficking advocates. Marti signed copies of her bestselling and nationally award-winning memoir, Never Give in to Fear, Laughing All the Way Up from Rock Bottom, donating thirty percent of sales.
Special thanks for permission to publish the three photos in this post. All photo credits to: Hung Photo
Liz Brody of Glamour has written a very powerful, eloquent, and insightful article on women and the opioid epidemic.This piece, released early this week, is available online and in print copies of Glamour magazine. Marti MacGibbon was interviewed, and quotes from Marti on addiction recovery and trauma resolution are included in Chapter 8, along with quotes from national advocates and survivor leaders.
Here is the link to the story: https://www.glamour.com/story/women-and-opioid-epidemic
Marti MacGibbon delivered the opening keynote speech at the North Sound Recovery Coalition’s inaugural National Recovery Month Event in Mt. Vernon, Washington. Five counties in the North Puget Sound area, north of Seattle, participated. The event was sponsored by National Alliance on Mental Illness, North Sound Behavioral Health, and others.