Giving Victims a New Foundation

Safe houses and transitional homes are popping up all over the US, some for minors, others for adults, and even one for men and boys exploited through sex trafficking.  This is one of a wide variety of resources needed for helping victims leave their situation and find the help and support they need to heal and start building their new life.  While many initially wondered if these houses would actually find victims to fill their beds, that has not been an issue in any of the houses across the US.  Unfortunately, in the last six months, two of these houses have shut down due to a lack of funding.  The number of beds available across the US specifically for victims of sex trafficking is depressingly few – less than a couple hundred total (consider 100,000+ children are at risk each year of falling victim, and there are currently 1 million adult female prostitutes in the US that studies suggest up to 90% of them have pimps).

General safe homes, transitional houses, homeless shelters and other such residential facilities have opened their doors to include survivors of sex trafficking, which is better than nothing.  However, women coming out of a sex trafficking situation experience PTSD at the same rates as soldiers coming home from war zones, and it takes the average woman a minimum of two years to completely extricate herself and find enough therapy and resources to permanently escape her situation.  Most residential facilities are not designed to shelter women and children for this length of time, which is why homes specifically for sex trafficking survivors are a crucial part of the resource network for them.  And while the costs involved in long-term housing and care for a survivor can be anywhere from $25,000 and up, that fresh start for that individual is priceless.

Boston Safe House for Sex Traffic Victims to Shut Down

After-Care, Awareness

Awareness for Health Care Workers

Victims of human trafficking often experience noticeable physical abuse.  Because trafficking victims are viewed as their captor’s property, most traffickers are extremely skilled in how to carry out the most painful abuse while leaving the smallest amount of evidence (which is also partly why many prefer psychological and financial abuse over extreme physical abuse), because damaging their “product” is bad for business.  Being aware of the signs of physical abuse is imperative for health care providers, however they must also be aware of the emotional bruises victims wear.

Human Trafficking and Health Care Worker Awareness

After-Care, Awareness, Prevention

Transcript: 20th Annual MLK Day Celebration & March Speech at the UCCC 2015

When I was first asked to speak today, I was honored to have the opportunity. But I am also incredibly intimidated to be in a line-up of amazingly talented and accomplished women, including the nationally recognized Dr. Jones-DeWeever. I thought “Who am I to speak on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day? Who am I to speak on issues that affect minority groups? Who am I?” As I sat, overwhelmed by how to best approach the topic, my eyes drifted to a quote above my desk by Marianne Williamson, and I realized “Who am I NOT to be?” It was then that I remembered that my playing small most certainly does not serve the world! After all, how can I help Free Our Girls by remaining silent? My silence, caused by my fear of scrutiny will not bring freedom to those who need it.

So it is with that realization that I stand before you today to speak on an issue that is affecting our community, and that is the issue of human trafficking. Human trafficking is defined as “criminal activity in which human beings are used as possessions to be controlled and exploited.” Domestic human trafficking can, and does sometimes involve the smuggling of victims across international borders, but 72% of our victims are US citizens. Human trafficking includes domestic servitude and forced labor, but up to 80% of human trafficking in the United States falls into the category of sexual exploitation. Oftentimes we think “this doesn’t happen here, this won’t happen to anyone I know,” yet we fail to understand that this exploitation can happen through force, as well as fraud or coercion, and that 70% of victims were initially targeted through social media. The Human Trafficking Reporting System finds that approximately 21% of victims rescued are Hispanic, and that another 35% are African American. And while it is essential to identify at-risk groups within our society so that we can develop effective prevention methods, it is also just as important to understand that ultimately, predators see only one color: GREEN.

Human trafficking affects women of every race, every education level, and every economic status. It is an issue that can be found in large, metropolitan areas, and it can be found here in our rural community. Where ever there is a lack of awareness, there is a risk of exploitation. This exploitation is a violation of civil and human rights. It is an injustice that repeatedly carried out on our women, and at times encouraged and socialized through video games, media, and culture. And as Dr. King himself said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

This issue is my heart, because I myself am a survivor. For years, I was terrified to speak on what I had endured at the hands of my captors, but then I started to see the signs in my hometown, and I remembered that there are others out there, still held in slavery. I refuse to remain silent about human trafficking because I have witnessed firsthand the damage it can cause. I refuse to allow this to continue to happen to other women and children. These are our women – our wives, our sisters, our friends. These are our children – our daughters, our students – OUR GIRLS. It is time to Free Our Girls.

In closing, as we reflect on the life of Dr. King, I would like to leave you with the quote for today’s celebration and march:

“Our lives begin to end the day the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Today is the day to start speaking out. Thank you.


From victim to advocate.

While every sex trafficking survivor’s healing process is a very personal and unique journey, many are finding freedom and transformation in being able to speak about what they experienced, and to advocate for others still trapped in terrifying situations.  The women under the control of a pimp experience extreme verbal and psychological abuse.  Due to isolation, they often are broken down to the point that they start to believe the lies they are told by their abuser, and these lies amount to one enormous belief:  NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU.  When a person is stripped of their freedom – their dignity, their body, their choice – they come to accept that everyone they come into contact with is there to use and exploit them.  A major part of healing from the abuse and victimization is for a woman to learn that she is loved – she is valued – JUST AS SHE IS.  And part of empowering women and helping them move through this healing process is giving them the opportunity to speak out – to share their story, to support others in similar situations – to let them know that they have a voice and that people want to hear it.

Teen Who Turned in Pimp Adapts to “Normal” Life