Posts tagged with "commercial sex"

Rescued Children Aren’t Rescued, When There’s “No Room at the Inn”

Are you up for some seriously disconcerting statistics? Kristi Wells from the Safe House Project can deliver. Read her answers to some important questions:

  • How many children are trafficked for sex in the United States each year?
    • “According to the FBI,” says Wells, “the answer is 300,000. If you take all the children who are trafficked in the US each year, they would fill 50 aircraft carriers.
  • How many of those 300,000 sex-trafficked children are rescued?
    • “According to International Labor Organization, 1% is rescued or makes it out each year.”
  • Of the roughly 3000 children who are rescued, how many will be re-trafficked?
    • “Without a safe place to go and heal upon escape or rescue, eighty percent of those children end up back in traffickers’ hands and being revictimized, according to the Counter Trafficking Data Collaborative.”

Why Children Are Re-trafficked

In 2017, Wells learned these statistics and was horrified. She also learned a major reason so many children end up being re-trafficked. Relative to the need, provision for rehabilitating children is almost non-existent.

As she researched the facilities that were available for helping sex-trafficked children, she discovered that there were only a handful of restorative care facilities. Altogether, there were less than 100 beds available for long term care.

For her it was no wonder that so many rescued children return to being trafficked. With no place to go, with no education and with only the most limited repertoire of life skills, returning to being trafficked often turned out to be their only option.  

Understanding this situation turned out to be life-changing for Wells and Safe House Project co-founder, Brittany Dunn.  They realized that, “The only thing standing between slavery and freedom for these children was having a place to heal. Their freedom required our action.”

 To deal with this enormous problem, Wells and Dunn founded Safe House Project as a non-profit and the founders left jobs in corporate America to dedicate all their time and resources to increasing the capacity for long term restorative care for these children. The plan wasn’t to create the increased capacity on their own, but rather to help existing organizations do this work.  

In 2019 Safe House Project added 32 beds to the national landscape for Child Sex Trafficking Victims to receive care. In 2020 Safe House Project is adding 160 new spaces, systematically doubling the existing capacity and they will not stop until there is a safe house network in every state.

  Safe House Project Impact

How has this effort played out in actual practice?  Take the example of “Alice.”

Alice (we’re not using her real name) was sex-trafficked from age six to age 11.  What may seem astonishing to those of us who don’t normally deal with child abuse, the man who trafficked Alice was her own uncle. 

Not only that, her parents colluded with it. They got kickbacks for allowing their daughter’s exploitation.

“Each night,” explains Wells, “Alice’s uncle would scoop her out of her bed and take her next door to his house where she would be sold to men throughout the night.”

“She was a young girl dreaming of loving and protecting her babies, from beneath a man who didn’t care that she was one,” said Wells.

“Eventually her uncle was caught and did hard time,” says Wells.  “However, after her rescue, Alice didn’t get any treatment. She was only 11, but she became suicidal, and was addicted to the street drugs she used to blunt the pain she was feeling.”  

But then things changed. With the help of a restorative care home, Alice began receiving medical care, detox, therapy, and education in the life skills she needed to start her life anew. 

She now has a chance at a close-to-normal life. Without this intervention, there’s a good chance she’d be dead.  

The Need is Acute

Although Wells rejoices in stories like Alice’s, she knows that of the estimated 3000 rescued children each year, 99% of those children will not receive the care that they need.

Wells recently spoke with the CEO of an organization that facilitates the rescue of sex trafficking victims who told her, “I can walk out this door right now, and I could rescue five girls, but I’m not going to do it. There’s no place for them to go, and they’ll end up right back with their trafficker.”

This operative looked Wells straight in the eye and stated, “I can’t do my job until you do yours, I need you to give me places to place them and help them heal.” 

The need Kristi Wells and Brittany Dunn have uncovered is acute and heartbreaking. The Safe House Project Team, operating across America, are doing everything they can to help meet that need.

If you’d like to join her in this effort, visit her website at: https://www.safehouseproject.org

 

Vanda M

Traffickers Target the Vulnerable; They Don’t Care If You’re Rich, Poor or In-between

Although traffickers prey on people who are vulnerable, you don’t have to be poor or come from a broken family to be vulnerable. Vanda M came from a solidly middle class, two-parent family.

Her father worked for a major hospital and her mother was a deeply religious woman whose approach to sex was close to Puritanical. How could it happen that Wanda could end up in the commercial sex world?

“I was a product of the rebellious 1960s,” Wanda begins her explanation. “I was a rebellious kid, and when my father told me, ‘I won’t pay for your college if you date a black guy,’ I immediately started dating a black guy.”

The rebelliousness was only part of what was going on in her life. “I was influenced by hallucinogens, and then there was a covert aspect of what my parents were teaching me. I remember watching my dad watching the Miss America contest.”

Vanda remembers how “…he was judging women by their boobs and butts. And my mother was really interested in my being pretty and able to attract a good provider.” Vanda learned that how she looked was an important value to her parents.

The Perfect Storm

Those factors played a role, but they became a perfect storm when tragedy struck her family. Vanda was 13 when her adored older brother drowned in the town reservoir.

Four years later, her father died in a car accident. There were no grief counselors back then, and the family didn’t have the tools for coping with their anguish.

In the case of Vanda, she acted out. She ran away from her private boarding school, and with $100 in her pocket, she ended up in Times Square, New York.  

She needed to support herself, and not finding any other kind of work, she got a job as a stripper. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem like a bad job. At first.

“I was a show-off,” she recalls. “I remember walking out to do my stripping.  I saw a man’s jaw drop and heard him say to the guy next to him, ‘Now there’s a woman!’” Given her parents’ emphasis on physical appearance, she liked this.

Vanda quickly found a boyfriend. As often happens with traffickers, he was positively brilliant in psychologically manipulating her, and quickly led her into the world of commercialized sex.  

“I left him nine times in nine months, but I was so needy because of the loss of my brother and father, that I kept coming back,” she remembers.

Finally, she was able to break loose for good. She called her mother, asking, “Can I come home and revamp my life?”  

An Amazingly Together Woman

Revamping her life worked. She started college, studying criminal justice, but before finishing, she left to become a full time stand-up comic.  

Her career since then has been a success, but she felt it took a lot of effort to become the person she is today. “I read everything I could find on personal improvement, I meditated, I took courses.” She even read philosophers and famous scientists.

Today, Vanda is one of the most “together” women your likely to come across. It took her some hard work to get to where she is today, and she’s living proof that people can have a life of dignity and respect and love even after a seriously dark time.

Maybe it would be fair to describe her as the living embodiment of the saying, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” She jokes about how her mother once told her, “Vanda, why do you have to learn everything the hard way?”

When asked if she has a tip, garnered from her life’s experiences, she says, “Teach boys to satisfy their sex desires without ‘stealing sex.’ Don’t get sex by using pills or getting a woman so drunk she doesn’t know what she’s doing.”

 Instead, she hopes young men and young women will learn to be decent people. That means becoming the kind of person who can earn a real relationship with a deserving partner.

Vanda W is writing a book on her experiences that’s coming out in 2020. Come back to www.AntiTraffickingAuction.com/blog for an alert for when it’s published, as well as to learn more about anti-trafficking organizations.

 

 

How Sex Traffickers Exploit Vulnerabilty and Gaps in the Law

By Mitzi Perdue

Yasmeen Hassan, Global Executive Director of Equality NowYasmeen Hassan, Global Executive Director of Equality Now, has an interesting take on sex trafficking.  Although Harvard-educated, she grew up in Pakistan, and her defining moment came at age 10 when her country’s laws were ‘Islamized.’

She got to see, under the new regime, how women were treated as second-class citizens. The experience was the starting point of her lifelong advocacy for women’s rights.

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