Monday, April 1, 2013

Moving Butts, Part II: An Immediate Need

None of my readers can avoid knowing about my passion to see girls rescued from sex trafficking and slavery ended in our world. Slavery is one of the worst scourges to go through our world. For Easter, of all the days of the year, we ought to be moving and doing something good. On Easter, of all times, there ought to be proclamations of freedom. Isn't that what the empty tomb is all about?

It's the day after Easter and I have two specific opportunities for those who wish to help in the issue of sex trafficking to do so.

The organization I volunteer with, Courage Worldwide, sent out a desperate email asking for immediate funding for two girls who had been found and rescued for whom, because of the details of their cases, there was no available funding. They are 15 and 17 years old and have been sex-trafficked for years. One has been sexually abused since she was 4 years old, and the other has witnessed murder and all kinds of terrible trauma, which brings along a need for special medical attention. They only had a few days before these kids were going to be "released" like birds into the wild unless Courage (the only operating home in our area) could find the funds to take them in.

Well, I'm happy to report that they obtained the necessary funding to take the girls in for the present! Within a week Courage raised 25% of the necessary funding. That's a miracle! My heart is so grateful to all the generous people who provided.

But Courage still needs to obtain more funding to make the girls' residence at their home permanent. For anyone who doesn't understand what I'm talking about, let me explain. When a girl is rescued out of sex trafficking (or in the case of non-minors, when she is persuaded to leave her pimp, despite the huge risk of violence if he catches her, and get out of the sex industry), she needs somewhere to go. Her pimp provided her home, her food, and her clothes. All the money she earned was his. So she has no place to go and no way to pay for something. A lot of these girls are runaways, have abusive homes, or have been neglected. They have no family to go home to.

There are a number of nonprofits who have worked to create a safe place for these women to go. A battered women's shelter is one thing, and can help, but when dealing with girls who have been coerced into sexual slavery,* a lot more protection, psychological counseling, and legal support is needed. Courage Worldwide has a home for minor girls who have been sex trafficked in Sacramento, California, and in Tanzania, Africa. The location is undisclosed and away from city nightlife. There, the girls receive education, multiple forms of counseling, and the love of "aunts" who live in the homes and are constantly there for them. They get to be free, cook, paint, ride horses, and be children again. Through Courage, these girls have graduated and gone to college; been able to stand up and testify in court against their pimp; and other major successes! It's a place for them to be 100% taken care of and, more than that, loved.

If you have the ability to help out and you care about this issue, I encourage you to donate to Courage even a little bit and make it possible for these two girls to have a permanent home. I won't normally be posting endorsements like this one, but the urgency of the need compels me to pass it on. If you would like to be forwarded the full body of the two updates from Courage, feel free to contact me.


The other need is less urgent, but very much related. Obviously, these sorts of homes are needed wherever there is sex trafficking. Trafficking occurs literally in any town--no matter how big or small--but numbers go up in big cities, large suburbs, and especially international way-points like New York, Dallas, and San Francisco. Anywhere that there are potential buyers, there will be merchants and there will be victims.

So, while most cities don't have a safe home, every city needs one. Women's shelters do not have enough resources (and are often poorly funded themselves). But one of the places that needs a home the most is Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is the home of sexual anything-you-like. The one thing anyone knows about Las Vegas is the motto, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." And there is a lot that is sitting there in Vegas that needs a way out. I'm not saying every prostitute in Vegas is working under coercion,** but a large number of them are. Force (which is what makes it trafficking and not voluntary prostitution) is especially difficult to prove with those over the age of 21, but there is a large enough number counting minors alone who are sold for sx in LV. The FBI is doing a lot to try to rescue the girls there; but they need a home, somewhere where they can recuperate, learn new skills, and find a new life.

It makes me mad that this isn't already in place. It should be. But what makes me angry is that here was a home there--Destiny House--that functioned much like Courage House does in providing a safe home for women and girls who are either rescued or able to escape the life on their own. Destiny House was up and running until 2011, when funding ceased and difficulties arose. The organization that got Destiny House running, Hookers for Jesus, still operates in Las Vegas, but they have no safe place for girls to go.

I can't even imagine. You've finally have the opportunity to get out: you're on the streets showing off your "wares" and then someone walks up to you who is not looking for sex... Your life changes forever. And they help you out, get you connected with the right people; the legal system gets involved, and you're under protection now... Only there's no place to go. Where are you going to live? Hide? Be safe? You're finally free, but in a way still trapped, unable to be fully functional among society, unable to meet your needs, because you have nowhere to go and no one to teach you what you can do next. Having no house is like having no hope.

Hope. It's another house available for traffic victims in North and South Carolina: Hope House. Courage, Hope, and Destiny: these three are all so important, not just as the homes that they are but for what they represent symbolically. Courage first: the courage to even believe there could be something better, that what your pimp is making you do is wrong, that he's wrong, that you are worth being free. Courage is what you need to step out. It's so hard. But when you find the courage, you can make it home.

Then Hope: the dream, the idea, the thing that drives you forward. It is the little pinprick of light in a sea of darkness that says there might be dreams again. Hope is what you need if you're going to make it through all the darkness yet to come: the horror of having to talk about what happened to you, to remember; the nightmares, the doctor visits, testifying in court. So many lies have strapped you in, but if you have hope, you'll be able to walk out of them all into the light again. But you need hope to keep you going. Without hope, you'll have no strength or courage left to get you through.

Last of all, Destiny: when hope is realized and dreams come true. You are loved, you have a place in the world, you have a place to belong. Destiny is the future. The destiny of each and every girl caught in sex trafficking is to change people's lives. She has the power to touch people and make positive impact on her world.

But she needs to have a chance first. There has to be a Courage House, a Hope House, a Destiny House to go to.

What can we do? What can you do? Do you know someone? Do you have a way of spreading the word? This is me: I don't have money right now, and I don't live in Las Vegas or even have many connections there. But I am a writer. As a writer, I can spread the word--here in my blog. And I am a friend to many people. As a friend, I can spread the word, not just in direction conversations, but in the way I live. I can live like this is real, like it matters. Because it is real, and they do matter.

There is no home in Las Vegas, but I want to bring one there. I really want to make it possible for girls rescued there to have a place to go. People need to talk about this. Talk about it with your friends in Las Vegas; mention it to people who are going there; tell it to someone who's thinking of starting a nonprofit; spread the word about the need that is there. We can make this possible, and I don't know about you, but I want to. I want to make Destiny House happen again.


* I don't use the word lightly. Slavery is one of the technical terms for what is going on. Our typical picture of slavery--someone chained and beaten and made to work in a field--may not be representative of all the faces of slavery today, but there are people who endure that very thing, even in the sex industry (just working in a hotel room instead). Slavery has so many methods of keeping its victims chained up. One of the simplest is that those who are enslaved simply have nowhere to go; abusive home behind and no future ahead. Psychological tricks are the main method: pimps are very good at persuading the girls they are in love, etc. Very real threats of violence also do a good job. A lot of the girls have endured violence you can't imagine until you hear it from them. This is very real, and girls need a lot more than a safe place: they need safe people who can keep them safe from themselves and help combat the lies they have been told all their lives.

** Not all prostitutes work under coercion. However, to quote a famous expert, "No woman will sell her body for sex if she doesn't have to." She may not have been forced into it directly by a person, but having a situation in life where it's the only way to feed your kids, for instance, isn't freedom of choice. The myth of "prostitutes choose do be prostitutes; they like what they do" has been purposefully perpetuated by pimps who want their johns to feel guilt-free and comfortable enough to buy sex and pay them big bucks--which is how they can afford to spread that kind of myth around. Pimps are usually pretty rich and powerful people because of what they do; let's not ignore the impact they can have on the way our society thinks about prostitution. Pimps' presence on the internet has also managed to spread a misleading picture of glamour and love. And it's not all pimps' fault, either; our society has done this to us, too. We've believed some of those lies very unconsciously and it keeps us from acting, because we're not sure what's true.

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