Hawaii Five-0 Takes on Child Sex Trafficking

(Spoiler alerts.  If you have not watched the latest episode of Hawaii Five-0, you may not want to read this yet.)

Did you catch the latest episode of Hawaii Five-0?  If you did, you know why we’re writing this blog post.  Four days ago, this CBS hit show covered an intense, tough-to-broach subject, one which hits home for us here at StreetLightUSA: child sex trafficking.  And they did it with accuracy to be applauded.

1) The importance of medical personnel.  When a teenage girl is brought into the hospital, she’s with an older guy.  He answers questions for her, explains away her broken ribs – the nurse can tell that something is off and calls in the authorities.  She trusted her instincts and saved lives.

2) The importance of discussing and understanding what sex trafficking is.  Two officers, after uncovering that this girl was being sex trafficked, have a great conversation in their car.

“I gon’t get it.  It doesn’t make sense to me.  [She] seems like a bright kid from a stable home.”

“…15, it’s a rough age for a girl.  …You’re awkward and insecure.  You don’t think you’re smart enough, pretty enough or popular enough.  And then, suddenly someone pays some attention to you.  Sends you a nice message or some compliments.  Suddenly you feel like somebody gets you.  Like they care.  …He obviously understood that and used it to his advantage.”

3) Trafficked?  But she’s local.  We hear it all the time and were pleased that they said it in the show – the surprise that a child could be trafficked for sex in her own hometown.  Trafficking is not limited to children taken from other countries.  Child sex trafficking can happen to any child in any place from anywhere.  They are trafficked overseas, across state lines, and even to people they know.

4) Who buys children for sex and why?  The John (buyer) in this episode was well portrayed.  Caucasian, upper middle class, teacher, with a wife and children in a nice home in the suburbs.  This Average Joe, that you could pass every day walking around town, has a habit of making a phone call to get a “date” with a teenage girl.  The cops asked him the question we all want to know: why.  

“What compels a guy who has everything to make that call? “

The answer leaves us hanging because we know it’s not the whole truth: she said she likes it.  That’s not the reason and we know it.  There is no simple reason why men buy young girls for sex.  I couldn’t help but hope that this guy, on this show today, was finally going to give us a true, easily fixable solution.  But it’s simply not that simple.

5) Safe Haven.  The rescued girls are taken to a safe place designed to help victims of child sex trafficking.  The Hawaii Five-0 version of StreetLightUSA.  These places are so critical in helping victims begin to reacclimate to life outside of sex trafficking; kudos to Hawaii Five-0 for addressing the fact that it’s not just a happy ending as soon as the police free a girl from her trafficker.  They gave a very good explanation of why places like this are important.

“Is it possible to come back from something like this?”

“Yes, but it won’t be easy.”

Thank you ‪@HawaiiFive0CBS‬ for addressing a tough topic and increasing awareness of child sex trafficking!

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Kutcher Testimony: It’s Slavery

Today Ashton Kutcher, co-founder of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, gave a passion-filled testimony in front of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.  He used his voice to speak up for those that cannot speak up for themselves: those imprisoned in slavery and trafficking.

“I’m here today to defend the right to pursue happiness. It’s a simple notion — the right to pursue happiness.  The right to pursue happiness for so many is stripped away. It’s raped. It’s abused. It’s taken by force, fraud or coercion. It is sold for the momentary happiness of another.” – Ashton Kutcher

I found his remarks on “modern slavery” enlightening.

“And if we just call it slavery, from a nomenclature perspective, and acknowledge the fact that just because a person is of a different nationality or that they’re being sold for sex makes it something different so that we can pat ourselves on the back and say, ‘Oh well we’ve abolished this and done all that we can,’ I think that that will have a giant impact because I think it motivates people emotionally to actually build things.” – Ashton Kutcher

Why do we call it “modern slavery”?  Are we afraid that calling today’s imprisonment of children for sex “slavery” will negate the freeing of slaves in the south?  Is Kutcher right – do we not want to view what’s happening today as nearly as ugly as it was in the 1800’s?

Slavery is defined by Merriam-Webster as “submission to a dominating influence”.  There’s no exception to what slavery is; no leeway for ending the slavery of one set of people then enslaving another.  Slavery is slavery, folks.  There’s no silver lining.  Let’s stop trying to pretty it up with wording and #EndTrafficking!

View Kutcher’s testimony here: Ashton Kutcher gives powerful Senate testimony on human trafficking

Love Heals

As Valentine’s Day sweeps through hearts and candy and flowers fly out of stores, we want to take a moment to tell all of you “thank you”.  We wish you the loveliest of days with the people dearest to you.

The support from each and every one of you shows the residents in our care what love is supposed to look like.  Love is caring, nurturing, selfless, gentle, and healing.  This is the love we show our girls every day; and so do you, each time you show your support of StreetLightUSA.

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When a girl comes to our gates, love has a very different meaning for her.  In her life, love has meant pain, power, abuse, manipulation, and betrayal.  This word is ugly for our girls, and we work each day, with your help, to show her that this word is actually good; that what she thought was love, was indeed not.

Thank you for loving the girls at StreetLightUSA!  Thank you for helping us show them that love does not hurt.  Love heals!

Flight Attendant Rescues Child Trafficking Victim

The story of an everyday hero has come to light this week.  In 2011, Shelia Fredrick saw a suspicious situation and decided to do something about it.  Her actions saved a child from a life of trafficking.  Today, a young woman is attending college and looking at a bright future that she may not have had if someone hadn’t spoken up for her.

Trafficking victims need people like Shelia Fredrick to keep an eye out for them.  Ms. Fredrick was thoughtful in her approach to the situation, acting in a way that did not endanger the girl or herself.  StreetLightUSA is thankful for organizations such as Airline Ambassadors that works to train flight attendants how to spot trafficking situations and handle them safely.  Thank you to all the men and women in our skies that help keep our children safe.

See the story here.

*Disclaimer*

Inclusion of links does not imply endorsement or support of any of the linked information or providers by StreetLightUSA.

They Don’t Choose To Be Trafficked!

Sex trafficking has received a lot of press this month.  Between Backpage.com and laws passed in California – everyone has something to say these days on the issue.  With this extra press has come the ever-present comment in articles that teens have chosen this life and should be left alone.

Teenagers think they know everything because they have not yet learned how much they don’t know.  They don’t have the benefit of foresight or of past experience.  A teenager looks down the road, sees a turn, and thinks that’s the end – their happily ever after.  They don’t realize that it’s simply where their life takes a turn and continues.  They don’t realize that around that curve, for better or worse, are further consequences of their choices.long-road

Child sex trafficking victims are no different than other teenagers when it comes to making decisions.  They see two roads in front of them: a nice short one and a much longer, rockier one.  The short road is easy to navigate, it’s familiar, they know exactly what will happen next.  The long road is terrifying.  Navigating that long road requires the support of others; the work is hard, excruciating at times; and they can’t see the end of the road.  How can they go down a road without knowing what’s waiting for them at the end?  

As we’ve said many times before in other blog posts: teenagers need the support of adults.  They need guidance from those who have been there before, who know that the long road must be traveled, and who know that it is worth the journey.  Teenagers need someone  who will show up and fight for them when they lose their way. How are you being called to help the life of a teen?

*This article was extracted from a longer blog post we posted in October “They Don’t Know Everything (But Don’t Tell Them That)”


We Have A Dream

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

All men are created equal.  Our nation was built on this notion, and yet we continue to fall short.  We are once again fighting a battle against the idea that there are some in our nation who are less than others.  We are once again falling short of the definition of “men” in this context: a human being; a person.

At StreetLightUSA, we have a dream.  This dream is not dissimilar from Dr. King’s dream; in fact it is the same dream.  We dream every day that our nation would rise up and finally say “No More!”  All men are created equal.  Every person, from our youngest to oldest citizen, is created equal.  Just as it is not right to own people, it is not right to buy people.  We have a dream that our children will no longer be abused and sold for sex.  That the men and women buying and selling our children will stop, look in that child’s eyes, and see the innocent soul that they are exploiting.  We have a dream that these children will find their way safely home, that they will be loved and cared for, and their lives wi5676197533_2b88c26226_oll be lived to the fullest and their dreams achieved.  This is our dream.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Many people’s day-to-day lives are unaffected; this war on child sex trafficking does not appear to affect them.  But does that make it right to sit back in silence?  Is it right to allow thousands of children to be raped every single day as their pimps make hundreds of thousands of dollars every year off of their exploitation?  Is it right that the sale of children’s bodies for sex is one of the most lucrative industries in the world?  Staying silent is being indifferent.  We ask you to stand with us.  Stand up and say “NO MORE!!  I will no longer live in a world where this is okay!”

“The time is always right to do what is right.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is never too late.  You can make a difference in the life of a child sex trafficking victim today.

My Turn: The battle against child sex slavery moves to the internet

“We have an obligation to protect our children, to prize them as the treasure they are. Despite this, our youth are being sold for sex while the sellers and facilitators are prolifically profiting from the traumatization and abuse of our children, and thus tearing at the fabric of our society.” – Lynda Hartzler, community relations professional and director of Ambassadors for Change, StreetLightUSA
StreetLightUSA’s Lynda Hartzler published an OpEd article in Wednesday’s Republic and AZ Central.  View the full article here:

My Turn: The battle against child sex slavery moves to the internet

A New Year of Hope

Happy New Year to all of our supporters! Thank you for your continued support as we enter 2017. Every year comes with fresh possibilities and new opportunities; we are so excited to enter 2017 with you!

In honor of the new year, we’d like to invite you to re-familiarize yourselves with ways to engage with StreetLightUSA. We have many opportunities to become involved, and what better way to start off a new year than helping young girls heal from trauma.

How can you help our girls this year?

2017 is a new year of hope for our girls.  We are so grateful to each and every one of our supporters that continue to walk this journey with us!

You Change Lives

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To mark the end of this season of giving, we want to thank our generous supporters.  Every donation of time, wishlist items, and money has aided in the healing of victims of child sex trafficking.

You, our loyal donors, are the light in the darkness for our girls.  Because of your kindness and unselfish annual financial support, StreetLightUSA can offer a caring hand to trafficked and abused young girls who have no other resources. Together we  make it possible to mend these young girls’ spirits and assure they are protected as children should be.  Your year-end contribution changes lives and  makes their transition from trauma to triumph possible.

As I close my blog for 2016, please know how much you are all appreciated. From everyone at StreetLightUSA,  our very best wishes for a safe and joyous New Year!

*Inclusion of links does not imply endorsement or support of any of the linked information or providers by StreetLightUSA.