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.

Stay Armed or Surrender?

“Life is a battle, and you either enter it armed or surrender immediately.” – Gilmore Girls

For a teenage girl, the life battle is internally focused – even more so for a trafficking victim.  For the girls that come to StreetLightUSA, life has been a battle and they armed themselves with the things available to them – drugs, alcohol, self harm, mentally detaching, denial, and even their sheer willpower to survive.

The defensive weapons of trafficking victims are born out of necessity, when they had no one else to fight for them.  It’s all they had to make it through the life that was dealt to them. Obviously these defenses do not sustain them to build a normal life. When they come through the doors of StreetLightUSA, a whole new battle faces them – laying down the weapons they know and learning how to use new, empowering ones that can last a lifetime.

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Asking the girls that come to StreetLightUSA to lay down their defensive weapons is not dissimilar to asking someone to lay their life on the line.  You’re asking a teenage girl who has looked after herself to let go of the only things in her life that she has control over.  The laying down of the very things that have kept her going is an excruciating but crucial step.

Asking this of the girls is necessary, but never easy.  Suicide attempts and self harm are all too familiar among the girls in our care.  When they experience trauma triggers, their instinct is to turn to their defensive weapons, they don’t know what else to do.  How can I get through this feeling without something to numb the pain?  If I can’t make it go away, I think I might die.  Just make it stop!  

“Did you really want to die?”
“No one commits suicide because they want to die.”
“Then why do they do it?”
“Because they want to stop the pain.”
― Tiffanie DeBartolo, How to Kill a Rock Star

Our staff at StreetLightUSA is well-equipped to handle the emotions of the girls in our care.  We recognize the warning signs and do everything we can to prevent suicide attempts.  We also help the girls figure out what triggered them in the first place.  Finding the source helps prevent the girl from reaching the point of harming herself in the future.

We will look more in depth at self harm later in September.  In the meantime, in honor of suicide prevention week, we would like to equip our supporters with suicide prevention resources.

Mayo Clinic has an informative page we recommend for parents of teens. Teen Suicide: What parents need to know.

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6 Tools for Teens – Pass it On

Binge watching.  Who doesn’t love having a weekend with an empty calendar, your favorite snacks, and your most beloved TV series queued up?  Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, the series ends, withdrawal hits, and life as you know it is over.  You were not prepared and now that the hysteria has set in, you’re beyond hope of finding a solution… So you start the series over.  No shame, it happens to us all.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Last week we talked about “What Is Child Sex Trafficking?”  You read it, right?  Next week we’ll be addressing parents and how they can watch out for their kids.  This week, we want to talk to the teens.  As a teenager, how can you watch out for yourself?  How can you keep from becoming one of the hundreds of thousands of girls who are sex trafficked in America each year?

Romeo pimps are very tricky and therefore difficult to protect yourself against.  They will tell you what you want to hear and make you believe that your life will be perfect if you just trust them.  You don’t know it’s a lie until it’s too late.  But you can prepare.  You can make yourself stronger against anyone’s manipulation.  Make these 6 tips your life line.  These should be a habit that you practice with every guy who wants to be in your life.  If he can’t pass these 6 tests, you can do so much better.

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Instincts.  If a person or situation feels wrong, it probably is.  It’s better to find out later that you were mistaken than to find out the painful way that you were right.  Don’t become a missing teen statistic because you were afraid to listen to the little voice in your head that said, “I really don’t think this is a good idea”.

Trust the Wise.  Whether you like them or not, whether you’re mad at them at the moment or not, you know who the grown-ups in your life are that have your best interests at heart.  Yes, you hate it when they just don’t understand how important your social life is, but stop and think before you run out the door.  Give them the benefit of the doubt for a minute.  Deep down, do you think they may be right?  That you shouldn’t see that guy?  Or you shouldn’t go to that party?  Trust them.

Age Gap.  Guys who are supposed to date teenage girls are other teenagers – not grown men.  Just don’t.  A grown man who wants to date a teenage girl has nothing good on his mind.  Stick to guys your age – I don’t care how envious your friends would be for dating an older guy.

Showers of… Love?  Gifts within reason are fantabulous.  But you want to watch out for the guy who does nothing but buy you things.  Don’t let him buy your love – he’s gotta earn that by loving everything about you.

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Meet My Folks.  If he wants to be your guy, make him meet your family, your friends, those people in your life who have your back.  Any guy who wants to be with you needs to pass the test with the most trusted people in your life (and no, I don’t mean showing him off to your besties to make them super jealous).  If he doesn’t want to meet them, send him packing – this guy is no good.

Safety in Numbers.  If someone makes you nervous, don’t keep it to yourself.  Tell a trusted adult.  Enlist the support of friends, family, or the police.

If you’re still waiting for another show to binge watch, check out http://teensontrafficking.org/  for tips, resources, and info that you might find helpful and inspiring.

Adults, next week’s post will be tips for you.  Once you’ve passed this week’s info along to the teens in your life, be sure to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss it!  Click the “home” button above this post, enter your email address on the right hand side of the page, and our new posts will be delivered to your inbox.  Happy reading!

She Forgives Him

“You did it before.  You’re going to do it again.”  Judge Susan E. McGuirl is clearly not ignorant when it comes to child sex trafficking.  Rhode Island recently had its first sex trafficking trial in her courtroom, where Troy Footman received 85 years.  The judge even called him “a monster”.Adobe Spark(3)

In 2012, Footman came across two runaway teens who were best friends.  He got them jobs in a strip club where he eventually began sex trafficking them in the back rooms.  They earned up to $1,000 each day and Footman kept their money.

It takes a lot of courage to stand up to the man who sold you for sex.  For many child sex trafficking victims the process can be damaging, it can re-traumatize them.  The two girls in this case were both found alive (which in itself is always a celebration) and both took the stand against Footman.  Their courage is commendable.  One of the victims even addressed Footman in the courtroom.Adobe Spark(1)

“You broke me down until I felt like I was nothing.”

“You took my courage…my dignity.  Today I take it back.  I don’t want to be a victim anymore.  I’m no longer a victim.” – Child Sex Trafficking Survivor

This courageous young lady even said she forgives him to bring herself peace.  How amazing is she?  This teen embodies the StreetLightUSA motto of “Trauma to Triumph”.  She has taken hold of her own life, from being a victim to living as a survivor.

There’s An App for That

Everybody travels today. It’s not uncommon at all for people to travel frequently for work, racking up frequent flyer miles, rental car points, and hotel points. While the traveling parent is away, families get to take discounted vacations thanks to all the travel miles and points accumulated by the working traveler.

The perks don’t stop there. Now working travelers can do more than rack up free flights
and hotel stays; they can help save lives.

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TraffickCam (traffickcam.com) is a free app, available on iPhone, iPad, and Android. It is simple to use the main page asks for your hotel name and room number, then you click on up to four camera icons to submit pics of your hotel room. There are even tips on what kinds of pictures are helpful, including making sure there are no people in your pictures. Then you simply click “submit” and you’re done. The contact page even has the number for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center to report suspected trafficking.

The majority of child sexual exploitation take place online today. A big part of advertising involves girls posed on hotel room beds. It is so frustrating for law enforcement to see the pictures, see room and background, but have no way of figuring out what hotel she is in. As people upload images of their hotel rooms, the search becomes workable. Today TraffickCam has accumulated over 1.5 million hotel images!

“You just enter your hotel room, and your room number. You take four pictures, and you submit them to the website,” says Washington University Researcher and TraffickCam developer Abby Stylianou. Your pictures are added to a database used by law enforcement to track down trafficking victims.

If you suspect someone may be a trafficking victim, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 18883737888. For information on recognizing the signs of trafficking, you’ll find great information on their “Recognizing the Signs” page.

If you’re traveling with teens this summer, what better opportunity to start talking about
trafficking? This is a perfect chance to teach young adults about being safe in the world while also providing them a chance to do something about it.

 

One minute of your time could help give a child back her entire future. Help bring our children home!

 

Is Legalization the Answer?

It’s a debate that is heard more and more these days- should prostitution be legalized?  If prostitution is legalized it can be regulated, the prostitutes and johns can be kept safe, and women can make an honest living if they choose to sell their bodies for sex.  This would be a win-win for everyone!  Is a life of legally renting her body out by the hour really the career you want your daughter to strive for?  Do you want your buddy from work to be able to pay for sex with your daughter?

Former President Jimmy Carter, who founded the nonprofit Carter Center, heartily disagrees with this idea.  In an Op-Ed piece he wrote for The Washington Post on May 31, 2016, “To curb prostitution, punish those who buy sex rather than those who sell it”, Carter makes a very compelling case against the legalization of prostitution.

What is wrong with mature adults exchanging money for sex?  As Carter reminds us in his article “Sex between people who experience mutual enjoyment is a wonderful part of life.”  When money changes hands for sex, there is a huge power imbalance.  A man paying for sex with a girl or woman is not doing so out of respect for her and her body- he has needs, he wants them fulfilled, and he wants that done however he commands.  The victim has zero power.Jimmy_Carter_Edit

As we discussed in last week’s blog post, our children need to be taught the beauty of reality.  What lessons are children going to learn about abstinence and the sanctity of marriage and respecting women if they can go out and pay for an hour of sex?

 

“If paying for sex is normalized, then every young boy will learn that women and girls are commodities to be bought and sold.” – Jimmy Carter

The answer to the $1.5 billion dollar question is not the legalization of trafficking.  The girls that come to reside at StreetLightUSA are a testament to that.  Once they have healed physically, emotionally, and spiritually, these girls can tell you that they would not choose to sell their bodies of their own free will.  While under the control of a pimp, trafficking victims are convinced that this is the only way to survive, to the point that they even believe that this is the life they want- they have no choice if they want to stay alive.  But with a healthy environment surrounding them and the possibility of a future that is theirs to shape, these girls would not willingly return to a life where their bodies have a price tag by the hour.Jimmy Carter_2

Legalization is not the answer.  What is the answer?  Former President Carter hit on it perfectly: the Nordic model.  Decriminalize the trafficked girls, criminalize the johns and pimps, and educate the public on the horrors of what trafficking looks like.  This is what StreetLightUSA is constantly working towards- taking care of the victims, prosecuting the johns and pimps, and educating the public.  It is not quick, nor is it easy, but step by step we’re getting there.

“We must not abandon the equal dignity of each human being by simply regulating a form of abuse.  There is a better way.” – Jimmy Carter

Bright Futures Are Still Possible

Carrie is 18 years old and has been a resident at StreetLightUSA for almost 6 months. She came from an abusive background. Carrie can remember the fights between her mom and dad. When they started drinking heavily they would beat the kids. The younger siblings would cry because they were hungry and nobody looked after them.

Carrie was tired of the abuse. She took her siblings to school with her where they called the Dept. of Child Safety.  Carrie had only one request- to keep as many of them together as possible. She was very thankful that StreetLightUSA had two beds open because that would mean that she and her 14 year old sister could be together.

Carrie has decided to make the best out of her situation. She recently turned 18 and is very excited and happy about her life. She gets to have visits from her siblings on Sundays. She will even graduate from high school in May and wants to help parent her younger siblings.

Carrie is grateful that StreetLightUSA has given her a new direction to take her life. She says she is glad to have a place to stay, food to eat, and clothes to wear.  Now this remarkable young lady is preparing, with the help of authorities, to parent her siblings!  We are so proud of Carrie and her dedication to her siblings.

This young lady’s story is a shining example of the “trauma to triumph” motto here at StreetLightUSA.  The girls that come to us come from unspeakable trauma.  These are children that would have every reason to give up on life.  But if they are put in the right environment, that trauma can be healed and light can shine through.

There is nothing more rewarding than watching our residents tap into their inner strength and find the will to triumph over their own lives.  We have one resident starting her GED and attending the Job Development Program.  Another resident was placed into a Young Adult Program house; she is now living independently due to skills she acquired through StreetLightUSA’s program.  Yet another resident was reunified with her mother after 6 months with us.

Trauma should never mean the end of dreams and a future for young girls.  Trauma can be overcome, they can heal, and these girls can go on to lead triumphant new lives.  At StreetLightUSA, we believe that no girl is beyond saving.  No girl should ever give up on leading the life she imagines.  Every girl can triumph over the life she has been dealt and go on to live her dreams.

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Do something about the problem!

Please volunteer, donate, sign up for our monthly newsletter, or sign up for our prayer newsletter so you can pray for the needs of our girls.

Visit our social media accounts:

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest

About StreetLightUSA

Each year 300,000 children are trafficked or at-risk for being trafficked in the United States. Approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault.  StreetLightUSA is the largest residential center in the country specializing in the care and healing of victims of child sex trafficking and sexual trauma. They combat this injustice through direct care for victims, public awareness, and prevention. Visit our Take Action page to start making a difference.

Info@StreetLightUSA.org, 855-435-0900, ext. 8139

January brings challenges and opportunities

The U.S. State Department’s Annual Trafficking in Persons Report shows that large sporting events cause an increase in sex trafficking.  As the host for the Pro Bowl, The Phoenix Open, The Barrett Jackson Car Auction, and the Super Bowl, the Valley is in for a challenging month.

It is ironic that January also happens to be Slavery & Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

StreetLightUSA is taking this opportunity to increase awareness and stand up for our children.  We want our Valley to stand united in saying “NO MORE!  NO MORE CHILD EXPLOITATION FOR PROFIT!

Trafficking is so hideously awful, it is hard to listen to the overwhelming truth. That’s a big reason people look the other way or don’t fully vest in the cause. As a society we need to get past the ugliness and on to actions that make a difference.

During the upcoming events, StreetLightUSA will reserve eight beds for victims who are rescued from pimps. While we wish they wouldn’t be needed, we have no doubt these beds will be filled quickly. Instead of selling their bodies for survival, they will be brought into the loving home that StreetLightUSA provides.

There are two Phoenix events coming up that support StreetLightUSA and give a unique peek into the sex trafficking world.

Thanks to Artist Pamela Alderman, we can get a better grasp of the world these victims live in.  Alderman’s award-winning exhibit, The Scarlet Cord, takes viewers into the world of sex trafficking in a 40-foot storage container. By stepping into this exhibit, you’ll get a better understanding of sex trafficking.  Alderman’s art is dedicated to the suffering children who find themselves tethered to selling their bodies and pleads for compassionate action.

The Scarlet Cord
Free to the Public
January 23 through February 1
10 am-9 pm Daily
813 N. 1st Street, Phoenix

 

England’s Saltmine Theatre Company brings us Love Struck.  This play follows the lives of a number of people impacted by trafficking.  Love Struck not only takes us into the world of sexual exploitation and forced labor, it shows viewers that anyone can make a difference.

 

Love Struck
Friday, January 23, 2015, 7 pm
Palmcroft Church
15825 N. 35th Ave., Phoenix
Buy your tickets today!

 

 

By educating ourselves, we can make it harder for traffickers to operate here. This is a crucial time. Please help us spread the word!

Please volunteer, donate, or sign up for our prayer newsletter so you can pray for the needs of our girls.

Visit our social media accounts:  Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest,

 About StreetLightUSA
More than 300,000 children are trafficked in the United States each year.* Approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault. ** StreetLightUSA is the largest residential center in the country specializing in the care and healing of victims of child sex trafficking and sexual trauma. They combat this injustice through direct care for victims, public awareness, and prevention. Visit our Take Action page to start making a difference.

 Info@StreetLightUSA.org, 855-435-0900, ext. 8139

 *Shared Hope International **US Dept. of Justice

 

A Home, Hope, and Healing

Your support has made us what we are today—the national leader in providing care and healing for victims of child sex trafficking and sexual trauma.

The girls placed at StreetLightUSA are ages 11-17. They are just babies! For our younger girls, we work to stabilize their lives and teach them coping skills that help them work through their trauma. They then return home, are placed with a foster family, or adopted.  For our older girls, in addition to helping them stabilize and establish coping skills, we help to prepare them for college, trade school, employment, transition back into their communities, and to become strong, independent young women.

We have one counselor to help all of our girls learn to work through their trauma. In 2013 we served 131 girls and this year we have served 258; we have doubled the number of girls we served.  The girls at StreetLightUSA need several more counselors to keep up with the needs.

We also need to expand our capacity as the demand is great. We are remodeling all six of the existing cottages by adding a room to each. This will add another 12 beds for girls and prevent each girl from being raped up to 15 times a day.

To fund the facility expansion and hire three more counselors, we have set a goal to raise $500,000 by the end of the year. We have already raised $200,000. With your help all things are possible.

This is the perfect time for Arizona residents to take advantage of the Arizona Foster Care Tax Credit. Your gift of $400 per individual, or $800 per couple allows you to take the tax credit against what you owe to the State of Arizona in taxes. It’s a win-win. Instead of giving your money to the State, give it to StreetLightUSA. Facts on the tax credit are enclosed.

We challenge other supporters to match the $400/$800 amounts. Your gift is tax-deductible to the extent that law allows on your federal taxes.

“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25

Do something about the problem!

Please volunteer, donate, or sign up for our prayer newsletter so you can pray for the needs of our girls.

Visit our social media accounts:

 Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest,

 About StreetLightUSA

More than 300,000 children are trafficked in the United States each year.* Approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault. ** StreetLightUSA is the largest residential center in the country specializing in the care and healing of victims of child sex trafficking and sexual trauma. They combat this injustice through direct care for victims, public awareness, and prevention. Visit our Take Action page to start making a difference.

 Info@StreetLightUSA.org, 855-435-0900, ext. 8139

 *Shared Hope International **US Dept. of Justice