Recap of the Sex Trafficking & Homeless Youth in the Midwest Seminar
This morning and afternoon, I had the privilege to attend the Sex Trafficking & Homeless Youth in the Midwest seminar hosted by Source, Inc., one of my favorite nonprofits in South Minneapolis.
It was a great seminar talking about awareness, best practices, and interventions with the topic of Sex Trafficking specifically in the Twin Cities. There were three key speakers: Paul McCabe (FBI Agent), Vednita Carter (Founder of Breaking Free), and Ida (volunteer from House of Hope, City Hill Church’s transitional house).
I truly appreciated the three tiered experience of the seminar, having someone speak from the government sector, the nonprofit sector and the religious community. It truly shows the continuity that needs to be present in assisting victims of sex trafficking as well as raising awareness and causing change.
Having been to other seminars, reading recourses and interning with the Sexual Violence Center, most of the statistics and the needs were already known by me. But it is always good to be reminded, to have your heart stir you to tears, to anger for the ugly demand that is present in our current culture.
Over $12 billion are spent in the sex trafficking industry and over 1.2 million children are victims of that trafficking. And 8,000 to 10,000 women and children are trafficked in the Twin Cities alone. This is in our own backyard. Children in our schools are being sold.
Vednita made a great point that even I sometimes forget, “It’s easy to think it will never knock at your door, but don’t think it won’t. As long as there’s a demand, there will be prostitution and trafficking.”
And unfortunately, Paul informed us that this industry is quickly rising to beat drug crimes. Obviously, the demand has grown.
Something that I think is really impactful for me personally is that the majority of women or girls who are in prostitution—whether it is through trafficking or not—have been sexually, physically or emotionally abused as children. They actually believe that they are the scum of the earth. That they are not worth rescuing, not worth love, not worth people’s time or money or ear. The shame that is already built up from the abuse only builds and builds as they are victimized, trafficked, sold. They honestly believe that it is all their fault.
When I think of sex trafficking and I think about the girls in my life, I know there are friends of mine who have been sexually abused or raped. And in understanding the pain they experience helps me understand in a small way the experience of a victim. But I know many are unable to make those kinds of connections.
It always feels overwhelming to think of the need and the pain that a victim faces that we often are crippled when it comes to doing anything about the issue. That’s why I truly enjoyed what Vednita said to us today, “Talk to that person as if she is your sister or your daughter—because she is someone’s sister or daughter.” Show them the love that they have not experienced.
Which brings me to the biggest thing I felt excited about coming out of the seminar—strong, good men are needed to step up against sex trafficking. I know that there are men out there who have told me that they are not sure what they could so about the issue—they cannot relate to these women. But I think what Vednita said shows that men do have a way to relate—it could have been their sister or daughter. And maybe someday it will be. Men need to start taking a stand because the only way a movement can happen is if everyone is on board. Men need to stand up against the sex trade, against the demand, against pornography and distorted images of what sex is “supposed” to be like. It is not like any of that.
Sex is to be beautiful, safe and selfless.
Instead, we see it as selfish, powerful and demeaning. A service that can be bought.
It breaks my heart, because I know that it wouldn’t take much for any of the men I know to become a “John”—a man who pays for sex. All it would take is a slow dripping of lies. Lies that are already blaring from our TVs, movies, radio, iPods, ads, Facebook, Myspace, Craigslist, Match.com, wherever.
If you take the time to read this rambling—and the next blog which will hopefully be more structured– please consider what you can do to raise awareness, to take a stand against the demand for sex, the demand for your daughter or sister or friend.
www.sourceannex.org has great resources for information on sex trafficking and how you can help raise awareness.
www.breakingfree.net is one of the only nonprofits in the nation providing transitional and supportive housing to victims of sex trafficking.