In 2004, for the first time, I met prostituted women who had survived and were moving successfully into recovery. I was awed by their stories, but more so by their strength, courage and resilience. How could anyone survive what they had experienced and still have hope? One told me, “God reached into hell and pulled me out.” I wanted to say, “Yes, but give yourself credit.” She now operates a nonprofit, helping other victims and survivors. Another told me her buyer left her for dead in a motel. She has since earned an associate’s degree in nursing and secured employment.
How did I meet them? At the time, I was responsible for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development grants, and one of our pastors asked if the nonprofit mentioned above would qualify for a grant. It did — every year for the next three, the maximum allowed by CCHD. I became a board member for the nonprofit, assisting them for five years and facilitating their receiving other grants.
When younger, these women were among those at great risk — runaway youth. The National Conference of State Legislature cites studies showing that “youth age 12 to 17 are more at risk of homelessness than adults”; “one in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away”; and “75 percent of runaways are female.” If runaways or homeless youth are on the streets without a safe place to go, their abduction is likely within 48 hours, according to public safety officials. They often run from or are forced out of terrible home situations. Many believe nothing could be worse. Unfortunately, they are usually wrong.
While states may be failing exploited children and adults, local nonprofits, organizations, agencies, education and health care facilities and systems, faith communities, anti-trafficking advocates and law enforcement are working together to address human trafficking. One example here in Missouri is a county health department whose director established a task force consisting of representatives from all these groups. Their primary goal is prevention through education, intervention and collaboration. I am on this task force, and I learn every time I participate. I also contribute from my experience and expertise, and am grateful for the colleagues who share my passion to end the tragedy of human trafficking.
While not downplaying the importance of serving victims and survivors and working for legislative changes, I focus primarily on education. One key element in education is serious discussions with parents, grandparents, guardians and/or youth about the dangers of social media. Youth often unknowingly put themselves at risk for exploitation by what they post on social media. A police officer, sheriff and district attorney on the county task force talked about how predators prowl social media platforms and apps, looking for attractive young individuals’ photos and information, to use in their ads and promotional information. They are selling a lie, but the innocent are publically exposed. Predators may also engage in sextortion, the practice of extorting money or sexual favors from someone by threatening to reveal evidence of their sexual activity.
To read the full article by Sister Jean Christensen on Global Sisters Report: Click HereTags: Global Sisters Report, National Conference of State Legislature