Recently, I was honored to be a part of an amazing event at one of the most prominent, historical African American churches in the county. The topic was Sex Trafficking, and I was one of the guest speakers. In asking me to speak, I was asked to “tell my story” but chose to take a different route.
I have spoken at many events and churches across the country. All too often, the African American community are the minority in the room. That was the topic. I quoted my best friend and mentor, Rachel Lloyd, “The commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens in a world where girls aren’t valued.” It happens in a world where we refuse to look in the mirror and ask, “What does this say about our culture?”
My letter to the African American community:
Dear brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers, and grandparents,
Our babies need us. It’s OUR issue. It’s time for us to own our issue. Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children is not an issue we can continue to ignore. I call forth the religious community to open their arms and hearts to victims without the labels and judgement. It is written in Jeremiah 31:3 that with loving kindness, I have drawn you unto me. It is time to have the open conversations about the vulnerabilities that lead our children to becoming victims. We must be open and discuss sexual abuse. We must address the physical abuse, poverty, and gender bias that still exists amongst our community. Our children continue to be at risk because we continue to ignore the signs and address the vulnerabilities.
In addition to our hearts and minds, we must open our wallets and be present. Grassroot organizations either starve because of lack of funding or are fueled by communities outside the African American culture. Meeting after meeting is filled with people unlike our community.
The African American community plays a huge role in shifting the effect of Commercial Sexual Exploitation. Our children, our future requires that we take action.
Day Five: Pray
The fight to make a new life in the midst of constant opposition and temptation to give up, along with the wearying healing process our women go through is as much a spiritual battle as it is a tangible one. We need men and women committed to praying every day, bringing them before God with love in their hearts.
To help with this request, we are pleased to announce that we will be hosting an online event called “The 28 Days of Prayer Challenge” for the month of February, right on our Facebook page! Each day in February we will post a prayer prompt to help guide you in your commitment to pray for our women for the month of February.
We believe prayer makes a difference. If you believe this too, please join with us in the 28 Days of Prayer Challenge next month. If you’re not sure prayer really matters, please consider praying with us anyway. You might be very surprised at what you see happen. You can RSVP on our Facebook page, and please don’t hesitate to email us a stories or tips about how you pray at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Thank you so much for sticking with us this week as we looked at 5 Ways to Support Women Exiting the Commercial Sex Industry. We’re so thankful for you all!
Day Four: Volunteer
1. Provide a meal for That Grace Restored employees. One way you can utilize your talents to help support our women and staff is cooking and dropping off a meal for the employees working to make paper and journals at That Grace Restored. This is an easy way to share love and encouragement while meeting a very real need for food and refreshment during work hours. Not comfortable sharing your cooking skills? Provide take out or restaurant gift cards!
2. Donate your used paper and cotton fabric. Many of you know that at That Grace Restored we make new paper out of old paper. Paper scraps, paper that has been printed on and cotton fabric can all be used to make pulp for our paper. Because part of our mission is to repurpose used goods to make our product, we need these donations! Please fill out the form on our Contact Us page or email email@example.com to set up a paper pick-up.
3. Offer your time to renovate workspace for That Grace Restored. We are currently in the process of obtaining a building in South Atlanta to use as workspace and a storefront for That Grace Restored. While we have yet to secure the space, in the coming year we will have need of individuals and teams to assist with renovations. Is your small group or Bible study interested in working with us on this project? Maybe you work in construction and want to assemble a team. Please contact us via our form or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
4. Be a business mentor. As we work with women one of our goals aside from employment is providing quality vocational development. We are always looking for women who have experience in varying professional fields or are business owners to come alongside our women as they discover their skills and talents and enter new professions. Because of the background of our women, we are only able to accept women as business mentors. Please contact us for more information if you are interested in sharing your professional knowledge and expertise in this way!
We’re excited for you to partner with us in one or more of these ways and hope to be able to offer more options soon! Check back tomorrow for our last day of 5 Ways to Support Women Exiting the Commercial Sex Industry.
Day Three: Educate Yourself and Others
The key to being an effective part of a solution to a problem is first understanding the problem. How do we go about gaining a good understanding of the problem of commercial sexual exploitation? Here are a few options:
1. Read studies on the commercial sexual exploitation of men and women, boys and girls. Studies done on this topic seek to provide insight into the causes behind this issue and relevant statistics that represent the number of victims and how they entered “the life”. It is important to note that a little over ten years ago when domestic human trafficking became a hype issue in the United States and particularly Atlanta, there were studies done that were later shown to be an inaccurate representation of the true numbers. So, how do we know which studies we can trust? StreetGRACE, a reputable CSEC advocacy and awareness organization in Atlanta offers quality resources as well as a credible study entitled “Hidden in Plain View” on their website. Click here to read the study!
2. Read literature and keep up with social media posts from experts in the field. Leaders and experts in the field may be survivors from the life who have gone on to start their own advocacy campaigns or individuals like you who have a heart for exploited women and have gone above and beyond to educate themselves and speak out! Some experts who have written easy to read, eye-opening books include:
Rachel Lloyd – A survivor of the life who went on to start her own program for young girls in New York City – Read her book “Girls Like Us”.
Susan Norris – A local Atlanta mother whose heart was opened to this cause and started a powerful awareness and advocacy campaign – Read her book “Rescuing Hope”.
3. Watch and Share Videos. Many visual resources bringing light to this issue and its causes are out there! These resources are vital because they are a quick and easy way to share the prevalent reality of this issue with others. Don’t be afraid to Tweet or share on Facebook! Here are just a few we recommend:
Stop The Candy Shop – A symbolic fairytale http://vimeo.com/20833462
Hearts of Men – An enlightening trailer to the upcoming film focusing on the demand side of the commercial sex industry http://www.faithit.com/the-way-this-video-connects-porn-and-global-injustice-will-make-you-see-the-world-in-a-very-different-way-warning-you-cant-unwatch-this/#.UtJ2o_H-rUw.facebook
Stop Sex Trafficking – An interview detailing the perspective of women in the life http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6O1Pj3xpq5E&list=PL7DAA247100164D6D
4. Invite us to Speak. One of the best ways to learn is interactively. Invite us to speak at your next church event, neighborhood meeting, small group gathering, book club, or even to a group of friends in your home. We love sharing our stories with you and answering your questions. We are currently working to develop a curriculum that can be used to train churches and groups on this issue. To find out more, please fill out the form on our Contact Us page or email us at email@example.com.
The more people that take the time to educate themselves and others, the more we can do to end the sexual exploitation of our fellow human beings and support victims in their healing and restoration process. Thank you for joining with us in this effort!