Friday, 7 November 2014
Human Trafficking Head On // November Update
Dearest Friends and Family,
Apologies for the lack of updates from America! My first three months of mission have been very intense and now I am in the UK for a short break to organize some things for the rest of my stay.
In August 2014, I started my 6-month placement in Downtown Los Angeles, working on the frontline with victims of human trafficking. Currently, it is estimated that 27 million people are trapped in human trafficking (slavery) of some description. I have previously supported and researched organizations that deal mainly with victims of international trafficking, people who are kidnapped, sold or tricked into a life that they have no choice over: filled with brutality, poverty and cruelty that is way beyond the scope of what you and I could imagine. The demographic that I work with falls prey to the same shocking and terrifying brutality, cruelty and devastation, but with some crucial differences…
The victims that I work with and help to rescue are not usually those international victims that we are used to hearing about: the ones who went to another country, seeking better employment and opportunities. No, these girls and women that I work with are very different…
Their stories tend to start the same: their father/ grandfather/ uncle/ cousin/ brother (or a more than one of them) raped and abused them when they were very young. Step 1 in the breaking down of their self worth; in the normalization of abusive relationships and the realization that they will never loved, valued or protected any better than they were in that moment. Step 2: their mother/ grandmother/ aunt/ sister/ cousin (or all of the above) tells them that they are a liar, or that they are not special, that this happens to everyone and this is real life, so why do they think anyone should feel sorry for them or help them? - they learn that they should not reach out for help because they will be rejected and ridiculed and their hearts will be broken again by the crushing realization that they are not loved, valued or protected by the people who should be their safety. So they harden their hearts to that hope and open them to a future of ‘normal’ abuse, violence and sexual exploitation…
The average age that one of these girls is ‘turned out’ to sell herself and earn money for her pimp..? Twelve. 12. Not even a teenager yet. Whether she is courted by a ‘boyfriend’ (read ‘pimp’) who then forces her to work, sold by her parents (or often foster parents), turned out by her family to earn money for them, or kidnapped as a runaway who has nowhere else to go, these girls become slaves before their childhood is even over.
So where do I come into this horrific picture..? I am fortunate enough to be able to help manage and work in a safe house / shelter about 40 minutes outside of Los Angeles where these women can come and find safety, rest, love and an opportunity (if they choose to take it) to begin a new life. It is heartbreaking and amazing all at the same time and there is no ‘typical day’ at the shelter, but here are some examples of days that I have lived through with some of these girls already…
On Monday, I might be the ‘house mum’: cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, taking the girls out for ice cream or a walk at the beach.
Tuesday, I could be breaking up fights or arguments in the house, or helping a girl to come to terms with the devastation she has suffered, or the overwhelming choices she now faces.
On Wednesday, I might get a call at 2am to our 24 hour hotline from a girl who is terrified and hiding from her pimp who has threatened to kill her; or a call from a social worker who has a girl in the Emergency Room who has jumped out of a moving vehicle, or was beaten her within an inch of her life..
Thursday, I may be at the police station, going on a sting operation with LAPD (yes, sometimes we even get to wear bullet proof vests!), or working alongside the FBI to help a girl to be strong enough to identify her pimp and help to uncover huge prostitution rings.
Friday, I could be collecting a newborn baby from court- already ‘in the system’ within the first week of her life because her teenage mother is the victim of this life she never chose (but has fortunately managed to escape from).
On Saturday, I might be driving the familiar ‘tracks’ of LA where these girls (some as young as 12) walk and wait for men to stop and buy them… We drive around, handing out gifts (including our hotline number) to these girls who are ‘in the game’ and telling them to call us any time. 12am – 3am is the worst shift… the girls and women walk around in literally lingerie and heels in plain sight and I always have to fight back the tears when we see a girl who has chosen to return to the life after being with us in the shelter…
On Sunday, I might be blessed enough to take the girls to church and for one of them to ask for prayer and feel for maybe the first time God’s love, or any love at all..
There is no typical day, or week, and no way to describe the pain that I witness on a daily basis… but there is also nothing that compares to seeing God reach in, or for these girls to finally make the choice to start their lives again: to see them go into a program, be reunited with their children, finish their education and get a job and a life that they can be proud of and feel valued in.
What we do in this ministry is difficult, but it is such an unbelievable blessing! So when my manager asked me to extend my contract to 12 months, I was absolutely thrilled!
My position is completely voluntary. That means that I will not earn anything for 12 months and will also have to support myself while I am there, including $4,000 for a year’s accommodation, some meals and any necessary training. This is currently where I need your support the most. I absolutely hate asking for money, but I have realized that, in order for this to be possible, I have to.
I have calculated that it will cost me $500 per month to live and volunteer in this ministry. That is roughly £350. If 10 people committed to £35 per month (until August 2014), that would cover my monthly costs and allow me to continue to do this work.
For one off donations and gifts, please either donate via PayPal:
Please feel free to pass on this information to others who may be interested in supporting me in the work that I am fortunate enough to do.
Thank you for your support in prayer, encouragement and finances. I could not do this without you!