Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ignite Conference: I am Not Only My Story: Survivors Speak to Action

We have all heard the phrase, saving the best for last.  That is surely what happened at the Ignite: Sparking Action Against Sex Trafficking conference.  Participants heard from 3 survivors of sex trafficking, all of whom are living proof that there is life after being trafficked.  However, all 3 were very articulate in speaking about the systemic barriers that make that transition very challenging. 

Holly Austin Smith who was lured into sex trafficking as a vulnerable 14 year old middle school Walking Prey she provides ideas on how to address this important subject with these vulnerable youth.  On her website under resources she offers a curricula guidelines for advice on the education of human trafficking and prevention of child sex trafficking.  there are numerous other resources available on her website also, including Holly's sharing of her story. to get to her website, click on this link.
Left to right, Kimberely Ritter, Katie
Rhoades, Holly Austin Smith and
 Christine McDonald
graduate spoke about the need to raise awareness in middle schools about sex trafficking.  With the average age for entry into trafficking in the US being 13 years of age, middle school girls are especially vulnerable.  In her book,

Christine McDonald was trafficked at the age of 15.  She spoke about the need for housing, employment and trauma treatment.  She noted how the stigma of being involved in the sex trade impacts the type of help a person can receive. Her comments on how the legal system, by treating those who are trafficked as criminals instead of victims, really hinders their leaving the life.  Imagine trying to get a job with felony convictions for prostitution. 

Katie Rhoades, who shared her story with us at both the US Federation Event and at the LCWR conference in St Louis, focused on the lack of specialized services.  She shared that no one agency can do everything that is needed for people coming out of trafficked situations.  There is a need for victim specific services but also for better training on the specialized needs of these people along with a deeper understanding of the importance of complex trauma care.

All three emphasized the importance of the community coming together to address barriers to services, to improve collaboration among service providers and to do more to prevent young people from ever being lured into trafficking situations.  There is a need for doers from every walk of life, mental health professionals, attorneys, law enforcement, educators, the health field and the faith community.

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