89% of women in the sex industry said they wanted out, but did not know of the right resources in order to get out.
This past week my non-profit The NET had a fundraising luncheon at The Fort Worth Club in order to raise funds and awareness in regards to the women and girls in my city that have experienced sexual exploitation. Part of my NPO is a program we started called Purchased, modeled after our sister ministry in Shreveport. The goal of Purchased Fort Worth is:
PURCHASED exists to bring freedom, safety, and hope to women and girls exploited by the sex industry in Fort Worth. By building bridges between the privileged and powerless, we create pathways to freedom and hope through a continuum of care focusing on prevention, intervention, and protection.
By participating in PURCHASED and our relationally based programs, a growing number of women in our city now have the opportunity to completely escape and recover from sexual exploitation!
So I was terrified to speak at our event, which rarely happens, but this time it did. You see, normally when we have a large crowd gathered to learn about the dark issue of sex trafficking at one of our bi-annual trainings we get a full 8 hours to explain to 80+ people the ins & outs of the industry, and specifically how it affects our city. The complexity of it all requires time to break down pre-conceived notions and pre-determined definitions of hot button words like prostitution and sex trafficking. Also, we make sure to validate what we know to be true by having a survivor share her story, a detective from our local police department and a county judge voice their opinions and stories as well. So you can see why I would be nervous and overwhelmed to share about this issue in a short eighteen minute speaking slot. I kept thinking to myself, "You only have their ears for a short amount of time. How will they decide to care if I can't talk for very long?" Despite my nerves and fears, I felt like God gave me the exact words to say. The goal was to simply scratch the surface and crack the window on the issues of sexual exploitation in Fort Worth. Just enough for people to get an understand that it's happening in our city, and more importantly to care that it is happening to our women and girls. Luckily, my good friend Rebekah Charleston, a survivor and advocate, did the rest of the work. She powerfully shared her story of how she finally escaped and recovered from the sex industry.
The event was more than I could have ever asked for! It is so true ...behind every #GirlBoss is an amazing team of people carrying out the mission and vision better than I ever could on my own! My events team kicked butt organizing everything, getting raffles, creating beautiful centerpieces, and telling their networks about the event and getting them there. My board of directors supported the event in every way possible! My staff and interns were clutch in helping with any need that came up and my amazing assistant director pulled off my dream fundraiser, even with me gone on maternity leave for most of the planning. We sold out the event, originally capped at 160. And then we had to switch to a larger ballroom to accommodate the extra attendees who wanted to come. Then we sold out AGAIN at 200 people! The room was packed. By God's grace we raised way more than our goal at a total of almost $40,000. I am still in awe. God has reminded me once again that we are relying on the goodness of him, and that he can exceed my wildest dreams and goals.
Every penny that we received will go towards fighting against sex trafficking in my city! An issue The NET cares deeply about and an issue that God's heart breaks for! No one should ever experience being bought and sold like a product. Everyone is made in God's image. When humans buy and sell other humans, that is simply a definition for slavery. Modern-day-slavery is happening in our world, in our country and in my city and yours! It's just a matter of opening our eyes and asking the right kinds of questions. Below I will share some stats with you that were shared at the event. These are not just numbers for me and my team. They represent real women and girls we have met face to face. Behind every commercial sex act is someone's daughter, mother, or sister. The question is ...how did they get to that place? The only way we will learn is by listening to the stories of survivors who are brave enough to share about their experience. The survivor leaders are the true heroes of events like these and their stories and voices were heard by 200 people in my community last Thursday. That, in my opinion, is a true success!
"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome." - Booker T. Washington
12 - 14 years is the average age of entry into the sex industry in the United States
33% of runaways are lured into prostitution within 48 hours
70% of the commercial sex industry is made up of trafficking victims
7 is the amount of times a women has to leave in order to leave permanently
If you want to learn more about this issue I will be doing a FREE give-away of my favorite book, Girls Like Us, written by one of my heroes, Rachel Lloyd. Share this post on Facebook using the hashtag #GirlsareNOTforsale and I will pick a random winner on May 23rd and send you a copy of this amazing book!