January is quite a month in 2017 – we celebrated the life and legacy of one of our heroes, Martin Luther King, Jr. We are hopeful for a peaceful transfer of power from President Barak Obama to our current President Elect. The website Backpage was recently held accountable for the trafficking of women and children on their site, which was a huge win. We still have a long way to go, but every small win is worth celebrating. On that note, this month is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Globally, human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in our world. Billions of dollars contribute to the buying and selling and exploitation of women, children, and even men. Domestically, and what most people don’t know, 70% of those trafficked here in the states are trafficked through the commercial sex industry, which includes porn sets, strip clubs and brothels right here at home.
The average age of a woman entering prostitution is between 12 and 14 years old. What we often forget, is that young woman entering the sex industry (which under the age of 18, the Justice Department defines as human trafficking), becomes an adult woman*. Resources are already short across the board, even for adolescents, but resources for adults are very difficult to find.
This is why we have started Treasures NYC, an outreach and support group to women in the sex industry. Treasures was originally founded in Los Angeles in 2003, by Harmony Dust Grillo, a social worker, and ex-industry woman. To date, Treasures has trained hundreds of leaders in over 100 cities on 5 continents to reach women in the sex industry. We go into strip clubs in New York City, with a gift and the simple message that every woman is loved, valued, and purposed. We don’t have any other agenda, and if a woman reaches out to us, we are able to offer support and care for her, wherever she is on her journey of life.
We’re also excited to partner with UNICEF’s Next Generation Advocacy Committee to host an event on Education, Advocacy and Legislation at the end of this month. Ending a complex issue like human trafficking will take on the ground outreach and support, and it will also require education, advocacy and policy changes. We believe we are stronger together, and if we continue to collaborate across multiple-sectors, we can actually make an impact.
What are you, or your organizations doing this month to raise awareness? We’d love to learn from you, and hear from you about your work in the city.
*For more stats on the global and domestic sex industry, we recommend you visit THIS LINK.