Calling on the gay community to support youth services for child victims of sex trafficking

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times

As celebrations for Gay Pride Month come to a close, I’d like to take a moment to point out a troubling gap in services for gay and transgender youth who have been commercially sexually exploited.

In March of this year, Project Q Atlanta reported that Atlanta drag queen personality Pasha Nicole received a 14-year prison sentence for “forcing a transgender teenager into prostitution,” among other offenses related to trafficking.

Nicole, known legally as Christopher Thomas Lynch, was charged alongside her 35-year-old roommate and gay bar go-go dancer, Steven Donald Lemery.   WSBTV reported the following pending charges against Lemery:  five counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of human trafficking, child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes, and pandering by compulsion.

What’s most troubling in this story is the trauma inflicted on the victims.

Read the article on the Washington Times website

The Importance of Media Literacy in Preventing Child Sex Trafficking

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times

Girls movie night

WASHINGTON, DC, June 19 2012 – I was trafficked when I was fourteen years old.  It was the summer between eighth grade middle school and ninth grade high school.  The man who trafficked me convinced me to run away from home with stories about Hollywood.  He said he could help me become a model, an actress, or a songwriter, and that he could introduce me to famous people.  Some say that a 14-year-old is old enough to understand that wasn’t a reality.

I beg to differ.

The world created by the media for young teens is saturated with stories about celebrities.  The idea of being famous or becoming famous is pushed on almost all types of media.  From 16 and Pregnant to American Idol, teens are watching girls transform from being regular kids to becoming household names.  And these are the names deemed to be important and worthy enough to be mentioned on teen-driven media like MTV, the radio, and fashion magazines.

Read the article on the Washington Times website

Rahab’s Hideaway opens in-house program for children in Ohio

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times

Rahab's Hideaway

WASHINGTON, DC, June 14, 2012 – Last month, the Associated Press reported that three men were convicted in a child sex-trafficking ring run mostly by Somali gang members that spanned from Minnesota to Tennessee, including Columbus, Ohio.  The article reported that a Somali victim, identified only as Jane Doe Number Two, testified that she was “used as a prostitute by gang members starting at the age of twelve.”

Child sex trafficking is not a new issue in Columbus, Ohio.  As far back as 2009, the FBI reported having rescued 45 potential underage victims of sex trafficking, some as young as thirteen, in a state-wide sweep.  Survivors know from experience that the pain for a victim of sex trafficking does not end upon rescue; the process of healing takes time and specialized care.

Many have stepped forward in the anti-human trafficking movement, but a survivor’s voice is the strongest and most powerful among them.  One such survivor, Marlene Carson of Columbus, Ohio, founded a grassroots outreach ministry called Rahab’s Hideaway, Inc. in 2008.  Marlene led this ministry into the darkest hours of the night to rescue homeless teenage girls and adult young women involved in prostitution.

Read the article on the Washington Times website

Resources for Media Literacy Education

In response to my recent articles regarding the need for media literacy in school prevention programs, I am posting a list of resources for teachers and parents.

I will continue to add to this; please contact me if you would like to be added as a resource.

Organizations which Offer Education Curriculum

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood:   Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups, parents, and individuals who care about children. CCFC is the only national organization devoted to limiting the impact of commercial culture on children.  CCFC’s staff and Steering Committee are activists, authors, and leading experts on the impact of media and marketing on children.  Most of us are also parents. Continue reading

10 trafficking prevention tips for elementary schools

By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times

Think positive

WASHINGTON, DC, June 5, 2012 – Last month, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed into legislation the SB 259/HB1188 bill.  This bill requires the Board of Education and the Department of Social Services to collaborate and provide awareness and training materials for local school divisions on human trafficking, including strategies to prevent child trafficking.

Child traffickers target teens and preteens who are vulnerable, those whose lack of guidance and support has led to decreased self-confidence and a growing depression, among other things.  Teachers have the opportunity to fill this gap for children.  As a survivor of child trafficking, I am a strong advocate that prevention strategies begin early.

The following strategies are recommended for any elementary or intermediate school in America and should be aligned with basic programs designed to support a child’s transition through middle childhood.  The goal is to support children in order to sustain their self-confidence and to develop their character and their awareness of the world around them.  Fortunately, many schools have already started to work on programs which include these goals or have already instilled some of these ideas into their curricula.

Read the article on the Washington Times website