Sex trafficking: Ministry works with victims in Washington DC

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

WASHINGTON, DC, March 28, 2013 – My path crossed with Candace Wheeler, Executive Director for Restoration Ministries, at a Shared Hope International (SHI) event in San Antonio, Texas,  in 2011. I happened to meet Candace over pastries one morning.  This gave me a chance to learn more about her ministry, including her work with juveniles in detention centers and psychiatric hospitals

As a survivor of child sex trafficking, I was both honored and overwhelmed by the experience and hope to meet with Candace in Washington, DC to join her in outreach with juveniles in detention centers and psychiatric hospitals.

I sat down with Candance to learn more about Restoration Ministries:

Restoration Ministries seeks to bring healing to men, women, and children who have been caught in the trap of sex trafficking and lead them into the freedom of Jesus Christ

What inspired the creation of your anti-human trafficking organization (or the anti-human trafficking program within your organization)?

I encountered several divine outpourings from the Holy Spirit telling me to start a ministry to sex trafficking survivors. He usually spoke in reference to the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15.

How has your faith has played a role in the success of your organization?

We are a Christ-centered organization not faith-based. The Lord is our leader and guide and therefore we stay on our knees to hear His voice.

Who are your board members and/or co-founders?

Board members: Jim Alexander, LCSW, Chair; Mitch Wheeler, Larry Drake, and Candace Wheeler, Executive Dir.  Candace is the founder.

Are your efforts geared towards advocacy, prevention, education, awareness, victim services, legislation, etc.?  Please describe.  We are excited to learn more about you!

We are geared towards intervention and healing.  We are one of the few organizations that can give a clinical diagnosis and write a clinical treatment plan. We do some prevention work with high-risk girls placed at the youth detention center and psychiatric hospital. We just launched our Ambassadors of Restoration Program (ARP) to educate the community on the issue of domestic minor sex trafficking.

Where are your headquarters based, and where are your efforts based?

Washington, DC, DC Metro Area, including southern Maryland and N. VA.

Please share any recent awards, accomplishments, or experiences associated with your organization.

In 2008, the Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services (youth detention center) gave us an award for outstanding programs and services to detained youth.

Please share any upcoming events or honors.

We will be honoring Rachel Lloyd for her pioneering work in this field at our 10th Anniversary Celebration on Sep 26th.

What has been the greatest achievement or most meaningful recognition or experience for your organization?

Being a part of the girls lives. It is an honor to be invited in and help them grow.

Where do you hope to see your organization in the future?

Being financially stable, a recognized leader in the community, offering real help and hope to the survivors.

What do you want the public to know about human trafficking, or specifically about your anti-human trafficking organization/program?

We want the public to be in reality of what sex trafficking looks like in DC and not shun away from it because it doesn’t follow the format of what Hollywood usually portrays in their films. If the community is going to offer real help then people need to be consistent and be there for the long haul.  The main reason many of the girls are in this predicament is because no one has been there for them.

There is no lasting or permanent healing without Christ.

How can the public help you with your plight?

Financial giving, mostly monthly gifts are needed for sustainability, joining or creating an ARP small group to understand the issue more clearly.

How can people reach you or your organization for questions or more information?

Thanks for sharing with us, Candace!

Click here to find Restoration Ministries on Facebook!

Child Sex Trafficking: Vote for Courtney’s House to win $50K award!

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

Vote for Courtney's House!

WASHINGTON DC, March 22, 2013 – As a consultant for Fox Valley Technical College’s AMBER Alert Program, I often speak to law enforcement and service providers across the country.  At the end of my presentations, I always encourage my audience members to connect with local empowered survivors, if possible, who may be able to speak with victims.  As a child victim of sex trafficking, it was difficult for me to connect with the social workers and police detectives involved in my case.  Truly, it wasn’t until nearly twenty years later, after I met and spoke with another survivor of child sex trafficking, that I was finally able to understand my victimization.

That survivor was Tina Frundt.

Tina Frundt is the founder of Courtney’s House, a program which provides services to boys and girls in and around the Washington D.C. area who have been trafficked and exploited for purposes of prostitution.  Courtney’s House is one of the few survivor-led organizations within the country that works directly with child victims, and I believe such organizations are vital.  I believe my healing process would have been a much easier transition had I been connected with a survivor mentor.

As a child, Tina had cycled through more than twenty foster homes in Chicago, Illinois before her adoption into a loving home at the age of twelve.  By that point, however, Tina was insecure, vulnerable, and distrusting.  Similar to my story, an “older guy” approached Tina and told her how pretty and mature she was.  After an argument with her adoptive parents, this man picked Tina up and trafficked her to Cleveland, Ohio.

“And that is when they brought two guys into the room and they ‘seasoned’ me,” Tina said in an interview with the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, now known as Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.

Tina explained that “seasoned” is a term used for introducing a young girl into sex slavery.  This introduction often involves repeated sexual assaults by numerous men.  Although I didn’t know this term, I was familiar with the process.

“The trafficker told me that nobody would care about me,” Tina continued, “that if I ever told the police anything that they would arrest me, and no one would help me; and everything he said was true.  Everything.”

Tina was arrested and incarcerated at the age of fourteen.

Tina opened Courtney’s House, a community outreach program, in order to be that helping hand for today’s victims of traffickers and pimps.  Tina offers services to both male and female child victims of commercial sexual exploitation.  Services offered by Courtney’s House are described as follows:

Courtney’s House takes a holistic approach to healing. We work with each child on an individual [basis] in counseling and therapy coupled with group interactions to support the child’s recovery. Survivor Support Groups are an integral component of Courtney’s House. These groups are open to boys, girls, and transgender survivors. They focus on trauma recovery and transitioning [one’s] mindset out of the life, along with fun, therapeutic activities like dance, art, yoga, etc.

In addition, each survivor has access to influential mentors and academic tutoring to fully embrace their ability to create a future full of hope and personal best. We also recognize that the survivor’s parents have a key role in the trauma recovery process and that they, too, need healing. Parents will find open arms and support at Courtney’s House.

“We [at Courtney’s House] focus on sex trafficking of children both male and female, no matter what their sexual identity is,” Tina stated in an article last year regarding services for LGBTQQ youth, “Shouldn’t that be the norm?”

Today, Tina needs your help!

Tina is one of four nominees in the running to win a $50,000 grant from the Diane von Furstenberg Family Foundation (DVF) Awards.  Your vote could help Courtney’s House receive funding which will go directly towards services for boys and girls exploited by commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.  I urge you to support this local, survivor-led organization and to cast your vote before the April 5th deadline!

CLICK HERE to vote for Tina now!

Thank you so much for your time and support towards this cause.