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