By Holly Austin Smith — From her column Speaking Out in the Washington Times Communities
RICHMOND, VA, January 23, 2013- Meet Ateba Crocker. Ateba created an organization in 2010 called Shoe Revolt, a registered 501 (c)(3) nonprofit which she started in order to raise funds for programs that serve victims of sex trafficking. As a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation, Ateba said she “desired to see others free from the trappings of the sex industry.”
In an emotional interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Ateba described how she overcame early childhood sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation. Through her faith and family, Ateba found the strength to return to school, to graduate college with a Master’s Degree, and to publish her first book, Rescued: A Testimony of God’s Saving Power.
Ateba used her love for fashion to help other victims of sexual exploitation. The mission of Shoe Revolt was to donate portions of proceeds gained by selling new and gently-used shoes. As Ateba built Shoe Revolt; however, she said she quickly realized that what was missing was an education program for teens.
“I decided to change Shoe Revolt’s fundraising focus to creating and funding a teen preventive program,” Ateba stated, “[Teens must be] empower[ed] to fight against predators [who] seek to take away a human being’s right to freedom.”
Ateba created a new branch to Shoe Revolt called Teen Revolt, a nationwide program aimed to “educate, engage, and empower youth to take the lead in the fight against domestic sex trafficking through peer-to-peer education.”
As January is the month dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking, it seems fitting that Ateba chose this month to launch Teen Revolt. Her goal for Teen Revolt is to create chapters across the country “that can generate large-scale social impact through peer-to-peer education and fundraising.”
“Our goal is to harness the leadership potential of teenagers across America,” Ateba stated, “[We strive] to inspire teen activism and [to] raise awareness about the hidden danger of sex trafficking in the U.S.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) estimates that 800,000 youth are reported missing each year. The National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children 2 (NISMART-2) estimated that in 1999 more than 1 million children had episodes of running away or being forced out of their homes. NCMEC states on their website that “without legitimate means of support and a safe place to stay, [these kids] are often victimized again through pornography, sexual exploitation, and drugs.”
The Teen Revolt website explains that peer-to-peer education will involve increasing teen awareness about commercial sexual exploitation, and fundraising efforts will be geared towards raising money for local programs that provide services to victims.
The Teen Revolt website also states that each chapter ambassador will be supplied with support and a revolt kit to include marketing ideas to spread awareness, chapter training manuals, and chapter checklist pamphlets and forms. Ateba encourages students to get involved if their schedules are not already too full with other commitments: “Becoming a Teen Revolt Ambassador will be an extremely long but rewarding experience,” she said.
As a survivor of child sex trafficking, I believe that Ateba’s mission to educate, engage, and empower youth is not only admirable but vital to ending human trafficking in the United States.
“So, what is commercial sexual exploitation, or CSE?” Ateba asked, “And how are teens in danger?”
She explained the following:
“Traffickers, otherwise known as pimps, have declared war on the American youth, especially at-risk youth. For pimps, teens are not human beings but property; they see teens simply as a means to gain profit. Pimps know that when it comes to making money, the younger their victims are, the better. They know where to find vulnerable youth- from hitting the streets to hanging out at parties, malls, school grounds, movie theaters, and even Internet chat rooms.”
Ateba’s program includes educating teens about the different types of traffickers, including the “finesse pimp” and the “gorilla pimp,” and describing the cycle of victimization imposed by traffickers.
“Teens who enroll in Teen Revolt will be equipped with the knowledge to recognize trafficking if it is happening to one of their peers,” Ateba explained, “Traffickers [often] employ their victims in strip clubs or exotic dance clubs before introducing them to prostitution and pornography…They often tell their victims that they will expose their ‘shameful’ behavior to friends and family if they don’t comply with their demands…
“The most powerful way to protect yourself and your peers is to be on the lookout for any of these tactics,” Ateba said, “Be aware of the red flags, and watch for other teens who may be in danger…
“Stay informed about the issue, educate others, and protect yourself and your peers,” Ateba continued, “If you suspect a CSE case, call 911 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888.”
As I stated in a previous article featuring the Prevention Project (another teen-focused school program), educating the next generation is crucial to the prevention of commercial sexual exploitation of children, as well as all other forms of human trafficking happening within America and beyond. I encourage school administrators across the nation to investigate available programs and to include one which best suits their schools’ goals and needs.
For more information about Shoe Revolt or Teen Revolt, please contact Ateba Crocker at Ateba@ShoeRevolt.org.