On this weekend’s Rich’s Rant, I was going to point you to a new Post in “Rich’s Reads.” It’s the political story of this American Century… one that is finally exploding like the foul political cyst that it is.
But then I received an email from my friends at Shared Hope International and decided, I needed to rant on this subject first.
Come to think of it, the title of this post “Cheer. Cry. Then Screamed” would fit both the political story on “Rich’s Reads” as well as this particular Rich’s Rants. More on that later because…
This one hurts my soul in a whole different way. I live with both the privilege and sorrow that comes with having been up close to the ugliness of it all. Perhaps it will shake you, too.
I will start with a short introduction and two graphics that will likely surprise you… maybe even shock you.
Shared Hope International is engaged in a spiritual street-fight. Oh, not necessarily a real street fight but darn close to that and it is a war of both body and soul. It is an ugly place… both a physical and digital corner that happens to be found right in your home town, too. Believe it. In the midst of that ugliness and pain, Redemption can be found. Yes, redemption. That is (in part) why the good people at Shared Hope International do what they do about sex trafficking.
Naturally, most people don’t want to believe that sex trafficking is happening every day all around them with frightening consequences. Importantly, to really understand it, you have to set aside (but not dismiss) a lot of what Hollywood has told you. Most of the victims are not foreign. They are the kids from the local High School and kids you may see and run into all the time. In some tragic instances, they could be your kids or grandkids.
The next two graphics tell more than we may want to deal with but they are factual:
Now some of you will understandably wonder how this is even possible. Right in your hometown? Not likely, you say. You haven’t seen it. But you would be very wrong.
You see, even in white bread, suburban towns of 10,000 people on Connecticut Shoreline, it is there, real and happening.
Meet “Marie” and her friend. Both were safe-housed right here on the Connecticut Shoreline. They were both trying to get out of “the life”. Both of them were from small towns right here in Connecticut. The smile is genuine and it was contagious.
Some five years ago and to her great credit, “Marie” was willing to testify before dozens of strangers, politicians, and TV film crews and cameras at our State Legislature… which was within a short distance of her hometown and the High School she graduated from.
It was then that she said one of the most incredible things I have ever heard spoken out loud by anyone:
“For some years now, I have been known by my street-name, “Crystal”… or “cu_t”, “bit_h” and “who_e”. I am no longer to be known by those names. My name is Marie, I grew us just miles from Hartford and I am a graduate of such-and-such High School.”
You could, needless to say, have heard the proverbial “pin” drop. Her testimony that day led to Connecticut’s new sex (human) trafficking laws. It was a big step in the right direction for a change throughout the Nation that was (and still is) long overdue.
You see, we were only the third state to take the sample law that had been provided by Congress for States to pass their own Sex/Human Trafficking laws when the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (known as “TVPA”) that was passed by Congress in 1999.
It took us two years to get it signed into Connecticut law… and that was some 16 years after the TVPA became the Federal law of the Land in 1999. Shameful when you understand just how young American and foreign victims of sex trafficking were and are still being treated before these new Statutes. Victims as criminals.
How is it that young men and women who were being sold by virtue of force, or fraud or coercion OR (most importantly under the age of 18) be considered criminals and routinely arrested and jailed? How is it that sex-trafficking victims who are raped for money, beaten and abused are arrested right along with their rapist “Johns” and their pimps? How is it that these victims don’t have immediate access to the legal and health services that they need, while the “Johns” and pimps often end up charged with low-level Misdemeanors? Why is it that reporters all around the country still ignorantly refer to young teens as “child-prostitutes” when Federal law clearly sees them as victims of human trafficking?
All good questions. And for the most part, I can tell you that this is no longer the case in Connecticut… and in a growing number of States all across the country. You see, just as “Marie” did in Connecticut, Shared Hope International has been part of a great change all across the United States. The tide has changed but there is so much more to do.
So why do I point ut to you this way? To depress or scare you?
Not at all. It is to to help you that when people put their minds to a problem and ACT. When we take action things can and do change.
And so, as I read Shared Hope International’s email this morning, I cheered. Then I had a good cry. And for now, I won’t scream because writing this Rant has helped quiet the urge.
You see, for Marie, it is now too late. She lies in a grave in her hometown just outside Hartford, Connecticut. She was free for a while and then the monster of drug addiction consumed her. Along the way, her choices made the tragedy all the worse, as it also took the life of a perfectly innocent bystander. Screaming material for so many. Too many.
But it is getting better thanks to the efforts of everyday people like you and organizations like Shared Hope International.
So, please do visit Shared Hope’s Advocacy Action Center and look up your State. Then consider what you might do. You may not be able to do more than share this “Rich’s Rant” or point family and friends to Shared Hope International Advocacy Action Center. That’s OK but, please above all, do act.
Not all of us are meant to be “in the trenches” but if 6,89o Shared Hope Advocates can do what they have done, just imagine what 13,780 people could do? Now imagine what 27,560 good people could do?
This much I can assure you of – we do not always know not how our words or acts of kindness and mercy (or anger and hate) ripple out from our lives and the choices we all make. Every choice does have consequences.
When we choose kindness and mercy, we hope to see the good outcome but the truth is that you may never see the result of those words and acts. They may or may not be redeemed in time. No matter. Our job is to speak up and do the work. As the Old Testament reads: “Some sow, some water, but the Lord provides the Harvest.”
To the sowers and waterers of seed at Shared Hope International and the 6,890 folks who have advocated however, they could, this guy from Connecticut offers you his encouragement and admiration. You’re getting it done. Ooorah!
Shared Hope International’s morning email follows…
SHARED HOPE INTERNATIONAL EMAIL OF MAY 13, 2019 BY SUSANNA BEAN
What 6,890 advocates can do
“We are celebrating! Legislative sessions are wrapping up in states around the country and we have great news. Many of the bills you advocated for have passed:
- Utah HB 20 comprehensively strengthens the state’s response to child sex trafficking.
- Utah HB 108 strengthens the state’s existing non-criminalization laws to ensure that youth engaged in commercial sex cannot be arrested for prostitution but, instead are provided a protective, non-punitive response.
- New Mexico HB 56 ensures minors engaged in commercial sex are treated as victims of sex trafficking, not offenders of prostitution.
- Mississippi HB 571 comprehensively strengthens Mississippi’s existing child sex trafficking laws to ensure that all minors under 18 are immune from prosecution for prostitution charges, that child welfare is required to respond to and provide holistic care to child sex trafficking victims, and law enforcement, child protective services, 911 operators, and foster care parents to receive training on child sex trafficking.
- Washington SB 5885 will create critical courtroom protections for child survivors by by permitting the child’s out-of-court statements as evidence in prosecutions of their perpetrators.
- Georgia SB 158 prohibits minors from being criminalized for prostitution offenses and directs commercially sexually exploited youth to specialized services.
- Montana HB 549 strengthens existing protections for youth survivors of sex trafficking by creating access to specialized services for survivors, including protective shelter, food, clothing, medical care, counseling, and crisis intervention services.
Since November, 6,890 of you have taken action by signing a petition or contacting your legislators. Collectively you made 5,927 connections with state and federal legislators around the country; our states with the most advocates were Washington, Texas, California, Florida, and Tennessee!
We are so encouraged by your engagement in helping us to advocate for these laws!
But not all state sessions are over, and there’s still work to be done!
Visit our Advocacy Action Center to see how you can be involved. Together we are making a difference, helping to ensure that when a victim of child sex trafficking is identified our systems respond with compassion and justice.”
So, let’s all go to the Shared Hope Action Center and double the number of their Petition signers. Go ahead, look up your State and send a message to your Representatives to encourage them to follow the lead of those States that are making these important changes. Do it for the tens of thousands of “Maries” who are still in captivity today.